Zum Hauptmenu  Zur Unternavigation  Zum Inhalt

Sie befinden sich:

 home > Publications > Texts > Marc Twert - Art and Cuba




A German in Havana


Pondering and reflecting do not mean the same thing for us Cubans as they do for a German. Whatever the branch of knowledge involved, to approach a subject in Cuba is to describe it, using anecdotes and commentary, in terms of its connotations and possible meanings and to speculate about similarities with a liberal dose of humour. We rarely go right to the heart of the matter – that is, it’s hard for us to express ourselves clearly and precisely. It’s hard for us to state directly what “the point is,” as English speakers put it. Cuban linguistic usage doesn’t include that notion, since Spanish is our mother tongue; linearity is more often found in other parts of the world, in places where epistemology has more to do with reason and methodology. Here we are still ruled more by our passions and our feelings, though rationality is gaining more ground all the time.

I write all this because the young German artist Mia Unverzagt, in the context of her Cuban sojourns, brings together both attitudes – passion and reason – in her performances and pieces. During recent years, and at the invitation of the Havana Arts Academy and the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, she has repeatedly spent time with us here in Havana; the drawings, performances, photos and installations created here have now been published as catalogues.

She has succeeded in capturing the social and psychological atmosphere – the constant changes that characterize the everyday – in which we currently live. She has participated in our joys and frustrations, in our hopes and disappointments, in our families, houses and neighborhoods. That is an effective antidote against the superficial approaches to our reality that foreigners so often like to employ in order to make short work of the complexity of our lives. She didn’t bother with superficialities like music, Afro-Cuban cultural expressions, the mojito, cigars and the mild climate – the things that so many artists, often enough, consider to be sufficient „raw material“ with which to win the sympathies of institutions and sponsors (here and abroad) and thereby carry out their projects.

She has, instead, found other fragments of our reality with which to express her ideas and construct her own world of Cuban images. From among all the possibilities she selected the chair, that familiar and indispensable (and utilitarian) object. The Cuban chair, as we know it, is undoubtedly a metaphor for the times in which we live, a symbol of the human ability to persevere and of resistance to forgetting. The chair is already a part of the collective Cuban memory; in both eastern and western Cuba it is as much a part of that memory as the old American cars and the sun.

The “Cuban” chairs are in line with a tendency that is currently emerging in essays, exhibits, forums and art biennials, including the most recent biennial here in Havana. At its heart is the important question to which we return again and again: How can artistic works contribute to a better understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live?

These days, engagement with that question is being forestalled by attention-seeking, speculative discourses; the question itself is being overshadowed by the structural and formal particularisms and interdisciplinary weariness that characterize the international art scene and that have led to an aesthetically dubious cultural output – an output that contributes little to achieving the goal the question expresses.

Unverzagt’s artistic works are without a doubt a fascinating contribution to the project of investigating the meanings that are attributed to various objects in different cultural contexts. It is interesting to observe the conflation of forms and ideas in her works; her positions convey unmitigated empathy with the observer, and the simplicity of the media wins us over. We could, therefore, certainly relate her work to an important movement in contemporary Brazilian art.

Mia Unverzagt remains committed to her own approach to the art history with which we are familiar. In doing so, she makes accessible to us complex relational worlds that are much closer to us than we could previously have imagined.


Nelson Herrera Isla