“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)
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.
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