Not really sure about artist Tania Bruguera's latest project, which entails her living as "an illegal immigrant in New York City" for one year.
She may mean well -- Bruguera will live in a Queens apartment with five other undocumented immigrants (plus their six kids) and work minimum-wage jobs without health insurance -- but the project presents itself as a bit stunted to me simply because it seems to address only one aspect of being an "illegal immigrant" (being poor) via a perspective that most of these said immigrants simply do not have the time to dwell on: art. Who is she communicating to?
With $85,000 in grants to support this, Bruguera has founded an organization that seeks to "blend politics and art to empower immigrants." A nice idea, until you realize that art may not exactly be the top priority on these people's minds.
It's strange that so many artists these days try to embrace being "down with the streets" when in fact they, and their bodies of work, originate and communicate from a highly elitist sensibility.
Will she at least produce usable reports of her investigations, on par with undercover journalist Günter Wallraff (I'm afraid this sort of thing has been done before by several journalists), or will the public have to follow her "art" in order to get any relevant information from her inevitably subjective experiences in this project?
Can I also add how relative the notion of poverty is, and how most of the rest of the globe would laugh at living in a Queens apartment making US minimum wage as a "difficult" life? Let's ask the people of rural Tanzania, who are actually better off than many of their African neighbors (photo from our February trip to East Africa):