Art21 Extended Play

Tania Bruguera and the Art of Empowerment

A model posing for a painting by Aliza Nisenbaum. Production still from the series ART21 Exclusive. © ART21, Inc. 2015. Courtesy the artist.

“The idea of sitting face to face, it’s a very intimate experience. Having a model and painting them always makes people open up.” —Aliza Nisenbaum

Today’s ART21 Exclusive features Immigrant Movement International (IMI), an ongoing project initiated by artist Tania Bruguera in 2010, located in Corona, Queens, New York. IMI functions as a community space where art and education are used to empower immigrants personally and politically. Bruguera says that by engaging with contemporary art “[immigrants] understand how to work from their fear and the limitations they put on themselves once they enter this country.” Artist Aliza Nisenbaum, who taught an English class at IMI using art, painted portraits of her students. “A lot of these women are people that hide in some way,” says Nisenbaum. “I was trying to give a sense of agency to the women that were here in terms of finding their voice, in terms of art, and in terms of basic English skills.” Members of Tletlpapalotzin, an Aztec dance group, perform a traditional ceremony at IMI’s Community Celebration Day and discuss their experiences as immigrants living in New York City. “For me being in a ceremony gives me the strength to go forward day to day,” says Tletlpapalotzin member Ana Ramirez. “It gives me pleasure to work together with my family of the Tletlpapalotzin group.”

Tania Bruguera has been arrested multiple times in Cuba since December 2014, with her passport currently being held by the Cuban authorities. For the latest updates, follow Yo También Exijo.

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Wesley Miller & Susan Sollins. Camera: Jarred Alterman, Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Richard Gin & Merce Williams. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Tania Bruguera & Aliza Nisenbaum. Special Thanks: Neshi Galindo, Immigrant Movement International, Queens Museum, Ana Ramirez, Vero Ramirez & Tletlpapalotzin. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

ART21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel; and by individual contributors.