In Support of Artist’s Freedom of Expression

 Gavin Delahunty, Contemporary Art Curator at the DMA

Gavin Delahunty, Contemporary Art Curator at the DMA

On Monday, April 13, from 12:30-2PM, the Dallas Arts District Museums collectively re-staged Cuban artist Tania Bruguera’s participatory artwork, Tatlin’s Whisper #6. Members of the general public including staff from surrounding museums were provided a platform to step up and speak freely. Most who spoke, did so for the artist. Bruguera faces  potential incarceration by the Cuban government. In December 2014 Burgera was arrested when she attempted to stage Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in Cuba. Now the government marks her as a “counter revolutionary” and dangerous to the country. She faces sentencing of no less than three years of imprisonment.

Museums, art organizations, and other art related venues restaged Bruguera’s performance piece in response to a call for action by Creative Time director Anne Pasternak.  The directors urged us all to  join in support of Bruguera and other artists around the world who face criminal charges and violence for exercising their basic human right to free expression.

#YoTambienExijo ” a civil platform for peaceful promotion of civil, political, economic and cultural rights in Cuba, from an open and plural civil society” (https://www.facebook.com/YoTambienExijo/timeline) was created to collectively aide in ” the promotion, respect and peaceful restoration of civil rights of the Cuban people through public actions concrete in different fields: artistic, cultural, civil, among others, driven from a civil society open without exclusion for political, religious affiliation or any other”. Through this collective effort there is hope for change not only in Cuba but in all other countries where the basic human right to free expression is repressed. The call to action on behalf of Bruguera and others is one way to address the issues of oppression and any political rule that suppresses the freedom of speech.

A group of no less than 20 people gathered at the Nasher like many others around the world. Most of those who spoke out at the Nasher read from several texts that Bruguera’s sister, Deborah, sent me to hand out for reading. My reading came from this text:

ON BEHALF OF CUAUTHEMOC MEDINA:

“Tania Bruguera’s intervention at the beginning of January 2015, was a bid to restore the voice of civil society and art in the process of transition that Cuba will partake in the near future. However, a loss of an important historical opportunity resulted from the defensive reaction of the Cuban authorities, to her wish of creating a moment of public freedom. The artistic community from the continent and, in particular, those who recognize themselves with the traditions of the left, should support, as a basic element of the verve of our societies, the artistic activism stemming from artists as Bruguera. In a complex context of political views and considerations over the future of the continent, it is reasonable that her performance could be controversial: that is the nature of all artistic action. But, above divisions and sectarianism, we share the common basis to think that a free culture is essential for the development of our societies. Please, support this letter to ask the Cuban authorities to rectify their position concerning Tania Bruguera. So that the discussion about her work, belong to only to the realm of critics’ debates.”

Many took to the platform provided by the Nasher and spoke honestly, fervently, and directly. There was a Cuban artist who spoke from her heart about the problems she has experienced herself in her native Cuba. She shared a few stories related to the ways in which the Cuban government continues to suppress artists voices. Her hope is that as a result of President Obama’s desire to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba things will change; that her people will gain possession of their country, own lives, and all the rights that humans inherently possess.

Others spoke out similarly giving their support and proclaiming their desire for change and reformation in Cuba. My hope is that this isn’t the only means we take to affirm our backing not only for Cuban artists but for the citizens of their nation.

Update from Deborah:

She tells me that there is comfort in knowing that at least the government feels the pressure and they know what the movement in support of Tania is doing.  Deborah so hopes this will finish soon and is happy to report that there are forty European Deputies who have signed a letter of support.

 Stand up and speak out in support of artist’s freedom of expression.

Noah Simblist

Noah Simblist, writer, curator, artist and an Associate Professor of Art at Southern Methodist University.

Leigh Arnold, Assistant Curator, Nasher Sculpture Center

Leigh Arnold, Assistant Curator, Nasher Sculpture Center

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