Aníbal López: Killed by His Art?

THE DAILY PIC: The Guatemalan artist used a hit-man as art supply. Now he's dead.


This is a still from a video called “Testimonio”, by the Guatemalan artist who called himself “Aníbal López (A1 53167)” (the number is from his government ID). The chilling piece is in a chilling group show called “Dear Mr. Thanatos: Modern and Contemporary Art from Latin America”, curated by my pal and video-partner Christian Viveros-Fauné for the new Cristin Tierney space on 28th Street in New York. López’s video records a “performance”, of sorts, that the artist presented at the last Documenta show in Kassel, for which he got an anonymous Guatemalan hit-man to expand on his profession before a live art-world audience. (Click on my image to watch a clip.) The presentation certainly normalizes, almost naturalizes, the killer’s line of work, but I think that’s half the point: Given the chaotic state of our world, especially in some parts of Latin America, being a killer-for-hire is a perfectly normal profession – and we should be aware of that fact, and appalled by it. What worries me more is the total comfort the Documenta audience seems to have with the man they are watching, just because he’s become an art supply. I think­–I hope­–that if I’d been there, I’d have jumped up and torn down the screen that coward was hiding behind. But I probably wouldn’t have.

Here’s the cruelest of ironies: López died a few days before the opening of “Mr. Thanatos”, almost as though he’d been mown down by his own piece.

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