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13 / The Body

Meat Joy
Meat Joy
Artist / Origin Carolee Schneemann (American, b. 1939)
Region: North America
Date 1964
Material Group performance with raw fish, chickens, sausages, wet paint, plastic, rope, and shredded scrap paper
Credit Courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

RoseLee GoldbergDirector/Curator, PERFORMA
Carolee SchneemannArtist

Additional Resources

Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, rev. sub. ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.

Goldberg, RoseLee, and Laurie Anderson. Performance: Live Art Since the ’60s. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Sayre, Henry M. The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde Since 1970. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Carolee Schneemann Web site. http://www.caroleeschneemann.com

Meat Joy

» Carolee Schneemann (American, b. 1939)

A pioneering feminist artist, Carolee Schneemann investigates women’s lives, bodies, and roles in society.

Although she has worked in a variety of media throughout her career, she is most closely associated with a type of performance from the 1960s and 1970s known as Body Art (not to be confused with “body art,” a term that encompasses tattoo, scarification, piercing, painting on the skin, etc.). Feminist Body Art celebrates and reasserts aspects of women’s bodies that have been traditionally ignored or repressed by the male-privileged mainstream. These performances often included nudity and an explicit rejection of traditional, dismissive ideas about female sexuality. In many of Schneemann’s performances, her body literally becomes part of the artwork. Film, photographs, and verbal descriptions are all that remain of these powerful, highly charged live performances witnessed by a limited audience.

Schneemann and her participants first performed Meat Joy at the First Festival of Free Expression in Paris in May of 1964. Two other performances followed later that year in London and New York. A group of men and women, stripped to their underwear, danced and writhed around with each other on plastic sheeting, while rubbing raw fish, chicken, and sausage, as well as wet paint, onto their bodies. The entire performance was highly sensual; there were aspects of feeling, smelling, hearing, seeing, and even tasting. The work was simultaneously erotic, disgusting, comic, choreographed, and spontaneous. Meat Joy was a celebration of the flesh that verged on ecstatic ritual.

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