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El Museo del Barrio Cancels Alejandro Jodorowsky Retrospective

El Museo del Barrio in New York has called off a retrospective of Chilean-born artist and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky after assessing a decades-old interview in which Jodorowsky claims to have raped one of his costars. The exhibition—the first museum survey of the artist’s work to take place in the United States—was slated to open on February 28. The museum’s current survey of Liliana Porter’s art, which Lauren O'Neill-Butler reviewed in the January 2019 issue of Artforum, will be extended until March 3.

According to Artnews, community activists in East Harlem also raised objections to the show over statements Jodorowsky made in 1972 in which he claimed to have raped Mara Lorenzio on camera for a rape scene in the movie El Topo (The Mole, 1970). The surreal Western, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, has become a cult classic and has been screened at arts institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the book El Topo: A Book of the Film, a collection of interviews with Jodorowsky, he said the following about the scene:

“We went to the desert with two other people: the photographer and a technician. No one else. I said, ‘I’m not going to rehearse. There will be only one take because it will be impossible to repeat. Roll the cameras only when I signal you to.’

“Then I told her, ‘Pain does not hurt. Hit me.’ And she hit me. I said, ‘Harder.’ And she started to hit me very hard, hard enough to break a rib. . . I ached for a week. 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.”

At the time, the interview did not seem to receive much backlash. The Telegraph reports that the incident surfaced in the media again in 2007 when Jodorowsky told Empire magazine: “I didn’t rape Mara, but I penetrated her with her consent.” More recently, the filmmaker addressed the scene on Facebook in 2017. In one post, he contradicts the original interview. He wrote: “How could I, in front of such a crowd, rape an actress with impunity? . . . I said things to shock interviewers.”

In a statement, the institution said: “El Museo del Barrio is continuously evaluating the ways in which we advance our mission within the evolving social and political landscape. This includes an ongoing review of our programming. Following an assessment of the planned Alejandro Jodorowsky exhibition, we have decided to not move forward with the presentation at this time.”

Curated by María Inés Rodríguez, the exhibition would have traced more than five decades of Jodorowsky’s artistic production and would have featured his early theatrical and pantomime performances; a selection of his long-running cartoon strip, Las Fábulas Pánicas; and material related to his role as director of films such as El TopoThe Holy Mountain (1973), and Endless Poetry (2016).

The cancelation of the exhibition comes on the heels of the museum’s decision to drop its plans to honor Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis—a fifty-eight-year-old conservative Catholic German princess, art collector, and socialite known for her close ties to Stephen Bannon as well as leaders of far-right political parties in Germany and France—at its upcoming fiftieth-anniversary gala in May.