CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 3/7/2019
We will miss Carolee Schneemann, fearless performance artist, painter, filmmaker, feminist and innate breaker of taboos. She died this week at the age of 79. Preliminary obituaries are available at Artforum, ARTnews and The Guardian.
We are honored to have hosted Schneemann in conversation with editor Branden W. Joseph at our MoMA PS1 Book Space in 2018, on the occasion of the launch of Carolee Schneemann: Uncollected Texts, published by Primary Information. In her memory, we present this excerpt.
INTRODUCTION TO "EROTIC FILMS BY WOMEN"
We have had to ask ourselves, how did the men come to insist that their creation, invention, interpretation, and observation of woman was the only authentic one?
Why when women defined, explored, and structured their own creative worlds was this denied weight, seriousness—that only men among men could establish the mainstream of culture? Why did Brontë, Eliot, and Sand write under male pseudonyms? Why was Woolf treated as a trivializer, a secondary author? Why were Dorothy Richardson's innovations in language as a form of spatial memory ignored? Why were the rare breakthroughs of female vision which were granted importance in their own time lost in subsequent history?
Art can be an area where we dismantle taboos, constraints of perception, materials, structure. Traditionally men banished their constraining mothers from the psychic spaces of rebellion, obsession, conviction. They excluded their sisters from competing for attention, regard, importance. Wives and mothers were expected to sustain common ground—domestic, sexual, romantic, practical areas from which men were freed in order to emphasize their cultural eminence. Masculine traditions compartmentalized woman in very particular patterns.
Because men established the hierarchies and validations of their culture, they expressed to women artists conscious or unconscious attitudes: Your art can never be as significant or effective as ours … but you can bear children. Since this was assumed, it followed that women's creative will and energy would be best placed within the hands of those men inspired to construct her nature in forms which corresponded to their needs and desires. And if a woman was not in reality a functional and mythical Muse, she could in her own life "choose" to serve the male artist in the realization of his creative powers and processes.
Telluride Film Festival, September 4, 1977
IMAGE ABOVE: Carolee Schneemann, Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera, 1963/2005. Photo: Erró and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Pbk, 6 x 9 in. / 120 pgs / 12 color.