Carolee Schneemann

An Evening With Carolee Schneemann

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

Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

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

Additional screenings

April 20 – Filmforum at the Egyptian Theatre -- 7 pm

1973-8 Kitch's Last Meal
Film - Super 8, color, dual projection, separate sound. New restoration of original film reels/separate sound – May 2007 (54:06 minutes). Screening format to be determined. Part III of "Autobiographical Trilogy".
Schneemann’s cat, Kitch, which was featured in works such as Fuses, was a major figure in Schneemann's work for almost twenty years The moving conclusion to the autobiographical trilogy was originally shot on Super-8. The film documents the routines of daily life whilst time passes, a relationship winds down and death closes in: filming and recording stopped when the elderly cat died.
The soundtrack mixes personal reminiscences with ambient sounds of the household, and includes the original text used for Schneemann's 1975 performance Interior Scroll.
The preservation of Kitch's Last Meal was supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and realized by the Anthology Film Archives.
Plus additional works to be announced.
Los Angeles Filmforum
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Blvd. at Las Palmas, Los Angeles CA 90028
For reservations, email the name & number in your party to Advance tickets also available through Fandango through the Egyptian Theatre page.
$9 general; $6 students/seniors

April 25 – UCLA Film & Television Archive – 7:30 pm
New and Recent Videos by Carolee Schneemann
Schneemann will present a selection of recently released videos, including: Duo (2008), which incorporates extracts from her earlier Infinity Kisses and completes her exploration of human and feline sensual communication; Interior Scroll—The Cave (1995), a performance in a vast underground cave in which Schneemann and seven nude women perform the ritualized actions of “Interior Scroll”-- reading the text as each woman slowly extracts a scroll from her vagina; Vesper's Stampede to My Holy Mouth (1992), in which Victoria Vesna and Schneemann explore suppressed feminist issues of female subjugation, the unconscious, the paranormal and goddess religions; Devour (2003-04), a montage that Schneemann describes as contrasting "evanescent, fragile elements with violent, concussive, speeding fragments... political disasters, domestic intimacy, and ambiguous menace"; Mop-Mop--Improvisation for Job at New York University (2007), which captures an interview for a teaching position that Schneemann spontaneously transformed into a performance; the newly reedited version of Americana I Ching Apple Pie (2007), which documents the artist in front of a packed lecture hall as she demonstrates, with hilarious and deadpan delivery, how to make the quintessential American dessert--apple pie; Body Collage (1967), in which Schneemann paints her body with wallpaper paste and then rolls through a floor covered in shredded paper, transforming herself into a constantly changing, moving collage; This film was preserved through the Avant-Garde Masters program funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the NFPF; Meat Joy (1964), an erotic rite, a celebration of flesh as material that could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent.

UCLA Film & Television Archive
Billy Wilder Theater (Courtyard level of the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd.), at the northeast corner of the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Blvds., just east of the 405. $9 general; $8 Cineclub members/students/seniors; $7 Cineclub members who are seniors/students; $10 advance tickets; purchase online at
Parking: $3 in the lot under the theater. Enter from Westwood Blvd., just north of Wilshire

Los Angeles Filmforum and the UCLA Film and Television Archive are screening additional films by Carolee Schneemann. See and for more information.

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud

Associated Images: 

MON 4/21
8:00 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff