The Obama administration is handing out visas to Cuban artists again, and Cuban musicians have begun showing up on Miami stages after a nearly decade-long hiatus.
The digital bridge artist Sage Lewis built to connect an acting ensemble in Miami with another in Havana is presented in this weekend's U.S. premiere of multimedia drama "The Closest Farthest Away" is not strictly speaking necessary: the Cuban actors could come here to perform live. But the project, first seen at the Havana Film Festival in December, does not just bring Cuban actors to a Miami stage, it brings Cuba itself.
The plot insists that politics cannot divide love or art. As Olga Garay, beloved founder of Miami Dade College's Cultura del Lobo series and now head of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, told the LA Times, Sage and his collaborators used digital technology "to overcome the draconian limits imposed by the continuing political disagreements between our two countries." Yet, as always, it's the medium that's the message. We live in an age where technology is rewriting the map of geography and politics not only across the US - Cuba divide, but across all divides. Lewis and his team have created an extreme version of Skype, where lovers not only see and speak to each other from a distance, but thanks to sophisticated sound design, the audience feels that is in two places at once, as Havana street sounds reverberate through the Byron Carlyle Theater, shifting as the character walks through virtual space.
The experience makes tangible the memories of so many Miami residents, for whom the sense of living in two places at once never goes away. It also gives a glimpse of our shared future, with Cuba and every point of the globe, as technology becomes our environment and we live here, there, everywhere, and nowhere at once.
The rhetorical social and political question is...would the Castro regime hand out similar performance visas to American performers? The answer, of course, is no way!