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Art of behavior: Pedagogical project from the arts. Part 1
by Magaly Espinosa

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The tradition of procedural art and action art gives impetus to cultural perspectives driven by ethnological considerations, the artistí­s worth as a bearer and reproducer of culture, social assignment and the social integration of art. Artists are an active part of their cultural milieu, highlighting the main contradictions and social forces of areas that are not in evidence, are hidden or lack transparency.

To date, however, the interventionist activities promoted through this project do not have the spiritual purpose of the work Cuban artists Juan Francisco Elso or Luí­s Gómez, but are more rooted in the natural flow of everyday life. That flow stems from social behavior and situations that prompt artistic actions, often without abandoning their aesthetic play, although the latter does not lie in the formal values of the artworks, but in the imaginative inclinations that show the most essential, intimate aspects of society and culture. This sphere of life is very rich because of that intimacy, and because it continually undermines economic and political order, showing its deceitfulness through the power of the laws of subsistence, which are wily and elusive.

In other words, these are approaches whose main purpose is a form of art driven by social and cultural themes, in addition to another art form dealing with social integration. Both avenues are closely related, but their nuances help to understand just how varied the content of such artworks can be when it is created by artists who are not merely reproducers, but also bearers of that content, of the subjects, actions and processes with which their work identifies.

In search of a tradition of aesthetics and anti-aesthetics, art and anti-art

During the course of the past 4 years the students have staged several exhibitions, the most important being: the untitled exhibition of 2003; "Centrí­fuga" (Centrifuge, 2004) curated by Eugenio Valdés and held at the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales; "Reescribible" (Rewritable, 2006), curated by Luí­s Gárciga and shown at the home of the promoter of the project, Tania Bruguera), and "Ni a favor ni en contra, todo lo contrario" (Neither for or against, quite the opposite, 2007), curated by Mailyn Machado at the Facultad de Artes y Letras.

Some 100 events have also taken place through studentsí­ initiative or with their participation, particularly presentations of their work to professors and invited artists, collective shows featuring the work of students, public interventions, and exchanges with other institutions. It is worth pointing out that many of the courses and seminars given each semester are not only attended by current students, but also by some who have already graduated, and those who drop in regularly. They give the impression that the affinity with which they identify their actions arises above all from the ways they conceive and carry out their art practice.

The activities undertaken so far, albeit over a short period, have been prolific, in addition to something more essential: an increase in the quality of the work, whether individual or collective. They are presented as acts of behavior, of action, that change the outward appearance of objects, converting them into artifacts, documents, testimonials or services enriched by a conceptual approach.

The aesthetic characteristics of this kind of creation, discussed above single out various elements that turn it into a contemporary projection of the social tradition of art. The artist is simultaneously the producer and reproducer of cultural meanings, a stimulator of social assignments who opens the borders between art and life and those that still exist in the dichotomy between high and low art.

The critical awareness that stems from that attitude is the most disquieting social circumstance that surround them, since no concessions are made to taste, institutional interests or ideological criteria: rather, each personal decision taken in setting up a piece, be it naí¯ve, cynical, simulative or parodical, has the courage of explorations rooted in the ethno-esthetic sphere, in everyday life, in concepts turned into cultural happenings and in the risks taken on embodying them.

The fact that an ethnological perspective is an incentive is what makes it possible to resort to ethno-aesthetic discourse that reflects the scaffolding behind habits, customs, beliefs and the social imaginary, and the particular way they are presented. The traditional aesthetic qualities of beauty, harmony and balance form part of this perspective, but as I have stated, they serve the nature of the process, document, or service at which the work is aimed. In some pieces these qualities are absent, so rather than pursuing technical mastery or skill, the focus is on exchanging attitudes, experiences and customs, which are the links that give the work substance.

Although all the functions of art are social, when creation deals directly with cultural elements of an ethnological, anthropological nature, of popular art as a whole, it then deals with a dynamic and a very particular representational body where artists use textual and metaphorical games, thus broadening the field of those functions.

In the continuing work of this group of students, great importance is placed on the ease that differentiates an art practice based on social and cultural content from one that seeks to stimulate or influence the natural dialectics of daily life while respecting its demands, its aesthetic frameworks and its forms of existence. This contrast is one of the elements that enrich the diversity of the works and marks the distance between two types of creation, one based on social content and the other inserting itself on the socio-cultural.

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