Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Right to Remain Silent: Protest in the age of Tania Bruguera and thawing US-Cuba relations

There’s no denying it; Americans have a Cuban fetish.

Whether festooning vacation homes with Cuban cigars or discussing their recent “exclusive” tour to the Caribbean nation, privileged Americans have embraced Cuba as attaining a level of panache unmatched by any other island nation within short distance to the US. The only more seductive Caribbean experience in recent memory is, you guessed it, Cuba in the 1950s: that glittering isle of romance, fine dining and dancing the night away.

#YoTambienExijo : re-staging Tania Bruguera's Tatlin's Whisper#6 in Times Square NYC

#YoTambienExijo : re-staging Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper#6 in Times Square NYC

But perhaps nostalgia is better disregarded for a consideration of present circumstances, particularly when so much silence is facing the obvious exclusion of artists’ (and, indeed, the general public’s) right in Cuba to free speech.

Artist Tania Bruguera has become the most recent case in a string of artist abuse accusations leveled at the Cuban government, and this Monday’s re-staging of Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in Times Square sponsored by Creative Time joined by Queens Museum, MoMA, Guggenheim Museum, a Blade of Grass, et al., served as a muted reminder of the ongoing human rights abuses in our exotic neighbor to the South. Labeled #YoTambienExijo, politically minded artists such as Dread Scott and Pablo Helguera banded together along with a barrage of visitors from all walks of life to voice a minute of unrestricted speech. For every glimmer in enterprising American travel agents’ eyes of touring Cuba’s colonial architectural gems lies hidden a social dissident being harassed and silenced by the Castro regime.

#YoTambienExijo : re-staging Tania Bruguera's Tatlin's Whisper#6 in San Francisco

#YoTambienExijo : re-staging Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper#6 in San Francisco

As recent news headlines have tended toward lukewarm-or even gratuitous-embrace of the rapprochement undergone by recent US-Cuban relations it is worth noting that with the ease of travel between the two nations comes no new promise of democracy spreading through Cuban society. This is one aspect of the renewed diplomatic relations that has gone with little mention, dwarfed by the overall sense of relief that finally America is recognizing this nation that is suffering from economic withdrawal due to the ongoing embargo. However, how will this opening of economic ties also lead to the opening of social freedoms which will be of more lasting benefit to the Cuban populace? And as everyday Americans begin to explore Cuba for the first time, will they get a glimpse of the artists silenced in the shadows, or continue on to the next landmark oblivious to the rights of artist and citizens alike to voice protest against a controlling regime?




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