IN PRAISE OF TANIA BRUGUERA
TANIA BRUGUERA: 10,145,110 | HYUNDAI COMMISSON | TATE MODERN
On the eve of pivotal elections in the states, we can look to the Cuban-born, Tania Bruguera, as an artist who is interested in something larger than herself. For over two decades, she has worked tirelessly to use art as an instrument of social and political change. In an era of extreme politics and vitriol; serious discussions about the visibility and representation of minorities (or those that are maligned as “other”); and fears over seeing immigrants as “wild caravans”, Bruguera’s work is a reminder of the body politic and our ability to grow, to fight, to transform—to insert the body where you never thought or imagined, it should, or could be.
The body as a sculptural component, however, is not enough here. The body, Bruguera argues, has to be a catalyst for change in order to be useful and carry meaning. Her work at the Modern is a reminder of what’s at stake globally, and how the battle for social justice is by definition without end. “Bruguera has brought together a group of 21 people who live or work in the same postcode as Tate Modern. Called Tate Neighbours, they will explore how the museum can learn from and adapt to its local community. They have decided to rename Tate Modern’s Boiler House for a year in honour of local activist Natalie Bell.”
As much as the body is ephemeral, it is also stubbornly powerful in its willingness to seek those things that are denied to it, even in the face of death. “In the Turbine Hall is a large heat-sensitive floor. By using your body heat and working together with other visitors, you can reveal a hidden portrait of Yousef, a young man who left Syria to come to London.” This is what makes Bruguera’s work so radical. She advocates for the necessity of risk; for us to take more chances, to go off the deep end. In this larger cultural and historical context, Bruguera’s work affirms the body as a translator or mediator of culture. Explicit in her work (and the writings of the late Kathy Acker): invent the fiction of your own agency, “there lies the political, the realm of political power”.
This is why we look to you, Tania. We see you, and we celebrate you!
TANIA BRUGUERA: 10,145,110 runs through February 24, 2019. For more information on related events involving her ongoing project, visit the Tate’s website here.