Is art political? Can art be a catalyst for political change? Do artists actually bring about change when they politicise their art? The answers to these questions differ from person to person. Some think art is frivolous and does nothing to improve the lives of others, and others think that art is the most important thing in the world. Though it simply isn’t as black and white as that. Art can be used for many things, and it certainly doesn’t always have to have a purpose. However, when art is used for political means it can forever change the ideologies and ways the viewer sees and interprets the world. Tania Bruguera is a Cuban performance artist and activist, and has helped pave the way for performance art to be used as a political tool.
Self-sabotage (2009) performed by Tania Bruguera in a Paris Conference.
Bruguera was born during the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, and had experienced the oppression of the regime while growing up. In interviews she recalls a period of ‘voluntary amnesia’ during her childhood, where she would refuse to hear or talk about things that could put her or her family at risk of being reprimanded by state security. This part of her life has heavily influenced the content and message of her performances; most of which has led to her being put in state custody for questioning. Though being reprimanded by the state has never deterred her from making art, it has only fueled her to make even more powerful pieces in hopes of provoking them on a greater level.
Untitled (Havana 2000) directed by Tania Bruguera.
All of her work from the 1980’s until now, has gained notoriety due to the provocativeness and potency of her activism. Bruguera has been awarded for her performative activism by many countries, such as Argentina and Spain, and has been recognized for her work by institutions, such as the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York. Winning these awards inspired and allowed her to create INSTAR (Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism) in Havana Cuba, an organisation that works with everyday Cubans that would like to make a difference in their community. Instar focuses on educating and bringing together people from different political and socioeconomic backgrounds to perform literary works as a form of protest against banned art.
Bruguera believes that her works should, and does, inspire people to change/want to bring change to institutions that need to be held accountable. If you would like to know more about her life and works, please visit: https://diariodecuba.com/etiquetas/tania-bruguera.html .