Tania Bruguera: Untitled (Havana, 2000)

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

Tania Bruguera. Untitled (Havana, 2000). 2000

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

TANIA BRUGUERA: Now that you have experienced the piece, I want to tell you a little more about it.

I wanted to use the idea of darkness, of the lack of light, as a double symbolic meaning. On one side is the idea that you have to feel the reality, not to look at it. And the second was using light as a symbol for knowledge or the lack of. So, by not having light in the space, by being in the dark, you were with yourself. It was also how can you go through a new place by learning better who you are as well?

The sugar cane is another element in the piece it has been the main industrial production in Cuba and it has defined our identity for centuries. It has also been used as a currency. It brought slavery, it bought very unfair labor practices, and a lot of poverty. The sugar cane is a symbol of the long history of Cuban injustices and the long history of the struggle to create a national identity.

The live element of the piece, which are four men, that in first glance, they look like they are protecting the TV. They are there to make sure that nobody disturb the image on the TV, the image of Fidel Castro. Actually, for me, they are the most important part of the piece because the process of discovering they are there is the same process that you have to understand the pain of others. When you see somebody performing it is easier to be in a special relationship and connection with whatever is happening to that other person.

For me, that man in that space—vulnerable, naked, unaccessible—is also all the people who have not been protected by the revolution.

The fact that they are men is important, because in Cuba, we have a very male machista society and I wanted to create a relationship between the male object of political desire that you have on the TV with the actual male in front of you.

So, I want the video to be many aspects of Fidel Castro’s life. I just wanted to see different parts of this person. You can see in his house with his kid, in a pajama giving an interview to an American TV station, talking to millions of people, swimming. But the most important part for me is when he started opening up his military outfit to show that he has no bulletproof. And I wanted to see how can a person in power play the idea of vulnerability. But they are really not vulnerable.

Right now, in 2018, I think the world is going towards the fascination with, quote, unquote, strong political figures. And I think there is always good in to be reminded what happened with that fascination.

It’s a piece that creates some sort of tension between the propaganda people have acquired about the place, the political imaginary they have created about the place and the reality of people living there. You learn when you see something, again, that it's related to what happened in this other place and it could happen in your place. So, I hope this piece help to make that connection in 2018 in the United States.

In a time when selfies and the phone and constant saturation of images is happening, I really wanted to present now this piece because it also gives us this idea that we have to stop looking and start thinking.

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
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