Havana: The Death Body of Paradise
Architectural Association – London
By Politics of Fabrication (Inter-8)
“In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there all is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the Kingdom of this World” Alejo Carpentier.
Havana… The Dead Body of Paradise showed some glimpses of the research work of Inter 8 students on the city of Havana in January 2010. Revolution, Declamatory Art and Propaganda, Biological Exuberance, Rururbanity, Flesh Bursting and Decay, Collective Recycling, Dialogue and Confrontation, Archaic Machines, Low Commerce and Traditional Labour configure the cosmography of a city where imagination seems to be overwhelmed by the boldness of its material reality. The photographs here exhibited convey this message to the visitor. To the myth of being the capital of rumba, tobacco and rum,
Havana responds with a heavy physical presence, hardened by a vertical sun which doesn’t allow any concealment of the ruin of its urban fabric. The pearl of the Antilles, the city of infinite wealth in the colonial world, is now a rotting paradise that reeks of sweat and debris, made of human physical contact, material recycling and constant wheeling and dealing. Fifty years of economic embargo have faded any heroism into an agonic expression of survival on the outskirts of the hegemony of global modernization.
However, as peripheral, Havana seduces by demonstrating its otherness within the global condition. It traps its visitors in an intense tapestry of smell and touch that allows a different vantage point from which to redefine our idea of material expression –from a detached external object to an internalized and commonly shared biological process within the city. By chance or by fate, the decay of the city portrays this kind of Real-Marvelous condition as defined by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpertier. Yet this should not be seen as the sublimated reality romanticized by magical realisms, but the condition by which the biological processes of decay, dejection, and contamination subsume the collective imagination into the experience of everyday life, and the construction-destruction of the city.