Sugar canes...


02/12/18 - This is a post about a very particular experience witnessed in one of the rooms of the second floor of the MoMA in New York. It’s not easy to explain, since photography was not allowed. To begin with, it’s about a series of sensations that try to put visitors in the place in which artist Tania Bruguera (Cuba, 1968) created this “Untitled” which was presented at the Habana Art Biennial of the year 2000. To experience it one must be very patient: only 5 visitors can enter at the same time to the room, which is a really small number for such a museum. So, after an hour waiting in line and having been adviced that high heels were not recommended, that there were scenes of nudity and that it was forbidden to walk barefoot, we were allowed inside, into total darkness.
All the waiting time and recommendations are forgotten as we start experiencing this. First, a penetrating smell of something rotten invades us, then the floor we walk into is covered with remains of sugar canes, so we must move with care. When our eyes adjust, we see a single light guiding the way. It is, in fact, a screen that hangs from the ceiling and shows Fidel Castro in public or private events, giving speeches, swimming or showing that we wears no ballistic vest.
So the artwork combines the pieces of sugar cane with a video of the leader of the Cuban Revolution and a live performance by 4 nude men, standing on the waste of the canes. The general sensation is visceral and choking: we are inside a prison of inhuman conditions, where 4 unprotected souls must face the image of their leader.
The truth is that with few elements (and easy to obtain in Cuba), the artist skillfully shows that the romanticism with which Cuba’s political system is seen abroad is not such. Plus it suggests the oppressive relationship between the citizens and their authorities. According to Bruguera, the aim was not to “represent the political issue”, but “to provoque it. “Untitled” was acquired by MoMA to become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani