Art Historian Gustavo Buntinx Boycotts Havana Biennial Over Ludicrous Charges Against Tania Bruguera

Gustavo Buntinx Photo via: Mde11

The pressure is mounting on Cuba following the arrest of artist Tania Bruguera for attempting to stage a performance granting audience members “one minute of free speech” (see Tania Bruguera’s Arrest Slows the US–Cuba Thaw).

Bruguera now stands accused of fostering “public disturbance.” Her passport has been confiscated and she’s been unable to find a legal representative in the country, since Cuban lawyers de facto all work for the state, which also happens to be the prosecution in this case (see Why Is the Havana Biennial Afraid of Tania Bruguera and is she the Cuban Ai Wei Wei?).

In solidarity with Bruguera, Lima-based art historian Gustavo Buntinx has turned down an invitation to the 12th Havana Biennial, due to open on May 22, 2015. He published his response to curator Dannys Montes de Oca Moreda on his Facebook page, which was shared, translated into English, by curator Pablo Léon de la Barra.

Buntinx’s letter is reproduced here in full.

February 26, 2015, 8:45 a.m.

To: Dannys Montes de Oca

Re: Theoretical Event XII Biennial of Havana

I thank you truly, estimated Dannys Montes de Oca, for your considerate invitation to participate to the theoretical event of the 12th Havana Biennial.

It will be impossible to accept it however meanwhile this art biennial does not demonstrate their genuine commitment to art, which should always be synonymous with freedom (among many other things). It would be a scandal that the entity you represent—and in particular the Theoretical Event—keeps silent in the face of the growing repression of the Cuban regime, including those in the cultural milieu.

A particular example of this is the persecution exercised against the artist Tania Bruguera, who was incarcerated three times in 24 hours and subject to a Kafkaesque process where even to obtain a legal defence is an ordeal. All this for the simple attempt to propitiate just one minute of freedom of expression for the population that aspires to become citizens. Precisely art as action.

I will be very attentive to your response, with the hope it will also encourage you to have at least sixty seconds of reflection and critical autonomy. “To dare to think is the beginning of the struggle,” says an old revolutionary slogan. This is true also in art.

Yours Truly,

Gustavo Buntinx


To the best of our knowledge, Buntinx is the first art professional to boycott the Havana Biennial, which will feature artists including Anri Sala, Daniel Buren, Anish Kapoor, and Robin Rhodes, among many others.

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