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Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978, gelatin silver print, 7.5 x 9.5 inches or 19.1 x 24.1 cm (MoMA) Speakers: Dr. Shana Gallagher-Lindsay, Dr. Beth Harris. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Bonnie McLeish
    Is this "Untitiled Film Still #21" like it says in the title, or is it "Untitled Film Still #14" like it said in the video?
    (19 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user DRB
    Why does every artwork that is completed by a woman have to be interpreted to describe the female experience?
    (6 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Steven Zucker
      I am confused by this assertion since many of the videos we have created discuss work made by women and deal only with the art and not the artist's gender. Look for example at the videos on Vigée Le Brun, O'Keeffe, Kahlo, or Maya Lin. The representation of women in American media is a key issue in Sherman's Film Stills and that is why it is addressed in this video.
      (11 votes)
  • female robot grace style avatar for user divaCassandra1
    There was a February 26–June 11, 2012 Cindy Sherman exhibition at MOMA in New York. http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1170 Did any Khan Academy students who live in the New York City area visit MOMA to see it?
    (9 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Kelson
    These sorts of works always come back to "being a woman". If some guy took pictures of himself like this it would be silly to question what is being said about "being a man," just as it is silly to question what this photograph says about being a woman.
    (4 votes)
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    • mr pink red style avatar for user Pia Alicia-pilar Mogollon
      I agree that just looking at this piece, it is a bit silly to question what the photograph says about being a woman, however, I believe if you look at her entire body of work you will understand where this idea comes from. Many of her images call attention to the objectification of women in the media as can be viewed in her series "Centerfolds" and her series "Society Pictures" address the obsession with youth and beauty.

      According to a piece written for the Guardian by Simon Hattenstone, Cindy Sherman admitted in an interview that while she resists dogmatic interpretation, so much of her work has been an examination of identity and gender. According to Hattenstone, when asked if the work is about her sense of self, she replied, "I suppose. It was just something I was working out without being overtly political about it."

      All that considered, my favorite Sherman quote: ""The work is what it is and hopefully it's seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I'm not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff." Her images drew me to her, but that guote really inspired me in my own work. I love that she refuses to overly dogmatically ascribe anything to her work. I love a woman who is willing to insult feminist extremism.

      And finally I think the error here is that you cannot full discuss Cindy Sherman's work looking at one image. You kind of need to look at least a whole series.
      (4 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Mary Barton
    the title says that it is untitled film no.21 but then beth harrris or shana lindsay say that it is no. 14. Is it a mis-spelling or mis-talking.She says this at /
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user kc6y

    At this point in the video the commentators discuss the implications for women's sense of self. I wonder if there was a picture of man looking off in the distance if we would still discuss what statement that individual makes about masculinity.
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user cag25426
    The subtitle/description at the bottom refers to the image as "Untitled Film Still #21". The narrators in the video refer to it as "Untitled Film Still #14". Which is accurate?
    (1 vote)
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  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user elliot gilmore
    Is the collection meant to have feminist meaning?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(jazzy music) Voiceover: Hi, I'm Shana Lindsay. Voiceover: I'm Beth Harris. Voiceover: Okay, we're here to talk about this image. It's called "Untitled Film Still #14." Voiceover: It does look like a film still. Voiceover: It does. There are certain things that give it that look, which is what she's going for here. Voiceover: So it's not really a film still. Voiceover: Right, exactly. It's the appearance that this is a film still. Voiceover: She did a whole series of film stills; photographs that look like film stills. Voiceover: Over a number of years. This is sort of at the beginning of that phase when she does that, so this is one of the earlier ones. She wants all of them to look like they might be from some sort of a narrative. Voiceover: This is Cindy Sherman herself. Voiceover: Right. That's the thing that a lot of people don't recognize; that she's in the photograph herself. She always dresses up and really kind of morphs from one- Voiceover: She can look really different in each of them. Voiceover. Exactly. She dresses up, obviously. Makeup helps. In this case she's trying to look like she's in a 1960s, probably, film. Voiceover: It makes me aware of the conventions of how things look in movies, the sort of rhetoric of that kind of storytelling. Voiceover: Exactly. The lighting. Voiceover: When she moves her head, the look in her eye. Voiceover: In almost all of these film stills she looks reactive. She's reacting to something, which is part of what's giving us this clue that we're looking at something that's supposed to be narrative. She's darting her eyes away. It's hard to say why. People often read it in different ways; disgust, fear, anxiety. She's never a totally self-possessed person. She's always in relation to something that's somehow outside of our frame of reference here. Voiceover: I wonder what that says about being a woman? Voiceover: Right, exactly. I think that's sort of some of the issue that she's trying to raise here, that perhaps our sense of self is contingent always on something else. Women's sense of self is always contingent on something else. Voiceover: And that being a woman is always, in some way, a performance. Voiceover: Yes, that's oftentimes the way these are understood; that she's kind of masquerading, donning these different outfits. Some people see this as kind of liberating; that what she does is she in some ways dislodges the idea that your identity is fixed. Voiceover: And it can be chosen instead. Voiceover: Right, so by masquerading you're sort of choosing to act in a certain way or choosing to make yourself read or understood in a certain way. Some people see her film stills as liberating examples. Voiceover: For women. Voiceover: For women, yes, in particular. Voiceover: So your identity isn't something that's culturally imposed, but something that's freely chosen somehow. Voiceover: Freely chosen, but then also what's ironic is that she keeps, in the series she chooses these ultra-feminine roles. Voiceover: And very stereotypical in a way. Voiceover: And because they are reacting, they seem slightly fragile. It plays on both things. I think she wants to borrow the idiom from film; that that was established by people like Alfred Hitchcock; the blonde victim to some degree. Voiceover: So something about to swoop down on her. Voiceover: But nothing ever does. It becomes, also, about her practice, about Cindy Sherman's practice more so, certainly, than the narrative, which here does not exist. There is no story to be told. Voiceover: And never develop into a story. Voiceover: Right, exactly. Things that she's chosen photographically here, the upward focus. You're at a very privileged perspective on this person; very, very close, so you know this couldn't be a snapshot. It would be very hard to get a snapshot like that. By just angling, positioning the camera, she's edited out anything that looks contemporary. She's able to put herself in front of these older buildings and have it look authentic. Voiceover: Like it's from 20 years earlier. Voiceover: Which are all things, of course, that a filmmaker was doing. (jazzy music)