While Art Basel tends to be known for the multimillion-dollar paintings and sculptures on view in the convention center, there is a history of provocative performance works in and around the fair. In 2008, for instance, Marina Abramović did a performance in which she lay for hours beneath a human skeleton.
This year brings an event that promises to be just as edgy, and even potentially controversial: the artist Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo, known as Puppies Puppies, is staging a performance after Ana Mendieta’s 1973 performance Untitled (Rape), in which Mendieta used her own body to stage the aftermath of a rape. The event comes with a warning that it not accessible to those under 18.
According to Kuriki-Olivo’s Paris gallery, Balice Hertling, she refers to what will transpire as a “constellation” of performances that will open with a two-and-a-half-hour-long “experimental lecture about her work and traumatic experiences such as rape,” after which she will recreate Mendieta’s original performance for three hours. Then, someone will drape the artist’s naked body in a transgender flag.
The event is curated by Samuel Leuenberger. Balice Hertling is presenting it, and an accompanying sculpture by the artist, in partnership with gallerists Francesca Pia, Barbara Weiss, and Hannah Hoffman.
Mendieta originally did the performance in April 1973, in her apartment in Iowa City, as a response to the rape and murder of a nursing student the previous month. Through a partially open door, viewers saw Mendieta bent over a table, her underpants around her ankles and her buttocks and legs covered in blood. The performance is known primarily through photographic documentation.
Mendieta, who died in 1985 (her then husband Carl Andre was tried and acquitted for pushing her out the window of the couple’s New York apartment), later said of the student’s rape that it “moved and frightened” her. On a different occasion, she said that she did the performance “as a reaction against the idea of violence against women.”
In addition to the reenactment, which is scheduled to take place at the Scala Basel on June 18, as part of Art Basel’s “Parcours” program, Puppies Puppies is showing a new, life-size bronze sculpture of a trans woman in the style of ancient Greek statuary. Its title refers to transphobia and fighting for the rights of trans women. The piece is to form a kind of coda to the performance: draped in the flag, the artist plans to walk from Scala to the sculpture, apply makeup and lipstick to the sculpture, and kiss herself.