What is an Independent Artist? A topic of the moment in Cuba

Javier Moreno Diaz

Ilustration by Yasser Castellanos on the government’s Decree 349 that will ban independent art in Cuba as of December 7th.

HAVANA TIMES – Filling sheets of paper with pseudoacademic definitions could be an alternative for filling a space but the truth is that an artist is independent when they are free to create and exhibit or perform their work wherever they like.

From concert hall musicians to the most vilified graffiti artist, artists depend on their own personal and spiritual efforts to give their work life or to display it somewhere where it will be admired or criticized by the public.

Institutionalized artists are also independent to some degree, as they realize what is in their best interests to show to the government and in most cases, they seek out places where they can express their real sentiments. You can’t label this kind of artist a shameless opportunist (even though this derogative term is logical if you analyze it with a cold head) in a country where civic freedoms are suppressed. Artists turn to covering up their real self and lie.

I remember a quote from someone who used to preach: writers and artists are the world’s greatest liars, generally-speaking.

Truth and lies are fragile concepts which shatter according to your point of view, time and place. An independent artist jumps through academia’s highest and strictest hoops, which impose rather than propose alternative thought which will influence life around them. Given the fact that they are the people’s real historians and are the people, they feel the same weight of the everyday struggle that oppresses them or keeps them in a chameleon-like lethargic state.

Independent artists are responsible for overthrowing society’s status quo and to expose institutional or academic strategies so as to shed light on the overwhelming reality of today. From wherever they are located, artists generally defend freedom of speech at every level, according to their particular understanding of their environment, without censoring public opinions about them, even though they might not agree with this opinion.

Strong or true artists don’t care about statism, as they decide to keep going with the flow of things, infecting and making others move with them.

Therefore, defining an independent artist is like defining poetry, the elusive, wonderful, which escapes logic or understanding.

Is it up to the artist to enter social acceptance?

There are artists who escape any kind of order (out of conviction or projection), therefore, artists don’t worry about this question, they wait for society to evolve and regardless of whether they are criticized or not, they are satisfied knowing that they have had an impact with their stance which the modern man has taken as their horizon. Anyhow, problems are and will be reflected in one way or another thanks to their timely and objective view, a blunt proposal, whether those in power like it or not.

So, what is an independent artist?

It’s whoever holds onto their innocence and knows that this is their best weapon against the establishment; an ancient and mature innocence which comes from opening up our minds to reason.

It’s whoever government institutions treat like dirty dumps and useless salt, absurd bunks where it isn’t worth laying down your head, as they kill your wish to dream right there and then.

An independent artist is a paradigm of modernity when he/she is a real headache for society in every way.

The person who consumes their work also completes and becomes a part of that work, thereby becoming an advocate and spokesperson for absolute freedom.

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