“We Wish Anna Mendiata Was Still Alive” Protest of Carl Andre Retrospective

by Claire Filipek


The No Wave Performance Task Force left blood and guts in front of the Dia Art Foundation in honor of the late Ana Mendieta. (photo via Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic)

The feminist group No Wave Performance Task Force and artist Christen Clifford held a pungent protest that involved chicken blood and guts to pay homage to the late artist Ana Mendieta and object to the newly opened retrospective of her husband, Carl Andre. The title of their event was “We wish Anna Mendiata was still alive” and it took place in front of the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea NYC on Monday evening.  

Clifford spilling blood.  (photo via Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic)

In order to understand the protest and the importance of the chicken blood and guts, one must be familiar with the tragedy of Anna Mendiata. She was born in Cuba and raised in America, and started showing a body of work she called “earth-body” art in 1972, while a MA student at the University of Iowa. Soon after she started showing her work she debuted a performance-piece that involved her standing naked while holding a decapitated chicken. This piece gained her the attention of the art world. In 1979 she met Carl Andre, a Minimalist artist, and they got married six years later.  

On September 8, 1985, after a reported argument, Ana Mendiata somehow ”went out of the window” (Andre’s phrase during his emergency call to 911) of their 34th-floor Greenwich Village apartment. Andre was charged with murder, but acquitted three years later. However, Mendiata’s family and friends still believe that he was responsible for her death. Playwright Karen Malpede, who attended the Dia protest shared that she thinks Ana was thrown out of the window and went on to say, “I think every woman felt that. It felt like every woman artist in New York was getting a warning: this is what you get if you become too good.”

Now fast forward 30 years, Andre’s work is being showcased in an exhibit that Dia: Chelsea calls “the first museum survey of Andre’s entire oeuvre”. And people are understandably upset. This is a man that was labeled the “O.J. of the Art World” in the nineties by the Guerrilla Girls. Someone who deserves no promotion whatsoever. In protest, No Wave Performance Task Force donned white Tyvek jumpsuits, held a reading from the book “Who Is Ana Mendiata?”, and dramatically stabbed a chicken over a sign that read, “I wish Ana was still here”. 

The protest action was important, Mohammad Salemy, a Vancouver-and New York–based independent curator, told a reporter, because it helps to highlight “the invisible part of the iceberg … the ugliness in the art world. When people talk about Carl Andre’s retrospective at Dia, they’ll say there was a protest. You know how people say ‘let’s make history’? Let’s make art history.” The police were eventually called and the protest group packed up the banner leaving behind dry splotches of blood, a sickening smell, and the message that people still care about Ana Mendieta and she will never be forgotten. 

Workers from Dia attempting to clean up the mess. (photo via Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic)

Footage of the protest can be seen in the YouTube video: 

Via Hyperallergic

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