Carolee Schneemann will be awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, “VIVA ARTE VIVA,” opening on May 13. The decision was made upon the recommendation of Christine Macel, the curator of this year’s exhibition, by the Biennale’s board of directors, chaired by Paolo Baratta.
“Schneemann has been one of the most important figures in the development of performance and body art,” Macel 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 [that can] 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 rewrites her personal history of art, refusing the idea of an ‘his-tory’ narrated exclusively from the male point of view.”
Born in Fox Chase, Pennsylvania, in 1939, Schneemann has been working for more than six decades. She has received a number of awards, including an Art Pace International artist residency in San Antonio, Texas, in 1999; Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants in 1997 and 1998; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993; a Gottlieb Foundation grant; and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She has also taught at institutions such as New York University, California Institute of the Arts, Bard College, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Schneemann has authored a number of books, including Cezanne, She Was a Great Painter (1976), Early and Recent Work (1983), and More Than Meat Joy: Performance Works and Selected Writings (1979, 1997). Her works are found in the permanent collections of the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, New York’s MoMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, London’s Tate Modern, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, among others.
In the February 2017 issue of Artforum, Lauren O’Neill-Butler reviewed Schneemann’s two-part exhibition at P.P.O.W and Gallerie Lelong. She wrote: “What does an enduring commitment to feminist antiwar resistance look like? For more than five decades, Carolee Schneemann has underwritten her art with a desire to understand and observe. From Viet-Flakes, 1965, and Snows, 1967, which protested the Vietnam War, to the ‘Lebanon Series,’ 1983–91, on the destruction of Beirut, and Terminal Velocity, 2001–2005, wherein she took on 9/11, she has long borne witness to cruelty and empathy, though discussions of her oeuvre sideline this theme in favor of other, related issues of gender and sexuality.”
Schneemann will receive the honor during the awards ceremony and inauguration of the exhibition on Saturday, May 13, at Ca’ Giustinian, the Biennale’s headquarters.