Ritual in Performance

NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith
Julia P. Herzberg
October 2008

From: P. Herzberg, Julia. “Ritual in Performance,” Published for the occasion of the exhibition “NeoHooDoo: art for a forgotten faith”. Co-organized by The Menil Collection and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center and Curated by Franklin Sirmans (illust.) pp. 60 – 62. p. 96.

ISBN 9780300134186 0300134185

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Ritual in Performance. NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith

Julia P. Herzberg

“This piece is a sound portrait of several political figures who have had an impact on world events. In order to ‘picture’ [each of] them, I selected one of their speeches. The choice was based either on the importance of the speech itself, or the access to recorded data.”

– Tania Bruguera

“Portraits: A Sound Installation,” 2005-06, grew out of Tania Bruguera’s ongoing interest in the ways speeches affect audiences. Raised in post-Revolutionary Cuba, where Fidel Castro’s dramatic, persuasive rhetoric captivated the population at large, Bruguera was sensitized from childhood to the power of speech as a political tool. “Autobiografia (Autobiography),” a slightly earlier piece, explored the impact of political slogans on listeners (not illustrated). During the Eighth Havana Biennial in 2003, she installed it at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. On a stage she constructed, empty but for a microphone and speakers, bodiless voices blared political epithets associated with Castro and the Revolution. These included: “Revolucionario hasta el fin” (Revolution until the End), “¡Escogeremos siempre el sacrificio!” (We Will Always Choose Sacrifice), and “Libertad o muerte” (Liberty or Death). Approaching the microphone, one became increasingly aware of the power Castro projected through slogans that resounded at a decibel level high enough to make the stage vibrate.

In May 2005, when it was still a work in progress, “Portraits,” was performed in the open-air garden at the Instituto Cervantes, New York, as a unique “concert soirée” (opposite). Bruguera had begun “Portraits” by listening to recordings of speeches by such world-famous figures as Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Adolf HItler, Barbara Jordan, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Paul VI, Yitzhak Rabin, Ronald Reagan, and Eleanor Roosevelt. She recorded excerpts of these onto a CD and then used a computer […]