Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Detained During the Havana Biennial

Plaza de la Revolución in Havana
Plaza de la Revolución in Havana
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Artist Tania Bruguera was detained yet again at her home in Havana. The Cuban-born artist had just finished a 100-hourlong public reading of the German philosopher Hannah Arendt's seminal work, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). In the book, Arendt argues that totalitarianism's sole purpose is to terrorize and repress an entire population. Clearly, the Cuban government did not take kindly to Bruguera's invocation of Arendt's book. 

The reading, titled Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism, was part of an independent project that Bruguera performed alongside the government-sanctioned Havana Biennial. Bruguera began the performance May 22 and concluded May 26; she was arrested shortly thereafter. 

The performance was a bit of an endurance project for Bruguera — her reading was interrupted multiple times. The website Artnet reports: 

Friday, the reading was interrupted when construction workers suddenly began to conduct loud road works just outside Bruguera's house, which, according to Diario de Cuba, was seen by many as an attempt of the regime to boycott the performance.

On Saturday, Bruguera was denied entrance to the National Museum of Fine Arts, where she had planned to attend an exhibition opening. Finally, on Sunday, a group of people suspected to be undercover police gathered near Bruguera's home. When the artist finished her reading, shortly after 4 pm, she was taken away by police and reportedly detained. She returned to her home a few hours late.

Though born in Cuba, Bruguera has been based in Chicago for most of her career. She is currently in Cuba as a result of her arrests in December 2014, shortly after the United States announced it would normalize relations with the island nation. Bruguera was arrested thrice in December, each time for performing an art piece that openly criticized the Communist government. She remains unable to leave the island, stuck in a kind of legal limbo. 

It's estimated that 163 activists and artists were arrested the day Bruguera was detained. 

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