René Francisco’s Havana — A History of Transformation

In 2015, during an important transitional period in Cuban history, René Francisco Rodríguez crafted Entropía, a 3D animated video that vividly resonates with the sentiments of the time. This period was characterized by a reproach of relations between the United States and Cuba, highlighted by the anticipated historic visit of President Barack Obama to the island — the first by a U.S. president since 1928. Obama’s visit, which happened in 2016, came to symbolize a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations, following decades of economic embargoes and political estrangement.

Entropía captures the intricate and uncertain nature of this era in Cuba. Exhibited at the 12th Havana Biennial, an event itself shaped by these shifting political currents, the video mirrors a cautious optimism and a reimagining of Cuba’s future. It portrays a journey through a chaotic cityscape that echoes Havana’s unique and yet decaying architecture alongside contemporary new constructions. This juxtaposition of history, decay, and poverty with the new contractions of a renewed Havana reflects the dual realities of Cuba’s past legacy and its current challenges.

The video thoughtfully combines the audio from Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt’s 1971 film SWAMP with the disordered Havana landscape. SWAMP depicts a woman’s voice responding to navigation instructions in a confusing marshland, representing the tension between direction and disorientation. This audio overlay in Entropía forges a profound connection between past and present, bridging Smithson and Holt’s exploration with the contemporary Cuban scenario. This fusion creates a narrative that highlights the ongoing challenge of finding clarity and direction, resonating with the collective Cuban experience of navigating an uncertain future.

In Entropía, Rodríguez interprets the journey into Cuba’s future as a symbolic expedition. The nation, at a crossroads of historical change, is depicted in the video through a chaotic Havana; it mirrors Cuba’s efforts to rediscover and redefine itself amid new opportunities and enduring challenges. The work concludes with an image of light, suggesting a hopeful end to the entropic chaos, akin to a light at the end of a tunnel. It offers an insightful view of Cuba’s journey towards an uncertain future, capturing the country’s endeavor to balance the interplay of historical legacies and contemporary realities. This light at the end reflects the concept of Entropía or entropy, which in this context symbolizes the cycles of composition and decomposition inherent in Havana’s urban landscape, signifying the transformation, decline, and potential renewal within the city and the nation.