Tania Bruguera is a contemporary Cuban-born performance artist who attempts to provide an audience with an experience that is politically and socially enlightening. Her work over time has shifted from solo performances which present themes of Cuban political struggle to work which clearly blurs the lines between art and reality. She defines this work as “useful” or “behavior’ art. In an attempt to periodize and label all art into specific categories, critics have been quick to claim Bruguera’s art as an example of “relational aesthetics” as discussed by French philosopher Bourriard. However, as Claire Bishop briefly mentions, Brugera is attempting to break away from art as a shared experience. Instead, she hopes to create work that can provide a useful solution to socio-political problems while encouraging democratic responses to contemporary issues. By doing so, she not only questions the very function of art, but also provides answers as to what art should become.
As Bruguera’s art currently stands within definitions of relational aesthetics as opposed to her self-defined “useful art,” it becomes necessary to observe her complete career in order to develop an understanding of what she means by “useful art” and her very definition of art. Through an examination of Bruguera’s oeuvre over the past 15 years, we can learn more about the evolution of her career and her transition away from a discourse mounted in Cuban themes towards work that attempts to provide a broader discourse in art. I plan to draw upon these connections in order to provide an analysis of Bruguera’s work in an attempt to address how her work is misunderstood and negotiates contemporary definitions of art. She challenges the paradigms without subverting them.
Elinor Wilber, ’12
Los Angeles, CA
Major: Art and Art History
Sponsor: Christina Penn-Goetsch