Pierre Menard Gallery, Carolee Schneeman, Critical Review, October 2007

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 is 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. Full 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.