I grew up on Russian canned meat and subsidized Russian oil. I knew how to use an AK-47 by the time I got to high school. Every morning at school, my peers and I would recite "Patria o Muerte!" (Country or Death!), all voices merging into one, echoing in every school yard of our Caribbean island. As I grew so grew the miles of underground bomb shelters below our cities, ready to protect our people from an ever impending imperialist invasion from our neighbor in the North. My friends and I were the children of the Cold War and the U.S. Embargo, of Perestroika and Glasnost, and our memories of Cuba were shaped by the rhetoric of war, polarization, and fear. To my surprise, after my family made the decision to move to the U.S. I found myself adrift again between two familiar poles: US and THEM.
My multimedia artistic practice stands at the intersection of activism, social practice, community engagement, pedagogy, and investigations of place. El Acercamiento/The Approach, is a project conceived as a forum for the investigation of the historic and contemporary connections between Cuba and the U.S. It aims to provide a rich context for professional artists and art students across three cities (Miami, Los Angeles, and La Habana) to engage in creative future thinking, solidarity, and transnational dialogue, while creating original works that respond to, question, and impact the quickly shifting dynamics between our two countries. At this critical turning point in U.S.-Cuba relations artists and culture makers can be agents for change, overcoming distance and articulating possible futures. The work of El Acercamiento relies on our investment on close listening, cross-cultural dialogue, and collaboration.
El Acercamiento aims to engage in a process of healing after so many decades of divisive politics. It stands as an alternative to neocolonialist discourse and initiatives. The project will allow the work created by participating artists to evolve in response to our research and our encounters with our fellow artists, their communities, and their cities. In this way, El Acercamiento's projects will be far from static: instead the work's evolution will reflect our growing understanding and investment in each other as we work to shape the next chapters in the history of our two nations.