Tate Modern Protesters Fight for Deceased Artist Ana Mendieta
The memory of Ana Mendieta has, for the most part, been either long forgotten or infrequently dredged up as something of an art world curiosity. The Cuban-born artist, married to the successful minimalist Carl Andre, was only 36 when she fell to her death from the couple’s 34th floor Greenwich Village apartment. The two had been both drinking and arguing, which was by no means out of the ordinary, when Mendieta “went out the window,” as Andre put it in his 911 call. A doorman below heard a woman screaming “no.” Andre had scratches on his face. He was later charged and acquitted of second-degree murder.
Suicide, murder, or accident – the debate has long been the subject of books, press, and protests. While Andre has enjoyed continued success, however, Mendieta’s memory has been reduced to that of her death: a high-profile whodunit without answer, repeatedly plagued by continued speculation. Those who believe Andre a murderer have taken recently to spilling chicken blood at his retrospective in 2015, and now, picketing the opening of the Tate Modern’s new building.
The Tate owns five of Mendieta’s works and ten of Andre’s, but is only displaying selections of the latter at its inaugural exhibition. In protest, over 150 people stormed the building’s artists’ preview, carrying flyers that read “CARL ANDRE KILLED ANA MENDIETA.” They chanted and spoke in part about her life and work, eventually pressing up against the museum’s windows, hoping to disrupt the proceedings within.
It’s easy to capitalize on Mendieta’s death as a poignant example of cultural erasure and gendered violence; however, I worry that her memory is becoming too attached to that of her possible murderer, or just being reduced to grist for related activism. The protests in London are a powerful call for her inclusion in modern art narratives, but the rhetoric remains focused on Andre. Sure, speeches on her life remind us of the person behind the name, but these demonstrations often only crop up on occasions relevant to Andre, and his name is said at least as many times as hers.
I love and applaud the protestors for their actions, but is it not possible that Mendieta may be suffering a cultural erasure, if not by the art institution, than at least as a byproduct of the very protests that seek to revivify her name? Even if “Carl Andre killed Ana Mendieta,” she need not be only a murder victim. One must wonder, however, if there is a better place and time to raise these issues. That’s the real tragedy – that Ana Mendieta’s memory will forever be second to that of her untimely death.
— CaoimheMc (@CaoimheMMC) June 14, 2016
Lead image via Hyperallergic
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