|Tania Bruguera - Performances|
by Magda Ileana González-Mora
Excerpt from her text for the exhibition »Obsesiones«, 1998 at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana
In her performances Tania Bruguera appropriates a ritual method. Like an expiating woman priest, she attempts to rid herself of the burden of guilt from which she has not yet found deliverance. In this »purgatory« Tania tries to cleanse herself of the sin, but in her actions she only ever reaches a single moment of the climax; the cartharsis, however, fails to materialize.
Time becomes something abstract for her. She does not experience real time; her space remains paralyzed and, as if in a religious litany, she repeatedly calls us to various cyclical actions in which she wishes to express an inner search that reduces the agonizing sense of guilt. The actions occur with little variation. The objects used are mixed according to the actual circumstances.
Tania is mute during her performances. The silence is a symbol of the intelligence, the patience or perhaps the frustration in the face of undesirable submissiveness. The repeated gesture is a frequent leitmotif with which she continually attempts to narrate fragments of an occurence and to enforce individual freedoms.
With the performance »Destierro« (Displacement), Tania appropriates an object from the ethical-religious African codex: Nkisi-Nkonde. In this case she takes on the formal appearance of the small fetishes or amulets which incessantly shadow those people who have committed a misdeed. These suffering »objets interdits« reveal that the chosen one has not kept a promise, for which he must pay to the community. Tania goes above and beyond the deeply rooted tradition, using herself to plumb the depths of the concept of shame.
Completely disguised as Nkisi-Nkonde, the artist has covered her face in shame. She begins her action in the gallery and, afterwards, tirelessly seeks the engagement of the public on the street which follows her through the city... Some supersticiously pick up the nails that have fallen off Tania's body during her walk in order to put them on their nganga [Afro-Cuban religious altar - translator's note] at home. The expected aggression does not materialize because everyone understands that a disgraceful deed is being atoned for.