10,148,451 Tania BRUGUERA

“The work’s title is an ever-increasing figure: the number of people who migrated from one country to another last year added to the number of migrant deaths recorded so far this year – to indicate the sheer scale of mass migration and the risks involved.“(TATE Modern 2019)

10,148,541 in the Turbine Hall

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban artist who engages the audience to take an active part in her work.

“she calls her work performance acts — Arte de conducta refuses to consider the audience as spectators. Instead, it approaches them as citizens. ‘I would like a museum in the not-so-new twenty-first century’, Bruguera explained, ‘that abandons the idea of looking for the idea of activation … one where art entails actual social transformation, instead of merely providing highly speculative strategies for bringing about such transformations.’45 This is political art, Bruguera argues, as opposed to art that uses images to create politics. “ (Schwartz, 2012, p.225)

The exhibition was part of the Hyndai commission in the Turbine Hall from 2nd of October to 24th of February 2019.

It consisted of three parts. A heat sensitive floor, the visitors take their shoes off, walk/sit on it. Warmth and human touch are the interactive trigger. The more people touch,  the more visible the image becomes. It is an image of a young refugee called Yousef. His is a successful story, having escaped Syria in 2011, he is now in the UK studying biomedical science and is participating in the society.

To identify an individual case of a refugee , whose image to use and with relevance to the local community , Bruguera established Tate Neighbors – organisation of people from the same postcode as Tate Modern SE1. Thus introducing a dialogue beteween an international organisation -Tate Modern and the local community. The idea of local response to a global situation is at the heart of this installation on many levels. Yousef was suggested by the community activist Natalie Bell, as a case where local support had a positive effect on an individual life. He was supported by SE1 United, a charity run by Bell.

This is symbolically re-enacted by revealing his image by touch- using the audiences warmth.

There is an ambiguity in this work as well, the participation is not only in the solution. It can be read as if all of us- the participants are also creating the problem. We are supporting this situation. The global is not detached from the local in both directions.

The second part, is a low but consistently present sound, in the space of the Turbine Hall.  This is something that can almost be ignored, it is not too disruptive. Although it is persistent and creates an almost industrial feeling, a buzz of a machine.

The third part is a separate room where an eucalyptus oil is released in the air, causing tears, this space is called Enforced Empathy.  The name suggests that the empathy does not happen enough, and there is a need to enforce it. As you enter you get a stamp on your arm with a number. This brings to mind concentration camps and processing people as numbers.

I was stamped with a number

This number is the increasing number -the title of the work. This also brings to mind Agamben and the idea that all citizens are reduced to bare life in the current society.

Tania Bruguera, 10,148,451 February 2019, Turbine Hall TATE Modern

SCHWARTZ STEPHANIE 2012, Tania Bruguera: Between Histories
Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2012), pp. 215-232

BRUGUERA, ‘Arts, Havana’, Artforum, vol. 48, no. 10, Summer 2010, p. 299. (Emphasis in the original.)

TATE Modern 2019, Experience a community-driven response to the global migration crisis URL https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/hyundai-commission-tania-bruguera

10,148,451 Tania BRUGUERA

Leviathan – Zvyagintsev film 2014 and Hobbes

This is a story of a connection to the land, injustice and the nature of sovereign power. It is a very effective portrayal of a Hobbesian world in the far Russian North.

Andrey Zvyagintsev quotes the story of Job, from the bible, and Hobbes’s Leviathan beautifully in this film. He captures the spirit of Hobbs’s Leviathan in contemporary context. The feeling we are left with is sober and disillusioned.

The beautiful landscape carries the traces of abandoned architecture and machinery, left from the previous Leviathan. A particular importance is placed on the remains of an old church. This is where the youth of the village gather in the evenings. This exploration of the remains of former power reaches the highest point in the scene with the whale skeleton on the beach.

Here is a dead Leviathan, the previous sovereign power dead on the beach. This is the tipping point of the film. And it is balanced beautifully with the scene of the live whale, just before the new Leviathan exerts its own power in practise.

whale in the sea scene

The film ends with a scene in a new church, the sovereign power is alive and well. It is practised in the same way as Hobbes describes- the absolute sovereign power commands the resources and the lives of its subjects as it sees fit. The subjects are in a state of bare life in regards to the sovereign power.

There are parallels with the story of Michael Kohlhaas, a story by
 Heinrich von Kleist (based on a true 16th-century story of Hans Kohlhase) published in 1810 . The behaviour of the powerful and the auto-mechanic’s uncompromising search for justice are very similar. Yet , “Zvyagintsev resorts to a different and, in his words, “more terrifying” ending: a vision of the slow destruction of the protagonist and of everyone who was dear to him, by power. ” ( Vassilieva , 2018)

“”The sovereign power … is as great, as possibly men can be imagined to make it. And though of so unlimited a Power, men may fancy many evil consequences, yet the consequences of the want of it, which is perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour, are much worse. “(Hobbes 1996,p.144-145)

Hobbes lived through a civil war, he had a first hand experience of this perpetual war of every man against his neighbour.

HOBBES THOMAS, 1996. Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
VASSILIEVA JULIA, 2018. Russian Leviathan: Power, Landscape, Memory. FILM CRITICISM volume 42(issue 1)

Leviathan – Zvyagintsev film 2014 and Hobbes

“the past as part of the present”

Examining the past is a way to understand the present, Mieke Bal proposes understanding “the past as part of the present” (Bal, 1999). Culture is a worldview, it is a collection of values, knowledge and artefacts, whose re-examining and questioning is in fact re-examining of our current value systems.  Artworks and texts are building blocks, setting up a world view. “ What does the work, as work, set up? Towering up within itself, the work opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force.” (Heidegger 1993,p.169)

These concepts were the starting point for a project  I am currently working on. The idea is to re-read parts of a classical text – Ovid’s Metamorphoses in contemporary context and create visual art works to communicate this re-reading. I will document the development of this practise based research here. As the work on this started last October, I will briefly include the variations, so far, in this blog post.

In the first instance I chose four myths: Actaeon, Aglauros, Medusa and Arachne. They all have strong visual aspect – they are concerned with seeing, hiding (control of seeing), creating visuals and control/destruction of visuals. They are also concerned with loss of voice about the seen or experienced event.

My first sketches, created sometime in October, are of Actaeon.

The outside material of the first sketch was to be fragile, half-transparent brittle skin broken where the stag is emerging. The second one is opposite, he is imprisoned in a animal, his voice can not be heard as human.

Actaeon was a hunter who one day got separated from his hunting party. He unwittingly stumbled upon the goddess Diana and her band of huntresses enjoying a bath in a clear pool in the forest. Diana, offended and to prevent him boasting about this, sprayed him with some water that turned him into a stag. Seeing is taken as an offence, as penetrating as touch. Diana gives the reason of this punishment as “Now you may tell the story of seeing Diana naked – If storytelling is in your power!” (Ovid 3. 192). He is then hunted down by his own dogs and dismembered.

Not surprisingly the most common part of the myth represented in visual art, is the scene where Actaeon stumbles upon the bathing party.

This forms an erotic reading of the myth. Titian is the most influential example of this reading. Titian was aware of his audience, the paintings were intended for consumption by powerful men. The Poesie paintings were created for the Spanish king Philip II. Diana’s band read in this way can be encountered in early modern literature, specifically referencing lesbian community.

The nymphs are interchangeable, this is something that I have always found in renaissance art representing Diana. They are amorphous mass of female (often just) bodies. Titian groups the paintings of this cycle in conceptual pairs. Actaeon pairs with Calisto.

Diana and the nymphs are, in both of these paintings, a mass of pink interchangeable bodies. In the Calisto painting, the story of Actaeon is visually referenced as well. On the column in the background, there is a relief representing the Actaeon story. Both stories are of silencing and censorship.  

The way I read the myth of Actaeon is political. The goddess of hunt-Diana turned Actaeon into prey and his own dogs dismembered him. This transformation is primarily in status. It is in and of itself – dehumanisation. From a prince and a hunter Actaeon is transformed into prey-stag, someone who’s humanity is stripped off and whose death is irrelevant. In fact he has become food.

I have since developed new sketches for an installation to include video on all four walls of the space, with a possible VR option. They deal with dehumanisation in contemporary context.

The way to communicate effectively, the political aspect of this myth is going the be my primary concern.


BAL MIEKE, 1999. Quoting Caravaggio- Contemporary Art, Preposterous History. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press

HEIDEGGER MARTIN, 1993 Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger. 

OVID, 2004. Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation London: Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

“the past as part of the present”

Ovid’s Metamorphosis

I first read it sometime in the final year of my BA. Inspiring, subtly politicial, very sceptical collection of myths, that for me expressed the state of the disillusioned world around me at the time. Rereading it almost 20 years from then, I can see subtle layers of meaning, through the poem, that complicates my initial experience of it. What it means for me now is not the same as what it meant for me then. As I read more of the theory surrounding it, it becomes clear that at different historical times it was read radically different. Although it has never stoped fascinating artists and writers since the moment it was conceived, the meanings have shifted wildly. In the Middle Ages, for example, there was an attempt to read it as a somehow methaphore for Christian values.

The popularity of the poem continued and expanded in the renessance. The influence of the person commissioning the art work can not be overestimated. It poses questions of the role of power, the use of art to make some practices acceptable, to find a justification. The loves of Jove by Correggio were commisiond by Federico Gonzaga, “The circumstances of the commission are somewhat shadowy. It is quite possible, however, that this series may have been intended to pay sexual complement to Federico’s liaison with Isabella Boschetti – the mortal girl, as it were, to whom he could play amorous Jupiter.” (Barkan, p.194-5)  The court of nobleman would often include humanist intellectuals, equally employed to create cultural meaning, cultural lineage and justification for the family to remain in power.

The poem itself questions the stability of power, it explores fluidity and change. This fluidity is also explored in meaning of events, by changing points of view.

Ovid introduces a story, then comes back to the same story from another point of view reassessing,  changing the meaning sometimes more than once. A great example, also explored in visual art in the Rensseance, is the story of Europa. This story is introduced early in the poem. It is a story of awakening female sexuality and crossing the unknown, triumphantly arriving at the foreign coast. She was taken away from Asia by Jupiter transformed in a bull, over the sea, landing on the Greek coast.  Then we come back to it again and see it differently through Arachne as she weaves it in her tapistery, giving us more critical view – abuse of power by Jove.


This story is the subject  of Titian’s Rape of Europa, this painting is part of his  Poesie  painted for Philip II of Spain. Series of paintings at the height of Titian’s practise, inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

Velasquez quotes this painting in his Story of Arachne. Elegantly mirroring the structure of the poem itself.


I find this poem very inspiring. I will work with material from this poem in the future.



BARKAN LEONARD, 1990. The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism. New Edition ed. Yale University Press

Ovid’s Metamorphosis

Continuing the malangan inspired project


Building on the last post, I have now finished parts of the sculpture. The woman sitting on a chair is cast in resin and bronze, and I have carved some of the panels.

I have thoughts of creating transparent cages in different materials, as a further developement of this theme. Transparent fabric is very interesting as a medium it resambles skin and can be embroidered. Wire is another material that can be very interesting in achieving transparent enclosed spaces. Some beautiful examples of this include sculptures made out of chicken mesh. Also some theatre costumes, more specifically the costume for the Minotaur in the Harrison Birtwistle reworking of the myth for the Royal Opera in 2008.


The lighting is very interesting in the above image and in the show itself. With the use of lighting the mask can become opaque or transparent. This is very sophisticated use of transparency, symbolically sometimes the man dominates and sometime the beast.

I may incorporate a light, inside the enclosed space of the wooden panels, to make the sitting woman more visible. This will bring her into focus.

The changeability of meaning in the Minotaur mask is extremely inspiring for me as well. I have started working on a practice based research that is concerned with change.

Continuing the malangan inspired project


I came across Malangan sculpture in the excellent book Museum of the Mind by John Mack, long standing director of the British Museum (Mack 2003, p.105).They are ritual objects made by the people from the north coast of New Ireland, an island in Papua New Guinea.

The intricate carvings are only used once in a funeral rite and then discarded. This captured me. Why would the artist spend so much time creating these beautiful pieces just to be used once and then destroyed?


Malangan figures, 1882-83 C.E., wood, vegetable fiber, pigment and shell (turbo petholatus opercula), north coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea © Trustees of the British Museum


Looking at the objects it becomes clear that there is always a figure locked in a cage like structure. This structure can be made of different things- often monsters, tusks, fish, snakes – a variety of items confining the figure. As if forcing it up, this is a cage with only one way out. The figure itself can be fearsome sometimes.

There is a sense of coercion in this item. The animals and patterns that make up the cage are related to the family – clan the deceased belonged to. It is as if the traditional signs are forcing the deceased to behave in a particular way – leave.

The idea of traditional patterns coercing (people-us) into desired behaviour was starting to form then. The use of symbols/rituals as a way of establishing power relationship is very interesting and a good starting point for my next art work.

I am currently working on little sculpture of a woman, cast in resin, sitting in a cage of paisley patterns which are carved in wood. This is a traditional, domestic enclosure. I am trying to capture the claustrophobic aspect of this.


The British Museum, “Malagan at the British Museum,” in Smarthistory, March 1, 2017, accessed December 9, 2017, https://smarthistory.org/malangan/.

MACK JOHN, 2003. The Museum of the Mind. The British Museum Press




How can pixel graphics deeply affect?

It is the old combination of form and content – the game world itself and the issues it explores, in this case. If the tension created is believable and meaningful, even simple symbols are enough.

‘The Last Door’ and ‘To the Moon’ have overwhelmingly good reviews from its players. They also have in common a certain simplicity of the graphics- they are deliberately created pixelated, using the bare minimum of pixels. Yet they attract almost cult following.

‘To the Moon’ has a central question: What if some decisions in a long life were made differently? The game starts with an old man near his death. The game is a journey inside his head, discovering secrets form his past, suppressed memories and trauma.


The Last Door’ creates genuinely oppressive atmosphere. Set against Victorian background, it is about a search for ‘answers beyond’. This goes well with the slightly romantic view of the science of the time, practised mainly by the rich as a pursuit of leisure. The side characters and issues are a big part of the atmosphere. There is madness, PTSD, drug abuse, social issues, fog and a secret society.

Aviary Attorneys is not a pixelated game. It uses very simple, but beautiful animation based on 19th century caricatures by J. J. Grandville. The difficult moral choices the player must make and the severe consequences that follow, make it incredibly immersive. The feelings of guilt, after some of the consequences, are real. It can have several very different endings. I wanted to mention it here because despite its simplicity, it creates a complex world.  It made me reconsider and question more.

 Minimal visuals have been explored (and still are) in theatre as well.  I recently watched a lovely, minimal, shadow puppet performance of the ‘Tin soldier’. The audience genuinely experienced the sad story, even though the actor/storyteller cut the characters out of paper on the stage. There were tears in the audience at the end!

We experience the story (the art) despite the simplicity of the visuals.  Our brains decode the symbols and construct a whole world, that we become immersed in. We fill in the missing parts of the picture. The potential and the readiness of our imagination to live through an imaginary world is immense.

We have a hunger for good stories.

How can pixel graphics deeply affect?