In Bed with Nonardo

by the-biennial-project 16. July 2018 19:56

The Biennial Project was honored to be chosen  for the 00Bienal de La Habana, the first Cuban art biennial to be organized independently of any state entity. We went to partake this past May. Within minutes of arriving at our hotel in Havana we immediately found ourselves in one of those 1950s cars you see in the tourist books about Cuba and we were on our way to our first 00Bienal de La Habana event. We gave our taxi driver the address and he did not seem 100% sure where it was and we, for certain, did not know where we were going. We were unclear even if we were going to a gallery, someone’s studio or someone’s house. None-the-less, we enjoyably buzzed through the colorful, modernist, somewhat run down streets of Havanna and we were thrilled to be in Cuba for this event. The closer we got to the venue the less certain our taxi driver was that this is where we wanted to be in this particular neighborhood. It wasn’t until we saw 4 women dressed, in what seemed to us as art gallery opening attire, did we know we had indeed arrived to find our community.

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We entered through a courtyard where one of the artist’s homes is located. His house was going to be the main venue for showing, It was a lively, positive atmosphere and the local neighbors mixed well with the artists for a festive art reception. That artist whose home we were inhabiting was the alluring and luminous Nonardo Perea. We had recently friended Nonardo on Facebook and he was one of the artists we most wanted to meet. This evening we also met the organizers Yanelys Nuñez Leyva and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and they could not have been more hospitable, engaging, charismatic and attractive.

Nonardo presented his work on the walls of his house in every room. We enjoyed walking into his bedroom and admit to peeping into his closet. We noticed illustrations we enjoyed on his refrigerator and later in the night he actually gave them to us as gifts. A lot of Nonardo’s work revolved around gay and transsexual themes and he expressed this through some scintillating manipulated photos, collages, illustrations and even a video. Most of them, he used him self as the model. We were floored. We loved his work as much as we knew we would love him. He also has two of the cutest dogs you may ever run across.

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Another artist showing this evening was Francisco Mëndez. His performance involved locking himself in the bathroom and shouting ‘Ya me canse’ at the top of his lungs over and over again while the reception went on outside of the bathroom, in Nonardo’s bedroom. Ya me canse means ‘I’m tired of this’ which is in reference to what a Mexican Police chief said while looking for the bodies of missing people. It is what the Mexican people think over and over and feel nobody hears them. It was a very powerful enactment.

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Also worth mentioning was the fact that the participants of this Bienal were harassed by the government of Cuba. The Cuban artists were subject to arrests, interrogations and threats. We met an artist there that night who was originally supposed to be in the Bienal but pulled out in the last minute in fear of threats he received about his employment. Cuba is not an easy place to express oneself.

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It was fantastic party. The hosts of 00Bienal de La Habana could not have been warmer or more welcoming. Never letting our glasses be less the half full, checking on us, engaging us in conversation, introducing us around. They basically shared their lives with us. We also rejoiced in the fact that we were in a real Cuban neighborhood., one tourists probably never entertain to visit. We bought tamales from a bucket, walked around the neighborhood and almost got into a game of domino with some of the older men in the streets.

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