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Charlotte Moorman

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Title: Charlotte Moorman  
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Subject: Performance art, Postmodern art, Late modernism, Modern art, Modernism
Collection: 1933 Births, 1991 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Musicians, 20Th-Century Classical Musicians, 20Th-Century Composers, American Cellists, American Classical Cellists, American Composers, American Female Composers, American Performance Artists, Artists from Arkansas, Cancer Deaths in New York, Centenary College of Louisiana Alumni, Contemporary Classical Music Performers, Deaths from Breast Cancer, Juilliard School Alumni, Little Rock Central High School Alumni, Musicians from Little Rock, Arkansas, University of Texas at Austin Alumni, Women in Electronic Music
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Charlotte Moorman

Charlotte Moorman
Born 18 November 1933
Little Rock, Arkansas
Died 8 November 1991
New York City, New York
Nationality American
Known for Cellist, Performance artist

Madeline Charlotte Moorman Garside (18 November 1933 – 8 November 8, 1991) was an American cellist, performance artist, and advocate for avant-garde music.[1] Referred to as the "Jeanne d'Arc of new music," she was the founder of the Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York and a frequent collaborator of Korean artist Nam June Paik.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York 2.1
    • Collaborations with Nam June Paik 2.2
  • Death 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Madeline Charlotte Moorman was born on 18 November, 1933 in Little Rock, Arkansas.[3] At the age of ten she began to study cello and upon her graduation from Little Rock High School in 1951 she had a music scholarship to attend Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana.[4] She attained her B.A. in music in 1955.[4] She later attained a M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and continued on to postgraduate studies at The Juilliard School in 1957.[3]


Following her studies at

  • Artnet
  • October 1969 BBC radio interview by Harvey Matusow with Charlotte: Avant Garde Arts in New York (44 mins mp3)
  • A Trove of Archival Performances by Charlotte Moorman from UBUWEB
  • NY Times obituary

External links

  • Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman by Joan Rothfuss, MIT Press, ISBN 9780262027502

Further reading

  1. ^ "Charlotte Moorman", Electronic Arts Intermix, Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik", Art Gallery of New South Wales, Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Collins, Glenn. "Charlotte Moorman, 58, is Dead; A Cellist in Avant-Garde Works", The New York Times, Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b Tarpley, John. "Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991), The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Kaldor Public Art Projects. "Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik". 
  6. ^ a b "Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik 1976", Kaldor Art Projects, Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Women in Flux", The Museum of Modern Art, Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  8. ^ O'Dell, Kathy (Spring 1997). "Fluxus Feminus". TDR 41 (1): 44. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Norman, Geraldine. "Material Challenges", The Independent, Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  10. ^ a b "4th and 7th Annual Avant Garde Festivals of New York", Electronic Arts Intermix, Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  11. ^ McWilliams, Jim. "The Intravenous Feeding of Charlotte Moorman (A Deep Sea Event for Cerise Cello)- Press Release". Electronic Arts Intermix. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Piekut, Benjamin (2011). Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits. University of California Press. p. 140. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "Opera Sextronique", Electronic Arts Intermix, Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  14. ^ Walker Art Center. "TV Bra for Living Sculpture". 
  15. ^ "Topless Cellist", Electronic Arts Intermix, Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  16. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Charlotte Moorman", All Music, Retrieved 15 June 2014.


In the late 1970s she was diagnosed with breast cancer.[17] She underwent a mastectomy and further treatment, to continue performing through the 1980s in spite of pain and deteriorating health. She died of cancer in New York City on November 8, 1991, aged 57.[3] Following Moorman's untimely death, Schneeman created an online memorial page for her friend.


Following Moorman's death, Paik made a film entitled Topless Cellist (1995) about Moorman's life and avant-garde performances.[16]

Other collaborations with Paik focused more on humanizing technology and less on sexualizing music. For example, works like TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969), in which two small television sets were attached to Moorman's naked breasts while she played cello.[15]

On February 9, 1967 Moorman achieved widespread notoriety for her performance of Paik's Opera Sextronique at the Film-Makers Cinematheque in New York City.[14] For this performance, Moorman was to perform movements on the cello in various states of nudity.[14] In the program for the performance, Paik wrote: "The purge of sex under the excuse of being "serious" exactly undermines the so-racalled "seriousness" of music as a classical art, ranking with literature and painting."[14] During the first movement, Moorman played Elegy by the French composer Jules Massenet in the dark while wearing a bikini that had blinking lights.[14] For the second movement, she played International Lullaby by Max Matthews while wearing a black skirt, but while being topless, and was arrested mid-performance by three plainclothes police officers.[14] She was not able to return to perform the last two movements of the work.[14] As a result of Opera Sextronique, Moorman was charged with indecent exposure, though her penalty was later suspended, and gained nationwide fame as the "topless cellist."[3] She was also fired from the American Symphony Orchestra.[10] For her court trial, Moorman and Paik restaged and filmed the first two movements of Opera Sextronique with the filmmaker Jud Yalkut, though the film was not permitted to be shown in court.[14]

At the Second Avant Garde Festival, Moorman convinced Karlheinz Stockhausen to restage his performance piece, Originale, using his original collaborator Nam June Paik.[13] This meeting began the decades-long collaboration between Moorman and Paik in which they fused sculpture, performance, music and art.[6] In addition, Paik created many works specifically for Moorman, including TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) and TV-Cello (1971).[13]

Collaborations with Nam June Paik

As well as being a star performer of avant-garde pieces, she was an effective spokesperson and negotiator for advanced art, charming the bureaucracies of New York and other major cities into co-operating and providing facilities for controversial and challenging performances. The years of the Avant Garde Festival marked a period of unparalleled understanding and good relations between advanced artists and local authorities.[5] Friend and artist Jim McWilliams' created numerous memorable pieces for her to perform at the New York Avant Garde Festivals, including Sky Kiss which involved her hanging suspended from helium-filled weather balloons for the Sixth Avant Garde Festival, and The Intravenous Feeding of Charlotte Moorman for the 1973 edition.[12] or the brightly colored inflatable sculptures of Otto Piene.

[11] In 1963 Moorman founded the

Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York


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