(Re)Marks of abuse: Gender violence in contemporary feminists of color art
In 1973, Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta invited friends and fellow students to witness a performance piece staged at her Moffit Street apartment in Iowa City, USA. Upon entering Mendieta’s slightly ajar front door, viewers witnessed her body, naked from the waist down, smeared with blood, bent over, and tied to a table. Referencing the recent rape and murder of an Iowa University student by a fellow student, Mendieta’s performance Rape Scene 1973 Moffit Street, Iowa City, Iowa, made direct connections between gender and sexual violence, a victim’s gendered and racialised body, and the emotional impact of trauma. Mendieta’s ‘direct identification with a specific victim meant that she could not be seen as an anonymous object in a theatrical tableau. Her performances presented the specificity of rape, through which she hoped to break the code of silence that renders it anonymous and general, denying the particular and the personal’. (Reckhitt & Phelan 2001: 98) Mendieta’s use of her own body makes specific remarks on violence against women of colour. In addition, the setting of Mendieta’s apartment impacted her audience on an intimate level, and reminded them of their physical proximately to the issue of rape on college campuses. Indeed, she directs attention to the concept that rape most often happens in the private sphere, unlike the public dark alleyways often depicted in media.