Breaking The Frame (2012, 100 minutes) is a feature–length documentary portrait of the New York artist Carolee Schneemann by Canadian filmmaker Marielle Nitoslawska. A pioneer of performance and body art as well as avant-garde cinema, Schneemann has been breaking the frames of the art world for five decades, in a variety of mediums, challenging assumptions of feminism, gender, sexuality, and identity.Utilizing a rich variety of film and hi-definition formats, Breaking The Frame can be described as a kinetic, hyper-cinematic intervention, a critical meditation on the relation of art to the physical, domestic and conceptual aspects of daily life and on the attributes of memory. It uses Schneemann’s autobiographical materials to narrate the historic upheaval within Western art in post-war America.
The film captures Schneemann in her own words, images and reflections, at work, at home, in the studio, and interweaves extensive film excerpts from her groundbreaking film work in both super 8 and 16mm such as Fuses (1967); Kitch’s Last Meal (1973-76), with documentation of performances including Meat Joy (1964); Interior Scroll (1975) and more recent museum commissions and exhibitions.
By highlighting the sheen of photographic prints, the fibres of diary pages and the gloss of wet paint, Breaking The Frame provides a textured mise-en-scene that resonates with Schneemann’s corporeal focus. The visual composition is complemented by a soundtrack featuring the music of composer James Tenney. Tenney was Schneemann’s companion and collaborator for many years, and the two remained close friends until his death in 2006.
Ultimately, Breaking The Frame presents the artist’s recollections and meditations on life/work in order to pose the questions what is space, where is form, and how do we look? The insistently roving camera breaks open the frame(work) of art, revealing the magnificent mess of interiority and the interconnected holism of the creative process. By eschewing standard chronologies, Nitoslawska explores the way filmic strategies complicate the traditional understanding of memory as an act of narration and investigates the complexities of the use of visual images as a form of historical testimony.
Director’s Statement
I first saw Schneemann’s legendary film Fuses by chance in my early twenties. I understood the depth of her work decades later, while researching Bad Girl, a survey film on women’s representations of sexuality. I began dreaming-up a sequel of sorts, with a focus on Schneemann. It was meant to be. Soon after, as she was renting a studio space in Montreal, we met, got along immediately, and discussed a possible film. I then drove down to NY to further explore the idea. On arriving in Springtown, I knew right away that I would be making this film. Her astounding house, garden, and pondall were innately cinematographic in the setting sun and rising magic hour.
I began digging into Schneemann’s well of archives to realize that it perhaps has no bottom. And so Breaking the Frame began. I’ve always felt that the greatest asset of independent filmmaking is time. Time to get to know and feel the subject. Time to digest layers of meaning. Time to compose the film’s form to reflect the absorbed entirety. This process often last years; a way of working that isn’t practical but yields irreplaceable authenticity. You observe and collect and wonder how to evoke the “past” in the flow of cinema’s ever-virtual “present”. You displace space and fragment time. You listen. You follow the mind’s eye.–Marielle Nitoslawska, Montreal, August 2012

Click here to download the PDF Press Kit for Breaking The Frame