14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2018 – The Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) and the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS), official entities to which many of the island’s artists belong, accused the organizers of the #00Bienal, on Thursday, of being financed “with funds from the mercenary counterrevolution.” Both associations attacked the promoters of the independent biennial and described their language as “demagogic and cynical.”
“It is intended to mislead artists to use their studies, which have the full support of the institution, based on a provocative maneuver,” says a statement published on UNEAC’s website. Both groups add that the purpose of the independent artists is to “break down the institutional system, confuse the artists and create a propitious climate to promote the interests of the enemies of the nation.”
At the end of last year, UNEAC suspended the XIII Biennial of Havana until 2019 due to “the very serious damage caused by Hurricane Irma to the country’s system of cultural institutions.” This decision led a group of artists to try to emancipate themselves from the guardianship of officialdom and organize an Independent Biennial for which they created a crowdfunding campaign and collected donations from the participants.
The organizers of the Havana #00Bienal have planned to start their sessions between the 5th and the 15th of this month and have obtained the support of several artists and independent spaces on the Island.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the organizers of the event, confirmed to 14ymedio that several artists had joined the initiative. Tania Bruguera, founder of the Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism, and Lázaro Saavedra, winner of the 2014 National Prize in Plastic Arts, are counted among those who have contributed their efforts to make the Independent Biennial possible.
Last April, Otero Alcántara and curator Yanelis Núñez won the 2018 Champions of Freedom of Expression Prize, promoted by the British NGO Index of Censorship for “their incredible work” at the Museum of Dissidence by defying “enormous obstacles,” personal and political, simply so that others can express themselves freely.”
They have also added independent galleries and artistic projects such as Aglutinador, managed by Sandra Ceballos, and the Riera Studio of Samuel Riera. The list is completed by the independent gallery El Oficio, together with the studios Yo soy el que soy and Coco Solo Social Club.
The #00Bienal has been convened by the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI) section of the Museum of Dissidents, located in Old Havana. The organizers have planned to present activities in different areas of the city where the visual arts will be mixed with other cultural events.
The presence of artists from Spain, Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Romania and several African countries have been confirmed.
UNEAC, for its part, says that “very few persons” have joined the event, and attributes “unhealthy or confused” intentions to the artists who are planning to participate in the Biennial.
Cuba’s cultural policy, sealed since 1961 by the words of Fidel Castro in his speech to the intellectuals, establishes that “Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution, nothing.” Artists and intellectuals in Cuba are called to serve the established political system which is considered “irrevocable.”
According to UNEAC’s statutes, approved by the members of the National Council on 27 April 2015, “UNEAC bases its existence on Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba and recognizes the Cuban Communist Party as the superior leading force of society and the State.”
The official XIII Biennial of Havana will take place between April 12 and May 12, 2019. UNEAC and the AHS made it clear that they will not allow “the name and meaning of the Havana Biennial to be marred,” a veiled threat to the #00Bienal, whose organizers have already faced arbitrary arrests and detentions.
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