Exhibitions - Arte Útil

Tania Bruguera
Arte Útil

02.17.13 – 06.02.13

Arte Útil in Spanish roughly translates as useful art, but also suggests art as a device or tool. Arte Útil imagines, creates and implements socially beneficial outcomes. The Arte Útil Lab is a working laboratory that will test hypotheses on the usefulness of art.


The artworks in the Arte Útil Lab are propositions to generate and refine our thinking through public conversation. The Lab contains projects that will be activated, as well as archival material culled from our ongoing research of existing projects. During the Lab, resident artists, working groups, and public discussions will test hypotheses, furthering the conversation and realizing new and existing Arte Útil.


The Arte Útil Lab is the first part of a year-long investigation initiated by the artist Tania Bruguera that includes an online archive, an association of Arte Útil practitioners, an open-call, a publication, and a series of public projects and debates culminating in the transformation of a building at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands into the Museum of Arte Útil in the fall of 2013.


Arte Útil roughly translates as “useful art,” however, Arte Útil in Spanish also suggest art as a device or tool, and it is  in that spirit of artistic utilitarianism that the Queens Museum of Art is transforming its first floor galleries into an  Arte Útil Lab. Originally conceived by the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, Arte Útil Lab is not an exhibition, but rather an  investigative space that will evolve throughout its run as new projects explore this concept by creating artistic tools  for transformation and for social interaction; tools that address current real-world issues and challenge the role of art  as an exercise on representation and as a practice separated from life. 




Arte Útil Lab at QMA will have two main physical components: The Library & The Lab. The Library consists of  objects and documentation of historical and ongoing projects that fulfill many Arte Útil critera. The Lab section  functions as an open storage for objects that will become Arte Útil when they are socially activated during the run of  the project. The Lab will host working groups that would be discussing and producing examples of Arte Útil throughout the time the lab is open, with a final presentation of the hypothesis to the general public. The Library  and Lab will both continue to expand, as new projects are added from submissions gathered through an open call on  the web site arteutil.net. The website will eventually house a growing online archive of Arte Útil projects from the  past three decades that have been gathered by Tania Bruguera and Chief Researcher Gemma Medina. 




Starting Spring 2013 will include three artist residencies at Immigrant Movement International, Tania Bruguera’s artist  project and community space located in our neighborhood of Corona, which has been serving the local (im)migrant communities for the past two years. Two international and one NYC artists will work directly with IM International  members to collaboratively develop and implement Arte Útil projects on immigration through the Summer of 2013. 




The experiences and discussions that emerge from the public research undertaken in the first two phases will inform  the creation of the Arte Útil Museum to be presented at the Van Abbemusuem in the fall of 2013. The project will  culminate in a publication of the research findings.




As a lab, this project does not present answers, but tests hypotheses. The endeavor is to find projects that fulfill as  many as possible of the criteria listed below. Arte Útil should: 


1- Propose new uses for art within society 


2- Challenge the field within which it operates (civic, legislative, pedagogical, scientific, economic,  among others) 


3- Be ‘timing specific,’ responding to current urgencies 


4- Be implemented and function in real situations 


5- Replace authors with initiators and spectators with users 


6- Have practical, beneficial outcomes for its users 


7- Pursue sustainability whilst adapting to changing conditions 


8- Re-establish aesthetics as a system of transformation 




The Lab will host public workshops testing hypotheses critical to formulating the principals of Arte Útil including  questions of aesthetics, ethical responsibility, sustainability, reproducibility and accessibility under these four sections: Aest-ethics: Moral Aesthetics in Arte Útil; Access & Replication Mechanisms; Project Ecosystem Management; and  Usefulness as Ideology. Hypotheses will be tested by bringing experts/practitioners in to challenge or support these  questions and by analyzing the case studies in the Lab. The events will be recorded in a lab book that will enter the  archive. 




Tania Bruguera is one of the leading political and performance artists of her generation. Bruguera’s work researches  ways in which Art can be applied to the everyday political life; creating a public forum to debate ideas shown in their  state of contradictions and focusing on the transformation of the condition of “viewer” onto one of “citizenry.”  Bruguera uses the terms ARTE DE CONDUCTA (conduct/ behavior art) and ARTE ÚTIL (useful art) to define her  practice. 


Bruguera has participated in Documenta, Performa, Venice, Gwangju and Havana Biennales and at exhibitions at  mayor museums in Europe and United States including the Tate Modern, The WhitechapelGallery, PS1, ZKM, IVAM,  Kunsthalle Wien, and The New Museum of Contemporary Art. Her work is part of the collection of the Tate Modern;  Museum für Moderne Kunst; Daros Foundation; Museo del Barrio; Bronx Museum; IVAM; Museo Nacional de Bellas  Artes, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam. A graduate of the MFA programs at The School of the Art  Institute of Chicago (United States) and Instituto Superior de Arte (Cuba), Bruguera is also the Founder / Director of  Arte de Conducta; the first politic art studies program in the world, hosted by Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana.  She is visiting faculty at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, IUAV in Venice and Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. 


The Arte Útil Lab is originated by Tania Bruguera, with research by Gemma Medina. It is organized at the Queens Museum of Art by Adrianne Koteen, Prerana Reddy, and Diya Vij in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum. The Lab is supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation. Additional support provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.