Illegality Proves that things Need to Change

Lynn Cruz

A rehearsal of a new presentation of The Enemies of the People, at Tania Bruguera’s INSTAR.

HAVANA TIMES — Not too long ago, I was speaking to a historian who told me she was up-to-date with the news relating to acts of censorship that have taken place over recent months.

With a gesture of political indifference she said: “This isn’t going to change.”

This phrase has become commonplace in Cuban reality and it also formed part of the control strategy used in Eastern Europe when they were experimenting with Socialism: “Imbue the people with fear of change.”

The same thing is happening in Cuba among the intellectual elite who have been institutionalized. Their attitude is moving more and more towards a conformity which ends in this popular saying: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Luckily, there are always people who are labeled “crazy”, who resist this attitude that is becoming pathological.

The Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism (INSTAR), directed by Tania Bruguera, is a palpable example of this anti-conformism.

She recently finished her third round of workshops which are taking place every month at her base at 214 Tejadillo street, between Aguacate and Compostela streets in Old Havana. Her new guests, Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher who came from Berlin, took part in a program that included postdramatic theater, as well as living between art and activism.

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera poses for a photograph near the statue of Jose Marti in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution. Photo:

Artists and activists can be close and collaborate, Warsza said when I asked her about the fear some people have of publicly showing their political leanings. They think that by saying that you are an activist, you are putting yourself under State Security’s nose, who are persecuting any and all political opposition, especially against INSTAR as it is a truly free space that encourages dialogue.

With quite a varied program, writers, journalists, thespians, visual artists, artists, filmmakers and playwrights with censored works, have had the chance to show their work in this space.

A sign at the entrance said: “How can you be prepared for the unfore-seeable?” It turned out that in spite of the calm atmosphere that prevailed, an unexpected visit tried to tarnish the course’s program. Someone came with a message for Bruguera saying that her tutoring license would be suspended.

Over the past few years (and before the Cuban government decided to paralyze granting self-employment licenses), many artists have been carrying out projects in their homes, some of which have been converted into studios. Many of these artists remain obedient and work with the same system of self-censorship that prevails at state institutions. That’s why they are left alone.

At a presentation at Instar of the censored documentary film “Nadie” by Miguel Coyula.

However, the complex and controversial artist Bruguera refuses to give up her views, so she can just hold onto her creative freedom. This puts her in the category: “suspicious”. The Cuban government’s response has always been to punish her, persecute her, boycott her performances, intimidate her, threaten her, and distance her followers with blackmail, as well as interrogating her foreign guests.

Fickleness is innate to Cuban nature, but Bruguera is steadfast, plus she has managed to launch herself internationally. Today, she is a prized artist because of her daring, the consistency in her work and she is much-needed on Cuba’s cultural scene.

Creating an alternative institution is perhaps her most ambitious project, as the government has been the absolute owner of Cuban art and artists for nearly 60 years. By taking away her tutoring license, I imagine they want to try and accuse her of acting illegally, but this very illegal practice proves that things need to change.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

One thought on “Illegality Proves that things Need to Change

  • The time is right for the Cuban people to take charge of their own destiny for too long they have been shackled by the chains of the oppressor. Break the chains of bondage for freedom calls, make 2018 the year of change.

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