THEMATIC: Inventing/Constructing Histories

Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach, as well as in the Art21 Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits.

Compare and contrast the following images and films featuring Eleanor Antin and Carrie Mae Weems. How does each artist approach the idea of history and how do they construct their own historical narratives based on fictional and non-fictional elements?

Images:


Eleanor Antin. "The Golden Death" from "The Last Days of Pompeii," 2001. Chromogenic print, 58 5/8 x 46 5/8 inches. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.


Carrie Mae Weems. "Mourning," 2008. Archival pigment print, 61 x 51 inches. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Texts:

"One of the reasons the exhibition, Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment (2008) came about was in actually dealing with the issue of appropriation. I didn't want to have to appropriate anybody's material; I just wanted to revisit this history. And so I thought, 'I have to make it myself and I have to make it in my own way. I have to rise above all of those restrictions and make something that I really want to make—giving a nod to all of those photographers who have come before me.'

Recapping the last forty years of my own life—all those amazing and horrific things, assassinations, brutal acts—has implications and great significance for all of us. Now part of that can be closed for me. I've gone back and I've revisited those assassinations, the civil rights movement. I have looked at it in any number of ways through any number of pieces. And for me this piece, while certainly not perfect, is a very interesting place to pause. It's beautifully articulated—both in the video and the twenty photographs that accompany it. It's compassionate but not sentimental, because there is nothing sentimental about reviewing the assassination of King or Evers, something really tough about it, and I'm happy that I was able to move across that emotional terrain and say, 'If I can just finish this, if I can cap this part of my life off, I think I might be able to move forward.'" —Carrie Mae Weems

Read: Eleanor Antin—"The Last Days of Pompeii"

Films:


Excerpt: Eleanor Antin in "Humor"


Excerpt: Carrie Mae Weems in "Compassion"