Tania Bruguera

Cuba 1968

Installation, Performance Art


Tania Bruguera
Tania Bruguera
January 15, 2015

Tania Bruguera is the (in)famous installation and performance artist from Cuba, whose groundbreaking work is focused on the issues of power and control.  She was born in 1968 in Havana, Cuba and studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, after which she earned an M.F.A. in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bruguera’s work pivots around issues of power and control, and several of her works interrogate events in Cuban history. 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. Bruguera interpreted their act of eating dirt as “a weapon of resistance.” In her performance, Bruguera stood naked, with a lamb carcass hanging from her neck, creating both a physical and symbolic burden. For 45 minutes, she consumed soil mixed with water and salt representing tears. 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.”

In March 2009, she had a performance at an arts center in Havana that 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. Many of the attendees used the opportunity to ask for “freedom” and “democracy”. 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.”

From 2003 to 2010, she was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Visual Arts of The University of Chicago, United States and a visiting professor at the University IUAV in Venice, Italy. In 2011, Bruguera began working on Immigrant Movement International. She started this project by spending a year living in a small apartment in Corona, Queens, with five illegal immigrants and their children. She was interested in experiencing some of the problems illegal immigrants encountered trying to survive on low pay and without health insurance. 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 needed help finding employment or legal aid. As part of this 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 as an International Migrants Day, in which other artists will also make work about immigration.

In 2012, she presented Surplus Value, a participatory work as part of the 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. The exhibition space contained four reproductions of signs from Nazi labor camps.

Bruguera has participated in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta 11 in 2002, the Bienal Iberoamericana in Lima, Peru in 2002, the Istanbul Biennial in 2003, the Shanghai Biennale in 2004 and the Gwangju Biennale in 2008. Her work is also held 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.

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 Raul Castro calling for her release. She currently lives and works between Chicago and Havana.

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2004Dated FleshRhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, United StatesSolo
2004Art ProjectsArt Basel, Miami, United StatesGroup
2004Shangai BienaleShangai, ChinaGroup
2004Island NationsRISD Museum, Rhode Island, United StatesGroup
2003Esercizio di resistenzaFranco Soffiantino Gallery, Turin, ItalySolo
2003AutobiografiaMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, CubaSolo
2003The Royal, royal tripPS1, New York, New YorkGroup
2003UntitledPalacio del Patio Herreriano, Valladollid, SpainGroup
2003Poetic Justice8th Istanbul Bienale, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2003The living museumMuseum fur Modern Kunst, Frankfurt, GermanyGroup
2002Ingeniero de almasPalacio de Abrantes, Salamanca, SpainSolo
2002Tania Bruguera – Ghada AmerSan Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, United StatesSolo
2002Fusion CuisineDeste Foundation, Athens, GreeceGroup
2002Extreme ExistancePratt Institute. New YorkGroup
2002Documenta 11Kassel, GermanyGroup
2002The Stone and waterHelsinki Art Museum, Helsinki, FinlandGroup
2002No placeIFA Gallery, Bonn, GermanyGroup
2002III Bienal de LimaLima, PeruGroup
2002UntitledF.A.I.R The Royal College, LondonGroup
2001La isla en pesoCasa de las Américas, HavanaSolo
2001Tania BrugueraLiebmanMagnan Gallery, New YorkSolo
2001A little bit of history repeatedKunst Werte, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2001MercanciasEspacio C, Cantabria, SpainGroup
2001SpanInternational Performance Arts Residency Project, London, United KingdomGroup
2001The Plateau of Humankind49th Venice Bienal, Venice, ItalyGroup
2001Do you have time?LiebmanMagnan Gallery, New YorkGroup
2000Uno mas cerca del otro, VII Bienal de la HabanaFortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, Galería de Contraminas de San Ambrosio, La HabanaGroup
2000Arte all Arte, 5th editionFortezza di Poggio Imperiale, Arte Continua, Poggibonsi, Tuscany, ItalyGroup
2000Exotica Incognita3rd. Kwangju Bienale, KwangjuGroup
2000Cutting EdgeARCO: Feria de Arte Contemporáneo, Recinto Ferial Juan Carlos I Madrid, SpainGroup
1999Recent workVera van Laer Gallery, Antwerp, BelgiumSolo
1999VideodromeThe New Museum of Contemporary Art, New YorkGroup
1999Utopia-Distopia8va. Muestra Internacional de Performance, Mexico City, MexicoGroup
1999Looking for a Place, III International BiennialSITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, United StatesGroup
1999HappeningStedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, BelgiumGroup
1999Cuba - Maps of desireKunsthalle Wien, AustriaGroup
1998Art in FreedomBoymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
1998The Garden of Forking PathsHelsinski City Art Museum, Helsinski, FinlandGroup
1998II Salón de Arte ContemporáneoCentro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, La HabanaGroup
1998ObsesionesCentro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, HavanaGroup
1998De discretas autorías. Cuba y Venezuela: Nuevas poéticasMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo Mario Abreu, Maracay, VenezuelaGroup
1998Fragmentos a su imánGalería Latinoamericana, Casa de las Américas, HavanaGroup
1998III Bienal Barro de AméricaMuseo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, VenezuelaGroup
1998Desde el cuerpo: Alegorías de lo femeninoMuseo de Bellas Artes, CaracasGroup
1997El peso de la culpaTejadillo 214, HavanaSolo
1997AnimaThe School of the Art Institute of Chicago,Illinois, U.SSolo
1997Trade routes, 2nd Johannesburg BiennaleThe Electric Workshop, Johannesburg, South AfricaGroup
19971990's Art from Cuba, a national residency and exhibition program Betty Rymer GalleryThe School of the Art Institute, ChicagoGroup
1997Trabajo por cuenta propiaacultad de Artes y Letras, University of Havana, HavanaGroup
1997New Art from Cuba: Utopic TerritoriesMorris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, CanadaGroup
1997Las mieles del silencioGalería Latinoamericana, Casa de las Américas, HavanaGroup
1997El ocultamiento de las almasCentro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, HavanaGroup
1996Cabeza abajoEspacio Aglutinador, HavanaSolo
1996Lágrimas de tránsitoCentro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, HavanaSolo
199623rd Sao Paolo International BiennialParque do Ibirapuera, Sao Paolo, BrazilGroup
1996La carneEspacio Aglutinador, HavanaGroup
1996I Salón Internacional de EstandartesCentro Cultural Tijuana, Tijuana, MéxicoGroup
1996Otras Escri(p)turasCentro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, HavanaGroup
1996Un giro de tuercaGalería Taller de Serigrafía René Portocarrero, HavanaGroup
1996Mujeres por mujeresGalería Imago, Gran Teatro de la Habana, HavanaGroup
1995Lo que me correspondeArtist's home, HavanaSolo
1995Soñando, with Fernando RodriguezGasworks Studios Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
19951st Contemporary Art CompetitionMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes, HavanaGroup
1995II Bienal del BarroCentro de Arte Contemporáneo Lía Bermudez, Maracaibo, VenezuelaGroup
1995La Isla PosibleCentro di Cultura Contemporania, Barcelona, SpainGroup
1995New Art from CubaWhitechapel Art Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1995Las formas de la tierraGalería Buades, MadridGroup
1994La otra orilla, V Havana BiennialCastillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, Centro Wifredo Lam, HavanaGroup
1994Una brecha entre el cielo y la tierraCentro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, HavanaGroup
1994UtopíaGalería Espada, Casa del Joven Creador, HavanaGroup
1994CatálogoGalería Catálogo, Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, HavanaGroup
1994Salón de la Ciudad '94Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño, HavanaGroup
1993Memoria de la postguerraGalería Plaza Vieja, HavanaSolo
1993XI International Drawing BiennialMiddlesbrough Fine Arts Museum, Cleveland, EnglandGroup
1993La nube en pantalonesMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes, HavanaGroup
1993Dibujo no te olvidoCentro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, HavanaGroup
1992Ana Mendieta. Sala PolivalenteCentro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, HavanaSolo
19922nd International Poster BiennialMuseo José Luis Cuevas. Mexico CityGroup
1989II Festival de la Creación y la investigaciónInstituto Superior de Arte, HavanaGroup
1989Fotografía manipulada, workshop’s exhibitionFototeca de Cuba, HavanaGroup
1988No por mucho madrugar amanece más tempranoFototeca de Cuba, HavanaGroup
1987I Festival de la Creación y la investigaciónInstituto Superior de Arte, HavanaGroup
1986Marilyn is aliveGaleria Leopoldo Romañach. Academia de San Alejandro, HavanaSolo
1986Proteo,Galería Leopoldo RomañachAcademia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro, HavanaGroup