_!!!A R T Section [2015-2019]

Off Line Curatorial Digital Project

Intervention in Sales Points of the Weekly Package in all Cuba 

This research casts a deep glance at the informal ways for the circulation of information, digital piracy, alternative networks, the art-society relation, and the limits of net art and the new media-off line art, as well as their social interaction within the spaces of mass culture. !!!Sección A R T E is the result of several years of research and actions focused around one of the phenomena with the greatest scope emerged from precariousness and social creativeness within the alternative digital context in Cuba. The Weekly Package is a means of informal circulation of digital materials focused on entertainment. It is also a physical digital archive with a capacity of up to one terabyte,  distributed nationally through a weekly subscription service through a popular network organized on a hand-to-hand copy basis at a price equivalent to two dollars.

!!!Sección A R T E, active since 2015 in the Weekly Package, is one of the interventions developed for this phenomenon. This project repeats the concept of the Package: both are based on a directory of files without an Internet connection and are destined to be experimented off line, as a package of digital information. More subtle similarities are also detected, like the use of multiple windows and the digital aesthetics that go from the denomination of the archives to the architecture of directories through the use of files. It is not possible to activate links or hyperlinks with other contents, nor is it possible to have access to information published in previous months. In turn, it has no tools to determine, in quantitative terms, its impact and number of people it reaches. Nevertheless, the interaction with its audience is not totally unilateral as in  the case of the Package, since it has an e-mail address through which its users request themes and materials that are included in future editions. !!!Sección A R T E is also ruled like the Package, abstaining from promoting pornography or political materials. Nevertheless, due to its nature of artistic archive, it pushes the limits of what is understood by pornography or politics.

News, invitations to art exhibitions, book launchings, projection of documentaries and calls are disseminated by !!!Sección A R T E, in addition to a virtual gallery, the C A R P E T A =galería=, a space designed to receive works of art created especially for exhibition in the context of the Package. Since 2015, artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, and curators, both Cuban and foreigners, have taken part in the C A R P E T A =galería=. In the elaboration of their works, these guests have taken into consideration the characteristics of the Package, its national scope, and even the technological media in which the Packageaudiences consume these works.

This space has very specific limitations that result from the ways in which the Weekly Package is circulated and consumedSaid limitations have to do with the weight of the files that make up the work and also with the works’ digital formats. Given the fact that the Weekly Package is a decentralized phenomenon with regard to its forms of distribution and reproduction, the users consume it through the most diverse media and digital devices. Therefore, the projects must assume this as a condition, and must plan the different adaptations for the reproduction of the work in order to reach a wider public. One of the most common strategies used in this curatorship was the creation of videos for works that require the interactivity of operational systems[1]. Also, Spanish subtitles are always essential whenever the work contains dialogues or texts in other languages.

The selection of participating projects and artists has a direct conceptual relation to the way in which the Weekly Package operates. The Package creates its structure of materials according to what it can find and as a result of the team work. !!!Sección A R T E favored the creation of a contact network that grows organically and finds related projects. Once selected, they obtain the privilege of inviting other creators to participate and become part of this community. In order to be invited they must be artists with a career in digital art according to the project Manifesto. In the stage of conception and presentation, the artist has total freedom to choose what he wants to exhibit.

Aviso al consumidor (Consumer Notice) is the public Manifesto that uses a phrase bearing a very deeply-rooted meaning in the imagery of the Cuba of the Revolution. They are public posters or ads that offer information you must handle, such as timetables, duties and rights, etc. !!!Sección A R T E pretends that from the moment you open the space it will sound familiar, accessible, and that the word ART will not make you discard it when you cast a first glance at the main content of the Weekly Package.

In turn, Aviso al consumidor has the intention to change the unidirectional information flow of this medium. For that purpose, an e-mail address was created where you may send opinions on the materials and requests, which will be answered and returned in a file called So LICITUDES (Requests). This relation between the file and those who consume it enables the establishment of a horizontal dialogue with them and a deeper analysis of this medium in favor of the evolution of !!!Sección A R T E.

When distributing the artistic projects in the circulation space, these works will become public, meaning that they may be edited, modified, reconfigured and reproduced with an approximate receiver scope of ten million people along the entire Island.

[1] The PC users interacted with the works in their original condition, and the public that consumes the Package through USB on television experienced the work through videos that show their operation.

The Weekly Package

The Weekly Package is a one-byte media collection put together weekly in Cuba and distributed throughout the country hand-to-hand or in files. It is an independent alternative that has developed with the accomplice silence of the Cuban society. Mainly based on piracy, it contains some 15,000-18,000 files, depending on the week and distributor, and covers a wide variety of contents that include software, sports, soap operas, web shows, animation, mangas, films, TV programs, videogames, music, music videos, music shows, humor shows, virus updating, applications, as well as advertising of various national services. It is updated weekly throughout the country at a price equivalent to two dollars, and has an underground circulation. Because its price is not exactly low, several people usually come together when buying it.

The Package is often described as a solution in the face of the general lack of Internet or rapid or accessible connections in Cuba, but the phenomenon should be examined as part of a historical process that began several decades ago. In the early 1970s, some ten years after the start of the Cuban Revolution and nationalization of all mass media, when an illicit economy that escaped the State regulations began to develop in the Island, based on the rental of entertainment materials. Romantic or Western mini-novels by authors like Corín Tellado were the first materials that the entrepreneurs circulated underground. The purchase of books was a constant challenge, and these businesses showed that working with similar entrepreneurs in other cities was the best alternative to obtain new copies. This was the beginning of a national black market network for the exchange and purchase-sale of entertainment materials. In the same measure that the format of the available media evolved, first to magazines, than to VHS and Betacam videotapes, and finally to CDs, VCDs, and DVDs, this network enabled access to the circulation media beyond governmental control. Thus, the Weekly Package is the result of said networks and of the already established illicit trade of entertainment materials along more than four decades.

With its positive and negative aspects, one finds products of very different quality in this medium: trivial and commercial contents, but also daring ones, those that cast a glance at unknown worlds and innovative television trends. Their diversity is as wide as the consumption range they pretend to satisfy. The structure of contents of the Package shows a kind of curatorial intelligence that follows certain contextual events. More than being a channel for others’ contents, the Package “produces” its own contents (…) Through such contents one has access to another country, one that operates under the demands of creativeness and imagination.

The copyright issue, even though it has produced frictions in Cuba, is still not in the center of public debate. Piracy is legal, accepted and practiced by the State itself. It is the feasible alternative to obtain information in a country that suffers and benefits from the margins ceded by the economic and commercial blockade of the Island. It could be stated that this phenomenon is the outcome of decades of ingeniousness and organization of the informal networks; it is the most significant popular cultural phenomenon of the contemporary Cuban context.