Cuban artist Tania Bruguera took to the streets of Philadelphia
"Artivist" Tania Bruguera took part in the exhibition Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie, organized by The Barnes Foundation.
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On Thursday, bystanders in central Philadelphia were surprised by an immense nkisi nkondi, a tribal figure from the old Congo to which southern African tribes attributed magical and healing powers.
The person under the mud and nails suit who walked for more than three hours in the streets of Philadelphia was Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who revived her act called "Displacement", a performance she made for the first time 19 years ago in La Havana, in the middle of the national celebrations of Fidel Castro's birthday.
The reaction of that time was a spontaneous citizen demonstration against the government. The reaction of the people who crossed the "monstrous" image this Thursday was of surprise and bewilderment. Many unsuccessfully asked what the presence of the figure meant. Even someone tried unsuccessfully to hang a dollar in the outfit.
Speaking to NewsWorks, Bruguera said that to understand her work "you need to have some political context." "The Artivist", as she calls herself, is known worldwide for her critical performance of the Castro brothers' government.
"In repressive political contexts, you learn to create metaphors to not say directly what you should say. (In that sense) fear becomes a code. I wanted to change that, so I had to learn to talk, to tell the story and make sense on its own terms," said the artist.
Bruguera was in Philadelphia in the framework of the exhibition Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie, in which The Barnes Foundation presents more than 50 International artists whose works - ranging from traditional galleries to interventions on the street - touch on issues such as apartheid, consumerism, gender equity, globalization and indigence, among others.
Bruguera is a renowned Cuban artist who promotes art with a social impact, combining her work with activism in search of a political change in her country. Her "artivismo" has resulted in her being incarcerated in Cuba but awarded with worldwide accolades such as the Guggenheim Scholarship and the Prince Claus Prize.
Bruguera is also creator of the Immigrant Movement International, a platform where knowledge, activism, and art are combined to promote the rights of immigrants anywhere in the world.