In the 4th part of my investigation into performance art I will be discussing in my opinion the two most controversial and Revolutionary performance artists of the 20th Century Robert Morris and Carolee Schneeman. Both of them directly engaged with the spectator and used the Body directly to represent the art Object in space. No longer was the art Object to be viewed stuck on a wall but spectators would interact with both Morris and Schneeman, this was totally revolutionary. Bourgeois Feminists denounced Schneeman as pandering to Sexism by revealing so much more of her Body but Schneeman’s retort was that the use of her body liberated it from Sexism and put forward a Revolutionary Feminist perspectives. Many 21st century performance artists like Hannah Wilke have done this. and showed how you could use the body to highlight perception and subjectivity.
” Works by Robert Morris and Carolee Schneeman offer two early 1960’s examples of the appearance of the body in Art that provide a foundation of thinking about performances over the following 4 decades”. .
“Many of Morris’s early works like the I-Box make implicit references to marcel Duchamp’s life long discourse on the Psychological and psycho sexual aspects of perception”..
In many of his works particularly the ‘Ready made’s ‘ Duchamp was challenging our perception of what the art Object should be or look like. He refused to be pidgeon holed into either Painting or sculpture.
” This work (I-box) also reveals how fundamental the performance , the exchange of subjectivity between artist and viewer always is. in both ways Morris’s I-Box raises questions about changing conditions of subjectivity that compare to Schneeman’s eye-body” ..
” Both Eye-body and I-Box exhibit photographic representations of Nude artists=who directly engage the viewer’s eyes”. .
In many ways both Schneeman and Morris decided how the display was to be organised. It was not as if both of them were just stationery photographic models but were Performance artists showing how the Art Object (themselves) could be displayed in real space and Time. That was the object of both the I -Box and Eye-Body.
” But while early happenings often employed the Female nude as an erotic object and Schneeman presented herself in this traditional mode she also sought to produce an image challenging canonical representations of Women by being the Image maker”. .
” Schneeman’s pudendum and clitoris are visible in this intimate picture of female anatomy seldom seen outside pornography”. .
In Eye-Body she has rubber snakes placed over her naked body but the black lines over her body suggests aspects of Fauvism and Cubism as represented by Matisse and Picasso.
” She (Schneeman) appears with a black line painted down the centre of her face suggesting Henri Matisse’s the Green Stripe 1905. The Black line also refers to African Masks and Pablo Picasso Prostitutes in Les Demoiselles de Avignon 1907″. .
” Schneeman reinforced the Cubist reference in the only photomontage of the Eye Body series in which she collaged repetitive photographic fragments of her face in order to shatter , extend and repeat her image”..
Kristine Styles an Art historian considers Schneeman’s contribution to Performance and believes that what Schneeman achieves is a transference from illusory space of the picture to the physical space of the room.
” She (Schneeman) sought to make the extension actual by transferring action from the illusory space of the picture plane to the real space of the room”. .
” To accomplish this she over painted her body and literally entered into the picture as installation. In her studio merging three differentiated viewing spaces picture/body/real space”. .
Morris in the I-Box brings the viewer back to the subject whereas Schneeman shows how the subject is part of the picture plane and exists in real space.
” Thus while Morris’s I-box retains a subject-object relation inherent in conventional art Schneeman drew the eye back to the Body”. .
” Including her Limits -this mixed media event including performance Installation and Video. Schneeman hung naked from a swing perpetually moving in space and drew and wrote on a paper that she had installed on the floor and the wall around her”..
Kristine Styles concludes her comments on Schneeman with the following statement.
” Schneeman sought to bring viewers into intimate contact with her artistic process in the actual production of her Art”. .
Rose Lee Goldberg now considers the contributions of Pierre Manzoni and Yves Klein.
” To Klein painting was like the window of a Prison where the lines , contains forms and compositions are determined by the bars”. .
” It was at this time that Klein wrote my paintings are now invisible. Working with bemused models Klein realised that he did not have to paint from models but could paint with them. So he emptied his Studio of paintings and rolled the nude models in his perfect blue paint”. .
Both Manzoni and Klein adopted this revolutionary way of transferring paint from the canvass onto the performers , a quite simple but effective method to reject painting as the art object and establish the performer as the object.
” Klein considered these demonstrations as a means to tear down the temple veil of the studio”. .
” Both artists (Klein and Manzoni) believed that it was essential to reveal the process of art to demystify pictorial sensitivity”..
This concludes my exploration of the performance art of Carolee Schneeman , Robert Morris , Pierre Manzoni and Yves Klein. In Part 5 I will consider in depth the art of Joseph Beuys and Daniel Buren.
- THEMES IN CONTEMPORARY ART: EYE/OCULUS/ PERFORMANCE :I EYE PERFORMANCE IN THE 1960’S. KRISTINE STILES.PG.191
- PERFORMANCE ART FROM FUTURISM TO THE PRESENT: ROSE LEE GOLDBERG.PG.144