Vietnam War Atrocities Examined Via Film
Carolee Schneeman, world-renowned visual artist, writer, and Renaissance woman, screened some of her analytical, segmenting films this past Monday in UB's Student Union as part of the art department's speaker series.
Schneeman opened the discussion with a reminiscence of the last time she had been in Buffalo. The artist participated in a Vietnam War protest, and she remembered the Student Union at that time completely destroyed after the event.
Unlike many other protestors of the time, however, Schneeman used her intense anger for the torture innocent Vietnamese citizens underwent at the hand of American soldiers in a body of immensely emotionally, and at times disturbing, artwork.
One of the movies Schneeman played was "Viet Snows," in which juxtaposed, horrific images of tortured, hung, and murdered Vietnamese people rapidly flash while music ranging from the Beatles to folk music to Vietnamese traditional songs attempt to confuse the audience about the war and its immorality.
Schneeman refutes her work can be categorized under a single genre. Although films like "Viet Snow" demonstrate her ability to work within motion picture media, Schneeman explained she used a variety of mediums during her career to reverberate these and other rebellious sentiments.
One of her recent works, "Mortal Coils," was exhibited in the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. It touches on the subject matter that newspapers' "In Memorium" sections convey to the dead from their loved ones.
Schneeman showed pictures of the work while she explained the emotional and compositional elements of it. Seventeen coiled ropes are draped from the piece's ceiling, which represents the lives of her dead friends. Creating the piece, said Schneeman, was a way to meditate on and communicate with the memories of her deceased companions.
She explained that the recurring theme of her own is the basis for many of the ideas that sparked her work. For example, throughout much of her work, including her eight-year project titled "Venus Vectors," explored the appearance of an umbrella in one of Schneeman's dreams.
Later, the artist showed another movie titled "More Wrong Things." Disturbing images from conflicts in Eastern Europe, as well as recycled images from Vietnam, were placed in succession with images of dead, decaying animals.
"If you can't bear to look at a [deceased] domestic animal, how are you going to be able to bear savageries between humans?" asked Schneeman.
"[My work] doesn't correlate to an aesthetic that's preexisting," said Schneeman. She attempts to use eclectic techniques such as utilizing memories of dreams in her work, such as with the umbrella in order to tap into what she feels is a stronger creative force.
Although Schneeman says her work throughout her career has avoided the use of direct symbols for direct reasons, she doesn't deny the piece could be experienced with symbolism attached. "The sound and the images [in the movie] are constantly moving towards something symbolic."