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Internet is tricky in Cuba. This is pretty much an understatement, but the “why’s” require a much more expansive conversation to wrap our heads around the stakes.

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(Photo credit: Juan Cruz Rodriguez for Resolviendo Exhibit, Annenberg)

I will be visiting LA & San Francisco this month to discuss one of the most fascinating subcultures on the island today – the Tech sector. It’s been a long road for all things New Cuba regarding our gatherings to contemplate contemporary Cuban culture. Three years back, we gathered in the ballroom of The Standard Hotel in 2015 to talk about various creative industries — including music, art, and architecture. This year, it’s all about the Web, which of course affects the fate of all these creative and business endeavors.

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(Photo credit: Juan Cruz Rodriguez for Resolviendo Exhibit, Annenberg)

What appears as a fully disconnected country is truly the opposite. Like most things in Cuba, the people have found a way to “inventar”, creating digital solutions, thus turning your average grandma into a hacker, learning to circumnavigate Wifi hotspots in the most unusual ways.

This Feb, two conversations will take place on the US West Coast, focusing on Cuba’s internet and its state of connectivity. RSVP confirmations are required for both.

(1) Annenberg, Feb 10th, Los Angeles

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(Jauretsi, Curator/ Digital Strategist. Photo credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images N. America)

An extension of the Resolviendo Exhibit (which launched in Sept 2017), the Annenberg invited The New Cuba to co-host a special panel in Los Angeles on February 10, 2018 entitled Cuba: Sin Limites that gathers experts on the state of Internet in Cuba.

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(Photo credit: Juan Cruz Rodriguez for Resolviendo Exhibit, Annenberg)

The listing reads:

Moderated by Cuban-American curator and digital strategist Jauretsi, speakers will include Dadne Carbonell (Cuban computer systems analyst), “Dany Paquete” (a kingpin of El Paquete Semenal, an underground weekly distribution of pirated international content via hard drives), and Susanna Kohly (Marketing Lead, Google Cuba).

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(Dany of El Paqeute in his home in Havana. Photo credit: Jauretsi)

Please visit the Annenberg Wifi Cuba Panel page to confirm your attendance or read more on the event. You can learn more about Dany by viewing the documentary Give Me Future, currently downloadable on iTunes (trailer here).

For a proper headstart, you can also now visit the art exhibit at the Annenberg gallery entitled Cuba Is, which contains a section called Resolviendo, an exhibit that The New Cuba helped curate with Commonwealth Projects. You’ll see photographs of Wifi Parks, a spectrum of videos from Cuba’s famous El Paqeute, and some DIY magazine culture Imagine the streets of Cuba’s content networks transported into an exhibit hall in Los Angeles.

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(Jauretsi at “Cuba Is” Launch. Photo Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images N.America)

The original launch event took place early September 2017, with a big bash where I was lucky enough to helm the DJ booth with Matthieu Schreyer, host of the excellent KCRW show on Global beats. It was a bonafide Cuba love-fest in the heart of Los Angeles, complete with a “who’s who” of Cuban arts, film, photographers, curators, gallerists, and fans alike. The full exhibit will be up til March 4, 2018, so don’t forget to book out an afternoon to soak in all the beautiful photography before the panel.

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(“Cuba Is” Exhibit. Photo Credit: Leysis Quesada Vera)

THE PHOTO EXHIBIT:
“Cuba Is” Exhibit
Currently on Display through March 4, 2018
The Annenberg, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles CA 90067
General Gallery Hours: Wed-Sun 11am to 6pm. Mon-Tues is closed

THE INTERNET PANEL:
“Cuba Sin Limites” Panel
Annenberg Space for Photography’s Skylight Studios
Feb 10, 2018
7:00-9:00pm
10050 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067

(2) Media Noche, Feb 11th, San Francisco

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(Media Noche Cafe, San Francisco)

The next evening, Feb 11th, the topic continues nearby in San Francisco at the charming restaurant named Media Noche. This is a more casual gathering in a cafe setting hosted by a a group called Bay Area Cubans, lead by Project Binario’s Eddy Perez who we recently covered in our visit to Techcrunch.

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(Photo credit: Juan Cruz Rodriguez for Resolviendo Exhibit, Annenberg)

We expect our Cuban-American community to come out and celebrate our culture, gather for constructive conversation, and build awareness of future generations. Hermanos unidos. Like most Cuban-Americans, the topic of Cuba is passionate and immersive. Our belief is that it’s imperative for both our cultures, on and off the island, to grow a better understanding of each other for a brighter future. Building bridges, not walls. We invite any curious non-Cubans who would love to be part of the conversation.

Feb 11, 2018
7:30pm
Media Noche
3465 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
To confirm your attendance, please click on the EventBrite page listing. Enter code “givemefuture” for 30% discount

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I’ve always been struck by the barren offerings in neighborhoods where Cubans shop. The products, surreal. Brooklyn based photographer (Germany born) Alexa Hoyer walked the boulevards, spending 2 years capturing images recently published in Vice.

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The photo essay is moody, poetic, and a humble documentation of all the products that Cubans DO NOT have. The shops seem almost the ghost of what originally was a serious global shopping destination before the Revolution, riddled with consumerism and opulent displays of Luxury.

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As evident in the images, today, there are not nearly enough products to fill the enormous displays. Window dressers are now employed by the Government through the State Ad Bureau, but you can see the care and considered strategy, arranging minimal items in geometric or colorful narratives. To view more images, visit Alexa Hoyer.

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Very excited for this new Biennial to hit Havana. With a tagline of Diseño y Prosperidad (Design & Prosperity) the first Design Biennial, called 1ra Bienal de Diseño La Habana — otherwise known as BDHabana 2016—will take place May 14–20, 2016. Open to design students and professionals worldwide, the Biennial’s first edition will feature exhibitions, symposia, and events in Havana, and in Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.

Coordinated by Roberto Miguel Torres, the Biennial will explore issues of design and industry, creative innovation, and workshops to promote design as an element of socioeconomic development. To celebrate the exchange and promotion in relation to the presence of design in our lives towards a new reality.

Roberto Miguel Torres, who is the general secretary of the event´s Organizing Committee and director of Image and Promotion of the National Office of Design (ONDI), states: “We are referring to an event that will be first carried out on the island and its slogan acquire a higher importance given we are realizing about the presence of the design in our lives, so the prosperity cannot become an abstract concept; on the contrary, it is a necessity.” He added. “How could we have a prosperous nation? It would be by having a vision on the related development and innovation which are concepts that are certainly linked to the design and that is to say the way your office is designed, your house or the computer you are using, for instance, So we just cannot produce what is needed, we need to produce what is competitive, and it is right there where designer´s work starts.” (as reported in Cuban Art News)

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(Film Still: Esteban Insausti’s “Long Distance,” starring Zulema Clares)

This is an an old blog post I never got to publish, and it is mostly ripped off from The New York Times, but given the new American policy shift, I feel it’s an important article to take out of drafts and publish into the ether. The struggle for Cuban filmmakers may take a turn if Obama opens American financial channels (namely crowd-sourcing sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter) to help fund Cuban resident filmmakers.

United States government dedicates millions of dollars each year to programs intended to promote civil society and democracy, yet cuban Filmmakers who are telling everyday life stories through their films, are cut off from this flow of American money. Currently, there is no way for a Cuban filmmaker to access American capital to tell these stories.

Case in point: Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula raised $5,200 on Indiegogo for his independent film but the funds were frozen.

“It’s absurd that we are in the 21st century, and we have no legal framework for independent producers,” said the director Esteban Insausti, whose 2010 feature, “Long Distance,” explores emigration and the trauma of separation. Cuban government does its part in hampering filmmakers, keeping politically provocative movies out of theaters, not recognizing private production companies, and making it hard for filmmakers to obtain permits for, say, filming on the street.

Indiegogo suspended the campaign in August and froze the money after determining that transferring funds to Cuba or a Cuban resident would violate the United States’ economic embargo.

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“It was like someone pulling the rug from under your feet,” said Mr. Coyula, who spoke in English by phone from Havana. “That was when I realized I was really on my own, that making a movie in Cuba is hard because both the Cuban government makes it difficult, and the American government makes it difficult.”

Another barrier for Cuban filmmakers are Film grants. Disqualified from grants from American institutions, crowd funding was the next logical option get films made. “Blue Heart,” which will use newsreels, animé and fiction to tell the story of a failed experiment to create a perfect revolutionary through genetic engineering, will cost about $30,000 to make, he said.

Here is the first 5 minutes of the film:

Another person who attempted to aid filmmakers, Ubaldo Huerta, a Cuban technology expert who lives in Barcelona, shut down Yagruma in February 2013 (a crowdfunding platform specifically for Cuban projects). He shut it down a little more than a year after he started it. Paypal issues were involved.

It is these same restrictions that also prevent Americans from investing in Cuban movies and prohibit Americans from making most films on the island.

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times / Cuban Filmmakers

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(Film Still: “Conducta,” starring Armando Valdés Freire, center, and directed by Ernesto Daranas) Courtesy of HAVANA FILM FESTIVAL NEW YORK

NOTE: Filmmaker Miguel Coyula says if you’d like to help him make his film, email him directly to: migcoyula@hotmail.com

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During broadcast hours, all TVs in Cuba are on, no matter if they are being watch or just serving as background noise. Simone Lueck is a Los Angeles based photographer originally from St. Paul, Minnesota who visited Cuba and captured TV culture, for better or worse. The photo essay is a hardcover 80 page book.

The actual television sets are outdated relics imported from America or Russia close to twenty years ago. Convulsing static pictures in off-color hues, the sets are jury-rigged with computer parts and other discarded technological talismans; they are adorned like religious altars.

In her words:

It happened by chance. In 2000, I tagged along with a good friend on a two-week trip to Cuba. I took my 35mm camera and a bunch of film. The first thing I noticed in Havana was that the city was dark at night. There were no streetlights, porch lights or living-room lamps. It was pitch black except for the faint colorful glow spilling out of open doors everywhere, and it came from the TVs. The light captivated me. For the next two weeks I wandered around, slipping in and out of strangers’ living rooms. Each time I came across an open door and a TV set, I asked if I could take a picture of it. The answer was always yes. Nobody seemed to think it was an odd request and it was usually accompanied by a Cuban coffee or rum.

To purchase the book, visit Clicgallery.com

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Photographer Paul Chan snapped this photo on the Malecon, in Havana. It was during the Spring quarter of his second year at UC Davis that he studied abroad in Cuba for two and a half months. This would be the first year in which Fidel Castro ceded his presidency to his brother, Raul.

You can see more of Paul’s work at PH-CHAN.com

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Poster reads:”Every Revolution begins with the power of an idea, but ends when the only idea left is power”

This Poster was created by Camilo Rojas for a project for Common Underground. Foreign designers were asked to choose a word in which their country was paired with and design a poster of their views of that word towards the US.

Designer Camilo Rojas of Spain explains his inspiration: “As a designer I was asked to choose a country (Cuba) and it’s corresponding word (Revolution) and design a poster that depicted their opinion of the two (the word and the country chosen).The basis of the project is to show insight as to how others perceive us and how we perceive others, hopefully this will catch someone’s attention and make them realize that what we need in order to change the course in which we are headed are those positive words that only make things right and focus on the positive instead of the negative.”

Exhibitions of the posters and book were held in Miami art gallery CIFO and also at Miami’s New World School of the Arts in conjunction with AIGA: Miami. A book was published of the project with all of the participating artist photos and bios.

Take a look at the website for Common Underground to see more on this project.

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