The exhibition “The Politics and Poetics of Space” by Carlos Garaicoa opened this weekend at Samtidskunst museet, an exhibition that evolves around the contradiction between the beauty of the city and its terrible reality. KOTE were able to sit down with Carlos and have a conversation about the city and its future, especially the future of his hometown Havana.
The globalisation that we experience today, do you think cities are becoming more similar?
- Yes, cities are getting more similar, star architects are building in every town. The city has become a collection of architecture, where everyone wants to have the latest piece for their collection. Architecture has become fashion. We are entering the world of products, and a need to obtain new tings, that’s why the same star architects are reused in every city. The cities are loosing their culture. This is why I´m worried about Cuba, we stopped in the 50´s and the buildings have since then started to decay. But now, Cuba needs to be a part of things again.
Are people too romantic about the idea of what capitalism can do? In Cuba, are they expecting too much from the future?
- The thing is, when it has gone this fare, everything can be better. They are starting to blame the government. We have been living in a capitalistic government since the revolution. But now, things have started to change. We are now living with the dollar, and are getting used to two economies. We are entering something new, where people get the opportunity to earn money. New restaurants are opened and people are again allowed to rent out apartments, this had only been done on the black marked before. In the last two years, people have earned more money and have started to travel.
With all the changes that are coming now, how will this affect the architecture, what needs to be done?
- The government needs to put a lot of money into reconstructions. They have already begun to build new hotels, new apartments, they are ugly. They look traditional, playing with arches… But people have started to buy houses and are restoring them. Havana has tall buildings in certain areas, higher than here in Oslo, beautiful Art-Deco buildings that are falling apart. The government have to reconstruct them, but it is easier to remove them and build a new building.
Who do you think will speak up for these old buildings, and get them restored?
- I tried to persuade my friends to go back, I probably will go back myself. It is important to get people with ideas to come back. But it is plenty of smart people in Cuba, but it depends if we still are living under a government, who decides everything. Another way is for the country to become more democratic, but I doubt that.
In Cuba, the government has been in control of nearly everything, have you experienced censure when you are working with your art?
- No, yes, I experience it sometimes, but not in Cuba. Cuba is a places that if you play the game in a certain way, you can do what you want. But I experienced censure in Paris. A piece of my exhibition was very strong, and they tried to, to sensor in a way. They asked to remove the piece from the catalogue. Another time, also in Paris, they tried to convince me to change the title, I refused, saying “ if you don’t want this title, I don’t open the exhibition”. In the end, they say you can use the title, but in the book of the exhibition the title was gone.
Do you think censorship can be reflected in the architecture?
- Of course, we have so many problems with censorship, everyone has an opinion. We are living in a time where we can do fewer things than before.
Since the government owns and decides nearly everything, how has this affected the architecture of Havana, is there for example many iconic buildings?
- There is no idea of landmark buildings, but old Havana is on UNESCOs list and is very beautiful and preserved well. But other parts of Havana, with beautiful Art-Deco buildings are suffering. The country needs a lot of money for reconstructions and preservations.