By Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews and gallery columnist for tabletmag.com.
She tweets @artnewsmag and @rcembalest.
Making Respect an Art Form:
Over the course of her career the fearless and provocative Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has staged performances tweaking the Castro government, commenting on drug policy in Colombia, threatening to kill herself via Russian roulette in Venice, and plenty more. Her latest project, though, is her most ambitious, and potentially her most influential. A year ago, under the sponsorship of the Queens Museum and the public-art nonprofit Creative Time, she founded an organization called Immigrant Movement International, setting herself up in a storefront in Corona, Queens and moving in with immigrants nearby.
At first locals didn’t know what to make of the fiercely energetic newcomer, but eventually the center’s wide array of services—from legal help to language and art classes—transformed her headquarters, right near the 111th Street stop on the 7 train, into a busy hub. On Monday, April 9, for example, Immigrant Movement International will host a free immigration clinic sponsored by the City Bar Justice Center. Visitors can speak privately with an immigration attorney about matters including visas, Cuban immigration and family reunification—in Spanish, English, or Mandarin.
Along the way her team created a ribbon logo to advocate for their mission, coining the slogan “Immigrant Respect” to avoid the political aspects of the immigration issue and highlight its human side. They chose brown and blue to represent the entry points of immigrants who travel to a new country, over land or sea.
Immigrant Movement—which has been so successful that Bruguera’s sponsors recently pledged to help keep it going for four more years— is part of a larger global trend, as creators like Ai Weiwei and Vik Muniz develop new strategies to connect art-making with activism. Can artists change the world? Maybe that’s not the question—yet. Can they help? Stop over in Corona and find out.