Art along the Mal-econ

I was thinking about Cuba today after watching Abby Martin´s reports on RT and feeling kinna revolutionary and hopeful about the diplomatic thaw when I ran across another report on Cuban artist Tania Bruguera´s arrest, and subsequent harassment and suppression just for an art piece asking citizens to freely speak for one minute – and my fleeting respect for Cuba vanished almost immediately. Not many artists get involved in politics but it’s inspiring when they do speak directly to the ruling elite and run the same risks as honest journalists. Even though I use art more as an escape from the grind of that reality, I applaud its use as political protest and wish more was exhibited. Unfortunately the gilded collectors of our time prefer kitch souvenirs and objects of escalating investment to confrontational art. So where is American art showing outrage over our government’s “… endless War on Terror that seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes in defiance of national boundaries, torture on demand, and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy”? That from Tom Englehardt at The Obama administration’s slogan of ‘Hope and Change’ has really been a bad joke on the public and I was happy to see Martin express it in one of her artworks – she also paints. But getting back to Tania… what is so threatening to the ruling class about citizens expressing their opinions in public? Isn’t Cuba’s one-party system supposed to be a model for citizen participation in politics as I saw in ‘Breaking the Set’? Tania’s performance is art (and politics) at its most basic and I was happy that Gustavo Buntinx is boycotting the Havana Biennial because of her persecution. If Cuba is really interested in joining the global political and art community it should be inviting Tania to perform her piece as part of the fair, front and center in Revolution Square. Fear of journalists ruins politics and fear of artists ruins cultural exchanges and art museums. In the USA we are living at a time when journalists are threatened by our ‘House of Cards’ – where Frank Underwood pales beside the real criminals promoting perpetual war for perpetual peace and security. But when politicians begin to fear artists as Cuba fears Tania, you know freedom is failing which begs the question – is any American artist challenging the politics of today or are they all ‘appropriating’ the flag? You can sign a petition to support Tania’s release The 12th Havana Biennial will likely feature the international ‘zombie formalism’ prevalent in such now proliferate art fairs but will really feature the cowardly officials who initially approved Tania’s performance in 2009 and now label it subversive. Viva political dissent and the assault by art!

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