“So will I build my altar in the fields, / And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be, / And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields / Shall be the incense I will yield to thee.” In these Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s verses (To Nature, 1820), building and yielding are not only gestures but they both represent extremities within which humans should have an effect on earth, a connection to transcend it. Ana Mendieta (Havana, 1948 – New York,1985) used both building and yielding, shrouded in nature, to transcend not only her effects on earth but even stills and moving images, documenting her performative interventions.
In her practice she bridged Land Art, Conceptualism, Body art and feminism, and by inscribing her shape into the archaeological landscape, it was as if the artist had subtly merged with that place and its past, building, chiselling an ephemeral track into it. She was operating as an artist in time, with contemporary gestures and artistic approaches, while ritually connected to the past. Today only her films are uniquely capable of expressing her work’s durational aspect, though her actions in the environment often lasted longer than the movies themselves. But just in the last five years this dimension has been properly enhanced and peculiarly delved into.
Also due to the exhibition “Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972–1985”, organized by Olga Viso in 2004, in 2013, at the Hayward Gallery, the traveling exhibition Ana Mendieta: Traces, showed more than a dozen films. For the first time an exhibition paid a real attention to Mendieta’s moving images.
The fully detailed inventory of all the artist’s films and videos, demonstrate that between 1971 and 1981 Ana Mendieta realized 104 moving image artworks: 75 of them take place in nature, 38 feature fire and 19 of the films feature water. Making 8-mm and 16-mm films, Mendieta created an archive, along with a large collection of 35-mm slides and photographic negatives. Shot primarily with a Bolex Super 8 camera at eighteen frames per second, Mendieta’s films are silent and her videos, with one exception, have only ambient sound, and are usually no longer than the length of a single roll of film, approximately three minutes and twenty seconds.
Thus, after three-year collaborative research project on the artist’s moving image practice, conducted by the Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, Galerie Lelong & Co., and the University of Minnesota, a brand new exhibition was born as the largest gathering of the artist’s filmic work. It’s about Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta curated by Lynn Lukkas and Howard Oransky an art path which started its exhibition tour at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (September 15 - December 12, 2016), travelling to the NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale (February 28–July 3, 2016), then to University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (November 9, 2016 – February 12, 2017) eventually achieving Paris at Jeu de Paume (October 10, 2018 – January 27, 2019).
The exhibition title comes from a statement made by the artist about her work in an interview with Linda Montano: “[I]n 1973 I did my first piece in an Aztec tomb that was covered in weeds and grasses— that growth reminded me of time. I bought flowers at the market, lay in the tomb, and was covered with white flowers. The analogy was that I was covered by time and history.”
On view a Place de la Concorde, Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta encompasses 20 films, 27 related photographs and a documentary short film Ana Mendieta: Nature Inside by Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, who also collected, in a vitrine, nearby Jeu de Paume, a film-making ephemera and equipment. Thanks to the research and restoration project, the exhibition includes the following six films: Blood Inside Outside, 1975 (No. 35), Untitled: Silueta Series, 1978 (No. 62), Untitled: Silueta Series, 1978 (No. 66), Untitled: Silueta Series, 1979 (No. 72), Untitled: Silueta Series, 1979 (No. 73) and Untitled, 1981 (no. 101). The films are presented, in a completely darkened environment, as distinct and individual artworks; each projected to the scale preferred by the artist and run continuously throughout the duration of the exhibition, allowing for repeated viewings, careful study, comparisons between the artworks, and a spectrum of aesthetic experience. The most intense movies are the three last filmworks in the exhibition.
Here the acts of building and yielding, immersed in her motherland, transcend not only the artist effects on earth but even time and space of moving images themselves.
All made in 1981, they form a trilogy, maybe a presage or her almost imminent, definitive return to the earth: Esculturas Rupestres (Rupestrian Sculptures), Untitled and Ochún. Ochún is a video produced off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida. The silueta figure here points towards Cuba, the waters between Florida and Cuba rippling through its form. Ochún, who owes her name to a Santería goddess, transforms the pain of separation into a restrained poem made of human nature altars.
- Exhibition Title:
- Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta
- Opening dates:
- From October 10, 2018 to January 27, 2019
- Curated by:
- Lynn Lukkas and Howard Oransky
- Jeu de Paume
- 1 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris