– Paper Bag Stories From Cuba

The paper bag is a deceptively simple object, often overlooked, seldom admired. It nevertheless can tell manifold  stories spanning from early industrialization, to late modernist consumer society up to the most recent global trade wars.  Especially in the Cuban context, with its own economic model, the blockade of the US and the collapse of the Eastern bloc the simple paper bag can be a great interrogator of histories, politics, economics and, conflicts of a global scale. In Cuba paper bags mean both past and the future: paper bags were changed into plastic bags when the Soviet Union collapsed, so for many people they are nostalgic objects.

We commissioned local professional writers and thinkers to write a speech about Cuba from their particular point of view – using a paper bag as a reference point. An edition of 7 paper bags with excerpts of each of the 7 speeches  printed on the bags in total 100.000 bags. The bags are distributed by local pupils (see image above) over the period of the biennial to vegetable markets and small grocery stores around Havana to be given out to people. Thus the artwork is slowly distributed to many households of the city over the period of the biennial.  The complete speeches can be listened at the Havana biennale exhibition.