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Latin America

Installation view, Hamlet Lavastida, KUBA (text), Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, April 202


HAMLET LAVASTIDA CORDOBI, KUBA (text), Installation view, Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, April 2021 © David Brandt, Berlin


American and Russian interference throughout the Cold War period and beyond contributed to polarizing the countries that make up Latin America. Artists feel there, more than on many other continents, a social mission to defend the rights of the people and local minorities. This involvement that we find at the heart of their works inevitably comes up against the powers in place, with no difference whether these powers claim a far right or the far left heritage.Thus for example in Brazil, at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, the recent case of the censored photos of artists João Zinclar, André Vilaron, and Edgar Kanaykõ defending the Amerindian populations.


Thus in Cuba, many artists make visible through their artistic practice the lack of freedom suffered by the Cuban people, the discrimination suffered there by the Afro-descendants or by the homosexuals. These artists pay the price through great financial insecurity (there is no local art market, artists are therefore totally dependent on the goodwill of the State), police harassment, arbitrary detentions and prison sentences for whimsical reasons. In the end, these artists are forced to choose between clandestinity, prison or exile.


In December 2020, the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera was taken for several hours into police custody for questioning while her video Destierro was exhibited at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires. In this video made between 1998 and 1999, Bruguera dresses in a Congolese-inspired fetish to stroll the streets of Havana on Fidel's birthday. By doing so, she gives visibility to the historically most disadvantaged population of the island, the Afro-descendants. that the Castro revolution was unable or unwilling to pull out of poverty.

The artist Hamlet Lavastida Cordobi who returned to Cuba on July 21, 2021 after a residency and exhibition at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin was arrested while entering the mandatory quarantine center for people returning from abroad. While in Berlin, he had exhibited a series of works on paper, one of which featuring a transcription of Cuban artist Javier Caso's confession during his detention by the authorities the previous year.

On that very same day, Tania Bruguera underwent an 11-hour interrogation during which she was threatened with imprisonment in Villa Marista prison. These practices of judicial and police harassment are intended not only to imprison those whose artistic practice upsets the authorities, but also to push them into exile which, by cutting them off from the local population and their daily concerns, will make their artistic practice less dangerous for the government.

Thus Tania Bruguera finally agreed in 2021 to leave Cuba permanently in exchange for the release of Hamlet Lavastida Cordobi and other artists. She now lives, works and teaches in the United States.

AC, 11/18/2022

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