Friday, October 26, 2007

Carolee Schneemann at Pierre Menard Gallery

Notorious multi-media vixen, Carolee Schneemann, has a small, intimate collection of work at Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Mass.

The one thing about this collection of work that really made it shine was that it was displayed expertly. Upon entering the space there are two rooms. One big room to the left and one smaller room to the right and down two steps. Attention was given to the space and the objects within it.

In the room on the left of the entrance was a double -video projection that initiated ideas of love and violence, social struggle and desperately intimate experiences. Titled appropriately, Devour was set on a loop and examined intimate and social relationships.

The power of DEVOUR lies in its contrasting of life's evanescent pleasures with what Schneemann described as the forces determined to destroy them: time, disaster, bellicosity. In title and imagery, it also makes a direct link between unexamined consumerism and violent militarism. As elsewhere in Schneemann's work, cats recur as metaphors of domestic comforts, psychic connections, and the human interface with the natural world. They also continue her challenge of cultural taboos, as if to say, "Surely kissing a cat is less revolting than blowing someone's head off." How is it possible that there is no outraged proscription against waging war? (source)

The theme of social injustice, world aggression, war & politic continued into the smaller room to the right of the entrance. Viet-Flakes projected its atrocious message:

Viet-Flakes was composed from an obsessive collection of Vietnam atrocity images, compiled over five years, from foreign magazines 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, which features Vietnamese religious chants and secular songs, fragments of Bach, and '60s pop hits. "One of the most effective indictments of the Vietnam War ever made". -- Robert Enright, Border Crossings. (source)

In the same room with Viet-Flakes, we were faced with collaged photographs of Americans jumping out of the Twin Towers, NYC, 2001. On the opposite wall were more images lifted from magazines describing the most horrible and awful things we humans do to each other: some very old, some relatively new. The coupling of Vietnam images with our most recent "War on Terror" was an interesting juxtaposition for me. It's as if to say, The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Downstairs, Body Collage offered a portrait of the artist in her completely fluxus persona. A young, naked Schneeman spreads glue all over her body, then rolls around in a pile of paper garbage. She washes and repeats.

I found Vulva's Morphia to be really well-stated. She had these kind of ambiguous words strung together in between rows of collaged imagery, all of which were tacked to the wall and motivated by small fans to move around.

Schneeman says about Vulva's Morphia:

"A visceral sequence of photographs and text in which a Vulvic personification presents an ironic analysis juxtaposing slides and text to undermine Lacanian semiotics, gender issues, Marxism, the male art establishment, religious and cultural taboos." (source & image)

Which to me says, "a sequence of sexually political images that play on irony to undermine the male social dogma (encouraged and employed by social philosophers /psychoanalysts such as Lancan & Freud that often base their theories on sexual polarities) using text, semiotics, Marxism and religious/cultural taboo subject matter."

Or something like that.

And then there was Fuses:

All in all, I left the work, but the work didn't really leave me. Haunting, daring and exceptionally performed, I recommend anyone in the area to visit Pierre Menard at 10 Arrow St. in Cambridge, Mass.


Paper Girl said...

The Schneeman exhibit was indeed worth the trip up and down Mt. Auburn street 3 times. The gallery space is nice...equally so the sense of humor of the employee who wondered what the heck the RED SQUARE was doing on his front steps! However, on the serious side of things...
The attention -getter for this viewer was the small room with the "Viet-Flakes" film + images all about the space. Looking at some of the stills (I believe they were enlarged photocopies of actual newspaper items) I mistakenly thought they were images of the resulting holocaust inflicted on the people of Cambodia by the Kmer Rouge. As it turns out, same time, wrong channel...
Viet Nam...the conflict that peppered the whole of my childhood, right up until my 15th year. Horrible, bloody, wasteful...the parallels between that war and our current Iraqi conflict are staggering. I too, was moved by the depiction of the desperate folks who plummeted from the top floor of the World Trade Center on 911. Moving, sad, and so pitifully real. Moving on...
One piece that Keri failed to mention was the filming of Carolee and her boyfriend having sexual intercourse. I can't exactly say how I felt about the was neither here nor there for me. I WAS enchanted, however, with the HANDLING of the film. It seemed like old super 8 film footage...complete with scratches and poor lighting. The images that were superimposed on one another and the seemingly randomness of the splicing of the film was terrific. Hooray for editing!

keri marion said...

Hey Jo..

The intercourse piece is "Fuses," which you may not have been able to see on your end, but it's the video I posted. This way we can see the Beaver and Rod show as often as we like!

And I agree. The handling of the film is just spectacular. I loved the intimacy of Fuses, because it's very much like a real intimate experience. We're viewing something very personal and private, but not in a pornographic way. The scenes are blurred, distorted and sometimes quick, intermixed with other images at the beach, the front porch, rainstorms, brutality.

I think it expresses a sort of human regularity, or same-ness. The random thoughts and images that work through the mind when performing an act of intimacy (not necessarily sexual) can seem very surreal or not related, but they are part of the human experience, and that's what Fuses says to me.

Paper Girl said...

Oh Dear! I wondered what the "Fuses" was all about! Damn this dial up! When I get myself a REAL job I'm hooking up with a faster connection.