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PRINT February 2019

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ROBERT MORRIS

Robert Morris, Site, 1964. Performance view, Stage 73, Surplus Dance Theater, New York, February 1964. Carolee Schneemann and Robert Morris. Photo: Hans Namuth.

OH DEAR BOB . . . your death is unacceptable. Your absence joins the current stampede of death, diminishing the continued conversations among my generation. Missing in action. I am so grateful for our wonderfully enriching history and for the configuration of friends and work that surrounds the years we shared. We were neighbors here in the Hudson Valley, and it’s wrenching to consider that we cannot anticipate more good times together.

The fact is that Site remains a visionary, transformative event that forever reshaped references to historic imagery.

I wanted you to know that taking the part of Olympia in Site, 1964, was a marvelous adventure for me. I was thrilled to reinvigorate that historic icon. There has been too much retroactive criticism of Site as lacking in feminist principles. In 1963, such principles were barely emergent—the immense gender transformations were just ahead of us. Bob, you had this amazing vision to shift our collaboration, which began in the basement of Judson Church. We were improvising, moving with various malleable materials. And you said: “I have another idea—we need to go down to my studio on Canal Street. I’ve built a little shelf as an experiment. Let’s try: You perch on this shelf while I move a structure of four-by-eight-foot boards that are blocking you from view. There will be a moment when I shift these boards away, revealing you posed as Manet’s nude.”

It’s crucial to understand that at the time I was choreographing Lateral Splay, 1963, and Meat Joy, 1964. During the presentations of Site, my own kinetic theater was obscured by the appreciation of and excitement around your work. I have said that being in Site both historicized and immobilized me. The fact is that it remains a visionary, transformative event that forever reshaped references to historic imagery. You cleaved the specific qualities of painting and sculpture, of movement and stillness. It was a dynamic integration.

Carolee Schneemann is a pioneering multidisciplinary artist. She was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2017, and was celebrated with a 2017–18 retrospective at MoMA PS1, New York.