Cindy Sherman and Cate Blanchett had only met a few times in passing. Yet there is an identifiable bond that connects the (disappeared) artist Sherman, who appears as a character in her own photographs, and Blanchett, the versatile and Oscar-winning Australian actress. On a gray morning at the end of April, women who were common fans gathered at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Collection of Sherman’s critically acclaimed early works It opened on May 4th and they connected quickly.
“I’m a big fan,” said Blanchett, proving her admiration with detailed questions, both technical (Does Sherman use a timer?) and philosophical (“Where does the rhythm sit in the photograph?”). Blanchett had rushed into town to get it. An award from Film at Lincoln CenterBefore returning to London, where he was shooting “Disclaimer,” an Apple TV+ series directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Sherman has been busy directing the exhibition, which includes all 70 untitled film stills, black-and-white photographs and later films that have shaken the art world and put it on the map since the late ’70s. rear screen projection and center page images, all in color and all starring. Sherman, 68, and Blanchett, who turns 53 this month, eagerly found common ground and toured the exhibition together.
“He really takes on different personalities,” Sherman said admiringly.
In 2015, Blanchett said, “manifest13-channel video art installation by the German artist Julian Rosefeldtat least he played a dozen different characters, by reading various artistic and political manifestos, from newscaster to homeless man. (It was later released as a feature film.) “That was inspiring,” Sherman said, adding that he felt like he had made some of these characters as well. “It was a nice confirmation to feel that we were somewhat on the same wavelength.”
In what was less of a conversation than a cosmic matchup, they talked about getting into character, childhood games, the value of makeup, and the horrors of clowns. These are edited excerpts.
How do you benefit from each other’s work?
Cate Blanchett Filmmaking can be very realistic. So I find everything you can do to move yourself into a more abstract realm. Sometimes a piece of music. But it is always an object. Most of the time, I’ll do a full teardrop essay about the emotion around something I can’t express, images that have nothing to do with what I’m doing on a conscious level. like clown series, e.g. I can’t even begin to express my disgust and fear – the instinctive feeling of seeing those artifacts. [Sherman’s series of lurid clowns]. I tore for [the Guillermo del Toro film] “Nightmare Street” lately.
If you bump something off-pitch against what you need to do as an actor, it can create something a little more obscure. 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 do and acting. I just stand still and because I’m also working alone I can really mix it up, doing the opposite of what I think the character should be doing – and sometimes that works.
Did either of you grow up thinking you have very soft faces?
ŞERMAN I didn’t.
BLANCHET No. I would do this with my sister, she would dress me up, stand in front of the mirror and give me a name. Then I would have to find that person. My favorite – we kept saying we were going to make a movie about him – was called Piggy Trucker. He was a bit of a short guy, a bit like Australian Wally Shawn [the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn]and he drove a pig truck. [I was] probably about 7.8 years old.
ŞERMAN She was playing dress up. My mom used to go to the neighborhood thrift store and buy these vintage prom dresses from the 40s or 50s for 10 cents. There was also one, I think my great-grandmother’s clothes were left in the basement. I discovered them and it was like wow. It looked like old lady clothes, but it also looked like apron-type stuff. When I was 10 or 12 I used to wear them, stockings that hung down to the waist to look like an old lady. [breasts]and walk around the block.
BLANCHET [laughing, pretending to be Sherman] I knew then that I wanted to be an artist!
Often times, these things start out as a game and then exploration becomes a seamless transition. Unconsciously – you do some of this without thinking.
ŞERMAN Yes. When I was in college, I was doing makeup and changing myself in my bedroom while I was studying painting. I think I was trying to vent my frustration with what’s going on in my life and at the time my boyfriend finally said, you know, maybe that’s what you should take a picture of. And that seemed like a good idea.
Sometimes I will make up [a character] and when i pose i look in the mirror and suddenly i feel i don’t know [myself]. Wow, where did that come from? A little creepy, a little cool. [To Blanchett] How do you find the characters? Like the ones for Julian [Rosefeldt]?
BLANCHET It was very fast. It was actually quite interesting for me because you can get really stuck with your character’s backstory, especially in American acting culture. It’s all about your connection – if your mother is dead or your father is dead, use this. This is so foreign to me. I will discuss this with my therapist. The really cool thing about the Julian thing was the lack of psychology. It was just a series of actions. Most of the time, we don’t think about what moves us. joyful make something. [To Sherman] You’ve also done several male incarnations.
ŞERMAN This was much more difficult. As a woman, I needed to be confident in a way that maybe I wasn’t. When I relax in character, [sometimes] I felt, this is a very sensitive man.
Cindy, you said that in film stills, you try to have minimal visible emotion, at least on your face. Why?
ŞERMAN I clearly didn’t want to be happy or sad, tormented or angry. I wanted it to look like the moment just before or just after that emotion. I’ve noticed that if I’m overreacting, it looks very stale. So she brought him a more neutral mystery, because you [wondering]What is going on there?
BLANCHET Most of the time a smile is a defense. This is actually a closure rather than an invitation. When you smile with your eyes, the main thing comes from there. One of the many things that is so powerful about your business is creating that expectation. [of emotion] but it doesn’t deliver, so there’s an eerie loophole. It is the disconnect between who we really are and the gap between the two, with what we offer. It is often where all our personal fear sits.
[To Cindy]Interesting, you go through this process on your own. I’m not a big fan of monologues. I made a game once, a game of Botho Strauss, Where I do a 25-minute monologue. Wow, that was like loneliness. Usually in movies, there is zero rehearsal or even talk about anything. You were created just to go on and deliver. You’re thinking about the outcome, and I find that a pretty deadly way to work.
Over the years I’ve realized that my relationship with the costume designer, the hair and makeup team is really deep. It’s very profound to see what the character looks like and therefore how a character can act or reflect. These departments, called “women’s guilds,” are often what male rulers claim they know nothing about. “I’ll leave that part to you.”
But this is because [some male directors] She needs to feel attractive. They fail to see that there are other ways you can be attractive, even sexually. You can draw the viewer into a character’s experience in many different ways. Going back to the clown images – you could say I’m really uncomfortable with them. When you buy them, do you think: I want people to be disgusted by this?
ŞERMAN Even the disgusting things I do – rotten food and grotesque things – I want people to be kind of disgusted, but at the same time charming and laughing. I don’t want people to take it too seriously.
I’ve always had an interest in horror movies, and I liken it to the feeling of being on a roller coaster. You know you won’t fall, but you can still be afraid. And then it’s all over. I guess that’s how fairy tales used to work. I was trying to do this with my work, trying to make it look like, from afar, oh, pretty colors! And up close – oh, that’s kind of scary. But then you get the joke.
In the mid-’80s, this company in Paris asked me if I could do some commercials for French Vogue. That’s when I started playing with fake blood and fake noses. Of course they hated it. This inspired me to make the setting darker. I have fake scar tissue and fake body parts. Finally found these prostheses – fake [breasts and butts] It was the perfect way to start playing around with nudity, because I think I was partially hiding in it. The idea of fully revealing any part of me was never the point.
BLANCHET I’m pretty kinesthetic – that’s why I love being on stage, I always feel like I’m better on the go. You’re so incredible, there’s so much movement, and then it’s all captured in this flickering still image.
It’s like going and seeing a dance. That moment [sharp inhale] It’s so exciting to suspend before someone lands. And it’s so great [your photographs] not titled. You are not led to make any particular meaning out of them. These things are like a litmus test. Thank you.