Magazine article Artforum International

Carolee Schneemann: P.P.O.W

Magazine article Artforum International

Carolee Schneemann: P.P.O.W

Article excerpt

Carolee Schneemann's recent solo exhibition at P.P.O.W. coincided with Thomas Hirschhorn's latest at Gladstone Gallery. Both, it scarcely needs pointing out, dealt with the politics of representation and the representation of politics, but a more interesting point of comparison might be semantic. While Schneemann--a pioneering figure in feminism and body art--has sometimes met with accusations of narcissism and shallowness, Hirschhorn today claims superficiality itself as a site de resistance. "The truth and logic of things," he writes, "are reflected on their own surface.... Let's keep things on the surface, let's take the surface seriously!"

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Whatever one thinks of Hirsch-horn's proposition and, moreover, of the specificities of his exhibition's content, its terms demand that we consider the ways in which all ideological battles are played out over and within the materiality of the body. Such a truth has been, of course, the purview of numerous artists over the years, a great number of them pursuing specifically feminist practices. Thus, visiting "Corporeal," a miniretrospective of Schneemann's photographic works executed over the last forty years or so, one is reminded of just how recent--and how particular--such "superficial" considerations of the body really are. Indeed, the throughline of "Corporeal" (a title that surely signals an intention to take the surface seriously) issues from the artist's conviction that matters sexual, social, and political are most immediately inscribed in the flesh.

Included here were photographic sequences documenting those works of Schneemann's that, due to their sheer canonical status, sometimes verge on losing their original disruptive force. It is easy to forget the radicalness of Interior Scroll, 1975, for instance, in which a naked, mud-painted Schneemann pulled a text from her vagina and read its eloquent protest against a male-dominated art world. …

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