Eleanor Antin With a Bang: An Interview with Eleanor Antin

The Paris Review Oct 21, 2017

Eleanor Antin began her career as a stage actress and painter-cum-assemblagist in the late 1950s. She was inspired by the techniques of Yiddish theater and Michelangelo Antonioni, as well as those of Marcel Duchamp and Fluxus. Her versatile art practice was conceptual by design, though leavened by black humor and pageantry. Antin’s relocation to the purlieus of San Diego in 1968 contributed to her particularly Californian blend of theater and autofiction, while the native New York she left behind remained dominated by the more politicized tenets of minimalism. Since then, her stylistic DNA has imprinted itself on a cross section of literati and literary artists, from Kathy Acker to Chris Kraus and Sophie Calle, fortifying her status as not only an archetypal feminist artist but an innovative writer as well.

This autumn’s Richard Saltoun exhibition “Romans & Kings” together with Frieze Masters’ “Spotlight” presented the first major London showcase of Antin’s oeuvre, including seminal series like “100 Boots” (1971–1973)—often considered the defining entry of the mail-art genre—“The Last Days of Pompeii” (2001), and “Helen’s Odyssey” (2007), part of her larger tableaux vivants collection, “Historical Takes,” as well as a reading from her ten-year cycle of performances, films, photos, and writings as the fictitious Ballets Russes ballerina Eleanora Antinova, which was collected in a book titled An Artist’s Life last year.

Following her appearance at the Serpentine Pavilion on the eve of Frieze Masters, Antin spoke to me via email about the significance of narrative in her artwork, an ominous adventure to the West Coast, and the literary world’s importunate conservatism.

Read the full interview here