A painter, performance artist, and filmmaker, Schneemann used abstract, paint-on-film techniques to assay feminist erotics in her autobiographical Fuses (1964-67). The film is a vibrant portrayal, shot in the filmmaker's home, of her sexual relationship with composer James Tenney, observed by her cat, Kitsch. Jonas Mekas called Fuses the most "beautiful film of 1968," although the film's screening at Cannes erupted in a riot in which seats were torn. The film is remarkable for several reasons. It represents one of the first attempts, if not the first, to use film to depict the act of lovemaking from a woman's perspective, one in which the woman is an equal partner and participant in the erotic act. When Fuses was first screened in 1968, it was widely thought of as a sex film, or pornographic. However, as Carey Lovelace argues, Schneemann succeeds in normalizing sexual congress by placing it in the domestic sphere. Fuses celebrates sex, and Schneemann's paint-on-film techniques simultaneously distance the viewer from the detailed photographic representation of sex on screen via abstraction and intensify the film's emotional content.
The film's title speaks to this intensity, connoting an electrical charge, referring to the literal fusing together of Schneemann and Tenney's bodies, and conjuring something that sets off an explosion--both in the erotic and cultural sense.