An Evening with Carolee Schneemann

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Viet-Flakes (film still), 1965 © Courtesy the artist
An Evening with Carolee Schneemann

631 West 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
April 21st, 2008 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

downtown/east la
Tue-Sun 12-6 or Intermission


"Prior to Schneemann, the female body in art was mute and functioned almost exclusively as a mirror of masculine desire." Jan Avgikos, Artforum

Carolee Schneemann has never ceased to cross mediums and boundaries to make work that resonates with raw poetic power. From her collaged war or diary films and provocative performances to her photos, paintings and installations, Schneemann’s varied and distinctly feminist creations deconstruct our ingrained preconceptions and everyday assumptions. In words, images and actions, her art is deeply personal, sharply critical, intensely expressive, and always innovative. This special evening with Schneemann features a collection of some of the most highly charged political statements, erotic episodes and domestic disturbances ever seen in American avant-garde cinema. The program includes Fuses (1965–7, 29 min., 16mm, silent), Viet-Flakes (1965, 11 min., 16mm), Plumb Line (1968–71, 18 min., 16mm), and Devour (2003–4, 7:52 min., video).

In person: Carolee Schneemann

This program is part of a series of screenings of the work of Carolee Schneemann that takes place in Los Angeles April 20-25, 2008 at the following venues: Los Angeles Filmforum (April 20) and UCLA Film & Television Archive (April 25).

Detailed program

1964-67 Fuses
Film - 16mm, color, silent.
New restoration of original 16mm collaged print–May 2007, 29:51 min. Part of "Autobiographical Trilogy". Filming begun in 1964. This self-shot erotic film remains a controversial classic. With awards at Cannes (1968), the Yale Film Festival (1992), and showings at Museums and Universities internationally, Fuses has nevertheless encountered censorship over the years. "[A]notorious masterpiece, a silent celebration in color of heterosexual love making, the film unifies erotic energies within a domestic environment through cutting, super-imposition and layering of abstract impressions scratched into the celluloid itself... Fuses succeeds perhaps more than any other film in objectifying the sexual streamings of the body's mind." - The Guardian

1965 Viet-Flakes
Film - 8mm printed to 16mm, b/w, toned. 11 minutes. Sound collage by James Tenney.
Composed from an obsessive collection of Vietnam War atrocity images, compiled over five years from foreign magazine and newspapers. Schneemann uses the 8mm camera to "travel" within the photographs producing a volatile animation. Broken rhythms and visual fractures are heightened by a sound collage by James Tenney of Vietnamese religious chants, secular songs, fragments of Bach, 60s pop hits. "One of the most effective indictments of the Vietnam War ever made." – Robert Enright, Border Crossings.

1971 Plumb Line
Film - Super 8, step printed to 16mm, color, sound. 18 minutes, sound by C. Schneemann.
Part II of "Autobiographical Trilogy". Filming begun in 1968. The dissolution of a relationship unravels through visual and aural equivalences. Schneemann splits and recomposes actions of the lovers in a streaming montage of disruptive permutations: 8mm is printed as 16mm, moving images freeze, frames reoccur and dissolve until the film bursts into flames, consuming its own substance.

2003-04 Devour
Multi-channel color video projection with sound. (7:52 minutes)
“Devour” is a multi-channel video projection realized with support from a Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts Grant and an Eyebeam Artist Residency. Perceptual tensions drive a range of images edited to contrast evanescent, fragile elements with violent, concussive, speeding fragments. Looped sources of the imagery combine political disasters, domestic intimacy and the ambiguous menace within enlarged details of gestures -- both human and mechanical.

About the filmmaker

The history of Carolee Schneemann’s work is characterized by research into archaic visual traditions, pleasure wrested from suppressive taboos, the body of the artist in dynamic relationship with the social body. Her work questions the exclusivity of traditional western categories by creating a space of complementarity, mutuality, and integration and she has transformed the very definition of art, especially with regard to discourses concerning the body, sexuality, and technology.

Born in Fox Chase, Pennsylvania, she received a B.A. from Bard College and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois. She began her art career as a painter in the late 1950s. Her painting work began to adopt some of the characteristics of Neo-Dada art, as she used box structures coupled with expressionist brushwork. In 1962, Schneemann and her then-husband composer James Tenney moved to New York, where they became involved in the art and music scene and met Claes Oldenberg, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, George Brecht, Malcolm Goldstein, Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Schneemann started working with the artists of the Judson Church, and participated in works such as Oldenberg's Store Days (1962) and Robert Morris’s Site (1964) where she played a living version of Edward Manet’s Olympia. She began to use her nude body in works, feeling that it needed to be seized back from the status of a cultural possession. Production on her work Eye Body began in 1962. Schneemann created a "loft environment" filled with broken mirrors, motorized umbrellas, and rhythmic color units. To become a piece of the art herself, she covered herself in various materials including grease, chalk, and plastic. In 1964, the reworking of original film footage of three 1964 performances of Meat Joy in Paris, London and New York City ushered Schneemann into film and video-making.

The New Museum of Contemporary Art, NYC, featured a retrospective of Schneemann's works entitled "Up To And Including Her Limits" in 1998 In 2007, a dual exhibit at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo NY & MOCCA Toronto featured recent video installations. Electronic Arts Intermix NYC and Anthology Film Archives NYC collaborated on presentations of newly restored and current film & videos November 2007. Her work has also been shown at such renowned institutions as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the London National Film Theatre.

She has been the recipient of Media Grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, as well as grants from the Gottlieb Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Andrea Frank Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Schneemann has taught at several universities, including the California Institute of the Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hunter College and Rutgers University, where she was the first female art professor hired.

MIT Press has just published Imaging Her Erotics - Essays, Interviews, Projects. Editions of Schneemann's previous writing includes; More Than Meat Joy: Complete Performance Works and Selected Writings (1979, 1997); Video Burn (1992); Early and Recent Work (1983); ABC - We Print Anything - In The Cards (1977); Cezanne, She Was A Great Painter (1976); and Parts of a Body House Book (1972). Correspondence Course, a selection of her letters edited by Kristine Stiles is forthcoming from Duke University Press.

Partial Film/Videography:
1965 Viet-Flakes
1966 Red News
1964-67 Fuses
1971 Plumb Line
1973-78 Kitch's Last Meal
1992 Vesper's Stampede To My Holy Mouth
1993-95 Interior Scroll - The Cave
1996 Known/Unknown - Plague Column.
1999 Vespers Pool.
2000 More Wrong Things
2003-04 Devour
2007 Carl Ruggles' Christmas Breakfast
2007 Mop-Mop--Improvisation for Job at New York University
2008 Duo