Up to and Including Limits: After Carolee Schneemann

Muzeum Susch, Susch, 29. Dezember 2019 – 28. Juni 2020.

Curated by Sabine Breitwieser.

Taking the influential work of the late American artist Carolee Schneemann (1939–2019) as a point of departure, this exhibition will illuminate how Schneemann’s artistic legacy resonates in the work of generations of artists succeeding her. Featuring over 60 works by 13 artists and collectives, spanning from the 1980s to the present-day, in dialogue with ten seminal works by Schneemann, the exhibition examines the shifting boundaries of disciplines, medium and content in art over time and how these media and thematic boundaries remain under discussion in contemporary art.

Carolee Schneemann, Controlled Burning: Fireplace, 1963–1964, courtesy of the Estate of Carolee Schneemann, Galerie Lelong & Co., Hales Gallery, and P•P•O•W, New York
© Carolee Schneemann

Schneemann worked across various medias ranging from painting, assemblage, to performance, film, video and photograph but primarily understood herself as a painter. She created new forms of art that emerged as paintings literally set in motion. Using her own body, the artist’s expansive choreographies and installations evolved into what she coined ‘kinetic theatre’. In addition to her experimental and multidisciplinary approach to artistic media, Schneemann explored how she “can be image and image-maker” and created experimental photographs and films also featuring herself. She examined her role in society, and struggle for recognition as a woman artist and emancipated and re-determined the representation of women in art through reclaiming the image of the female body. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of her seminal pieces, Up to and Including Her Limits (1973-1976), a work she performed several times before it became transformed into a video installation. By introducing personal subjects, in particular sex and lust from a woman’s perspective, like in her film Fuses (1964-1967), Schneemann challenged traditional and patriarchal attitudes towards nudity and sexuality.

Up to and Including Limits: After Carolee Schneemann is curated by Sabine Breitwieser, former Director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, where she originated the 2015 exhibition ‘Carolee Schneemann, Kinetic Painting’, which toured to the Museum für Moderne Kunst MMK, Frankfurt am Main and MoMA PS1, New York. Breitwieser explains: “This exhibition is driven by limits, both in media and society: how they can be overcome, transformed and transgressed through time. While Carolee’s goal was to extend visual principles off the canvas and into life, this exhibition also considers the new challenges and limits our society is confronted with. We are exploring how and in which forms the expansive and innovative use of artistic media further emerge in works of the generation ‘after Carolee Schneemann’ and what kind of questions in regards to the body are at stake.”

This exhibition evaluates how after ground-breaking changes in the 1960/70s, with Schneemann as a pioneer amongst feminist artists, media expansion and the emancipated body are a subject for contemporary artists. What changes has the representation of the body, especially our understanding of it, undergone in the meantime? What new questions are raised today when artists work with their bodies or address them in their socio-political context? Were the generations „after Carolee Schneemann“ able to use artistic media, including the body of the artist, and to further innovatively expand their methods? Schneemann’s art was experimental and ahead of its time, some works were seen as highly provocative and provoked controversy. This exhibition gives us an opportunity to examine how we deal today with new manifestations and expanded contents in art, with images of nudity and sexuality especially of the female body, while the latter are already ubiquitous in public and digital space.

The exhibition is organised as a parcours across the four floors of Muzeum Susch, proposing dialogues between seminal works by Schneemann and works by artists of following generations, mirroring Schneemann’s multidisciplinary and multimedia approach.

There will be life performances during the opening and the closing weekend. Echoing Schneemann’s use of body as medium, Chicks on Speed will premiere Noise Bodies (2019), a music-performance inspired by Schneemann’s work of the same name created in 1965 using vernacular objects mounted on the body. The live performance will be recorded and transformed as an immersive installation in the exhibition. 

Raising dialogue across multiple selected works of art is Schneemann’s Meat Joy (1964/2008), in which an ensemble of men and women perform orchestrated movements with lighting, sound, and flesh as material in all conceivable forms, from raw fish and chicken to plastic, ropes, paper scrap and paint, what the artists called an “opulently ecstatic erotic rite”. Both Ragnar Kjartansson’s Variation on Meat Joy (2013) and Mette Ingvartsen’s 69 Positions (2014) directly refer to this work. The latter is part of the Ingvartsen’s The Red Pieces series, exploring relationships between sexuality and the public sphere, and will premier as a video after its celebrated original live performances. Similarly, early works of Pipilotti Rist, who likes to refer to Schneemann and challenges notions of women and sexual desire in popular culture, are included in the show.

In considering the artist’s expanded notion of artistic medium, the exhibition also challenges the boundaries embedded in Schneemann’s own work. Schneemann’s Vulva’s Morphia (1995) is shown in juxtaposition with works by Katrina Daschner, among them Zuhälter (1999), a series of collages of knitted body applications, addressing Schneemann’s heteronormative perspective. Up to and Including Limits: After Carolee Schneemann shares the ground broken by the artist and the boundaries left to be challenged by artists of our current time.

* Due to explicit sexual content visitors enter the exhibition at their own discretion.