Two Literary Awards Announced for Cuban Authors

Manuel Moreno Fraginals is the Cuban historian who gives his name prize from the INSTAR institute.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 June 2019 — Literature lovers have a double opportunity with the announcement of two new awards for Cuban authors.

The Hannah Arendt  Institute of Artivism (INSTAR), directed by independent artist Tania Bruguera, has announced the first edition of the Manuel Moreno Fraginals award, which will be awarded to a critical essay on the Revolution.

The objective of the award is “to generate written works and public dialogues about this period, which interpolate, answer and present an alternative to the official history.” continue reading

All Cubans over 18 years old and resident of the island can compete for the prize, endowed with 5,000 CUC and the publication the winning submission in eBook format, by submitting a text of at least 250 pages.

The deadline for the submission of the texts, which can be sent as of Tuesday, will be October 17, 2019. The jury, composed of historians Abel Sierra Madero, Lillian Guerra and Rafael Rojas, will announce the winner in February 2020.

On the other hand, Verbum Publishers has also announced a call for submissions for the for the Myths and Legends of Europe Children and Youth Literature Award, directed, in this case to any author, Spanish or Latin American, who submits with a work written in Castilian.

The submissions should be stories of a length between 4 and 7 pages and aimed at readers between 8 and 12 years of age, addressing historical and/or fantasy curiosities inspired by European myths and legends.

Manuscripts can be sent by email to the publisher, beginning Tuesday and ending on 31 July 2019. The decision will be announced in September and the prize consists of the publication of the story in the anthology to be published Verbum Publishers late of 2019.

The publisher will give a copy of the book to each award-winning author at a presentation in November.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Instar Offers Two Residencies to Promote Civic Initiatives in Cuba

The artist Tania Bruguera directs the Hannah Ardent Institute of Artivism. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 May 2019 — The Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism (Instar) is offering two Vita Activa (Active Life) Residencies “to promote civic initiatives with viable solutions in the short or medium term.” Every Cuban resident on the island can apply and novelty and creativity will be rewarded.

Vita Activa is looking for “projects which, using a strong theoretical and investigative base, are implemented in the public sphere,” explains Instar, the institute led by the renowned artist Tania Bruguera. The registration period has been extended until July 1, 2019 and individual or collective projects will be considered.

The jury that will select the winners will privilege those proposals that explore “new management models for the social and cultural development of a community.” The projects selected will be both “transdisciplinary artistic projects” and “innovative projects that start from any other social practice,” says the call for applications. continue reading

“Projects that are already in the process of being implemented and that need support will also be accepted, and priority will be given to those with the prospect to continue beyond the time of residency,” the call states. Projects will be evaluated based on a “sense of social justice, and the mutual trust generated by the project in the community and creativity,” it adds.

Two residences will be awarded and, during the first three months, the residents will have to “develop a research period to explore the potentialities and possible implementation of their proposal.” To achieve this they will have a stipend of 200 CUC per month, in addition to advice and logistical support from Instar.

The residency takes its name from the concept “vita activa,” one of the fundamental approaches of Hannah Arendt’s work “The Human Condition,” which designates three fundamental activities — labor, work and action — which condition and determine in a basic way the existence of man.

The Institute itself uses the term “artivism” to define itself based on the idea of combining art and activism, which results in socially responsible actions. It bears the name of Arendt, the political scientist who “studied totalitarian systems, both in capitalism and in socialism, and its effects on the concept of citizenship,” Bruguera said in an interview.

“In the following six months, the resident must implement the project in the space or community for which it was conceived with a budget of up to 5,000 CUC, depending on the production needs of the project.” The institute will work with the project during its first year and the results will be presented at the Instar headquarters in Havana.

The application for residencies is available on the Institute’s website and can be sent via email or presented in person to Instar headquarters.

The call emphasizes that the funds used for the residencies do not come from “donations from institutions or entities that incite violence, discrimination, demand ideological ties or demand commitments against our principles.”

Instar and Bruguera have been accused by the official press of working “actively to subvert the Cuban constitutional order” and receiving funds from the National Foundation for Democracy (NED).

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Why Am I Not Going to the XIII Havana Biennial?

The Cuban Artist and “Artivista,” Tania Bruguera. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Tania Bruguera, Havana, 14 April 2019 — Before giving my reasons I want to clarify that I admire the work of the curators of La Bienal de La Habana and I do not consider any of my reasons to be their responsibility. Rather, they are a response to the cultural policies of the Ministry of Culture. I am an artist formed by the Havana Biennial and maybe that’s why what is happening pains me more.

I am not going to the XIII Havana Biennial because I do not understand the incoherence of suspending the Biennial in 2017 to redirect its resources to the reconstruction of Hurricane Irma — which was a position posed as aesthetic-ethical — and now, in 2019 , when a few months ago a tornado devastated several of the poorest and most hard-working areas of Havana, the Ministry of Culture (MINCULT) has decided that it is more important to spend a good part of its budget in promoting and using the Havana Biennial to clean up its international image in the face of the campaign against Decree-law 349.

Because MINCULT does not practice institutional transparency. When the Deputy Minister of Culture was asked openly through Twitter for the budget of this year’s Bienniel, the response was a string of personal accusations without, of course, answering the question. continue reading

When I explained that this was an internationally established practice, his response was silence. That silence continues even when the Ministry of Culture and promotional material support to the project of an artist is determined based not on artistic quality but on their loyalty to the government and the use it can make of that artist to enhance the international image of the country.

Because the objective of this Biennial is not to promote Cuban artists (it affects each one according to their possibilities), but that everyone understands that Decree-Law 349 will be applied only to those who are independent and ask uncomfortable questions.

Because it could not attend a party to share my impressions about the artistic merits of a work of the XIII Biennial of Havana while I know that Congolese medical students are being repressed, abused and confronted at gunpoint by Cuban police in the same streets that we walk to go to see an exhibition, and nobody is doing anything to avoid this happening or to show solidarity with the students.

I could not take a selfie among friends while I know that, at that moment, there are artists who are prisoners and constantly harassed because they are considered ’uncomfortable’ and do not fit into the official narrative of the Biennial created by MINCULT.

I can not continue to justify with the official euphemism “bad work” when in reality it means “I’m not getting involved in this because it will bring me problems.” I can not be an accomplice, because I already know with irrefutable evidence that State Security gives orders to MINCULT.

Because the double standards of those who support the protests in the Whitney Museum (because a member of their council is ethically unacceptable), or in the Guggenheim (so as not to accept ethically unacceptable money), are the same people who in Cuba justify ethically unacceptable attitudes and do it with tremendous joy; this is incomprehensible to me.

Nobody is innocent anymore, the person who is blind is so because he took out his own eyes so as not to see. Who cares about the injustices that exist in Cuba? Not those who visit The Biennial, Cuba is not their problem, they are passing through and have exchanged for a party and sunny skies their power to pressure the Cuban government to get Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the rappers Pupi and Maykel Osorbo out of jail and to stop harassing Amaury Pacheco, his wife Iris Ruiz and their children.

Injustice can not be a rumor circulating among mojitos and solidarity in places like Cuba is not a ’pretty slogan,’ it is not Venice nor is it Kassel; Cuba is a country that represses freedom of expression (especially when there is no Biennial).

Because my struggle to achieve freedom of expression in Cuba, my defense of cultural rights, to achieve the end of political hatred among Cubans and to defend the right to demonstrate in the streets is not limited to an event but is a life mission.

This is the biennial where no one is innocent anymore, this is the biennial where everyone must act according to their conscience. My conscience does not let me be part of the spectacular process of whitewashing which Mincult has made of the Havana Biennial.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"The Fight Against Decree 349 Will Continue," Insists Amaury Pacheco After Being Released

Group of artists who promote the campaign against Decree 349. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 December 2018 — On Wednesday, around eight-thirty in the evening, Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero were released, according to what they told 14ymedio when they left the Vivac de Calabazar Detention Center after protesting Decree 349.

“First we were in the eleventh unit of the San Miguel de Padrón police station, there we spent Monday night and on Tuesday they took us to Vivac (the State Security detention center), and when we arrived they did not want to accept us because Luis was on-strike and they returned us to the unit but in the night they accepted us (at Vivac) and we stayed there until they let us go. During the interrogations they told us that if we protested again in front of the Ministry of Culture they would accuse us of illegal association and demonstrating without permission.”

Núñez explained that Luis Manuel Otero, after leaving prison after more than 48 hours on hunger and thirst strike, had taken a soda. continue reading

On the other hand, on the night of Tuesday, the artists Amaury Pacheco and the producer Michel Matos were released, according to Pacheco himself, speaking to14ymedio after being released

Both were detained in the midst of a repressive wave by State Security against a peaceful sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture (Mincuult) headquarters as a part of the campaign against Decree 349. Pacheco explained that his hunger strike will be maintained “as long as any artist is in prison” and he will return this morning to the Ministry of Culture if Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero are not released during the night.

Pacheco said that when he arrived at the Ministry of Culture on November 3, both he and Matos were detained and that they spent most of their time in the police unit of the municipality of Regla. “Michel was taken first to Guanabacoa but then they brought him to the same jail where I was in Regla, there they interrogated us and told me that if I went back to Mincult I would be imprisoned for one to three years,” he said.

This newspaper was also able to speak with artist Tania Bruguera after she was released on Tuesday night after her third arrest, including her first arrest at the beginning of the protest. “They held me from nine in the morning until nine at night but they did not take me to a unit, they left me inside the car until three thirty in the afternoon at La Puntilla and then they took me to a house that is beyond Lenin Park, by way of Calvario,” explained the artist.

She says that at every moment the agents told her they would take her home but when she expressed her desire to return to the Ministry of Culture, that proposal was postponed until finally at nine o’clock in the evening they left her at the door of her house. During the detention in the house where the artist was taken, they offered her water and food, even though she had told her captors that she was on a hunger and thirst strike.

“They took me to a room with a table covered with food, I told them I was not going to eat, then they gave me a cold water bottle but I told him to keep it and later they also offered me ice cream but I also refused,” says the renowned artist.

“You know how I react when someone is imprisoned because it happened in 2014, I will talk with no problems when no one is being held prisoner,” Bruguera told the agent.

The musician Sandor Pérez Pita, from the reggae group Estudiantes sin Semilla (Students without Seed), was also released in the afternoon.

The artist Amaury Pacheco had affirmed that he maintained his hunger and thirst strike until they released the rest of the artists and that “the fight against Decree 349 continues.” In a video posted on his social networks he said this entire battle is being fought “for art, for freedom of expression.”

In conversation with 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera said that the intention was to return on Thursday to the Ministry of Culture to demand again the release of Yanelys Núñez Leyva and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to establish a dialogue with the institution and to ask for a response.

Artists from several countries have mobilized since Tuesday in favor of the release of the group of artists who oppose Decree 349. The director of the Tate Modern gallery in London, Frances Morris, expressed on Twitter that these arrests clearly illustrate the threats many artists around the world are facing.

Also this Wednesday afternoon a public session was held in the Turbine Hall to say “No to Decree 349” and provide support to detainees through an open microphone to those who wish to participate.

The Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor of the US State Department wrote on its Twitter account that “the Government of Cuba continues to criminalize freedom of expression while besieging artists and journalists to discourage protests against Decree 349.”

Meanwhile, Silvio Rodríguez wrote a comment on the blog Segunda Cita that “Decree 349 may have very good intentions but I’m sure it would be better if it were discussed with the artists.” He added that “it was something cooked up among the few” and that in his opinion “a disposition of this scopes must have a more democratic origin, and a purpose.”

“Perhaps there should be a moratorium on the decree, until an acceptable modification is discussed and resolved, and I do not know whether I will be able to work abroad as I have been doing, starting next year. I began to work on my own in the face of the very inefficient state contracting and coordination mechanisms,” the troubadour wrote.

Deborah Bruguera, Tania’s sister, wrote: “While on the phone with Tania Bruguera, Lt. Col. Kenia took her in a car, right at the corner of the MINCULT.” The artist sent a public statement “of the artists who have called for the sit-in at the Ministry of Culture of Cuba,” that her sister shared on social networks.

We reproduce the text in its entirety:

We have decided to make a call to sit peacefully and respectfully to camp, meditate, read poetry, dance, paint or perform any artistic activity in front of the Ministry of Culture because:

1: The artists of all the demonstrations, have carried them out in an organized way and through institutional channels to request the repeal of Decree 349 and its subsequent drafting with the assistance of the artists.

2: Even though these groups have met with leaders of the Ministry of Culture, the promises that they have made to respond have not been met and, failing that, a technical article was published in the Granma newspaper on November 30, justifying the validity of the current Decree 349, along with a bombardment on national television of programs with explanations in favor of 349 in its current format. This seems indicative to us that Decree 349 will not be repealed because this seems to be an action with the purpose of setting the population against our demands.

3: [The government] has commented that regulations and corrective rules will be made for the implementation of Decree 349. This seems insufficient because, given that the Decree has serious errors of representation and puts artists in a state of vulnerability, by criminalizing them and their works, we do not believe that it is appropriate to proceed with how to implement the Decree, if not the Decree itself.

4: December 7th is approaching, the date on which Decree Law 349 will become effective. We are asking for a meeting open to all with the Minister of Culture to inform us what has been the result of the meetings held with the artists and what will happen with Decree 349.

We want to receive from the Ministry of Culture the same respect towards us that we have had towards them. We will continue presenting ourselves to the Ministry of Culture to ask for our right to a response and open meeting with all the artists.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Tania Bruguera Sues Official Media for Defamation

Tania Bruguera during her “performance” during the XII Bienniel of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 18, 2018 — The artist Tania Bruguera made public this Tuesday a text in which she reports on a lawsuit she has brought against various official press outlets and against some of their most visible spokespersons.

“Tired of suffering defamation by the country’s official press outlets like Granma and Razones de Cuba (“Cuba’s Reasons,” apro-government blog) and of websites backed by the Ministry of Culture, like La Jiribilla, I have decided to bring a lawsuit against the actions of all legal and natural persons who have affected me and my family psychologically, professionally, and socially,” said Bruguera in a statement accompanying the lawsuit brought on December 11.

The artist told 14ymedio that she filed the penal lawsuit at the Old Havana municipal police station against the citizens who have signed any of the texts of those publications as is the case of Arthur González; Antonio Rodríguez Salvador; the director of the website Cubadebate, Randy Alonso Falcón; the director of La Jiribilla, Anneris Ivette Leyva; and the director of the newspaper Granma, Yailín Orta Rivera. continue reading

Bruguera claimed in her text that the campaign of defamation against her has not taken place only in media outlets, but also in executive meetings of the Ministry of Culture and of the Ministry of the Interior, of the directors of national museums and other leaders and cultural agents of the Government, with young artists, students, curators, and creators, with the objective of discrediting her.

The artist told this newspaper that after making the complaint she delivered copies of all the documentation of the legal action to the Attorney General of the Republic and the public services office of the Council of State. She also reported that in the public services office of the National Revolutionary Police they confirmed to her that the case was registered in the “national system” of complaints.

“They didn’t tell me anything about the period of time to receive a response but I asked a lawyer and she told me that it must be within 30 days,” she detailes. “What I am asking for is not economic compensation, but rather the retraction in the same media outlets where the articles originally appeared, and that they put an explanatory note on those that are on the internet,” clarified Bruguera in the text.

The artist told 14ymedio that she consulted with various lawyers on the writing of the text and that they told her that it is very possible that there are no precedents of a similar legal action to this one and that it would be the first of its kind in Cuba. “So then let it be the first of many and let it mean that, for next person who makes them uncomfortable by saying or doing what they think, the officials reflect on it better,” before defaming that person publicly, she added in her statement.

After this action Bruguera believes that other artists and citizens may be able to use the legal structures that exist in the Government for their protection against defamation.

According to the current penal code, defamation “requires the complaint of the offended party” and the crime takes place when a person, in front of a third party, “imputes to another a conduct, an act, or a characteristic against their honor, that may damage their social reputation, lower them in public opinion, or put them at risk of losing the confidence required to carry out their charge, profession, or social function.” It is sanctioned with “deprivation of liberty for three months to a year or a fine of 100 to 300 ’shares’* or both.”

The Government’s official media outlets, equally in printed form, digital, or telivision, frequently accuse leaders of the opposition, artists, journalists, and independent members of civil society of being “salaried employees of imperialism.”

“The Cuban Government cannot keep using the laws as they please, nor only to protect those who work for their political ends. The Government cannot be exempt from responsibility,” she said. Tania Bruguera supports the campaign against Decree 349 that a group of artists initiatated after it appeared published in the Official Gazette on July 10, along with a package of measures directed at limiting the work of private businesses.

The first week of this month the artist was detained in Havana along with other independent art figures, and advocates of the campaign, like Luis Manuel Otero, Yanelys Núñez, Michel Matos, and Amaury Pacheco. The arrest occurred after Bruguera, on December 7, participated in a “peaceful sit-in” in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana to demand the repeal of Decree 349. That day she was released after some hours but later, on two other occasions when she attempted to reach the scene of the protest, she was arrested by State Security officials.

Bruguera believes that it is time to be in one’s country when it is going through a moment that is “crucial for freedom of expression in Cuba and also in the world.” The artist recently declined an invitation to participate in the Bienniel of Kochi, in India. “Although, in the circumstances in which we live in Cuba today, they have made us feel that asking for your rights is a useless act, all of us as citizens must be listened to, our rights to be compensated, and to receive a response when defamed, as is anticipated in Article 63 of the current Constitution of the Republic,” said Bruguera. In her statement she expressed: “A nation only exists when the rights of its citizens are respected.”

*Translator’s note: The Cuban penal code establishes fines in terms of a number of “shares.” This is done so that, instead of having to amend every fine established in the code, the amounts can be changed in all instances in the code simply by amending the value of one “share.” 

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Government Puts the Brakes on Full Implementation of Decree 349, Proposing it be Gradual

Deputy Minister Fernando Rojas said that those who oppose the Decree want to present it as “an act of censorship” (EFE / Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 December 2018 — The Cuban government has decided to stop the full implementation of Decree 349, a few days after it also backed off on fully implementing a package of measures to control the private sector. On Cuban TV’s Roundtable program this Friday, Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso, announced that the unpopular Decree 349 will only be applied in a “consensus” and “gradual” manner.

Alonso blamed the controversy generated by the decree, which would regulate artistic expression, to problems of interpretation and defended the need to put an end to “vulgarity, bad taste, intrusion and mediocrity.” However, he acknowledged that the Decree, which went into effect on December 7, still does not regulate “certain areas of art promotion and cultural services that currently have no legal standing.”

The minister responded to the flood of criticism that Decree 349 has provoked, but avoided naming the artists who have staged numerous protests outside the Ministry of Culture, such as Tania Bruguera and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, or others who have expressed their discontent in social networks, including the well-known actor Luis Alberto García. continue reading

None of the voices that have opposed the regulation were present on the television program, which featured Fernando Rojas, Vice Minister of Culture; Rafael González Muñoz, president of the Hermanos Saíz Association; and Lesbia Vent-Dumois, president of the Association of Plastic Artists of the government-run Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), who argued in favor of implementing the measure.

Rojas said that “the enemies of the Revolution want to present Decree 349 as an act of censorship” and  Rafael González Muñoz mentioned the criticisms “published in the blog Segunda Cita,” but without mentioning its author, the troubadour Silvio Rodríguez, a figure strongly allied to the official ideology who, in recent months, has been launching criticisms of the management of Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Decree 349 has caused an earthquake in the island’s artistic community, where independent and alternative spaces have grown in recent years. In a country where there is an increasing number of recording studios in private homes, private premises that hire musicians or comedians directly, and producers of audiovisuals outside government institutions, the regulations constitute a return to the times of greater centralism.

The measure establishes that atists must be linked to cultural entities under government control and, only then, can they obtain the necessary permits to present their work in spaces open to the public, such as private galleries. To ensure that it is applied, the Ministry of Culture enlists a group of inspectors who can close an exhibition or end a concert if they consider that it is not part of the cultural policy of the Revolution.

The artists see in these powers a political underpinning, disguised as a fight against vulgarity, and one that could start a witch hunt against uncomfortable and creative works that openly criticize the ruling party.

Article 2.1 of the Decree lists among the offenses that will be penalized that of providing “artistic services without being authorized to perform artistic work in a position or artistic occupation.” A point that Rojas nuanced this Friday, when he stressed that it is not a battle against amateur artists and that it is not mandatory to stay in a state institution.

During the program, there were interviews with the troubadour Heidi Igualada, with Digna Guerra, director of the National Choir of Cuba, and with the actor Fernando Hechavarría, but none of them criticized the Decree. Fernando Medrano, a choreographer from Camagüey, added that the regulations were conceived to confront “uncouthness, vulgarity and bad taste.”

All the guests of the program alluded to misunderstandings and misrepresentations that had fomented the dissatisfaction around the regulation, and Lesbia Vent-Dumois detailed that with the Decree “knowing how to read is knowing how to interpret,” which meant that “they could not read.” The official criticized the critics of the measure as “ignorant” and “ill informed.”

For his part, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the most well-known faces against the regulations, believes that Friday’s official statements are intended to “dampen the commotion raised by the campaign against the Decree among artists.” It is a strategy “to divide the campaign, but the campaign will continue.”

“From the legal point of view, what matters is the Decree and not what a minister who can be dismissed tomorrow says,” the artist said. “Once again legality in this country is ignored,” and he lamented that several artists “were manipulated” in the interviews that were broadcast on the Roundtable program.

Decree 349 details up to 19 “contraventions” or violations of the law, including organizing concerts, recitals or exhibitions without the authorization of the Government or divulging audiovisual or culturalcontent that is violent, pornographic, discriminatory or offensive towards national symbols.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Tania Bruguera Brings Viewers to Tears With Her Work on Immigration in the Tate Modern

The exhibition takes place in the Turbinas room of the Museum of Contemporary Art in London. (Tate Modern)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, London, 1 October 2018 — Tania Bruguera brings her viewers to tears with her work about the victims of the crisis of immigration that opened this Monday at the Tate Modern in London. it will be on until 24 February 2019. The work of the artist, who lives between Havana and New York, has many surprising elements and tries to make people think about the migratory crisis through several “furtive interventions” that the visitor finds when walking through the Turbinas room of the contemporary art museum.

The title of the work is the number of immigrants who traveled from one country to another in the last year, plus those who have died to date, a changing figure that will not be displayed on the event posters, but will be stamped daily on the wrists of the visitors to the gallery. Today’s number was 10,142,926.

Other “actions” aimed at provoking reflection include a room in which visitors are brought to tears when they come into contact with an organic compound that irritates the eyes, with which the artist wants to force “an emotional response.” continue reading

Bruguera has also arranged the portrait of a Syrian immigrant on the floor of the Turbinas room, which is only activated through the heat generated if several people touch it at the same time.

The artist has involved the activist community of the London neighborhood where the Tate is located for this work, and their names will appear for several months in one of the rooms in the center of London.

The work presented today also has some sound effects, made in collaboration with the artist Steve Goodman or Kode9, which give the visitor a feeling of uneasiness or the sense that something is about to happen.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s Independent Artists Denounce the "State of Exception" They’ve Faced Since 1959

Yanelys Núñez, Nonardo Perea, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Luis Manuel Otero, Soandry del Río, and Michel Matos in a protest action against Decree 349. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | 17 September 2018 — The group of independent artists who since July have been carrying out a campaign against Decree 349 reports that “since the triumph of the Revolution, in 1959, there has existed a state of exception when it comes to the freedom of artistic creation and expression” in Cuba and that a considerable number of “creators and cultural projects have flourished from their own will and creative capacity, but then been taken down by the powers and the official institutions that rule national life.”

The text is part of the San Isidro Manifesto, presented this past Wednesday by the group as one more of their actions against the rule that regulates artistic presentations in private spaces and against which they have been mobilizing since July. The document, which is circulating on media, is signed by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yanelys Núñez, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos, Hamlet Lavastida, Soandry del Río, Verónica Vega, Lía Villares, Yasser Castellanos, and Tania Brugera, among others. continue reading

Its launch took place at the venue of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI), in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana, and musicians, poets, writers, audiovisual directors, producters, and plastics artists joined the act.

Yanelys Núñez read the text, which invites “any individual who feels like part of this phenomenon that today we call ‘the independent'” to participate in the campaign aimed at the repeal of Decree 349, and urges a dialogue that will allow the review of cultural policies that the State institutions are attempting to impose.

Later, the attendees made a pilgrimage to the Malecon to ask the patron of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, for the annulment of the law.

The manifesto mantains that the law “legitimizes the use of judicial action to punish the free creation and determination” that belongs to them as artists and individuals and says that it “stimulates corruption” through the creation of the figure of the supervisor-inspector “taking into account that inspectors are one of the most corrupt sectors of the regulatory apparatus of the State.”

On July 10 the Council of Ministers approved Decree 349, focused on “the violations regarding cultural policy and over the provision of artistic services” which will enter into full force in December.

The artists who defend the repeal of the law believe that this “is destined not only to control and intimidate artists and creators from various branches of the national culture, but also in the private business sector, to impede a natural and organic relationship inside the different spheres of Cuban society.” In addition, they believe that it “threatens with legal warnings, fines, and seizures of equipment or property used as a platform for the creation and dissemination of independent works.”

The decree grants to the “supervisor-inspector,” they emphasize, the authority to suspend immediately any performance or show that he understands to violate the law, having the ability to go to the extreme of canceling the self-employment license to practice work.

“We understand exactly that any nation in the world must regulate its internal activities, receive taxes if those become lucrative, just as they must safeguard internal order and peace,” point out the artists. However, in their view it is “inadmissable to accept the existence of a confusion of laws” that only aims to control the artistic sector and “punish it for its independent expression and action.”

The group of artists believes that the “only logical aim” this law appears to have is to maintain “the ideological primacy in a highly centralized state.”

Some of the artists complain that the official press has tried to distort the intention and origin of the campaign against Decree 349 and clarify that they are only asking institutions to listen to them and that they are not calling for “either neither anarchy nor confrontation.”

However, they maintain that these laws and rules are impossible to comply with because “they don’t adjust to the national reality at the present time” and because they are “abusive, disproportionate, and they violate international norms and agreements.” For this they direct their proclamation “to all men and women of good will” and invite their support.

“We are determined to come together as a group to begin a collection of sociocultural actions like this as calls for international attention to halt the imposition of a complex of laws that insults all Cubans,” they state.

On more than one occasion this group has suffered political repression for trying to carry out public acts to support and defend their campaign against the decree. On August 11 various artists who wanted to participate in a concert at the MAPI venue suffered the repression of police who showed up at the place along with officials from State Security to stop the action. On that day, which ended with the detention of several of the artists, neighbors from the San Isidro neighborhood went out to the street to condemn the conduct of those in uniform.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Instar Launches First Independent Fund For Audiovisual Creation In Cuba

The artist Tania Bruguera (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 June 2018 – The Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism (Instar) has launched the first independent fund for the creation of audiovisuals in Cuba. The call for project proposals has been posted on the project’s online site, created by the artist Tania Bruguera, and is open from June 8 to September 8, 2018.

Instar invites “filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers” from all over the country to participate in the first edition of PM: INSTAR fund for audiovisuals in Cuba, the site announces. Those interested can submit unpublished projects that should be the first short film by the director.

Applications are open in fiction, documentary and new media categories, while the projects must not exceed 30 minutes. The projects selected in each category will receive a cash amount of 5,000 CUC. continue reading

The Fund seeks to “promote the diversity of voices in the independent Cuban audiovisual sector, promote directors, producers and script writers from under-represented communities and their stories.”

Although “the topic is free and uncensored,” the organizers will give “priority to projects about pressing social issues in Cuba today and in the future” and “innovative methods of audiovisual production will be evaluated and, in the case of the documentary, the rigor of the investigation,” will be considered.

Similarly, the evaluation will consider “projects that assume in their budgets fair pay to the work teams and decent filming conditions.” A frequent complaint in the guild of filmmakers in Cuba is the low salaries and the appalling conditions of the state sector.

Those interested in participating should send their projects by email in PDF format to the electronic address: INSTARaudiovisuales@artivismo.org. The subject line must include the name of the project and a pseudonym.

Instar, based in Havana, is a “space for civic literacy on the Island that emerged as a result of the public action #YoTambienExijo,” which Bruguera carried out in 2014.

Initial reactions to the call from Cuban filmmakers on social networks have been positive. “Excited,” wrote producer Marta María Ramírez on her Facebook profile.

One of the petitions launched by the group El Cardumen in its recent statement “Words from Cardumen, declaration of young Cuban filmmakers,” included among its demands that national institutions create a promotion fund for the production of national cinema. However, Bárbara Betancourt Martínez, Director of Cultural Programs at the Ministry of Culture, described the young people’s statement as “anarchic demagoguery” and stated that they were motivated only by the intention to “raise a hubbub.”

The request for the creation of the fund is a common denominator in the minds of Cuban filmmakers and was one of the demands from the assemblies of filmmakers who made up the G-20.

PM was a documentary by Saba Cabrera Infante and Orlando Jiménez, censored in 1961, because for just a few minutes it showed Cubans dancing and drinking in bars.

The image annoyed the government and the censorship of the film gave rise to a sequence of events eventually became “the PM case.” It was in this context that Fidel Castro condemned intellectuals at the beginning of his mandate, and in a major speech declared: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing,” which established the rules that define the cultural policy of the Government still today.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Independent Artists and Galleries Join a Biennial Outside Official Institutions

The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is one of the promoters of this independent artistic initiative. (Adonis Milan) (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 February 2018 — The organizers of the Havana #00 Biennial, an independent event whose celebration is scheduled from May 5-15, have won the support of several artists and independent spaces on the island, according to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the promoters of the initiative, speaking to 14ymedio.

Among the artists who have confirmed their participation in the event are Lázaro Saavedra, winner of the 2014 National Plastic Arts Prize, and the well-known Tania Bruguera, founder of the Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism Hanna Arendt (INSTAR).

Also planning to participate are independent exhibition spaces 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 #00 Biennal is being convened by the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI), a section of the Dissidents Museum located in Old Havana.

Otero Alcántara explains that within the 10-day program they plan to stage activities in different areas of the city. In each space they plan to fuse the visual arts with other cultural manifestations.

“One day is dedicated to Alamar with the Omni-Zona-Franca project and in the municipality of Habana del Este we are going to call a festival of sand sculptures, there will be performances, graffiti and concerts at night,” he says.

Another day of the independent event will take place in Guanabacoa, around in the studio of David de Omni, an experimental musician who works in rap and reggae, but also poetry.

Artists from Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Romania and several countries in the African continent have also confirmed their participation, according to Otero Alcántara, who explains that some still prefer to maintain their support anonymously to avoid reprisals from the authorities, among which would be preventing them from entering the country.

Others, such as the Mexican Yvelin Buenrostro and the Spaniards Antonio Mas and Alicia Torres, have already decided to make their presence public, including the Cubans Jose Luis Marrero, Yuri Obregon, Los Serones, Adonis Milan, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Yasser Castellanos, Sam 33, 2 + 2 = 5, Happy Zombie, Yoanny Aldaya, Italo Expósito and José Ernesto Alonso.

Since this alternative biennial was initially announced, organizers explained that it was conceived “before the decision of the Ministry of Culture, the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Wilfredo Lam Center to postpone the celebration of the XIII Biennial of Havana until 2019, as a consequence of the damages caused by Hurricane Irma. The official biennial was originally scheduled from October 5 to November 5, 2018.”

To finance the independent event, its developers have started a Crowdfunding campaign through which they hope to obtain the $20,000 that they have set as budget to move the project forward.

With this arts festival they seek to “support the development of Cuban culture at a time when the country is experiencing a strong crisis of faith, an increase in the banality and despair.” The managers of the initiative consider it “essential not to delay the Biennial event and to implement if with the minimum resources.”

After announcing the schedule of the event, the Association of Artists of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) circulated an email warning that “unscrupulous people” were “trying to organize provocations” to divide the artistic guild.

The last edition of the Havana Biennial was held between May and June 2015. In its three decades of life, the artistic event has gone through different stages where creative effervescence prevailed over the harmful effects of economic crisis and censorship.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Regime Frees Activist Lia Villares

The activist Lia Villares. (FACEBOOK / MARTÍ NEWS)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 23 December 2017 — Activist  Lia Villares was released this Friday morning after being detained since Wednesday, activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo said in her Twitter account.

Villares, in addition, was fined 500 pesos by the authorities, according to Martí Noticias.

During the arrest, “her interrogators told her that she had committed crimes, and in order to prove it to her they showed her a photograph that she had taken some time ago with two policemen. In the photo she appears with a fan with the logo of the CubaDecides opposition initiative” directed by Payá Acevedo, according to the Miami media. continue reading

In the cell where she was detained, the activist wrote with a stone on the wall “Art Yes, Censorship No. I am free.”

“They tell me that this is a damage to property and carries a fine of 500 pesos,” she explained.

Villares  was arrested Wednesday along with other artists when they tried to attend the staging of the play Psychosis.

Among those arrested and then released were Tania Bruguera, actress Iris Ruiz (protagonist of the monologue that was to be performed), Adonis Milán (director of the play), poet Amauri Pacheco, art historian Yanelys Nuñez, another person identified as José Ernesto Alonso and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The plot of the piece revolves around a person enclosed in a very small space showing obvious signs of madness who wants to leave the place.

The version that was presented was inspired by the events of 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, popularly known as Mazorra, where  26 patients died of hunger and cold. In the monologue direct allusions were to be made to Raúl Castro and terms such as “dictatorship” were used.

The independent gallery El Círculo is subject to constant repression by the regime. State Security also closed this independent space in April to prevent the presentation of the documentary Nadie, by Miguel Coyula, which deals with the life of the poet Rafael Alcides.

Likewise, the political police set up another operation last November to prevent public attendance at the work “The Enemies of the People”  directed by the documentary filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which fictionalized the final minutes of Fidel Castro.

Havana Biennial Postponed to 2019 Because of “Serious Damages” from Hurricane Irma

An art installation on the Malecon during the 12th Havana Biennial (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 September 2019 – The Promotion Division of Cuba’s National Council of the Arts and the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art announced that the 13th Havana Biennial, scheduled to be held next year, will be postponed until 2019.

A press release on the Council’s website it explains that due “the extremely serious damages caused by Hurricane Irma on the country’s system of cultural institutions,” they have “rescheduled several events” planned for the country.

The announcement does not give an exact date for the more important visual arts event in the country, although it says that “detailed information” is forthcoming.

The last edition of the Biennial was held between May and June of 2015, under the theme “Between The Idea And The Experience,” focused on a search for an artistic perspective beyond the museums and galleries.

Participating in the last Biennial were more than 120 guest artists, individuals and collectives who took advantage of their own spaces to install their works. The exhibition also included group projects conceived as an “artistic quarry” because they offered space for recently graduated young artists.

Over its 30 years, the Biennial has passed through different moments, some marked by artistic effervescence and others by apathy, affected by the economic crisis and the censorship of uncomfortable artists.

In its most recent edition the artist Tania Bruguera, who did not have an official invitation, presented a session of more than 100 hours of consecutive reading, analysis and discussion of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” at the independent International Institute of Artivism, which took the name of the famous German philosopher.

Two officials from State Security visited Bruguera to dissuade her from continuing her artistic action and blocking several activists from being able to access the site where she performed the reading.

Cuban Police Detain Activists For Second Consecutive Day / 14ymedio

Eliécer Avila together with young people from the Somos+ movement (Archive Photo)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 January 2017 — Police maintained a strong operation Thursday around the headquarters of the 1010 Academy in the neighborhood of Cerro, in Havana. Activists Joanna Columbié and Georlis Olazabal were arrested while trying to access the site to participate in a conference on constitutional law, said Eliécer Ávila, president of the independent Somos+ (We Are More) movement.

“Since early this morning they have the block surrounded and do not let anyone in or out of the house,” said Avila. “We had organized a talk with the attorney Wilfredo Vallin of the Cuban Law Associatio, but the police did not allow him to leave his home,” in La Vibora, he told 14ymedio .

Meanwhile, scientist Oscar Casanella denounced the arrest of the artist Tania Bruguera “on leaving Havana” when they were traveling in a vehicle with “two mattresses and rice” for the victims of Hurricane Matthew in the eastern part of the country.

In a telephone call, Casanella said the artist had been taken to the Cotorro police station in Havana. However, the officer of the guard there denied that Bruguera was there. “We do not have any Tanya here, the one we have is a Nancy,” the police officer said through the phone line.

This second consecutive day of arrests against activists takes place a few hours after the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla.

For the whole of 2016, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests. A figure that “puts the Government of Cuba in first place in all of Latin America,” said the report of the independent organization.

Patria y Libertad: Homeland and Freedom / 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera

One of the events in Havana in the 9-day mourning period for Fidel Castro (EFE)
One of the events in Havana in the 9-day mourning period for Fidel Castro (EFE)

14ymedio, Tania Bruguera, Havana, 1 December 2016 — Today in Cuba, we start a new phase, a phase that requires us to transition (shift) from an anecdote to historic data, from rumor to research, from passion to facts from what was symbolically assumed to what was actually done.

Time has come for us to ask for that archives be opened, to know how many truths  were manufactured and  to what extent victories  were achieved, to know with certainty how many  Cubans have  died around the world, to understand what social progress we have made and  to learn which agreements the government has  made on our behalf.

The Cuban people have the right to know its history, all of it, and be able to draw their own conclusions. continue reading

Today Cubans have stopped being children waiting for orders.

However, refusing to be underestimated requires understanding  other people’s feelings, those that think and  feel differently. It means understanding that we are not always right and  that the goal of discussion  is not to win arguments but to clarify our ideas and send them out for consideration..

We need to stop  thinking that only our feelings  are valid because the project of The Revolution  has  been a different  experience for each and  every one of us, and  since they were experiences, all of them  are valid. There are things  to rescue and  things  to remove. It would be more interesting to see  how people have  dealt  with their experiences, what they have done with them, instead of denying   someone to feel in their own terms.

We need to start  saying  “no” to the things  we don’t like, to the things  that keeps us from feeling clean  and  honest, even  if this means losing a privileged position, because there’s no money,  no professional opportunity, no material comfort  that can  be compared to feeling free, to being  able to speak one´s  mind.

But the life project that we can create from now on is only possible if we allow ourselves to stop  having  double standard ethics, if we stop telling something to some people and then something different to others.

We have  an exceptional moment before us, not to defend a government or a position, but to create all together a vision for Cuba; one that  is not biased to either extreme,  a vision that can be a compilation of all our points  of view.

It is the time to create a new legal infrastructure that includes  respect for different  opinions and  stops political hate forever, that ensures that citizens’ preferences cannot be controlled by the government; that can be a space for fair and inclusive decisions.

It is the time to create a political infrastructure that guarantees that never again  a president can hold all powers. This has happened 3 times  in Cuba  since  1902.  There should never be another president who thinks he knows  better than  anyone, and what is better for us all.

This is the time to create a civic and social  infrastructure that includes everyone, that includes rights for everyone, that includes political dissent as a civic right,  that includes civic literacy.

It is the time to create an emotional infrastructure that nurtures room for mutual understanding, a structure that does not allow anything to horrify or minimize us.

A structure that allows solidarity  and  privacy,  individual rights and  social  rights where  the life we want to have is respected but also represents a common effort; a structure that allows truths  and  claims  from everyone, the majority but also the minority. A place  where  a humanist utopia  exists  but never  again  paranoia among its citizens, where emotions don’t compromise what is fair.

Today, there is a real task for Cubans to complete: to balance what we want to rescue and what we want to change. It is the time to stop whispering our hopes, it is time to stop being  afraid.

The best way to honor  our homeland and ourselves is not being submissive, not being a cynical nation,  never  again  being a nation  with different classes of Cubans, nor a place  from where  to leave,  but a place  where  life is a dignifying act  we are proud of.

Placing love, family and friendship above ideologies is the only way Cuba will be a nation again.

(English version from Tania Bruguera’s own site)