Tania Bruguera Detained During Havana Biennial

Bruguera was one of 163 people arrested in Cuba over the weekend for participating in political protests.

Tania Bruguera and curator Pablo Leon de Barra (left) pose next to the roadworks outside Bruguera’s Havana house
Photo via: Pablo Leon de La Barra

The artist Tania Bruguera was detained in her Havana residence on Sunday, where she had just finished a 100-hour public reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) (see Will the Havana Biennial Be a Bonanza for Cuban Artists? and Tania Bruguera Challenges Cuban Government With Reading on Totalitarianism During Havana Biennial).

The reading—an independent project by Bruguera, called the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism—began on May 22, coinciding with the opening of the Havana Biennial. Art world figures, including art historian Judith Rodenbeck and Guggenheim UBS MAP Latin America curator Pablo Leon de la Barra, went to Bruguera’s house to attend the reading.

It’s been an intense weekend for Bruguera and a difficult project to stage. On Friday, the reading was interrupted when construction workers suddenly began to conduct loud road works just outside Bruguera’s house, which, according to Diario de Cuba, was seen by many as an attempt of the regime to boycott the performance.

On Saturday, Bruguera was denied entrance to the National Museum of Fine Arts, where she had planned to attend an exhibition opening. Finally, on Sunday, a group of people suspected to be undercover police gathered near Bruguera’s home. When the artist finished her reading, shortly after 4 pm, she was taken away by police and reportedly detained. She returned to her home a few hours later.

Cuban-born Bruguera, who lives and works between Havana and Chicago, was arrested three times in the last days of December 2014, after attempting to re-stage the performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (2009) in Havana’s Revolution Square (see Tania Bruguera’s Arrest Slows the US–Cuba ThawHow Tania Bruguera’s Whisper Became the Performance Heard Round the World, and Tania Bruguera Returns Award to Cuban Government).

Bruguera has been held in legal limbo on the island ever since (see Tania Bruguera Has to Stay in Cuba for Another 60 Days and Cuban Government Brands Tania Bruguera a Criminal).

According to Pan Am Post, Bruguera was one of 163 people arrested over the weekend. A number of political protests resulted in the detentions of 70 people in Havana and another 93 in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. The majority were members of dissident groups—including Patriotic Union of Cuba, Ladies in White, and Citizens for Democracy—and were protesting to demand the release of jailed Cuban dissidents and Venezuelan political prisoners.

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