A few weeks before the start of each Biennale, the organizers of the event announce the winner of the Golden Lion. It is awarded to an artist in recognition of their lifetime’s work. This year, the curator of the 57th Biennale, Christine Macel, has chosen the American artist Carolee Schneemann, a pioneer of performance and Body Art who has become a representative figure of feminist art.
In a communiqué released by Christine Macel, “She has used 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 the traditional representation of women merely as a nude object, she has used the naked body as a primal, archaic force which could unify energies. Her style is direct, sexual, liberating and autobiographical”.
Born in 1939, Carolee Schneemann is known for her performances that discuss the place of the woman’s body in society and explore sexuality without boundaries. Open to all kinds of media, she has also experimented with painting and film. Among her creations was the performance Meat Joy (1964), presented for the first time in Paris, during which eight people dressed in underclothes covered themselves with paint and rubbed raw meat and fish on their bodies.
She also made an impact in 1975 with Interior Scroll, a performance in which she stood on a table completely naked and, as a metaphor of creation, extracted from her vagina a scroll from which she read extracts from her book Cézanne, She Was a Great Painter. Throughout her career she has also explored video art, in particular filming intimate moments of her life with James Tenney from the perspective of her cat. Schneemann has been close to such artists as Yoko Ono, Claes Oldenberg, Robert Morris, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.
In November 2015 a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg paid tribute to the eclecticism of her work, in particular exhibiting her early landscapes painted during the 1950s. The exhibition will be mounted at the MoMA PS1 in October.
Carolee Schneemann will receive her Golden Lion on 13 May during the Venice Biennale’s opening ceremony.