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.
September 18, 2009 · Print This Article
Artnet News reported yesterday on the controversy kicked up by Cuban artist (and University of Chicago faculty member) Tania Bruguera, whose performance on Aug. 27 at the Facultad de Bellas Artes at the Universidad Nacional de Columbia in Bogota caused an uproar. As part of a larger piece dealing with Columbian history and politics, Bruguera offered lines of cocaine to her audience, some of whom took the bait and consumed what turned out to be authentic (and, apparently, “good stuff” according to those audience member who partook). Here’s an excerpt from Artnet’s story:
Bruguera’s performance, which took place on Aug. 27 at an auditorium of the Facultad de Bellas Artes at the Universidad Nacional, drew enough of a crowd that it was transmitted outside to spectators via a large screen. According to various accounts, it began with three figures — representing, the artist said, a right-wing paramilitary fighter, a left-wing guerrilla and a refugee displaced by the long-running conflict in Colombia — all speaking simultaneously into a microphone. However, whatever they were trying to communicate was overshadowed when the second part of the show began, with an assistant wading into the crowd carrying a tray laden with lines of coke, presenting it for the audience’s consumption.
Reactions at the time were mixed. According to a student who was present, writing in El Tiempo, at first the event was assumed to be a joke, until several members tested the drug, and proclaimed it to be “good stuff.” At this point, some spectators joined the festivities, and others walked out (mainly the older crowd seated up front, El Tiempo’s correspondent says). Some audience members warned those who were doing the drugs that they were participating in illegal activity, while others continued to try and watch the stage action. Following the commotion, Bruguera herself took the stage, thanking her Colombian audience and exiting. And according to reports, the police were called.
Artnet also links to a YouTube clip of Bruguera responding to critics at a panel after the performance, which I’m including directly below for you Spanish speakers and body-language readers. The clip shows an angry audience member who, according to Artnet, describes herself as an “activist, journalist, artist and direct victim of the violence” and vehemently criticizes the piece for its superficiality.
Bruguera was part of the MCA Chicago’s “Diversity and Contemporary Art” panel that took place a few weeks ago on September 9th. I wasn’t able to make it – but I’m curious if this particular performance was brought up at all during the discussion. Did any of you reading this attend? For that matter, if you happened to have been present at Bruguera’s performance in Columbia, by all means let us know what you thought of it in the comments. We’re trying to reach Ms. Bruguera directly to get the artists’ side of the story, and will keep you posted.