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Politics & Paper DollsEleanor Antin

June 29, 2016

Eleanor Antin discusses her use of paper dolls to create politically charged sculptures and videos. “I thought that I was finished working with paper dolls and was on to other things until those idiotic Republican debates and that insane list of characters,” says Antin of Theater of the Absurd (2016).

Antin made numerous works with paper dolls in the 1970s, including The Nurse and the Hijackers (1977). The absurdly comedic video depicts a group of ecological terrorists attempting to convince oil-producing nations to help save the planet. The artist’s inclusion of paper dolls depicting deceased friends, such a Ree Morton and Elizabeth Murray, allows for reflection on her own mortality.

More information and credits


Director & Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Ian Forster. Editor: Morgan Riles. Camera: John Marton. Artwork Courtesy: Eleanor Antin, Electronic Arts Intermix, New York & Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.

Art21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.

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.

“Life is a mixture of the absurd, the comic, and the disastrous.”

Eleanor Antin


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Humor, Personas, and Yiddish Theater

Artist Eleanor Antin discusses her past, and work’s relationship to humor, role playing and performance.

America Now

How are artists answering the question: What is America today? Historical markers continue to shape the discourse of the new-normal and artists are responding with powerful works that are representative of the times. This playlist showcases how artists are responding to the dynamic nature of the United States and its parallels.

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Eleanor Antin

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Eleanor Antin