22 May 2011

Cluelessness Personified in Queens

Tania Bruguera being the personification. She has chosen to embrace poverty by forswearing her credit cards and personal assistants. How condescendingly decent can you get? According to this story in The New York Times:

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?)

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Blogger bastinptc said...

I suppose when she tires of it, she'll move on.

Word verification (no shit): equal

23 May, 2011 01:59  
Blogger Beth E. said...

Hi Jim,

You're spot-on with this one!! As someone with plenty of contact with the art world over the years, but who has also--NOT by choice, mind you--suffered through plenty of thin financial times, raising kids at times on welfare/food stamps, etc., I also have a really hard time getting this concept.

In the end, it's just a really ham-handed swipe at the fundamental issues of class that undergird the contemporary art world, without actually affecting (or even getting) what the problem is.....

23 May, 2011 07:51  
Blogger Randy said...

How silly of me. Why did I never realize that living in poverty, on the margins of society, is art?

23 May, 2011 09:31  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Finally! Truly meaningful and socially relevant art that will help inform us all as to why these wretched, ignorant masses are so woefully hell bent on surviving, and so completely ignorant and uninformed of how art influences their lives...

23 May, 2011 12:29  

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