In Havana Series I have continued to explore the notion of the custodian and stewardship. Instead of looking at the individual custodians of venues and their role and relationships with them I was interested in how the effect of stewardship of a regime, the Castro regime, is reflected in the buildings and people. This work explores the complexities of the many histories of Havana, so visible in the architecture, the patina of time that is revealed within these structures and the relationships the individuals have with them.
The works here are from an ongoing series of works made in 2011 and 2015 as Cuba stands at a complicated historic juncture. Havanas architecture has not so much been frozen in time by political and economic circumstance as wilfully neglected for five decades, as Theodore Dalrymple says it is; ‘suspended in a peculiar state halfway between preservation and destruction’. At the moment the city is being rebuilt for tourism but the scale of the restoration is small in comparison to the state of its ruination.
There is for me, a profound sorrow and anger at seeing this seemingly wilful destruction of a ‘masterpiece of collective human endeavour,’ that of the city of Havana and the impossibility of the lives of so many inhabitants, yet in equal measure an appreciation of the beauty and brilliance of so many of the people. That the people and the spaces have continued to exist in this way for so long and continued to develop in so many ways is a testimony to the creativity and sophistication of Havana and its residents.
The spaces here seem charged, dense with plot, where in the spaces in my Oxford Custodians work there was a sense of calm preservation and of the responsibility of the guardian being passed through generations in Havana Series the works allude to a benign presence, omnipresent, of there being no exact owner or steward securing its future. The visible reflections here of an ideology that favours ideas more than structures and property, the photographs in state buildings being renovated for tourism stand starkly opposed to the properties of individuals, the Havanans which are yet to be affected by the renovations in the same way, perhaps a wider reflection on the situation.