Thursday, February 13, 2014

The World of Charlotte Moorman: Archive Catalogue

[Charlotte Moorman]
The World of Charlotte Moorman: Archive Catalogue
New York City, USA: Bound & Unbound, 2000
22 envelopes, 26.5 x 39 x 13 cm., boxed
Edition of 100

An archival box housing twenty-two envelopes which contain: a table of contents, a biography, a bibliography and three chronologies, including one on the collaborations Moorman made with Nam June Paik, for which she is perhaps best known. The remaining sixteen envelopes document the Annual New York Avant Garde Festival, which Moorman founded in 1963.

Edited by Barbara Moore, the catalogue accompanied an exhibition at Bound & Unbound between March and June of 2000. Moore runs Bound & Unbound and is also the executor of Moorman's estate. Her husband, photographer Peter Moore, took many of the photos of Moorman in performance that appear in the publication.

In 1967 Moorman received a modicum of notoriety as the "topless cellist" following an arrest and charges of indecent exposure while performing Paik's Opera Sextronique. She was given a suspended sentence.

For the Second Avant Garde Festival, Moorman had convinced the German composer Karl Stockhausen to permit a New York restaging of his performance piece, Originale, on the condition that Paik would reprise his role in the 1961 version as the "action composer". Other performers in the New York version included poet Allen Ginsberg, percussionist Max Neuhaus, composers James Tenney and Alvin Lucier, Allan Kaprow and several artists affiliated with the young Fluxus community (Dick Higgins, Jackson MacLow, Ayo, etc.). This meeting began the decades-long collaboration between Moorman and Paik, and also led to an ongoing feud with Fluxus 'pope' George Maciunas.

At the urging of Henry Flynt, Maciunas encouraged members of Fluxus to take a more overtly political stance, including picketing the premiere of Originale, on the basis that they considered Stockhausen a 'Cultural Imperialist' and "a characteristic European-North American ruling-class Artist". Some Fluxus artists participated in the protest, others crossed the picket lines to attend the event (Higgins did both). This created a fracture in the Fluxus group, with many artists associated with the subsequent festival events being excommunicated (sometimes only temporarily) by Maciunas.

The Avant-Garde Festival continued annually, in various locations (including Judson Hall, Central Park, the Staten Island Ferry, Shea Stadium, the World Trade Centre) until 1982, except for hiatus years of 1970, 1976 and 1979. Performers included John Cage, Morton Feldman, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneeman, John Lennon, Alison Knowles, Richard Kostelanetz, Bill Fontana and many others.

Paik and Moorman continued to work together, with Paik creating many works specifically for her, including TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) and TV-Cello (1971). The pair performed and toured internationally together for many years. Paik believed that music was sixty-years behind literature and the visual arts in terms of its relationship to sexuality, and was determined to correct this (see poster, below). The discovery of an attractive Juilliard-trained cellist not adverse to disrobing for an audience must've felt a godsend.

Their work together (and many of her solo outings, such as the restaging of her roommate Yoko Ono's Cut Piece), positioned Moorman as a precursor to the body art of Carolee Schneeman, Hannah Wilke, Marina Abramowicz, Karen Finley and Vanessa Beecroft. One of Peter Moore's photographs documents a performance of Jim McWilliams' 1973 piece Candy,  in which Moorman is covered in chocolate and shredded coconut, predating the nude chocolate sauce performances that brought Finley notoriety a decade later.

McWilliams' created numerous other memorable pieces for her, including Sky Kiss, The Flying Cello and The Intravenous Feeding of Charlotte Moorman. In 1966, Joseph Beuys created Infiltration Homogen für Cello, a felt-covered violoncello, in her honour.

In the late 1970s Moorman was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and continued treatment, but eventually succumbed to the disease on November 8th, 1991, at the age of 57.

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