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Carolee Schneemann papers, 1959-1994

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Schneemann (Carolee) Papers

Biographical Note

Carolee Schneemann actively engaged in performance art, experimental film-making, the Fluxus movement and feminist theory in the 1960s and 1970s. She is best known for the provocative use of her nude body to explore personal expression, sexual taboos and feminism in both multi-media performances and solo improvisational work. Born in 1939, Schneemann studied painting at Bard College, Columbia University, The New School, and the University of Illinois. Her performance work evolved out of a desire to express more than she could within the confines of her paintings, and retains some of the gestural qualities of abstract expressionism and the cluttered look of assemblage. In addition to choreographing her own scripts, Schneemann participated in some of the most influential events of the 1960s, including: Philip Corner's "An Environment for Sound and Motion" at the Living Theater (1962), Claes Oldenburg's "Store Days" (1962), Robert Rauschenberg's theater experiments, Robert Morris' "Site" (1964), and in Fluxus concerts.

Schneemann made many films, some of an experimental nature and others which documented her performances. "Fuses" (1964-67), her most notorious film, presents a woman's perspective of intimacy and eroticism. The film was edited for two years, during which time Schneemann burned, scratched, painted, glued, and layered its images to create a fluid sense of sexuality. In the 1970s, Schneemann conducted research on earth goddesses and ancient mythology in search of female power structures. She realized that a certain component of her work had always explored these themes, such as the use of snakes in "Eye Body" (1963). Schneemann's studies permeate her writings and her classes on art and theory. After the mid-1970s, Schneemann performed infrequently, preferring instead to concentrate on painting, exhibiting, lecturing and teaching. She died in 2019.

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