Tania Bruguera’s Arrest Slows the US–Cuba Thaw

The artist will take her case to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Tania Bruguera Photo via: El Nuevo Herald
Tania Bruguera.
Photo via: El Nuevo Herald.

The three successive arrests of Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera, who was most recently released on Friday, have marred efforts by US President Obama and Cuban President Castro to normalize US–Cuba diplomatic relations.

The artist was detained for attempting to restage her 2009 performance, Tatlin’s Whisper #6, which involves members of the public taking the stage in Havana’s Revolution Square and speaking freely for one minute each. She was accused of fostering “public disturbance.”

Bruguera’s detention sparked outrage in the international art community. Over 2000 people signed a petition asking for the artist’s release, co-authored by leading South American curators and critics Cuauhtémoc Medina, Andrea Giunta, Miguel López, and Octavio Zaya.

Generating a Moment of Reflection

In the wake of the US–Cuban announcement, Bruguera hoped the work would “generate a moment of reflection” at this crucial point in Cuba’s history.

“We firmly believe her detention, and the withdrawal of her Cuban passport, are inappropriate responses to a work of art that simply sought to open space for public discussion,” states the petition.

The artist feels that the authorities’ severe response—which was condemned by the US State department—only proved her point.

“The government did the work for me,” she told AFP. “They changed the meaning of the work, giving a lesson in intolerance […] All they did was create chaos.”

Depending on the sources, between 50 and 60 people were arrested with Bruguera, who had her computer and mobile phone confiscated along with her passport.

According to the LA Times, the Cuban authorities have opened a judicial case against Bruguera. All the people arrested are now believed to have been released. The artist stated that she hadn’t been mistreated while detained.

#YoTambiénExijo

An update published on the Facebook page of #YoTambiénExijo (I also demand)—the hashtag with which Bruguera’s performance was promoted—states that the artist was due to meet an attorney yesterday to discuss the “more than half a hundred arbitrary detentions that were conducted following the performance”

According to the post, she intended to discuss “irregularities under which these arrests occurred and how the detainees were treated,” with the lawyer. She plans to present her case to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

This latest update claims that the Seguridad del Estado (State Security) is pushing Bruguera to leave the country, even though it is yet to return her passport. The artist is reportedly determined not to leave the island until the end of the proceedings.

Bruguera is a Cuban national, who lives between Cuba, the US, and France. She has become one of Latin America’s most critically acclaimed artists for her politically charged works, including the ongoing Immigrant Movement International, which looks into realities faced by illegal immigrants.


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