“What’s Left of Cuba” Colloquium: Coco Fusco

Coco Fusco presenting
Coco Fusco on “The Symbolic Use of the Plaza of the Revolution by Cuban Artists and Activists”

Coco Fusco, Director of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons Center at The New School for Design, and a well-known New York-based interdisciplinary artist, performer, and writer, visited us here at CLACS on Monday, February 4, to present a lecture entitled “The Symbolic Use of the Plaza of the Revolution by Cuban Artists and Activists” and her latest video La Plaza Vacia as a part of CLACS’ Spring 2013 colloquium series titled, What’s Left of Cuba? Culture, Politics, and Civil Society.

Inspired by the organized public protests in the Middle East, Mexico, and most recently Wall Street in 2011, Fusco based her video on “what was and wasn’t happening” in La Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, Cuba. Her video is a visual representation of her meditation on Cuban public space, revolutionary promise, and memory since 1959. She presented the video and then answered questions from the audience about her project and her experiences in Cuba. Coco also presented well-circulated and striking images of international protests. She commented on how the loud and vibrant political protests demonstrated the possibility for political transformation, which she then juxtaposed with images of the empty Plaza de Revolución in Havana. She asked herself why the Cuban plaza remained quiet, despite the upsurge of comments about the protests from Cubans in forums and blogs.

La Plaza Vacia
La Plaza Vacia by Coco Fusco

In her video, Fusco treats the plaza as a stage without actors. She highlights its historical significance as the central political space for commemorations and Fidel Castro’s famous speeches. She then displayed a definition of “social dangerousness,” which refers to the potential for action that violates socialist morality or that contradicts Cuban social norms. This law has been used to identify artists like Angel Delgado, Gorki Águila, Jose Angel Vincench, and groups like the OZF, Grupo Amistad and El Sexto. Her lecture focused on the uniqueness of this Cuban law, and how it has defined how Cubans negotiate performance in public space.

As a graduate student whose research is focused on Cuba and Cuban civil society, it was such a unique experience to hear from someone who has dedicated her professional career to the study of performance and Cuban politics. I particularly enjoyed the Q&A session afterwards, which opened up a debate with audience members about Cuban art and its role in the Revolution and Cuba’s future. We were so fortunate to have Ms. Fusco share her expertise with the CLACS community, and I look forward to tonight’s lecture on Queer Cuba with José Quiroga!

Kailie Middleton is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU, and is currently enrolled in the CLACS Interdisciplinary Seminar: “What’s Left of Cuba? Culture, Politics, and Civil Society”

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