The Utopias and Dissidences of Pedro Pablo Oliva

Excerpt from 'The strange ramblings of Utopito' from the Pedro Pablo Oliva exhibition, Utopias and Dissidences (14ymedio)

Excerpt from ‘The Strange Ramblings of Utopito’ from the Pedro Pablo Oliva exhibition, Utopias and Dissidences (14ymedio)

YOANI SÁNCHEZ, 27 October 2014 – Some years ago I visited the studio of the painter Pedro Pablo Oliva. We had hardly seen each other on any previous occasion, but he led me into his studio and showed me a work to which he was giving the finishing touches. An enormous vertical canvas rose in front of me and the artist remained silent, without explaining anything. In the middle of the fabric two figures levitated. One was Fidel Castro, translucent as if we were looking through an X-ray, looking aged and with a somewhat ghostly air. Between his arms he was squeezing to the point of suffocation a languid girl who seemed to want to escape from that grip. It was Cuba, exhausted by such all-consuming company. At his feet, a group of tiny little citizens with empty eyes were watching – or imagining – the scene.

I could never forget that picture, because in a limited number of inches Oliva had traced the national map of the last half century. His daring in that work affected me, as he had already done in his classic The Great Blackout (1994), released when the power cuts were more than an artistic metaphor. Now, years later, I learned of the cancellation of his exposition Utopias and Dissidences in the Pinar del Rio Art Museum. The official justifications suggested that the city didn’t have the “subjective favorable conditions” to open the show. A contrived way of rejecting the uncomfortable images where the character of Utopito was questioning the ideologues and their dreams, starting from the outcomes.

However, Oliva’s tenacity has run ahead of the culture officials and he just announced that the censored exhibition will eventually be held at his workshop. Thus, as of November first his admirers in Pinar del Rio and across the whole island will be able to enjoy some of the works of Utopias and Dissidences, because given the small exhibit space not everything will be able to be included.

In this same room where a lifeless politician squeezed his country to the point of suffocation, in a few days we will be able to see if she managed to escape this fatal embrace, continue her life, continue her creation.

14 thoughts on “The Utopias and Dissidences of Pedro Pablo Oliva

  1. After reading the last blog I was afraid that something bad could happen to Yoani and those close to her. This post and a recent CNN reports give me hope that maybe Cuba can avoid collapse and, at least to begin with, can transition into a Chinese-style system…

  2. MODERN HISTORY OF ART AND POLITICS….ART IS A POWERFUL TOOL FOR DISSENT
    The Cold War, or the Long Peace, marked the period between 1947 and 1991 during which both countries engaged in an economic, political, and cultural race to hegemony. The silent warfare relied on greater sophistication than nuclear missiles. Art became a political weapon aimed toward ideological destruction.

    Art, as a social and cultural pastime, is periodically used as a means of mass communication. During the Cold War, art became the medium for propaganda. Propaganda is defined as the distribution of ideas with a distinct motivation to “further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause” (Marian Webster). It can be argued that all art and expression derives from underlying motivations, and thus is a form of propaganda. However, the goal is not to debate the innate propagandist qualities of art, because they indeed exist, but to analyze their political use. In Claude Cernushi’s article titled The Politics of Abstract Expressionism, he asserts that “the potential of visual art to disseminate political propaganda to both an illiterate and educated populace, art and politics, image and power, have throughout history fit together like hand and glove.” Prior to the Cold War, Soviet and American art had become a platform for nationalistic propaganda, boosting social morale in the process. The two world wars and global depression made artistic nationalism necessary. The Cold War made political art strategic foreign policy. Just as communism collided with democracy in the political arena, two opposing art movements arose in each country. Socialist realism, which depicts socialist philosophies and glorifies the working class, became the Soviet’s emblem of revolution. On the other side of the Atlantic, Abstract Expressionism, free of technical and thematic style, embodied American individualism.
    Soviet Socialist Realism is typically attacked as mere ideology and propaganda, but it must also be argued that Abstract Expressionism was used by the United States for similar purposes. During the Cold War the U.S. and Soviet Union utilized art to antagonize each other. Both countries were guilty of manipulating art and using it as political propaganda, within and outside their borders.

  3. MODERN HISTORY OF ART AND POLITICS….ART IS A POWERFUL TOOL FOR DISSENT
    The Cold War, or the Long Peace, marked the period between 1947 and 1991 during which both countries engaged in an economic, political, and cultural race to hegemony. The silent warfare relied on greater sophistication than nuclear missiles. Art became a political weapon aimed toward ideological destruction.

    Art, as a social and cultural pastime, is periodically used as a means of mass communication. During the Cold War, art became the medium for propaganda. Propaganda is defined as the distribution of ideas with a distinct motivation to “further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause” (Marian Webster). It can be argued that all art and expression derives from underlying motivations, and thus is a form of propaganda. However, the goal is not to debate the innate propagandist qualities of art, because they indeed exist, but to analyze their political use. In Claude Cernushi’s article titled The Politics of Abstract Expressionism, he asserts that “the potential of visual art to disseminate political propaganda to both an illiterate and educated populace, art and politics, image and power, have throughout history fit together like hand and glove.” Prior to the Cold War, Soviet and American art had become a platform for nationalistic propaganda, boosting social morale in the process. The two world wars and global depression made artistic nationalism necessary. The Cold War made political art strategic foreign policy. Just as communism collided with democracy in the political arena, two opposing art movements arose in each country. Socialist realism, which depicts socialist philosophies and glorifies the working class, became the Soviet’s emblem of revolution. On the other side of the Atlantic, Abstract Expressionism, free of technical and thematic style, embodied American individualism.
    Soviet Socialist Realism is typically attacked as mere ideology and propaganda, but it must also be argued that Abstract Expressionism was used by the United States for similar purposes. During the Cold War the U.S. and Soviet Union utilized art to antagonize each other. Both countries were guilty of manipulating art and using it as political propaganda, within and outside their borders. Of course, comparing U.S. policy to Soviet Russia’s repressing government proposes a bold, and some may argue, exaggerated theory. Thus, although both countries used art as propaganda it is important to distinguish the type of art, and the manner in which it was used. To do this one must explore the impact of ideology on art, which includes but is not limited to political, economic, social and cultural ideals. Secondly, the role of government patronage and art must be considered. Applying these questions to U.S. and Soviet art will help unveil whether artistic propaganda is ever permissible in the political arena.
    To avoid another great war, specifically a nuclear war, both countries resorted to psychological warfare. As Louis Momad commented in his article, “An Unpopular Front” written for The New Yorker in 2005, the Cold War was “ a war for hearts and minds- an idea war, an image war, a propaganda war” ( paragraph 1). In the battle for international superpower, both countries targeted the other’s society and culture. The U.S. was determined to make democracy the hero and communism the villain. The Soviets wanted to rid the world of bourgeois ideas like democracy, and create a utopian, communal society. These ideologies are reflected in Cold War art, and were perpetuated upon the masses as progressive and repressive propaganda.
    In Sergei Gerasimov, Collective Farm Harvest Festival, political ideologies are expressed through romantic not realist aesthetics. The painting depicts the utopia which the Soviets strived to attain. A farm community gathers for dinner, demonstrating community life, effort and success. The food and wine at the table symbolize prosperity, but not extreme affluence. The women’s participation further reinforces themes of equality. Gerasimov’s painting upholds socialist ideology by highlighting and encouraging the life of the proletariat. Romantic qualities can be found in the aesthetics of the painting. Nature is chosen as the setting, creating a soft and aesthetically pleasing background. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that the majority of Russians lived in such areas. In reality, the housing and health care that was guaranteed to all citizens was badly organized and favored government elites. Thus, the egalitarian community that the Soviets strived for failed under an authoritarian government.
    U.S. government and institutions used Abstract Expressionism to gain international allies and rouse dissent against the Soviet Union. Eva Cockcroft defends this claim in her article “ Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War.” She specifically criticizes the patronage of museums such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the CIA. According to Cockcroft these institutions “ sought to influence the foreign intellectual community and to present a strong propaganda image of the United States as a ‘free’ society as opposed to the ‘regimented’ communist bloc” (86). Led by Porter A. McCray, MOMA’s international program of 1952 provided traveling exhibitions of contemporary American Art in London, Paris, Sao Paulo and Tokyo. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund financed the exhibitions through a five year grant of 625,000. (Cockcroft) Thanks to the Rockefeller’s wealth and influence, MOMA had an advantage in the art world. The Soviets opposed this exact privatization and elitism of art, and thus had implemented socialist art. However, Socialist Realism depicted the false reality of a tyrannic, not communist Russia. MOMA may have been influenced by the Rockefeller family, but is this not better than if it were controlled by the government?

    U.S. patronage precipitated Soviet scorn toward the individualism and imperialism with which they characterized Abstract Expressionism. The international Modern Art exhibits, along with various government funded projects were perceived as imperialistic and imposing. Thomas W. Braden, a former secretary of MOMA, led the CIA in cultural initiatives such as the 1952 Paris tour of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Braden defended the event by acknowledging its cultural and political gain, “ the Boston Symphony Orchestra won more acclaim in the United States that John Foster Dulles or Dwight D. Eisenhower could have brought with a hundred speeches.” ( qtd. Cockcroft p. 85) The CIA was central to cultural diplomacy because public opposition to Modern Art often intervened with the exhibitions. A greater level of government secrecy was necessary to aid the Abstract Expressionist operation. Thus, just as the Soviet regime idealized paintings to dupe the public, the U.S. government covertly perpetuated Abstract Expressionism abroad. The U.S. government remained detached from the art movement at home in order to appeal to public dissent. Both countries acted as self-interested actors and abused art as a means for political control. The question remains however, did one form of propaganda express greater legitimacy, or was the U.S. equally guilty of falsifying art for political purposes?

  4. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CUBA- Amnesty International Publications 2010
    Restrictions on freedom of expression in Cuba are systematic and entrenched. The Cuban authorities frequently quote threats to national security, independence and sovereignty as their justification for taking action against those peacefully expressing criticisms of government policies or exposing human rights violations. In particular, they highlight decades of interference in Cuban domestic affairs by the US government. In the 2007 White Book outlining Cuba’s official position on foreign policy and human rights, the government asserts the limits to freedom of opinion and expression that it considers applicable: “The exercise of freedom of opinion and expression has as sole restriction the limits defined by the defence of national independence and sovereignty, and by the protection of the right to self-determination of the Cuban people.”7 Three key elements deployed by the authorities to impose restrictions are the state’s virtual monopoly of the media (including television, radio, the press and internet service providers); the requirement that all practising journalists join the national journalists’ association, which is effectively under the control of the ruling Cuban Communist Party; and a number of provisions in the Constitution and the Penal Code that are so vague that they lend themselves to abuse by state officials such as the police and the judiciary to restrict freedom of expression. Over the years, Amnesty International has documented hundreds of detentions and prosecutions of political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists. Many were sentenced to long prison terms for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression following trials that did not meet international fair trial standards.
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/005/2010/en/62b9caf8-8407-4a08-90bb-b5e8339634fe/amr250052010en.pdf

  5. SPEAKING OF PROPAGANDA FROM GERMANY TO THE NEW MASTERS: THE U.S.

    Media Manipulation

    Perhaps the grossest ongoing censorship of all is the culturally conditioned, narrow range of opinion fed to the vast majority of Americans by their own media. The differences in story lines and opinions in the “news” given by well-watched television channels such as ABC. CBS, NBC and CNN, or those of the nation’s major newspapers and news magazines, is minuscule.

    One venue that stands out is Fox TV, and its “news” and opinion offerings verge on the mendacious. The narrow range of views offered creates a uniform background noise hiding most of what is at variance with the standard message. In other words, media practices constitute de facto censorship.

    So well does this process work that it is probably the case that many news editors and broadcasters and most of the public taking in their reporting do not understand that their reductionism has rendered the constitutional right of free press ineffectual.

    Really meaningful contrary opinion and reporting (particularly of the progressive persuasion) is so infrequent and marginalized that it stands little chance of competing with the orthodox point of view.

    An exception is to be found on the TV channel Comedy Central. There Americans can find the popular “Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” This show presents the only ongoing, nationally televised critique of the foibles of U.S. government leaders and their policies. But, of course, it all must be done in the form of comical political satire.

    As successful as media conditioning is, some elements of the U.S. government feel they must go the extra mile to guarantee that the public receives an acceptable view of events. Take the revelations given in a recent report by Amnesty International on the trial of the so-called Cuban Five (five Cuban residents of Florida arrested for espionage on the part of the Cuban government).

    Amnesty’s official report on the trial of the five defendants alleges that “the United States [government] paid journalists hostile to Cuba to cover the trial and provide prejudicial articles in the local media asserting the guilt of the accused.”

    Under such circumstances the “free press” was transformed into a vehicle for government propaganda and this, in turn, helped to generally devalue the right of free speech. We do not know how often the government acts in this corruptive way.

  6. GENERATION “Y” : The Great Alumbrón – Posted on January 5, 2011 by Yoani-Sánchez

    Letter from Pedro Pablo Oliva:

    Yoani:

    First I want to say hello and ask after your and your husband’s health, the last time we met was in Obispo Street as a result of the meeting you requested with the official who abducted you (to put it in a poetic way) in those ugly and awkward days. He taught me the marks of violence.

    I will get to the point so as not to run on and on.

    I imagine you are aware of the declaration that the Home-Workshop (a project I’ve had for 10 years) issued relating to the art performance of Yamilia Pérez Estrella, at that time my wife, in the province of Pinar del Río, it’s still on the Internet.

    In some of the paragraphs of that declaration I expressed my position, but if you like I can state other things much more clearly.

    I am, I was and I will be against the use of violence, manipulated or not, to silence any thought or idea, it is truly shameful to use aggression to impose a way of thinking or to try to use it to intimidate. Every act of this kind generates rejection and repulsion and is no help at all in the so necessary unifying of this country marked by political and family conflicts.
    On the other hand, I have always thought and believed that the artist needs more open spaces for communication, and fights for this.

    My generation, on the other hand, believed in the social function of art, and I, at least, assumed it proudly, hence my desire for a work that tried to reflect its context and that brought a critical analysis of society. For this I’ve been censored more than once.

    Yamilia joins me in the desire to change the world, to try to make it better, always from different positions, she from direct confrontation as Tania Bruguera did, or does, I from the place where social projects are born, questioning or not, criticizing or not. Something that we totally agree on is: this is not a perfect society, nor are others I’ve experienced.

    I dream of a different society, Utopia is that man I am and have lived year after year, successes and failures, but I do not stop fighting for that dream.

    I am, Yoani, one of those who believe that opposites need to express themselves like day and night, wet and dry, I think fearlessly of the need for more than one party because people have the right to group together based on affinity of thought and philosophy and the precious agreement of dreams.

    If you were to ask me one day (which I doubt) what party I would like to belong to I would answer one that does not imprison its children for thinking differently, one that permits the flow of ideas like a river that runs between two shores, one where I know its children are where they receive the sweet embrace of the motherland, where they respect that a woman can love another woman and a man another man. One that grows, step by step in the enchanted spell of love. Where the horizon is seen not as an end but as a beginning, the party that does not say, “this is,” but that opens like the wings of a butterfly, where children are protected from the hateful ghost of hunger and the terrible scourge of dogmas. A party that understands that the new generations need to lead the country and express themselves as the wind and the rain express themselves, and much more, Yoani, that would take forever to name and that form a part of the dream that this man aspires to.

    If I have learned in all these years that one person can’t remain for so much time leading a country, I can understand the presence of a party of 20 or 30 years, even 50; but not always led by the same image, the faces, the manner and the way of thinking; changes are needed every so often, each man may have a different method.

    Forgive my disintegration and incoherence. You know that Yamilia has a work that is too short, but it has spirit and guts to overcome any obstacle in the process of creation.

    This is my position, there is no other, I am sorry to see so much official apparatus circling around a thin girl to stop her from an artistic act one day someone wrongly determined was dissent, if ten Yamilias arose I imagine they would deploy a whole army.

    I assure you, Yoani, that this man lives without fear.

    My love to you,
    Yours,
    Pedro Pablo Oliva

    https://generacionyen.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/the-great-alumbron/

  7. AN ARTIST PERCEPTION OF ART AND POLITICS
    The reason propaganda came to be viewed as dishonest after WWII, is the way in which it was used by Goebbels. His principles for the use of propaganda advocated the manipulation and censorship of facts. He set very strict terms regarding creation and dissemination of propaganda, and actively limited the kind of information available for release to the public. According to these principles, repetition is vital to the success of a propaganda campaign. Propaganda was to be used to maintain a level of anxiety in the general population in order to make them more amenable to government influence. It appears as though our own government has learned a few things in this regard.

    So, how does art come into play? Obviously, the use of graphics requires creative talent. Artists, being some of the more emotional members of society, might very well have a better understanding of how to manipulate others. A well placed graphic, the right splash of color or use of contrast, severe cropping or juxtaposition of opposing objects will easily lead the viewer to form a desired opinion. Some will agree because they already possess the same view, with the added bonus of feeling like part of something larger than themselves. Some will be swayed because they were on the fence about the issue, but now feel like an insider because they are clever enough to ‘get it’. Some will dismiss it as crap because they disagree. Others will be offended because they not only disagree, but see the potential for manipulation of those who don’t have all the facts and will readily accept what they perceive to be popular opinion.

    In our current political climate, artists have found their voice and a market for works depicting their own political views. As an individual expression, this is a powerful tool for political activism. Whether or not you agree with the artist, you should be able to respect their right to free speech. When sponsored knowingly and, worse, encouraged by the NEA, it is comparable to the actions of Goebbels. There is no instance where it is appropriate for the government to fund art, particularly that which promotes a specific agenda. When the government or a tax funded agency in their employ embarks on a propaganda campaign, they seldom give voice to the opposition.

    As artists, I believe we have a duty and responsibility to put forth an opposing point of view. We need to combat lies and misrepresentations with verifiable facts and expose the treachery of blindly following ‘approved’ ideas and agendas. Because the State has been engaged in this campaign for generations, with the willing participation of their supporters, it is time that those of us who still hold the individual supreme stand up and make our voices heard. We now face a turning point in the history of America, where we can succumb to the whims of the State and willingly accept bondage, or lead the way to a Liberty Revolution with the purpose of restoring America to a Constitutional Republic. Mrs. Pelosi says “Are you serious?”; I say Yes I Am.

    What should we be promoting through our art? Self-reliance, personal responsibility, a return to the principles of individual liberty and limited government. Freedom over tyranny. The challenge will be to create a successful propaganda campaign without compromising our principles to emotional reactions and misrepresentation of facts. We need to play the game as they say, but on our own terms. We must always remain honest and present all of the facts. We must define our principles clearly, then promote them effectively and repeatedly in ways that are quickly and easily understood. This is one of the reasons I am so concerned with getting more artists on board with the Liberatchik project. We have the ability to make a lasting and significant impact in this war of ideas, but our strength will be in our numbers.

    Art, regardless of genre, has the ability to reduce complex concepts to easily grasped ideas, raise people and ideas to the status of icons, reach wide audiences through a variety of means; often with the added bonus of creating a spirit of belonging and the perception of empowerment. It is my goal, through my personal art and my efforts here at Liberatchik to promote the ideas of Liberty and individual integrity. I believe that America is a great country and patriotism is not a stigma. There is nothing selfish in taking pride in one’s accomplishments. I hope that America will one day return to a truly free nation, because it has not been so in my lifetime. I want to leave it better than I found it. My art is my tool for shaping that future.

  8. Omar, all governments protect the interests of the ruling class. This includes art.

    The math goes like this:

    If there is only one person to see your art (you) then you may say, sing, paint or write anything. Nothing will happen to you.

    If your public reaches one promile of the population you will be tagged and have a record in the government files. You won’t even notice that.

    If your public reaches one percent of the population your work will be scrutinized on a regular basis. In some cases the PNR or the FBI (as in your example) may visit you.

  9. Omar,

    I agree, anybody is free to put on an anti-American art show in America, no matter how revolting and demented.

    And they’re free to whine about it to the media when people object to their hate show.

    In Cuba, an anti-Castro artist would be kicked out of school and banned from everything. Arrested and put in prison perhaps.

    The nutcases you quote, like Chomsky and Zinn, have supported the murder of tens of millions of civilians from China to Cuba.

    They live in a Marxist fantasy world, get rich off of America’s capitalist wealth, take advantage of America’s freedom to express their hatred of America, and still can’t stop whining about it.

    Most Cubans wish they had 1% of their freedom.

  10. A GREAT AMERICAN
    In Zinn’s telling, America is synonymous with brute domination that goes back to Christopher Columbus. “The American system,” he writes in “A People’s History,” is “the most ingenious system of control in world history.” The founding fathers were self-serving elitists defined by “guns and greed.”

    For Americans stuck in impoverished communities and failing schools, Zinn’s devotion to history as a “political act” can seem appealing. He names villains (capitalists), condemns their misdeeds, and calls for action to redistribute wealth so that, eventually, all of the following material goods will be “free—to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transportation.” The study of history, Zinn taught, demands this sort of social justice.

    Schools with social-justice instruction that draw explicitly on Zinn are becoming more common. From the Social Justice Academy outside of San Francisco to the four campuses of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, in Washington, D.C., social-justice academies relate their mission mainly in terms of ideological activism. At UCLA’s Social Justice Academy, a program for high-school juniors, the goal is that students will “develop skills to take action that disrupts social justice injustices.”

  11. ANTI-GOVERNMENT ART GETS THE SAME TREATMENT NO MATTER WHERE IT IS
    Federal agents visit “anti-American” art exhibition in Houston

    By David Walsh
    22 November 2001

    In an obvious attempt to intimidate voices of opposition, federal agents visited the “Secret Wars” exhibition at the Artcar Museum in Houston on November 7. Agents from the local FBI and Secret Service, presumably members of the agencies’ Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), told a museum employee that they were responding to complaints of “anti-American activity” at the gallery, insisted on touring the show, took notes about its content and asked about the museum’s directors and its financing.

    Officials at the Artcar Museum, an alternative art space founded in 1998, began planning the show several months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the resulting US military action. In a statement on the museum’s web site, Artcar’s director James Harithas explains that “‘Secret Wars’ is an exhibition investigating artistic dissent to covert operations and government secrets. The artists here have retrieved evidences, personal and public, that call into question the good intentions of classified information and COINTELPRO tactics.” [http://www.artcarmuseum.com/secretwars.html]

    According to curator Tex Kerschen, in a telephone conversation, the exhibition of 18 works extends from the “overtly political to poetic, mystical expression.” It includes Tim Glover’s Flag (1991), an American flag constructed from steel, paint and oil, presumably a response to the Persian Gulf War. A number of pieces are explicitly critical of the “oil industry and the military-industrial complex.” The exhibition’s organizers also included material from CNN, the White House and other sources, in the wake of September 11, to the effect that the war in Afghanistan would be conducted secretly. An essay by Noam Chomsky, the radical critic of US foreign policy, is also on display.

    Kerschen noted that there had been “a few isolated hostile reactions” about the disrespectful treatment of George W. Bush in some of the work, for example, but that there had been no outcry from the local media. The museum receives no public funding.

    This reporter spoke to Donna Huanca, a University of Houston art student and the museum staff member on duty the morning of the JTTF visit.

    She said: “They must have known our schedule. We open at 11, but I was here alone at 10:30, still sweeping the floor. They were all dressed up, in suits, with leather portfolios. I knew this wasn’t the art crowd. I told them we weren’t open yet. They showed me their badges, one from the FBI and the other, Secret Service, and they said, ‘Oh, we’re actually here because we got reports of anti-American activity at the museum.’ I said, ‘Anti-American? The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech.’ And they said, ‘We’re just here to look. We’ve had several reports.’

    “I let them in. They seemed puzzled by the exhibition. They were going to go on their own, but I gave them a tour, gave them some background to certain pieces which might offend some people. One piece has George Bush senior in the belly of the beast. There are fighter planes in flames. They weren’t listening to me. The FBI agent—he was older—pretended to be sincere, making small talk; the Secret Service guy, a jock, went around on his own, smirking, taking notes

    “They were asking me questions: who ran the museum, who funded the museum, how many people came in, what do our directors do for a living. I gave them the directors’ names, because this is a public space, the names are in the museum’s brochure. This puzzled them too. They wanted to know why it was called ‘Secret Wars.’ They asked me: ‘Do you feel this is anti-American? Do you feel this is threatening?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I tried to explain about art, about how it is the only history that we’re going to have left. I tried to explain that this was art that isn’t shown other places, because there are corporate directors on the board. They were evil-looking, insincere. They were here for an hour.

    “I found out later that the FBI went to the University of Houston art department the next day and interviewed the secretaries. I don’t know whether it was because of me, or because of two artists in the show, David Krueger and David Graeve, who are also there.

    “My immediate reaction was fear. I was pale when Tex got here. I felt they were going to try and sabotage the museum, to discredit all of us. Basically, they were saying: ‘We are watching you.’ You hear and read about what these people will do to get what they want. It’s their way of trying to intimidate us. It’s McCarthyism all over again, only this time it’s ‘terrorism.’ We could all be called that, because we don’t share their views. Freedom of speech is the most treasured thing, and there isn’t that freedom any more.”

    Kerschen added: “I see this as a kind of testing of the waters, seeing how far they can go. They want to put into effect all the police-state measures they can before there is a public backlash. Because what they can put into effect now, they won’t take back. ‘Anti-American’? It’s preposterous in every sense.

    “The visit [by the federal agents] has galvanized a lot of people who were keeping quiet before. We’ve had repeat traffic, people are more confirmed in the suspicion that what the government is doing is not above board. I think people feel that if they are extending the term ‘terrorism’ to small folk-art concerns, they must be extending it in every direction.”

    The exhibition runs until December 21.

  12. Why should only work that “serves the revolution” be available for all to see? That’s really creepy, and the very definition of a dictatorship.

  13. What a stupid excuse used by that culture director from Pinar del Rio!

    The museum didn’t have the “subjective favorable conditions”. This is a joke. I would kick the guy out.

    Why should a museum create “subjective favorable conditions” for the counter-revolutionaries?

    Next time such american painters (with cuban passports) should be told in plain Spanish: your work does not serve the Revolution. Period.

  14. OMG!! HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN! THAT CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA IS SURE GENEROUS! (heavy Cuban sarcasm)!! YOU KNOW THEY WANT SOME OF THAT RELIGIOUS MONEY TO FALL INTO THEIR COFFERS! AND IT ONLY TOOK 55 YEARS FOLKS! ONLY 55 YEARS! A MODEL OF EFFICIENCY! DUH!
    ABC NEWS: Cuba Builds First New Church in 55 Years – By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

    Cuba has allowed construction of the country’s first new Catholic church in 55 years, the church said Monday. Experts said it’s a sign of improving relations between the Vatican and Cuba’s communist government.

    The church, funded by donations from Catholics in Tampa, Florida, will be built in Sandino, a citrus and coffee-growing town in the far-western province of Pinar del Rio.

    The church publication “Christian Life” said it will have space for 200 people.

    “The construction of a church is a clear demonstration of a new phase, of an improvement, in relations between the church and the state,” said Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor the history of religions at the University of Havana.

    The Catholic Church had tense relations with what was long an officially atheist government for many years after the 1959 revolution, but they began to improve ahead of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998.

    The government revived observance of a Christmas holiday and began allowing masses or homilies to be broadcast on official media. It also dropped a ban on church membership for Communist Party members that had been adopted in the years after the 1959 revolution.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/cuba-builds-church-55-years-26491203

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