Carolee Schneemann :: Fuses (1967) film/video, 22 min.

goodeve-09-64_67-fuses010Artist Carolee Schneeman began work on her film Fuses in 1964, eventually finishing it 1967. Her performance piece, Meat Joy had been performed in Paris and NYC at the Judson Church the same year, along with her constructions Native Beauties (1962–64), Music Box Music (1964), Pharaoh’s Daughter (1966) and Her Letter to Lou Andreas Salome (1965).

“Fuses is a sexually explicit film shot by both Carolee Schneemann and her lover, Jim Tenney. Schneemann then altered the film by staining, burning, and directly drawing on the celluloid itself, mixing the concepts of painting and collage. The segments were edited together at varying speeds and superimposed with photographs of nature, which she juxtaposed against her and Tenney’s bodies and sexual actions. Her camera does not follow any systematic, narrative ordering. Rather the body interrupts the frame, avoiding diegetic storytelling and following an idiosyncratic pulse of gesture and musicality.” -Kate Haug, An Interview With Carolee Schneemann, Wide Angle, 1998

Fuses was motivated by Schneemann’s desire to know if a woman’s depiction of her own sexual acts was different from pornography and classical art as well as a reaction to Stan Brakhage’s Loving (1957), Cat’s Cradle (1959) and Window Water Baby Moving (1959). The film explores heterosexual sex from a variety of vantage points, disturbing the formulaic imaging of sex found in Hollywood cinema. In Fuses the sexual act is not driven by a sequence of events or in service of a linear plot. Instead, sex is shown as a continuous and spontaneous activity between two people. Their relationship to one another is determined by the dynamics of physical coupling rather than individual character development or extenuating social circumstance.

The exhibition history of Fuses is quite remarkable and underscores the film’s radical nature.While Fuses is viewed as a “proto-feminist” film, Schneemann feels that it was largely neglected by feminist film historians. The film lacked the fetishism and objectification of the female body as seen in much male-oriented pornography.

In 1969, it won a Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Selection prize and has had regular public screenings since its completion. Yet, it continues to be a controversial work. In Moscow, twenty years after winning at Cannes, it provoked a small riot and was censored for pornographic content.

Fuses became the first in Carolee Schneemann’s Autobiographical Trilogy.


An Interview With Carolee Schneeman, Kate Haug, Project Muse (
wikipedia, Carolee Schneeman
Electronic Intermix Foundation, Fuses,
Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses as Erotic Self-Portraiture, Shana MacDonald, Cineaction Journal,
The Liquid Bodies Archive, Fuses

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