Ariel Camejo Vento is Artist Resident at the Angewandte in the winter semester 2019/20. He will give three lectures on iconic urban representation in the Caribbean and Latin America; views of Havana in the context of how art responds to the city as a complex mix of social, cultural, ethnic and symbolic aspects; and “the Caribbean” as concept, narrative and metaphor. The lectures speak of transcultural insights into a region that has produced heterogeneous identities and subjectivities due to its colonial history.
I. Representing the city in Latin America and the Caribbean. Perspectives from literature, visual arts and music
This lecture aims to present some recent developments in the process of representing contemporary city in Latin America and the Caribbean. Departing from the stories of three novels (César Aira: La Villa; Patrick Chamoiseau: Texaco; Pedro Juan Gutiérrez: Trilogía sucia de La Habana), the conference will trace a symbolic map that moves over some of the most iconic urban representations witnessed during Havana Biennial of Arts (with the last three editions deeply involved with urban practices and dynamics) and popular music cultures like the ones represented in reggaetón and trap.
Some of the concepts and figures to examine are the notions of Capital Cities (within the logics of late colonial and/or poscolonial territories), Junkspaces (as defined by Rem Koolhas), Ruins of Modernity, Paradoxical Infrastructures, Politics of Citizenship-Identity (concerning social class, gender, ethnic or linguistic appropriation of space-place).
II. Images of La Habana: a hi/story of two centuries
La Habana is celebrating during 2019 the 500th anniversary of its constitution. A key spot involved in the process of constitution of modern capitalism through the colonial experience in the Americas; a city that was fed by the profits of slavery and the economic system of sugar Plantation; a dynamic melting pot of cultures and people coming from every corner of the world; an exemplary territory of U.S. contemporary expansion as an emergent imperialist force at the beginning of the XXth century; stronghold of a socialist and anticolonial revolution; a peculiar survivor of communism in a post-soviet era; this urban space constitutes the perfect example of overlapping and baroque accumulation.
How does art has responded to this complex scenario of social, cultural, economic, ethnic, symbolic mixing? To which extent artistic narrative provides the logics from where it has been possible (desirable, reasonable) to think about Cubaness? Which subjects and subjectivities has been historically authorized “To Represent” the notion of Cuba-Being Cuban? How these legacies are contested or legitimated by contemporary visual arts in the island? Here are some of the questions that will be revisited during a tour over two centuries of visual representations of La Habana.
III. The Caribbean: concept / narrative / metaphor
What is the Caribbean? What does it mean to think OF / ABOUT / IN the Caribbean? The complexities of any discursive approach to the “region” rise a significant number of questions and uncomfortable certainties. In such a context it would be possible to think the Caribbean out of the Reason (Enlightenment, Modernist) paradigm? What if art, imaginative speculation (such as poetry, fiction or essay) give us a mental map to trace the coordinates of a Caribbean?
This lecture will focus on subaltern readings of both iconic intellectuals and displaced narratives of islanders concerned with social practices (migration, resistance, counter culturalism, hibridation), imagined communities (creole culture, indigenism, people of the sea, criollismo, afro descendants), or conceptual appropriations (transcultural society, repeating islands, relational poetics). From there emerges the non-stable soil of Caribbean, a framework that shifts or vanish once we move from island to island, from History to stories, from texts to discourse, from intellectual elaborations to social behavior.
Ariel Camejo Vento is Professor of Theory of Literature, Cultural Analysis and Caribbean Intellectual History as well as Research Leader of the Project Literary Studies about Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Ariel Camejo obtained his PhD in Sciences of Literature at University of Havanna, where he teaches since 2005 in the fields of Theory of Literature, Cultural Analysis, Caribbean Cultures and Cuban Literature. He collaborates with the Center of Caribbean Studies at Casa de las Américas since 2007, where he published two volumes: an anthology of texts around the poetry and reception of Saint-John Perse in the Caribbean (Saint-John Perse: por los caminos de la tierra, 2008); and a translation into Spanish of the celeb Eloge de la Creolité (Elogio de la Creolidad, 2013). As a co-editor he published in 2015 Pa(i)sajes urbanos (Linkgua), a collection of essays on Latin American & Caribbean cities and their cultural landscapes. He has attended international conferences, congresses or delivered lectures at universities and cultural institutions of Guatemala, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, United States, Spain, Austria, Germany, Norway, Italy, Poland and China.
He belongs to several academic associations, executive or academic committees and editorial boards. From 2012 to 2014 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Literature at University of Havana, and from 2014 to 2016 as Head of the Department of Social and Cultural Studies in the same faculty. His current research projects are devoted to the representation of the black body in colonial Havanna and urban landscapes of Latin America & Caribbean.