Mónica Mayer ‘El Tendedero/The Clothesline Indiana’ pushes conversations about sexual assault

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has acquired El Tendedero/The Clothesline Indiana by Mónica Mayer (Mexico, b.1954). Mayer’s social-practice installation transforms a clothesline—a traditional symbol of feminine roles—into a forum on sexual violence against women by inviting participants to anonymously answer questions like ‘Where do you feel safe?’ on pink notecards and to pin them to the clothesline.

Led by Women4ChangeIndiana with support from the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking (ICESAHT), El Tendedero includes notecards from all 92 of Indiana’s counties. This statewide exhibition, which began in September 2019 and continued through October 2020, resulted in 150 days of public events in a variety of venues from theaters and museums to sorority meetings and libraries. In all, hundreds of women told their stories of sexual violence on over 1,500 notecards as part of the work of art.

The goal of El Tendedero is to persuade state lawmakers to define consent in the Indiana legislature. On March 5, 2020, El Tendedero was installed at the Indiana Statehouse calling for legislative action. The installation resulted in the Indiana Legislative Council assigning an interim study committee to consider a law to define sexual consent. The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code met Oct. 6, 2020, but unfortunately decided not to recommend proposed legislation defining consent in the Indiana statute.

Nevertheless, encouraged by the other progress made, Women4Change will continue to advocate for consent legislation during the 2021 legislative session and, if necessary, beyond.

El Tendedero was originally exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City in 1978, sparking conversations on sexual assault, a subject that was rarely addressed at the time. Tragically relevant four decades later, the Indiana project was the first of Mónica Mayer’s social activism installations presented in multiple venues over a year-long period to try and persuade lawmakers to change laws to better protect women.

“The first time I saw El Tendedero was at the National Museum of Women in the Arts,” reflected Ann M. Stack, Arts Advocate, former member of Newfields Contemporary Art Society and former Newfields Trustee. “Mónica Mayer had created a work which was aesthetically creative and intellectually engaging. In Indiana, El Tendedero inspired statewide coalitions and organizations representing the visual, performing, and literary arts, survivors, civics, government, academia, the military and women in prison. The common purpose was to end sexual violence against women. As a young woman I found the art of my time challenging, disturbing, beautiful, powerful and exciting. I still do.”

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