Visitors to the Bienial haggling over the value of our goods and attempting to trade with items they had on them. Money was not accepted, forcing everyone to negotiate and create an alternative economy of relative value.
The exclusively female-run trading stand, featuring signs saying "Trades Only" and "No Money Accepted" -- generally met with disbelief and pleasant surprise by a public consisting of low-income Cuban locals and wealthy international visitor alike.
The "Alternative Economy Factory" displaying sewn and printed tote bags, produced on site.
A sampling of the day's trade for our handmade souvenir Bienial tote bags
Hecho en Cuba (Made in Cuba)
A seven-day project for the Twelfth Havana Biennal exhibition "Between, Inside, Outside / Entre, Dentro, Fuera," at Pabellon Cuba, Vedado District, Havana, Cuba, June 2015.
Performative “factory” installation and trading post with fluctuating hours. Over 250 hand-sewn and printed tote bags produced, hundreds of pinback buttons, and hundreds of "trades" made with foreign tourists and local Cubans alike.
Hecho en Cuba is a project that creates an independent series of "unofficial" souvenirs of the Havana Biennal itself, utilizing local labor as well as the artist’s own labor, and using all imported materials. Known for temporal interventions on marketplaces and institutional economies, Syjuco activates a process of small-scale, real-time production happening directly on-site. Everything is made "en Cuba" right in front of the visiting audience.
The final handmade items appear to be common, almost banal objects that accompany every standard international art festival, but bear an alternative system of production and consumption. Money is not accepted in this alternative economy, and items can only be acquired through a negotiated trade and barter process. This reality negates the currency disparity of the Cuban peso (local currency) and CUC (the parallel "Cuban convertible currency" primarily used by foreign tourists), creating a potentially equal and personal platform for obtaining the souvenirs.
The resulting activities of bargaining and haggling generated everything from disappointment to elation in creating an active and contentious spectacle of the assessment of "value" in an unfolding economy. Everything from generic travel items (mainly from wealthy foreigners) to intensely personal items including snapshots of family, religious icons, jewelry pulled off from around necks, fingers, and ears, and Cuban identification cards were exchanged. In total, the individual negotations and small samples of local and transitory cultures created a snapshot of local and global Biennal visitors and how they define value.
Hecho en Cuba took place just two short months after the U.S. relaxed travel and trade restrictions with Cuba, creating both excitement and anxiety over the potentially rupturous societal upheavals that may happen with outside investment saturating Cuba's insulated economy.
With assistance from Universidad de La Habana Art History students Ana Carla Guevara, Leyanis Perojo, Rossana Bouza, seamstress Olivia, and others.
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The open-air production site at the Pabellon Cuba (Cuban Pavillion), on view to the Biennial public.
Hand-printing each of 500 limited edition souvenir Bienial bags.
The Factory ladies get the system up and running, with curious male onlookers
Readying the goods for trade.
Haggling at the trading post -- a crew of four "traders" took turns to each decide upon what they would accept in trade. Each having spent time making the souvenirs, their decisions were based on their personal desires and what they themselves valued. In many cases trades were refused or leveraged for higher and higher value of goods.
Successful trades = happy customers
Samples of the traded goods procured from the mostly Cuban public. The collection of objects became a personal snapshot of value and a portrait of what each visitor had with them.
Global and local contrasts
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