Raw Materials: Carolee Schneemann

Multidisciplinary artist Carolee Schneemann was no stranger to controversy. Actively creating work since the late 1950s, she rocked the art world with her 1964 film Meat Joy, a visceral celebration featuring half-naked dancers moving in orgiastic reverie with raw meat and fish.

Since then the Pennsylvania native has continued to break new ground across disciplines, both shocking and enrapturing audiences with her conceptually remarkable and visually compelling performance, photography, installation and video art. It will not soon be forgotten the moment in 1979 when during the performance Scroll, Schneemann pulled a text from her vagina and starting reading it out loud.

As with all her work, her paintings, which she continued to make later in life, are a cacophonous and colorful expression of the themes of freedom, desire, cosmic laughter, and the power of creative transgression; many hang or lean against surfaces in the eighteenth-century farmhouse where she lived. This is also where some of her most provocative works were either conceived or created, including Fuses (1967), a film she shot of her and partner having sex under the watchful eye of her cat, Kitch.

Over the years her countryside home in Upstate New York acted as a muse of sorts for Schneemann, informing her work as well as providing a spot for her to conceptualise and create. Inspired by the ever-changing light, the seasons and landscape around her, she explains: “My job is to extract whatever is constant and accept whatever might not be my wishes.”

As part of the pioneering group of feminist artists that included Judy Chicago and Rachel Rosenthal, Schneemann’s legacy is far-reaching and she has inspired the likes of Cindy Sherman, Helen Chadwick, Marina Abramović, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Matthew Barney and Lady Gaga. Changing forever the perceptions of the female body and gender politics, Schneemann razed a path over the male-dominated art-establishment landscape, without asking for permission to tread.

Awarded the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale in 2017, Schneemann is being much-remembered this week, as the formidable artist has passed away at the age of 79. We are proud to present her last recorded interview, this intimate profile by director Clara Cullen made earlier this year, as part of our Raw Materials series and commissioned for International Women’s Day, which shows the true art legend discussing her process and the inspiration behind her work.


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