Emancipation/Participation featuring Tania Bruguera

2:48 | Published on June 25, 2014 | 598 Views

Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Latin America, discusses the idea—derived in part from the work of exiled Brazilian psychoanalyst Suely Rolnik—that artworks can “free” the viewer from historical trauma and point toward a brighter future by allowing the body to reclaim its powers of expression. He describes Tania Bruguera’s 2009 performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version) which addresses the restriction of free speech in Cuba through allusion to Fidel Castro’s first speech in Havana after the triumph of the revolution in 1959.

For more information, visit the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

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In some of the works of the exhibition, there is this idea that the artwork can produce an emancipation of the spectator, or that the artwork can free the normal citizen, who is a visitor to the museum, of the traumas of the past—many of which are presented also in the exhibition—and provide a tool towards a different future.

This way of thinking also comes from a Brazilian psychoanalyst, Suely Rolnik, who was exiled from Brazil during the dictatorship, and now lives in France. A lot of her thinking has had to with how to make the human body resonate again, after the traumas that it has passed. And in a way, she compares the past traumas of the repressive governments to the current traumas of the neoliberal capitalist governments. That gives us the promise of freedom, but actually converts us into what she calls “consuming zombies.” So, again, in a way of thinking, if the art and the artwork could be a tool of emancipation, it would make the body vibrate again in ways that it can express itself again, you know? To make it talk and move again freely. A lot of the works in the exhibition deal with this idea of empowering the spectator into having its own voice.

Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version), of which we will present the documentation of the video, is the work that Tania did for the 2009 Havana Biennial. There, she created a stage, a podium, with a background of mustard curtains. And the idea was that anybody could go up to the podium, and for a minute, speak freely, and say whatever they wished. In the podium, they were flanked by two actors, dressed as guards. While each person spoke, a white dove was positioned on their shoulder. This was a reference to one of the first revolutionary discourses that Fidel Castro gave after the winning of the revolution, when a dove landed on his shoulder. And after a minute of saying whatever they wanted they were kicked off the stage by the guards. So, it was a performance. But also, it was the first time that people spoke freely in a public space, into a microphone in Havana. So it demonstrates how something that happens within the art world also goes beyond it.