Cuban-American artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons at the Venice Biennale


This brief interview with Magda Campos-Pons appeared in the blog go the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Bostosn (where she teaches). The exhibit, at the National Archeological Museum in Venice, now sits impressively amid Roman sculptures.

How exciting that you’re representing Cuba at the Venice Biennale! How did this all come about?

I consider myself a cosmopolitan artist, so the fact that I’ve been invited to participate in the Biennial as part of a collective Cuban pavilion is an affirmation of my belief that voices and ideas transcend national borders and become part of trans-geographical and sociopolitical dialogues. I am extremely proud that I was invited in partnership with my husband and collaborator of over 20 years, Neil Leonard, a composer, saxophonist and professor who founded the Interdisciplinary Arts Institute at Berklee College of Music. We presented “LLego Fefa” together at the 11th Havana Biennial, featuring the ideas of establishing conversation, bridges of tolerance and respect–I believe it was a defining factor for this invitation coming our way.


Tell us a bit about the Biennale, its role in the global art scene, and what it means to take part in it.

Venice is a venue of extraordinary importance—a center for discourse and analysis of practices, a hub where fundamental issues in the market and currents in visual narratives are centered, a place where practices are launched and careers solidified. All of this matters a lot to me, as it grants us a voice and a platform.

This is really a historical gesture, reaching out to the island of Cuba and the Diaspora and embracing the multiplicity of world experiences. In the pavilion will be Cuban artists living in Spain, Canada, US and the Island—a realistic picture of our time.

Being part of this is huge—an extraordinary honor, affirmation and validation of my practice in the international discourse—it means you’re on the short list in the art world. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to get there.

This past week as I was doing my site visit, Gagosian Gallery was installing Anthony Caro’s work right next to mine. It was exciting to see the display of resources and power—being Biennale neighbors is precious.

What work will you be exhibiting?

We will be exhibiting a new piece: “53+1=54+1=55. Letter of the Year. “

It’s completely structured as a response to the theme of the Biennale, the “Encyclopedic Palace,” and to our site in the Emperors Room in the Piazza San Marco’s Archeology Palace. We are hoping to get all funds we need to execute the piece.

Are your students excited?

They truly are! Last year I took my Installation class to the Havana Biennial—we did our own fundraising, which included me cooking dinner for a VIP group. The fundraising paid for all the tickets, and we went to Havana for 12 days. I believe it was a life changing experience for many of them.

Will your students get involved in the Biennale?

They are already involved! I share with them and have reported throughout the development of ideas and production. I’ve shared the high and lows. We just did a presentation at MIT at the Artist in Context Conference. Four students are working with me, and one with Neil. Both Neil and I are professors within the ProArts Consortium, so we exchange students—a true rapport of interdisciplinary practice. Engaging the students in opportunities like the Havana and Venice Biennials really solidifies their education—we call it learning by immersion, bringing students to the place where things happen. A week in such context catalyses the entire year of classroom lectures and practices.

What’s next for you?

A sabbatical, my first solo show in France at the Saint Etienne Museum of Modern Art in January of 2014, a show at Tufts, a project a the deCordova Sculpture Park, other international shows and of course mothering and being a wife and mentor. And spending few days on the beach in Cuba, don’t you think?

Thank you, Magda, and congratulations again!

Thank you for asking me.

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