Silence at the MuNAM

Ariel Ribeaux
March 2000

From: Ribeaux, Ariel. “Silencio en el MuNAM,” Noticias de Arte Cubano, no. 1, año 1, Marzo, La Habana, Cuba, 2000 (illust.)

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Silence at the MuNAM

by Ariel Ribeaux

At the National Modern Art Museum in Guatemala, almost halfway through 1999, the exhibition Lo que me corresponde (What Befits Me) by Tania Bruguera was held on an invitation by Fundacion Colloquia, a project for the promotion of contemporary art in that country. Tania also offered a performance and a workshop on this art expression for young Guatemalan artists.

The sample was made up by six drawings and some pictures from former performances. These pictures, stressing their documentary nature because of the way they were printed, were a sort of cartography of Tania’s work in performance. With them as a basis, a chronology of her recent performances could be made, thus allowing a definition of her work as that of a creator who gives similar importance to the conception of the work as an individual project of the artist as to its final result.

The title of the performance Tania “premiered” during the inauguration was Silencio (Silence), part of a series of works she has made in collaboration – Memorias de la Postguerra (Postwar Memories), Estadístic (Statistics), Cabeza Abajo (Head Down) – as a way of involving other people, propitiating collective creation by diluting the author’s uniqueness and turning the work into a product of many. The performance also shows the topics Tania has been approaching in recent times: blame, responsibility and, specifically, silence.

Naked in the midst of the square facing the museum – a way to express vulnerability – Tania and her collaborator – their mouths prevented from saying a word – mutually got tangled with a string until they were immobilized and then transported by the audience into the exhibition space as just another museum piece. Although the performance alluded to a fact as personal as it is universal on the probability of speech itself turning against the person brandishing it (“Your tongue is your lion; if you let it, it will devour you” an African saying goes), in the Guatemalan context if functioned as a comparison with the situation the country endured for more than thirty years. Silence was also a cultural shock for Guatemalan spectators who are not used to this type of art expression and do not know much about the coordinates in which Cuban art moves.

The text in the catalogue – an interview to the artist by Valia Garzon – offered a review of Tania Bruguera’s art and explained some of the “whys” of her piece.