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Art of behavior: Pedagogical project from the arts. Part 2
by Magaly Espinosa

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A focus on social considerations characterizes Adrián Melis's work, whose novelty lies in prompting needs that satisfy real needs. He shapes his art process by mobilizing social behavior, delving into sociology through actions that turn him into a mediator of that behavior.

Vigilia [Vigil] (2005) is based on the clandestine purchase of wooden planks from night watchmen working in government carpentry shops. The artist then builds a hut where the watchman can take shelter during working hours. Melis says the following about the purpose of the piece: "The sentry post will be placed in order to exercise control over activities, similar in nature to the action that created it, and the watchman's work".

The video that documents the whole process includes images of the carpentry shop, the moments during which the purchase was carried out, how the planks were transported, and Melis building the hut. Covering a social need is the apparent purpose of the piece, but this is only a justification for laying bare the labor irregularities to which social existence itself gives rise.

Another member of the group, Grethell Rasua, bases her work on processes stemming from social demands, but takes a different approach to Melis. In constructing her work she brings together several elements: she takes into account specific social needs as a reference point, her ability in converting them into an aesthetic outcome, the way those needs are articulated with the physical participation of the customer, the price to be paid to purchase the product, and a film that summarizes the steps taken to execute the piece.

For example, in Con tu propio sabor [With your own flavor] (2005-2006) she creates a garden of plants and aromatic herbs to season food, using the excrement of those requesting the spices and aromatic herbs. The artist mixes the excrement with earth in equal parts in individual plant pots, then plants the seeds and waters them. This lets the seeds grow under excellent conditions due to the mineral richness of the manure that helped them germinate. Once the plants have grown, some are dried and ground into a powder for subsequent bottling in a jar.

The final act in this process is to deliver the product to the person who contributed the manure, and decide on payment. The production process thus ends in a peculiar way, since the product of which the donated raw material forms part is returned to the donors to flavor their food. This artist's creation is distinguished by the choice of the elements used to prepare the content of her works and the unique way she subordinates the field of craftwork to that of art by juxtaposing the artistic gesture that vitalizes and incites social appreciation and evaluation, with a particular focus on the social incorporation of art.

The duo of Celia González and Junior Aguiar is a variant on those approaches. Along similar lines to the work of Melis and Gretell, they blend the satisfaction of a social need with the staging of pseudo real circumstances that are underground in nature. The demand exists and they fulfill it by taking on the roles with which it can be consummated.

In Contraseña VHS [VHS Password] (2006) the artists refer to the experiences of people with underground film-rental collections. The artists tape movies and distribute them through a pensioner, who earns a percentage of the amount charged for renting them. Apart from making reference to a very common illicit activity in Cuba, this piece also tells us about the distributor's previous labor experience as a member of the state's security apparatus, and in direct opposition to his current livelihood. The artists' piece combines these two hidden activities, as if a dialogue or an equal footing between them were possible. It is a truly witty manipulation that blends a reality with a fiction, making both equally credible.

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