Tania Bruguera is not your average artist. Born in Havana in 1968, she’s a political provocateur who uses her installation and performance art as a weapon against the Cuban government. This week, she was announced as the next artist to take on the Hyundai Commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, giving her access to one of London’s most iconic gallery spaces from October onwards. We don’t know what Bruguera has planned – previous Turbine Hall Commissions have resulted in giant slides (Carston Holler), squillions of ceramic sunflower seeds (Ai Weiwei) and three-person swings (the current installation from Superflex) – but here’s what we do know about her:
1. She kettled art hallery visitors
In 2008, Tania Bruguera staged ‘Tatlin’s Whisper #5’ at Tate Modern. The performance used two mounted policemen to forcibly move gallery visitors around the space, recreating the same crowd control techniques you’d get at a football match or protest. The impressive spectacle challenged people to rethink their relationship with authority.
2. …and made them pass a lie detector test
Four years later, Bruguera returned to Tate Modern with her project Immigrant Movement International. The artist shut down access to the Tanks area of the gallery. Visitors were only allowed through if they passed a lie-detector test made of questions taken from the UK immigration form.
3. she wants to become Cuba’s president
Bruguera’s relationship with the Cuban government is… rocky, to put it mildly. A vocal critic of the people running her country of birth, the artist’s latest attempt at putting the cat among the communist pigeons is to declare she’s running for president when Raul Castro steps down. The joke she’s making is that, as a one-party state, Cuba won’t have an open election.
4. she’s friends with Pussy Riot
After raising around £70,000 by online funding, Bruguera opened the Institute of Art Activism in Havana. The first artists to get sent an invite were world-famous Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Like Bruguera, Pussy Riot have fallen foul of their country’s leaders many times, and continue to use their art for political ends.
5. She staged a naked protest, wearing an animal carcass
Lady Godiva famously took a naked horse ride through Coventry as a political protest. Bruguera followed suit when she staged a public performance wearing nothing but an animal carcass and eating dirt. The artist wanted to highlight the plight of Cuba’s indigenous population.
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