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Responding to the invigorated voice activism has found online, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (@TaniaBruguera) employs Instagram as an activist platform, exploring the connections between art, activism, and political change, and how social media bridges gaps in communication and catalyzes radical thought.
For Performa’s first Digital Commission, Bruguera engages followers as online citizens with the hashtag #instacitizen, using as her medium the Internet's emergent role as civic arena and the immediacy with which information travels between nodes on a network; user to user, and platform to platform. Mobilizing collective responsibility, the artist engages individual participation within these global and online spaces, lending anyone a stage and a voice to share their experiences endlessly, widely, and informally. Fueling unexpected actions and interactions where the boundaries between performer and audience are blurred by the open and rhizomatic nature of the platform, Bruguera's performance spans across social media, bridging conversations between Instagram and Twitter to implicate an ever-wider audience within image- and text-based actions. With an assigned date, time, and duration, Bruguera’s performance is firmly situated in the real and the live, where a seated audience at the Performa Hub watches her interact digitally and further shifts expectations of what it means to perform online.
Contributors are encouraged to tag their responses @TaniaBruguera in addition to the hashtag #instacitizen, entering into direct dialogue with the artist, fellow contributors, and the audience online. Bruguera, as well, invites users to log into her own account to post these stories and thoughts, trusting her followers with her private data and transforming herself into a social platform; facilitating dialogue and exchange, bearing the consequences of any activity that might unfold under her name, and allowing participants to post with full anonynimity if they so choose.
Following the live performance, the project continues to live beyond Bruguera’s initial instigation, allowing her followers to serve as their own agitators of online activism, creating a wide-reaching and self-propelled platform towards social change.
Image credit: Tania Bruguera, Tatlin's Whisper #5 at Tate Modern, 2008; photo by Sheila Burnett, courtesy of Tate Modern and Studio Bruguera.