Tania Bruguera: Hablándole al Poder (Talking to Power) will present together for the first time Bruguera’s long-term projects initiated between 1985 and 2017 that have sought to transform the emotional and symbolic affect of art into political effectiveness. For more than 30 years Bruguera has worked at the intersection of activism and performance art to address structures of power, devise new utopian models of authority, and create alternative structures that aim to transform and redistribute power. This has resulted in art projects that take the form of social movements, newspapers, and schools—and even Bruguera’s own provocative self-nomination for the 2018 Cuban presidential election.
Bruguera divides her performance practice into short-term actions—single events and political gestures— and long-term projects. Short-term actions are characterized by her incisive appropriation of images, iconic events, and propaganda of power, which she then restructures as disruptive gestures with the aim to shock individual subjects into action. The long-term projects go beyond representation to create democratic institutions and platforms—for instance a dissident art school or an alternative immigrant organization and political party—that imagine other, more inclusive political futures.
Fort the show, Bruguera will “update” these projects in a manner that responds to the current political climate and builds on the core concepts that permeate her work: for instance “artivism,” a term that conflates “art” and “activism” to suggest that art can change our political habits, and arte de conducta, or behavior art.
The exhibition traces the evolution and practice of these concepts, beginning with Homenaje a Ana Mendieta (Tribute to Ana Mendieta, 1985–96), where Bruguera re-performed many of Mendieta's works in order to re-locate her in the Cuban cultural and artistic imaginary. The presentation continues with Memoria de la Postguerra I, II, and III (Memory of the Postwar I, II, and III, 1993/1994/2003), in which Bruguera created an independent newspaper as a work of art in collaboration with contemporary artists and critics living in Cuba and abroad. Movimiento Inmigrante Internacional (Immigrant Movement International) (2010–ongoing) is an artist-initiated sociopolitical movement that has created a community center for immigrants, and The Francis Effect (2014–ongoing) is a political campaign asking Pope Francis to extend Vatican City citizenship to undocumented people throughout the world. Additional highlights will include #YoTambienExijo (loosely translated as “I also demand,” 2014–ongoing), a civil platform that peacefully promotes civil, political, economic, and cultural rights in Cuba.
Central to the exhibition is the question of how to present social and participatory processes in the display context of an art gallery. Bruguera will update Movimiento Inmigrante Internacional with the launch of la Asamblea del Partido Migrante (The Party of Migrant People’s Assembly), a series of conversations with immigrant rights organizations with the aim of finding concrete solutions in these extremely divisive times. The exhibition organizes the newly commissioned project by YBCA and update at MUAC, Escuela de Arte Útil (School of Useful Art) (2017) a fully functioning school held inside art galleries. Based on the model of her earlier Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School), which took place at her home in Havana from 2003 through 2009, Bruguera has designed a new curriculum for MUAC that uses the concept of “arte útil” (which roughly translates as “useful art,” but goes further, suggesting art as a tool or device) to address the challenges facing artists today, and to explore how art can be an instrument for social and political change. This project is organized with the collaboration of Facultad de Arte y Diseño (UNAM), La Esmeralda (INBA) y SOMA.