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Alejandro Jodorowsky Speaks Out After El Museo del Barrio Calls Off Retrospective

Earlier this week, El Museo del Barrio in New York canceled a major retrospective dedicated to the Chilean-born artist Alejandro Jodorowsky after reassessing a controversial interview he gave in which he claims to have raped a female costar. The act of sexual violence allegedly happened while filming a scene for the surreal Western El Topo. In the 1972 book El Topo: A Book of the Film Jodorowsky said: “I really raped her. And she screamed.”

On Thursday, Jodorowsky came forward to explain his decades-old statements, which he claims were part of a publicity stunt. In a statement provided to Artforum, he said: “These words: ‘I’ve raped my actress,’ was said fifty years ago by El Topo, a bandit dressed in black leather that nobody knew. They were words, not facts, Surrealist publicity in order to enter the world of cinema from a position of obscurity. I do not condone the act of rape, but exploited the shock value of the statement at the time, following years in the Panic Movement and other iterations of harnessing shock to motivate energetic release.”

“I acknowledge that this statement is problematic in that it presents fictional violence against a woman as a tool for exposure, and now, fifty years later, I regret that this is being read as truth. My practice is centered on healing and love. I invite further dialogue in the spirit of progress.”

Jodorowsky’s wife, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, also spoke out in defense of the artist. She told the New York Times that her husband “never raped anyone” and said that Jodorowsky is a “respectful generous and deeply good man” who has been subjected to “attacks, scandals, intimidations, threats, slanders.”

Artnews reported on January 28 that community activists in Harlem had also raised concerns about the alleged rape of Mara Lorenzio. The actress has not spoken publicly about the incident. She was not contacted for this article because her whereabouts are currently unknown.

A report written by Helen O’Hara in The Telegraph claims that Jodorowsky didn’t face much backlash after making the comments. “The rape claim was, at the time, largely ignored,” wrote O’Hara. Over the years, the artist also changed his account of what happened. In a 2007 interview, Jodorowsky told Empire magazine, “I didn’t rape Mara, but I penetrated her with her consent,” and in a Facebook post in 2017, the artist said that he had made the statements to “shock interviewers.”

The museum’s executive director, Patrick Charpenel, issued the following statement regarding its decision not to move forward with the survey: “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 cancelation of the exhibition comes three weeks after the museum backpedaled on its decision to honor the German princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. The socialite is known for her ties to ultraconservatives such as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. The back-to-back issues with programming have caused some to raise questions about the museum’s planning process.

Curated by María Inés Rodríguez, the exhibition would have chronicled Jodorowsky’s artistic production over five decades and was scheduled to open on February 28. The museum announced that its current survey of Liliana Porter’s work will be extended until March 3.