Tag Archives: Tania Bruguera

Artist Pulls Her Work From Bronx Museum of the Arts Cuba Exhibition

The New York Times

A long-planned exchange of works between the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Cuban national collection, recently scrambled by the complexities of international relations, has hit another snag.

Tania Bruguera, a prominent Cuban-born performance artist and activist who has clashed in recent years with the Cuban authorities, is demanding that her work not be included in the second half of the two-country show, “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje,” and the museum has agreed to her request.

The Bronx Museum’s director, Holly Block, announced this week that the exhibition’s second half, which was to have been a selection of works lent to the Bronx from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba, would not take place as expected, after Cuban officials declined to allow works to travel to the United States. In the summer of 2015, the Bronx museum had lent more than 80 works from its permanent collection to the National Museum to initiate the exchange. But Cuban museum officials have demurred on continuing to cooperate, possibly because of questions about whether state-owned art works from Cuba could be in danger of being seized while in the United States to satisfy legal claims by Americans whose property was confiscated in Cuba after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

The Bronx Museum decided to replace this half of the show with another exhibition, scheduled to open Feb. 17, made up of some 60 pieces drawn from public and private collections outside Cuba, representing many of the artists whose works would have come from the national collection.

But Ms. Bruguera, one of the marquee artists in the new lineup, said in an interview Thursday that she did not want her work to be included in the show because she felt that Ms. Block’s exchange initiative relied too closely on the Cuban government, which she opposes. (She has been detained and questioned several times in Cuba during art performances and other activities, most recently this month.) She added that she was prevented by Cuban authorities, in 2015, from entering the national museum in Havana to attend the exhibition for the first half of the exchange and that Ms. Block did not intercede to help her.

“We asked her but she never signed anything protesting what was happening to me or any of the artists in Cuba at the time who were being oppressed,” Ms. Bruguera said. Her 1996 video performance, “Cabeza Abajo/Head Down,” which is in the Bronx museum’s permanent collection, was scheduled to be featured in the Bronx show.

Ms. Block, in an interview, said that she had interceded, unsuccessfully, with National Museum officials in 2015 to try to help Ms. Bruguera gain entry, though Ms. Block said that Ms. Bruguera had been seeking to attend a different exhibition at the time, not “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje.”

In a statement, Ms. Block said that the museum continued to support Ms. Bruguera, but would honor her request. “The Museum has long recognized and admired Tania Bruguera’s work,” the statement said. “We have exhibited her artwork, presented programs with her and have been instrumental in recommending her for awards.”

Why we should back Tania Bruguera’s presidential bid for a free Cuba



The Guardian

Art is good at pointing out simple truths that otherwise get forgotten, or conveniently ignored. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has just announced that she is running for president of Cuba when Raul Castro steps down – as he has said he will – in 2018.

There’s just one snag. You can’t run for president of Cuba. The socialist island is not a democracy but a one-party state. Bruguera’s “artivism”, as she calls it, is a satirical performance that draws attention to the embarrassing reality that Cuba’s rulers are not freely elected by the people. “Let’s use the 2018 elections to build a different Cuba,” she says, “to build a Cuba where we are all in charge and not just the few.” She says she hopes “to change the culture of fear” with her utopian bid for the presidency.
Wait a minute. Fear? The rule of the few? What can she be talking about? This does not sound like the Cuba some people so love to sentimentalise – the socialist paradise in the sun where rum is bountiful and the only cloud on the horizon is evil Uncle Sam. Acknowledging that the US is roundly criticised by the UN for its trade embargo, Cuba’s undemocratic way of running things gets a very soft ride in certain quarters. In July the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, went to an event staged by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which defends “the Cuban people’s right to be free from foreign intervention” – meaning the spectre, no longer very likely, of a US invasion. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign also says on its website that it opposes the US economic blockade, but when it comes to Cuba’s own democratic deficit, it has nothing to say. Instead it supports the one-party state that Bruguera accuses of instilling fear and the rule of the few.

She may be Cuban, but does she really know anything at all about Cuba? Doesn’t she know its people are happy, and that the only thing threatening their freedom is the US? Really, she needs to go to a Labour party conference fringe meeting to be re-educated by the Cuban ambassador.

And by the way, isn’t it a funny coincidence that Raul Castro has the same surname as Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who shaped modern Cuba ? Oh wait… Raul is Fidel’s brother. Well, surely it’s good to keep things in the family. Wise, as well, that in addition to being president of the council of state and president of the council of ministers he is also commander in chief of the armed forces. I mean, why bother separating those powers? Oh, and Raul Castro is also first secretary of the central committee of the Communist party of Cuba. In the eyes of Bruguera, this somehow smacks of an undemocratic, and even frightening, one-party state. No wonder the secret police have had to deal with her in the past.

Perhaps she is a CIA operative. Or perhaps she is a courageous dissident using the freedom of art to tell some very basic truths about her people’s desire for democracy. Just for the record, Amnesty International shares her scepticism about Castro’s glorious utopia. It reports that in Cuba in 2015/16, “severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.” Vote Bruguera for a free Cuba.

Dissident artist Tania Bruguera talks leaving Cuba: ‘I would not let them make me a paranoiac’


Artist Tania Bruguera spent eight months in Cuba after being detained just prior to the new year. She is now back in the U.S. after having her passport returned — but says she will return to Cuba in the future. (Tania Bruguera / #YoTambienExijo)
For months, the case of Tania Bruguera has been a protracted drama that has played itself out on the international stage. The artist — a Cuban national — was detained in Cuba just prior to the New Year, for attempting to stage a performance about freedom of expression in Havana’s Revolution Square. And while she was soon released, Bruguera had her passport confiscated, and was later detained on various other occasions. All of this was happening during a historic political moment — when the U.S. and Cuba were coming to a rapprochement.
Bruguera, who works primarily in the U.S. and Europe, is now back in the U.S. She landed in New York last Friday, after getting on a flight without previously alerting friends or family. Her return puts an end (for now) to an eight-month-long political and artistic drama that, for a time, appeared as if it might go on indefinitely.
The artist is currently in New Haven, Conn., participating in the Yale World Fellows program, where she will be working on a new project (yet to be determined) and participating in various activities at the university.
She took time to chat via Skype on Wednesday to discuss her whole Cuba experience. (“I am still digesting everything,” she said.) In our conversation, which has been edited for flow, the artist said she would return to Cuba. But first, there are a number of projects that will keep her in the U.S. for the time being — including one that will bring her to L.A. and the California Institute of the Arts.

You left Cuba very quietly. In fact, I understand that you only let friends and family know you were leaving once you were in the air. Why the secrecy?
I have been surveilled for eight months. At one point, I thought, “No, I’m being paranoid. Of course they don’t care about me anymore.” But in the meanwhile I suspected that someone very close to me was one of the informers. So I didn’t tell anybody that I was leaving. I did tell that person the night before. And then in the morning I did normal stuff, like I’m not leaving. I go to the house. I go here. I go there. And immediately in the morning, I have five people — friend and friends of friends — calling me saying, “When are you leaving?”
And I arrive at the airport and [a pair of Cuban state security officials], Javier and Andrea, arrive — literally, 10 minutes after I get to the airport. They couldn’t do anything because I was leaving. But [one of the officials] asks me what happened with this conference in Puerto Rico. It was this conference of dissidents. He says, “What did you hear?” I said, I didn’t know because I didn’t go.
He said to me, “Can you give me your number in the United States?” I said, “Thanks to you I don’t have a phone anymore because I lost my line.” And he said, “Can I have your address?” And I said, “Well, I lost my apartment too” — my apartment in Corona, Queens [in New York]. He said, “I might be there in September.”
It’s like until the last minute they want to mess with your head. They want to make you paranoid. At one point he said, “Someone close to you works for us.” I said, “You’re not going to make me a paranoiac. I’ve been here for eight months and I am not a paranoiac.” I understood they were watching me. But I would not let them make me a paranoiac. That’s what they do, they make you paranoid, they isolate you.

What did it feel like as your flight took off for New York last Friday?
The first thing I was like, there’s Internet! Free Internet. That really was almost a shock. It was very intense not to be able to communicate freely with anybody you trust. I made drawings of where all the public telephones were located. (While I was in Cuba, I started drawing again.) You could use a public phone, but only once, because then they would be monitoring. Or you’d have someone stand right next to you and they would [be listening in]. So I drew where all the phones were and which ones I used.

At one point, you said that you would not leave Cuba until you had a written guarantee from the government that they would let you back into the country. Were you able to get such a confirmation?
I didn’t get exactly what I asked for. But I did get a letter that says that they’ve closed the case. The lawyer I worked with said it was the first time they’d seen something like this. The thing is that [state security does] things and then there is no record. They ask you to sign papers, two copies of papers and then they keep both copies. You have nothing. So this is extremely good.
I also had my things returned. Everyone is very impressed they gave me my computer back. I’m going to use it as an artwork now. The one thing I learned is that [the Cuban government] gave a different meaning to my work. That’s fine. My work is about that. Setting the scene and seeing what happens. The government was the one who wanted to participate. I was fighting for the authorship of my piece with the government! [Laughs.]

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