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Art, not politics led to dissident artist Tania Bruguera’s Herb Alpert award

Art, not politics led to artist Tania ’s Herb Alpert award
Carolina A. Miranda

– Artist Tania Bruguera, composer Julia Wolfe and three others chosen
for Herb Alpert awards
– Five artists to receive Herb Alpert awards, but Cuban Tania Bruguera
won’t be at ceremony

For the first time in the 20-year-history of the Herb Alpert Award in
the Arts, a winner won’t be able to attend the presentation ceremony for
political reasons.

Dissident artist Tania Bruguera, one of five artists to receive an
unrestricted grant of $75,000 from the Herb Alpert Foundation, had her
passport revoked by the Cuban government and is unable to leave the country.

The foundation annually honors a midcareer artist in each of five areas
— dance, theater, music, visual arts and film or video. Bruguera is
this year’s visual arts winner. Los Angeles video artist Sharon
Lockhart, composer Julia Wolfe, playwright and performer Taylor Mac, and
choreographer Maria Hassabi are the foundation’s other grant recipients.
All will be honored at a luncheon in Santa Monica on Friday.

“The winners represent a kind of adventurousness,” says awards director
Irene Borger. “One of the questions I ask of the jury is, ‘What makes
you curious? What’s interesting? … And for whom will the prize make a

Bruguera, an artist known for her challenging works of performance art,
which explore everything from the immigrant condition to the nature of
control tactics, was detained in Cuba on multiple occasions early
this year after attempting to stage a performance about of
in Havana’s Revolution Square. The Cuban authorities are
still determining whether to file criminal charges against her.

At Friday’s luncheon, Christine Y. Kim, a curator at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art, who served on the jury for the awards, will read a
letter that Bruguera has sent especially for the occasion.

“The Alpert Award could not come at a better moment,” reads the
statement, which was provided to The Times in advance of the ceremony.
“The Cuban government does not like my artworks because I’m proposing
that our relationship with politics is one where the script is not
written for us, but is something we create with responsibility and
honesty out of the desire to engage in our political destiny.”

“Each time I think of what I could be doing during the time I’ll be
there, I’m able to leave my current situation, I’m able to project a
creative moment, I’m able to dream again,” she adds, “and for that I
want to thank the Alpert, for what it has already done for me as an artist.”

Borger says that in choosing Bruguera, the foundation was not trying to
make a political statement. It was meant to simply honor an artist who
is exploring interesting ideas in her work. Bruguera, in fact, had been
a nominee in the past.

Notes culled by Borger from the jury’s deliberations describe the
reasoning behind the award:

“The jury was impressed by the complexity, longevity, conceptual rigor
and urgency of Tania Bruguera’s work, as well by her strong formal
clarity and ongoing contribution to international conversations on
and immigration. We appreciate the risks she
takes and her commitment to resisting market pressures in order to seek
an ethics of what art can do.”

Other recipients include some equally notable figures.

Wolfe, for example, won the Pulitzer Prize last week for her composition
“Anthracite Fields,” inspired by the deadly work of coal miners. It is a
work that figured prominently on Times classical music critic Mark
Swed’s list of the best classical moments of 2014: “an unforgettably
haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania’s coal miners.”

Likewise, there is Lockhart, whose meditative film and photographic
installations offer close studies of topics ranging from movement to
manual labor. Her work has been shown in museums all over the world,
including Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, New
York’s Whitney Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In
2012, her film inspired by Israeli choreographer and textile artist Noa
Eshkol was shown at the L.A. County Museum of Art.

Other winners include the New York-based Hassabi, whose languid and
eerie time-freezing performance pieces were on view at the Hammer
Museum early this spring, as well as Mac, a stage actor whose
vulnerable, gender-bending works also offer social critique. His star
turn in “Good Person of Szechwan” at the Foundry in New York made Times
theater critic Charles McNulty’s list of “Best of 2013.”

As part of the award, all of the artists will participate in a one-week
residency at the California Institute of the Arts, which administers the
prize. Previous winners include esteemed art world figures such as
photographer and conceptual artist Carrie Mae Weems, video artist
Christian Marclay and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

Read more about the winners and the selection process at the Alpert
awards website.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

Source: Art, not politics led to dissident artist Tania Bruguera’s Herb
Alpert award – LA Times –

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