Author: Elder, R Bruce
Date published: October 1, 2011
Carolee Schneemann's work in painting, photography, film, video and performance at last is receiving at least a portion of the attention it deserves. The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities has purchased her papers, no less prestigious a press than MIT published Imaging Her Erotics, a compendious collection of her writings up to 2002. Schneemann now is commonly acknowledged as one of the pioneers of performance art that focuses on the constitutive role one's body plays in one's apprehension of the world. Her now-renowned works strive to provoke primordial sensations and raise them to such a level of intensity that the spectator can experience the awakening of a more primal relation between the body and space.
Crucial to Schneemann's oeuvre is the connection between dream, flesh and a higher form of attention, a form of attention which becomes what Simone Weil called "decreation," which involves giving away the self to the other, so that the other might shine forth as revealed.1 That notion of attention introduced the idea of revelation into Schneemann's work. The writings of Norman O. Brown (1913-2002) were also extremely influential in the environment that fostered Schneemann's performance work. In the 1 960s Brown was widely known and his ideas commonly discussed, yet of all thinkers who helped establish the character of the decade and a half from 1960 to 1975, he is the one least commonly discussed today. It is not difficult to discern why this is so: our ironic stance, our unsentimental style, our corrosive cynicism, and our restrained and ungenerous view on what it requires for humans to live well together in social groups means that politics is no longer a forum for giving public expression to our moral predicaments and to our beliefs about the good that accrues through living together with others. The very thing that made Brown popular in his time - his optimistically apocalyptic view of a liberating, Dionysian revolution in Western culture - has ensured that he is now thoroughly out of fashion. But Schneemann does not share in the cynicism of our time either. And she is far from ironic. In Brown's work, we find a similar combination of interests in the unconscious, in a resurrection of the body and in the poetic as the ultimate form of revolt that we find in the work of Carolee Schneemann.
Schneemann's most Aktionist-inspired piece was Meat Joy (1964), a work for which she pressed into service her interest in improvisation, collage, performance, and Surrealist-inspired poetry. Despite the strong influence the Aktionists had on it, Meat Joy eschews the dark, abject side of those Viennese artists' performances and films, and opts instead for a Dionysian joy of the sort for which Brown advocated. In it, nearly naked performers (Schneemann wanted them naked but the authorities forbade that, so she dressed them in tiny, fur-lined bikini bathing suits) perform ritualistic, orgiastic gestures with paint, raw fish, chickens and sausages, "in an exuberant, sensory celebration of flesh": this work aimed, she said, to "dislocate, compound and engage our senses, expanding them into unknown and unpredictable relationships."2 The quest to dislocate the senses and interest in unpredictable ("marvelous") relations, of course, has Surrealist provenance - in this connection, it is notable that the work evolved from a series a "dream sensation images" the artist recorded between 1960 and the time she first presented the work. To achieve this end of dislocating and compounding the senses, she tells us, required "intense, concentrated group energy structured over weeks of rehearsals."3
Meat Joy is now widely regarded as one of the key works that established a type of art that celebrates the body and intense carnal experience (a strain whose major works are predominantly by women). Other performance works Schneemann composed around the same time (e.g., Interior Scroll of 1975) show Schneemann striving to contrive means for refusing to divest human sexuality in general, and feminine sexuality in particular, its mysterious, its seemingly archaic, indeed its fiercely eumenidic potency. In the contrast between Meat Joy and Interior Scroll, we glimpse a division between two lines in Schneemann's performance work, the Dionysian and the eumenidic. What connects the two is that in both she has striven to counteract the deleterious effects of a sex-negative culture, Schneemann has used her nude body in various innovative performance, photographic and film pieces, drawing on dreams, orgiastic ritual and autobiographical source material. This use of nudity has its grounds in Schneemann's commitment to a conception of reality as energy - or, more precisely, as the numinous-coming-to-presence. We shall explore the aesthetics of the numinous when we comment on the relation of Schneemann's aesthetics ideas to those of Brown and Antonin Artaud.
Ideas that emerged from the practice of social nudity fed into the emerging strain of art that celebrated the body for harboring mysterious, archaic, redemptory energies. Modern social nudism began in Germany, and there is a distinctive influence of German philosophy in modern social nudism's practices. Freikörperkultur (Free Body Culture) began as response to the industrialization of Germany, which resulted in mass migration from country to city and in workers' families being housed in cramped, unhygienic tenements and in workers' bodies becoming Taylorized by the routine, repetitive actions the assembly line forced them to petform. In response, thinkers began to advocate that the heath-promoting effects of getting in touch with the essential body - with the body's natural being, the body unaffected by the effects of the duress of production-line efficiencies. To get in touch with the still-pristine body, which, these thinkers averred, remained available, one should get back to nature (for the pristine body, it was argued, had an essential connection to the natural world), to strip off one's clothes and feel the wind and the sun on one's body and to practice calisthenics in nature. Beliefs that lay at the core of one strain of advocacy of social nudity were that modernity had distorted our relation to our bodies, which should be the source of those beneficent feelings that bind humans together in a communal society, that in separating us from the body and beneficence of communal life, modernity had brought us to a crisis, that to overcome this crisis would require a complete transformation of our form of life, that this Lebensreform must begin with getting in touch with the life-force that animates the body, and that the practice of social nudity (including performing nude calisthenics in the morning) helps us to get in touch with the dynamism of the life force.4 Notions that have a family resemblance to these ideas gained a new currency in the 1960s.
It is in the context of the belief in the importance of a complete and thorough-going Lebensreform that Brown's ideas found their place. Brown introduced a new Freud to the 1960s and 1970s - not the Freud that preached the necessity of sublimation (and repression) to civilization, nor the Freud that counseled adaption to prevailing social norms, but a Freud that offered instruction in a revolutionary eroticism and its relation to poetry and religion. Freud's central importance for Brown was that Freud had discerned the link between neurosis and culture - and had pointed out that the link was through religion and myth.
The empirical fact which compelled Freud to comprehend the whole of human history in the area of psychoanalysis is the appearance in dreams and in neurotic symptoms of themes substantially identical with major themes - both ritualistic and mythical - in the religious history of mankind. The link between the theory of neurosis and the theory of history is the theory of religion, as is made perfectly clear in Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism.
And the link affects both ends linked. Freud not only maintains that human history can be understood only as a neurosis but also that the neuroses of individuals can be understood only in the context of human history as a whole.5
For Brown, psychoanalysis was fundamentally a means for disclosing the role of repression. Capitalism is fueled by repression. Since that is so, it behooves each of us to struggle for him- or herself to effect a new ratio between repression and demand. The act of liberating oneself from excess repression, repeated across a large enough body of humanity, would bring about a new culture - or, better, anti-culture, the realization of the Universal Being toward which, throughout the nightmare of history, we had been unconsciously striving.
This was the exhilarating conclusion many who read Brown in the 1960s drew - and that conclusion is reflected in the ethics of Schneemann's art. The conclusion was not without textual warrant, for Brown's writings did adopt the tone of a jeremiad.
The path of sublimation, which mankind has religiously followed at least since die foundation of the first cities, is no way out of die human neurosis, but, on the contrary, leads to its aggravation. Psychoanalytical theory and the bitter facts of contemporary history suggest that mankind is reaching the end of this road. Psychoanalytical theory declares that the end of the road is the dominion of death-in-life. History has brought mankind to that pinnacle on which the total obliteration of mankind is at last a practical possibility. At this moment of history die friends of the life instinct must warn that the victory of death is by no means impossible, the malignant death instinct can unleash those hydrogen bombs. For if we discard our fond illusion that the human race has a privileged or providential status in the life of the universe, it seems plain that the malignant death instinct is a built-in guarantee mat the human experiment, if it fails to attain its possible perfection, will cancel itself out, as the dinosaur experiment canceled itself out. But jeremiads are useless unless we can point to a better way. Therefore the question confronting mankind is the abolition of repression - in traditional Christian language, the resurrection of the body.6
That is, I would argue, a strong summary of the stakes of Schneemann's use of nudity in her art.
In the 1960s, nude performance art resonated with the ideas Brown expounded in his embodied poetics. The context in which Schneemann's work emerged was open to the notion of a physical, indeed carnal art. By the mid-1960s, prohibitions against displaying the body were being overcome: even commercial theatre (such as Hair) could present both male and female fullfrontal nudity. Political tracts condemning repression were released with some regularity, and sexual repression came to be identified with the authoritarian personality and so with authoritarian political regimes: freeing the body, acknowledging and celebrating its sexual nature, was believed to have salutary effects. For (it was believed) repression, and the resulting sexual stasis, had led to the sexual plague, of which the authoritarian personality was one manifestation. In the 1930s and 1940s the cult of the body - and the celebration of the strong and beautiful body - had been associated with fascist ideology; by the 1960s, the celebration of the strong and beautiful body was seen as a route that would lead to social and political liberation.
The revolutionary ideals of the 1960s proposed an eroticizing of quotidian life, with an attendant eroticization of ordinarily relations. In this sense, it furthered the avant-garde's traditional aspiration of integrating art (that is, experience intensified) and life, of raising life to the condition of art so we could experience (ideally) every event in ordinary life with the intensity of our experience of the strongest moments in the greatest art. Lebensreform, aimed at recovering one's primal, authenticating relation with the life-force,
could do this. The nude body could be instrumental in this aesthetic transfiguration of life. That was the wager of the nude art Nackttanz anà Nackttheater) of the era. Some artists who emerged in 1950s and 1960s, among whom Carolee Schneemann figures prominently, made a very similar wager (though, to be sure, their elementarist leanings - unlike those of many German practitioners of Freikörperkultur, such as Heinrich Pudor (1865-1943) and Richard Ungewitter (18681958) - took them in the direction of a revolutionary poetics rather than a reactionary political advocacy).
The practice of social nudity in the United States had a decidedly less reformist and amelioratist bent than it did Germany. In America, less emphasis was placed on the therapeutic and hygienic role of exercising nude. The first permanent nudist camp in the United States, Sky Farm in Millington, New Jersey, opened under the direction of former F.K.K. member Kurt Barthel. Despite his background, Barthel was not as zealous a reformer as the German advocates of social nudism had been. Nonetheless, we should not allow that difference to obscure the radicality, or the profundity, of the discourse around nakedness that took place in Germany in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Nor should we allow the superficiality of American nudism to obscure the resonances this profound deliberation on nudity had in America two decades after the German dialogue was silenced. The various modes that the artists of the 1960s had for conceiving the body were already defined in Weimar Republic, if not pre-World War I, Germany. This is evident in the re-emergence of themes and imagery that had been explored in German Nacktkultur in Schneemann's art of the 1960s and after. Schneemann's art, too, makes uses of pagan and elementarist imagery that combines with images of a prelapsarian body in almost the same unstable relation that I see in German Nacktkultur.
Of all who thought deeply about nakedness and about bringing nakedness into the public sphere, about erotic desire, and who proposed a new role for intense carnal experience, Antonin Artaud, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, and Brown were the most important. I have already commented on the influence Reich had on Schneemann, in A Body of Vision. I have commented on Artaud's there as well, and I shall now offer remarks on that influence.7
Many New York and San Francisco performance artists were influenced by Artaud's ideas on performance. Schneemann certainly was - an actorfriend gave Carolee a copy of Antonin Artaud's Theatre and its Double. "Artaud, Simone de Beauvoir and Wilhelm Reich -that triad was really triggering my motives," she has said.8 Artaud's ideas (like LiI Picards) represented a bridge to the early, authentic Surrealism of the 1920s - and the fact that Wallace Berman (Artaud was contributor to SEMINA), Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg, along with Carolee Schneemann, figure among those influenced by Artaud's writing (both his poetry and his writings on theatre) can be taken as evidence that there is a connection between collage forms, performance ("Happenings"), and the Surrealist Absolute, though the deep nature of that relation is a matter which requires some thought if we are to achieve a full appreciation.
Artaud's theatre of cruelty exerted no small influence in the valorization of an alternative aesthetic ideal. His theories helped shape the alternative theatre movement of the 1950s and 1960s Paris, London and New York. Consider the context: the exhilaration they produced (conspicuous from the late 1950s to well into the 1960s) was a result of the attraction artists felt to cause of the authentic self: abstract expressionism made the direct expression of the painter's emotions, revealed in the physical handling of paint, to be the subject or meaning of a painting; the Beat poets made their own subjectivity the focus of their work; be-bop jazz relied on the continual improvisation, to concentrate attention on the musician's virtuosity and, consequendy, his genuineness. In Beat poetry and jazz, meaning had to do with a physical action - action not thought out in advance, but action utterly simultaneous with thought (an attitude that some Happenings-makers would share). The focus in this art was always on the self, and the aesthetic depended on the authenticity ofthat self. Very often that authenticity was vouched for by testimony of pain: the soul must do battle with stultifying effects of the masses in order to achieve individuation. But individuation invariably comes at the cost of suffering, and often by wagering that very self. Pain was testimony to the soul's struggle, madness evidence that the self had been risked. These ideas had a major influence on body art: performance art/body art by male artists often made this wager central, sometimes by (literally) giving the idea a body, and sometimes by ironically thematizing the idea.'
Artaud exemplified this struggle, suffering and loss. Artaud endured a lifetime of ill-health. He was physically and mentally debilitated by a severe case of meningitis contracted when he was five: from the age of nineteen, he suffered from depression and sharp head pains. Artists and thinkers read his symptoms using alternative semiotic procedures: they took as testimony of Artaud s signal importance the authenticity of his suffering, his madness, and his late-gained, nearly total vacuity.10 Artaud wrote of the actor "signaling through the flames," and he took a great interest in the act of martyrdom, for martyrdom, he understood, is linked to a spiritual transcendence.11 Screams wrack Artaud s verses. His tortured performances, his contorted facial expression, and bent body brought together the gestural dimension of Jackson Pollock's painting that Harold Rosenberg justifiably celebrated and the aleatory dimension of a Cage performance or a Fluxus Happening, to which mixture he added the encounter with the sublime. For many, for a time, Artaud served as a model for the artist as exemplary sufferer. But eventually he collapsed, under the tidal force of his imagination.
Artaud was deeply committed to a rigorous theatre: of the "cruelty" (his word for his works viral effect) of his theatre, he wrote, "from a mental point of view, cruelty means strictness, diligence, unrelenting decisiveness, irreversible and absolute determination."12 He wanted theatre to become a plague, "A real stage play upsets our tranquil sensibility, releases our suppressed subconscious . . . urging forward the exteriorization of a latent undercurrent of cruelty through which all the perversity of which the mind is capable, whether in a person or in a nation, becomes localized."13 About his ideal of theatrical cruelty, he wrote "The Theatre of Cruelty was created in order to restore an impassioned, convulsive concept of life to theatre, and we ought to accept the cruelty on which this is based in the sense of dramatic strictness, the extreme concentration of stage elements. - This cruelty will be bloody if need be, but not systematically so, and will therefore merge with the idea of a kind of severe mental purity."14 Further, he advocated that theatre must "rediscover images and archetypal symbols which act like . . . incendiary images surging into our abruptly awoken minds."15 Artaud strove to bring forth a fundamentally corporeal theatre, a theatre that would employ expressive breathing, animal sounds, uninhibited gestures, huge masks, and puppets. (For her part, Carolee Schneemann, commenting in 1964 on her Meat Joy performance, explained that the active physicality of her body could reintroduce smell, taste, and touch to art). He proposed a new architecture for theatre that would destroy the barrier between actors and audience - spectators would be turned into participants, subject to visceral effects of the action in which they were immersed. Artaud understood thinking as physical, and accorded priority to the physical over the literal. Theatre acted on the audience, sometimes violently. Schneemann took up these views of Artaud, and stated that her ambition (for Meat Joy) was "at the same time [to] transform and integrate any action or gesture of performers and audience: [must, then, produce] an enlarged 'collage,' to break up solid forms, frames, fixed conventions or comprehensible planes, the proscenium stage and the separation of audience and performer."16 Visceral effects Artaud deemed more profound than any experience accessible through passive understanding or absorption of language, plot, or coherently structured action. He aimed to unblock repression and to purge violence, hypocrisy, and the malaise he saw as endemic to society.
Artaud's theory, then, went some distance toward eliminating the distinction between the real actor (the actual performer) and the role the actor played - reducing the distance between the two augmented the work's authenticity, its reality effect. Schneemann, as we have noted, accepted the notion that it was important to overcome that separation. In fact, Schneemann's performance art would go a step further in shrinking that distance: what separates the real Carolee Schneemann and the role she performs in Interior Scroll seems to have been reduced to the bare aesthetic minimum. Of course, viewers of the piece recognize upon reflection that the work literalizes the archaic belief that women's sex harbors secrets and is a source of meaning (a topos of mythic thinking). Nonetheless, the initial perlocutionary effect of the work relies on the blunt impact of its reality effect, an effect made all the more potent by near identity of the aesthetic event (including the performed body) and the actual physical gestures of the actual performing body.17 In arriving at this strategy, Schneemann crossed her interest in dance (the ontological/aesthetic question of what separates the dancer and the dance is a longstanding topic in dance aesthetics) and Artaud's theatre of cruelty.
Brown's aesthetic theory is useful here again: writing on the notion of representation as it arose within Greek theatre, Brown remarked on
the distance which permits both identification and detachment; which makes for a participation without action; which establishes the detached observer, whose participation consists in seeing and is restricted to seeing; whose body is restricted to the eyes. Everything which is merely seen is seen through a windowpane, distantly; and purely: a pure aesthetic experience. Representative institutions depend upon the aesthetic illusion of distance.18
The Happening does not represent - it enacts. Representation (like language after Luther) involves a distance between the action and the representation itself. But what, exactly, was kept at a distance. Brown's answer to that question was brilliant.
In vicarious experience there is both identification and distance. The mediator is to keep reality at a distance, to keep the multitude in remote contact with reality. Hobbes saw the paradigm in Exodus XX, 18-19: And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when they saw it, they removed, and stood far off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we the.19
Action threatens to engulf the viewer - and the sublime element eliciting the terror of being engulfed is the Divine itself.
It is doubtful that Artaud would have endorsed the "fully participatory" model of theatre/performance that emerged in the early 1960s. Nonetheless, he offered many ideas that petformance artists adapted to their work. His notion of cruelty led him to repudiate that stage/auditorium divide so spectators would find themselves in the midst of a total theatrical event, and brought him to advocate for the destruction of the rational mind in the interest of liberating the creative process. Artaud was taken by many theatre practitioners to be the progenitor of a form of theatre whose aim is to unsettle and radically transform its audience, thereby creating the conditions in which a new culture might emerge.
From Artaud's writings on theatre, and through them, Happenings and performance art, there had emerged a rhetoric of the self and its confrontation with the sublime, terrifying other. On this topic, too, Brown was extraordinarily insightful. He recognized that this terrifying confrontation was, indeed, with the Other. For he noted that the body/self to be realized is the body of the cosmic wo/man, the body of the universe as one perfect wo/man.
What happens to the person's own body, is identical with what happens in the universe. . . . Freedom is fire [recall Artaud's reference to "incendiary images"], overcoming this world by reducing it to a fluctuating chaos, as in schizophrenia; the chaos which is the eternal ground of creation.20
Artaud proclaimed that his work was a "holy theatre," which aims at deploying ritual. His conception of the potential holiness of theatre rested on his recognition of an association of energies whose coexistence as p??eµ?? defies reason: that the creation of theatre, like Kali's creation of the universe in Hindu texts, like the "Ev ?a? ??? that at once differentiates and appropriates, is an act that is both creative and destructive. Artaud's corporeal intensities returned him to the state of Vico s savage: he developed a theatrical language equivalent to the mute language of gestures and vocables that constitute the reflexively imitative gestures of a consciousness still characterized by participation mystique. His language of gestures thus became a metaphysics-in/of-action that constitutes a new spatial poetics: space is the void that muteness opens upon. The savagery, the cruelty, of his theatre was an acknowledgement that wherever there is Eros, there is Thanatos as well. Love and death cannot be disintricated: a single libido expresses itself, always, as both, at once. The central irrationality of this p??eµ?? gives rise to holy madness - in seeking holy madness, Artaud was of one mind with Brown, for in Apocalyse and/or Metamorphosis, Brown too issued a call to return to "holy madness."
Our real choice is between holy and unholy madness: open your eyes and look around you - madness is in the saddle anyhow. Freud is the measure of our unholy madness, as Nietzsche is the prophet of the holy madness, of Dionysus, the mad truth.21
Artaud proposed that theatre become a holy rite of incendiary effect, a caustic (from ?a?st?? kaustos, burnt) remedy that would burn away all but what is radically pure. This rite would bypass the intellect, and appeal directly and immediately to the senses, and by this lack of mediation the ritual would take on an effective presence. In this process of scouring its participants to a purity, the rite would evolve towards revealing a numinous, ineffable presence that would affect the participants with power of a mysterium tremendum etfascinans.
Artaud's theatre of holy terror strives to bring to presence the numinous, the "chaos, which is the eternal ground of creation," to use Brown's expression. The divine emerges as a praesentia realis - crossing the threshold that separates the desacralized everyday world and the sacred space charged by the praesentia realis is not accomplished by moving through space, but by purifying the bodies of the experiences by subjecting them to terrifying and disorienting terror, and readying them for the moment when the terror of the numinous emerges. The ritual terror prepares one for holy terror of revelation immediacy (" Unmittelbarkeit der Religion'). Or, to put in terms that Rudolf Otto borrowed from Jakob Friedrich Fries, it provoked the experience of "'Ahndung-!' an intuitive knowledge of eternity within time.22 According to Otto, the holy mystery of the numinous can be experienced in two ways: as attraction (fascinosum) or as object oí fear tremendum). The rites of Artaud's holy theatre likewise provoke at once a fascinosum and tremendum. That similarity is basis of the theological significance of Artaud's theory of theatre.
And there at least we come to see the unity that holds together antithetical aspects of Schneemann's oeuvre. For Schneemann's nude art is similarly divided - between eumenidic and donative conceptions of the body. The two aspects are held together in a conception of Primal Being as characterized by the mirrored process of alienation and re-assimilation. Out of this emerges Schneemann's fierce, dynamic conception of beauty as p??eµ?? (polemos) - it is her belief in the primordial status of these mirrored processes that keeps drawing Schneemann back to exploring the mythical ancestors, and to casting the findings that issue from those investigations in religious terms.
Brown's proposal for a thorough-going personal and social remediation was not so different from Artaud's.
There is a hex on us, the specters in books, the authority of the past, and to exorcise these ghosts is the great work of magical self liberation. Then the eyes of the spirit would become one with the eyes of the body, and god would be in us, not outside. God in us: entheos: enthusiasm; this is the essence of the holy madness. In the fire of holy madness even books lose their gravity, and let themselves go up into the flame.23
The eyes of the spirit would become one with the eyes of the body, and god would be with us. That, I believe, was the mission of Carolee Schneemann's nude art.
1 Schneemann has written that, "In concentration 1 lose myself." See Carolee Schneemann, "On Intuition," in Techno/og/es of Intuition, Jennifer Fisher, ed. (Toronto: YYZ Books, 1 997), 92.
2 Quote from Carolee Schneemann's catalog note for the film In Quest of Meat Joy (1 9681 969).
3 Kristine Stiles and Carolee Schneemann, Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 460.
4 One splendid example is Adolf Just's early (and entrancing) Kehrt zur Natur zurück! Die wahre naturgemäße Heil- und Lebensweise. Wasser, licht, Luft, Erde, Früchte und wirkliches Christentum (1 895), translated into English as Return To Nature! The True Natural Method Of Healing and Living and the True Salvation Of The Soul: Paradise Regained - The Care of the Body - Water, Human Curative Power, Light, Air, Earth, Food, Fruit Culture. Published by the translator, B. Lust, 1 24 East 59th Street, New York, in 1903.
5 Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1985), 12.
6 Ibid., 307.
7 R. Bruce Elder, A Body of Vision: Representations of the Body in Recent Film and Poetry (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1 998).
8 Cited in Newman, "An Innovator Who Was the Eros of Her Own Art."
9 Here follow two such examples: The Californian artist Chris Burden performed a number of carefully planned but self -endangering actions. For Shoot, performed at Santa Ana's "F-Space" gallery in 1971, Burden contracted with a male friend to shoot him, inflicting a deep arm wound. For Sfep Piece, the New-York-based poet Vito Acconci stepped onto and off a stool each day, at the rate of 30 steps a minute for as long as he could manage, for a month. Men's body works, in contrast to those by women, often pitted the protagonist against his self, metaphorically testing social expectations of invulnerability.
10 Compare this with the trance-like selftransformations taking place over several hours and recorded on film in Eye Body (1 963), a happening staged by Schneemann and the painter Erró.
11 Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, Mary C. Richards, trans. (New York: Grove Press, 1994), 20.
12 Antonin Artaud, "First Letter on Cruelty (September, 1 932)" in The Theatre and its Double, Victor Corti, trans. (London 1 970), 79.
13 Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (1 994), 19,21.
14 Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (1 970), 81.
15 Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (1 994), Consider in this connection the similar purpose of Schneemann's art, that of re-membering: the cost of repression, Schneemann realizes, is forgetting, and much of her work, her performance work and her archeological researches alike, is devoted to assembling the fragments of nearly forgotten primal experience in an effort to resuscitate it.
16 Schneemann, More Thon Meat Joy, 21.
17 This reduction of the distance separating the performed body and the performer's body has psycho-political import. In 1 929 Joan Rivière published "Womanliness as Masquerade" in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis Vol. 1 0. There Rivière argued that womanliness, as understood by a culture that is heavily invested in sexual dimorphism, is essentially a performance. Near the end of that piece, Rivière wrote, "These conclusions compel one once more to face the question: what is the essential nature of fully developed femininity? ... The conception of womanliness as a mask, behind which man suspects some hidden danger, throws a little light on the enigma." Schneemann's art can be seen as an effort towards unmasking the "essential" feminine. Furthermore, Rivière there discusses the womanly masquerade as a formation that operates to reduce masculine castration anxiety. Schneemann, of course, makes no compromise with social conventions that effectively mask the power of women - she proposes that society change, so that the female is understo od as powerful, but not anti-male.
18 Norman O. Brown, love's Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1 966, reissued 1990), 119.
20 Ibid., 226 and 248.
21 Norman O. Brown, Apocalypse and/ or Metamorphosis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 2.
22 The text by Rudolf Otto that borrows Jakob Friedrich Fries' concept is The Philosophy of Religion based on Kant and Fries (1 909), in which Otto attempts to introduce an intuitive element into Kant's deontological ethics, by attempting to combine the philosopher's rational theory with that Friesian notion, which is disclosed to us through intuition. The Fries text he primarily relied on is Wissen, Glaube, und Ahndung of 805.
23 Brown, Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis, 6.
In 2007 R. Bruce Elder was awarded a Governor-General's award in Visual and Media Art, Canada's highest honor in the field, and that same year was elected to Royal Society of Canada for his life's work as a filmmaker. His most recent book, Harmony & Dissent: Film and Avant-Garde Art Movements in the Early Twentieth Century received the prestigious Robert Motherwell Book Prize in 2009 and was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 201 0.