Monday, November 28, 2016

Tania Bruguera — The Cuban Artist and a Mouth with Nails

Tania Bruguera's Untitled (Mouth with Nails) / Sin titulo (Boca con clavos), 2003.

While it is her art that Tania Bruguera is known for, it is her words that have struck a chord. Her words that have resulted in action and her words that have landed her in jail in her native Cuba. It is her words that we read at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach in the days after the death of Fidel Castro that stay with us still.


Untitled (Mouth with Nails)

A stage,
a podium,
live microphones,
two persons dressed
in military uniforms,

a white dove 
and the possibility
to access the podium
to have one minute
without censorship,

transformed itself
into a viral space
for freedom of speech.


— Tania Bruguera


These are the words that Tania Bruguera used to describe her 2009 intervention at the X Havana Biennial. The performance, titled Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version), encouraged people in attendance to say whatever they wanted to say into a microphone for one minute. Those brave enough to stand at the microphone spoke of freedom and democracy. The Cuban government denounced the performance as, "an anti-cultural event of shameful opportunism that offends Cuban artists and foreigners who came to offer their work and solidarity."

Bruguerea reprised Tatlin’s Whisper #6 on December 30, 2014 in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución following the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba. She was arrested three times over the course of the next three days.

The accompanying photo is a cropped rendering of Tania Bruguera's Untitled (Mouth with Nails) / Sin titulo (Boca con clavos), 2003. The piece is a brown and grey ink drawing with washes on woven-screen paper and is part of the exhibition, MOLAA AT TWENTY: 1996-2016, where it can be viewed in its original state. Untitled (Mouth with Nails) / Sin titulo (Boca con clavos) is a gift to the Museum of Latin American Art by Geoffrey Beaumont.