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“Vespers Pool” (1999 – 2000)

“Vespers Pool” continues Schneemann’s dissolution of imagistic and technological boundaries. Relying on dreams and signs, the work moves between conscious and unconscious worlds, melding realms that are commonly kept apart. This six-channel video installation fractures distinctions between human and animal, reason and the irrational, even between life and death. (Some of this text is from Eleanor Heartney.)

Vesper was suffering from a vascular disease which thinned veins in his neck so that when he sneezed or moved suddenly there were splashes of blood. Vesper always slept close in to my body. One morning I woke up and saw that his blood had splattered my only good nightgown (coincidentally, it belonged to the brand of cotton clothing, Cornell). I took the splotched nightgown to the sink to wash it out and I was suddenly commanded “Stop! Don’t wash this! Wrap this in tissue, in a safe place.” This was my first indication that there might be a work of artifacts tracing Vesper’s illness.

“Vespers Pool” is preceded by a corridor lined with illuminated niches that contain artifacts—a dead dove, a bloody nightgown, a deer tail, splintered wood from a tree struck by lightning—lit within the facade. These artifacts, presented as rare objects, while of no explicit value, point to a set of coincidences, to paranormal events centered on a death.

Schneemann advances her work in reconstituting psychic spaces as part of ordinary phenomena. The installation raises questions of interspecies communication, deepened by the wall of artifactual coincidences, as well as suggesting unexpected cultural taboos.

Entering the darkened gallery, viewers see seven video projections in a stream of images of a cat (Vesper) ardently kissing a woman; these images flow vertically into a projected pool of water. Schneemann spontaneously photographed the continuously kissing faces—human and animal—over an eight-year period. Questions of interspecies communication are deepened by the wall of artifactual coincidences, as well as suggesting unexpected cultural taboos.

“Vespers Pool” (1999 – 2000) includes six LCD projectors, two slide projectors, and motorized mirrors; a blue wall (8 × 15 × 14˝, with illuminated niches enclosing found objects. Four video projectors cast images down the walls, onto the ceiling and onto a circle of sand on the floor. Two other video projectors cantilever enlarged video loops side-by-side, detailing six-second sequences of the life and death of a companion cat. Edited on a Media 100 system, a multiple channel audial track layers ordinary sounds into a disquieting surround.

Installation of “Vesper’s Pool.” Commissioned by and exhibited at the Art Pace Foundation, San Antonio, Texas, 1999 and shown with their collaboration at the Emily Harvey Gallery January 28 – February 30, 2000. 527 Broadway, New York.

Standing in the woods, praying to the spirit of my dead cat. Suddenly in the dense trees around me there is a fluttering, and a dove appears falling directly in front of my feet. I hear myself say, “You are very injured, I cannot save you. Sorry.” I reached down to cup the fallen dove in my hands. It looks at me intently, closes its eyes, and dies. I believe it was sent from Vesper. I used my primitive taxidermy technique so that the dove can belong to the sequence of artifacts arriving from Vesper.

After Vesper’s death my first teaching job is in Portland, Maine. I am given a sublet apartment for the duration. It is on Vesper Street! This seems amazing because Vesper is a Catholic evening ceremony and Portland was established as a congregationalist community. I begin to research the history of Vesper Street. There is no information in the main library, but I am instructed to go to a beachfront town, which also has a Vesper Street. I contact the town historian and a very tall glamorous man in white Levis tells me they don’t have a history for the street name. We are standing in a grassy field when a gull flies in from the ocean, it circles over our heads mysteriously and drops a large feather at my feet.



Carolee Schneeman

Carolee Schneemann is a multidisciplinary artist.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2014

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