Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the same vein...

This is a video by Marina Abramovic, not Ana Mendieta. Although I find it very interesting that their first and last initials are replacements of one another. This video piece is very similar to Mendieta's On Giving Live Series executed in 1975.

Here is Mendieta:

Please visit: to see other images

Here is Abramovic:

Untitled #2 - Ana Mendieta

Continuing The Experiment

WOW...I've actually been doing work durnig the day. Been building up the canvas so that the face looks as if it is breaking out of it, yet still confined.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mask Work

Some photos of the mask after it dried overnight:

Ana Mendieta's Words

The following text was read by Ana Mendieta on February 18th 1982 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

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.

Holy Shit

As I sit here typing this post at 2 am after using Plaster Wrap to make a complete mask of my face I am filled with many, many ideas and reflections on Ana Mendieta and myself. I think before I list those, I will describe the process I performed this evening (well morning actually) to make a plaster copy of my face.


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.


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.


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

Ongoing Bibliography

Blocker, Jane. Where is Ana Mendieta? Durham: Duke University Press, 1999. (added 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

You're mission, should you choose to accept it...

Grad Student ANNIE PERRY , you have been assigned Ana Mendieta, an influential performance and video artist to research, present, and create artwork as a response to for the VISUAL IMAGES course at Columbia College Chicago.

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.