Kabakovs’ Cuban project provokes
government in election year US
American children allowed to travel to
only after last-minute appeal Havana
By Charmaine Picard. News, Issue 236, June 2012
Published online: 30 May 2012
A project by the artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov during the 11th Havana Biennial was nearly derailed when the US Department of the Treasury denied the artists the necessary public performance and exhibition licence that would allow five
to travel to Havana, saying the project was “not
consistent with the current US
policy on ”.
“We had help from senators, congressmen and people in the art world trying to find out why we were denied the licence,” says Emilia Kabakov, who trained as a classical pianist in the
Union before becoming a visual artist. According to the Kabakovs,
their application had been sent to the US Department of State for further
review because their project was seen as politically sensitive and would
receive international attention as part of the Havana Biennial.
A government official, who declined to be named for this article, says the state department was afraid that the American children would be used for political propaganda by the Cuban government. “Our argument to the state department was if the
doesn’t allow the children to come, then we will have a political situation,”
Emilia Kabakov says. “Russian children are free to come but Americans are not.
We live in a free country, so why can’t we bring this message to US ?”