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Musee departemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart present Carolee Schneemann: History Works

Musee departemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart present Carolee Schneemann: History Works an exhibition on view December 15, 2013.

Ever since the acquisition in 2012 of Terminal Velocity, created by Carolee Schneemann in response to the events of 11 September 2001, Rochechouart Museum of Contemporary Art has been planning to present this work in the context of artists’ reactions to major world issues and a return of the historical genre in art today. Belonging to a first generation of female artists who militated for consideration of women’s art, Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939) also pioneered new video, film and performance practices, gaining a reputation for exploring issues around the human body and the place of women in society. The present exhibition, however, is the first to examine another aspect of her work, that of recording major events that have occurred in her lifetime and constantly reacting to history in the making. Carolee Schneemann: History Works retraces the artist’s creations from the early performance Meat Joy, through to works contesting military interventions in Vietnam and the 1980s conflicts in Lebanon. The exhibition features over thirty works, encompassing film, video, performances, drawing, collage, painting, photography and installations, concluding with recent pieces several of which are being shown for the first time in Europe.

Carolee Schneemann was active in the vibrant New York of the early sixties, initially drawn towards Neo-Dada, as illustrated by her ‘painting constructions’ made before becoming involved in happenings. She clearly established her credentials as a pacifist and political activist when in 1965, she made her film-collage Viet Flakes in which re-appropriated images fresh from the war in Vietnam were shown over a collaged soundtrack composed by James Tenney. Two years later, in New York, the film was at the heart of her performance Snows (1967) presented during Angry Arts Week: Artists against the Vietnam War. Performances of Snows and Night Crawlers, on the fringe of Expo 67 in Montreal, marked a high point in her political experiments in Kinetic Theatre and expanded cinema where film was extended beyond the screen to include collage and other forms of art.

Presenting Carolee Schneemann’s work as redolent of contemporary history not only bears witness to her preoccupations but also to the variety of her output. Her reaction to the Lebanese war and studies of the region’s history carried out early in the 1980s produced a mobile sculpture, videos, an artist’s book as well as her astonishing Dust Paintings, fashioned out of thick dust from burnt ashes with computer components, abstract forms that resemble the remains of some long-lost ancient civilization. In Terminal Velocity, a stunning photomontage, Schneemann records a real event, infusing it with a harsh dose of human reality across seven columns of close-ups showing bodies falling from the World Trade Center Towers on 11 September 2001. The image resonates as a resurgence of historical genre painting, bringing into perspective the flood of digital images the media bombard us with, in the name of news broadcasting. A set of new engravings from digital collages or video installations such as More Wrong Things (2001) and Precarious (2009), on show in the castle loft space, trap spectators in a crossfire of projections and reflections, illustrating clearly how this theme of media exposure has continued to haunt Carolee Schneemann over the years.

The exhibition at Rochechouart is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, Then and Now. Carolee Schneemann. Oeuvres d’Histoire (Eng/Fr) edited by Annabelle Ténèze and co-published with Analogues Éditions (Arles, France). It contains essays by Annabelle Ténèze (Then and Now. Carolee Schneemann. History Works), Emilie Bouvard (Carolee Schneemann, Feminism and History) and Stéphane Aquin (Carolee Schneemann. Terminal Velocity), plus an interview with the artist and a comprehensive chronology.

Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart
87 600, Rochechouart
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10am–12:30pm and 2–5pm
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