A trib­ute to an un­con­ven­tional cel­list

The Washington Post Sunday - - THIS WEEK - BY ROGER CATLIN Catlin is a free­lance writer.

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.

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