In recent days the Cuban government has attempted to issue Decree 349 to restrict the activities of artists. It has provoked protests in Cuba and the detention of artists Amaury Pacheco, Michel Matos, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva and Tania Bruguera among others. Following arrests, the artists have now been released, yet they remain under police surveillance.
Under Decree 349, all artists, including collectives, musicians and performers, are prohibited from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. Individuals or businesses that hire artists without the authorization can be sanctioned, and artists that work without prior approval can have their materials confiscated or be substantially fined.
It is important to highlight the situation in Cuba and to see it as part of a global phenomenon of repression of artists and freedom of expression. Recent cases such as Shahidul Alam, the photographer imprisoned by the government of Bangladesh, the Saudi journalist Khashoggi killed in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, and Photographer Lu Guang who has gone missing in China, demonstrate that governments feel newly emboldened to openly attack high profile figures, moving beyond the usual internal state repression which used to happen behind closed doors.
In response, the Asociación de Arte Útil reiterates its support for the right of all artists and citizens to free and independent expression and activity in the public sphere without political control and with limits on hate speech and indecency.
“As an artist I feel my duty today is not to exhibit my work at an international exhibition and further my personal artistic career but to be with my fellow Cuban artists and to expose the vulnerability of Cuban artists today. “
From ‘Open Letter from Tania Bruguera to Kochi Biennial’, 10th December 2018.