Bodies of Work
An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle
Duke University Press Books
$29.95 List Price
Since the 2007–2009 “WACK!” exhibition in Los Angeles and New York, there has been a passionate reinvestigation of feminist art. Amelia Jones, to give just one example, wonders in a recent X-Tra magazine essay whether feminist artists have regressed to a desire to “make money out of the bodies (and the bodies-of-work) of women.” What better time, then, to publish Correspondence Course? This letter collection offers insights from many of the artists who started these debates in the first place, Carolee Schneemann in particular. Since the late ’50s, her paintings, installations, and films have examined representations of the female body, simultaneously honoring its sacredness and grappling with its sexual allure (or abjection). One of her most notorious performances, Meat Joy (1964), placed writhing naked bodies on a stage strewn with raw fish, chickens, sausages, and wet paint.
Spanning forty-five years, this book includes exchanges with experimental filmmakers Anthony McCall and Stan Brakhage, choreographer Yvonne Rainer, poet Dick Higgins, and critic Carol Wikarska, among others. One expects fiery feminist missives from Schneemann, and on this front the book frequently delivers. Like her art, Schneemann’s letters have a peppery charisma, one that imbues her correspondence with a brand of poignant and sensitive, but never quite vitriolic, militancy—not to mention a flair for free association and all-caps diatribes (“I AM ELECTRICAL VULVIC BOLT IN TIME I BLEED MY MONTHS NOT YOUR CALENDAR,” she writes in a 1975 letter to poet Clayton Eshleman). The tension between feminist