Taking Schneemann’s research on both the physical and metaphorical manifestations of the body as its starting point, the exhibition merges Schneemann’s critical but lesser-known works of the eighties, nineties, and the present. Both presentations are centered on representation of bodies in captivity and visualizations of repressed histories of control and confinement. Though Schneemann’s works from the sixties and seventies involving performance and the body are widely known, her later works have not received the same critical attention. Further Evidence – Exhibit A and Further Evidence – Exhibit B present a crucial selection of later works, highlighting in particular Schneemann’s large-scale, multi-media installations that incorporate her research, installations, film, and video.
Further Evidence - Exhibit A at P•P•O•W will present the rarely-seen Known/Unknown: Plague Column (1995-6), an installation which combines collage, sculptures, wall texts, photographs, and video. The title refers to a Viennese plague column from the 17th century, in which the bubonic plague is represented as a witch; the victory over disease is imagined as the conquering of an unruly and malignant femininity. Video loops of enlarged permutated cancer cells are juxtaposed with grids of religious icons. The savagery of the witch hunt and of breast cancer itself are unified within the maligned body, both feared and desired. As scholar Soyoung Yoon notes in the catalogue essay, Known/Unknown: Plague Column asks: Is there a continuity between this representation of the plague and our more recent imagination about cancer, a link between witch hunts and the current warfare model of cancer treatment?
Morphological vocabularies which originate in dreams initiate Schneemann’s process. Fresh Blood - A Dream Morphology (1981-7), also on view at P•P•O•W, began with a dream dominated by imagery of a bouquet of dried leaves and an umbrella. These images were united by the common form they shared – a ‘V’ shape. Schneemann composed a visual vocabulary of related ‘V’ forms in a series of works in varying media over the course of ten years.
The two multi-media installations on view in Further Evidence – Exhibit B at Galerie Lelong have an antecedent in Schneemann’s works protesting the Vietnam War, including her films Viet-Flakes (1965), Snows (1967), and Souvenir of Lebanon (1983). These works activate Schneemann’s characteristic process of collecting, filming, editing, and then exposing images which are suppressed. Commissioned by the Tate Liverpool in 2009, and on view in New York for the first time, Precarious is a multi-channel video installation. A motorized mirror system rotates the imagery 360 degrees to physically encapsulate the viewer. Precarious was motivated by Schneemann’s research into the torture of animals, including photographs of cats in cages captured for Chinese food, as well as sequences of animals and prisoners dancing in captivity. Fleeting sequences in which a bird, a bear, prisoners, and Schneemann dancing are edited together within the shifting frames of cages and the confinement of the video format itself.
Exhibit B includes Devour (2003), a dual-channel video installation. The work is built upon the juxtaposition between what Schneemann terms the “ecstatic normal” of quotidian moments and atrocities. “Evanescent, fragile elements” of domesticity are contrasted with “violent, concussive, speeding fragments” of “political disasters” and “ambiguous menace." As in Precarious, the momentum of the visual vocabulary belies the horrific subject. The architecture of the grid and the recurring relationship of the body to social politics are present throughout the installation.