Beautiful news out of Italy this morning: Carolee Schneemann has been awarded Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by the Venice Biennale. Schneemann, who has produced trailblazing feminist and performance art for more than half a century, will pick up her Lion statue on the day of the public opening of the biennale, May 13, at its headquarters, Ca’ Giustinian. Christine Macel, the curator of this year’s biennale, said in a statement:
She uses her own body as the prevalent material of her art. In so doing, she situates women as both the creator and an active part of the creation itself. In opposition to traditional representation of women merely as nude object, she uses the naked body as a primal, archaic force which could unify energies. Her style is direct, sexual, liberating and autobiographical. She champions the importance of women’s sensual pleasure and she examines the possibilities of political and personal emancipation from predominant social and aesthetic conventions. Through the exploration of a large range of media, such as painting, filmmaking, video art and performance, Schneemann re-writes her personal history of art, refusing the idea of an “his-tory” narrated exclusively from the male point of view.
Schneemann has been on a roll of late. The Artist’s Institute dedicated a season to her in 2015, and in 2016 Galerie Lelong and P.P.O.W., which co-represent her in New York, presented a two-part exhibition of her work. A touring Schneemann retrospective will open at the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt in May and travel to MoMA PS1 later in the year.
Other recent Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement have gone to El Anatsui (in 2015), Maria Lassnig and Marisa Merz (2013), and Sturtevant and Franz West (2011). A jury that includes the biennale director also typically awards Golden Lions for the best national pavilion in the show and the best artist in the main international show, as well a Silver Lion for a “promising young artist.” Those will be announced around the start of the show.
In honor of Schneemann’s victory, let us together watch a bit of her remarkable Meat Joy (1964):