Artist Tania Bruguera Allegedly Detained in Cuba Over Public Performance [UPDATED]

Tania Bruguera, "Tatlin's Whisper #6 (Havana Version)" (2009), color video, with sound, 60 min, from a mixed media installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund (© Tania Bruguera)
Tania Bruguera, “Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version)” (2009), color video, with sound, 60 min, from a mixed-media installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund (© Tania Bruguera)

The artist Tania Bruguera has likely been detained by Cuban authorities who prevented her from staging a performance yesterday in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, according to multiple media reports and the artist’s sister.

The performance, a reprise of the piece she did for the 2009 Bienal de La Habana, “Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version)” — documentation of which was recently shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York — was to involve a podium and open microphone set up in the large square in central Havana, where anyone could come and articulate their thoughts, free from censorship. The piece was due to begin at 3pm on Tuesday, but according to Deborah Bruguera, her sister was never allowed to reach the square and was reportedly taken to the Villa Marista, a prison where Cuba’s intelligence service has been known to detain political prisoners. Journalist Reinaldo Escobar, one of several other would-be participants either detained or arrested on Tuesday, told the blog 14yMedio that he saw Bruguera in “a gray convict uniform.”

A poster for "#YoTambiénExijo" (courtesy Tanya Bruguera)
A poster for “#YoTambiénExijo” (courtesy Tania Bruguera)

“The idea is to get together at La Plaza on December the 30th at 15:00 in order to speak and discuss peacefully about what concerns us in these days, to be there and let others know of what we think and our reasons for it, in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect,” the Cuban artist wrote in an invitation to participate in the event, titled “#YoTambiénExijo” (“I Also Demand”). “Let there be diversity of opinions and topics so we can discuss and talk among us all. We do not have any kind of agenda nor follow any particular ideology; we just want people to come, those that have not found a space to share their doubts or experiences, and those that felt they were not represented by the alternative spaces already open.”

Before the apparent police intervention, Bruguera met with members of Cuba’s National Council of Fine Arts (NCFA), who tried to persuade her to relocate the event to a cultural institution, limit the duration of the performance to 90 minutes, and possibly allow the venue to charge admission. When Bruguera refused, the NCFA publicly denounced the project.

“Under the current circumstances, it is unacceptable for this purported performance to take place in the highly symbolic Plaza de la Revolución,” a statement from the NCFA said, “especially considering the extensive media coverage and manipulation that has been in the media broadcasters counterrevolution.”

Bruguera’s performance was intended to help redefine the recent relaxing of the US’s Cold War–era blockade against Cuba as not just a historic moment for the country economically, but socially and politically as well.

“Today I’d like to I propose that Cubans take to the streets wherever they may be on December 30th to celebrate, not the end of a blockade/embargo, but the beginning of our civil rights,” Bruguera wrote in her announcement. “Let’s make sure it’s the Cuban people who will benefit from this new historic moment. Our homeland is what hurts us.”

Update 1, 12/31/2014 at 3:30pm EST: According to a statement posted by the artist’s sister Deborah Bruguera on Facebook, Tania was released today at 2:08pm local time. She will hold a press conference at the Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine at 4pm.

Update 2, 12/31/2014 at 4:45pm EST: According to statements posted on both the artist’s Facebook page and her sister Deborah Bruguera’s page, Tania Bruguera was arrested again after the 4pm press conference.

Update 3, 12/31/2014 at 8:20pm EST: Bruguera has been released, according to a post on her sister’s Facebook page. The artist allegedly will not be permitted to leave Cuba for the next 2–3 months and is facing “charges of resistance and disruption of public order.”

Update 4, 01/02/2015 at 5:45pm EST: After demanding the release of the remaining detainees from her December 30 “Tatlin’s Whisper #6” performance and then being arrested for a third time, Bruguera has now been released, according to a statement posted by the artist’s sister on Facebook. “I can not allow people remain prisoners on my account,” Bruguera said. “I can not accept that the public of a work of political art be repressed, censored, and suffering for my sake.”

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