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Art frenzy takes over Havana as biennial kicks off

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Art frenzy takes over Havana as biennial kicks off

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cones of white paper sprout from the seasalt-eroded pillars of one colonial building along Havana’s seafront, elaborately painted curtains cascade from another while out front children play with an installation of multicolored hoses.

A giant photograph of a boy by French photographer and artist JR is seen on a wall, during the 13th Havana Biennial, in Havana, Cuba April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina

Havana’s 13th Biennial kicked off this weekend with works by more than 300 contemporary artists from 52 countries taking over the city’s museums, galleries and open-air spaces, and many more collateral exhibits.

“They turned my home into an artwork,” said Silvia Perez, smiling at the paper sprouting from the colonnade of her home, a piece by Cuban artist Elio Jesús Fonseca. “The artist said it meant peace.”

The transformation of the Malecon seafront boulevard into an open-air, interactive gallery, has become one of the most popular venues of Cuba’s most important arts event.

Along the sidewalk this year are smooth boulders encased in volcanic slabs by Mexican artist Jose Davila, while a swirling light installation by Peruvian artist Grimanesa Amoros protudes from a building.

Cuba’s Communist government, which has heavily promoted the arts since the country’s 1959 leftist revolution, created the Havana Biennial in 1984 to promote artists from the developing world, especially Cuban ones.

This year, 80 Cubans will exhibit their work, including a performance on Monday by Manuel Mendive, considered the Caribbean island’s top living artist.

Still, it also includes a large contingent of European and U.S. artists including Cuban-Americans like Enrique Martínez Celaya and Emilio Perez.

Biennial Director Jorge Alfonso said it had been a challenge to stage the biennial given Cuba’s difficult economic situation – authorities postponed it half a year – but that it had succeeded underscored the importance Cuba placed on culture.

“Not even in the most difficult moments have we ever given up on staging one of these kind of events,” he told Reuters.

“The slogan of this year’s edition, ‘the construction of the possible’, is related to our ideal that a better world is possible.”

Some artists who are critical of the government however have subverted that slogan.

In one piece on the Malecon called “Potemkin Village”, Cuban-born artist Juan Andres Milanes Benito who lives in Norway has propped what appears to be the perfect facade of a building on another that is falling into disrepair.

“It fits a lot with the Cuban government these days and how the system is working – there is a lot of facade,” he said. “Inside it is not so perfect.”

Originally he had wanted to replicate the facade of a renovated government building but authorities would not allow him, he said.

Some Cuban artists feel the Havana Biennial itself is a facade papering over simmering tensions between them and authorities.

Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who led a campaign against a controversial new decree on the cultural sector last year, was arrested last Friday after staging a small yet politically charged performance in his neighborhood.

His whereabouts remain unknown, his friends say. Asked by Reuters about the arrest in a news conference, the head of Cuba’s National Council of Visual Arts, Norma Rodriguez, said “as far as I know he is an activist not an artist”.

Cuba considers dissidents to be mercenaries in the pay of the United States trying to subvert the government.

The Havana Biennial runs until May 12.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper mocks Trump for speaking in third person: He’s ‘not supposed to talk like Elmo’

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CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks Trump for speaking in third person: He's 'not supposed to talk like Elmo'

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper closed his show on Wednesday night by mocking President Trump for his “unusual tic” of speaking in the third person, comparing him to the “Sesame Street” character Elmo.

President Trump spoke to reporters earlier in the day and attacked the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.”

“We just went through the Mueller witch hunt, where you had, really, 18 angry Democrats that hate President Trump. They hate him with a passion,” Trump said.

Cooper cried foul on numerous fronts.

“Him! He is him! Why is he doing this?” Cooper asked. “Also, grammar aside for a moment, if he says ‘witch hunt’ one more frickin’ time, Glinda is gonna float down from Oz and tell Lee Greenwood to hit the yellow brick road because Dorothy has arrived with the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Of course, the Scarecrow doesn’t have a brain, but even if he did, the third-person-in-chief wouldn’t be worried.”

The CNN anchor then played a clip of Trump boasting about China’s respect of “Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain” during a 2018 news conference.

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“The president of the United States is not supposed to talk like Elmo… Speaking in the third person, it was a habit for President Trump long before he moved to 1600 Sesame Street,” Cooper continued.

He then invoked a 2012 tweet in which Trump congratulated himself for high ratings when he starred on “The Apprentice.”

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Chris Pratt ‘refused to audition’ for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ in the beginning, casting director says

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Chris Pratt 'refused to audition' for 'Guardians of the Galaxy’ in the beginning, casting director says

Chris Pratt almost wasn’t Peter Quill aka Star-Lord.

Sarah Finn, the casting director behind 22 Marvel movies, revealed the shocking news while attending the “Avengers: Endgame” premiere in Los Angeles on Monday.

“[Director] James Gunn has been very generous about this in saying that I, to the point of annoying him, kept insisting that Chris Pratt was the guy for the part,” Finn explained to Variety before admitting that “Chris didn’t want to play the part and refused to audition.”

CHRIS PRATT AND KATHERINE SCHWARZENEGGER ATTEND THE FIRST RED CARPET TOGETHER AT ‘AVENGERS: ENDGAME’ PREMIERE

Chris Pratt, pictured here at the "Avengers: Endgame" premiere on April 22, 2019, initially "refused to audition" as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in the 2014 film "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Chris Pratt, pictured here at the “Avengers: Endgame” premiere on April 22, 2019, initially “refused to audition” as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in the 2014 film “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
(Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

“I finally got him to audition and James Gunn said he didn’t want to see him, and that was really a challenge,” she continued.

Luckily, Finn was able to bring the two together and it all worked out perfectly.

“It was honestly one of those eureka moments that we talk about in casting when it absolutely feels right and you know it’s right. James turned to me within 10 seconds and said, ‘He’s the guy,'” she recalled.

Pratt first-appeared as Quill in the 2014 film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Of the 39-year-old actor accepting the role, Finn said that “it was great when he decided that he was interested.”

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
(Marvel Studios)

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“Now it’s legend. He’s the perfect person,” she noted. “But at the time we were embarking on a movie that had a raccoon and a talking tree, and a property that people weren’t familiar with.”

On Monday, Pratt stepped out with fiancée Katherine Schwarzenegger for the “Avengers: Endgame” premiere, marking their first red carpet appearance as a couple.

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Trump Fed pick Stephen Moore slams reporting from CNN, other media: ‘Pulling a Kavanaugh against me’

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Trump Fed pick Stephen Moore slams reporting from CNN, other media: 'Pulling a Kavanaugh against me'

President Trump’s pick for the Federal Reserve board, ex-CNN contributor Stephen Moore, blasted the reporting about him from his former employer and other outlets Wednesday, accusing them of “pulling a Kavanaugh” against him.

During an interview on WZFG radio, Moore, previously a Fox News contributor, was asked about CNN’s KFILE reporting on various columns he had written from 2000-2003 in which he apparently mocked women’s involvement in professional sports.

“I was so honored when I got the call from Donald Trump but you know, all it has been since then is one personal assault after another, a kind of character assassination that has nothing to do with economics,” Moore said. “You know, my divorce 10 years ago, or something I wrote 25 years ago. They have six full-time investigative reporters looking into me at The Washington Post and the New York Times, and CNN.”

“I kind of wear it as a badge of honor, that they’re so afraid of me, that they want all these people looking into my past because they’re worried that I’m going to prevail here,” he continued. “They have not attacked me on my economic ideas.”

LARRY KUDLOW: ECONOMY HAS BEEN ‘BOOMING’

Moore agreed with the radio host that the coverage of him this week has been “National Enquirer stuff” and went even further: “They’re pulling a Kavanaugh against me.”

That was in reference to the hostile coverage Brett Kavanaugh, then a Supreme Court nominee, received during his confirmation process last year.

CNN KFILE senior editor Andrew Kaczynski responded to Moore’s attack, saying, “I don’t even know what ‘pulling a Kavanaugh’ means.”

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“Look, when you’re a nominee or pick for a public administration, your record is going to get scrutinized. Things that you say, things that you did–those are going to be reported on,” Kaczynski said on CNN. “I know this morning he was referring to this as a smear campaign, covering comments he made about women, and covering things that he said in columns. That is not a smear campaign. That is reporting on his record. So, it’s a little odd that he finds just commenting things that he has done and said to be such a problem for him.”

CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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