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Carolee Schneemann
via Nowness

Watch the last recorded interview with the late Carolee Schneemann

Debuting on NOWNESS, the video is an intimate portrait of the feminist art icon, who passed away this week at 79

Carolee Schneemann, the pioneering multidisciplinary artist, passed away this week age 79. It’s a huge, profound loss for the art world and feminist movement – Schneemann, across expansive mediums including painting, performance art, and video, brought issues surrounding the female body, gender, and sexuality to the forefront. 

A new video, premiering on NOWNESS, captures the last recorded interview with Schneemann, an intimate profile by filmmaker Clara Cullen as part of the Raw Materials series, commissioned for International Women’s Day. 

The film finds Schneemann at her home in upstate New York, where she lived and worked on her art for decades with her partner James Tenney. In the profile, Schneemann discusses four things that have shaped her practice. The first is her cats, discussing how their feline movement inspired her own dynamics – “scratching, jumping, always absorbing mistakes”. “When a cat makes a mistake it’s not a mistake, it’s a calculation,” she says. 

Nature is another – “as a landscape painter you learn that you can only fail,” Schneemann continues. Roses that a still life painter is working with will wilt, weather changes, the temperature rises and drops.

“My job is to extract whatever is constant and accept whatever might not be my wishes,” Schneemann says.

Another inspiration and influence is her own studio floor, shown covered in aging, technicolour paint splotches – “the floor is about the time process that happened,” Schneemann adds. It’s a piece of art history. 

Her house is another inspiration cited, one that is “so charged, it’s so full of spirit”, shown populated with cats, art, and delightfully homey materials. Her house became her muse with Tenney, who did much of his own early writing there. Fuses, her 1967 film which shows the couple having sex, was dreamt there, and she worked on the Vietnam atrocity-confronting Viet-Flakes (1962-67) there too, as well as multiple other projects across the decades. “It’s become part of my physicality,” she affirms.

Yesterday on Dazed, we paid tribute to the late Schneemann and her indelible legacy, with help from iconic artists Betty Tompkins and Cosey Fanni Tutti. 

Watch the Raw Materials: Carolee Schneemann film on NOWNESS here.