- Name: Tania Bruguera
- Discipline: Performance artist
- Country: Cuba
- Threat(s): Arrest, harassment
- When: 2014–present
- Current Status: Threatened
Tania Bruguera is an internationally noted performance and installation artist and activist from Cuba who engages political and social issues through her work. She has helped promote the term “artivism,” which blends art and political action to protest and raise awareness of injustices. Her work has been shown in major arts institutions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. She has been arrested and jailed countless times throughout her career for her socially conscious artwork and activism, including, most recently, in June 2020. Besides her artistic practice, she runs INSTAR (Institute of Artivism Hannah Arendt), a “hub for civic literacy” in Havana that aims to be a space for performance and the expression of ideas centered on rethinking policy and generating social change.
From the Artist:
“One of my strategies is using art as a way to say things that otherwise as a citizen I cannot say. I think art that tries to look at society, art that tries to be political, is related to activism because activism is not only to go out in the street and protest—activism is the daily fight against something that is wrong. ”
Cuba wanted art to be propaganda. They wanted artists to talk about what happened, but only the good things. So many artists, in order to not be censored, talk about the good things as irony. They don’t see themselves as activists—they see themselves as artists trying to work through censorship.
The government has seized the right to define who is and is not an artist. In Cuba, more and more, the censors are highly educated arts people. There is also a lot of harassment on the internet—a lot of harassment. But I am very proud to say that the activist community has learned how to deal with it. The activists started a campaign on the internet to help people understand what these threats are, showing that the Ministry of Culture now has a big cyber army and a lot of hackers.
I think activism is a way of being in the world, not an activity that you do two days a week. Injustice builds upon previous injustice. One piece of advice that I give people that I had to give myself—because sometimes this work is very disheartening, it’s fight and fight and fight and fight, and you achieve very little in comparison to the energy you’ve given: If something feels wrong to them, even if they don’t understand the causes, they should fight it. Many times, society trains us to silence ourselves, our own pain and our own sense of self-respect, our own sense of justice. So hear yourself, because this is who you really are. What you agree with is who you really are. If you want to be an activist, don’t expect much and do a lot. And persist. It’s not a short run, it’s a long, long run. And also be creative: The best cases that I’ve seen of people succeeding are those who disrupt the system by presenting something that the people in power don’t know how to deal with. This gives you an advantage.
It’s not really hope in the abstract sense that motivates me. It’s like an energy that lets you continue even if nothing is happening. This hope can be transformed into a new case, into a new battle.