This week: Duncan talks to installation and performance artist Tania Bruguera.
Tania Bruguera (born 1968, Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban installation and performance artist, trained at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Bruguera’s work pivots around issues of power and control.
She lives and works between Chicago and Havana. She is the founder and director of Arte de Conducta (behavior art), the first performance studies program in Latin America, which is hosted by Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. She is also an Assistant Professor at the Department of Visual Arts of The University of Chicago, United States and is an invited professor at the University IUAV in Venice, Italy.
A March 2009 performance by Tania Bruguera, at an arts centre in Havana, has been involved in controversy. During the performance Tania Bruguera put up a microphone and told people in attendance they could say whatever they wanted for one minute. Various of the attendees use the opportunity to ask for “freedom” and “democracy”. One of these was the awarded blogger Yoani Sanchez. The Cuban government denounced this in a statement saying that it considered “this to be an anti-cultural event of shameful opportunism that offends Cuban artists and foreigners who came to offer their work and solidarity.”
Another controversial performance in September 2009 in the National University of Colombia (Bogota branch), included consumption of cocaine provided by the artist to the attendants. According to University officials, the artist asked for permission to carry a weapon and use cocaine but permission was denied.
I’d never heard of the Ordway Prize until a few weeks ago, when two highly respected Chicago-based arts professionals (artist Tania Bruguera, who also lives in Havana, Cuba, and Hamza Walker, curator at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago) were included on this year’s list of finalists. The Ordway Prize is a relatively new award, established in 2005 as a joint effort by Creative Link for the Arts and the New Museum. The selection process for the Ordway Prize is outlined on the New Museum’s website as follows (excerpt):
The prize acknowledges the contributions of a Curator/Arts Writer and an Artist whose work has had significant impact on the field of contemporary art, but who has yet to receive broad public recognition. Finalists for the Ordway Prize are midcareer talents between the ages of forty and sixty-five, with a developed body of work extending over a minimum of fifteen years.
Now, it’s always great to see behind-the-scenes culture professionals get recognized for their outstanding work. This goes double for curators, who get paid relatively little and yet play such a critical role in bringing art to the public. So if a little cash gets thrown at said curators while recognizing their contributions to the field, that’s nice too. I’m not of the view that culture workers need to be poor to have integrity. That said, however, I think that $100,000 is an inordinate amount of money given the fact that a) the prize is unrestricted and b) this year’s nominees, as well as past Ordway Prize winners, are institutionally-affiliated curators as opposed to those working independently and earning income on a project-by-project basis. [Read more]
Two Chicagoans have been announced as candidates for the Ordway Prize. Tania Bruguera, who splits her time between Havana Cuba and Chicago, and The Renaissance Society’s Hamza Walker are up for the prize with a handful of other artists and curators. The prize “recognizes both a mid-career curator/arts writer and an artist with an unrestricted award of $100,000″
via The New Museum:
” Now in its third cycle, the Ordway Prize is the only unrestricted international award of this caliber that recognizes a Curator/Arts Writer and is also one of the most generous awards given to a contemporary Artist.
Candidates for the Ordway Prize are identified through an anonymous nomination process of submissions drawn from a global pool of curators, writers, artists, and museum directors, led by Jennifer McSweeney, Director of Creative Link for the Arts, and Richard Flood, Chief Curator at the New Museum. A jury composed of leading arts professionals will select the two Ordway Prize recipients. The Ordway Prize winners will be announced in early 2010.”
Check out Claudine’s coverage of Tina Bruguera’s “Cocaine Performance”
Check out Brian, Richard, Duncan, and I interview Hamza Walker in Episode 60.
For more info on the Ordway Prize check out The New Museum’s site.
In a piece titled Public Opinion written late last week for Artforum.com, Claire Bishop reports on Creative Time’s Summit on “Revolutions in Public Practice” held at the New York Public Library a few weeks ago. The summit presented an overview of current practices that encompass “everything from participatory performance to allotment squatting to socially conscious photography,” as Bishop described it. At the summit, artists such Vic Muniz, Harrell Fletcher, Tania Bruguera, Rene Gabri (hey Rene!), Dara Greenwald, Thomas Hirschhorn, Maria Lind, Francisca Insulza, Liam Gillick and numerous others (including this week’s podcast guests Temporary Services) made short presentations of current works and related projects.
Bishop offered a somewhat skeptical and occasionally snarky take on the proceedings. In particular she questioned the Summit’s use of the word ‘revolution,’ given that many of the practices she observed were in her opinion not exactly new. She argued,
There was a striking similarity between many of the presentations and 1970s gestures of institutional escape, as well as to early-’90s “new genre” public art (the term coined by artist Suzanne Lacy, who also spoke at the summit). The big difference between then and now was the staggeringly dry and soulless language deployed by many of today’s artists who took to the podium. At countless points in the day, my eyes glazed over to the sound of earnest monologues announcing, “My practice is about creating platforms for a critical interface with overlooked spaces, networking with local communities to provide self-organized resources and coproducing social relations . . .” Aaagh!
Bishop summarily dismissed the projects presented by Vic Muniz and Harrell Fletcher “for their reality t.v. sentimentality” while chiding the Summit for its “predominant tone of collective agreement” and overall lack of “friction.” She concluded:
“At its best, the “Revolutions” summit offered an immensely valuable overview of a wide range of engaged practices otherwise lacking visibility in New York, while the discursive format provided an appropriate alternative to the exhibition as a means of presenting this often visually evasive work. Socially, it was dynamic—and in this respect, it had much in common with the energy of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s marathons. On the other hand, the summit was only an overview and did nothing to problematize “public practice” as a direction in contemporary art. It assumed (along with many of the positions presented) that art as a discipline can and should be marshaled toward social justice. I would have liked to see more pondering of the specifically artistic competences that can be deployed toward these ends.”
In the Talkback section, Muniz, Fletcher, and several others weigh in with dissenting assessments of the Summit – and here is where the topic gets truly interesting. Creative Time curator and event co-organizer Nato Thompson offers a particularly thoughtful and measured rebuttal which, among other issues, questioned the usefulness of Bishop’s approach to the event– an approach that, in this instance, at least, may have missed the point entirely. Thompson explained,
We chose this format so that the work could speak for itself and the audience would be left to consider all the problems and solutions they provide. Another motivation was simply to provide a platform in NYC for this type of work. Certainly, there is much more to be said, and we intend to provide more spaces for this work. Ultimately, we need to re-engage the critical project of thinking through culture’s relationship to the issues and concerns of everyday life. We must stop this antipathy for thinking and market friendly pseudo-populism that has swept the critical stage (while admitting the disaster that jargon-laden Marxist art criticism has wreaked on political art) and instead, take seriously the potential for the arts to participate in the concerns that actually matter in the world. From this difficult vantage point (that is how projects actually transform the social landscape), the discussions around political public practice may possess an urgency capable of pushing the discussion beyond the prescribed domain of art.”
Go read the article and subsequent exchanges for yourselves, if you haven’t already. The discussion has generated some real heat, and should be of particular interest to artists and other cultural workers who frame their work as a form of “public practice” rather than as art with a capital A.
Bravo’s “Art Star” reality show hasn’t even hit the air waves yet, and already we’ve got another art contest on our hands. Our vote for most ridiculous news of the week comes with the Guggenheim’s announcement of Rob Pruitt’s “First Annual Art Awards,” modeled after Hollywood’s Oscars. Pruitt conceived the awards to celebrate “select individuals, exhibitions, and projects that have made a significant impact on the field of contemporary art during the past year.” Oh, and just to keep things bubbly, the star-studded list of presenters will include boyfriend-girlfriend art/fashion design couple of the moment Nate Lowman and Mary-Kate Olsen. There’s a formal dinner afterwards, and after that an after-party and, and….oh, just click on the link and read the rest for yourself (including the video of the nominee announcements). I can’t take anymore. The rest of our midweek round-up, some of which is actually meaningful (though you’ll have to be the judge of that) as follows:
*Art Institute of Chicago appoints Alison Fisher as the Harold and Margot Schiff Assistant Curator of Architecture in the Department of Architecture and Design. Her focus will be on the Art Institute’s architecture holdings from 1850 to 1945, and she will oversee the drawings, models, and archives of Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan and other American architectural masters.
*Artist Mark Bradford among those awarded 2009 MacArthur Genius Grants.
*Bill Viola changes mind, decides to meet with Pope for Vatican cultural dialogue on the relationship between faith and art.
*Franklin Sirmans appointed chief curator of contemporary art at LACMA, succeeding Lynn Zelevansky.
*Proposed Pennsylvania budget agreement extends state sales taxes to arts and cultural performances and venues but exempts movies and sports events; Philadelphia arts leaders organize in protest.
*Brandeis committee recommends keeping Art Museum open, but punts on the issue of the proposed sale of its collection.
*NEA Chair Rocco Landesman explains reasoning behind demotion of communications director Yossi Sergant.
*Paul Chan’s “Top 5 Things That Will Get You Arrested in Minneapolis” aka Top 5 Things We Should Do Together To Make Something Interesting.” (Via Eyeteeth).
*Virtual flip book: View all 160 pages of Proximity magazine in less than 20 seconds. Then go buy the real thing. It’s a good issue, as always.
*A visit to an exhibition about the history of Ikea.
*Artnet writer Grant Mandarino provides Cliff’s Notes on the new Fall art magazines.
*Chicago job posting: Projectionists and room monitors needed for upcoming College Art Association (CAA) Annual Conference in Chicago. If you’re interested, see here.