Alexandra Villarreal
July 15, 2015 5:37 am

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera knows how to create a stir. As a performance and installation artist, she often imbues her work with a polemical, dissenting, and even radical bent. In 1998, she ate mud in the nude with a slain lamb around her shoulders for almost an hour. During a presentation in 2009 in Havana, she gave the audience a minute to voice any controversial opinions, and cries for liberty and democracy were met with opposition from Cuba’s administration. At the end of last year, she was detained three times in three days by the Cuban government for a staged protest.

This week, all eyes were on Brugera again for a totally great reason. After having her passport confiscated in December, the government returned it to her, meaning that she’s now free to leave Cuba. And that’s going to be of some use to her, because the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs just made her their first ever artist-in-residence. where she will try to improve communication with undocumented immigrants about the benefits of IDNYC, a new system that seeks to give undocumented workers government identification. Awesome!

Bruguera is no stranger to immigration activism; her 2011 project, Immigrant Movement International, provided her with insight into the lives of undocumented immigrants in the United States. For her project, Bruguera moved into an apartment with a New York family of undocumented immigrants to study their situation. She also opened a community center in Queens where she helped visitors find jobs, taught English, and hosted art classes.

And that’s not the end of Bruguera’s very good week: On top of her appointment as artist-in-residence, the Museum of Modern Art announced on Monday that it has acquired her video, Untitled (Havana 2000). The piece debuted at the 2000 Havana Biennale, where it filled a vast tunnel of an ex-military prison used during the Cuban Revolution. It’s Bruguera’s first installation at the MoMA, though her work has appeared in many prominent galleries, including the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.

Bruguera insists that she will not leave Cuba until she has a written guarantee that she will be granted reentry into the country. She expects to receive some form of assurance in the next two weeks and will then happily complete her residency in New York.

Bruguera’s accomplishments in the past week may seem sudden, but they’re truly well earned testaments to her unyielding bravery and confidence. She is willing to risk her own freedom for the liberty of 11.27 million Cuban citizens. She advocates for freedom of speech in a society that stifles it. She’s a vanguard, and she’s changing the world for the better, one project at a time.


[Photo via PBS]