Cate Blanchett and Cindy Sherman on New York Times
Posted on
May 4, 2022

Cate Blanchett and Cindy Sherman on New York Times

Ciao, everyone!

Last week Cate went to an exhibition by Cindy Sherman while she was in New York and NYT has released an article about the visit.

On the 45th anniversary of Sherman’s acclaimed series “Untitled Film Stills,” they toured her show, discussing what an image, or a smile, may reveal.

Cindy Sherman and Cate Blanchett had only met in passing, a few times. And yet there is an identifiable thread connecting the work of Sherman, the artist who (dis)appears, disguised in character, in her own photographs, and Blanchett, the protean and Oscar-winning Australian actress. On a gray morning in late April, the women, mutual admirers, convened at Hauser & Wirth gallery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where a collection of Sherman’s critically acclaimed early work opened May 4, and where they quickly forged a connection.

“I’m a massive fan,” said Blanchett, proving her adulation with detailed questions, both technical (does Sherman use a timer?) and philosophical (“where does rhythm sit in photography?”). Blanchett had whisked into town to receive an award from Film at Lincoln Center, before heading back to London, where she is filming “Disclaimer,” an Apple TV+ series directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Sherman was busy overseeing the exhibition, which includes all 70 of her untitled film stills, the black-and-white photos that put her on the map, and shook up the art world, starting in the late ’70s, as well as her subsequent rear screen projection and centerfold images, all in color and all starring her. Sherman, 68, and Blanchett, who turns 53 this month, toured the exhibition together, eagerly finding commonalities.

“She really takes on different personas,” Sherman said admiringly.

In 2015, Blanchett performed in “Manifesto,” a 13-channel video art installation by the German artist Julian Rosefeldt, in which she played at least a dozen different characters, from news anchor to homeless man, reciting various artistic and political manifestoes. (It was later released as a feature film.) “That was inspiring,” Sherman said, adding that she felt like she’d done some of those characters too. “It was a nice confirmation, of feeling like we’re on the same wavelength a little bit.”

In what was less a conversation than a cosmic matchup, they talked about getting into character, childhood play, the value of makeup, and the horror of clowns. These are edited excerpts.

How do you make use of each others’ work?

CATE BLANCHETT Filmmaking can be very literal. So, I find anything you can do to move yourself to a more abstract space. Sometimes it’s a piece of music. But invariably it’s an object. Oftentimes, I’ll make a whole tear sheet composition about the feeling around something I can’t articulate, images that had nothing to do on a conscious level with what I’m doing. Like the Clown series, for instance. I can’t even begin to express my revulsion and terror — the visceral feeling of seeing those works [Sherman’s series of lurid clowns]. I tore it out for [the Guillermo del Toro film] “Nightmare Alley” recently.

I find if you slam something left of field up against what you need to do as an actor, it can create something slightly more ambiguous. It doesn’t always work.

CINDY SHERMAN I don’t really get into the characters that way, but there’s a big difference between what I’m doing and acting. I’m just standing still, and because I’m also working alone, I can really mix it up, do the complete opposite of what I thought the character should do — and sometimes that works.

Did either of you grow up thinking that you had very malleable faces?

SHERMAN I didn’t.

BLANCHETT No. I used to do this thing with my sister where she would dress me up, stand me in front of the mirror and give me a name. Then I’d have to figure out that person. My favorite one — we kept saying we were going to make a movie about him — his name was Piggy Trucker. He was a little short guy, a bit like an Australian Wally Shawn [the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn], and he drove a pig truck. [I was] probably about 7, 8 years old.

SHERMAN It was playing dress-up. My mother would go to the local thrift store and for 10 cents buy these old prom dresses from the ’40s or ’50s. There was also, I think it was my great-grandmother’s clothes that were left in the basement. I discovered them, and it was like, wow. It looked like old lady clothes, but also the pinafore type of things. When I was 10 or 12, I would put them on, stuff socks to hang down to the waist to look like old lady [breasts], and walk around the block.

BLANCHETT [laughing, pretending to be Sherman] I knew then I wanted to be an artist!

Often, these things start as play and then the exploration becomes, I imagine, a seamless transition. It’s not conscious — some of these things, you’re doing without thinking.

SHERMAN Yeah. When I was in college, I was putting makeup on and transforming myself in my bedroom when I was studying painting. I think I was working out my frustration with whatever was going on in my life, and my boyfriend at the time finally just said, you know, maybe this is what you should be taking pictures of. And that seemed like a good idea.

Sometimes, I’ll be making up [a character] and look in the mirror as I pose, and I suddenly feel like I don’t recognize [myself]. Wow, where did she come from? It’s kind of spooky, kind of cool. [To Blanchett] How do you come up with characters? Like all those for Julian [Rosefeldt]?

BLANCHETT It was so fast. It was quite interesting for me actually, because you can get really hung up on your character’s back story, particularly in American acting culture. It’s all about your connection — if your mother died or father died, then use that. That is really alien to me anyway. I’ll talk to my therapist about that. What was really great about the Julian thing was, there was no psychology. It was just a series of actions. Most of the time, we’re not thinking about what makes us tick. You’re doing things. [To Sherman] You’ve done a few male incarnations too.

SHERMAN That was a lot harder. I had to just become confident in a way that I, as a woman, maybe am not. Once I relaxed into the character, I [sometimes] felt, this is a very sensitive guy.

Sometimes, I’ll be making up [a character] and look in the mirror as I pose, and I suddenly feel like I don’t recognize [myself]. Wow, where did she come from? It’s kind of spooky, kind of cool. [To Blanchett] How do you come up with characters? Like all those for Julian [Rosefeldt]?

BLANCHETT It was so fast. It was quite interesting for me actually, because you can get really hung up on your character’s back story, particularly in American acting culture. It’s all about your connection — if your mother died or father died, then use that. That is really alien to me anyway. I’ll talk to my therapist about that. What was really great about the Julian thing was, there was no psychology. It was just a series of actions. Most of the time, we’re not thinking about what makes us tick. You’re doing things. [To Sherman] You’ve done a few male incarnations too.


Click images for higher resolution

SHERMAN That was a lot harder. I had to just become confident in a way that I, as a woman, maybe am not. Once I relaxed into the character, I [sometimes] felt, this is a very sensitive guy.

BLANCHETT Often a smile is a defense. It’s actually a shut down rather than an invitation. When you smile with your eyes, that’s where the genuine thing comes from. One of the many things that’s so powerful about your work is creating that expectation [of emotion] but not delivering, so there’s an eerie sort of hollowness to it. It’s the disconnect from what we present to who we actually are, and that vacuum between the two. It’s often the space where all our personal horror sits.

[To Cindy]It’s interesting, you go through this process by yourself. I’m not a great fan of the monologue. I did a play once, a Botho Strauss play, where I had a monologue for 25 minutes. It was like, wow, this is lonely. Often on films, there’s zero rehearsal or even conversation about stuff. You’re just meant to walk on and deliver. You’re thinking about the result, and I find that a pretty deathly way to work.

I’ve realized over the years that my relationship with the costume designer and the hair and makeup people is really profound. It’s profound to see what the character looks like, and therefore how a character might move or project. Those departments — so-called “female guilds” — are often things that male directors profess to know nothing about. “I’ll just leave that bit to you.”

I played Elizabeth I years ago and the director, whom l love and respect, was always, I just want the hair down, flowing in the wind. I said, have you seen the pictures of Elizabeth I? There weren’t that many like that.

But it’s because [some male directors] need to feel attracted. They can’t see that there are other ways — and not even in a sexual way — you can be alluring. You can draw an audience into a character’s experience in many different ways. I keep going back to the clown images — you can tell I’m really disturbed by them. When you’re taking them, do you think: I want people to feel repulsed by this?

SHERMAN Even the repulsive things I’ve done — grotesque things with rotten food — I want people to feel kind of repulsed, but attracted and laughing at it, all at once. I don’t want people to take it too seriously.

I’ve always been attracted to horror movies, and I equate that to the feeling of being on a roller coaster. You know you’re not going to fall out, but you can still be terrified. And then it’s all over. I think that’s how fairy tales functioned way back when. I was trying to do that with my work, to make it seem from a distance like, oh, pretty colors! And up close — oh, it’s a little awful. But then you get the joke.

In the mid-80s, this company in Paris asked me if I would make some ads for French Vogue. That’s when I started playing with fake blood and fake noses. They hated it, of course. That inspired me to make it much more dark. I got fake scar tissue and fake body parts. Eventually I found these prosthetics — fake [breasts and butts] was the perfect way to start playing with nudity, partly because I think I’ve been hiding in the work. The idea of revealing any part of myself literally was never the point.

BLANCHETT I’m quite kinesthetic — that’s why I love being onstage, I feel like I’m always better in movement. You’re so incredible, there’s so much movement, and then, it’s all captured in this vibrating, still image.

It’s like when you go and see dance. It’s that moment of [sharp inhale] suspension before someone lands that’s so thrilling. Andso great that [your photographs] are not titled. You’re not led to make any particular sense of them. These works, it’s like a litmus test. Thank you.

Source: New York Times

Manifesto Conversation at Hauser & Wirth
Posted on
Nov 4, 2018

Manifesto Conversation at Hauser & Wirth

Hello dears! Cate and Julian Rosefeldt were in LA last week for the first public conversation about Manifesto. We have some pictures and extracts from the panel, thanks to the LA Times.

If, given the occasion, you want more infos on the art project, check the right sidebar to follow the exhibition tour and visit the director’s site. Enjoy!

A chameleonic Cate Blanchett materializes in Julian Rosefeldt’s ‘Manifesto’ at Hauser & Wirth gallery
More than a dozen Cate Blanchetts have shown up for our interview today. One, in a crisp blazer and stick-straight hair, is all business; another, wearing a draped turban and dark plum lipstick, is downright demanding; yet another, in a soft floral blouse and glasses, is contemplative, pious-seeming; a dirty, unkempt version unfurls with rage.

These vastly different Blanchetts are part of German video artist Julian Rosefeldt’s multi-channel film installation, “Manifesto” (2015), which opened at Hauser & Wirth on Saturday. Blanchett embodies 13 different characters, including a feral-looking homeless man, a Russian choreographer, a television news anchor, a lonely puppeteer and a beleaguered trash incineration plant worker. All of them recite snippets from the manifestoes of artists, activists, poets, performers, filmmakers and intellectuals throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in unrelated vignettes on separate screens in the gallery.

Suddenly, a 14th Blanchett emerges — and for a moment, she is speechless.

The actress, in a hot pink blazer and jeans, steps gingerly into the pitch-black gallery, blinking as her eyes adjust to the darkness. She’s seeing this incarnation of the installation — its West Coast debut — for the first time and surveys the cavernous space with Rosefeldt as if bewildered at first, or possibly overwhelmed by the drama and potency of the artwork. Her disorientation is understandable: The glowing film screens hang from the ceiling in the darkness, as if floating midair, or are mounted to separate walls. The visuals are lush and textured; the blaring audio, as all the characters prattle on at once, is cacophonous, a disconcerting jumble of disparate declarations, diatribes and calls to action.

“Wow,” Blanchett says, finally. “This is so … intense.” Sparks fly from a lighted fuse cord on one screen; her manifestation of a hunched homeless man hobbles across a foggy, gray field on another; her severe choreographer hollers instructions at showgirl dancers onstage on another screen, the schlop-schlop sound of their feet rising in volume with hers. As Blanchett moves among these splintered selves, her amazement simmers into satisfaction of a job well done.

“I found the process of doing this utterly freeing. It was like doing stand-up or something,” she says. “The experience I had of saying the words is that you cease to make sense of them. You get hit on a much more sort of [visceral] level, it’s more the energy of the manifesto.”

Then, Blanchett tosses her head back and laughs, nostalgically, pointing to a nearby screen. “Remember that? We were losing the light,” she says to Rosefeldt, of a graveside eulogy scene at dusk. They exchange knowing chuckles, as if college roommates sharing road trip secrets.

“Manifesto,” is a joint labor of love for Blanchett and Rosefeldt. The two met in 2010 in an art gallery in Berlin and vowed to one day work together. Rosefeldt approached Blanchett about the project three years later. He had been reading Futurist manifestoes by poet and choreographer Valentine de Saint-Point, which he’d quoted in his film “Deep Gold.” Sensing a resurgence in manifesto writing, Rosefeldt says, he began seeking out and reading other artists’ declarations going back in time.

But the world was a very different place five years ago, when Rosefeldt first conceived of the work. It was different even in 2015, when the installation debuted at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, and when the linear movie version premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The individual manifestoes quoted in the work may be timeless in their urgent desire to make the world a better place through art, but the work as a whole has new relevance, set against our current sociopolitical landscape, Rosefeldt says.

“I believe that this specific time we’re living in almost calls for manifestoes again,” he says, later adding that the art installation itself is not meant to be a manifesto — even though it’s often perceived by audiences as such.

“They read it as a call for action or an antipopulist piece,” he says. “I guess it’s because they sense that energy and anger that a lot of these texts have. Which is the opposite of the anger of Trump or [Brazil’s President-elect Jair] Bolsonaro — it’s an intelligent anger, it’s a creative anger, it’s a productive anger, it’s a wish to change something, but with inspirational thoughts. And we just have the exact opposite on the political map nowadays more and more.”

Each of the 13 vignettes in the work is a “text collage” of sorts, in which Rosefeldt stitched together lines from the writings of individual artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Sol LeWitt, Yvonne Rainer and Jim Jarmusch and groups including Surrealists, Situationists, Futurists and Dadaists. The scenes playing out on-screen — in which Blanchett delivers the manifesto lines to other characters or directly into the camera — aren’t necessarily related to the words being spoken. But the disconnect, Rosefeldt says, may force the viewer to think harder, pay closer attention.

In one scene representing filmmaking manifestoes, a schoolteacher strolls from desk to desk, handing out test booklets to 8- and 9-year-old children. “Nothing is original,” she instructs them, quoting Jarmusch. In another vignette representing conceptual art and Minimalism, Blanchett’s staccato-sounding, perfectly erect news anchor says, deadpan into the camera, “All current art is fake,” a line from appropriation artist Elaine Sturtevant. Blanchett’s mousey homemaker, in a vignette representing Pop Art and featuring Oldenburg’s 1961 “I Am for an Art” manifesto, calmly sets the dining table before leading her family in prayer. “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical,” she begins, hands clasped and head down. Blanchett’s tattooed, rocker chick reclines on a couch, post-party, in a vignette representing Stridentism and Creationism. “Ideas often run off the rails,” she says, quoting Manuel Maples Arce.

Such a heady project, meant to be viewed in art galleries, could have been a risky endeavor for an Oscar-winning actress. But Blanchett scoffs at that idea.

“I don’t see the point in doing something if you’re not risking falling on your face,” she says.

So Blanchett and Rosefeldt dived right in.

The two met for one long afternoon in New York to develop the material, whittling down a list of 50 or 60 characters and vignette possibilities. The work was shot in just 12 days in Berlin in 2014, with Blanchett there for 11. It was a frenzied, fast-paced, “kamikaze-style” shoot, as Rosefeldt describes it, in which they moved quickly from location to location, often shooting in one take, and there was little — if no — time for rehearsals.

“Each of these texts is like a theater monologue that you’d normally rehearse for weeks. And Cate did it, like, ‘snap,’ without really preparing,” Rosefeldt says.

Instead, every evening after shooting, Blanchett recorded the text for the next day’s vignette, and she listened to it in her trailer each morning while undergoing an hours-long process of physical transformation. As makeup artist Morag Ross, hair artist Massimo Gattabrusi and costume designer Bina Daigeler applied wigs, fake teeth and padded body parts, Blanchett fine-tuned her accents and physical gestures.

“It was a much more external process. I had to decide [in the trailer]: ‘How about this character talks like that?’” she says in a deep, gravelly sounding voice. “Or, ‘What about the character talks like this?’” she coos in an elegant, lady-like manner.

The chaotic pace of filmmaking worked, Rosefeldt says.

“Just jumping into the cold water, just doing it, was very good for this project, because it created a certain freshness to the text,” he adds.

If she had to choose a favorite character, it would be the dual roles of in-studio news anchor and reporter in the rain, Blanchett says.

A manifesto line that resonated? Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Fluxus sentiment:

“’But after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?’” Blanchett recites. “I just find that such a provocative thought.”

Synchronizing the sound between the vignettes — each 10½ minutes long and playing on a loop — was akin to conducting an orchestra, Rosefeldt says. Even where the screens themselves are placed inside the gallery is strategic, audio-wise — one room is quieter, the other more thunderous.

“The work is composed so that you have moments of cacophony, where it’s hard to focus on each and every text. But you also have quieter moments, so there’s also a musical dramaturgy, a natural rhythm.”

One factor that binds most of the manifestoes is that they were written when the authors were young. They share a youthful bluster and a rebellious spirit.

This is especially evident at the end of each loop, when the sound is most synchronized. The characters all speak at once, in rapid monotone, as if the manifestoes are in dialogue with one another. The collective volume steadily rises until little is discernible. It’s at once passionate, intriguing and disconcerting.

That’s the point, Blanchett says. Ultimately, the work explores the universal role that artists play in our society. And it’s not a passive one.

“The role of the artist, it’s an ancient role where it has to be social propagation and social commentary,” she says.

“There’s a sense, increasingly, that artists have to be consistent. Our job is to be inconsistent and reactive and provocative and impolite — and there’s a lot of that energy in the manifestoes.”

Event | In Conversation: Cate Blanchett
Posted on
Oct 12, 2018

Event | In Conversation: Cate Blanchett

Hello Blanchetters!

Save the date for one more event with Cate Blanchett!

On the occasion of the West Coast premiere of the 13-channel film installation featuring Cate at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, Oscar Award-winning actress, Cate Blanchett will join a discussion about this work with Executive and Artistic Director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, Kristy Edmunds.

Special thanks to Catepedia from CBF Chat for sharing this information.

What: In Conversation: Cate Blanchett
When: Sat, October 27, 2018 – 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM PDT
Where: Hauser & Wirth
901 East 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
United States
Tickets: $25 + $3.16 fee Sales / start on Oct 12 at 12:00 PM

More info and Tickets HERE