Robert Morris with Carolee Schneemann, Site

(note: you may find you have click on the youtube progress bar after pressing play to start this video)

Site by Robert Morris with Carolee Schneemann originally performed at Stage 73, Surplus Dance Theater, New York, 2 and 9 March 1964.

Site involved a series of choreographed actions accompanied by the sound of a jackhammer which erupted from a white box placed downstage left. Morris himself, dressed in white and wearing a mask and work boots, dismantles a construction of rectangular boards to reveal a woman, Carolee Schneemann, lying motionless on a sofa in the manner of Manet’s Olympia. After a series of physical movements with of one board, Morris covers up Olympia again and the stage goes dark.

Despite being the work of a male artist, this piece is included on this website because it is part of a larger trend in feminist performance art of re-enacting paintings and asserting the agency of the depicted female protagonist. Manet’s Olympia (1863) was shocking because the painter had depicted with great realism (for the time) the prostitute model whose gaze immodestly confronts the viewer. Schneemann’s performance, again orchestrated by a male artist, animates that return gaze. Other works by female artists which bring to life figures from the canon of art history include Hermine Freed’s Art Herstory (1974) and numerous works by Orlan such as 1-off striptease with trousseau sheets(1976) and Attempt to Get Out of The Frame (1965).

Site was performed again, with Olga Adorno Klüver taking Schneemann’s place, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia on 24 April 1964. The last performance of Site was on 29 April the same year, with Carolee Schneemann again, at the Judson Memorial Church as part of the Judson Dance Theater’s series Concert #16. The work was once again presented in the early 1990s with Robert Morris also replaced by another performer.

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  1. [...] screening at the South London Gallery, I watched a filmed 1990s re-enactment of a 1964 performance, Site, by Robert Morris, shot by the incomparable film-maker Babette Mangolte. The performance was about Manet’s [...]

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