The Pleasures and Pain of Carolee Schneemann’s Body Politics, Anna Souter, δημοσίευση στο Hyperallergic [20/12/2022]Marilena Pateraki
LONDON — For Carolee Schneemann, the personal was political. She saw the body — in particular, her own body — as inextricably entwined with its physical and sociopolitical environment, and therefore as a primary site for both understanding the world and taking a stance of resistance. In the first UK survey of her work, Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics at the Barbican Centre, the artist’s body politics are shown to be radical, wild, and challenging.
Although she started her career in what she called the “Art Stud Club” of 1950s New York, an incubator of Abstract Expressionism, she quickly moved beyond the boundaries of the canvas to explore sculpture, kinetic elements, and performances utilizing her own body. It is interesting to learn from the exhibition’s opening displays that Schneemann fundamentally saw herself as a painter; many of her early abstract canvases feel dated today, but they help contextualize her later performative works involving mark making with mud, menstrual blood, or poured paint as continuations of this tradition.
The exhibition demonstrates that the early 1960s were remarkably productive for Schneemann. In 1964 she created her iconic work “Meat Joy,” in which a group of performers clad in fur underwear writhe around together onstage, dripping paint on each other and caressing dead fish and plucked chickens. Captured on grainy film, the piece is both riotously erotic and repulsive. At the time it was considered illicit; a performance in London resulted in a police raid and the dancers being smuggled away under blankets on the floors of waiting cars. Today, “Meat Joy” has not lost its edge, though contemporary audiences might be more uncertain about the morality of using the bodies of animals than about the nudity and sexual overtones.
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