My first visit to the Hayward Gallery on Southbank in London, and the exhibition which was most intriguing was Ana Mendieta’s Traces. She died suddenly when she was in her thirties and it was tragic to think all that potential being left unexplored.
However, she was incredibly prolific and there were many huge gallery rooms to go around and take in. I’ve a written a poem that takes some of her works point by point, and I’m going to intersperse her works throughout the piece to give a visual. Much of her work was performance based, and she thoroughly documented each stage of it, then would choose one photographic still to represent the completed work. She also used video. Much of her work was untitled. All work belongs to: The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection.
Hopefully you’ll get a sense of her through this combined piece. There is humour in the strangeness of her work, but tenderness and passion and depth as well.
Here is how to begin
Dip your hands in blood,
hold a chicken by it’s feet
with your clothes off and let
it struggle just below
your naked midriff
do not move, do not say anything.
Take your clothes off again,
ask your friends to glue grass to your back
as you lie face down in a field
think of nothing.
Bend over a table for two hours
without moving, cold blood on your legs.
Apply a pane of glass to your body
rearrange your breasts so that
one nipple is squashed flat,
the other puffs from the glass’s edge.
Place a lamb’s heart on your bandaged chest,
explore gun powder,
scorch the imprints of leaves into dead wood.
Arrange candles around your body,
step back and set them on fire.
When people ask what you are doing
tell them that gluing a single feather
to each pore of a person’s skin
is a work of intense labour
not easily forgotten.