Here are the opening lines of Sam Dolnick’s Times story about the performance artist Tania Bruguera, a “have” whose work of art is to live like a “have not”: “Tania Bruguera has eaten dirt, hung a dead lamb from her neck and served trays of cocaine to a gallery audience, all in the name of art. She has shown her work at the Venice Biennale, been feted at the Pompidou Center in Paris and landed a Guggenheim Fellowship” (“An Artist's Performance: A Year as a Poor Immigrant,” NYT, 5/19/11). Many Times readers probably saw Dolnick’s story and thought, “I could do that. After all, it’s not Marina Abramovic, who has to sit totally still for 736 hours and 30 minutes. What if I simply go home to my apartment with the clanking steam pipes, turn on the CBS Evening News, watch coverage of the interminable Palestinian-Israeli struggle and crack open a couple cans of beer while reheating yesterday’s meat loaf, with its little squiggle of ketchup, in the toaster oven. What if I take out a package of frozen peas and put them in boiling water? What if I am totally alone or have a significant other who hates me almost as much as he or she hates him or herself, and what if we reenact a piece of performance art about this very fact over dinner every night? Will I get a Guggenheim for my troubles? Will I be invited to the Biennale? Will I be feted at the Pompidou?” Dolnick describes how Bruguera, who is Cuban, formed her artwork/advocacy group, Immigrant Movement International, and moved into an unheated, cramped apartment, living on a “minimum wage salary, which she wrote into the project description.” People usually get Nobel Prizes or MacArthurs for their contributions to peace or for original research. But why go to the trouble when misery is so munificently rewarded?
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]