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From "Special Period" Aesthetics to Global Relevance in Cuban Art: Tania Bruguera, Carlos Garaicoa, and Los Carpinteros

  • Author(s): Rosenblum, Beth Tamar
  • Advisor(s): Kunzle, David M
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates the impact Cuba's Special Period (1990s) had on the arts through analyses of artworks by Cuban artists Tania Bruguera, Carlos Garaicoa, and Los Carpinteros (Alexandre Arrechea, Marco Castillo, and Dagoberto Rodríguez). In 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and termination of subsidies to Cuba, Cuba entered the "Special Period in a Time of Peace" (Special Period). Throughout the early 1990s Cubans suffered from severe shortages of necessary food and goods, and strict rations were imposed on the island. In 1993, to stabilize the economy, the Cuban government did the unthinkable; it legalized the U.S. dollar as a second form of currency. It established a formal dual economy and by the end of the decade Cuba more aggressively inserted itself into the global capital market.

While Bruguera, Garaicoa and Los Carpinteros work in different media with varying objectives, the alterations to their practices over the course of the decade reveal the greater socio-economic changes occurring at the time. I argue in Chapter Two that during the early 1990s the artists' student work from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) reflected on the absence and loss prevalent at the time, as well as the role and responsibility of the artist during a national crisis. Then, following the legalization of the dollar (1993) the artists could begin earning the currency for the sale of their work; I contend in Chapter Three that their work displayed at the Fifth Havana Biennial (1994) recorded the transition to the dual economy and doble moral (double standard) it created within Cuban society. Finally, in Chapter Four I connect Cuba's reinsertion in the global market to the artists' time spent abroad participating in residencies and exhibitions. I assert the artists assumed the role of shifters, transporting and translating information about Cuba and other locals through their work. Ultimately, I argue that the artworks produced by Bruguera, Garaicoa, and Los Carpinteros in the 1990s document this turbulent period in Cuba's history from the extreme hardships experienced through the acclimation to a dual economy and acceptance of Cuba's renewed role in the global economy.

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