Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Odds and Ends: Contemporary Art, Film, and Books on Cuba...

Around town and out in cyber-space...
  • Two Cuban art exhibitions are set to kick off soon in New York City.  First, there is "Two Citizens of Utopia," a joint exhibition of work by Ibrahim Miranda and Douglas Pérez at The 8th Floor.  The invitation only opening is on Tuesday, July 10, and the show opens to the general public this Wednesday, July 11 and runs through October, 2012.  
  • This is followed by "Revolution, Not Televised," an exhibition of 35 works of contemporary Cuban art spanning over 40 years that will open on July 19 at the Bronx Museum and run through October 7.

  • For the documentary lovers out there, I recommend that you check out the fascinating and unique film catalogue at Americas Media Initiative / Cuba Media Project.  While at LASA in San Francisco I picked up a sampling of their documentaries on Cuba and have been impressed with the quality, originality, and independence of the work so far.  They have a really good and quite brave film on censorship in Cuba entitled "Zone of Silence" (Zona de Silencio, in Spanish with English subtitles) directed by Karel Ducasse - who will be in the U.S. in October on a director's tour, showing his film and doing Q & A's (perhaps you or your institution want to co-sponsor his visit?).  The film features interviews with filmmaker Fernendo Pérez, writer Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, musician Frank Delgado, playwright Anton Arrufat, and film critic Gustavo Arcos, among others.  
  • AMI also distributes a solid film on "Race" (Raza, also with English subtitles) directed by Eric M. Corvalán Pellé featuring an interview with Esteban Morales among many others.  
  • Finally, they distribute a four-volume series of the collected shorts of Cuba's TV Serrana, which function like little but powerful windows into life as lived today in the mountains of eastern Cuba.

  • Finally, for those of you still looking for some books to fill out your summer reading list, I am just winding down teaching a pair of summer classes in which I have really learned a lot.  The first class, "The Sociology of the Internet," included the following four books (all are highly recommended - but my favorite was the first one by Wu): The Master Switch by Tim Wu; The Social Media Reader, edited by Michael Mandiberg; The Net Delusion but Evgeny Morozov; and The Consent of the Networked by Rebecca MacKinnon.  You'll learn about everything from information empires to network neutrality; from the "long tail" to crowdsourcing; from F(l)oss to social surplus; and from networked authoritarianism to cyber-utopianism!  You can probably tell that I've been busy writing my final exams! Let's hope my students read my blog.

  • I also taught a class in "Cuban Culture and Society" where we read Samuel Farber's new book, "Cuba since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment."  While the title is a bit overly academic and uninspiring, the book itself is a comprehensively researched, up-to-date, and quite devastating assessment of the last 53 years of the revolution in power.  In fact, the book should be called "a devastating assessment," not a "critical" one, although it is both critical in its analysis and devastating in its conclusions and recommendations (from the left).  The book starts with two chapters on politics (domestic and international) and two on economics (development policy and labor policy), but I really enjoyed the later chapters on Afro-Cubans (Ch. 5), gender politics and sexuality (Ch. 6), and especially an amazingly fair and comprehensive final chapter entitled, "Dissidents and Critics - from Right to Left" (Ch. 7).  The book concludes with a hard-hitting reflection aimed primarily at progressive supporters of (and apologists for) the regime on the many ways that the Cuban systems falls well short of being a "socialist democracy."  It also has a useful and incisive epilogue where Farber critiques the direction and scope of Raul's economic reforms to date.  Whereas other critics often argue that the reforms "do not go far enough," Farber says that they are going "in the wrong direction."  Instead, he recommends "worker self-management, equality, and a democratization of the Cuban political system and society as a whole." 
  • For those without the time to read his entire book, Havana Times features an article by Farber that came out just yesterday up on its website entitled, "The Implications of Worker Self-Management" (en Español).  HT also profiled Farber's new book (Esp) in December and followed that up with a useful series of posts each of which boils down the essence of each of his chapters.

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