A sizable portion of the population that Modest Needs serves is the working poor, the disabled, those hit by unemployment. These individuals and families deal with the burden of living paycheck to paycheck day in and day out. They know what it is like to choose between wants and needs. They know the value of a dollar.
Not everyone is in this situation. One such person is Tania Bruguera, an artist, who plans to pretend to be poor:
Though she's shown her past work at various revered art institutions around the world, Bruguera will live for the next 12 months in an apartment in Corona, Queens, with five illegal immigrants and their six American-born children. She will work minimum-wage jobs and attempt to scrape by without health insurance. In other words, she'll live as millions of people in the United States—legal or no—already do, she'll just be doing it for art's sake.
One thing immediately setting Bruguera apart from her immigrant roommates is that her project is being supported by $85,000 in grants from various arts organizations. With that money, Bruguera has founded Immigrant Movement International. The group operates out of a renovated storefront and seeks to "blend politics and art to empower immigrants." The only problem is that most of the immigrants in Bruguera's neighborhood aren't really interested in an art project.
They ask for English classes, jobs and legal help—services outside [Bruguera's] training. "They don’t want any art at all," Ms. Bruguera said. They want "very concrete and mundane things," she said. "This is what their life is."
While it is impossible to know the true intent of Bruguera in taking on this project, to say that it might leave plenty of people with bad tastes in their mouths, is likely an understatement. She's getting a large grant for taking on the struggles that millions of Americans face every day--a grant that could be used to change the lives of thousands of the working poor.
Is this project one that will inform and enlighten others about the hardships of those living on the edge of poverty's door? Or is it selfish exploitation of individuals who have no choice in the matter of how they live?
Let us know your thoughts on this already controversial art project wherein a woman pretends to be poor for an entire year, and the art foundation she plans to set up with her $85,000 grant.