Capital Cuba
2015 35mm / 3D 12 Minutes 5.1 Sound Colour 25fps 1:1.78 Edition of 5+2

Capital Cuba

En un país como Cuba, donde el agua está por todas partes, ha sido una constante la necesidad de representar esa circunstancia desde el arte. Visiones fantásticas, históricas, naturalistas, por mencionar sólo algunas, han formado un imaginario inspirado en gran medida por la relación entre el mar, la ciudad y sus habitantes. Capital Cuba (12 min, 2015), filme exhibido por el artista austriaco Johann Lurf en la duodécima Bienal de La Habana Entre la Idea y la experiencia, toma como escenario segmentos puntuales del entorno de la Bahía de la Habana, para examinar dicha relación desde el espíritu innovador del cine experimental. En tal sentido el creador establece un juego con las potencialidades del medio cinematográfico a partir de un discurso estructural que estimula tanto al proceso como a las maneras de ver y sentir las imágenes.
Bajo la aparente libertad de no contar con un plan predefinido, Lurf se introduce en la rutina de un viaje. Desde el interior de la lanchita, que comunica a La Habana Vieja con el poblado de Casa Blanca y viceversa, la cámara renuncia a las tradicionales panorámicas para presentarnos una visión que pretende auscultar la complejidad de un contexto. Las distintas tomas sobre la actividad industrial en el borde de la bahía nos enfrentan a una realidad contradictoria y en proceso de cambio. Un escenario que se debate entre las operaciones que aún se desarrollan, la paulatina degradación y abandono de la infraestructura portuaria y los futuros planes de recuperación del borde marítimo. En Capital Cuba este entorno se muestra desde el fragmento: en el misterio detrás del constante movimiento de las olas; la ciudad que se descubre en el reflejo del mar; el contraste entre CAPITAL y MACHINA, nombres que identifican a una embarcación y a las ruinas del antiguo espigón del edificio de Aduana respectivamente; el espacio que separa dos orillas o el ruido del motor de una lancha que las une... Pero si bien son diversas las lecturas de sentidos que se podrían realizar sobre la construcción de esas imágenes; por otra parte la propia estructura y la configuración formal del filme son elementos prioritarios en el enfoque de este creador.
El movimiento de la cámara y el empleo de una edición constante confieren al material una dinámica peculiar, un ritmo y una “melodía interna” marcada por los cortes. Las sutiles variaciones en la repetición exigen una mirada detallada del espectador y hacen evidente la estructura. Capital Cuba aporta una nueva percepción del espacio que no sólo podemos ver sino también sentir. A la experiencia plástica se incorpora la corporal, en un gesto que entiende a “la proyección como acontecimiento”* y a la sala oscura como su casa. Entonces la obra no termina en la pantalla, sino que se expande como un acto de lectura-interpretación hasta instalarse en nuestra mente. Nos perturba e interroga como lo hace con el discurso que intenta definirla
Yalicel Gabeira
* Ver Malcolm Le Grice “Abstract Film and Beyond ” En: Peter Gidal Structural Film Anthology British Film Institute London 1976


In Cuba, a country where the sea is omnipresent, there has been a constant urge to represent this characteristic in art. Fantastic as well as historical and naturalistic visions have led to an abundance of images that are largely inspired by the relationship between the sea, the city, and its inhabitants. Capital Cuba (12 min, 2015), the film presented by Austrian artist Johann Lurf at the twelfth Havana Biennial “Between the Idea and the Experience”, uses certain locations within the area of the Havana bay as a platform to explore said relationship with the innovative spirit of experimental cinema. The artist plays with the qualities of cinema parting from a structural discourse that equally stimulates the creation process and the perception of the resulting images.
Seemingly with the freedom of not having a predefined plan, Lurf slips into a travel routine. From inside the small ferry that connects Old Havana with the town of Casa Blanca, the camera abandons traditional panoramic representations but instead seeks to present us with glimpses of a very complex whole. The different shots of the industrial activities around the edges of the bay confront us with a reality that is both contradictory and in the process of transformation: a scenario which is played out between currently developing operations, a gradual degradation, the neglect of the port’s infrastructure, plans for the future recovery of the maritime border. In Capital Cuba these circumstances are revealed in the details: in the mystery behind the constant movement of the waves, the city's reflection in the sea; in the opposition of CAPITAL and MACHINE; names that at the same time identify a ship and the ruins of the old breakwater of the customs building; in the space separating two shores or the engine noise connecting them... But while there are different ways to read the architecture of these images, the structure and formal configuration of the film are focal elements for this artist.
Through the movement of the camera and the consistent editing this material gains a distinctive momentum, a rhythm and an “internal melody” defined by the cuts. The repetitions with their subtle variations require the audience to watch very closely and they highlight the structure of the work. Capital Cuba offers a new perception of space which we do not just see but also feel. The spacial experience is supplemented by a physical one, in a gesture which defines the projection as an “event” and the dark room as its home. Thus this work does not restrict itself to the screen but reaches out into our minds as a continuous act of reading and interpretation. It unsettles and interrogates us the same way it does with any attempt to interpret it.
Yalicel Gabeira (Translation: Teresa Kuhn)

Capital Cuba, premiering in New York at First Look's opening night, is an experimental study of the Cuban seascape, consisting of very short clips of the bay between Old Havana and Casa Blanca. Visually, the effect is full of movement, resembling a stormy body of water. The footage includes the water itself as well as the shoreline, resulting in a portrait of nature and industry that are simultaneously developing and decaying.
Innovative global filmmaking on full display at the museum of the moving image’s first look festival by Justine McCullough on Tribeka tribecafilm.com, January 2016

A syncopated visual study of the Cuban seascape in Old Havana and the town of Casa Blanca uses striking images and an intricate editing rhythm to look at the clash between industry and nature. 
Museum of the Moving Image, New York, January 2016

Johann Lurf’s film begins and ends with the view of a moving ocean surface. Transformation processes of what is visible and audible; also in the camera’s movement and the editing, which cuts back and forth, second by second, between counter-rotating picture and sound spaces: A wonderful, sensual tour de force through a changing Communist bastion, which capitalism is finding its way into.
Diagonale, March 2016

Intercut footage of the camera panning along two sides of Havana Bay. Every few seconds, our act of viewing is disturbed for several seconds as the camera shifts from one side to the other. The rhythm of this panoramic view is determined by the editing. The 12-minute film invites the viewer on an experimentally filmed journey by boat from Old Havana to Casa Blanca. The sound of waves. The camera’s gaze shifts from the dark-blue surface of the water to the shoreline. An abandoned industrial building and lazily floating boats along the shore represent tools for transforming the abandoned bay.
Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, October 2015


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