How can art really influence politics?
Frieze Academy's Frieze Week talk will be Tania Bruguera in conversation with Frieze Editorial Director Jennifer Higgie.
In the week that she unveils her new work at Tate Modern, the Hyundai Commission for the Turbine Hall, artist and activist, Tania Bruguera will discuss her unique approach to art – Arte Util (useful art) – one that will continue to be developed in her new work for Turbine Hall from 2 October 2018 to 24 February 2019. Bruguera's practice often takes the form of large-scale, politically motivated, interactive situations.
Growing up in Cuba in the 1970s, Tania Bruguera was educated to believe in the possibility of a Utopia, a faith that faltered as she became aware of the contradictions within Communist Cuban propaganda. Over the past 20 years, Bruguera has become renowned for creating art that confronts major political concerns, particularly censorship. Her art often questions the nature of power structures, behaviours and values: subjects that have gained a wider relevance in contemporary life. Bruguera has consistently argued for art’s role as a useful agent for change - utilising the museum as an active forum for public debate. Her provocative works, which champion freedom of expression, have repeatedly resulted in her being detained and interrogated by Cuban authorities.
Her work stages situations that look as real as possible, and its aim is to instigate social change, shake out political apathy and encourage transparency – with the goal of transforming the passive audience into active citizens. Her work Tatlin’s Whisper #5 (2008), involves two mounted police officers performing crowd-control exercises – one of the major performance works in Tate’s collection. In 2012, Bruguera was also in residence at Tate Modern with her ongoing project Immigrant Movement International, in which visitors were required to line up and pass a lie detector test based on questions from the UK immigration form before being granted access to the museum.
Tania Bruguera was born in Havana, Cuba in 1968 and currently lives and works between Havana and New York. She studied at Escuela de Arte San Alejandro and the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has taken part in the Havana Biennial, São Paulo Biennial, Venice Biennale, documenta, Istanbul Biennial, Shanghai Biennial and Gwangju Biennial. Solo exhibitions of her work have been staged at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, Neuberger Museum of Art in New York, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven; Centre Pompidou in Paris; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and MoMA, New York.
Jennifer Higgie is the Editorial Director of frieze and the editor of Frieze Masters. She has written over 200 features, published a novel, had a screenplay made into a feature film and edited a book on art and humour.
Image: Tania Bruguera, Tatlin’s Whisper #5 at Tate Modern, 2016. Photo © Tate Photography
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