Self-Portrait

Immediately in second year and a small project has begun. We have been asked to draw, paint, sketch and produce a photorealistic self portrait on a small round piece of canvas board. This self portrait has to show something that no one knows about us in the art department, and took a video with a small explanation of what this was. After looking through many photos from since I was a child and my fears and thoughts no one knew, I decided upon my fear of failure. We then left these at eye level around the second year studio.

Something many people don’t know about me is that I am afraid of failure and afraid of dropping below expectations, especially my own. This happened to me in my GCSE’s – my school, I believe my family and friends, and I, expected majority A and A* grades. I ended up getting three A*’s, two A’s and the rest B’s after getting many papers remarked. I was incredibly disappointed with my overall grades. From here, I knew I could never fail myself like that again, so much so, it has become a large fear of mine, and hence why I push myself again and again and again. Since my GCSE’s, and especially my Art GCSE, I have not been disappointed by the rewards and results, even though it will always be something very much at the forefront of my mind.
I chose to paint this piece as I have never painted a portrait before. I also feel more comfortable using pencil so this was very much stepping outside of my comfort zone. I was shocked and surprised at how difficult it was to create the correct skin tones and expression using a paint brush rather than a pencil. Although I am proud of the final painting, there is still a small part of me that believes I have failed painting my own portrait.

 

Above: An assortment of photographs of me showing different moods, facial expressions and compositions in the photographs. These helped me to paint my self portrait.

Above: testers on whether I was comfortable painting or drawing my portrait. I decided to paint it as I had never painted a realistic portrait before and I wanted to set myself the challenge. I was inspired by the hyperrealistic paintings of Joongwon Charles Jeong and the perfection of the imperfections.

Above: comparing my face half way through the painting process and the palette I ended up with. I was shocked about how many different tones and shades that had to be used in order to recreate the photograph as a painting.

Above: final painting displayed in the corridor of the second year space. I decided to use two pieces of wood to display the piece on the wall. Although this makes the painting stick out from the wall, it ensures that no nails, string or bluetac can be seen, keeping the mechanism discrete. I also put it in a part of the corridor that not many people go down as although I am proud of the piece, I still have the feeling that I have failed painting my own portrait.
Update: Tuesday, 10 October
The corridor started to get used as a storage space, and this made my piece look like it was just hung up to show it, just as I would have done in school. It transformed the space into something that looked very unprofessional and dirty. The piece was then moved to form an exhibition.

Joongwon Charles Jeong

Jeong creates hyperrealistic paintings based off of Greek sculptures, friends, family and his favourite actors. His first works were those close to them, and then moved onto the ancient Greeks. Jeong has been inspired by not only the human body, but also nature as you should study nature to study the imperfections of the human body. The classical arts of the Greeks idealises the human form, but Jeong brings that down and scatters it in the world of the real by making it human.

He explains his work as a simulcarum – an image or an effigy that represents or imitates something or someone and is largely regarded as distorted, inferior and an imperfect copy. This has now moved into the term of hyperreality – the confusion as to which an individual cannot determine what is real and what is fiction. People often ask him why he paints hyperrealistically when you can just take a photograph of that thing with a camera. This is the wrong definition of hyperrealism and how mistaken they are – it is a artistic reflection of hyperreality (the experience). Because the paintings are so realistic, and you are confused whether you are looking at a photograph or a painting, you experience in that split second the hyperreality that is the basis for hyperrealism.
I enjoy hearing Jeong talk about his work as he wants people to know that his work is not perfect, because humans are not perfect. Although, when we view his works, we believe that is is perfect, we only believe that because of the immense detail in the paintings. I enjoy viewing the process and the final product of the Greek statues all the way to the paintings. I also aspire to create paintings in this way (hyperrealistically) in order to breach that confusion myself.

Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist is a Swiss born artist who is inspired by women and the bodies of women. Many of her works are in the mediums of film, site-specific installation, and audio installation. It is not until the last fifteen years that she has moved on from one medium to create ‘large-scale immersive environments that are able to merge image, sound and scenario-specific props’ (National Gallery of Australia). One of her main beliefs is that ever artist has an agenda and that hers is the agenda of hope.
Many believe that Rist is a political artist, however she comments the politically she is a feminist, however personally she is not. ‘The image of a woman in my art does not stand just for women: she stands for all humans. I hope a young guy can take just as much from my art as any woman’ – The Guardian. Frieze online also mentions that Rist believes the female body is not a temple, but rather a source on an embattled autonomy and self-love. Her artwork aims to look at the difference between the male and the female experience and how something that supports one might be uncomfortable for the other. Another aim of her artwork is to investigate the relationship between image and text, anarchy and order, and eroticism and technique.

“Film represents both the way the eye works and our subconscious. I love the idea that we can be watching television for two hours, and be aware only of the images we are seeing – not the glass and plastic that is projecting them.”- The Guardian

Her website, which can be viewed here is very non-descript. When you click onto the link, you are met with a slideshow of bright, garishly coloured photographs from film stills. At the bottom, there are multiple ways to contact her and her galleries, but the website offers no other information. All of the necessary information about her can be found through these links or through other pages, like this one. The lack of description about her art on her own website allows the viewer of her artwork to almost choose themselves to determine what it is about, and what the dream world that perhaps is being shown to them is portraying.

Art’s task is to contribute to evolution, to encourage the mind, to guarantee a detached view of social changes, to conjure up positive energies, to create sensuousness, to reconcile reason and instinct, to research possibilities and to destroy clichés and prejudices. – Frieze

It has been said that Pipilotti Rist does not want to record or respond to reality, but rather make work about the unconscious thoughts and dreams of the world she lives in. This makes her works strangely familiar, but also as though we are peering into her own thoughts and dreams. To accompany this, many of her film and audio installations contain large beanbags, cushions, sofas and even beds to relax and recline on. These are also there in order for you to give yourself over to the moment of ‘now’ (National Gallery of Australia). The way in which these are positioned, as well as the direction of the projection of her work, are from her interest of bodies and the space in which they occupy. In the installation space, she is interested in how people move around it and respond to the works, and so with different ‘relaxing’ materials, she is able to manipulate this. Rist has also commented that she wants us to look at the world close up and become immersed in the landscape and to gain a sense of happiness and fun from her works.
Frieze also comments on the way Rists’ ideas come across; “they are meant to act like drug-related experiences in which one breaks free from the prison of language on a high and finds temporary release in images.” This is often reflected in the way the spectator is meant to live through the event of her installations in a physical way.
One of her more well-known exhibitons is aptly named Eyeball Massage, at the Hayward Gallery, London, where 300 pairs of white pants were illuminated by Hip Lights along the South bank of the river Thames. From a distance these have been known to look like whipped cream, or sheep’s heads with the legs of the pant forming their eyes. Rist hopes that this will not only make people smile but also think about the relationship that we, as humans, have, with this important, sexually charged area in the middle of our bodies. “We all come out from between our mother’s legs. From there that we first see the light of the world (The Guardian).”
Her single most famous video installation Ever is Over All was made in 1997, and contains Pipilotti Rist in a light blue, flowing dress, smashing car windows with a flower cast in metal, shown next to the same red flowers in a field of lush vegetation. The police woman in the video salutes and seems almost unaware of the destruction to the cars that is happening. It is a little well-known fact that these are her friends cars lined up with their passenger-side window being offered to be hit, as this was the cheapest window to replace. This is also the visual representation of the Pipilotti Rist artistic universe where transgression doesn’t exist, or is suspended, the law of the land is feminine and it is entirely non-judgemental (ArtNet). Many believe this is where pop star Beyonce got her inspiration from in her Hold Up music video – the glam rampage is about righteous destruction and background viewers have expressions of shock and delight.

“The most amusing comment I heard during the Biennale was, ‘I came all the way to Venice to see a video?’ But the video was Pipilotti Rist and if you have to go to Venice to see it, so be it. The 35 year-old Swiss luminary projected her master stroke across the corner of a room. On one half of a split screen, a long-stemmed flower in a field swayed back and forth. The phallic nature of the flower was emphasised by the demeanour of the young woman who, on the other side of the screen, carried it playfully, beaming as she skipped down a typical city street to an ethereal nonsense ditty sung with a breathy, devil-may-care attitude. The films initial appearance was that of a fabric softener commercial, but a minute or so in, the woman swung the flower and shattered the window of every car she passed. The male passers-by looked askance and tried to keep out of her way. The female passers-by smiled wistfully, a lady police officer even beaming approvingly. The nonsensical atmosphere of the work denies a straightforward feminist reading. What is more the point here is the role of privacy, the flouting of manners and our difficult relationship with the city. If Rist can explain all of this in a short video, mega-shows such as Venice seem worth the effort.” – Frieze

Above: Photos from several of Rists’ books including: Apricots along the streets, Remake of the weekend, and I’m not the girl who misses much. In each of these, Rist uses stills from her films, and large, bold text to highlight small ideas and sentences on several pages. In Screen/Space: the projected image in contemporary art, it compares the work of Pipilotti Rist and Carolee Schneeman (this is a chapter I suggest reading).
It has been found that even the smallest thing inspires Pipilotti Rist and the artwork that she creates. It is everything from everyday life to the body and the idea of fun especially as she is inspired by play, dreams and the female sexuality. Yoko Ono and Naum June Paik, other video artists, have inspired Rist through their attitude towards anti-elitist art. This is also the same from her inspiration from the Fluxus movement. “This type of art involves the viewer in the work in an attempt to break down the boundaries between art and everyday life (Teachers Notes).” The use of the up-close camera on a human body allows her to literally play with all these inspirations and for her to create the skin as another landscape that we can view.
Her previous works through producing cartoons and stage design for music groups inspired the ‘clip’ aesthetic of her videos and films that she has produced throughout her artistic career. Not only has it inspired the clip element, but also the staging, edit sequences and the psychedelic palette of colour and graphics that she uses throughout her works (Frieze).
Pipilotti Rists’ full biography can be found here, along with her bibliography here. The home of her artworks can be found at the Hauser and Wirth Gallery.

Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans is a Berlin and London photographer. The basis of his photographer is the observation of surroundings and the ongoing investigation of photographic mediums and their foundations. Young Wolfgang Tillmans never dreamed of being a photographer, however he felt the intention no record anything in order to remember it, and so avidly filmed family holidays.

The image reiterates: life doesn’t stop at the edge of the picture. It’s where it begins. – Frieze

Tillmans work is experimental – he found that he always had a thing for newspapers, and collected a scrap book of photos. He has always had a fascination with recording, especially detail, and often detail that people take for granted or ‘forget’ to look at, and the intimacy between things, which can be both comforting and disturbing. He has been driven throughout his photography to find venues so that he could show them to other people, and would photocopy and use triptychs for them. One large inspiration was an exhbinition in Hamburg, “D&S” which included General Idea, David Robbins, Alan Belcher, Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Laurie Anderson. After living in England for two years in the 80s to work for fashion magazines, he came back to the German culture as an outsider and insider to both participate as part of an not part of the local situation.

Tillmans’ combination of different formulas of image production might appear at first as a strategy to avoid the pitfalls of stagnancy and dead-ends often inherent in successful art productions. But with his strong theoretical awareness of social and productive systems, he seeks to influence his own creation of a system with these diverse patterns and waves of information. (Tillmans, 2010)

Another large inspiration that sparked a change in Tillmans photography was the death of his lover, Jochen (1997). He has never explicitly said what the pictures from that time were, however, it certainly affected his photography style. One experimental work that bought his work to the forefront was photographs of seemingly casual studies of friends and lovers, often interacting in ways initially shocking i.e. urinating on a chair, examining each others genitals, looking up skirts and climbing trees. These, however, were often tender, and evoked the complexities of modern life with the lightest and most elegant of touches. The relationships are lifeblood of pictures between humans, humans and relied upon objects, and also what these say about us.

Against the backdrop of toxic governments everywhere cheerleading for isolationism, Tillmans’s photographs, which survey the experience of being together and the domestic minutiae that make home possible, feel more melancholy than ever. – Frieze

Wolfgang Tillmans has a style of how to display his artwork at exhibitions. He rarely uses frames, but prefers to stick pieces to the walls, sometimes taking away the limited-edition-ness by sticking a magazine or postcard related to the subject next to it on the wall. He has explicitly told exhibitionists that he never pins his pieces to the walls as this ruins the edges. Sometimes, such as in his exhibition ‘2017’, the exhibition is arranged in an unstoppable sprawl which is juxtapositioned throughout the space. His exhibition style and set up depends on Tillmans mood and what he feels like at the time.

Above: A selection of pages from Tillmans’ books including: Wolfgang TillmansIf one thing matters, everything mattersWhat’s wrong with redistribution? and Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017. Throughout these books, table and exhibition plans are shown (What’s wrong with redistribution?), and If one thing matters, everything matters gives a full catalogue of his works from 1978 to 2003.
One of his most known works, Summer Still Life, is a casual scene which includes an all manner of things including: plate of cherries, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, tomato, peach, pile of magazine, newspaper, lighter, bottle with a twig in it, small pot plant, all balanced on a narrow grubby shelf by a window. The photograph itself contains soft, clear lighting, along with a soft weariness about it. This photograph is carefully composed, especially with its colours, which includes a bright red tomato, spinning at the centre of a cosmos full of pinks, greens, and deep purples. This closely follows the inspiration of Tillman’s that life may be made of real surfaces but abstraction liberated and also illuminated the innate enigma of components.

But photography is in many ways only the beginning of Tillmans’ art. Indeed, over the last decade, he has made an important body of abstract works that are ‘not made with camera’ (the artist’s phrase), yet are still directly related in process to photography. In both a practical and philosophical sense, therefore, Tillmans engages and works with the photographic image on every conceivable level: as a consumer and reader of images, a producer of images, an editor of images, as their printer, replicator, publisher, arranger, curator, installer, and also as their mechanic, anatomist, politician, sculptor, technicial, connoisseur and philosopher-scientist. He is thus the creator and director of an encyclopaedic lexicon of images, examining and exploring every aspect of their form, in terms of both medium and object. (Tillmans, 2010)

His works are the reflection that he cannot control everything in his life, and in many ways, this is also an inspiration for him. The installations themselves show this division between wanting to control everything and the acceptance of what it actually is. The non-definitive answer is also shown in the materials and physical developing process: The methods of translating and developing include exposing to different coloured light sources, folding, made in reverse, and the suggestion of a fold. Photographs, much like the real world are always in a state of fluctuation, and this inspires the different angles that appear within the materiality of the photograph, and the way in which these are pointed against each other in Tillmans works.

What intrigues me is the tension of the two key qualities of a photograph: the promise of it being a perfect, controlled object, and the reality of a photographic image being mechanically quite unsophisticated. It creases or buckles when it’s too dry, curls in humidity, becomes rigid and vulnerable when it’s mounted, and for that reason, loses its flexibility. I choose to reconcile all this and don’t try to pretend that it isn’t happening. I’ve made all of that part of the beauty of the visual experience. The fact that photographs aren’t permanent is like a reminder of our condition; showing their vulnerability protects one from the disappointment of seeing them fade. The inkjet prints have this built in as a concept: their impermanence is clearly imaginable yet the owner also has the original master print and can reprint the inkjet print when they feel it’s necessary. – ArtSpace

The King of ‘Hypertronix’ was Wolfgang Tillmans himself, who, ‘in a world of increasing Anglo-hegemony and pre-packaged sex – skilfully reinvents the forms of publicity favoured by contemporary art (Frieze).’  This is shown throughout his photography works. Many of his works mixes up the classical genres of both photography and painting including landscape, portrait, still life and abstraction. He puts all of these back together again as sub-group in a hanging or a layout (Frieze)’. He also adds to this to themes of melting and blending of bodies as the idea of being together, and of fusion. In a Frieze interview, he mentions that ‘the experience of something in real life doesn’t automatically make for a good work.’ This is in relation to the translation process that much of his work and practice uses, and that he can only photograph that what he relates to. ‘I trust that, if I study something carefully enough, a greater essence or truth might be revealed without having a prescribed meaning.’ Much of his work concentrates on mining exhausted genres because of an unlimited capacity to move people. They are still photographs, and they are vivid snapshots of a certain moment in time, which is a key characteristic of his photography.

During further exploration of his work, one finds a differentiated world exposed from different angles, sometimes even incorporated as modes of perception in his own personal methods of observation. (Tillmans, 2010)

One of his most recent works is a non-profit exhibition space Between Bridges. This exhibition spread his pro-EU post campaign, gathering widespread attention. These are online for free, for anyone to download.

Digital has its rigid ways but also makes new pictures possible – not by way of predictable photoshopping but by its own ways of translating light into a two-dimensional picture. – Frieze

Wolfgang Tillmans’ full biography can be found here, along with his full bibliography here. His website with all this information included can be found here, along with his exhibition calendar. The home of his artworks and the centre of his exhibition are at Maureen Paley Gallery. Press releases to exhibitions include Wolfgang Tillmans, Regen Projects and The Nineties, Buchholz.

Artspace. (2015). Wolfgang Tillmans Opens Up on His Art, His Influences, and His Personal Tragedy. [online] Available at: http://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/book_report/wolfgang-tillmans-peter-halley-interview-53106 [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Dercon, C., Sainsbury, H., Tillmans, W., Godfrey, M. and Holert, T. (2017). Wolfgang Tillmans 2017. London: Tate Publishing.
Frieze.com. (2013). Still Lifes. [online] Available at: https://frieze.com/article/still-lifes [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Frieze.com. (2017). Wolfgang Tillmans. [online] Available at: https://frieze.com/article/wolfgang-tillmans-2 [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Lange, C. (2017). Crossing Over. [online] Frieze.com. Available at: https://frieze.com/article/crossing-over [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Maureenpaley.com. (2017). Maureen Paley | Wolfgang Tillmans. [online] Available at: http://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/wolfgang-tillmans?image=1 [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Ostgut Ton | Zehn, c. (2017). Home. [online] Tillmans.co.uk. Available at: http://tillmans.co.uk/ [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Tillmans, W. (2011). Wolfgang Tillmans: Darkroom. [online] Frieze.com. Available at: https://frieze.com/article/wolfgang-tillmans-darkroom [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Tillmans, W. (2015). Wolfgang Tillmans. What’s wrong with redistribution?. Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
Tillmans, W., Donlon, C. and Stahl, V. (2003). If one thing matters, everything matters. London: Tate Publishing.
Tillmans, W., O’Brien, S. and Larner, M. (2010). Wolfgang Tillmans. London: Serpentine Gallery.
Tillmans.co.uk. (2016). Bibliography (english/deutsch). [online] Available at: http://tillmans.co.uk/biographybibliography-menu3-6-sp-1609089096/6-bibliography-englishdeutsch [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
Vicenta Aliaga, J. (1999). Hypertronix. [online] Frieze.com. Available at: https://frieze.com/article/hypertronix [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].

Caroline Achaintre

Caroline Achaintre is a Toulouse born artist who works in multimedia installations to investigate simultaneous contrasts and relationships. Her interest includes periods of primitivism, as they present junctures between ancient and modern, psychological and physical, and exoticism and technology. These installations include wall-hangings, drawings, paintings and ceramics. All of her works are very colourful and finds colour very important as this sets the tone for the world, or the character that the piece is from. The colour is sometimes muted and very subtle within the piece. The use of play in association with medium, technique, process and colour allow the free movement of the works. These characters are closely linked to the psychology of the mask work that features throughout her work and is inspired by all mentioned above. 

“The work is always personal, even if it does not necessarily talk from one’s direct background. I create my own world in a way, characters that coexist with each other, sometimes within one piece. I am interested in the idea of looking in and out simultaneously, which often results in mask-like pieces. It is a fusion of the mask and the bearer of it, they are both real. There is more than one persona within one being. Within the world I create there are certainly aspects of my own persona, but in not such a literal way.” – Aesthetic

The aim of the work is to evoke the subversive spirit of European carnival and creating an atmosphere that is simultaneously playful and absurd in order to have an intense and playful tone.
In her works, Achaintre cites German Expressionism, post-war British sculpture and Primitivism. The specifics of the German Expressionism that Caroline Achaintre is inspired by is the dark side within it and the portrayal of ‘angst’. Other inspirations and connections that are made throughout her artwork include contemporary sub-cultural strands of sci-fi, Goth metal, psychedelic and horror films. These inspirations weave their way into her ink and watercolour designs, and transformed into large, weaved, wall-hanged rugs. Recently, ceramics and prints have also been explored as Achaintre explores the further use of materials.
Texture is a key part of Caroline Achaintre’s work from her rugs all through to the ceramic works. She explains in Aesthetic that she wants the work to be non-neutral, and finds that texture supports this. Emulating surfaces such as the skin and the fur in her works allows each piece to have its own unique texture, due to the length of the wool, or the pattern on the ceramic. The shaggy wall-hangings, or the rugs as they are otherwise known, have their own eerie feeling to them, simultaneously looking like hair and having a pure animist quality. These wall hangings have an intense, strong, physical presence due to their imposing texture. On the other hand, the clay sculptures that Achaintre also creates, operate on a more seductive level to the gallery space and the audience. The texture also allows Achaintre’s pieces to be dynamic – one of her aims in her artwork is for her artwork to always be dynamic and for it to never be stiff in one thing.
For her ink works, Achaintre was often inspired by the European carnival with both the morbidity and the childlike colours. Throughout these works, she experimented, and still experiments with colours and other materials in the process. She often uses wax before she paints with the inks to create a rejection and a coexistence. She started these ink paintings and experiments in Goldsmiths University, where she studied for a small time. Often these are also a dialogue with herself as she creates geometric shapes and patterns, and then places something on top, again studying coexistence. The smallness of these pieces captures the intense worlds that are within them.
Achaintre was then interested in domestic materials and looked into and explored with carpets – the furriness, shagginess, length of wool and colour were all explored. In an interview, she explains that she feels like she discovered a new language with the material and the technique. The process that which she has used as also allowed for accidents. This is something that appeals to her and has inspired her professed love for expressionism. The process used for these carpets is called tufting and is in which a rotating blade shoots through the piece of material on the loom and cuts it off. This is a very back to front process as you have to do this from the back, meaning you cannot see the front. Working blind also gives these accidents that Achaintre incorporates into the works. The pieces are then covered with latex from behind to ensure that it is all fixed. Caroline Achaintre also explains in the interview that she fell in love with both the outcome and the process and still continues to use this today. The works are always large, and in the small studio, the ceiling is the limit, and so some of the pieces have to be rolled up in order to complete it in several stages.

“When I end up showing them together, certainly. Sometimes, the same process or form will find its way into both – a way of folding, for example. To that extent, they influence each other. I like showing them together because there are nice correspondences: the wool is quite an eerie material, shaggy and attractive yet repulsive at the same time; whereas clay, at least as I use it, has a seductiveness.” – Frieze

Caroline Achaintre has also begun to explore lino cuts and ceramics. She found that she has gotten tired of transforming her ink pieces into wool and tired of the guessing work involved, and wanted to try something with a little more control. It has been found that she chooses materials for its rawness, which lead her to ceramics and the seductive and primitive nature of it when both raw and glazed. Ceramic has been found to be a very direct medium. There is a love of taking it onto other surfaces and through the inspiration of exotic scales, finds it easy to play with and apply textures. The ceramic gives the combination of snake-like object and shed skin. Often in the process to gain this combination, Achaintre uses a frozen movement after ‘squishing’ the clay, and finds the most difficult part is to get it in the kiln after this process has been done. From here, she has gone on to work with leather to gain a more in depth scale effect.
The first time Achaintre had her own studio was in 2016 after studying in Kunsthochschule, Halle (Saale), Germany. She was awarded a DAAD Scholarship and chose to come to London to study and draw. What attracted her to London was the YBA art scene, heavy metal bands including Slipknot, and clowning (where musicians apply one face on top of another).
Caroline Achaintre’s full CV can be found here and her website can be found here. The gallery that is predominantly associated with the artworks and the artist is the Arcade Fine Arts Gallery, London. To get a sense of her studio space and the way she works, visit the Frieze website. 

Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera is both a Cuban and New York artist who works with performance and installation. Much of her artwork is site-specific and often based on the experience of being at that place, at that time. Bruguera was born and grew up in Havana, Cuba, and this has influenced much of her performative work now. Her works are politically motivated and explores the relationship between art, activism and the social change in works that examine the social effects of political and economic power (as explained in these documentaries). The power and control elements of her political work are inspired by her Cuban past.

Her own definition of political art is ‘the art of uncomfortable knowledge’. As ‘in the end, art that stems from knowing that we actually don’t have all the answers, art that refuses to serve as a moral compass, art that doesn’t ‘make nice’, may be our best hope.’Good Intentions.

‘Artistic expression is a space to challenge meanings, to defy what is imaginable. This is what, as time goes by, is recognized as culture.’ – Marvellous Monstrosity

Short term projects allowed her to explore the prospect of more time-based projects within several countries. This included ‘General Strike’ which began with indications to paint on the walls and images of the revolutionary iconographic tradition of several leftist political cultures. “The purpose of this work was to create a space to invite the participation of the audience by enticing people to paint and create its propaganda proposals on predetermined images. The intention of this work was to generate new images to do with the topic of political expression.”
Another project, lasting fifteen weeks, was The Francis Effect, where Bruguera stood outside of the Guggenheim Museum in New York asking passersby to sign a petition. This petition was to try and request that Pope Francis gives the power to Vatican City to allow citizenship for undocumented immigrants. These people, and Bruguera, knew that it would be impossible to achieve this due to the laws of the Vatican, however “the impossible is only impossible until somebody makes it possible.”
Bruguera defines herself as an initiator rather than an author, due to the nature of her work. She creates proposals and aesthetic models for others to use and adapt. She does that through performances by herself and collaborations with multiple institutions and individuals. Her works are often staged participatory events and interactions that build on her own observations, experiences and interpretations of politics. These are namely influenced by Cuba’s political background and the promise and failures of the Cuban Revolution. This provokes viewers to consider the political realities masked by government propaganda and the mass-media production.
One of her most talked about works comes from these inspirations – a series named Tatlin’s Whisper. This is a series of works in which images that are familiar on the news become real and an experience to those in the audience of the performance. This particular series references the Soviet modernist artist Vladimir Tatlin and his works ‘Monument to the Third International’. Within this series she champions free speech through performance and even went through eight months of physical torture in Cuba, where one of her performances was disagreed with. This piece connects to Cuba’s lack of free speech and the performance is where Bruguera invites people to speak freely for one minute, before they were taken off the stage by police. These police were part of the performance, although many audiences did not know this. The mounted police were also asked to do a staged crowd control in several manoeuvres, whish changes the way in which the performance is interpreted. The mounted police were not used in all performances within the series, however they were used in the The Tate performance, London. These performances are normally politically charged, however the one in Cuba was more so as it was two weeks after the US Government re-established relations with Cuba. Bruguera did not know that the government was scared at this time, which made them more dangerous than usual. Although she met with Ruben del Valle, the president of the National Council of Arts, who denied her a permit to go ahead with the piece in Plaza de la Revolución, the huge square in Havana where Fidel Castro held rallies, she was not dissuaded to continue with the performance. However, in December 2014, she was put in a Havanan holding cell and was subjected to 26 hours of interrogation over the piece. During this time, she refused to eat and explained that “behaviour is your best communication tool”. In the months following, she was incarcerated three more times and had twice weekly visits from secret police, which made it twenty interrogations in total. Bruguera was released, although no specific details were released related to this. Later, she gave a statement, explaining that through this time she has grown as a person and an artist:

““When you do this kind of work,” she says, “you can never forget that you are an artist, but it’s hard because you have to be an artist, an activist, a citizen, everything simultaneously.”As an artist, she says, “I am very happy … even if it’s cost me quite a lot. It was beautiful to learn how solidarity feels – we use a lot of important words, without knowing their real meanings – ‘solidarity’ is one, ‘love’ is another, so is ‘friendship’, ‘support’. This year, I actually learned what these words mean.”” – The Guardian.

Above: Page excerpts from Out of time, Out of Place
Further long term projects include that of Tribute to Ana Mendieta, who is also discussed in Liv Wynter and Performance Workshop. This is another site specific piece where she recreates and redoes objects and performances created by Ana, who migrated to the US, and where she carried out her artistic career. This is the project where Bruguera begins to attempt to both deliver and develop political-timing specific concepts. She uses tools such as appropriation, reconstruction, and re-exhibition of Ana Mendieta’s pieces, but in a Cuban context. This stems from her original inspirations of her home country, Cuba, and the idea of art as a cultural and sociological gesture. This work is intended to be the relocation figure of the artist in the history of Cuban culture and as a representative of collective imaginary. What urged her to do more is that the policy of migration in Cuba at the time was silenced by the media and the culture of because of the political impact that it was having.
Throughout her work, Bruguera also uses the concept of arte útil. The literal meaning of this is useful art and art as a benefit and a tool. She uses this to propose solutions to socio-political problems through the implementation of art. This therefore develops long term projects including a community care centre, a political party for immigrants, a school for behaviour art, and invites prominent international artists to workshops every year at the ISA and the Immigrant Movement International (IMI). This links in closely with the political and artistic panels that Bruguera sits on and is invited to every year.
Tania Bruguera’s full CV can be found here and her website can be found here. The home of her artworks is The Tate, however she also has permanent collections of works at many institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.

To resist is not enough. Use chants as if they were drums to spread the waves of commitment and slogans to highlight all the things that are wrong. But the streets are not enough. Be an active individual: it shows them you are not afraid. Learn the language of power, use the verbs they are scared of, publicly unveil their worst nightmares – act for them, not for us. Behave on a one-to-one scale with those you consider to be responsible. Laugh intelligently but never before you begin. Laugh after your goal is achieved, after your opposition is tricked, conflicted and incoherent because you took their power away with a simple human gesture. Don’t laugh about what they do, laugh about what you were able to do to them. What we know is not enough. Be persistent without tiring others. Use forms and actions that are legible for the resistance but new to the repressors. The time you have is the time they are using to figure out how to respond. Feeling good is not enough: create a political moment. – Frieze

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