Tania Bruguera

1968 | Havana, Cuba
Tania Bruguera — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Hugo Huerta Marin

Cuban visual artist.

Since the mid-80s, Tania Bruguera has developed a militant body of work aimed at rethinking and redefining the role of art within society. Her varied output – performance pieces, videos, objects, drawings, and installations – uses the body as an essential vehicle for “social and political space”. In her first works, she stages herself in sometimes violent situations, like El peso de la culpa [“the weight of guilt”, 1997], in which she is seen naked, wearing a dead animal around her neck and eating soil, thus reviving a ritual performed by native populations during the Spanish invasion. As from the 2000s, she developed a major project, the Catédra Arte de Conducta [“study centre of behavioural art”], a research programme devoted to performance art, held at her Tejadillo house in Havana. Through discussions, classes, exhibitions, conferences, and workshops, the internationally-oriented school is open to students, artists, art workers, and thinkers of all walks of life who have an interest in fields of knowledge as varied as anthropology, sociology, journalism, political science, mathematics, history, or art history. Bruguera’s goal with this school is to develop her questions of interest in order to give Cuban art a new direction. Her strong attachment to her native land prompts her to include her work in the history of the country, as shown in the piece Homenaje a Ana Mendieta, a tribute to her fellow artist Ana Mendieta. While not overtly autobiographical, her output finds inspiration in her country’s political and cultural past.

The artist encourages viewers to participate actively in her work in order to make the work play a part in society. For example, in her intervention at Centre Pompidou (IP détournement, 2011), she appropriated works from the museum’s video collection with the artists’ authorisation and invited members of the public to illegally acquire these pirate “works of art” for 1 euro, making them accomplices of the artist’s hijacking and thus making her an outlaw. Bruguera rejects the aesthetical aspect of the term “performance”. She replaces it with the term “behavioural art”, which she feels is more adapted to the experiences she proposes, which all rely on the notion of sharing. Furthermore, her experiments are not recorded in any way, whether written or visual, thus reinforcing the importance of the public’s presence. Memory and spoken exchanges are the only information left remaining, leading to possible alterations of the piece’s reality. Bruguera is very active on the contemporary art scene, and has created projects for several international shows, including Documenta 9 Kassel (2002) and the Venice Biennale in 2001 and 2005, as well as for a number of cultural institutions (Kunsthalle Vienna, 2006; Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Lorraine, Metz, 2006). On 30th December 2014, Bruguera was arrested while trying to organise an “open microphone” free speech intervention on the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana to let the Cuban people voice their thoughts on the US-Cuba reconciliation. Her passport was confiscated and she has since been forbidden to leave the island.

Ludovic Delalande

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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