States of the Arts


The Burden of Guilt

by Tania Bruguera
Performance art

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Refusing to fall captive to conquistadors during the Spanish occupation, many Cubans ate dirt until they died. The soil was seen as a symbol of heritage; with the act of collective consumption, tradition turned in on itself. Centuries later, Tania Bruguera repeated the act. Standing barefoot, a lamb carcass hanging from her shoulders, she mixed the contents of two containers: one pot, one plate. The former held earth, while the latter’s saline solution recalled the taste of tears. Slowly bringing each mouthful to her lips, she invoked a shared sense of regret for the nation’s loss.

Words by John Wadsworth


directed by Humberto Solás
Feature film

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In Lucía, three tales are told, each drawn from a distinct period of Cuba’s history: the war of independence at the turn of the twentieth century, the reforms of the thirties, and the post-revolution sixties. We see each era from a perspective of a different protagonist; the trio of female leads may vary in social class, but are united by their shared forename. Amid political conflict, the women are subjected to personal torment: one is held captive by her jealous husband; another is subjected to an act of sexual violence. In such moments of darkness, the atmosphere is augmented by Leo Brouwer’s disruptive, dissonant score.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou


by Dulce María Loynaz

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Bárbara, the protagonist of Jardin, is presented as an isolated, ethereal figure. The garden within which she stands is timeless and placeless, void of history and geography. It is a space where many roses grow, and where the moon may come crashing down at any moment. Bárbara is absent from the garden for the bulk of the book, but she begins and ends her journey here. The novel’s opening vignette sees her peering through iron bars, sneaking a peek at modernity. We accompany her on her travels, through realms of fantasy and adventure, in short, poetic chapters.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

No Se Puede Tapar el Sol

by NG La Banda

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NG La Banda are the pioneers of timba, an energetic blend of salsa and rock and roll that dominated the Cuban dance scene in the nineties. No Se Puede Tapar el Sol consolidated their reputation as the genre’s chief innovators. The collection of songs sets brash brass alongside pounding percussion, punctuated with startling eruptions of energy. The album’s title tells us that ‘you can’t cover the sun’, and its irrepressible nature certainly lives up to the sentiment. Rapid-fire musical changes, coupled with our compulsion to dance, create an experience as exhausting as it is exhilarating.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

More to discover

The Burden of Guilt: You can visit Tania Bruguera's official website here. Travis Jeppesen has interviewed the artist for Art in America, as have Hermione Hoby for The Guardian, and Tom Eccles for Art ReviewYvon Grenier has written about Cuban performance art for Literal Magazine.

Lucía: You can watch an excerpt of Lucía here. There are two articles about Humberto Solás on Jump Cut's website: this interview with the director, by Julianne Barton & Marta Alvear; and this essay on Lucía by Peter Biskind. You can read obituaries for Solás by Michael Chanan for The Guardian, and by Phil Davison for The Independent.

Jardin: You can find out more about Jardin by reading the following book excerpts: House/Garden/Nation by Ileana Rodríguez on Google Books (from page 88); and A Place in the Sun by Catherine Davies, again on Google Books (from page 66).

No Se Puede Tapar el Sol: You can listen to the song here, and read an article about the album by Kevin Moore for Timba.

Question of the day

Which Cuban artworks would you recommend, and why?
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Buena Vista Social Club, a film directed by Wim Wenders. Havana mesmerises in Wenders' documentary, which helped make its eponymous musicians legendary. (→)

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