Memorable Art World Activism of 2014

Happy New Year! This is the first post of 2015 and this will be the last nostalgic post for a while (maybe). In the tradition of posting lists of memorable happenings, I wanted to look back at 2014 and examine some of the memorable acts of activism from within the art world.

1) Activists Protest Carl Andre Exhibit in Recognition of Ana Mendieta
The death of artist Ana Mendieta is still one of NYC’s darkest mysteries. On the night of September 8, 1985, Mendieta was arguing with her husband, artist Carl Andre, and ended up falling from the couples’ 34th story window. In the words of Carl Andre “she went out the window” in the course of the argument. In 1988, Andre was tried and acquitted in the death of Mendieta. It has long been surmised that she was thrown out the window. Feminist art collective The No Wave Performance Task Force agrees with the latter and let their thoughts be seen in a poignant protest and tribute to Mendieta in front of Carl Andres’ retrospective at Dia in Chelsea. One evening, the collective strewed blood and chicken guts on the Chelsea sidewalk outside the gallery onto a sign that proclaimed “I Wish Ana Mendieta Was Still Here.”

2) Tania Bruguera Arrested in Cuba over Public Performance
This one technically happened right before the New Year, although the aftermath of performance artist Tania Bruguera’s detainment by Cuban authorities continues. The artist was set to stage a public art performance about the freedom of speech in Havana, when she was detained by authorities. She was later released but arrested again when staging a press conference. Currently, the artist is restricted from leaving the country while authorities are deciding whether to pursue criminal charges.  This all comes shortly after president Obama announced a renewed diplomacy with Cuba would be in order.  Below is the video of the performance she was to re-enact called “Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version)” which was performed at the 2009 Bienal de La Habana.

El Susurro de Tatlin #6 (versión para La Habana) from Estudio Bruguera on Vimeo.

3) Carry That Weight
Columbia University art student Emma Sulkowicz was sexually assaulted by a classmate, yet the school didn’t proceed to act and discipline the classmate. Therefore in an extremely profound act of protest (and the best performance piece of 2014 in my opinion), Sulkowicz will carry a dormitory mattress throughout campus until her alleged rapist leaves Columbia, or when they both graduate together.

4) Activists Protest the David H. Koch’s Plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
On the event of the grand opening of the David H. Koch’s new plaza at the met, a group of artists and activists gathered to protest the climate denier and conservative philanthropist’s ties to the museum. Three members of The Illuminator collective were arrested when they projected protest images onto the museum.

5) Artists Respond to Ferguson in a Performance
Artists Whitney V. Hunter and Preach R. Sun staged a performance as protest at Union Square in Manhattan in protest of the shooting of an unarmed young black man named Michael Brown by a Ferguson Police Officer. Hunter traced his silhouette 101 times to create the iconic white chalk outlines seen at crime scenes, while Preach R. Sun stood at the site of Mike Brown’s memorial in Ferguson, MO and counted to 313. The number  represented the 313 black men gunned down in 2012 by law enforcement officials.


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