By Our Own Efforts

By Our Own Efforts

Exhibiting at New Art Exchange, Nottingham from September 17th – November 6th 2016.

London under the Blitz represented a time when a community under attack worked together to battle the privations of war and create a semblance of normal life from limited resources. That is the spirit we found when Threshold first visited Cuba in 2011. Sixty years of the US trade embargo and twenty-five years on from the collapse of the Soviet Union; Cuba had learned to make do on next to nothing and yet somehow, survived.

Their survival comes from their ingenuity, powered by two publications; the first, A Book for the Family, collected together articles from publications such as Practical Electronics to explain how things work and how to fix them. Armed with this knowledge, communities took broken or redundant things and repurposed them: A broken washing machine becomes an air conditioning unit. A bicycle transforms into a ‘Rikkibilli’ motorbike (named after the noise it makes). A machine invented for shucking the shells from coffee beans. An irrigation device built to water the crops.

A second book, By Our Own Efforts – from where this exhibition takes its name – collected together these innovative ‘Resolver’ solutions and shared the knowledge with the rest of the country; achieving mass distribution without widespread access to the internet.

Currently, we see an entire nation facing the anticipation and excitement of change and the challenges this might bring. None of us could have predicted quite how fast change would manifest. Barack Obama has declared his intent to end the sixty years blockade, and broadband cable is being laid beneath the streets of Havana.

Our intent is not for audiences to see this world the way we see it, but to immerse themselves in the imaginaria of our collaborators and to form their own opinions, their own dialogue. This multimedia collage installation is an amalgamation of personal perspectives, an impressionist cloud evolving through the contributions and collaboration of those in the moment, of the time, navigating a path to a new future.

We seek to amplify the authentic voices of Cuban artists and communities capturing life as it was, is, and will be, before the tide of history sweeps it away. We present the voices of those who are keen to ensure their traditional, pre-revolutionary way of life will not be forgotten; those who are die-hard urban revolutionaries and see the dangers for social division in the new entrepreneurial culture emerging in the towns and cities, and those of Cuba’s young future, the filmmakers, and artists who will navigate this period of change and steer Cuba towards a new vision of itself.

The people of Cuba have much to teach us about the preservation of identity in the face of external cultural influence, resilience in the face of austerity, and finding collaborative solutions to communal need.