A tribute to an unconventional cellist
When Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, presents “Electric Imaginary: Compositions Inspired by Nam June Paik” on Sunday afternoon at the Freer Gallery of Art, he’ll also be paying homage to the late Charlotte Moorman.
Moorman, an Arkansasborn cellist and performance artist, collaborated frequently with Paik on pieces that often involved television screens, disrobing or both. Moorman was an ambassador for the avantgarde, bringing its ideas to latenight talk shows and organizing
festivals in New York. But Moorman was perhaps most well known for her nickname, “Topless Cellist,” which she earned after a 1967 performance during which she was arrested for shedding her bikini top. “Topless Cellist” also is the name of a short documentary Paik helped produce and the title of a recent biography by Joan Rothfuss, from which we gleaned many
of the following figures about Moorman.
The year Charlotte Moorman was born in Little Rock, Ark. She began cello lessons at age 10.
Moorman’s ranking in the 1952 Little Rock Miss City Beautiful pageant.
The year Moorman earned a degree from the Juilliard School; she had a bachelor’s in music from Centenary College in Shreveport, La.
Moorman’s weekly pay when she worked with Yoko Ono on her 1961 performance at Carnegie Recital Hall, a turning point for the cellist in discovering the avant-garde.
Number of avant-garde festivals Moorman organized from 1963 to 1980 at such venues as Grand Central Station, Shea Stadium and the World Trade Center. Number of movements Moorman performed of Paik’s fourmovement “Opera Sex tronique” before New York police arrested her in 1967.
Number of paragraphs in the more than 10,000-word verdict by Judge Milton Shalleck that found Moorman guilty of indecent exposure. She received a suspended sentence. 7 Number of times Moorman performed “Ice Music,” in which she played a cello-shaped block of ice in the nude until the ice melted. One was at the Harold Rivkin Gallery in Washington in 1973.
Height, in feet, attained by Moorman in a 1976 performance of “Sky Kiss” in Sydney in which she played cello while being lifted by several helium balloons. 2 Number of tiny television monitors affixed to Moorman’s breasts for Paik’s 1969 work “TV Bra for Living Sculpture,” which he called “the original boob tube.”
The Venice Biennale where Paik displayed his 1993 installation “Room for Charlotte Moorman.”
Moorman’s age when she died in 1991 after fighting breast cancer for more than a decade.
Electric Imaginary: Compositions
Inspired by Nam June Paik June 21 at 5 p.m. at the Freer Gallery of Art Meyer Auditorium. Free. 202-6331000. asia.si.edu.
CharlotteMoorman, wearing U.S. Army fatigues and a steel helmet with her cello slung rifle-like across her back, crawls guerrilla-style into a concert hall in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1970.