04 October 2015

Tania Bruguera

I had heard the name Tania Bruguera before I went to Cuba in May during the Biennal de La Habana but I certainly didn't know her work well. Others in the College Art group were well aware and Judith Rodenbeck participated in the reading of The origins of totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt at Bruguera's house. The September 2015 issue of Art in America has an interview with Bruguera by Travis Jeppesen. Just a few quotations:

"Also, we will have a big library [at the Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism]. We'll put shelves on the walls. It will be a specialized library, for people working in art, activism, philosophy and politics."

"I'm an anticapitalist. So I'm present in the discourse. I believe that socialism is a better model, even if it has some problems. I'm afraid that Cuba will go in a direction that is completely contrary to the Revolution."

"And racism is coming back. Yesterday I was talking to a former student, a black artist whose work deals with these issues. She told me that she will no longer go to some private restaurants, because nobody there is black -- not the cook, not even the person who cleans. Everyone is white. Racism is, of course, related to classism. This is something we haven't seen for a long time in Cuba. We were color blind. We saw people for who they were, how they behaved -- not how much money they had or the color of their skin."

As I walked the streets in Havana, there did indeed seem to be a diversity and mixing of people that was authentic and positive. I've been reading The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness by Michelle Alexander so colorblindness and racism are much in my thoughts. The interview shakes my idealism about the situation in Cuba, a little bit, but I am very glad that there continues to be movement on the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.

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