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El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem has canceled its retrospective of Chilean filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky’s work after evaluating public remarks the artist has made since 1972 about raping his co-star on screen in the making of his 1970 film El Topo.
The museum had planned to screen Jodorowsky’s new film Psychomagic: A Healing Art (2018), along with El Topo and a tarot reading by the artist, as part of the retrospective.
In December 2017, Helen O’Hara published a report with The Telegraph detailing the disturbing underbelly of the well-known avante-garde film. O’Hara resurfaced a passage in Jodorowsky’s El Topo: A Book of the Film (1972) that detailed the actual rape he carried out on his co-star, Mara Lorenzio. At one point, he grimly admits “After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed. Then [Lorenzio] told me that she had been raped before.” In a 2007 interview with Empire magazine, Jodorowsky altered his confession to say, “I didn’t rape Mara, but I penetrated her with her consent.”
O’Hara continues to unpack the gendered violence occurring on screen, saying, “And even if Lorenzio did consent, given the power imbalance between a debutante actress and the charismatic director/star on a film’s set, the degree of that consent must be up for question (and the need for any penetration, given the way the film is shot).”
A representative of El Museo told Hyperallergic in an email, “We were aware of Jodorowsky’s statements from the show’s inception. After ongoing review and assessment of materials, we realized that we could not adequately contextualize his practice and came to the independent decision to cancel the exhibition.”
Patrick Charpenel, executive director of El Museo del Barrio told ARTnews that the museum began reevaluating the exhibition two or three months ago. In a written statement sent to Hyperallergic, Charpenel explained:
We are committed to addressing complex and challenging issues, but have a responsibility to do so in a way that generates productive dialogues and debate. However, while the issues raised by Jodorowsky’s practice should be examined, we have come to the conclusion that an exhibition is not the right platform for doing so at this time.
The exhibition was set to open February 28, but instead, the museum will extend its survey of Liliana Porter’s artwork, Other Situations, through March 3.
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