VIOLATING OBJECTS: CUBAS’ TECHNOLOGICAL DISOBEDIENCE
Now that the last Castro stepped down as president of the council of state and council of ministers in Cuba, and an era seems to have come one step closer toward its end, it might be a good moment to look back on the island's most important contribution to design history: its Technological Disobedience.
The term Technological Disobedience was coined by the Cuban artist and designer Ernesto Oroza to summarize the unique way in which his compatriots relate to technology. According to Oroza, the average Cuban -pressured and constrained by a crisis that is hitting harder and harder, and with no industry in the country- can only survive by totally disrespecting, surpassing and violating the “authority” and often even very complex technology of the objects that are still lingering around. In doing so, Cubans also think far beyond the capacities and uses these objects were originally meant for by their producer. Scarcity has provided them with a creative richness that so-called technologically advanced countries have totally lost. And now that the crisis starts to globalize, it makes the average Cuban also much better prepared for the future
Worker, build your own machinery!
Partially supported by the authorities, that even produced manuals on the subject, and brandish slogans such as Ernesto Che Guevara's 'Obrero construye tu maquinaria!' (Worker, build your own machinery!), the audacity of the average Cuban reaches that far that many even put their own life at risk, as is the case with the Rikimbili or improvised motorcycles. In the same way in which an experienced surgeon has become insensitive to blood and organs, Cuban inventiveness has broken with all limitations, aesthetic, legal, or economic, says Oroza, an industrial designer by training who -after discovered that there was no work available anyway – made it his mission to travel the island, collecting objects that would prove his point.
However, the diverse, naturally growing vegetation at the site was left largely alone, enhanced only by the planting of four perennial flower gardens. Lit from within, visually enticing, fluent, light, simple, and of an extraordinary poetry that immediately invokes elements of the Chinese past and culture, such as the Chinese Ribbon Dance, a traditional and universally known ritual of celebration, The Red Ribbon glows at night. But even during the day, its vivid lacquered color offers a striking complement to its lush green surroundings, offering the city a park and a future, by updating the inhabitants’ collective memory and an age old ritual of the past
As is also demonstrated by the books and exhibitions Oroza devoted to the subject, such as Objets Réinventés or Rikimbili: the economy that results from this Technological Disobedience or Architecture of Necessity is an incredibly imaginative one, turning a serving tray into an antenna, and even updating a black and white television by coloring the screen with paint. “The people have become their own producer, constantly reinventing,” says Oroza, ““Used to seeing everything from the inside, dismantled, the symbols that make an object into a unique entity – for a Cuban they simply don’t exist. and the liberation that comes with it is not just aesthetical but first and foremost a moral one”.(mb)
All images © Ernesto Oroza