Art is not about producing, it’s about implementing | Tania Bruguera

Let’s act together! It has been too long since we have made the gesture of the French Revolution the epitome of the democratisation of art. We do not have to enter the Louvre or the castles, we have to enter people’s houses, people’s lives, this is where useful art is. All art is useful, yes, but the usefulness I’m talking about is the immersion of art directly into society with all our resources.

My understanding of art is simply based on the Spanish word estetica, meaning aesthetics. But in Spanish, if you divide the word into something else then the general understanding of aesthetics gets visible. E-S-T, is a form of the verb to be and etica, means ethics. This combination, this idea of aesthetic as the appreciation, and development of the transformation through ethics fascinates me. Not seeing aesthetic art only as the question how you best represent something formally, but also how you can, through this experiment, this emotional moment, generate and actually create a new ethical reality, an ethical paradigm.

To create these new realities, we need the space for them. And that is what I use art for, to open spaces, to push boundaries. As soon as these boundaries have been pushed and the spaces opened, I invite others to come, to take over. What I do is to take the risk to open these spaces or to create them. I worked with immigrants, with vulnerable populations, or with activists in Cuba who are not so well known. They do not have the spaces they need but have the right to have. They will never have them if we don’t change power structures, if we don’t take the risk to act. I think it’s important that people with privileges, who have some power or some visibility take the risk. I mean, the personal risk, the human risk, the physical risk, the political risk, all the risk. But not because we are the one talking for others. No, but because we are the ones who, even if we lost power, if we lost privileges, we still have some. We can give it away in order for things to happen, to change. I think what we can do as political artists is not only to create public reflection, but also platforms where other people can stand up on. It’s not about producing art, it’s about implementing it. The useful art goes beyond complaining about social problems and instead tries to change them by implementing different solutions. It’s not about imagining impossible utopian situations, but building practical utopia. That’s what we have creativity for!

Based on the conversation with Tania Bruguera in the frame of the online platform School of Resistance: ‘Episode One: This Madness Has to Stop’ by NTGent and IIPM. This episode took place on the 16th of May 2020 and can be read in full length on the NTGent homepage.

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban performance artist and activist. In her work she examines political power structures and creates alternative proposals and aesthetic models. She has been arrested and jailed several times in Cuba due to her artivism. Her work has been presented internationally amongst others in MoMA and Tate Modern.