HAVANA TIMES — Now that we are experiencing a moment of open dialogue, I feel like I am absolutely free to say what decree-law 349, which will come into effect in December, means for me and other artists.
The problem with this decree is that it directly affects independent artists, including myself. According to what I’ve heard, decree-law 349 isn’t anything new, it is just a law that has been amended. Of course, the sole purpose of this reconstruction has been to prevent events that are uncomfortable for our government (such as the #00 Biennial) from being held in our country, and that every artistic project created on the island needs to be surpervised and previously approved by a government institution linked to culture, thereby passing through a series of different censors.
Once decree-law 349 comes into effect, I won’t be able to continue taking photos and exhibiting them, not even on the walls of my home which is my private space, in my room where I make love, or in my kitchen where I cook my split chickpeas and fried eggs every day.
I won’t be able to put up my pictures for them to be appreciated by an audience that I choose, I won’t be able to show my videos that I make with sweat on my brow and my creative drive. Because if I did, I would be breaking a law that downplays me as an independent artist and even if I did try, my working tools, my work and other belongings could be seized from me and I could receive a fine of 1000-2000 pesos depending on how serious the offense was.
This marvelous law, written up by our revolutionary comrades who advocate for the wellbeing of all of their citizens and the freedom of artistic speech, stops me (stops us) from being able to sell my work. To do this, I need to figure on the fine arts register, which is impossible in my case because I didn’t study 9th grade and all of my work has been created experientially, so I don’t belong to any institution; just like no institution has given me any kind of support to do my work, so I don’t owe anything to anyone.
Just for the record, I am in favor of paying taxes, I just believe that there should be space on this fine arts register for independent artists who haven’t graduated from some art schools so that they can sell their work and exhibit it in a dignified and legal way.
Specifically drawn up to stifle artists somehow, and make artists believe that their only way to make it is if they go abroad, decree-law 349 is trying to scatter us, remove us from our roots.
Now, even patriotic symbols cannot be used in artistic works because this decree-law takes them away from us. In your film works, you won’t be able to recreate a negative, violent character who uses sexist or vulgar language. People won’t be able to enjoy erotic movies anymore, and reggaeton and rap idols will go under because only romantic music, nueva trova etc. will be accepted…
Over the past few days, a group of artists sent letters, using the formal channels available to us, we visited citizen service offices, we went to the ministry of culture and to the government to demand a meeting, so artists can establish a dialogue with minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso.
We believe that a meeting is fair and much-needed by everyone. We still haven’t received a reply, although we hope they do take us into account soon and that we can create a dialogue that helps us to reflect upon and understand how decree-law 349 harms artistic creation. We all know that independent art exists everywhere in the world and a law like this one violates our rights, even more so if you bear in mind the fact that we were not even consulted about the amendments that were to be made.
For now, I will continue to create my art and I’ll leave you with a short performance art video, inspired by #349. I just hope that I am able to continue creating freely in the future and, of course, that I can continue to do so in the land I was born in because I am a Cuban writer and artist, not a vile criminal.