Roberto Diago: Fire and conviction

From the personal point of view, it was a unique experience. I had taken part in a previous edition of the Venice Biennial as an independent artist and this continues to be the style nowadays, a very individualist biennial for certain artists. However, the Cuban presence contributed something different. Perhaps it should be an example for others to present a group of notable artists from different generations. I think we were an event within the event and, without modesty, I guarantee that we were one of the most outstanding and beautiful presentations, and enjoyed great acceptance from the general and specialized audiences. The way our work was exhibited was very democratic, a lively montage that started to draw attention from the square itself with Esterio Segura’s piece.

Roberto Diago. Ciudad quemada / 2010 – 2017 / Instalación, madera quemada / Dimensiones variables

Installations, photographs, and videos were combined in the different spaces of the Loredan. The building seemed to have been constructed especially for us. It was a magical experience that hopefully will be repeated.

How did your work, a piece you had already shown in Cuba, fit into the group project?

In my case, you as curators had a clear concept from the beginning. That seldom happens with such precision. Excessive urgency, with projects requested under pressure, is common when organizing events in our country. In this case, I believe that your experience and vision of the work of the Cuban artists made it possible to construct this show in time. And from the beginning . . . it was clear how we were to interact with one another. In the end, it resulted in a well-thought-out exhibition.

Surely you visited other central exhibitions, national pavilions, collaterals . . . What do you think of this edition?

The power of money is perceived . . . and is allowed to be perceived in events such as this. Being among many of the members of the Cuban delegation, who have all exhibited in many places in the world, something made me feel like a student again: the love for art and the commitment to the work. I found many national pavilions that showed the power of resources, but with quite mediocre projects. The public passed by and rarely stopped to examine the pieces. Sometimes I asked myself, “What is this doing here?”

As a rule, at the Venice Biennial the countries present only one artist. Our group project was somewhat contrary to this practice. What do you think of that?

As a creator, I tell you once more that hopefully other creators would nourish from these experiences, and be influenced by the Cuban idea. The variety of artists and work in the same space facilitated the appreciation of the diversity and richness that characterizes our art. It seemed to me dynamic, effective, and powerful. I attended many parties and extravagant openings, but the Cuban showcase was absolutely special, I can assure that without jingoism.

Do you think our production connects with the concerns and themes that motivate art?

Cuban art is well connected with everything that is happening in the world. The production is at a very high level, even exceeding others from affluent nations. The themes, styles, and procedures are very often similar. However, we are somehow burdened by the fact that we are a poor country, we have no sponsors to finance our events. Perhaps that has made us redouble the creative effort. That particular element has always been appreciated, and I think it was particularly felt in Venice.

Projects, ideas, invitations from this participation?

I am very happy because Ciudad quemada (Burned City) was seen by a curator from the City of Sciences and Industry of Paris, and so, for nine months, the piece will be in a thematic exhibition dedicated to fire. It was incredible, because the curator entered the space and said, “This is the piece!” The path of art, as the path of life, is built step by step. I always draw upon a motto that I think also defines me: Honesty and Patience.

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