Manufactured gods: an opinion on the Cuban video clip

As every year, the Lucas Awards (Video clip awards in Cuba) generate an interesting debate amongst the creators, critics, audiovisual producers and, of course, the general public. The problem lies in the understanding that the real problem is in the concepts, in the contents or, to put it more clearly, in the simplistic messages that are often transmitted.

Part of global audiovisual trends, the phenomenon of "clipmania" begins to pose important challenges in the field of cultural resistance and in the counter-hegemonic projection of some sectors of Cuban society.

What happens when the artistic violates the authenticity and the enriching expression of its reality? What are the consequences of an aesthetic, a statement of cheap and commercial use of what could be a consistent artistic practice? What are the consequences of associating artistic production with economic practice? Marx said, "production not only produces an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object. Production thus produces consumption. "

With its varying degrees of visual complexity, video clip should be looked at like a text with a cultural, political and social content, which can at the same time generate veracity and ambiguity.

The Cuban music video has adopted an individualistic, sexist, often pro-capitalist and in some ways marginal language. Except for honourable exceptions, recently a carnival of colours, naked dancers, pretty girls and chic clothes, has taken over the space that initially aimed to resist the voraciousness of this huge industry.

The hypersexualization that is being promoted in this type of audiovisual undermines structures with which society gives such sensitive subjects as love, happiness or individual and collective life projects.

Assuming little harm will be done, the press in this country seems tired with this debate and there is an absence of thoughtful specialized criticism. It occasionally provokes comment during the year and not only when Lucas awards the prizes. Discussing the banality, frivolity and violence of the Cuban musical audiovisual, does not seems to be a goal shared in our newspapers, magazines and responsible institutions.Nor can we ignore the phenomenon of "stars" in Cuba, which, even with the restrictive technological conditions for interaction in social networks or their limited presence for many within the country, begin to self-define or emerge as ‘Opinion leaders' in society.

This is particularly very dangerous when curtains, microphones and multiple screens are put at the service of little organic speeches and exponents of the most crude cultural decline. It is true that the creators of the music scene on the island have always had a voice and intellectual ascendancy, but this has not been while expressing ignorance, mediocrity or lack of social responsibility.

There is much to think about in several narrow directions. In the online world in which we are developing, free choice and the fictional gratuitousness of audiovisual consumption, appear as bait to transform the attention of the public into a tool of citizen immobility.

The immediacy of information, the transience of footage, the almost irresistible triangle of sex, spectacle and music, form important categories that interact with this issue around reception.

The problem assumes complex features in the absence of critical reception programs in schools, universities and other social platforms. This implies that what could be an attempt to unravel truths, place messages coherently and decode speeches, is revealed in an amputated reasoning that subjugates spirituality, makes instinct prevail and reproduces the most negative patterns.

The decal and the copy that tries to make us see ourselves and insert ourselves in the great market and with this dialogue with the world, is determined not to leave room for good taste, intelligent intertext or balanced fun. Women represented as objects, reification of feelings, "crazy" parties, yachts, swimming pools, poor neighborhoods, urban fights and weather-worn walls seem to condition this "dialogue with reality" again and again.

In Cuba we should make an effort to read an interesting book that was published in 2015. ‘The Dictatorship of the Videoclip: Music industry and prefabricated dreams' analyses evidence from the dark world of the video industry and how it has been trapped in the mercantilist, pseudo-cultural and homogenizing contours of the new world system.

Analyzing the structure of these light-hearted videos, the Spanish sociologist Jon E. Illescas warns of the transcendence towards the ideological and the axiological in consumers. In the text the relations between these videos and the politico-military estates of the great capitalist society are revealed.

In this sense, Illescas explains that through "a propaganda much more seductive than that used by dictatorships, the ruling class models those dominated by the cultural industry," normalizing the violence, machismo, selfishness or inequality as part of human nature.

Returning to Gramsci's notion of hegemony, it exposes how social control is exercised through culture. It establishes interesting ways to understand how "subaltern classes" end up supporting the values and the dominant ideology; through the imposition as common sense of a discourse that is always favourable to the interests of the most powerful sectors.

Establishing a parallel with the theses of Illescas, I cannot fail to see in our contemporary national productions much of these "cultural conflicts". Although they try to pass as unnoticed and normal, each time with greater force what is expressed is neocolonialism, the defence of witnessing the existence and the essences of consumer society in the video clip as a cultural sphere in Cuba.

As the Illescas recalls, "cultural goods like any other good or service made for sale, are produced in the first place not to make people happy, but so that those who invest in them sell them and earn money."

In Cuba we should not lose heart so that the strategy of product placement in videoclips does not find space which for a long time it has with its national and foreign audiences.

So I disagree with several pronouncements of the organizers of Lucas and some of the participants in the television program that I pointed out at the beginning. Visualizing productions that will never have space in the big industry, does not in itself turn out to be an alternative answer. For this to constitute an "alternative" space, values that are expressed artistically, ethically and aesthetically, must be superior to those of this terrain that we intend to challenge.

It is not possible to continue bordering on a very costly and harmful cultural irresponsibility that is expressed in the promotion of values, hopes and models of life that generate a considerable distance from the society that we intend to build.

Perhaps that's why I expected to see a stronger institutional and social reaction as well, when the symbolic mambí machete "evolved" into a ridiculous laser version or the force of history was reduced to a narrow metaphor for the Star Wars saga. The latter with an emergence closely related to the imperial political context that emerged from World War II and crystallized during the last half of the twentieth century.

Technological and aesthetic quality have to coincide more frequently, also values and social responsibility. Institutions, beyond projects like Lucas, have to play a superior role, which based on the dialogue points to the monopolistic relations in which the development of the Cuban music video seems to be taking place.

It is imperative that the institutions guarantee the fulfillment of the country's cultural policy, not as a centralizing expression, much less with an inquisitive function; but exercising greater criteria in content and forms through construction and consensus with the artist.

That our television spaces reproduce foreign formulas over and over through the video clip, should be a call to action for all those responsible. That the Cuban music video appears to have nothing more clever than to show that ‘Until the Malecón is dry, Together, but not scrambled' or ‘To you what hurts you'( Hasta que se seque el Malecón, Juntos, pero no revueltos or A ti lo que te duele), should force us to rethink what has happened and also what will happen.

Much remains to be done so that daily life does not normally absorb these deviations and make us conditioned to the metamorphosis in a bad video. Not only because it would be short, ephemeral and of little transcendence; but because it would hold the present generations responsible for the regression of the serious, the really beautiful and the intelligent in our national culture.

It is not a matter of phantom debates, nor of continuing to generate manufactured gods; you have to go deep, find causes and generate definitive solutions. The Cuban music video is useful and important for our time; Let us offer resistance so that it is not converted before our eyes, in a soft strategy for the simplification of consciousness.

Link to original article in Spanish

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