Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 17 May 2018 — While high-ranking officials were driving their cars and locking themselves into air-conditioned offices, a group of artists realized a project (perhaps the most ambitious to date), the recently concluded #00 Havana Biennial. Outside of Cuba’s institutional establishment, it took place from May 5-15.
Responses from state-led cultural organizations were harsh, along with those from State Security. They have ceased to represent the artists who joined in this project, as well as standing in the way of their right to exhibit their works at state-controlled galleries in the future. Repressive aftershocks also took place in private spaces, where presentations were held.
The government has always questioned the funding independent artists use. Family remittancces are among the main ways hard currency enters our economy today. However, people who send them have been labeled “traitors”, “stateless”, “worms”, “Imperialism’s bootlickers”, and even had eggs thrown at them in the past.
If the government really wants to establish a dialogue with young artists, it needs to start off by recovering our collective memory, calling things for what they really are and articulate a more coherent discourse, at least. Instead, intolerance and lies continue. White money can’t be the only thing that doesn’t threaten power.
The Cuban regime offers almost nothing to artists, but rebelling against it will provoke it to use all of its resources and forces to crush you. Why? Because of ideology? As a result, this can only be applied to business. Regarding remittances for example, it doesn’t matter whether the relative sending it to you believes in socialism or not, money is the only thing that matters. Therefore, there can’t be another biennial because the Havana Biennial is the established market and is controlled by the feudal lord.
Recently, young filmmakers who were unhappy about what happened at the past ICAIC Young Filmmakers Festival, and they called for signatures for an anonymous campaign called Cardumen. Censorship of the movie Quiero hacer una pelicula, by film student Yimit Ramirez, the lack of officials’ understanding as well as unfair accusations because it was made independently, stirred the critical consciousness of these budding artists.
Tania Bruguera carries on with her Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism, INSTAR. Bruguera has managed to develop a space for independent and free art due to her artistic career and international fame. As a precedent, as well as her personal work, she created the workshop: “Arte de Conducta”, where she has discovered and educated talented people, who have now attended the #00 Biennial as guests.
This was what happened with performance artist Ana Olema. In her piece, she sued the State for having made her body disappear. Conceptually-speaking, she also made use of underground movement strategies in Cuba before 1959.
Every big idea starts off as a grain of sand. Between all of these communicating vessels, a super verbal dialogue, one thing is certain like a gem of Cuban culture, critic and intellectual Gerardo Mosquera said recently, who was also invited to the #00 Havana Biennial: “Young people are losing their fear.”