For more than 30 years, the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has worked at the intersection of activism and performance art to address structures of power, devise new utopian models of authority, and create alternative structures that aim to transform and redistribute power. Her art projects that take the form of social movements, newspapers, and schools. The latest survey of this political artist will soon be on view at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Titled Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power / Hablándole al Poder, the exhibition will bring together for the first time her long-term projects initiated between 1985 and 2017 that were aimed at transforming the emotional and symbolic effect of art into real political effectiveness.
By exploring the relationship between art, activism, and social change, Tania Bruguera creates proposals and aesthetic models for others to use and adapt. Her performances are divided into short-term actions - single events and political gestures - and long-term projects that go beyond representation to create democratic institution and platforms. In collaboration with the gallery, the artist will update these projects in order to reflect the current political climate and further build on the core concepts that permeate her work. One of the central questions of the show will be of how to present social and participatory processes in the display context of an art gallery. Additionally, the exhibition will initiate the newly commissioned project Escuela de Arte Util (School of Useful Art), a fully functioning school held inside YBCA’s galleries. Classes will be open to the public during open gallery hours.
Tracing the evolution and practice of Bruguera’s concepts, the exhibition will begin with the presentation of Homenaje a Ana Mendieta (Tribute to Ana Mendieta, 1985–96) where the artist re-preformed many of Mendieta’s works in order to relocate her in the Cuban cultural and artistic imaginary. It will continue with Memoria de la Postguerra I, II, and III (Memory of the Postwar I, II, and III, 1993/1994/2003), the independent newspaper project conceived as work of art; Immigrant Movement International (2010–ongoing), an artist-initiated sociopolitical movement that has created a community center for immigrants, now updated with the launch of The Party of Migrant People’s Assembly; as well as The Francis Effect (2014–ongoing), a political campaign asking Pope Francis to extend Vatican City citizenship to undocumented people throughout the world, among others.
The artist herself explains that the threat of the Trump presidency puts basic assumptions about the identity of this the Unite States at risk, making the political role of art even more urgent. “The exhibition at YBCA will offer a space where art's role as a provocation and as a witness will be exercised. This is more relevant than ever, as art allows us to say and do what cannot be said or done under systems of repression and violence”, she notes.
Curated by Lucía Sanromán, director of visual arts, and Susie Kantor, curatorial associate, the exhibition Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power / Hablándole al Poder will be on view at YBCA in San Francisco from June 16th until October 29th, 2017. The opening reception will be held on Friday, June 16th, from 7 p.m. After its global debut at YBCA, the exhibition will be presented in Latin America and Europe. A catalog produced by YBCA will be published in conjunction with the exhibition and will be available through DAP.
Featured images: Tania Bruguera, Party of Migrant People’s Assembly, 2017–ongoing. Installation view, Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power / Hablándole al Poder, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2017. Courtesy Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photograph by John Foster Cartwright; Tania Bruguera, Tatlin’s Whisper #6, 2009. Installation view, Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power / Hablándole al Poder, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2017. Courtesy Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photograph by John Foster Cartwright. All images courtesy of YBCA.