Back from Cuba
From April 29 to May 13, the Solidarity Rock crew got together in Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus to bring our photography exhibit to the people. It was a great time, and we spent it with our friends and adoptive Cuban families, and it was almost perfect. The only thing we missed was our friend Sandy Phimester, who due to circumstances out of his control was unable to make it down. We had planned our photography exhibit unveiling in Sancti Spiritus around him being able to be there, but things changed unexpectedly and despite his attempts, he couldn’t make it, and we all missed him a lot during our time with friends.
We went down with a 50 image show to donate to the AHS in Sancti Spiritus, as a way to share and show our time and vision for what we have seen and done over the past five years. Since the very beginning, we have been documenting our trips with photography and video. I curated the show down from 1900 to 50 images, and I think we got the right ones. Photographers Aaron Bocanegra, Sandy Phimester, Samuel Reina Calvo, Bryan Kulba and me, Drew McIntosh, presented our work thanks largely to the Edmonton Arts Council, who supplied us with the financial support we needed to print and frame such a large collection. Thanks to them, the show will be seen around Cuba for the next year, at least.
Showing the work was cathartic in a lot of ways. It’s a weird place to be as a documentary artist who is also working to set the stage every time. Not only is my work about collecting and documenting the moments we share, the Cuban punk rock movement we’ve been a part of and the country which hosts us each time, but it’s also about making those things happen. It’s easy for me to sometimes get lost in the tasks that we’ve taken on. So, for me, it was and is especially important to finally get a big piece of this work off the bench to be able to show people in Cuba the reflections of owr time together. This is an international photography exhibit which features participation of artists from three separate countries, who exist in totally different ways within the Cuban context. Canadians are often seen as tourists, locked in resorts, Americans are the enemy, or at least their government is.
We (collectively) don’t understand Cuba, or the people who live there. Our impressions of the country have been built up by the imagery we’re fed. Cuba is either a cold war relic or a place full of happy people who ride around in old cars. I really feel that we’re accessing something other than that with our work. We’re trying to build understanding with cultural exchange, and I think we’ve come a long way.
We put the photos up at the AHS' Casa de Joven Creador in Trinidad, and our good friends ARRABIO played late into the night to celebrate. Winnipeg's Ian Lodwyks opened with a couple of accoustic jams. The show was packed with Cuban punk kids, the Solidarity Rock crew which had come out from Edmonton, Winnipeg and Los Angeles and a whole lot of friends from Winnipeg. Some of our Pegger pals were getting married in Trinidad, and it was a great way to build more connections and bridge more cultural gaps as we could welcome their friends and family into our sphere.
In Sancti Spiritus, we opened up a gallery which has been shuttered for months to host our show. The Galleria El Passo is space which was originally opened by an artist and curator named Rafael Gonzàlez Perèz from Sancti Spiritus. It was a pedestrian underpass used for less than noble purposes of drinking and bummin out of sight. The very first night we were in Sancti Spiritus in 2007 was 51 years to the day that the rebels had left Mexico on the Granma boat, and we went to an art show celebrating that feat at the Galleria el Passo. So, to have an opening there almost 5 years later was really special. Rafa has since moved to Tenerife, and we still talk about working together in a lot of ways, so it was great to be able continue something he started.
The show is going to travel to places like Jatibonico, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Havana and more over the next year. We’ve already shown some of these photos in Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary, and we’ve got plans to take it even further. With any luck, you might see our work near you soon.