MODEL 1 (scroll-reader) – wears nothing but stilettos and a short Warhol-esque blonde wig
MODEL 2-10 – dressed as Vanessa Beecroft models in VB16 (1996), i.e. skin-colour tights and underwear, blonde wig
CAROLE(E) – played by Carole Luby, dressed as she would to deliver a lecture
MODELS 1-10 strut into a grid-formation facing the audience. They stand (as motionless as possible) for at least 5-10 minutes, looking blankly at the audience, mimicking a Vanessa Beecroft performance. MODEL 1 reaches down and (seemingly) pulls a scroll of paper from her vagina and begins to read from it, this is a re-enactment of Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll (1975). All MODELs must keep a serious expression throughout. All the MODELs read their first line by reaching down into their panties to read from their own scrolls. All quotes within the text are written in grey.
My first sexual experience was at the time of my birth, passing through the vaginal canal. That red pulsing tunnel, that alley of love; the vagina… poonani, yayn, vag, pussy, vajayjay, muff, coochie, box, poon,beaver, cooner, twat, cunt.1
MODELS 6-10 begin walking to the back and grab Cheerleading costumes (top, skirt, shoes and pom poms) to distribute to MODELS 1-4. The costumes are modelled after The Cunt Cheerleaders (1971) created by Caty Lang, Vanalyne Green, Dori Atlantis and Sue Boud, who were students of Judy Chicago in The Feminist Art Program.
What is cunt? We have definitions of ourselves by men.
Cunt is passive. Cunt is receptacle. Cunt is vessel.
Cunt is giver of all rewards and blessings.
Cunt is evil, demonic, will swallow you up, blah, blah, blah.
MODELS 1-4 dress with the help of another MODEL as quickly as possible, facing away from the audience. Once MODELS 1-4 are dressed, MODELS 5-10 stand at the back of stage area and standing in a row begin to ‘vogue’ (e.g. switching between frozen poses every 20-30 seconds).
(speaking slowly to give MODELS 1-4 time to dress)
Thoseare all projections, fantasy projections. But what we have to do is seize our own cunts! Grasp it firmly in our hands and proceed to announce what it is. Announce that it’s real.
MODELS 1, 2, 3 and 4 jump and turn to face the audience, arms holding pom poms outstretched as they chant their next line in unision. Each chant should be accompanied by a cheerleading pose.
MODELS 1, 2, 3 and 4
That it’s aggressive, that it’s outgoing.
MODELS 1, 2, 3 and 4
It’s aggressive, It’s outgoing!
That it looks like this, that it needs this, that it has this kind of dimension.And what does that mean? That means to really take control of our own identity as women.2
MODELS 1, 2, 3 and 4
(rolling their pom poms and raising their voices)
CAROLE(E) moves to the side and MODELS 5-10 elegantly exit. MODELS 1-4 form a line and perform dance routine to “When I get you alone”, a song by Thicke. The routine combines moves from 90s popular dance with the 70s hustle. When the song ends, CAROLE(E) approaches a lectern (or music stand) and begins her lecture, as she does this she dresses and undresses. MODELS 1-4 strike poses much like Hannah Wilke in her ‘performalist self-portraits’ and her video. They can also walk upand down as if on a catwalk, pivoting when they get near to the audience.
Youare witnessing a collage of moments from the history of feminist performance art. Vanessa Beecroft meets Carolee Schneemann with two lines by Karen Finley and a quote from Judy Chicago which became a chant by the Cunt Cheerleaders. Now they are vogue-ing for you as Hannah Wilke once did. And I dress and undress as I deliver this Naked Action Lecture, again like Schneemann.3
MODELS 1-4 have stopped vogue-ing. MODEL 2 and 3 hold up a curtain so that MODEL1 can undress again and remove wig, putting a flower in her hair. MODEL 4, gets three chairs and drapes velvet over and puts pillows at one end and then gets mirror. MODEL 1 lies across the chairs with her back tothe audience in a pose like Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus (c. 1647–51) with MODEL 4 holding mirror so MODEL 1 can see the audience. MODEL 2 and 3 move to the back displaying the curtain behind the now complete tableaux vivant.
Can a woman artist be a nude and an art historian? Can a woman painter bean art historian and a nude?4
The depicted images did not necessarily happen in the same order in which the performances were originally created. Did the artists alter history to fit their own ideology? Have we or they reinterpreted the past in order to have it fit our own or their own model of the present?
MODEL 2 and 3 move again to the front to provide cover while MODEL 1 turns around to pose as Manet’s Olympia (1863). MODEL 4 provides choker (and possibly a slipper and a little stuffed black cat). MODEL 4 poses with basket of flowers like the maid. MODEL 2 and 3 again move to the back displaying the curtain behind the now complete tableaux vivant.
Is one of these women more real or more idealised to me? What did their images say once the immediacy of time is past?
I can become Manet’s Olympia, or rather Schneemann as Olympia, but how can I relate my life to hers? How much does my time shape my life?
Woman may be born free but she is forever tied to her time, place and circumstance…Was I not fulfilling my own fantasies in reliving these images? Role-playing, time-travel, instant space travel, as well as the recreation of history…5
MODEL 2 and 3 put curtain in front again so that MODEL 1 can quickly redress and rearrange chairs in line stage-front to stage-back (rather than left to right). CAROLE(E) will choose one a male from the audience and bring him behind the curtain to lie across the 3 chairs with his head close to the audience. Using a theatrical sword MODEL 1 and 4 will do a tableaux vivant of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614-20). MODEL 2 and 3 hold curtain behind scene.
After a couple of minutes have passed, MODEL 2 and 3 put curtain in front again. MODEL 1 and 2 instruct the volunteer to sit upright in the middle chair while they pose around him, again holding the sword to his neck, as in Douglas Huebler’s performative recreation of Judith Slaying Holofernes done in 1971 entitled 633/variable piece #70. After another few minutes of holding this pose the man can back to the audience. CAROLE(E) brings orange dress for MODEL 1 to change into and then exits along with MODEL 2 and 3. The song The Lady from Trinidad begins playing. MODEL 1 performs dance by Rita Hayworth in Affair in Trinidad (1952).
3 . Carolee Schneemann performed Naked Action Lecture in 1968 at the ICA in London. The artist has described the performance as such:
I lectured from the stage of the ICA in London—on perception, the fractured planes of Cézanne landscape—while asking the audience, “Can a woman artist be a nude and an art historian? Can a womanpainter be an art historian and a nude?” as I constantly dressed and undressed. I was naked under overalls filled with oranges, these I threw to the audience while dressing and undressing, projecting slides of my body art juxtaposed with Cézanne’s nudes.
(For the full interview, see http://www.brooklynrail.org/2005/04/art/carolee-schneemann-with-praxis-delia-baj)
5. Starting from the line “The depicted images…” is a quotation from the voiceover narration in Hermine Freed’s Art Herstory (1974). In Art Herstory Freed has inserted herself into paintings using blue-screen special effects. She animates the characters in paintings from the Renaissance to Impressionism with an explanatory voiceover running throughout. I have altered some of the words in orderto refer to the history of performance, rather than painting.
© Oriana Fox 2009