Artwork Detail

Meat Joy
American, 1939–2019
16 mm color film with sound, transferred to DVD
10:35 min.
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 2016
WU 2016.0009
As a pioneering feminist artist Carolee Schneemann has earned renown over the past six decades for her work that critically investigates the relationship between the body of the artist and the social body. Meat Joy is a film based on footage from a series of performances that took place in 1964 at venues in Paris, London, and New York. One of Schneemann’s most iconic works, a half-century after its inception it still retains the power to startle audiences with its transgressive evocation of the sensual and carnal. In it men and women clad in feather-trimmed bikinis and briefs dances and writhes on plastic sheeting while rubbing raw fish, chicken, sausage, and wet paint onto their bodies. The live performances conveyed the character of an erotic rite, simultaneously ecstatic and repulsive, choreographed and spontaneous. The work also significantly built on Schneemann’s formative training as a painter, bringing the concept of gestural painting into a radically expanded field. In subsequent years Schneemann edited footage from films of the original performances, adding layers of music and a poetic voice-over to create this experimental visual montage that amplifies aspects of the performances while also linking back to the sensory impressions on which they were based. [Permanent collection label, 2017]