El Museo del Barrio Cancels Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Retrospective Over His Comments About Rape

A group of community activists pressured the museum to call off the show.

Alejandro Jodorowsky. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images.

El Museo del Barrio has cancelled a planned retrospective of Chilean-born artist and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky after community activists seized on rape-related comments he made in the 1970s.

In a 1972 book about his acclaimed avant-garde movie El Topo (1970), which he directed and starred in, Jodorowsky suggested that he raped his co-star Mara Lorenzio on camera during filming. 

“After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras,’” Jodorowsky said, according to a lengthy report published in the Telegraph in 2017. “And I really… I really… I really raped her. And she screamed… Then [Lorenzio] told me that she had been raped before. You see, for me the character is frigid until El Topo rapes her. And she has an orgasm.”

Decades later, in a 2007 interview with Empire magazine, Jodorowsky changed his story, saying that the on-screen sexual encounter was real, but consensual. And in 2017, according to the Telegraph, he defended himself on Facebook by claiming that early in his career, he “said things to shock interviewers.”

Prior to the cancellation of the show, El Topo was among the works to be included in the retrospective.

Pressure from community activists in East Harlem, where the museum is located, forced the museum to respond to Jodorowsky’s troubling statements. “Art is something that is such a moving target,” one of the activists, Debbie Quinones, told Art News. “But do we have to the engage in the same exploitation of identity as well as sensationalism? It’s not just about art. It’s about the social determinants of art.”

In response, El Museo del Barrio director Patrick Charpenel told artnet News in an email. “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.”

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