August 2011
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Month August 2011

NYFA Immigrant Artist Project Newsletter

Tania Bruguera is NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Project Featured Artist this month. Here is the interview conducted by Program Officer Karen Demavivas and Intern Emily Chen:

IAP: You grew up during the political upheaval of the Cuban Revolution, the daughter of a Cuban diplomat and an English translator and sociologist. How does your upbringing shape your art and what was your experience like when you moved from Cuba to pursue your career in the States?

TB: I grew up while the Cuban Revolution transformed from being the hopeful ideal for the rest of the developing countries and an exemplar case study for the western left, into a revolution that had to endure the debacle of the rest of the socialist countries and adapt its ideological concepts just to be able to survive at any cost. I lived the Cuban Revolution of the Opción Cero, the times of a Revolution without options.

People living in countries with totalitarian regimes do not have the privilege of being trusted by those who govern them. Social trust allows for not having to get involved in politics. People in totalitarian countries do not have the luxury of choosing if they want to be directly involved in the social project they are living in; rather, it becomes their primary duty as citizens. But it is a duty that is really a directive and therefore for most is just simulacra — where you don’t have a real participation or impact in the process but are required to be an enthusiastic crowd.

Here is where dissatisfaction and dishonesty resonates in the construction of such “exemplar” citizens. In this sort of political system, the problem starts when you think like the propaganda to which you are exposed. Propaganda is mostly not to be understood but to be followed; an understanding is assumed to come later but belief in it is assumed to be immediate. There is a syncing problem between what is proposed and what is happening in social behavior and sometimes politics does not want the future behavior to happen now.

IM International may be the farthest project I’ve ever done from the biennale circle, from the art world even.

In your house, when politics is the job and passion of your parents, it becomes quotidian and, in a way, theoretical because people who are involved in politics inside the power structure have a more abstract relationship with the consequences of their political decisions. Abstract approaches to politics give you a greater satisfaction because you can think in heroic terms, especially when you’re distanced from the people who face the consequences of your decisions and you cannot directly see the details of the collateral damages. In Cuba, the government disconnected from the reality lived by its people and at some point it stopped listening to them. Two parallel realities started to coexist: one lived for the pragmatic continuity of a system and another where everything became illegal. The Cuban Revolution’s reality was committed to ideas and not to an everyday experience.

Due to the diplomatic work of my father, we were always removed from the reality we were “defending” (the revolutionary project). Revolution was a word, and it was not associated with an attitude towards injustices and desire for change, but rather with a “brand” belonging to a certain generation in power in Cuba and their historical trajectory. It was a word stripped of its meaning. When I came back to live in my country as an adolescent, I was a believer in the revolutionary project and it took me living on the other side of those political decisions to understand the disparities between the projection of the project and the reality of it. My work as an artist exists in this crossroad because I have not stopped believing but I see what is really happening.

All this previous experience between the dreamed society and the real one came very handy once I came to a country like the United States.

But I have to say that I did not move from Cuba to pursue my career in the States. This is in fact one very common assumption when people come to the United States. I still go to Cuba and I’m not interested in pursuing a career in the United States in the way it is assumed in your question. I was here studying for my master’s and worked for a few years teaching. Then I left the United States to move to Europe and I just came back for the Immigrant Movement International project but it doesn’t mean that I will stay here. The United States, so far, has been a transitory station.

IAP: You have shown works of visual and performing art in previous years at the Venice Biennale, a forum in which national identity and international politics heavily inform presented works. How did these past works pave the road to IM International and your decision to engage local audiences instead of, or in addition to, international ones?

TB: The Venice Biennale is an art event with no context other than the history of itself. It is the hardest exhibition space I’ve worked at because no matter what you do, it will be seen as an aesthetic experience. It becomes an experience in and of itself where the artist and the piece are responsible for creating the context. The national pavilions are seen since long ago as archaic rhetoric forms. With Harold Szeemann’s Aperto, the idea of national identity via a pavilion started taking an interesting turn because it is ridiculous to think that a single artist with a single short-term art proposal can serve as a thermometer of a nation’s ideology in a foreign context (We all know by now about the ideological maneuvers behind the fame of the Guernica.). Also, we know how flexible forms are towards ideology. The idea of migration is something we see more and more in these contexts: interchanged identities and national territories as temporal landscapes when artists behave as immigrants.

I have thought lately of starting to participate at those events as an independent. I guess that would be equivalent to participating at the “Pavilion of Oneself.”

Those events can give you permission to react personally towards issues greater than yourself but, in general, they don’t give you the idea or requirement of responsibility. That is my concern with those art events: thinking without accountability.

IM International may be the farthest project I’ve ever done from the biennale circle, from the art world even.

I would like to mix two audiences — the one trained to imagine the impossible and the one that is hardly permitted to do so; the audience that is entitled to be international with the one that is forced to be local even if they come from another place in the world; the audience that can’t escape their condition of citizenry and the one that has to be compelled to become a citizen. Both artists and immigrants dream of a different future.

For me, the idea is to bridge the language of contemporary art and that of urgent politics. For that, we need the perspectives of the local as well as the international crowd.

My past works paved the road to IM International in the sense that the work has demanded more and more radicalization in the ways in which it interacts with the real, in the ways in which I have to get away from concerns of whether it is art or not.

IAP: The IM International Headquarters used to be a beauty supply store in Corona, Queens. How did you choose the space? Since you’ve started your intervention there, have you noticed a shift from local people coming in to look for concrete social services to them opening up to a more creative engagement with the space?

The space is in front of a lumber/hardware store, next to a rather big supermarket and at the exit of the 111 street train stop. I was thinking at the natural traffic already happening at that intersection, of people whom we wanted to work with. I realized that there were no community associations around that focused on immigration and thought about the use of our project in that area.

We have some crowded English classes, classes held by the Paper Orchestra for children under 8 years old, and we are getting there with the cinema club. We hosted those events in collaboration with New Immigrant Community Empowerment and Corona Youth Orchestra. They bring their community and we try to do outreach in ours. It is a balance between what you know you want or need and what we want you to know that you could appreciate. But we have a long way to go. Before this project, I was in crisis about the value of art. By doing this work, I have recovered some faith in the usefulness of art.

IAP: You observed on the IM International blog that the same symbols are used in political rallies until they become clichés, noting that your roommates from Ecuador have lost faith in the traditional modes of effecting reform. On the other side, you question the whole notion of a permanent political truth (that is even able to morph into a cliché) – noting such truth as ephemeral. How do you see the ‘Useful Art’ of IM International informing or being a new vehicle for these debates?

TB: Well, once you put political on anything you are talking negotiable truth. Even people who understand social timing would be discouraged and faithless after 10 years of waiting for some sort of regularization of their legal situation. If to that you add the fact that the language that is used is completely old, circular and predictable, how are you going to be able to imagine change?

Right now, the dreamers who are fighting for the Dream Act are leading a wonderful performative process. It is one that brilliantly applies the inherited contradictions about the image of immigrants and what its rightfulness means — not only for the immigrants themselves, but also for the country.

The usefulness of art is what bridges politics and art, artists and non-initiated audiences. Behavior is the language through which society communicates and usefulness is the way in which society pays attention, makes statements, and serves people. If you are interested as an artist to deal with the social and the political, usefulness is the primary medium you work with.

I’m interested in the process of transforming affect into effectiveness.

IAP: How will you collaborate with artists who work with immigration as a theme? How will they bring social survival strategies into the discourse of this project?

TB: We are open for proposals and are mostly interested in artists doing Useful Art and also those who want to act politically with their art practice instead of using politics as a theme to be represented. We are looking for art projects working in hyperrealistic ways. We are interested in art projects combining the language of avant-garde and the one of urgent politics.

Link to NYFA newsletter
Link to more info about NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Project

Deportation Halted for Younger Immigrants

Deportation Halted for Younger Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Thursday that it would generally not deport or expel illegal immigrants who had come to the United States as young children and graduated from high school or served in the armed forces.

White House and immigration officials said they would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to allow these people to stay in the country while the government focused its enforcement efforts on higher-priority cases involving criminals and people who had flagrantly violated immigration laws.

President Obama is, in effect, doing administratively what he could not persuade Congress to do — allowing the secretary of homeland security to provide relief to a select group of students who are here illegally but show great promise.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has argued for a decade that “these young people should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes.”

White House officials emphasized that they were not granting relief to a whole class of people, but would review cases one by one, using new standards meant to distinguish between low- and high-priority cases…

Right-wing extremists tricked by ‘Trojan’ T-shirts

Right-wing extremists tricked by ‘Trojan’ T-shirts

German skinheads who took home free T-shirts after a music festival on Saturday were in for a big surprise.

The shirts, which bore a skull and crossbones symbol and the word ‘Hardcore Rebels,’ faded upon washing to reveal a hidden message: “What happened to your shirt can happen to you. We can help you break with right-wing extremism.”

The T-shirts were the work of Exit Deutschland, a group that helps young people transition out of militant right-wing lifestyles.

“With these T-shirts we wanted to make ourselves known among right-wingers, especially amongst young ones who are not yet fully committed to the extreme right,” said Exit founder Bernd Wagner.

About 250 of the shirts were distributed at the ninth edition of the Rock für Deutschland concert, in the town of Gera, in eastern Germany.

Around 600 neo-Nazis were in attendance at the concert, which is run by the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party…


Francisca Javiera Cabrini, La Santa Patrona de los Inmigrantes

Francisca Javiera Cabrini, La Santa Patrona de los Inmigrantes

Santa Francesca Saverio Cabrini (n. Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, 15 de julio de 1850 – m. Chicago, 22 de diciembre de 1917) fue una monja italiana, la primera ciudadana estadounidense en ser canonizada.En vida fue conocida como Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini (en inglés), Francisca Javier Cabrini o Madre Cabrini (en español).Nació en Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, en Lombardía (Italia), y fue la menor de los trece hijos de Agostino Cabrini y Stella Oldini. Nacida prematuramente, su salud fue delicada durante sus 67 años de vida. Tomó los votos religiosos en 1877, convirtiéndose en la madre superiora del orfanato Casa de la Providencia en Codogno, donde ejercía la enseñanza.

En 1880 se cerró el orfanato y se convirtió en una de las siete miembros fundadores del Instituto de las Hermanas Misioneras del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. Aunque su sueño era ser misionera en China, el papa León XIII la envió a Nueva York el 31 de marzo de 1889. Allí obtuvo el permiso del arzobispo Michael Corrigan para fundar un orfanato, el primero de las 67 instituciones que fundó en Nueva York, Chicago, Seattle, Nueva Orleáns, Denver, Los Ángeles, y en algunos países de Sudamérica y Europa.En 1909 se nacionalizó estadounidense.

La madre Cabrini falleció de malaria en el hospital Columbus de Chicago. Sus restos se encuentran enterrados en la Escuela secundaria Madre Cabrini (Mother Cabrini High School), en avenida Fort Washington 701 (Manhattan).Fue beatificada el 13 de noviembre de 1938 y canonizada el 7 de julio de 1946 por el papa Pío XII. El milagro que justificaba su beatificación se refiere a la restauración de la vista de un niño que había sido cegado por un exceso de nitrato de plata en los ojos. El milagro de su canonización fue la cura de una enfermedad terminal en la persona de una monja.Santa Frances Xavier Cabrini es la santa patrona de los inmigrantes…

Jesús Malverde, “El Bandido Generoso”

Jesús Malverde, “El Bandido Generoso”

Endemico del Estado mexicano de Sinaloa que habría sido salteador de caminos y es venerado como santo por muchos, aunque su existencia real está discutida. La Iglesia Católica no le reconoce estatus oficial de santo, porque afirma que no tiene datos concretos sobre tener una vida virtuosa, ni los milagros que habría realizado, pero su culto se ha extendido por todo Sinaloa y fuera de él. Se le han levantado varias capillas: la primera de ellas se construyó en Culiacán; también las hay en Tijuana, Badiraguato1 , Chihuahua,en la carretera que lleva a la ciudad de Aldama Chihuahua, Colombia y Los Ángeles. Malverde es conocido como “El Bandido Generoso” o “El Ángel de los Pobres”;2 también como “El Santo de los Narcos”. Era una especie de Robin Hood…

Juan Soldado, El Santo Patrón de los Indocumentados Mexicanos

Juan Soldado

Juan Soldado es el nombre con el que se conoce a un militar mexicano, que se cree se llamaba en realidad Juan Castillo Morales. El soldado raso del ejército fue ejecutado en Tijuana, Baja California, el 17 de febrero de 1938 tras la violación y asesinato de la niña Olga Camacho Martínez. Se le venera en la región noroccidental de México y sudoeste de los Estados Unidos como un supuesto santo. Aquellos que creen en sus milagros dicen que fue acusado falsamente y que a través de su intercesión espititual, pueden conseguir ayuda en problemas de salud, familiares o facilitar el cruce fronterizo a los inmigrantes indocumentados. Es por ello por lo que se le considera el santo patrón de los indocumentados mexicanos. La imagen que se venera de él es considerada como falsa…

Movimiento Indignados. Spanish Revolution.

Movimiento Indignados. Spanish Revolution.

Esta página se crea para tener un directorio de páginas relacionadas con el Movimiento Indignados, surgido en España, en la Primavera de Mayo del 2011. También intentamos ordenar los accesos a los videos colgados en paginas oficiales de Democracia Real Ya o del 15M, recopilamos fotos, literatura del Movimiento 15 M o clasificamos artículos por su interés. Continue reading…

Playing the City 3, Frankfurt Speech

50 years ago, a day like today, the first brick was put in place to begin building a wall in the west. Those bricks, that wall, divided families, friends and a culture. That wall created a fictitious division among human beings, it became a symbol of intolerance installed by hidden interests of a government, a wall that didn’t reflect who the people were but presumed to be the spirit of the people. Year after year those bricks, that wall, created a wall in the mind of the people, and imposed a man-made separation that was normalized by its mere presence.

We have other walls today, walls constructed around us, artificial and invisible walls that separate people, that affect human lives. Those invisible walls make us forget the only search and the only lesson that survived all generations, all cultures, all religions: the satisfaction of being a better human being.

But how can we be a better human being if we know and we see injustice yet continue under a falsely normalized reality, where we pretend that justice and law are the same thing.

For how many years was human trafficking and slavery a normalized practice? People back then thought it was normal; it was perfectly justified, they were even excited about it, now we would be horrified, now we persecute human trafficking because we know that no human being can be treated like a product, that every human being has human rights that we need to respect.

For how many years were people separated because the color of their skin, even not allowed to enter certain places? Now, we would not even understand how that could have happened, we were all united against South African apartheid, we are all ready to unite against any other form of racial discrimination.

For how many years were women just a reproduction accessory and marginalized to home labor? And now the chancellor of Germany is a woman.

For how many years was education the right of the wealthy? Now education is a human right, even if some people have to be reminded of it.

For how long are we going to let a dress done by the maquiladoras in México travel freely and with rights while a Mexican is not permitted to travel freely and   with their human rights. For how long we will enjoy a kebab while a Turkish is not permitted to travel freely and with their human rights. For how long will objects, products and ideas be considered by governments and companies part of globalization, while immigrants are seen as a local or a national issue.

It is not hard to imagine, in a few years, our kids trying to understand whyimmigrants were treated as they are treated today; trying to understand even, why there were people called immigrants; the same way we don’t understand today how slavery lasted for so long.

There are too many examples of injustices justified by the law to let them keep happening. The law is made by mankind and it is men who create artificial separations that lead into real suffering. The latest of those constructed and unnecessary separation are immigrants. What I do not understand is the efforts to demonize immigrants.

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist, killer and confessed perpetrator of dual terrorist attacks in Norway last 22 July: bombing government buildings in Oslo that resulted in eight deaths, and the mass shooting at a camp of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party on the island of Utøya where he killed 69 people, he is not an immigrant and immigrants are not demonizing him.

The list of people committing crimes against humanity who are not immigrants is extremely long and that doesn’t make immigrants see everybody else as a criminal. Immigrants will never demonize these people, because if immigrants understand something it is that people are different and you can not judge them as a group, you can not judge them for the color of the skin, you can not judge them from where they come from, you can not judge them for their money, nor even for the political party they are affiliated to, you can only judge people for their actions.

I can’t understand the efforts to make immigrants a homogeneous group ignoring the richness of their origins, their reason to migrate, their experiences and skills.

I’m an immigrant myself and I have gone to the harsh process to incorporate on a new society, one very different from where I came from. I remember when I didn’t want to be integrated in that new society, I didn’t want to renounce who I was before arriving to that new place. This is very important for a first generation of immigrants.

You do not have to renounce who you are to be grateful for the welcome and the invitation to be part of a new country. What makes me different is what makes me a better immigrant.

In order for that “integration” to be a real and a natural process time has to pass, maybe 3, 7, 12, 19 years, it depends from person to person, what is important is not how long it takes but how real and committed the person is to it. That is a process impossible to measure in bureaucratic terms. One has to have faith in the immigrants, one has to have trust in the society we are building together.

Integration is not about learning a language, but about understanding the differences between where you were before and where you are now.

Integration is not a one-way monologue, one has to repeat as a trained animal, it is a conversation between two cultures.

Integration is not being afraid to enrich our culture from other cultures.
Integration is not only appreciating the exotic food and the music, it is also giving people a chance to contribute with their experiences in the areas of civil society.

Integration is giving immigrants the same civil rights we fought for and we have for ourselves.

Integration is integrating immigrants into the political life.Immigration is a question of tolerance, from both sides, if we are not willing to have it then we do not have the right to claim, we don not have the right to declare, that one has entered and that one belongs to the 21st  Century because if you do not understand immigrants as human beings with the same rights you belong to the older times of slavery.

And I’m here today because I know some Germans and I have received their kindness, their smartness, their great culture, I’m here because I know that it is just a matter of time for Germany, who is known as the economic engine of Europe, to become known also as part of the engine for immigration justice. I know that people in Germany, immigrants and citizens can unite to create the first steps for this leadership.

I want to propose to all of you, immigrants and citizens to create a new political party, a party for international citizens, for the citizen of the future, a political party for the rights of immigrants to be fully part of society, a political party for the right to be judged by your actions and not by what people ignore about you, a political party for the rights of immigrants to be an equal partner in the construction of a better society.

Let’s create here in Europe, in Germany, in Frankfurt, today, the political party for immigrants: Immigrant Movement International.

Let’s stand up, let’s look at people’s eyes in a few years, look at history in the face and say: we did it, we stand against injustice, this is the way to lead, this is the way to start the global immigrant era to which all of us belong, because we are all immigrants at some point.

I have heard the voice of the people here, the people who tore down the wall that divided a country before, are the people who will tear down the invisible wall that is dividing people in the world now: the wall around immigrants.

Because with immigrants we can think a better future!

Frankfurt, August 13th, 2011