Premiering is her latest installation Confidencial, Autores Firmantes (2015), which examines Cuba’s systematic censorship of key literary voices during the 1970s. Featuring works from the early 1990s through the present, the exhibition focuses on Fusco’s critical examination of the politics of identity, military power, the history of racial thought, and post-revolutionary Cuba.
Presented for the first time in New York, Fusco’s most recent videos on Cuba, La Confesión (2015)—created for the 56th Venice Biennale, Italy—and La botella al mar de María Elena (2015)—premiered at the 2015 Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden—explore the cases of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla and writer María Elena Cruz Varela, respectively deconstructing official narratives of political oppression. Cuba has been a subject of study for Fusco for three decades, during which she has produced videos; exhibitions; performances; cultural exchanges and numerous texts, included her recently published book, Dangerous Moves: Performance and Politics in Cuba (2015, Tate Publishing).
Her research on Cuba led to her collaboration with Dr. Lilian Guerra (professor, University of Florida), which resulted in the mixed-media installation Confidencial, Autores Firmantes (2015). Through this work, Fusco further explores the Padilla affair by presenting twenty-one facsimiles of official memorandums and letters from 1971—found by Guerra in the archives of the Cuban Ministry of Culture. The documents detail orders and methods by which to censor publications by intellectuals deemed “anti-Cuban” due their open disagreement with the government’s detainment of the poet Heberto Padilla, and their skepticism regarding the motives of Padilla’s ensuing “confession” that he had betrayed the revolution. The documents are presented alongside original Cuban editions of books by authors such as Gabriel García Marquez, Julio Cortázar, and Mario Vargas Llosa who signed two open letters to Fidel Castro that were published in Le Monde in 1971 in protest of the Cuban government’s treatment of Padilla. This room-size installation is an archive of a key historical moment that redefined Cuba Revolutionary government’s relationship with progressive intellectuals of that era out and inside the island, and cast a long shadow over its relationship with its literary cadre. Autores Firmantes mirrors a moment in time both past and present, in the artist’s words, “A state may produce the absence of its own archive while retaining its own contents for a future exercise of force.”
With equal doses of research, humor, and irony, Fusco tackles complex subjects including race, ethnicity, identity, xenophobia, violence, and objectification of minority cultures in her video works. In works such as TED Ethnology: Primate Visions of the Human Mind (2015), Operation Atropos (2006), and The Couple in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey (1993), she uses the body as the basis from which to question and destabilize enforced binaries of hegemony and otherness dictated by doctrinarian voices, which she describes as “conditions of uncurbed power that are present in so many warring scenarios” in today’s societies. Videos such as The Empty Plaza (2012) and Y entonces el mar te habla (2012), foreground her exploration of memory, history and place: in them she considers the hegemonic control of official histories of Cuba and the ways that unofficially recognized flows of bodies transform the meaning of iconic elements of the Cuba landscape.
Fusco’s thirty-year exploration of difficult subjects through performance, video, and research presents a body of work that evinces a nuanced, informed and open-ended approach to sensitive issues. In an interview between Fusco and Dr. Guerra, the latter explains, “One story—regardless of its source—is never representative of the multiple dimensions of any lived reality.” Fusco’s work brings depth and multifold meaning to complex investigations of the human condition.