Cuban artist Tania Bruguera released but detained again

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera released but detained again
Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera in Havana on Wednesday after being released by the authorities. According to her family and wire service reports, she was detained once again soon after this picture was taken, for trying to hold a news conference. (Adalberto Roque / AFP/Getty Images)

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who was detained on Tuesday morning in Havana prior to attempting a performance tied to free speech in the city's Revolution Square, has once again been detained, according to wire reports and the artist's sister, Deborah Bruguera.

Tania Bruguera was released on Wednesday after being held on charges of disturbing the public order. Upon her release, she called a news conference for 4 p.m. Havana time on the Malecon, the city's iconic seaside thoroughfare. But the artist never made it to that event because she was detained again after leaving her mother's Havana apartment block.


Deborah Bruguera, who is based in Italy but has remained in touch with her mother in Havana, along with friends and associates in Cuba, said that she had spoken with her sister.

"She had gone to my mother's house — and that's where I spoke to her, immediately after she'd been released," says Deborah. "Then, as she left my mother's building, there were two policemen downstairs waiting for her.

"Soon after, an official goes to see my mother to tell her that Tania is fine and that they are simply chatting. It was the same as the first time: They're chatting. Since then, no one has seen her. It's been several hours."

A similar chronology was reported by the Associated Press, which spoke with Bruguera's mother, Argelia Fernandez, by phone.

During her telephone conversation with her sister, Deborah Brugera recorded three statements by the artist that have since been posted to Soundcloud.

"They said I had the intention of creating a public disturbance," Tania Bruguera says in Spanish, of her back and forth with police. "I told them that was not the case. And then I stopped talking and refused to eat."

In the staticky audio, Tania also states that she refused to sign a document in which she would have assumed responsibility for trying to generate a disturbance. She also reports having her computer, cellphone and passport confiscated and that the authorities have opened a judicial case against her.

The artist is a Cuban national who divides her time between Cuba, the U.S. and Europe. She is internationally known for provocative works that explore social and political issues. In New York in 2011, she launched an immigrant rights movement in collaboration with the Queens Museum of Art. For another earlier work, she had guards interrogate onlookers about what was motivating assassination threats against President Obama. During a performance in Bogota in 2009, she generated international headlines for distributing cocaine as part of a performance.

The work that led to her detention on Tuesday is titled "Tatlin's Whisper #6" and consists of an open microphone that members of the public are invited to use to speak their mind for one minute. The piece was staged at the 10th Havana Biennial in 2009 without incident. (Claire Bishop had a good report about how it went down in Artforum.)

Bruguera's intent was to stage a similar happening in Havana's Revolution Square on Tuesday, in the wake of the U.S.-Cuba diplomatic thaw. That never happened since the artist, along with more than two dozen other dissidents, were detained hours before the event could take place.


UPDATE 10:12 PM PST: Deborah Bruguera announced via Facebook and an e-mailed statement on Wednesday evening that her sister, performance artist Tania Bruguera, had been released by the Cuban authorities and that she was back in her home in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. In her statements, Deborah reports that Tania will not be allowed to leave Cuba for the next two to three months since she has been charged with "resistance and disrupting the public order."

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