MEAT ART v1 — Carolee Schneemann and the Sacred Erotic

by Samantha Anne Scott

Nothing is more real than flesh. Willem de Kooning once said something to that effect. Meat art, a loosely defined genre comprised primarily of painting, performance, photography and sculpture, is one of my primary artistic obsessions.

Call it flesh, call it wasted muscle tissue. Whatever you call it, a slew of talented artists have and are creating so-called meat art and I’d love to humbly guide you their work, a morsel at a time.

One of the first significant meat art pieces I was exposed to was protofeminist Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy. Schneemann’s artist statement for the piece read: “Meat Joy is an erotic rite — excessive, indulgent, a celebration of flesh as material: raw fish, chicken, sausages, wet paint, transparent plastic, ropes, brushes, paper scrap. Its propulsion is towards the ecstatic — shifting and turning among tenderness, wildness, precision, abandon; qualities that could at any moment be sensual, comic, joyous, repellent. Physical equivalences are enacted as a psychic imagistic stream, in which the layered elements mesh and gain intensity by the energy complement of the audience.”

Carolee Schneemann's Meat Joy, 1964

Meat Joy is a celebration of the flesh as a sensual, sacred material and eroticism, physical intimacy and risk, against a soundscape of traffic sounds and pop music. Watch an excerpt from Meat Joy here. This five-minute video is comprised of footage from from the restaging of Meat Joy in New York’s Judson Memorial Church and its debut performances at the Festival de la Libre Expression, Paris.

“There were many reasons for my use of the naked body in my Kinetic Theater works: to break into the taboos against the vitality of the naked body in movement, to eroticize my guilt-ridden culture and further to confound this culture’s sexual rigidities — that the life of the body is more variously expressive than a sex-negative society can admit.” — Carolee Schneemann, More Than Meat Joy.

LINKS:

Carolee Schneemann’s Web site

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