Coco Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist and writer and MIT’s MLK Visiting Scholar for 2014-2015. She is a recipient of a 2014 Cintas Fellowship, a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2013 Absolut Art Writing Award, a 2013 Fulbright Fellowship, a 2012 US Artists Fellowship and a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. Fusco’s performances and videos have been presented in two Whitney Biennials (2008 and 1993), BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Sydney Biennale, The Johannesburg Biennial, The Kwangju Biennale, The Shanghai Biennale, InSite O5, Mercosul, Transmediale, The London International Theatre Festival, VideoBrasil and Performa05. Her works have also been shown at the Tate Liverpool, The Museum of Modern Art, The Walker Art Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. She is represented by Alexander Gray Associates in New York. 

La confesión

A video by Coco Fusco

The Cuban Revolution is an historical phenomenon known throughout the world through iconic images and dramatic political performances. In my recent works on Cuba, I have tried to delve into stories that have become legends but lack visualization, either because they were not documented by the state or because their documentation has been censored.

La confesión is a reflection on the most significant crisis in the intellectual history of the Cuban Revolution – the public confession by poet Heberto Padilla that he was a counterrevolutionary. Pronounced in April of 1971 before an audience of his peers at the Artists and Writers Union in Havana after the poet had been held for five weeks in Villa Marista prison, Padilla’s confession shifted the terms of New Left tough about the role of culture in revolution, and reconfigured the relationship between European intellectuals and third world nationalism. It continues to cast a shadow over Cuban cultural life.

Many Cubans were accused of ideological diversionism in the 1960s and 1970s but suffered punishment in anonymity. Padilla was a prize-winning author with an international following who had worked in the Soviet Union, Europe and the United States. He was an early supporter of the Cuban revolution who became a political enfant terrible. In 1971, the Cuban government attempted to exploit the poet’s fame

by enjoining him to denounce himself on camera before an audience, but the effort to make him an example backfired when the international outcry in the wake of the confession turned Padilla into a cause celebre.

My video is not a dramatic reconstruction of the event: it is a consideration of the ways in which Padilla’s performance as a repentant counter-revolutionary reverberates to this day. I concentrate in my piece on the documents that form the material residue of the case, including a fragment of the filmed confession that was made public only recently.