Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and her Circle

Creator of such acclaimed works as the performance Meat Joy and the film Fuses, for decades the artist Carolee Schneemann has saved the letters she has written and received. Much of this correspondence is published here for the first time, providing an epistolary history of Schneemann and other figures central to the international avant-garde of happenings, Fluxus, performance, and conceptual art. Schneemann corresponded for more than forty years with such figures as the composer James Tenney, the filmmaker Stan Brakhage, the artist Dick Higgins, the dancer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, the poet Clayton Eshleman, and the psychiatrist Joseph Berke. Her “tribe,” as she called it, altered the conditions under which art is made and the form in which it is presented, shifting emphasis from the private creation of unique objects to direct engagement with the public in ephemeral performances and in expanded, nontraditional forms of music, film, dance, theater, and literature.

Kristine Stiles selected, edited, annotated, and wrote the introduction to the letters, assembling them so that readers can follow the development of Schneemann’s art, thought, and private and public relationships. The correspondence chronicles a history of energy and invention, joy and sorrow, and charged personal and artistic struggles. It sheds light on the internecine aesthetic politics and mundane activities that constitute the exasperating vicissitudes of making art, building an artistic reputation, and negotiating an industry as unpredictable and demanding as the art world in the mid- to late twentieth century.

Edited by Kristine Stiles, Carolee Schneemann

Duke University Press 2010