Tania Bruguera

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Tania Bruguera
Tania bruguera.jpg
Havana City, Havanna, 31 March 2009
Born 1968
Havana, Cuba
Known for Performance art, installation, and video
Awards Guggenheim Fellowship (1998), Prince Claus Prize (2000)
Website http://www.taniabruguera.com

Tania Bruguera (born 1968 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban installation and performance artist. Bruguera studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and then earned an M.F.A. in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.[1][2][3]

Bruguera 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.

From 2003-2010, she was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Visual Arts of The University of Chicago, United States and is an invited professor at the Università Iuav di Venezia in Venice, Italy.[2][4][5]

On January 2, 2015, she was freed after having had three back-to-back detentions in three days, and after over a thousand artists worldwide signed an open letter to Raúl Castro calling for her release.[6]


Bruguera's work pivots around issues of power and control, and several of her works interrogate and re-present events in Cuban history.[2]

Her 1998 work The Burden of Guilt (El peso de la culpa) was the artist's take on a story that indigenous people in Cuba vowed to eat dirt and nothing else rather than be the captives of the Spanish conquistadors.[7] Bruguera interpreted their act of eating dirt as "a weapon of resistance."[7] In her performance, Bruguera stood, naked, with a lamb carcass hanging from her neck, creating both a physical and symbolic burden.[7] For 45 minutes, she consumed soil mixed with water and salt representing tears.[7][8] As Edward Rubin described it, "The harrowing piece was first performed in Havana, where the audience was duly reminded that freedom, liberty and self-determination are not abstract ideals, but achievements that deeply inscribe their meaning on our physical being."[8]

A March 2009 performance by Tania Bruguera, at an arts centre in Havana, has been involved in controversy. During the performance 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 Sánchez.[9][10][11] 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."[9][12]

In 2011, Bruguera began working on Immigrant Movement International, a multi-part artwork expected to continue through 2015.[13] Bruguera began in 2011 by spending a year living in a small apartment in Corona, Queens, with five illegal immigrants and their children.[5] She was interested in experiencing some problems illegal immigrants encountered trying to survive on low pay and without health insurance.[5] The project, funded by the Queens Museum of Art and a nonprofit arts group called Creative Time, also involved opening a storefront in New York where Bruguera wanted to hold arts workshops for immigrants, but found that most of the people who came to the store were interested in learning English or help finding employment or legal aid.[5] As part of the work, Bruguera has launched an Immigrant Respect Awareness Campaign and launched an international day of actions on 18 December 2011 (which the UN has designated International Migrants Day), in which other artists will also make work about immigration.[13] In 2012, she presented Surplus Value, a participatory work as part of the larger project of Immigrant Movement International. In order to enter Surplus Value, museum visitors waited in a long line, and some were randomly allowed to enter, while others were submitted to lie detector tests asking about their travel history.[13] The exhibition space contained four reproductions of signs from Nazi labor camps.[13]

She has been recently developing The Museum of Arte Útil in collaboration with Queens Museum of Art in New York and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (NL) that will be presented in December 2013. Arte Útil in Spanish roughly translates as useful art, but also suggests art as a device or tool. Arte Útil imagines, creates and implements socially beneficial outcomes.

Bruguera has participated in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta 11 (2002), the Bienal Iberoamericana in Lima, Peru (2002), the Istanbul Biennial (2003), the Shanghai Biennale (2004), and the Gwangju Biennale in Gwangju, Korea (2008).[3] Her work is also in the permanent collections of many institutions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.[3]

Speaking in December 2015, Bruguera said that she still may return to Cuba. She said that at the time of her detention she only agreed to leave under two conditions: that dissidents who were arrested after attending her aborted performance in Revolution Square be release; and that the Cuban government give her a signed and stamped letter guaranteeing that she could return to Cuba.[14]


  1. ^ Curriculum Vitae
  2. ^ a b c IUAV, Faculty of Arts & Design
  3. ^ a b c Reilly and Nochlin, Eds (2007). Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art. London and New York: Merrell. p. 270. 
  4. ^ University of Chicago, Department of Visual Arts
  5. ^ a b c d Dolnick, Sam (May 18, 2011). "An Artist’s Performance: A Year as a Poor Immigrant". New York Times. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Freed". 
  7. ^ a b c d Bruguera, Tania. "The Burden of Guilt". Tania Bruguera. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Rubin, Edward. "Art in America Featured Installation by Cuban Artist at Neuberger Museum". Artes Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Reuters, Cuba accuses blogger of "provocation".
  10. ^ The Miami Herald, Artist's work lets Cubans speak out in Havana for freedom
  11. ^ La Repubblica, Cuba, blogger sul palco per un grido di libertà.
  12. ^ La Jiribilla:, Declaración del Comité Organizador de la Décima Bienal de La Habana.
  13. ^ a b c d "Tania Bruguera: Immigrant Movement International". Tate Modern. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Speaks the Truth". W Magazine. 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2015-12-29. 

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