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Eleanor Antin

INTERVIEW: Eleanor Antin

How would you describe Love's Shadow from your point of view?

It was originally part of a group of short films I made to look like old silent films for a large gallery installation (Loves of a Ballerina). Through the doors of a life scale, constructed theatre facade, the viewers looked at the films over the heads of the people supposedly watching inside. (The "people" were life scale and dark, made of cardboard, and they got smaller towards the front to give the proper perspective). You could hear strains of the music through the doors. It was a melancholy atmosphere of times gone past, specifically the early 1930's. Later, I collected several of these short films and added some of my short dance films and put them together in a single work, From the Archives of Modern Art. Love's Shadow was originally called by its German name (Liebeschotten) to suggest the old European silent films. Think of Murneau, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, etc. It has the older somewhat surreal, magical, tragic and romantic properties of those black and white films. The actor, Luke Theodore, is made up to look like, and act like, a character from those films. (He used to be with Living Theatre, by the way).

The story is pretty simple. The lover yearns for the unattainable ballerina (danced by me) and when he can't have her, shoots her, and then falls over the body weeping in anguish. Obviously, a romantic trope about the unattainability of beauty and love. Think of the line repeated endlessly in Oscar Wilde's poem The Ballade of Reading Gaol: "all men kill the thing they love." It's a long-standing romantic trope, certainly going back at least as far as the ancient Greeks (think of Orpheus looking back at Eurydice and losing her forever.)

In what ways was this piece influenced by other art and artists?

For me, the film has many relationships to other art, though probably apparent only to me, such as Magritte's painting titled Homesickness depicting an elegant man in dark evening clothes with dark wings resting on his shoulders looking longingly over a bridge at Paris in the distance, with a lion sitting at his side (probably the artist's vision of the fallen angel kicked out of Paradise); Max Ernst's painting Two Children Frightened by a Nightingale with its mixture of crossed boundaries between the painted world and the 'reel' world; Marcel Carne's film of heavy 19th century romanticism made in secret in a forest during the Nazi occupation of France in the 2nd World War, Les Enfants Du Paradis, etc.

What have you been working on recently?

I have recently completed a number of very large photographs with many actors in ancient Roman dress and settings (The Last Days of Pompeii, Helen's Odyssey, Roman Allegories) suggesting the similarities between the American empire and the ancient one, as well as a written memoir of my childhood Conversations with Stalin (Green Integer Press, Los Angeles). I am currently writing another book and working on a new set of drawings The Dance of Death.

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