“When I first walked into Tania Bruguera’s exhibition, Untitled (Havana, 2000), I went blind for the first few seconds as my eyes were adjusting to the dark atmosphere. Stepping on the sugarcane leaves was intimidating because not only was I out of my comfort zone but I felt that insects would crawl on me. I was conscious that nothing would happen, but losing my ability to see clearly made me lose awareness. The sensation of crawling insects was re-enacted by one of the four figures standing within the tunnel as he continuously scratched himself.
Each performer in the space was doing something different. Additionally, they were naked so as an audience member I was unsure of how to approach the figures. I had to choose whether to get close, look them in the eye, or just walk past. All four men stand in the shadows meanwhile the only light source comes from the video displayed on a screen above. Tania Bruguera is tactical in placing the screen at the roof of the tunnel. It describes the hierarchy of the time as Fidel Castro was the most important figure in the country, but also it portrays the discomfort of looking up. When I craned my neck back I started to feel uncomfortable after a certain time. If this hole were to be used for daylight instead of a screen it alludes to the idea that the thought of escape and looking out towards a new possibility is painful as well.
Bruguera does not use her body in this space so the audience is forced to attempt a connection with what it sees instead. One of my questions in the space was, how I could fit in or whether I should even try. My challenge was attempting to use the performers actions as an interaction with the space as well as a translation of what it meant.”
Video of Tania Bruguera, Claire Bishop, and Gerardo Mosquera