Tania Bruguera

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Tania Bruguera
Tania bruguera.jpg
Havana, 2009
Tania Brugueras

1968 (age 52–53)
Havana, Cuba
Alma mater
Known forPerformance art, installation, and video
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (1998)
  • Prince Claus Prize (2000)

Tania Bruguera (born 1968[1]) is a Cuban installation and performance artist. She lives and works between New York and Havana, and has participated in numerous international exhibitions.[2] Her work is also in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.[2]

Bruguera's work pivots around issues of power and control, and several of her works interrogate and re-present events in Cuban history.[3][4] As a result of her art actions and activism, Bruguera has been arrested and jailed several times.


She was born Tania Brugueras, the daughter of diplomat and politician Miguel Brugueras, but aged 18 changed her name to Bruguera, "her first act of political rebellion".[5]

With her father being a diplomat and minister in the Fidel Castro government, Tania moved three times throughout her childhood. Her father's career took the family to Paris (1973–1974), Lebanon (1974–1977), and Panama (1977–1979). In 1979, two years after her third move, Bruguera decided to return to Cuba.[6]

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.[7][3][2] She is the founder and director of Catédra Arte de Conducta (behavior art school), the first performance studies program in Latin America, which is hosted by Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. From 2003 through 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.[3][8][9]


Tania Bruguera's 1997 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.[10][11] Bruguera interpreted their act of eating dirt as "a weapon of resistance."[10] In her performance, Bruguera stood, naked, with a lamb carcass hanging from her neck, creating both a physical and symbolic burden.[10] For 45 minutes, she consumed soil mixed with water and salt, representing tears.[10][12] 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."[12]

In 1998–9 Tania created a behavior art piece titled "Destierro," which translates into ‘displacement’ in English.[13] This piece of work resembles the power figure ‘Nikis Nkonde’ and is supposed to draw attention to the empty promises the Cuban government made to its people during the revolution.[13] With this piece of art Tania calls upon the Cuban people to take an active stance and demands from the Cuban government to finally fulfill their promises.[13]

In 2002 Tania Bruguera founded the Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School) in Havana to provide a space for the training of alternative art studies in contemporary Cuban society.[14] The focus of the Cátedra was to educate young Cuban artists on diverse styles of art, and to show how art could be used as a tool for the transformation of ideology.[14] Additionally, the Cátedra itself can be understood as an artwork in the manner of institutional critique, social practice, or parasitism, with Bruguera re-formulating the institutional frameworks of the Cuban national art school, the Havana Bienal, and the money- and influence-fueled international art circuit to unintended purposes.[15] "Using her position within this social milieu, Bruguera advanced the careers of her [Cátedra] students by exhibiting their artworks as her own participation in the Havana Bienal."[15]

A March 2009 performance by Tania Bruguera at an arts centre in Havana during the X Havana Bienal generated controversy. During the performance Bruguera put up a microphone and told people in attendance they could say whatever they wanted for one minute. Performers wearing military fatigues placed a white bird upon each speaker's shoulders, referencing the famed incident when a dove rested on Fidel Castro's shoulder during his speech declaring revolutionary victory in January 1959.[16][17] Various of the attendees use the opportunity to ask for “freedom” and “democracy”. One of these was the renowned dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez.[18][19][20] 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."[18][21]

In 2011, Bruguera began working on Immigrant Movement International, a multi-part artwork expected to continue through 2015.[22] Bruguera began in 2011 by spending a year living in a small apartment in Corona, Queens, with five immigrants and their children.[9] She was interested in experiencing some problems immigrants without residency papers encountered trying to survive on low pay and without health insurance.[9] 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.[9]

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.[22] The exhibition space contained four reproductions of signs from Nazi labor camps.[22]

In 2013, she initiated the project The Museum of Arte Útil in collaboration with Queens Museum of Art in New York and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (NL).[23] 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. The Museum of Arte Útil evolved in the Asociación de Arte Útil, a new, international membership organisation that seeks to promote and implement Arte Útil.[24] Alistair Hudson, director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) is co-director with Bruguera of the Asociación.

In 2017, Bruguera proposed herself as a candidate in the 2018 Cuban Presidential Election in a video called #YoMePropongo en Cuba. In this project, she challenges the audience to imagine what they would do to create a better future Cuba, if they were elected president. To date, Bruguera has received 70 video responses from everyday Cubans expressing their desires to reform the corrupt government, include affordable housing, and improve their weak economy.[25]

In 2018, she was the recipient of a commission for the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall.[26] For the installation, Bruguera covered part of the floor with heat-sensitive black paint; when visitors sat or lay upon it, part of a vast portrait of a Syrian refugee beneath was revealed. Curator Catherine Wood explained, "It is a call to action, because there's no way that you can see this picture unless you join together with many, many other people."[27]

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).[2] 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.[2]


Bruguera was arrested and released three times in the time frame of December 2014 through January 2015[28][29][30] for having organized a public performance in La Havana's Plaza de la Revolución. She was detained with several other Cuban artists, activists, bloggers and journalists who participated in the 'Yo Tambien Exijo' campaign. The campaign arose after Raúl Castro and Barack Obama’s declarations on December 17th, 2014[31][32] about  the restoration of diplomatic ties, potentially bringing an end to five decades of hostility. The first arrests were made on Tuesday, December 30th, after Bruguera announced a public performance with the intention of leaving an open microphone available to Cubans to allow them to freely express their thoughts. The performance, titled Tatlin’s wisper #6 – Havana Version, was already staged in 2009 during the 10th Havana Biennial.[33]

The event has attracted widespread media coverage[34][35][36][37][38] both in favor and against her action and a public letter[39] in support of Tania addressed to Raúl Castro was written and signed by over a thousand people across the globe. The letter stated: ‘We firmly believe her detention, and the withdrawal of her Cuban passport, are inappropriate responses to a work of art that simply sought to open space for public discussion.’ Eventually she was released and the Cuban government returned Tania Bruguera's passport on 10 July 2015, six months after confiscating it.[40]

In December 2015, Bruguera announced that she may still return to Cuba. She said that during 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 released; and that the Cuban government give her a signed and stamped letter guaranteeing that she could return to Cuba.[41]

On March 3, 2016 she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for INSTAR (Institute of Artivism Hannah Arendt). The Institute focuses on creating bridges of trust, peaceful and considered responses in times of hardship, and to create a place where people with different political views can come together to build a better country.[42]

In October 2017, Tania Bruguera announced that she would be running for "President of Cuba", when the current President Raul Castro (brother of Fidel Castro) steps down. Bruguera has stated that the satirical performance is an act to expose the fact of Cuba being a one party state that is not elected by the people. She is hoping to enact change with bringing to light this reality, removing the culture of fear.[43]

Bruguera was arrested in December 2018 in advance of a planned protest against a Cuban law (Decree 349) that would require artists to apply for government licenses.[44][45] On 6 December 2018, Bruguera was released from jail after three days along with a dozen other artists and activists for organizing sit-in protests against Decree 349. [46][47] Bruguera filed a lawsuit against the Cuban government for defamation after the publication of information that sought to "damag[e] [the artist] and [her] family, psychologically, socially, and professionally,”[48] was published in state-run media publications Gramma newspaper, Razones de Cuba, and La Jiribilla.

In October 2020, Bruguera denounced feeling extreme physical discomfort due to a high pitched sound that she heard in her own home in Havana. [49] The sound and symptoms that she described are similar to those known as the Havana Syndrome.


2018 Untitled (Havana 2000) The Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States Solo
2004 Dated Flesh Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, United States Solo
2004 Art Projects Art Basel, Miami, United States Group
2004 Shangai Bienale Shangai, China Group
2004 Island Nations Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island, United States Group
2003 Esercizio di resistenza Franco Soffiantino Gallery, Turin, Italy Solo
2003 Autobiografia Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba Solo
2003 The Royal, royal trip PS1, New York, New York Group
2003 Untitled Palacio del Patio Herreriano, Valladollid, Spain Group
2003 Poetic Justice 8th Istanbul Bienale, Istanbul, Turkey Group
2003 The living museum Museum fur Modern Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany Group
2002 Ingeniero de almas Palacio de Abrantes, Salamanca, Spain Solo
2002 Tania Bruguera – Ghada Amer San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, United States Solo
2002 Fusion Cuisine Deste Foundation, Athens, Greece Group
2002 Extreme Existence Pratt Institute. New York Group
2002 Documenta 11 Kassel, Germany Group
2002 The Stone and water Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland Group
2002 No place IFA Gallery, Bonn, Germany Group
2002 III Bienal de Lima Lima, Peru Group
2002 Untitled F.A.I.R The Royal College, London Group
2001 La isla en peso Casa de las Américas, Havana Solo
2001 Tania Bruguera LiebmanMagnan Gallery, New York Solo
2001 A little bit of history repeated Kunst Werte, Berlin, Germany Group
2001 Mercancias Espacio C, Cantabria, Spain Group
2001 Span International Performance Arts Residency Project, London, United Kingdom Group
2001 The Plateau of Humankind 49th Venice Bienal, Venice, Italy Group
2001 Do you have time? LiebmanMagnan Gallery, New York Group
2000 Uno mas cerca del otro, VII Bienal de la Habana Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, Galería de Contraminas de San Ambrosio, La Habana Group
2000 Arte all Arte, 5th edition Fortezza di Poggio Imperiale, Arte Continua, Poggibonsi, Tuscany, Italy Group
2000 Exotica Incognita 3rd. Kwangju Bienale, Kwangju Group
2000 Cutting Edge ARCO: Feria de Arte Contemporáneo, Recinto Ferial Juan Carlos I Madrid, Spain Group
1999 Recent work Vera van Laer Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium Solo
1999 Videodrome The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York Group
1999 Utopia-Distopia 8va. Muestra Internacional de Performance, Mexico City, Mexico Group
1999 Looking for a Place, III International Biennial SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States Group
1999 Happening Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium Group
1999 Cuba – Maps of desire Kunsthalle Wien, Austria Group
1998 Art in Freedom Boymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands Group
1998 The Garden of Forking Paths Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland Group
1998 II Salón de Arte Contemporáneo Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, La Habana Group
1998 Obsesiones Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana Group
1998 De discretas autorías. Cuba y Venezuela: Nuevas poéticas Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Mario Abreu, Maracay, Venezuela Group
1998 Fragmentos a su imán Galería Latinoamericana, Casa de las Américas, Havana Group
1998 III Bienal Barro de América Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela Group
1998 Desde el cuerpo: Alegorías de lo femenino Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas Group
1997 El peso de la culpa Tejadillo 214, Havana Solo
1997 Anima The School of the Art Institute of Chicago,Illinois, U.S Solo
1997 Trade routes, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale The Electric Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa Group
1997 1990's Art from Cuba, a national residency and exhibition program Betty Rymer Gallery The School of the Art Institute, Chicago Group
1997 Trabajo por cuenta propia acultad de Artes y Letras, University of Havana, Havana Group
1997 New Art from Cuba: Utopic Territories Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada Group
1997 Las mieles del silencio Galería Latinoamericana, Casa de las Américas, Havana Group
1997 El ocultamiento de las almas Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana Group
1996 Cabeza abajo Espacio Aglutinador, Havana Solo
1996 Lágrimas de tránsito Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana Solo
1996 23rd São Paulo International Biennial Parque do Ibirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil Group
1996 La carne Espacio Aglutinador, Havana Group
1996 I Salón Internacional de Estandartes Centro Cultural Tijuana, Tijuana, México Group
1996 Otras Escri(p)turas Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, Havana Group
1996 Un giro de tuerca Galería Taller de Serigrafía René Portocarrero, Havana Group
1996 Mujeres por mujeres Galería Imago, Gran Teatro de la Habana, Havana Group
1995 Lo que me corresponde Artist's home, Havana Solo
1995 Soñando, with Fernando Rodriguez Gasworks Studios Gallery, London, England Solo
1995 1st Contemporary Art Competition Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana Group
1995 II Bienal del Barro Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Lía Bermudez, Maracaibo, Venezuela Group
1995 La Isla Possible Centro di Cultura Contemporania, Barcelona, Spain Group
1995 New Art from Cuba Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England Group
1995 Las formas de la tierra Galería Buades, Madrid Group
1994 La otra orilla, V Havana Biennial Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana Group
1994 Una brecha entre el cielo y la tierra Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, Havana Group
1994 Utopía Galería Espada, Casa del Joven Creador, Havana Group
1994 Catálogo Galería Catálogo, Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Havana Group
1994 Salón de la Ciudad '94 Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, Havana Group
1993 Memoria de la postguerra Galería Plaza Vieja, Havana Solo
1993 XI International Drawing Biennial Middlesbrough Fine Arts Museum, Cleveland, England Group
1993 La nube en pantalones Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana Group
1993 Dibujo no te olvido Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana Group
1992 Ana Mendieta. Sala Polivalente Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana Solo
1992 2nd International Poster Biennial Museo José Luis Cuevas. Mexico City Group
1989 II Festival de la Creación y la investigación Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana Group
1989 Fotografía manipulada, workshop's exhibition Fototeca de Cuba, Havana Group
1988 No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano Fototeca de Cuba, Havana Group
1987 I Festival de la Creación y la investigación Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana Group
1986 Marilyn is alive Galeria Leopoldo Romañach. Academia de San Alejandro, Havana Solo
1986 Proteo,Galería Leopoldo Romañach Academia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro, Havana Group


  • 2018: Inga Maren Otto Fellowship. The Watermill Center. Long Island, New York, United States.[50]
  • 2013: Meadows Prize. Meadows School of Art and The Meadows Foundation. Texas, United States.
  • 2012: Honorary Committee. 40 Years of Latino Arts & Culture. El Museo del Barrio. New York, United States.
  • 2012: Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award. Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, Contemporary Art Collection. Wales, United Kingdom. 
  • 2012: Artes Mundi Finalist. National Museum of Art. Wales, United Kingdom.
  • 2011: Mid-Career Artist CIFO Grant. Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation. Florida, United States.
  • 2011: Best Show in a University Gallery in 2010: “Tania Bruguera: On the Political Imaginary.” AICA Awards. New York, United States.
  • 2011: The Bronx Museum of the Art's recognition. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. New York, United States.
  • 2010: Biennial Competition Award. The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. New York, United States.
  • 2009: Ordway Prize Finalist. Creative Link for the Arts / The New Museum. New York, United States. 1st Neuberger Prize. Neuberger Museum. New York, United States.
  • 2008: Prince Claus Award. Prince Claus Fund. Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 2007: European Commission for Descentralized Cooperation. European Union.
  • 2005: Fundación Amistad Travel Grant Support. Fundación Amistad. New York, United States.
  • 2002–2004: Cuban Arts Fund Grant. Cuban Arts Fund. New York, United States.
  • 2001: MFA Graduate Fellowship, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Illinois, United States.
  • 2001: Odyssey Travel Grant. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago. Illinois, Chicago.
  • 2000: Prince Claus Grant. Prince Claus Fund. Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 1999: Merit Scholarship. The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Illinois, United States.
  • 1998: Fellowship. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. New York, United States.


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  3. ^ a b c IUAV, Faculty of Arts & Design
  4. ^ Posner, Helaine; Mosquera, Gerardo; Lambert-Beatty, Carrie (2009). Tania Bruguera: On the political imaginary. New York, NY: Charta. ISBN 978-88-8158-764-3.
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  8. ^ University of Chicago, Department of Visual Arts
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  17. ^ Ravines, Eudocio (1961). La gran estafa. Producciones de America.
  18. ^ a b Reuters, Cuba accuses blogger of "provocation".
  19. ^ The Miami Herald, Artist's work lets Cubans speak out in Havana for freedom
  20. ^ La Repubblica, Cuba, blogger sul palco per un grido di libertà.
  21. ^ La Jiribilla:, Declaración del Comité Organizador de la Décima Bienal de La Habana.
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  23. ^ "Museum of Arte Útil".
  24. ^ "Asociación de Arte Útil".
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  28. ^ Archibold, Randal C. (2015-01-01). "Cuba Again Arrests Artist Seeking Dissidents' Release". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
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  30. ^ "Tania Bruguera on her art, her detentions and what happens next". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  31. ^ "Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-05 – via National Archives.
  32. ^ York, Alan Yuhas in New. "Obama and Castro hail historic breakthrough for US-Cuba relations – as it happened". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  33. ^ "Tatlin's Whisper #6 (Havana version)".
  34. ^ "How Tania Bruguera's Free Speech Performance Was Mishandled, and Misreported, in Cuba". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  35. ^ "On the detention of Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, by Coco Fusco | e-flux". www.e-flux.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
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  38. ^ Hoby, Hermione (2015-10-13). "Tania Bruguera: the more the secret police torture me, the better my art gets". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  39. ^ "Libertad a Tania Bruguera / Free Tania Bruguera". Google Docs. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  40. ^ name, Site. "Cuban authorities return Tania Bruguera's passport but a further arrest and release ensues / Art Review". artreview.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  41. ^ "Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Speaks the Truth". W Magazine. 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  42. ^ "YBCA: Talking to Power/Hablandole al Poder". YBCA. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  43. ^ Jones, Jonathan (17 October 2016). "Why we should back Tania Bruguera's presidential bid for a free Cuba". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  44. ^ Basciano, Oliver (December 6, 2018). "Cuban artists fear crackdown after Tania Bruguera arrest". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  45. ^ Pes, Javier (December 5, 2018). "Fears Grow for Tania Bruguera After Cuban Authorities Detain the Activist-Artist". Artnet News. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  46. ^ "Released From Jail, Artist Tania Bruguera Vows to Remain in Cuba to Continue Her Fight Against a New Censorship Law". artnet News. 2018-12-10. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  47. ^ "Tania Bruguera and fellow artists released from Cuban jail". theartnewspaper.com. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  48. ^ "Freshly Out of Jail, Artist Tania Bruguera Files a Defamation Lawsuit Against Cuba". artnet News. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  49. ^ CiberCuba (October 18, 2020). "Tania Bruguera denuncia malestares físicos y un sonido parecido al de un grillo electrónico en su casa". CiberCuba. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  50. ^ "Tania Bruguera - The Watermill Center". www.watermillcenter.org. Retrieved 21 February 2018.

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