Tania Bruguera can't leave Cuba, so the Hammer will stage work in her honor

Tania Bruguera can't leave Cuba, so the Hammer will stage work in her honor
Artist Tania Bruguera has not been able to leave Cuba since attempting to stage a performance about free speech. The Hammer Museum is staging the piece in her honor on Monday. (Tania Bruguera / #YoTambienExijo)

A controversial work of performance art is being staged at the Hammer Museum on Monday, but the artist who created it will be thousands of miles away.

Tania Bruguera has been unable to leave Cuba since the end of 2014, when she was first detained for attempting to stage the piece called "Tatlin's Whisper #6" in Havana's Revolution Square.


Bruguera, after being detained and released on multiple occasions while the Cuban government decides whether to pursue criminal charges, is not currently being detained. But her passport has been confiscated.

The artist was born in Cuba, but normally spends much of her time teaching and making work abroad. In "Tatlin's Whisper #6," a podium is set up and members of the public are allowed to step up and express themselves freely for a period of one minute.

The Hammer will stage "Tatlin's Whisper #6" on Monday afternoon in its lobby gallery, even though the museum is generally closed on that day. The performance is being done in collaboration with the arts nonprofit Creative Time, which will stage its own version of the performance on Monday in Times Square. The New York-based organization has been calling on institutions and the public to join in and host their own versions of the piece via its Facebook page.

Allison Agsten, curator of public engagement at the Hammer, says the museum got on board as a gesture of support for freedom of expression.

"The Hammer is in complete solidarity with Tania," Agsten says. "It is vital to the work that we do and it is part of the fundamental belief system of the museum."

The event is also in support of two other Cuban figures who have been detained for their work: graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," and Angel Santiesteban, a dissident blogger — both of whom are in jail.

Bruguera had staged the work once before in Cuba without incident — at the 2009 Havana Biennial. But her attempt to do it in Revolution Square, a public site identified with Castro and the revolution, led to the detentions and, ultimately, her current state of legal limbo.

For the performance at the Hammer, the museum is setting up a platform in the lobby that the public will be invited to use.

"Anybody who is here," says Agsten, "will have one minute to speak uncensored about freedom of expression."

"#YoTambienExijo: A Restaging of Tatlin's Whisper #6," will take place at the Hammer Museum on Monday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles,

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.