Artist and activist Tania Bruguera (Cuban, born 1968) uses performance to investigate questions of state power in her installation Untitled (Havana, 2000).
Initially conceived for the 7th Havana Biennial (2000), the work was first presented in the Cabaña Fortress, a military bunker used as a jail for prisoners of conscience during the Cuban Revolution. The Fortress was used from colonial times through the early years of the Revolution as a site where the counter-revolutionary opposition was submitted to torture and execution by firing squad. Combining milled sugarcane, video footage of Fidel Castro, and live performance presented in near-total darkness, the work suggests the contradictions of life following the Cuban Revolution. The work, which ironically was on view for mere hours in Havana before being shut down by the Cuban government, embodies Bruguera’s complex relationship to authority.
While Bruguera’s most recent work often uses the strategies of social movements and education platforms to address topical matters, this exhibition of the recently acquired Untitled (Havana, 2000) looks back to a crucial work in the early 2000s as an important turning point in her oeuvre, as she moved from working primarily with her own body to considering active audience engagement. Bruguera refers to her work from this period as Arte de Conducta, or “behavior art”—a practice aimed at “not representing the political but provoking the political.” Through constructed situations, she addresses collective memory and the social body as a performative body.
This exhibition is part of Citizens and Borders, a series of discrete projects at MoMA related to works in the collection that offer a critical perspective on histories of migration, territory, and displacement.
Organized by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, with Martha Joseph, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art, and produced by Lizzie Gorfaine, Performance Producer, with Kate Scherer, Assistant Performance Coordinator.Video still from Tania Bruguera. Untitled (Havana, 2000), 2000. Sugar cane bagasse, video (black and white, silent), and live performance. 164 x 39 ¼ x 13 1/8 feet. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Casey Stoll