International NGO Coalition to Cuba: Drop Charges Against Artist

Sunday, May 3, 2015
International Coalition Appeals to Cuba: Drop Charges Against Performance Artist

An international coalition of arts and free speech advocacy groups is appealing to the Cuban government to dismiss all charges against artist Tania Bruguera after she attempted to stage a performance about free speech in Havana’s Revolution Square.

Bruguera, an internationally renowned performance artist who splits her time between the United States and Cuba, went to the country in late December to stage her piece Tatlin's Whisper. But Cuban authorities detained her before the performance. She was freed after several days, but her passport has been confiscated as she awaits possible legal proceedings. As such, she is prevented from leaving Cuba.
At a transformative political moment between the U.S and Cuban governments, the letter-- signed by the US National Coalition Against Censorship, European Council of Artists, Freemuse, the Initiative for Freedom of Expression-Turkey, American Booksellers for Free Expression and others--urges Cuba to seize this opportunity to "send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe."

The groups are also concerned about the fate of Cuban artists detained or harassed by the government for attempting to exercise their free speech.

As the letter states:

By dismissing all charges and freeing Tania Bruguera, Cuba will send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe. The Cuban nation is ready and able to join those Cubans already on the world stage, and freedom and fairness in her case can help make that possible.

The full letter and list of signatories appears below.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations dedicated to defending freedom of thought, inquiry and expression.

April 30, 2015


The President of the Council of State of Cuba, Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
Minister of Justice Maria Esther Reus Gonzalez

Dear President Castro and Minister Reus Gonzalez,

In solidarity with artists around the world, as individuals and organizations defending artistic freedom of expression worldwide, we condemn attempts to prosecute Cuban artist Tania Bruguera for peacefully attempting to restage her work on free speech in Havana’s Revolution Square. As a conclusion to her case approaches, we urge Cuban authorities to dismiss all charges against her.

Tania Bruguera’s work, which addresses the relationship between art and politics, has made her one of the world’s best-known and respected creators of performance art. It is our understanding that she was arrested three times and faces prosecution simply for attempting to peacefully restage Tatlin’s Whisper, an homage to the Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin’s unrealised utopian Monument to the Third International.

By dismissing all charges and freeing Tania Bruguera, Cuba will send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe. The Cuban nation is ready and able to join those Cubans already on the world stage, and freedom and fairness in her case can help make that possible.

Agreed, Tania has some hard things to say about Cuba as it is now. But Cubans will note that Bruguera’s work has been equally critical of the United States and its treatment of its migrant communities.

It is impossible to have progressive change anywhere without hearing, sharing and understanding the ideas of fellow citizens that you disagree with.

As Cuba and the United States move closer to an end to decades of mutual hostility, we also call on the people of Cuba to welcome Tania Bruguera’s contribution to creative free expression. Indeed, Tania Bruguera is acting upon the same impulse that has made President Castro tolerate and respect a difference of opinion in current conversations with the United States and its President.

By welcoming Tania Bruguera and her work as a contribution to the current climate of change for the nation internationally, this simple action will help ensure that such change remains positive for Cuba and Cubans everywhere.

Very truly yours,

American Booksellers for Free Expression

European Council of Artists

European Composer & Songwriter Alliance

EU Working Group ARJ (arts-rights-justice)

freeDimensional

Freemuse

Foundation In Den Vreemde

Initiative for Freedom of Expression- Turkey

International Committee for Artists' Freedom

National Coalition Against Censorship (US)

Observatoire de la liberté de création

Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors

Vivarta