Tania Bruguera Returns to the US After 8 Months’ Detention in Havana

Bruguera received a thinly veiled threat at the Havana airport.

The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera returned to the US on Friday after being detained in Havana for eight months. She was first arrested after having attempted to re-stage a performance about freedom of expression in Havana’s Revolution Square, and was arrested again on three different occasions since.

Bruguera is in New York to take up her fellowship at the Yale World Fellowship and to begin her residency as the first ever artist at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

News of her arrival in New York was released on Facebook by the platform ‪#‎YoTambienExijo in the early hours of Saturday, with the statement: “After 8 months in Cuba #TaniaBruguera just landed from Havana at JFK airport in New York City. […] She has been received at JFK by a functionary of Yale.”

According to the platform, Bruguera kept her plans under wraps and only let her family and associates know once she was safely airborne, as to avoid any messages being intercepted by security agents.

This has been confirmed by Deborah Bruguera, the artist’s sister and assistant, who told artnet News contributor Christian Viveros-Faune that she had no prior knowledge of Bruguera’s journey until she received the email sent from the plane.

Tania Bruguera displays bruises sustained during her latest arrest. Photos via Facebook.

Tania Bruguera displays bruises sustained during one of her arrests.
Photos: via Facebook.

‎Yo Tambien Exijo also explained that despite her precautions, while at the Havana airport, Bruguera was approached by a Cuban Intelligence agent going by the name of “Javier,” who told her he was at the airport because they had been warned that the artist, who has been monitored by the government for months, was on her way there.

“Javier” also warned Bruguera that he would be “visiting” New York in September, which could sound like a thinly veiled threat.

Cuban authorities returned Bruguera’s passport in July. It had been seized in the last days of December 2014, when she attempted to re-stage the performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (2009). Around 50 people were arrested with Bruguera at the time, who also had her computer and mobile phone confiscated.

She remained in legal limbo in Havana since then, until last Friday. During this period, she has been arrested a total of four times, most recently during the Havana Biennale in June, when she was taken from her residence by police at the end of a 100-hour public reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951).

Tania Bruguera reading from Hannah Arendt's book "The Origins of Totalitarianism"Photo: Enrique de la Osa via PRI

Tania Bruguera reading from Hannah Arendt’s book “The Origins of Totalitarianism”
Photo: Enrique de la Osa via PRI

Bruguera is currently participating in the 56th Venice Biennale, with her remarkable performance and video installation Untitled (Havana, 2000), which explores attitudes of intentional “blindness” towards the reality of life under Fidel Castro’s regime.

Related stories:

How Tania Bruguera’s Whisper Became the Performance Heard Round the World

Why Is the Havana Biennial Afraid of Tania Bruguera and is she the Cuban Ai Wei Wei?

artnet News Exclusive: Tania Bruguera’s Arrest in Cuba Captured on Video

Bruised During Latest Arrest, Tania Bruguera to Propose Free Speech Law

Artists Demand Freedom for Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera in Times Square

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