Much More Than Meat Joy

(Carolee Schneemann, still from Fuses, 1965. Courtesy of the Artist.)

This month there are a fantastic crop of programs showcasing the work of Carolee Schneemann, a feminist pioneer, and one of the most influential film and performance artists of the 1960s and 1970s. Early in her career, Schneemann was a protégé of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage, whose signature style of scratching film emulsion and choppy editing inspired Schneemann’s films like Fuses (1965) and Kitsch’s Last Meal (1973-76). But issues of the body and female subjectivity are always more central to Schneemann’s art than mere technical prowess. Schneemann became one of the first woman artists to articulate and eroticize her own body on film, while affirming the everlasting statement of feminist discourse: “the personal is political.” This is something Schneemann has always achieved with attitude and a fierce sense of individuality. If you’re in Boston, you can see a screening of Fuses and Kitsch’s Last Meal, as well as Plumb Line (1968-71) at the MassArt Film Society on November 20th. Meanwhile PERFORMA 07 has organized a comprehensive multi-program film retrospective that includes both the classics and some more recent installation works, plus a FREE conversation with Schneemann herself on November 7th.

We mentioned earlier that the Pierre Menard Gallery is celebrating Schneemann with an exhibition titled Carolee Schneemann: a selection of recent and early work. Curated by artist Heide Hatry, early works is just that, a collection of paintings, collages, photographs, and performance footage. Look for Schneemann’s beautifully assembled box constructions (made out of materials such as old photographs, mirrors, paint, strips of cloth, feathers, and bones) which anticipate her later performance work. Soon after creating these objects, Schneemann began using her body as an extension of her paintings and constructions in works such as Eye Body (1963) and Meat Joy (1964), two performances that challenge the standard images of women as powerful agents rather than simple objects in art history.

(Carolee Schneemann, Eye Body: 36 Transformative Acts, 1963. Courtesy of the Artist)

On Sunday, November 4th, beginning at 4 pm, at Studio Soto there will be a program dedicated to Schneemann’s impact on the art of contemporary feminist performance artists that will include performances by Heide Hatry, Mari Novotny-Jones, and Theresa Byrnes. Like Schneemann, Byrnes’ work is often characterized by critics as ‘body art’–a term that describes how artists will use their bodies as a literal canvas for enabling political or social commentary. This notion is punctuated by Byrnes’ in one of her most recent piece’s called Trace (2007), a performance in which Byrnes submerged herself in a vat of crude oil, and then spent 30 minutes cleaning herself of the thick substance in front of a crowd of spectators on a New York sidewalk. In Boston, Byrnes will be performing a new work titled Theresa Tree, a piece that she writes us is based on a question from her childhood: “What is the difference between me and a tree?” A worthwhile investigation indeed.

(Theresa Byrnes, Trace, performance, 2007. Image: Andrzej Liguz.)

Boston’s Carolee Schneemann events…
Sunday, November 4th at 4pm. After the Orgy: A Tribute to Carolee Schneemann. Curated by Jed Speare and Michelle Handelman, in conjunction with the exhibition, Carolee Schneemann: a selection of recent and early work at Pierre Menard Gallery through November 25. With performances by Heide Hatry, Theresa Byrnes and Mari Novotny-Jones, and films by Lydia Eccles, Jesse Jagtiani, Michelle Handelman and Luther Price. Followed by a panel discussion with the artists. At Studio Soto. See the Studio Soto website for more details.


Tuesday, November 20th at 8pm: Carolee Schneemann: a Film Tribute featuring a screening of Fuses, Plumbline, and Kitch’s Last Meal. Shown and introduced by Saul Levine. At Mass. College of Art, MassArt Film Society. See the MassArt Film Society website for more details.

New York’s Carolee Schneemann events as part of PERFORMA 07…

Remains To Be Seen: New and Restored Films and Videos of Carolee Schneemann. Programs in Remains to Be Seen include: An Artist Talk & Screening on Wednesday, November 7th at 6pm. FREE. At Electronic Arts Intermix. Restorations & New Works on Thursday, November 15th at 7pm. Kitsch’s Last Meal on Friday and Saturday, November 16th and 17th at 7 pm. Both programs at Anthology Film Archives. See the PERFORMA 07 website for more details.