Title: Untitled (Kassel, 2002)
Medium: Video Performance – Installation with sound
Materials: Germans, guns, black outfits, wood scaffolding, 40 light beams of 750 watts, DVD disc, DVD player, projector
Dimensions: 19′ x 59.6′ x 13′
Untitled (name of the city, yearwhen the work was performed) is a series where the title maintains its structure but specifies, in every new work, the city and the year in which it is made so as to speak in terms of Specific Political Timing. On the political imaginary in the places in which they are held, the perspective from which the works are made is that of people not belonging to their context or having been part of the history that has built them. The works in this set intend to demystify the a priori political image on some given social spaces created by those who are alien to them. The need to change that image is experienced manipulating its political symbols par excellence. The superficial knowledge we have on the reality of a society alien to us is usually based on the information emerging from the diffusion of its stereotypes, on whose basis a preconceived idea is built which then takes hold of the collective conscience and models a state of opinion. The fact that the title of the series is Untitled – with the place and year in which it will be made within parenthesis – is an invitation to face a sociopolitical context which we do not actually know but of which we have an opinion. It is a call to understand the transience and fragility of definitions on contexts that are not our own, to understand that their reality is more complex than the information which we believe we have on it.
In the case of Untitled (Kassel, 2002), it was made during Documenta 11. The artist works on memories on Kassel, a city where an important ammunition factory was during the Second World War. The piece evokes the military atmosphere of the factory, which may be associated to the experience of surveillance towers in a prison. The installation has a line of 700 watt light bulbs from which a powerful and intense light flows that momentarily blinds the audience and creates an uncomfortable heat. Steps of military boots coming from the roof of the structure are heard giving the audience the sensation that they are walking on them. At the same time, the sound of a gun and a rifle being raked coming from two places in the space is heard, although they are never fired. One of them is mobile. It is as if this were a moment before something happens and time stops. Nobody is seen doing this action, which changes if you are in a very specific place in the space from which you can see that sounds are made by people. Lights go off for a few seconds, creating a sensation of loss in the space which some experience as fear and others as the chance to enter into a space of inner reflection. At that moment, the projected image of a person running against the light followed by a list showing a hundred places in the world where politically motivated massacres and genocides have taken place. The list starts with events after World War II and includes those ordered by governments or by individuals. It shows that an almost entire percentage of these local events have had some relationship with the U. S. government. One of the exceptions is New York 2001, that is, September 11.
The work places the spectators in a vulnerable state in which they feel constantly threatened by an oppressive and insecure environment because of the political military referents of the piece. There is an attempt at experiencing politics as an individual experience, as a physical sensation. On the basis of the answers by the immense majority of the interviewed inhabitants who were living in the city under the National Socialist government – “I didn’t know” -, the interest of this piece is exploring individual responsibility before events that are not yet historical and to which a consensus of what is “correct” to do has not yet been reached.
Move: Choreographing you. Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre. London, United Kingdom. Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal. (catalogue)
October 13 – January 9. 2011
Tania Bruguera: On the political Imaginary(Survey Show). Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York. Purchase New York, United States. Curated by Helaine Posner. (catalog)
January 28 – April 11
Maintenant, ici, là-bas. Frac Loraine. Metz, France. Curated by Beatrice Josse. (catalogue)
September 16 – November 5
The living museum. Museum für Modern Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt, Germany. Curated by Udo Kittelmann.
May 16 – June 29
Documenta 11. Kassel, Germany. Curated by Okwui Enwezor. (catalogue)
June 8 – September 15
Access the VIDEO part of the installation
photos: Sebastian Isacu
Museum für Modern Kunst (MMK)
photos: Axel Schneider
photos: Yuneikys Villalonga
(by alphabetical order)
Mauch, Stephanie. “Tania Bruguera,” Documenta 11_Platform 5: Ausstellung/Exhibition. Ed. Hatje Cantz Verlag Publishers, 2002. (Ilust.) p. 50 ISBN 3-7757-9087-X.
Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition, Ed. Hatje Cantz Verlag Publishers, 2002. (Ilust.) p. 220. ISBN 3-7757-9086-1.
Griffin, Jonathan. “Tania Bruguera: Cuba, performance and society’s relationship to its history,” Frieze, Issue 118, October 2008. (illust.) pp. 286 – 287. ISSN 9-770-962-067014
Krüger, Juliane. “Juliane Krüger & Tania Bruguera (interview),” XXD11. Ed. Bernhard Balkenhol, Heiner Georgsdorf, Pierangelo Maset. Texts by various authors. Ed. Kassel University Press. (illust.) pp.76 – 79. ISBN 3-89958-506-2.
Genocchio, Benjamin. “A Performance Artist and Her Greatest Hits,” New York Times, NY/Region, Art Review/Westchester. Published February 12, 2010. New York, United States (illust.)
Lepecki, André. “Tania Bruguera:Untitled (Kassel, 2002),” Published on the occasion of the exhibition “Move: Coreographing you,” curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Ed. Published by Hayward Publishing, October 2010. Arts Council, London, England (illust.) pp. 90 – 93. ISBN 978-1-85332-282-2
Levin, Kim. “The CNN Documenta,” The Village Voice. July 9, 2002. p. 57.
Villalonga, Yuneisky. “Tania Bruguera; Her Place an Her Moment. Maintenant, Ici, La-Bas [Now, Here, Over There],” Frac Lorraine. 2007(illust.) pp.74 – 95. ISBN 978-2-911271-11-3
“…In the case of pieces such as Untitled (Kassel, 2002), included in the present show in Metz, a relationship is established between the difficulty of the experience and the ‘will to knowledge’. In the exhibition space, visitors travel along a linear route on which they pass, projected on the side wall, the names of 100 cities (one for each day that the piece was on show at Documenta XI) in which there have been massacres for political reasons since the end of World War II. The names of the cities are punctuated by images of a running figure silhouetted against the light. We see only her outline, as we see the outlines of the people walking in front of us in the piece, or as those who come behind us see us when, at a certain moment, searchlights are switched on, ‘blinding’ the spectators. We then also hear the tramp of military boots over our heads. A pistol and a rifle are constantly cocked, but are never fired. Two local volunteers are employed as performers. They cannot be seen, but can be heard. The action remains implicit, taken no further than a threat. The visual experience is transferred to the other senses (the searchlights raise the temperature of the room considerably). For a few seconds the darkness is restored. As Bruguera says, ‘Darkness is important for being alone, for thinking, for being placeless…”
Yuneisky Villalonga, “Tania Bruguera; Her Place an Her Moment. Maintenant, Ici, La-Bas [Now, Here, Over There],” Frac Lorraine. 2007
“…Untitled (Kassel, 2002), an installation for Documenta 11, it was the audience themselves who were under interrogation. A rack of powerful 750-watt lights blazed down on the entrance to the space, delaying the realization that a metallic clicking sound came from a man loading and reloading a gun. When the massive lamps were turned off for a few seconds, a monitor could be seen showing the names of places in which political massacres have taken place since the end of World War II. As with her earlier piece in Havana, Untitled (Kassel, 2002) employs darkness and light as metaphors for past and future, for memory and forgetting…”
“…This ‘politics as sensation’ is activated in Untitled (Kassel, 2002) by an uncanny apparatus -scaffolding, planks and 30.000 watts of power beamed directly in the viewer’s sightline at regular intervals. In the dark, choreographed performers lock and load rifles in precise rhythms and march ominously around a periphery that functions less as a frame for an artwork than a prison wall or border. A barely red letters sites of political terror, from 1945 (Cheju, South Korea) to the year of the installation’s creation in 2002 (Netanya, Israel), interspersed with black and white footage of people running. Fusing the philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s call for an aesthetics of sensation that ‘is inseparable from its direct action on the nervous systemwith Giorgio Agamben’s insight that ‘the [concentration] camp is the hidden matrix and the nomos of the political space in which we still live, Bruguera’s politics as sensation’ refuses to remain purely descriptive of our current condition. It offers at least one line of flight: the possibility of historical and political awareness. This awareness occurs through the visceral and kinesthetic apprehension of the situation in which we find ourselves. Light and darkness, the stomping sounds on the scaffolding, the locking of the guns, operate in tandem to direct our movement: to freeze, to step hesitantly, haltingly, trying not to trip. We cannot help but assess the situation we are in and the carefully determine our next move. Assaulted by menacing sounds and a sense of dizziness and dissolution, moving blindly and slowly in the room, we experience a sensation of disorientation that pushes us into an awareness of our generalized state of emergency – and of our own actions in this condition…”
Lepecki, André. “Tania Bruguera:Untitled (Kassel, 2002),” Published on the occasion of the exhibition “Move: Coreographing you,” London, England.