Cluelessness Personified in Queens
She seeks to blend politics and art to empower immigrants through English classes, legal help and impromptu performances. She has held workshops to write slogans — like “I am today what your grandparents were yesterday” — that she plans to print on bumper stickers and T-shirts. And she intends to live like her working-class Latino neighbors; she has vowed not to tap her credit cards, personal bank account or assistants in Italy and Cuba.
“I don’t want to hear things in the office — I want to live them,” said Ms. Bruguera, 43, who is from Cuba but spent the last year in Paris. “I want to have the anxiety.”
She added, “Those are things I have to feel on my skin.”
She has already learned a thing or two. After finding her apartment and roommates in January through a flier on the street, she was surprised that the local gym did not offer yoga. The apartment had no heat through the winter, and her minimum-wage salary, which she wrote into the project description, offers little leeway.
“One week I saved $8,” she said, standing in her spartan bedroom, which can barely fit the dresser she found on the street.
Her roommates, especially an out-of-work Ecuadorean laborer, do not know what to make of her. “I explained to them four times what I’m doing already,” she said. “They don’t get it. They’re not very excited.”
But people have begun trickling into the storefront. They ask for English classes, jobs and legal help — services outside her training. “They don’t want any art at all,” Ms. Bruguera said. They want “very concrete and mundane things,” she said. “This is what their life is.”
Poor thing. No convenient yoga studio. What else will she spend her surplus eight bucks on? And, to think, poor immigrants want mundane things like legal aid and jobs! Who would have thought that? Who would've thought that actual anxiety might come from actually living close to the edge without the safety net? I find Bruguera's desire to vicariously experience the anxiety poor working people live on a daily and non-optional basis repugnant. Of course, she won't give a hoot about what I or anyone else thinks. Can she fathom, though, why her roommates and neighbors may not feel terribly excited by the prospect of being choreographed for her project?
The people at Creative Time - who are funding this travesty - ought to be embarrassed. Their grantee seems incapable of mustering the necessary self-awareness. (Hint: Announcing to a reporter from The Times that you live with a house full of illegal immigrants places them at risk! Do you think the INS will think your project is so darned cute that they'll give your roomies a pass?)