When asked once about her pioneering contribution to feminist performance art, Carolee Schneemann remarked, “I thought it would be seen as an integrated, powerful event.” Instead, she explained, the art critics at the time took it “as narcissism and self-indulgence.” But now, more than half a century later, critical opinion has finally shifted. Schneemann just received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2017 Venice Biennale, one of the most important artistic honours in the world.
Schneemann is best known for the groundbreaking work she did to extend Abstract Expressionist principals of the active creative force beyond the confines of painting and sculpture, into the realm of the body itself. Prior to her developing what she called “kinetic theatre,” performance art was largely considered academic and unapproachable for most viewers. Schneemann drastically altered the form through iconic early performances such as Meat Joy (1964), in which eight underwear clad models cavort erotically atop a canvas then get covered in dead poultry, fish and body paint before being dragged off and hurled into a pile of trash.
Today Schneemann remains an influential figure in the avant-garde, especially to the generation of contemporary artists for whom she helped balance the gender inequalities that plagued her own early career.
Image caption: Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Carolee Schneemann (USA). Image via Instagram: @labiennale