Thursday, November 29, 2007
it's later....time for more details.
So here's how it went down:
I was standing at the end of my balcony, thinking about this project and very faintly I heard a voice telling me to tape myself over completely with one hand available to cut myself out with scissors. It said to do this outside in the par across the street from Columbia's main buildings. The voice told me to hang the sculpture I had made over my taped body and that the rest was up to me.
I can't tell you where this came from, or who it was, but I like to believe that Ana Mendieta was speaking to me. Especially since she was such a spiritual person, and I'm not really (but working on it)....it's that much weirder for me. I like things to be explainable, but this definitely isn't so I'm just letting it be what it was.
I chose to follow these instructions but strayed from them in that I did this inside because of my recent illness and it being below freezing right now. I'm not sure if this was the most beneficial decision as it pertains to the performance, but personally it was the best decision for my health.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The following is a biography from Grove Art Online.
Mendieta, Ana(b Havana, 18 Nov 1948; d New York, 8 Sept 1985).
American sculptor, performance artist, video artist and painter of Cuban birth. From the age of 13, when she was sent to the USA from Cuba by her parents, she lived in orphanages and foster homes in Iowa. Her sense of exile and the separation from her family proved strong motivating forces on her later work. After completing an MA in painting at the University of Iowa in 1972, she entered the university’s new Multimedia and Video Art programme, in which she was free to experiment and develop a unique formal language, gaining an MFA in 1977.
In the 1970s Mendieta began to create ‘earth-body sculptures’ outdoors in Iowa, using the primal materials of blood, earth, fire and water, having first executed performances that she documented in photographs or black-and-white films. In the Silueta series she traced or sculpted the image of her body on the ground, using ignited gunpowder, leaves, grass, mud, stones, other natural elements or cloth. She visited Mexico in 1971 (and again in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1978) and Cuba in 1980 and 1981, thus re-establishing her connections with Latin America and stimulating her interest in the Afro-Caribbean Santería religion. Her Rupestrian Sculptures, carved in the rocks at the Escaleras de Jaruco in Cuba, refer to primitive goddess images.
Mendieta married Carl André in 1975 and lived from 1978 in New York. In 1983 she went to Rome on an American Academy Fellowship. There she created her first permanent objects in a studio setting. She extended and refined the principles of her early work in floor sculptures representing generalized female shapes, delicate and elegant drawings on leaves and bark paper, and large-scale sculptures in which her characteristic abstracted female silhouettes were burnt into tree trunks. Her feelings of alienation, which resulted not only from her exile but from her sense of being marginalized as a Latin American woman, were channelled into powerful, magical and poetic work. André was charged with her murder but acquitted.
SUSAN S. WEININGER© Oxford University Press 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I was out on my balcony, looking at the dark day and suddenly I heard her voice.
I don't even know if it was real, or if my brain is making it up...but thank you Ana for rewarding my patience.
More details later.
Monday, October 22, 2007
I'm being led by my intuition that I don't really want to contact others surrounding Ana Mendieta. I feel that when I read her words, experience her work (albeit through the medium of books), and filter through some of her published letters and interviews that I am having a direct conversation with her.
I keep hoping that she will come to me in a dream.
The thought just occured to me to see if any museums around Chicago or NY are exhibiting some of her work currently. Maybe I can get a more direct experience of her work that way.
If I find that something is exhibited I may take some tarot cards with me to throw while I sit in front of the work.
I keep telling myself that this is a process. I would love to complete everything today, but like everything else it takes time and I can only do today what I can do to my ability. Here's to hoping a museum in Chi has something of hers.
Monday, October 1, 2007
I stumbled upon an Article in the Tribune about Santa Muerte. And I started making connections between this figure and Ana Mendieta - what I've read in Where is Ana Mendieta? about how her trips to Mexico really impacted her and her work. Last night I also read a military article about How Santa Muerte is the Saint of those individuals on the "Fringes of Society." And although I found many of the opinions posited by the author to be very biased, the report is very research detailed and I learned a lot about Mexican culture and how death is viewed. I find it incredibly interesting that for those, as the author puts it, "whose lives are of crime or directly touched by crime" are so influenced by the notion of sacred death. Perhaps this notion of Sacred Death is hope by another name...
So how am I affected by my artist today? I think that because she was exiled and lived in this space between cultures, she understood and executed that position of "living between." I don't know another way to express it right now...maybe I'll have a more in depth understanding in a few weeks, but this is how my brain is wrapping itself today.
Things that I'm finding encompassed in Ana Mendieta's work:
Ritual -creating liminal spaces in the concrete world
Death as a Part of Life
The Bind of location/dislocation (exile)
The dualism of collective memory/forgetting
History and Nature
Identity and Nothingness
Connection and Void
And where does this leave me? I'll be thinking about this question all day today...and probably for a long time afterwards.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Here is Mendieta:
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Art and Politics
I'm not sure if I'm going to talk for 25 minutes.
The question of integrity in aesthetics is rather a mind boggling question for me, because I am an artist who feels that art is first of all a matter of vocation. Now vocation is a limiting factor, which extends even to the kind of art an artist is able to make. In other words, I believe an artist is limited to what he or she can give life to. I make the art I make because it's the only kind I can make. I have no choice. The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset said: "To be a hero, to be heroic, is to be oneself." I think the statement is particularly significant to the attitude an artist must have in society. Being endowed with thought, how can a person go through life without questioning himself? And being endowed with feeling, hoe can he or she remain indifferent?
It is only with a real and long enough awakening that a person becomes present to himself, and it is only with this presence that a person begins to live like a human being. To know oneself to know the world, and it is also paradoxically a form of exile from the world. I know that it is this presence of myself, this self-knowledge which causes me to dialogue with the world around me by making art.
I would like to make some general statements about culture. I like to think of culture as the memory of history. However, according to Levi-Strauss, culture is the combination of customs, beliefs, habits, and aptitudes acquired by man as a member of society. I believe that art, although is a material part of culture, its greatest value is its spiritual role and the influence that it exercises in society, because art is the result of a spiritual activity of man and its greatest contribution is to the intellectual and moral development of man. Culture is a historical phenomenon that evolves at the same level as society, and that is the problem we are facing today. To establish its empire over nature, it has been necessary for man to dominate other men, and to treat part of humanity like objects. Western civilization's most pervasive task has been the spread of technology and its claim to culture seems to be devoted to the assimilation of technology. I'd like to ask a question. Who speaks for the US today? And I'd like to answer the question. The advertising agencies.
I think that we all know that there are two cultures within this culture. One is the culture in which the ruling class, the reactionary class, pushes to paralyze the social development of man in an effort to have all society identify with, and serve their own interests. The banalize, mix, distort, and simplify life. They have no use for anything pure or real. The call this stylizing. In this way, they create a product, a style, which dominates mass communications, and now also the arts, in all of its manifestations. They call this cosmopolitan and international style. Believe me, friends, imperialism is not a problem of extension, but of reproduction. This is an old technique, it was not invented here. It was used in ancient times by the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. And so, authentic cultural traditions and manifestations in the arts denounce the falsehood of the civilizing mission of the ruling class. So, to mention what I said in my opening remarks, that to me art is a matter of vocation, must seem ridiculous to the bourgeois. The risk that real culture is running today is that if the cultural institutions are governed by people who are a part of the ruling class, then art can become invisible because they will refuse to assimilate it.
I feel that the very fact that you are here today is proof that there is another culture aside from ruling class culture. You know, the greatest comfort that great works of art give to me is not only my experience of them, but also the fact that they were created and that they exist. Now I'm sure that a lot for them were created in as adverse conditions as what we have today. And so that's proof, you know, that we will survive. And so the question of integrity in aesthetics is coming up again historically. It is personal question which each artist faces. It is a constant struggle. Hard times are coming, but I believe we who are artists will continue making our work. We will be ignored but we will be here. Thank you.
Source: Mendieta, Ana. Ana Mendieta Gallery Exhibition Cenro Galego de arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela July 23rd - October 13th, 1996. Santiago de Compostela: Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, 1996. p 167-168.
USING PLASTER WRAP FOR THE FIRST TIME
1. I opened the package and read the instructions. Instead of using petroleum jelly all over my face (which I didn't have anyway) I oped to use wet paper towels as a barrier between my skin and the plaster.
2. I cut the plaster wrap into strips. 6 strips that were 3"x 1/2" and around 8 or 10 larger strips were roughly 7" x 2 1/2 "
3. I filled my bathroom sink with warm water. (Note it was a mistake to use the sink because of the amount of clean up I had to do after I took off the mask to get all the plaster out.)
4. I wet paper towels and started applying them to my face smoothly. I made sure there were eye holes and nose holes.
5. After my face, hair, and part of my neck were covered with paper towels, I wet the first strip and applied it to my nose. (an interesting feeling the begin the mummification process on yourself alive and alone in my bathroom at 1 am)
6. I continued wetting and applying the plaster wrap to my face, ensuring that nose holes were clear. (no suffocation tonight please)
7. When it was time to shut my eyes, I covered them with paper towels first and then put a wetted plaster strip over them, completing the process of wrapping my face.
8. Feeling my way out of the bathroom, I came into my living room to lay on the floor and wait for the plaster to dry.
I really had no idea how long I was laying there because I attempted to enter into a meditative space. It was then that I gained many visceral reactions to what I have been reading about Ana Mendieta for the past two days, my project for visual images class that will grow out of this research and experience, and what process I will continue with this particular mask.
No wonder she documented her projects on film and thanks to the universe she did it. After tonight, I have a more full understanding of what she means in the following sentence from an artist statement: "I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I reestablish the bonds that tie me to the universe." (Viso, 47) Olga Viso goes on in her essay to point out that Mendieta was deeply moved by Octavio Paz's writing that this artist statement liberally borrows some of its language.
I'm definitely borrowing from Ana Mendieta tonight. The experience of lying on the floor with all ability to see and speak taken away from myself by myself combined with the heightened senses of touch due to the wet plaster and hearing because it is the only other sense I have left to perceive this world made for a highly spiritual experience. When looking at the stills of her work it is evident that a truly spiritual thing is happening when Ana Mendieta creates. When one does something to themselves as a sacrifice to make art; a bigger connection is made to the earth and the universe. I don't know how else to explain it. My weight was more real. My hearing was more real. I had to quiet myself to listen to what was going on within me and without. I thought I would be claustrophobic under the plaster, and I was for a few seconds, but then I let myself quiet down and begin to absorb. There is a power in that quiet that allows the mind to begin to create for itself and it got me to thinking about how to go about this project for visual images.
FULL BODY FRONTAL CAST
So I've been kicking this idea around my head for couple of days and talking about it with trusted fellow artist and friends. This is what came through my head as I lay on my living room floor...a brief outline of what I think I may do for this project. (It could change, who knows?):
1. I want to create a frontal body cast that will be attached to a canvas, painted with gesso completely white. On that, I want to inscribe the names of Iraq soldiers who have died leading out of the tear ducts going down the body, out onto the canvas, over the frame, out onto the walls, down onto the floor and leading out out out until all the names have been written.
2. Then I want to inscribe hundreds of times "Unknown Iraqis" all over my body and face in Henna. I want to create a piece of clothing that is a black censor bar for my breasts, butt, and vagina to wear and take photos everyday to document the disappearance of unknown Iraqis.
3. This will take help. I need at least three people to help me with the body cast because it will be a long process I will be in full mummy mode against a wall. True to Mendieta's practice, I will digitally video record the entire process of having myself plastered. I need someone to operate the camera and guide the process after I have been completely covered. Someone with grace to help me cover myself with wet paper towels without tearing them would be wonderful and then another individual to help to the actual process of plastering.
4. I will need to be in a very individually quiet place. I may need music to help me with this.
5. I should be able to do all of the prep work myself - cutting the plaster strips and mapping out the process for my fellow artists who I will lovingly ask to collaborate with me.
6. Materials: Paper towels, a bucket, plaster strips, plastic drop cloth, camera (video and photo), ample amounts of Henna, black duck tape for the censor clothing
7. My hope is to build a huge box that has the plaster casting with text on one side and a video player embedded on the other, with text going all over. This box will be in the middle of the room. The outer edge of the room will be all of the fading photos. I will wear the black censor clothing and walk in circles around the canvas box.
CONTINUING THIS EXPERIMENT
With this face plaster cast I want to create a sculpture/painting that comes off the board. I will attach with more plaster strips the mask to a foam core board or canvas. Then I will gesso over it as experimentation for this possible Lamentation. I don't know what comes next after the gesso with this experiment, but I will see. I'm letting myself have the permission and freedom to let the art go where it wants to go.
I'm a little uncertain, but although their lies some trepidation in the uncertainty I am finding there is true liberation on that edge.
I will post photos of the mask before I attach it to the board tomorrow. I'm exhausted.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Mendieta, Ana. Ana Mendieta A Book of Works. Miami Beach: Grassfield Press, 1993. (added September 20, 2007)
Mendieta, Ana. Ana Mendieta Gallery Exhibition Cenro Galego de arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela July 23rd - October 13th, 1996. Santiago de Compostela: Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, 1996. (added September 20, 2007)
Viso, Olga M. Ana Mendieta Earth Body Sculpture and Performance 1972-1985. Germany: Dr. Gantz'sche Drukerei, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004. (added Septmber 20, 2007)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The following information will help you begin your search:
Title: Project 2: Autobiographical History Presentation
Due: November 28, 2007
Description: You have been assigned an artist based on something you have in common - that is the shared initial of either your first or last (or both) name - perhaps you have even more in common...perhaps not. Finding that out is part of the assignment as well...therin lies the mystery.
Your artist is not living and working. She is dead and is included because she could have been your ocntemporary if fate had dealt a different, kinder hand...alas it did not...or perhaps it did...hmmm...where am I going with this you might ask just about now.
Your task is at least two-fold: you must research your artist - their life and work - and present that research. Each presentation will be in the 15-20 minute range. You must also attempt a connection with your artist and document your attempts. Some of you may be "successful" in that your artist responds to you and you have a conversation, a correspondence, perhaps you are invited to the studio and out to lunch, or dinner, or dare I say - breakfast! Even if you cannot "reach" your artist or eat any meals with them, you might still be a success if the documentation you present is appropriate and resonant with those efforts.
You should use all or any of these materials: texts, slides, drawings, videos, email, performance, song
I am not asking you to stalk this person - these are not celebrities. Use basic courtesy and common sense when approaching your artist.