A River in the Ocean

A site-specific project for the 12th Havana Biennial, 2015

Located in Casa Blanca, on the staircase ascending to the statue of Christo

The project takes as its title the mapping of the Gulf Stream by Benjamin Franklin in
1768. A River in the Ocean was the poetic description of the natural current that connects the
Caribbean and the North. The Gulf Stream has been known for its climatic effect on Northern
Europe, but was also instrumental in the early years of globalization due to the efficiency it
represented for the shipping industry.
In Casa Blanca, on the opposite side of Havana Bay from the Old Havana, Marte Johnslien has
worked within the community Finca Agroecologica Rincón del Cristo to produce the site-specific
installation A River in the Ocean. It consists of three sculptures that interact with the environment,
and which include medicinal plants that the Finca group is studying and using in their practice. The
works are placed along the staircase ascending to the statue of Christo, a well-used route both by
the local inhabitants and visitors to Casa Blanca.
The Finca group works towards recreating a farm area with native plants. This helps stop the
erosion of the mountainside, preserve the local fauna and works as a natural oasis in the
industrialized harbor area of Havana Bay. The group consists of medicinal plant doctors, reiki
healers, artists and farmers. They organize meditations in the forest, run a teaching program for
children, and work towards making the initiative a permanent establishment in Casa Blanca, during
a time when Cuba is facing big changes.
Marte Johnslien was invited by the curatorial team for the 12th Havana Biennial to work specifically
with this group, based on previous projects the artist has undertaken which dwell on ideas on
The project aims at investigating how global currents (both financial, political and spiritual) can be
found to affect local communities, and the other way around - how local initiatives can carry the
weight of the big questions of our time concerning sustainability and distribution of wealth. ! !
The project will be followed up by a small publication (due in 2015) where the process and the
Finca initiative’s work will be elaborated upon.


All text and image © Marte Johnslien
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