Don’t Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman's Archive
1/16/2016 - 7/17/2016
Performance art pioneer and avant-garde impresario Charlotte Moorman’s dying words—“Don’t throw anything out”—are the basis for the title of a museum exhibition drawn from the Charlotte Moorman Archive at the Northwestern University Library. Don’t Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman’s Archive accompanies A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s, the first survey examining Moorman’s art and impact, at Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum from Saturday, January 16 to July 17, 2016.
While A Feast of Astonishments traces Moorman’s achievements and influence within the broad context of the art and culture of her time, Don’t Throw Anything Out provides a look at the private Moorman, the woman from Little Rock, Arkansas, who rather improbably became an instigator and ambassador for vanguard art.
Greeting the visitor to the exhibition is Peter Moore’s fish-eye photograph of Moorman posed in her apartment at the Hotel Paris in New York City amid stacks of papers, books, boxes, and countless hoarded treasures (1971). Mounted vitrine cases along the perimeter walls tell different stories, including that of Moorman’s childhood and early years, her life with her husband Frank Pileggi; and her final years, after she was diagnosed with cancer.
Examples of how Moorman arranged and maintained her complicated festivals and social network are shown, including her double-barreled grey metal Rolodex, the frayed edges of its cards bearing witness to the telephone’s central importance to her work. Moorman was not only an obsessive saver of written and photographic records: she was also an early adopter of the telephone answering machine and archived a decade of voice messages. She even kept corresponding written records of her callers, along with the dates and times of their calls. Visitors can hear the audio messages left for Moorman by friends and associates, including legends of the era such as John Lennon.
A selection of Moorman’s little leather-bound event diaries will be displayed, a few opened to detailed pages, where Moorman recorded such domestic minutiae as when she washed her hair and what she ate for dinner, along with such notes as “was photographed by Andy Warhol.” Don’t Throw Anything Out also features later manuscript logs that Scott Krafft, Curator of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern and the exhibition organizer, refers to as the ‘pain diaries.’ Written on the backs of envelopes or other scraps of paper, these notes document her daily routines, worries, and pains she dealt with over the course of her decade-long battle with cancer.
Also displayed in Don’t Throw Anything Out are examples of works of art given to Moorman, including a rainbow ram print by Ay-O and rubber stamp portrait of Moorman created by Wolfgang Feelisch.
The Charlotte Moorman Archive documents Moorman’s career as a musician and performance artist and as the producer of 15 Annual New York Avant Garde Festivals. Its vast holdings include correspondence, manuscripts and scores, photographs, videos and films, audio recordings, posters and artworks documenting Moorman's collaboration with such noted figures as Nam June Paik, John Cage and Yoko Ono. The archive provides unusually complete documentation of Moorman's personal life from her childhood through her final years, as well as ancillary documentation of the New York art and music scenes of the 1960s through the 1980s.
The archive resides in Northwestern's Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections. Also at the university are the related archives of John Cage—which Cage began donating to Northwestern’s Music Library in 1973—and the Dick Higgins Archive—which Higgins’s daughters, Hannah and Jessica, donated in 1999. Together, the three archives comprise a unique resource for scholars of Fluxus and other aspects of postwar avant-garde movements.
About Northwestern University Libraries
Northwestern University Libraries serve the Evanston, Chicago and Qatar campuses by providing access to more than 5 million books; 3.5 linear miles of manuscripts, archives and unique materials; and tens of thousands of journals, databases, and periodicals. Their distinctive holdings include the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, which houses more than 250,000 rare materials ranging from Mesopotamian tablets to one of the largest second-wave feminism collections in the country; the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, the world’s largest collection of materials relating to Africa; and the Music Library, recognized internationally for its commitment to 20th century classical music and the John Cage Notations Collection.
Image: Charlotte Moorman’s engagement calendar for 1966, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library