Looking for Pasolini (searching for Ana Mendieta)

By Peter Brandt

On November 2, 1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini1 was murdered on the beach in Ostia just outside Rome. His body was run over by his own car several times and 17-year-old male prostitute Giuseppe Pelosi was arrested and convicted of killing Pasolini. Thirty years later, on May 7, 2005, he withdrew his confession, claiming that he had confessed due to threats to his family.

Was the assassination of Pasolini a political execution?
Rumours have been circulating since Pasolini's death and the case was reopened in 2005, but due to lack of evidence, the crime has never been resolved. Pasolini was assassinated 3 weeks before the premiere of his last film "Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodoma", a film based on Marquis de Sade's book of the same name and a highly controversial film dealing with political corruption, abuse of power and sexual torture.

On September 8, 1985, feminist body artist Ana Mendieta2 dropped 34 floors to her death from the window of her Greenwich Village apartment. The only person in the apartment was her husband, the prominent minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, who was arrested and charged with murder. Three years later, in 1988, Andre was acquitted of all charges related to her death for lack of evidence.

In the following decade, Ana Mendieta's death divided New York's art scene into two poles: supporters of Andre (high-profile white male artists, collectors and art critics) against supporters of Mendieta (feminist artists and cultural writers), a conflict that still exists and manifested itself through a series of demonstrations in connection with Carl Andre's retrospective museum exhibitions at Dia: Beacon in 2014, Tate Modern in 2016 and Moca Geffen in 2017 under the slogan "Where is Ana Mendieta?".

The two main characters never met, but in my view, they cross each other through the traces of violence represented in their respective work. Both Pasolini and Mendieta have been subjected to a demonization via their biography - that the (structural) violence they tried to uncover, analyse and represent was reduced to having an "inner" violence that manifested itself in a violent early death.

In January 2020 I have a residency at Circolo Scandinavo in Rome, where I will do research on the beach in Ostia, as well as review archive material at the American Academy where Ana Mendieta had a one year residency in 1983-84, in addition I will go to Pier Paolo Pasolini - Research Center and Archive in Bologna to go through the archive there. In the spring of 2020, I will be heading for New York to investigate the building (300 Mercer Street) as well as talking to relevant participants in the art scene from the 1980s.

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) was a highly controversial poet, film director, writer and intellectual. Pasolini distinguished himself as a poet, journalist, philosopher, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, painter and political figure.
Ana Mendieta (1948-1985), was a Cuban American body artist, sculptor, painter and video artist who subverted land-body art in the 1970s due to her ”earth-body” works with dealt with feminism, violence and a spiritual and physical connection to the earth.

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