No to Pressure on Cuba’s Independent Artists

Lynn Cruz

Tania Bruguera at the entrance to Instar.

HAVANA TIMES — I recently attended the presentation of visual and film projects to a delegation from New York’s Modern Art Museum, at the alternative base of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Artivism, Instar, led by Tania Bruguera.

Instar is a space which defends freedom not only in form but also in art content. Funding has come from a crowdfunding campaign which Bruguera has made. It has become a truly alternative space, removed from pro-government politics.

However, this project she defends doesn’t have a right to exist in Cuba just as political activism within art doesn’t either. The only organization today with this profile, which has been legalized, is the National Center for Sex Education CENESEX, which defends the LGBTI community’s rights, who are the ones who suffered the most under the Castros’ government and one-party system, ironically enough.

A few hours before the event was scheduled to begin, I received a phone call. While inviting to see the movie Corazon Azul, which I have been producing alongside Miguel Coyula for the past five years, she told me about the nightmare she had of receiving four Culture Ministry officials in her home in Old Havana. They came to fine her for carrying out “illegal” activities.

As if that wasn’t enough, officials from the Housing Department came later on, arguing that the artist was making a new bathroom. When they verified this wasn’t true, they continued to insist as if their superiors’ order had been to find any excuse, the artist said. She refused to sign the accusation, for another made-up crime. Thus, abusive and deliberate acts of repression continue to be imposed on Bruguera.

The fine given to Tania.

However, none of that stopped the delegation headed by Sarah Meister and another 5 members, with a full official agenda, to learn about the work of a group of artists who are creating their art on the sidelines, suffering persecution, some of whom have even been imprisoned and repressed by Cuban authorities.

Approximately 10 projects were shown. The US team of curators managed to take away a very clear picture of the contradictions which exist in Cuba, today. They also managed to confirm the injustices that the Cuban government has committed against Bruguera, who also recently exhibited her work at the MoMA.

All of these measures are a part of the government’s strategy to abolish any creator’s critical thought. A counter-intelligence measure, which the State Security Department (DSE) is developing, in collaboration with Cuban institutions. They were loyal to an ideology in the past, now, they are squires of a blind power.

Plus, Bruguera is currently working on her new piece which will be exhibited at the British Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, in London next October.