Musician, performer, and producer Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991) is usually remembered either as the longtime artistic partner and muse of Nam June Paik, or as the notorious “Topless Cellist” who was arrested in 1967 for performing Paik’s Opera Sextronique while wearing only a floor-length black skirt. But Moorman was also a fearless and innovative artist in her own right. She was a soloist whose repertoire included compositions by John Cage, Earle Brown, Giuseppe Chiari, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Takehisa Kosugi, and a host of others; she was also the unstoppable force behind the annual New York Avant-Garde Festival, a sprawling intermedia extravaganza that ran from 1963 through 1980. Moorman’s festivals fostered a deep sense of community among artists, and they both mirrored and articulated the gradual hybridization of music, visual art, theater, literature, and moving images during the 1960s and 1970s. Joan Rothfuss’ critical biography – Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman (MIT, 2014) draws on dozens of interviews with Moorman’s peers as well as a massive archive of her papers – and examines the life and work of this complex and charismatic figure for the first time.

Joan Rothfuss is an independent writer, art historian, and critic. From 1988 through 2006, she was a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where she organized exhibitions of work by Joseph Beuys, Bruce Conner, Fluxus, and Jasper Johns, among others. Her publications include Eiko & Koma: Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty (Walker Art Center, 2011), “The Ballad of Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman: A Revisionist History,” in Nam June Paik (Tate Liverpool and Museum Kunst Palast, 2010), and “FluxBeuys” in What’s Fluxus? What’s Not! Why. (Centro Cultural/Banco do Brasil, 2002). She teaches at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul.