Well, possibly

No artistic freedom in Cuba? Really (Havana artist sets up ‘haven for free speech’, 11 April)? Thanks to its rigorous arts education system, free to students including at graduate level, Cuba has a diverse and brilliant cultural life which engages with the wide spectrum of social and political issues in the country. Anyone who has visited the island will know that. The fact is that support for the arts would make educators in the UK weep with envy. Cuba has brought the world outstanding music (Chucho Valdés, Gente de Zona, X Alfonso), challenging film-makers (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Fernando Pérez, Pavel Giroud) and groundbreaking visual artists (Kcho, Lázaro Saavedra, René Francisco).

It is simply not credible that this artistic flowering is the product of “57 years of cultural repression”. This October, London will host an exhibition, ¡Presente! Contemporary Art from Cuba, to showcase their vibrant visual arts scene. Some of the 30 artists involved will also be here to discuss artistic creativity on the island at a range of associated public events.
Professor Helen Colley
Dr Doreen Weppler-Grogan
¡Presente! exhibition coordinating team

Although I hear that a collage, or a song, praising the merits of bourgeois democracy, or free markets, might not get quite so much, umm, support. You know, freedom for the artist to say what they want to say rather than freedom to say what should be said?

17 thoughts on “Well, possibly”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    This is why the West is dying. We pay people to laud and celebrate mass murderers who hate us.

    I am with Mr Ecks on this one. They ought to be strung up in a public square. They are a cancer on what was otherwise a healthy body.

  2. The idea of “no artistic freedom” is clearly wrong, since many artists are basically apolitical in any country. So long as they stick within acceptable bounds, they can paint or sing as they wish.

    The idea that this constitutes thriving artistic freedom is utterly bonkers and if UK or American artists were operating under the same threats of punishment for even mild political non-compliance, these “solidarity” folk would go absolutely ape. Never understood why educated, intelligent, passionately political people are prepared to let the Cuban government get away with it. If one of these “challenging” film-makers made a film “challenging” the idea that Cubans should continue to be denied basic human rights, like the right to vote in free elections, they’d be for the slammer. What kind of artistic “freedom” is that when you can’t even criticise your government or bring up basic rights issue?

    Moreover, the Westerners with these double standards should absolutely know this – they love the ability to criticise their own governments. Moreover, if they were in Cuba, being such political people they’d likely find something to criticise themselves (even most of the nutters accept nowhere is perfect) and what do they think would happen to them then?

    I can only assume they reckon they’d be the person doing the censoring/prosecuting rather than the person being censored or prosecuted. I guess a lot of the old Bolsheviks who were wiped out in Stalin’s purges had had the same kind of idea.

  3. Mildewed fruit Dan, mildewed unto death.

    Cuban cultural paradise? Salsa your way around some of the wrecked buildings and the clapped out 1950s cars knowing that–should you sprain your ankle– Cuba’s fabulous health system will be there to not give a shit unless you are an apparatchik or related to the Castro clan.

    SMFS: Thanks for the kind words. See you at the hangings.

  4. Also, ‘challenging film makers’. I’ve been to enough film festivals to know this is code for ‘biblically dull, 3 hrs long, not a single gunfight or punch-up’.

    Everyone go see Hardcore Henry. Now THATS cinema. Theres a bit where the guy jumps on the roof of a speeding truck, throws a grenade inside and rides the explosion wave to land on the back of a bike being driven by a leather body suit wearing Russian dominatrix. Splendid.

  5. Am I supposed to recognize any of those people she mentioned? Could be the Cuban Lackadaisical’s back row, for all I know.

  6. As someone who watches world cinema, I’d never heard of any of those filmmakers and when I looked them up, the only film I recognised was Juan of the Dead.

    The problem with state-funded or state-directed art is that it leans towards what the state wants. Good films from the nazi era? Well, a couple of Leni Riefenstahls and even they’re about technique. Spanish cinema under Franco? Nothing. French cinema after they started spunking subsidies at everyone? Not as good as when Godard and Renoir were having to get people to pay for it. Arts council funded stuff?

  7. “educated, intelligent, passionately political people ”

    I take issue with at least one of those epithet.

  8. Some of the Soviet films were great precisely because the directors and scriptwriters had to be extraordinarily clever to circumvent the censors without them realising. Although I doubt the writer of this Guardian drivel is making quite that point.

  9. To solve the housing issue, as well as the problem of the cultural coup by the Left there is surely no excuse for not imposing a ‘socialist tax’ on people who hold these opinions, rather along the lines of Brown’s levy on the privatised utilities. In order to avoid it such people would be offered subsidised emigration to Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela who I am sure would leap at the chance to embrace these ideological compadres – given many of them have quite substantial houses, it could make a fair dent in the housing waiting lists I am sure…..

  10. The Inimitable Steve

    “Anyone who has visited the island will know that. The fact is that support for the arts would make educators in the UK weep with envy.”

    Fuck off to Cuba then.

    Kthxbai xx

  11. SMFS,

    I wouldn’t worry too much. Academia is now this odd little club, loved by other of little clubs like The Guardian.

    When you look at what dominates our culture, it isnt some cuban bands or outdoor art exhibitions or Ken Loach films, it’s Taylor Swift and Marvel movies. It always cracks me up to see writers in the left wing guardian defending the BBC by talking about Bake Off and Strictly, two TV shows that are old-fashioned and define women as either sex objects or in the kitchen, but that’s the biggest stuff on TV.

  12. GlenDorran,

    God, what absolute balls. I dare anyone to make challenging art from the perspective of Donald Trump, or even as nuanced as Doug Stanhope and see how far they get with funding.

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