GUANTANAMERA – A film and installation by David Harding and Ross Birrell

Produced by Douglas Gordon
8 October-7 November, 2010

OPENING RECEPTION: 8 October 2010, 18-21:00

This project was shot on location in Cuba (March-April 2008) and Miami (January 2009) in the period immediately following the resignation of Fidel Castro. Birrell and Harding’s two films follow the recording and broadcasting of the most famous of Cuban songs, Guantanamera, by two singers from across the political divide of contemporary Cuban identity.

The original lyrics to the song Guantanamera (lit: ‘the woman of Guantanamo’) are derived from the Versos Sencillos of the Cuban national poet, revolutionary and martyr, José Martí. An inspirational nationalist hero who fought to liberate Cuba from Spanish colonialism, José Martí is claimed by both pro-Castro and anti-Castro Cubans alike. Castro regards Marti as ‘el Maestro’; he is noted in the Cuban Revolutionary Constitution and Havana’s international airport is named in his honor. For Cuban Americans, José Martí is a pre-Castro hero and lends his name to the right wing radio station Radio Marti.

The films are edited in poetic visual stanzas with a fragmented spatial-temporal framework, developed over Birrell and Harding’s two previous films, Port Bou: 18 Fragments for Walter Benjamin (2006, premiered at Kino KH Basel) and Cuernavaca: A Journey in Search of Malcolm Lowry (2007, commissioned by KH Basel). The Guantanamera films follow the recording and broadcast of separate versions of the song in Cuba and Miami.

In Cuba, the song was recorded in Guantanamo by the Changüí singer Jose Andres Ramirez and broadcast on Foxa Radio station in Havana. In Miami, the song was recorded by the famous Cuban-American singer, Renee Barrios and was to be broadcast to mark the anniversary of Marti’s birth on the right wing Government station, Radio Marti. However, after permission was denied, the song was broadcast on the US-Cuban radio station, La Poderosa, which devoted an hour-long phone-in to the project. The recording and broadcasting of two versions of Guantanamera in Cuba and Miami returns a song that has become something of a universal tourist cliché to a field of political antagonism, most succinctly embodied in the production of the a cappella versions as a Double A Side vinyl record.
(Ross Birrell and David Harding, April 2010)

SCREENING AND LECTURE: 11 October, 13:30-16:00, Valand Lecture Hall
Screening of the two documentaries that informed the film installation followed by a discussion with the artists David Harding and Ross Birrell

Open to the public Tuesday-Sunday, 12-17

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