Lines of investigation

creative cuba

Creativity is the ability of human beings to generate new ideas. It tends to flourish in extreme moments or moments of crisis, although not exclusively. When creativity emerges as a response to emergency or scarcity conditions, it acquires predominance in all areas of cultural, economic, and social organization, as is the case in Cuba.

This artistic research project focuses on social creativity, living heritage, tradition, popular culture, and survival culture. The latter is manifested in depressed socioeconomic contexts where creative alternatives tend to emerge, as well as in others where, without having an unfavorable economic condition, creative practices have become customs.  

The Cuban political and economic system has gone through multiple stages of crisis since the implementation of socialism in the 1960s. After the fall of the socialist camp in 1990 and the tightening of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the economy collapsed, known by the euphemistic name of Special Period in times of peace, leading to an unparalleled recession from which the country has yet to recover. As a consequence, creative practices were accentuated and became essential to ensure survival. Repair and recycling skills became enthroned in society, and even institutionalized through a movement called the National Association of Innovators and Rationalizers. In 1992, Verde Olivo magazine, an organ of the Armed Forces, published the book Con Nuestros propios esfuerzos, a compendium of everyday life hacks to alleviate the scarcity, precariousness, and absence of industrial products for home use through repair and innovation.

Unofficial activities or activities beyond the reach of public regulation have been present in all economic systems. However, in the Cuban case, there is a notorious gray zone in the practice of the informal economy. On the one hand, the State understands many of these practices as “necessary” in social terms and, therefore, allows their exercise, although it cannot legalize them at the speed with which they develop, or simply the State maintains a complicit silence as long as the practice or trade does not influence the economic-political processes or plans of the State. Consequently, we have a concept to denominate the activities that are neither protected nor regulated by the government: we call them alegal practices.

In a context marked by a centralized and planned economy incapable of satisfying the basic needs of society, the black market grew so much that it became the place where citizens found everything they needed. In this scenario, very well-organized phenomena have arisen and are a natural part of the daily life of Cuban citizens.

Based on the Cuban experience and as an artistic project, CubaCreativa pays special attention to the actions and social phenomena that constitute innovation practices. It is interested in documenting the process or procedure by which creative solutions are arrived at, given that these in themselves can be infinitely repeated, readapted, and enhanced concerning the socio-cultural characteristics of each context and its political and economic circumstances. In that sense, more than the resulting physical object, it is the process and uniqueness of social thought that is the focus of interest.

CubaCreativa has the potential to grow connected to the daily life of the context in which it is developed. The project’s digital platform is currently under development and is called iA Informal Archive. It aims to be an archive that makes visible the world’s social creativity and uses the wiki format. Its structure requires the collaboration of users, who can share their knowledge, edit content, or participate in a public online forum. Through it, the participating informal communities will be united in the digital space with the artistic sphere. In that sense, it will encourage debate on the relationship between informal (non-institutionalized) practices and curatorial strategies in the creation of archives.

Another purpose of CubaCreativa is to showcase local practices and phenomena that are not very visible, as well as creative individuals or groups that work beyond the artistic sphere. In its research, it explores the terms or concepts that in each culture denominate the creative practices that are framed within the margin of the alegal.

09 Archives of the research line