Ana Mendieta was a Cuban artist living and working in America until her death in 1985. Mendieta was growing in importance as a significant feminist artist at the time. She died after falling 33 storeys from the apartment she shared with her husband artist Carl Andre in New York.⠀ In 1982 Ana Mendieta performed a piece called Blood Sign/Body Tracks. Mendieta stood in front of a large piece of paper mounted on a wall and positioned herself so that her blood-soaked arms were pointing upwards in a V- like position. She then placed her hands on the surface and dragged herself down the paper until she was on her knees on the floor. What she left the audience to contemplate afterwards was an image that simultaneously represented violence, suffering, life and hope.⠀
In the summer of 2018, Adelaide Damoah found what she describes as a wonderful essay in the Tate Papers by Dr Joanna S. Walker which in part described the connection between the artist Nancy Spero and Ana Mendieta. Spero, although significantly older than Mendieta, was a friend and their politics was very much in alignment. Spero was at Mendieta’s 1982 performance. Whilst completing a mural in Germany, Spero filled an empty space with a homage to Mendieta. She instructed her assistant to retrace the action Mendieta performed in 1982 using red paint. Spero repeated the retrace herself twice in 1991 and again in 1995.⠀
When studying the paper, Damoah was also reading the autobiography of Marina Abramovich. Damoah describes how she was struck by the tenacity and strength of Abramovich and found herself wanting to challenge herself more. Of the experience, Damoah stated,
“…This got me thinking of Mendieta’s performance and I knew I wanted to do my own homage. I wanted the action to feel laboured and painful. I wanted it to represent female suffering and struggle while at the same time leaving behind something that showed signs of struggle, but which still represented hope and beauty. I decided to do the performance for 33 hours. 33 hours represents the 33 storeys Mendieta fell.” ⠀
The performance was split into three parts. Part 1 happened at Christie’s Education on the 26th September 2018 and lasted for one hour. Part 2 was 31 hours long and was live-streamed on Instagram, Facebook and Periscope from the artist’s studio on the 13th October 2018. The final part was one hour and was performed at the Bloomsbury Festival on 20th October 2018.
Just before the 31 hour performance, Damoah stated, “For me, this homage represents suffering and struggle, creation, life and hope. It represents the way we have to push through difficult and challenging times so that we can follow a dream or recover from something to find something else, maybe, hopefully, something better on the other side… Every time I’ve faced difficult times, I’ve learned something and grown. I’m looking forward to seeing what is on the other side of this controlled challenge. How will I grow? And who or what will I impact? Will I become stronger and more capable of helping my family? Or will I expose my weaknesses and fail? There are always lessons to be learned even from failure. Whatever happens, I am ready.” Damoah completed the challenge and fasted on coconut water for the duration of the 31 hours. She took a total of around 60 minutes rest during the performance. When it was complete, she went to the hospital to visit her sister who at 5 pm, the time when the performance finished, had just come out of major surgery and was in intensive care.