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Los Carpinteros to Open Cultural Center in Havana


The artistic collective seeks to give something back for all that the island has given them.

A string of red books on Marxism, systematically punctured in the middle so that the viewer can see the history of the Revolution ‘at a glance;’ a light plane with its wings covered in arrows, shot by invisible natives; a concrete mobile home; musical instruments that are strange to say the least, as if they had come from another sound dimension: these are some of the works and installations by a Cuban artistic collective that has caused a buzz in its exhibitions in Europe and the Americas, Los Carpinteros, and whose next project could be the largest and most prolific installation in their history: returning home.


Dagoberto Rodríguez, Marco Castillo and, until recently, Alexandre Arrechea, trained at the Cuban School of Art and, despite the fact they are of the few Cuban artists with relative freedom of movement thanks to the art world, they are no strangers to the current Cuban reality, or to the political situation: since Havana and Washington reestablished diplomatic relations, many things will change on the island, but Los Carpinteros fear that Cubans will not even realize.

The changes began to be seen when the Cuban government authorized the purchase of property and the launching of small businesses, such as bars, restaurants and cafés, as well as cultural centers, that are not uncommon on the island. Los Carpinteros — who take their name from the tropical wood of Cuba with which they began to work more than 20 years ago; “Hey, even our mucus was made of mahogany in those days,” Dagoberto recalled in an interview with El País — acquired a beautiful house in Nuevo Vedado that previously belonged to commander René Vallejo, Fidel Castro’s personal doctor during the siege of the Sierra Maestra.


More than a refurbishment, Los Carpinteros sought to give the old house a new life and to go beyond conserving it in suspended animation — a sensation that is not uncommon among travelers to Havana, as if time had stood still. The commander’s library was preserved and opened to the public, and some changes were made to the space to open it as a cultural center where Cubans can view works by local and international artists.

The project’s concept is vaguely similar to that of Andy Warhol’s factory: it is likely that individual creation and community discussion were the inspiration that fed the collective, and in which they have finally put down roots; as Dagoberto and Marco explained, by returning to Havana they are seeking to give back something that Cuba has given them, and breathe more life into the island’s cultural scene with interesting projects.

This fall, Cuban collective Los Carpinteros, along with Marinella Senatore and Spanish artist Miralda, Miami-based artists and collectives, will take part of the Opening Processional Performance directed by Claire Tancons in collaboration with Gia Wolff and Arto Lindsay. The processional performance will remix sounds from various musical traditions, rev up patterns of improvisation and revamp culinary practices throughout the Faena District to celebrate the opening of the Faena Forum in Miami Beach.

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