Study visit: Carolee Schneemann and a bout of sickness

Updated on 18 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 February, 2016. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to visit art museums and galleries, but we had been given this weekend off by my sister-in-law and since at the same we are living through the quiet before the final hospital showdown we decided that we would finally take the opportunity and visit the “Museum der Moderne” in Salzburg.
I had been passing by posters announcing a new exhibition called “Kinetic Painting” featuring the American artist Carolee Schneemann for a while, when taking my son to his special school. Since I quite liked the lively photograph on the poster and in my naive way was curious look behind the term “kinetic painting” I was in no way prepared for the experience.
Carolee Schneemann (*1939) first trained as a painter in a traditional way, but met with open and ongoing hostility by the all-male art education and establishment of the late 1950s. She reacted, not just but mostly, with an explosion of sexually explicit film-making, which from then on would dominate her life as an artist. Not surprisingly for the time and including up to the present, she was not always received with open arms (Museum der Moderne, 2014).
I can understand and appreciate that her actions must have helped prepare public and private minds for more gender equality, but I am at odds with myself over the art in her work. At the risk of being called backward I have to admit that never before today I have left an exhibition feeling physically sick. Apart from not wanting to see many of the exhibits I guess that the experience made me also feel totally inadequate as an artist. Why, for all the world, is it necessary to cause disgust before anyone will take notice of what you have to say? What is a series of 8 (or more, can’t remember) blood-stained sanitary towels in a wooden frame, behind glass, in a museum, with a clever text panel written by an art historian explaining the contents? Who declared this fierce statement uttered by a severely hurt woman a work of art? I don’t believe for a second it was Carolee Schneemann’s doing and I don’t want to speculate how this has come about. It seems that artists – for a common lack of courage in our political leaders – get pushed to the front, and get paid with fame for the dirty work of breaking accepted standards and initiating development. It is very likely true that some artists are willing to join the game, but I am convinced that the majority, male or female, are not. I call this system sickening and this is why this exhibition made me feel sick.
Not surprisingly there were no brush marks to be detected I wanted to learn about, but I left with the conviction that such dearly bought fame bears no attraction for me.

References:

Museum der Moderne (2014) Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting [online]. Museum der Moderne, Salzburg. Available at: http://www.museumdermoderne.at/en/exhibitions/current/details/mdm/carolee-schneemann/ [Accessed 18 February 2017]

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