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Inventing HistoriesEleanor Antin

July 10, 2008

Eleanor Antin reveals the process behind her 2007 photographic series Helen’s Odyssey, comparing the painstaking staging of her photographs to filmmaking. “It is very much like making movies because I have to set them all up, with makeup, and costumes, and casting, and locations… The whole thing,” says the artist.

Antin is best known for her reinterpretations of ancient mythology, through which she reimagines the worlds of Greece and Rome through the inherently modern lens of photography. Antin’s intentions lie in a desire to reconstruct the ancient world, incorporating elements of 19th century salon painting style in order to “evoke aspects of the contemporary world.”

“I had a lot of fun casting my dead trojans,” the artist confesses, highlighting the wicked sense of humor underscored within her photographs.

More information and credits


Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Camera & Sound: Larissa Nikola-Lisa. Additional Footage: Daniel Martinico. Editor: Jennifer Chiurco. Artwork courtesy: Eleanor Antin. Thanks: Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Eleanor Antin

An influential performance artist, filmmaker, and installation artist, Eleanor Antin delves into history—whether of ancient Rome, the Crimean War, the salons of nineteenth-century Europe, or her own Jewish heritage and Yiddish culture—as a way to explore the present. Antin is a cultural chameleon, masquerading in theatrical or stage roles to expose her many selves. Her most famous persona is that of Eleanora Antinova, the tragically overlooked black ballerina of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Appearing as Antinova in scripted and non-scripted performances for over a decade, Antin has blurred the distinction between her identity and that of her character. In the process, she has created a rich body of work, detailing the multiple facets of her beloved Antinova, including a fictitious memoir and numerous films, photographs, installations, performances, and drawings.

How can an artist alter a viewer’s impression of history?


History Reimagined

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Truth and Allegory in Photography

Eleanor Antin reveals the process behind her 2007 series Helen’s Odyssey, and the roles that truth and allegory play in her photographic work.

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Eleanor Antin

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Eleanor Antin