Biennale of Sydney

Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera, ‘UNNAMED’, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Cockatoo Island. Originally commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA for presentation at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Photographs: Zan Wimberley

Tania Bruguera

Born 1968 in Havana, Cuba
Lives and works in Havana and New York, USA

Tania Bruguera is an artist and activist whose performances and installations examine political power structures and their effect on society's most vulnerable people. Her long-term projects have been intensive interventions into the institutional structure of collective memory, education and politics.

Between 2015 and 2018, at least 751 people were killed for interfering in activities by companies and states that would devastate local environments such as water and dams, mining and extractives, agribusiness, poaching, logging, fishing, roads and utilities and Others. This number shows only those killings that have been reported.

These killings continue centuries of resource-related violence perpetrated by colonisers and private enterprise. It is part of an ongoing tapestry of ecocide where lives and ecologies are forcibly transformed into resources and infrastructure, that is, wealth and power. The cost is human and, as we are becoming increasingly aware through climate change and the Anthropocene, humankind. This exploitation, unlike the lives and landscapes, seems infinitely renewable.

In a way these land and environment defenders are the people that are fighting our fight, fighting for all of us. When we see the numbers – almost 200 people died every year in different parts of the world – then we understand not only how we are all interconnected but that we are also responsible. UNNAMED is a participatory performance that forces empathy and remembrance, bringing visibility to this environmental-related violence around the world. Participants have a selected name inscribed onto their bodies to personalise the data and to contrast the magnitude of these issues with the individual solitary reaction to them; you are only one person, only one member of the public, only human.

Their names and the story that is shared with us breaks down the indifference to disaster brought on by news media and cuts through our inability to comprehend mass devastation. What does 751 look like? What does 7 billion look like? The name, marked onto our bodies, helps us to understand. 751 stories are presented in UNNAMED as antidotes to indifference, feelings of insignificance and inaction.

Courtesy the artist

Exhibited at