The King @ Eleanor Antin. 1972

Publié le par Olivier Lussac

 Antin Eleanor as The King 1975

Writes Antin : « Applying hair to her face, the artist moves throught a variety bearded faces seeking the identity most appropriate to her facial structure ans satisfying to her aspirations. » Antin transforms herself into a man and adopts one of recurring performance personae, « The King ».

Dans The King, vidéo tirée d’une série de performances réalisée entre 1972 et 1978, Eleanor Antin se filme et se photographie avec un déguisement qui lui permet de construire son autoportrait masculin idéalisé ; un alter ego, chef d’état de Solana Beach, une ville de Californie. Ce personnage souligne déjà le goût d’Eleanor Antin pour l’allégorie et le tragi-comique qui animent ses créations les plus récentes. Au cours de ces performances, elle traverse la ville ainsi masculinisée et va à la rencontre des sujets de son royaume, préoccupée par les problèmes que rencontre la communauté. A l’instar d’une personnalité politique, elle les écoute, les conseille, les mettant par exemple en garde face aux entrepreneurs immobiliers destructeurs de la nature. 

Dans sa performance filmée The King, l’artiste filme sa transformation. Dans une pièce sombre, sans décor précis et à l’éclairage maîtrisé et théâtral, elle s’installe à une table de maquillage, face à un miroir. Elle applique sur des zones de son visage préalablement déterminées au crayon noir, des mèches de cheveux qu’elle coupe pour donner vie à son personnage. Elle passe avec minutie par différentes longueurs de barbe et de moustache avant d’aboutir finalement à la taille qui correspond à l’identité du Roi qu’elle va incarner. 

Tous les gestes sont lents et précis, tels une chorégraphie, un rituel répété. Les plans s’enchainent par l’intermédiaire de fondus enchainés cinématographiques. Eleanor Antin est telle l’actrice, se préparant dans sa loge ; elle rentre dans la peau de ce personnage anachronique et fantasmé. Elle n’a pas besoin de changer de sexe pour devenir un homme, le costume et la posture suffisent à faire basculer le genre. L’apparence fait l’être. (Priscilia Marques)

Re-Enact 2009/Oreet ASHERY : Hairoism, 27 June 2009, Tate Modern. Once more with Feeling. Reprise de The King d’Eleanor Antin.

For Hairoism Oreet Ashery shaved her head and applied hair donated from the audience to her scalp and face to imitate the hair patterns of four male public figures : Moshe Dayan, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk, Avigdor Liebermann and Yassar Arafat/Ringo Starr. The first figure has the least hair and the last has the most, allowing her to become hairier as the piece progressed. After the fourth figure’s hair pattern had been applied, her two assistants continued to glue hair to her face and body, with the goal of covering it entirely as time permitted.

Hairoism was inspired by Eleanor Antin’s The King, a silent, 52 minute, black  and white fil where Antin slowly applies hair to her face to become her male alter ego. In a recent interview, Antin states : « Role playing was about feeling that I didn’t have a self. And I didn’t miss it… I just borrowed other people’s, or made them up. And it’s something that continued when I started working with personas because it was a very good way of dealing with a lot of the political and social issues that were of interest to me. » Oreet Ashery shares Antin’s subjectivity expressed in those descriptions and in taking on various characters for her work she addresses socio-political backdrops and challenged a sense of authority over herself.

Cindy Nemser (— Cindy Nemser. Art Talk : Conversation with 12 Women Artists. NY : Scribners, 1975. Eleanor Antin is among the 12 women interviewed for the book, pp. 267-302. Extensive interview ; includes several photographs. Extrait :

« E. Antin : When I started movng out of those more plausible or expectable transformations like dieting, putting on street make-up, or changing my regular artist’s self into a more bourgeois image, all these things we do all the time, I moved into perfectly plausible but less expected and perharps more exotic transformations. I got interested in the tranformational nature of the self and the possibilities of defining my limits, such as age, sex, space, time, talent, what have you, all the things that restricted of himself would be. Well I wanted perfect freedom.

C. Nemser : To transcend space and time.

E. A. : Why not ? If autobiography is fiction – and it is because it is history, the past – you don’t have to be restricted to your own past. You might come up with someone else’s fiction. One of my selves is a king.

C. N. : Does that refer to your piece The King and The Ballerina ?

E. A. : I have been putting those two together.

C. N. : Which did you do first ?

E. A. : Well they all started with Carving and the naturalist transformations and then they went into exploring the limits of my possibilities. »

Cf. Cindy Nemser, « Four Artists od Sensuality », Arts Magazine, v. 49, March 1975, pp. 73-75.

Cf. Carla Liss, « Eleanor Antin as Ballerina », Artweek, v. 6, November 29, 1975, p. 6. Review of Antin’s performance, as the King (November 6) and as the Ballerina (November 7), performed at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, as part of the opening of Lynn Hershman’s Floating Museum.

Antin the king 72

ANTIN Eleanor, The King, 1972, 52 min. b&w. silent. Writes Antin : « Applying hair to her face, the artist moves throught a variety bearded faces seeking the identity most appropriate to her facial structure ans satisfying to her aspirations. » Antin transforms herself into a man and adopts one of recurring performance personae, « The King ».

antin king xl

Antin TheKing

Publié dans Performances

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