"The building is a collection of memories."
In Cuba, few buildings conjure up as poignant a combination of history, nostalgia and promise as the Cuban National School of Ballet, Ricardo Porro's curvaceous series of brick arches that seem inspired by the movements of dancers. Experimental French artist and architect Didier Faustino, known for his colorful and creative installations, wanted to explore how buildings such as the famous school can become repositories for a certain kind of shared history. As part of a project called Dead Buildings 2.0, Faustino created a steadicam system that allows anyone to record their experiences within a building, in effect, letting viewers observe their observations of a massive structure secondhand. Faustino's project recorded the experience of dozens of locals exploring the school during the Havana Biennial in May, which will soon be cut into a film juxtaposing the first-person footage with discussion of Porro's work.
The concept first crossed Faustino's mind five years ago, when he was exploring a building in Tbilisi, Georgia. He mounted a camera atop a remote-controlled vehicle and sent it through the former Ministry of Highways building. His Cuban project, as well as a potential shoot in an abandoned railway in Paris, build on the idea of this place-based performance art.
Porro called his creation a utopian building. The camera system Faustino built to capture its meaning in relation to those who live nearby also forms a narrative about the building and its place in Cuban history. Like many famous sites, the school is a potent metaphor for the country and society.
"It's not a dead building," Faustino says. "It's frozen."
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