Douglas Kahn just posted an announcement for this coming
book about Charlotte Moorman.
Totally in line with our discussion.
It seems it takes about 20 years (a generation?) before
history is being built.
I had the priviledge to witness a performance she did with
Paik at CAVS during Art Transition in 1990. My memory of it
is absolutely vivid, or should I say, the memory of the
emotion she and Paik triggered, provoked in me that day.
Re-collection, social memory: we do not necessarily need
objects, or even "documents", building legend and passing it
along is part of the preservation too. And it is creating
another work, or re-processing the original work, as it is
to create a story that will make its way through the years,
that is both a good literature work + a good story teller
quality. It may need other qualities than being a good
scholar with good scientific methodology ;-)
I am really looking forward to that book.
The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman
By Joan Rothfuss
Foreword by Yoko Ono
The Juilliard-trained cellist Charlotte Moorman sat nude
behind a cello of carved ice, performed while dangling from
helium-filled balloons, and deployed an array of instruments
on The Mike Douglas Show that included her cello, a whistle,
a cap gun, a gong, and a belch. She did a striptease while
playing Bach in Nam June Paik's Sonata for Adults Only. In
the 1960s, Moorman (1933–1991) became famous for her madcap
(and often unclothed) performance antics; less famous but
more significant is Moorman's transformative influence on
contemporary performance practice--and her dedication to the
idea that avant-garde art should reach the widest possible
audience. In Topless Cellist, the first book to explore
Moorman's life and work, Joan Rothfuss rediscovers, and
recovers, the legacy of an extraordinary American artist.
Moorman's arrest in 1967 for performing topless made her a
water-cooler conversation-starter, but before her tabloid
fame she was a star of the avant-garde performance circuit,
with a repertoire of pieces by, among others, Yoko Ono,
Joseph Beuys, John Cage, and Paik, her main artistic
partner. Moorman invented a new mode of performance that
combined classical rigor, jazz improvisation, and
avant-garde experiment—informed by intuition, daring, and
love of spectacle. Moorman's annual festival of the
avant-garde offered the public a lively sampler of
contemporary art in performance, music, dance, poetry, film,
and other media.
Rothfuss chronicles Moorman's life from her youth in Little
Rock, Arkansas (where she was "Miss City Beautiful" of 1952)
through her career in New York's avant-garde to her death
from breast cancer in 1991. (Typically, she approached her
treatment as if it were a performance.) Deeply researched
and profusely illustrated, Topless Cellist offers a
fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious story
of an artist whose importance was more than the sum of her
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