Inessential views of art and photography.
The new hang of Tate Modern opened the summer exhibition season in the UK. Unfortunately the artists’ preview made the media rounds for the wrong reasons: Ana Mendieta’s have been completely forgotten, while work by her former partner and alleged murderer Carl Andre was featured in the new hang of the collection. This has happened before. One would think that the Tate Modern would have learned a lesson taught 24 years ago. If only …
Luckily, over 150 #feminist activists stormed the opening demanding the Tate Modern to explain why even though they claim to recognize the“contribution made by many women who have been overlooked for many reasons”, Ana Mendieta’s work remains in storage. As one of the activists explains, their protest is one of many, neccessary ones in order to disrupt the patriarchal and colonial orders in the artworld.
Indeed, seeing Ana Mendieta’s work in a gallery space is a rare privilege. Surprisingly, her work has often been featured in exhibitions in the North West of Spain, an area that is otherwise considered quite conservative. Since its opening in 2005, the MUSAC (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon) has featured Ana Mendieta five times. Although their collection only includes two pieces: Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints) and Untitled (Rape Scene), they are very powerful, highly contemporary (#rapeculture) and address both political issues (#gender, #objectification) as well as conceptual themes (reproduction of reality through lens-based media).
From 1996 to 1997, a retrospective of Mendieta’s work framed within the discourse of cultural fusion was organized by Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea and after its inaugural stop in Santiago de Compostela, it travelled to Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Miami and Los Angeles. Although I was too young at the time to even have begun to pay attention to contemporary art, let alone feminist one, a few months ago I found a copy of the exhibition catalogue.
Cultural and gender struggle is all over Ana Mendieta’s work. Her photographs, performances, land-art and installations shake past, contemporary and future audiences with their rawness. The use of nature, sustainable materials and body fluids makes her work atemporal and intriguing. Probably the most useful part of the exhibition catalogue edited by CGAC is the inclusion of some of Mendieta’s written notes and ideas in progress. They enable the reader to gain access to her way of thinking. We are allowed to look into her creative process and imagine what would have been …
Important ideas, p. 201. First line reads: TO MAKE A VOLCANO, how awesome is that?
My interest in Mendieta’s work had mainly focused on her lens-based outputs and performances using blood and feathers. As I leafed through the catalogue, however, I started to pay closer attention to her land-art and her use of natural materials, soft forms and how both her persona and her ideas merge with the environment. What was she trying to tell us?
Charles Merewether writes that the transgressive character of Mendieta’s work is strengthened by her compromise with the place, the materials and processes in an attempt to reveal the ephemerality of live and the unbearable immediacy that exclusion and otherness imprint on human beings (p. 125). It is not only unfortunate but reproachable, and to be honest disgusting, that the very condition Mendieta highlighted with her work still oppresses her, even 30 years after her death.
Want to know more about Ana Mendieta? We wrote another post on her and Francesca Woodman’s work a while ago.