In the past several years, the artists Julia Weist and Nestor Siré have traveled to every city in Cuba to meet and interview the distributors of el Paquete Semanal (“the weekly package”): one-terabyte collections of media aggregated by various studios each week, stored on external hard drives, and delivered by hand to customers across the country. The drives include folders with Hollywood films, Korean soap operas, YouTube memes, ads for Havana restaurants, offline versions of websites, and PDF magazines. Weist and Siré’s work asks how, despite the lack of internet access, Cubans have managed to obtain, circulate, consume, and create all kinds of popular media. In doing so, they’ve developed social networks, information flows, and strategies of representation that we typically associate with digital culture—as well as a public sphere that hinges on an illicit private market.
In 17.(SEPT) [By WeistSiré PC]™, Weist and Siré present works created for and about el Paquete Semanal. The centerpiece is a sixty-four terabyte server that provides access to an archive of one year of el Paquete Semanal, built in collaboration with OMEGA, one of the Cuban studios that creates and distributes the collection each week. This server is the only large-scale archive of the paquete; to construct and deploy the work, Weist and Siré carefully conformed to the legal and logistical constraints that result from current political and economic relations between the US and Cuba. (Weist and Siré’s work recently was exhibited at the Queens Museum; is on view as part of the Gwangju Bienniale until November 11; and has been featured in Art in America, Frieze, and Artforum, among other publications.)
Between September 17 and October 28, Weist and Siré’s archive of the paquete, ARCA [archive], will be accessible at Triple Canopy. (Triple Canopy will publish a new iteration of Weist and Siré’s project—based on extensive interviews with Cuban advertisers and viewers as well as documentation of consumption patterns—as part of an issue to be launched in early 2019.) The work maintains the exact folder structure used by OMEGA and contains media aggregated between August 1, 2016, and August 21, 2017. In addition, ARCA [archive] includes a supplemental folder, !!!Extra, with collections created by the artists during their research and covering the following categories:
Original content: a complete collection of original content created in Cuba for the paquete, including digital magazines, advertisements, and shows devoted to entertainment bulletins, celebrity gossip, and topical banter.
Matrices: an archive of the promotional logos of Cuban distributors, or matrices, ranging from 1980s VHS rentals to DVD vendors to the el Paquete Semanal studios.
!!!A R T Section: a complete archive of the artist projects presented in !!!Sección A R T E, a project by Siré to circulate contemporary art in an eponymous folder as part of the paquete.
El Paquete Semanal (national archive): a collection of content and screenshots that documents the architecture of folders of every sub-matriz, or regional distributor, in Cuba.
Selection of photos: a collection of high-quality images related to el Paquete Semanal, including photos of the PCs used by matrices and of boxes that are built by hand to transport hard drives from one city to another.
Information for visitors
The installation of ARCA [archive] aims to share the archive with other artists and researchers who are interested in analyzing or developing projects related to el Paquete Semanal. During the installation, the work will be accessible at Triple Canopy each week from Monday until Thursday, from 12 until 6 p.m. To make an appointment, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and suggest two or three dates and times Users must bring their own computers to plug into the server (cables will be provided); they are permitted to view the archive and create new works using the contents, so long as the works have no commercial purpose.
Additionally, an excerpt of any work that refers to or employs contents from the archive must be provided for inclusion in !!!Sección A R T E. The excerpt will be included in the paquete as a form of dialogue between the user, the artists, and the creators and consumers of the paquete, in the Cuban context in which the collection circulates.
- Julia Weist is an artist living in New York. She is the recipient of a 2017 Jerome Foundation Fellowship from the Queens Museum, the 2016 Net-based Audience Prize from Haus Der Elektronischen Künste, Basel, and the 2015 Media Plan Award from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Weist is the author of several artist books, including the novel Sexy Librarian (2008) and, most recently, After, About, With (2015). In 2018, Weist is participating in the Gwangju Biennale and the Taiwan International Video Art Biennale. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Queens Museum (New York City), Rhizome, the New Museum (New York City), the Luminary (St. Louis) and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam). Her public artworks include Reach (2015, produced by 14x48, New York) and View-Through (2017, produced by O, Miami).
- Nestor Siré lives and works between Havana and Camagüey, Cuba. He has participated in the Curitiba Biennial, the Havana Biennial, the Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Cuba, the Oberhausen International Festival of Short Film (Oberhausen, Germany), and the Asunción International Biennale (Asunción, Paraguay). Siré was the winner of the 2016 Visa for Creation from l’Institut Français. He has been awarded residencies by Dos Mares (Marseille, France) and the Ludwig Foundation and LASA (Havana). His works have been exhibited at the National Museum of Fine Arts (Havana), the Queens Museum (New York City), Rhizome (New York City), the New Museum (New York City), Hong-Gah Museum (Taipei), UNAM Museum of Contemporary Art (México City), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Fe (Argentina), among other venues.