Tania Bruguera

Made in India

2001

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Not on display

Artist
Tania Bruguera born 1968
Medium
Cotton, glass, paper and tea
Dimensions
Overall display dimensions variable
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Pinta Museum Acquisitions Program 2012
Reference
T13574

Summary

Made in India comprises an Indian dress which has had used teabags sewn on to its front and train. The dress is made from cotton and has panels of un-dyed (homespun) and red fabric on the front, with a monochrome red back that is decorated with small mirrors. Bruguera sewed numerous overlapping used teabags over the white panels on the front of the dress, leaving the central red panel exposed. The work was made during a residency which Bruguera completed in India in 2001 at the Kohj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi. During her residency, Bruguera customised the dress and wore it in a performance that took the form of a procession. The finished work therefore acts as a relic of her performance as well as a sculptural object.

Made in India addresses the theme of deculturalisation (the removal or abandonment of one’s own culture in favour of another) in colonial and postcolonial contexts. As an Indian product, tea was originally imported to Britain but was effectively assimilated, rebranded as British, and then exported back to India. Bruguera uses this as emblematic of a situation widespread in colonial power relations, globalisation and cultural imperialism. As she has stated:

As happened in India with tea, our own realities are more and more co-opted, repacked and sent back to us with pre-digested meaning; they are defined by the media. Like the British Empire before, now corporations control the news and therefore History.
(Quoted in La Biennale di Venezia 2005, pp.126–7.)

While the work has a very specific origin and context then, it is also intended to make a wider commentary on our relationship to power and history.

Made in India relates to another, much larger installation work entitled Poetic Justice (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), which Bruguera made in 2002–3 following her Kohj residency. The work consisted of a narrow corridor, the interior of which was covered in a similar overlapping arrangement of used teabags. Eight small LCD screens were placed at intervals among the teabags, showing selected documentary images, the choice of which ‘focused on those images in which it was hard to pinpoint a particular time or place’ (quoted in La Biennale di Venezia 2005, pp.126–7). Made in India is a precursor to this installation.

Cuban-born Bruguera began her career during the mid-1980s making performance pieces and earned international recognition as part of a generation of Cuban artists who came to prominence during the 1990s. She continues to make performances and installations that address the relationship between art, politics and everyday life, including Tatlin’s Whisper #5 2008 (Tate T12989).

Further reading
Tania Bruguera, Tania Bruguera, exhibition catalogue, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice 2005.

Tanya Barson
June 2011

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