Parts of a Body House Book is an artist’s book, illustrated by hand, roughly 74 pages long with loose leaf inserted sheets that measure 33 x 20 cm. The side-stitched binding is across the top edge of the book so the pages fold back upwards, but the contents shift between a vertical and horizontal axis throughout. The first edition was produced in a run of 60 with 15 artists proofs with an additional print, Americana I Ching Apple Pie, included in the book and as a separate print (also in a run of 60 editions). A second, low-cost facsimile edition was made by the Press in the same year in an edition of 200. Designed by Schneemann and Felipe Ehrenberg, an artist from Mexico and co-founder of Beau Geste Press, the printing work was completed on a Gestetner 300, a duplicating printer that used stencil templates, also referred to as a mimeograph or a cyclograph, and was powered by hand.
Many pages include over-painting, with additional elements such as 35mm film stills – two frames of slide transparency attributed to the conceptual artist Anthony McCall are on the first half page spread – and photographic illustrations attached by glue onto the page. Coloured sheets, cut to half page span, or folded sheets that are stapled across a spread to disrupt the page sequence feature throughout, using differently textured stock. The front cover is illustrated with a photographic collage made with black ink onto yellow card depicting Schneemann leaning against a building, with the title of the book printed onto of the image of the door, with the words ‘artist’ in block capitals and ‘Carolee Schneemann’ reproduced in a circus carousel style font. In the window, which forms the background of the image, Schneemann’s cat Kitch is also visible, and also referenced as ‘Kitch artist’. The photograph is described in the credit section as ‘the Silhouette Artist’s Booth (closed for winter)’, taken by John Drane at Brighton Pier in January 1971. The back cover again consists of a photograph of the artist in black ink, this time on blue card with over painting in red and yellow paint accompanied by the artist’s signature and the edition number (2/60) stamped on the bottom right hand corner of the page. The photograph is titled ‘Knude with Knaked Ksnake’ by Alex Agor (dated March 1971) and shows a naked Schneemann turning towards the camera with a snake wrapped around her shoulders. This photograph is reproduced again within the publication and is also featured in Schneemann’s 1979 book, More Than Meat Joy: Performance Works and Selected Writings.
Parts of a Body House Book contains a wide array of content ‘culled’ as the artist described, from ‘mounds of related material’, including reflections on artist’s filmmaking and performance, such as ‘Notes of first reviewing a film by Dusan Makevejev, London 27 Dec 1971’, ‘From Notes of Motion (Rehearsal notes for Kinetic Theatre) and ‘International Film Festival – Expanded Cinema, Sept 1970’. Other types of writing include correspondence from the artist to friends and writers such as the poet Clayton Eshleman, of whom Schneemann had a long-standing friendship, and interviews that include accounts of sexual encounters gathered from a group of women friends in ‘Camera Seeing Through Taken Shot For My Own’. These accounts are incorporated into Sexual Parameters Chart (1969–71, a schematic work spread across several pages with an accompanying guideline sheet (‘notes and omissions’) with a drawing by Schneemann, folded and glued to page as an additional insert. Arranged across the book are several visual additions, such as drawings that detail performances made by Schneemann, rendered as a cartoon strips and the multiple ‘print’ titled, Blood Work, which consisted of a single sheet of tissue paper that Schneemann used to blot her menstrual blood, inserted within the pages with an accompanying explanation penned by the artist and her then-partner, Anthony McCall. With each mark an original, the ebb and flow of the artist’s internal cycle is therefore documented across the edition of sixty publications.
Some of contents presented in Parts of a Body House Book had been published previously, such as the eponymous text ‘Parts of a Body House’, which originated as a series of drawings made in 1966, and then revised as a text. It was first published in the experimental poetry journal Caterpillar (issue 3/4 April–July 1968, ed. Clayton Eshleman) and again in Fantastic Architecture (Something Else Press], ed. Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins) in 1969. In addition, the text titled ‘International Film Festival – Expanded Cinema, Sept 1970, National Film Theatre, Royal Festival Hall London. Carolee Schneemann FREE FORM RECOLLECTIONS OF NEW YORK’ was commissioned for the loose-leaf catalogue of The International Underground Film Festival in London in 1970, organised by David Curtis from the London Filmmakers Co-op. It was originally titled ‘Expanded Cinema. FREE FORM RECOLLECTIONS OF NEW YORK. Carolee Schneemann in London’ and accompanied the performance Thames Crawling made by Schneemann and John Lifton at the National Film Theatre for the festival. Documentation of the performance is featured within Parts of a Body House Book as a series of black and white documentary photographs taken by David Crosswaite.
Schneemann developed texts that originated in Parts of a Body House Book into other projects, as with ‘Be Prepared’, a text republished in Schneemann’s second artist’s book, Cezanne, She was a Great Painter (New York: Trespass Press 1974), and later incorporated into the performance Interior Scroll 1975, where it was read aloud by the artist. Indeed, ‘Be Prepared’ and another text ‘One Day’s Sampling’ in addition to re-occuring in Schneemann’s subsequent artist’s books, would also be published in the experimental journal Earth Ship (issue 12, August 1972, The Women’s Issue. Ed. Kris Hemensley, published by Kris Hemensley: Southampton) and The Fox, (no.3, 1976, ed. Art & Language. New York: Art & Language Foundation Inc.) Schneemann also contributed material from Parts of a Body House Book to other Beau Geste published works including the magazine Schmuck 1 (‘Parts of a Body House’ ) the journal Dreck: bits & pieces from the frontier (‘Notes of first reviewing a film by Dusan Makevejev, London 27 Dec 1971’).
Parts of a Body House Book is the first of several books made by Carolee Schneemann and is the only one made during the time the artist was based in England from 1970-73.
Parts of a Body House Book is in the David Mayor/Beau Geste Press Papers (TGA:815) and the Artists’ Book Collection, Tate Library and Archive