The association was started by Tania Bruguera through her project Immigrant Movement International. Viewers are transformed into activated users, shifting the role of art from the passive realm of aesthetics to one of action and activism. An example is Tatlin’s Whisper 5, held at Tate Modern in which mounted police enacted crowd control, corralling visitors and controlling their movements.
The name comes from the Manifesto de Arte Util written by the Argentine artist Eduardo Costa in 1969. The Useful Art Association has worked alongside a number of artists and institutions to create work that has a purposeful practicality. At the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven the association set up an exhibition where they asked questions such as how can the museum be a civic institution for production? And how can art change the way we act? As Bruguera describes it, ‘useful art is about transforming people’s lives, even on a small scale. It is art as activism and activism as art’.