Carolee Schneemann (1998-11-13)

Carolee Schneemann
Practice: Photography Installation, Film, and Performance
Date of Lecture: 1998-11-13

Schneemann_Carolee_p01Photo by: Felicia Meidema

Carolee Schneemann was among the founding figures of the American performance art of the 60’s. She began her career as a painter, making works that dealt in a very formalist manner with ideas of presence, the body and the gesture. As Schneemann moved towards a more radical exploration of these same ideas she began produce the performance art for which she became renown. In the early sixties she created and performed what has remained her most controversial and important piece, “Meat Joy“. Schneemann describes the performance in the following terms: “Meat Joy is an erotic rite — excessive, indulgent, a celebration of flesh as material: raw fish, chickens, sausages, wet paint, transparent plastic, ropes, brushes, paper scrap. Its propulsion is towards the ecstatic — shifting and turning between tenderness, wildness, precision, abandon: qualities which could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent. Physical equivalences are enacted as a psychic imagistic stream in which the layered elements mesh and gain intensity by the energy complement of the audience. The original performances became notorious and introduced a vision of the sacred erotic in a suppressive time.

Schneemann_Carolee_w01Fuses, 1965

The image of her own body is the center of her work – in the context of performance she has used it as a source of power, shock and transgression . “Meat Joy“, along with other performances such as “Fuses” (1965) and “Interior Scroll” (1976) – became touchstones for the politically charged feminist art of the 1970s and 1980s.

Schneeman’s importance to the history of both performance and feminist art has been well documented. In 1996 she was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Other recent solo exhibitions include shows at the Frauen Museum in Bonn, Germany; the P.S. 1 Museum, New York; and Syracuse University, New York.


She has taught at many institutions including New York University, California Institute of the Arts, Bard College, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also published books such as “Cezanne, She Was A Great Painter” (1976), “Early and Recent Work” (1983); “More Than Meat Joy: Performance Works and Selected Writings” (1979, 1997) and more recently “Imaging Her Erotics”. A number of books have also been published about her work and her influence on performance and feminist art-making.

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