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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:26

Video transcript

(jazzy music) Voiceover: We're talking about a Sherrie Levine photograph which is entitled "Untitled" after Edward Weston. Voiceover: Is this really a photograph by Sherrie Levine? Voiceover: Well, it is. She has done something quite astonishing here. She has rephotographed someone else's work, Edward Weston, the great Modernist. Voiceover: If it's a copy of what someone else did, and there's no original thought involved or thinking through things on her part, then what makes this art? Voiceover: Exactly. That's part of the question that I think that's really what she wants to raise to some degree. She's following in the footsteps, you have to say, of someone like Marcel Duchamp who has already introduced the ready-made in the 19- teens, the idea that, what makes a work of art? Is it necessarily about skill? Is it necessarily about making? Or is it about creativity? Or can it also be just about choice? Voiceover: Except that Dechamp sort of said, well, it's not about skill, but he did kind of shift it over to the conceptual; that it was still about choices and ideas. What's the idea here? Voiceover: I think she really is, in many ways, a conceptual artist. She's thinking of hey, well ... This is a photograph of Weston's son, Neil. He is doing something, really flexing his creative muscles here. First of all, he's created the boy. This is his boy. Voiceover: His son. Voiceover: His son, right. So then he's going to use his son as sort of a raw material for his own photograph. Voiceover: He creates him twice. Voiceover: Exactly. For Weston, this is really an image that's in part about possession. He is the master of all things in this image. On the other hand, he's also borrowing, a good degree, from the whole history of the nude, the Classical nude. From this series, some of these look very, very similar to Donatello's young David, for example. He's also inserting himself in, ensconcing himself very much in a tradition. Voiceover: There's a whole kind of Modernist thing going on for Weston; a kind of male artist inserting himself into tradition. It's sort of in this kind of heroic moment of originality and contribution and creativity. Then Sherrie Levine comes along as a woman and copies it. Voiceover: She feels also, I think, very much outside of that tradition. Voiceover: As a woman. Voiceover: As a woman, yeah. A lot of artists, male or female, feel like everything's already been done before and deal with that anxiety. Voiceover: I think our students feel that way a lot. Voiceover: I'm sure they do. I know sometimes when I write I feel that way. Voiceover: Me too! Voiceover: So it's a natural feeling. She takes that by the horns, ultimately, and sort of wrestles it to the ground and ends up doing something that no one had ever done before. Her rephotographing as someone else's photograph was something that no one had ever done before. Important writers had written that photographers had always failed to reproduce exactly another person's photograph, and here she does it, and she does it in a way that seems very simple to us, but in a way it was also something that was ultimately very creative. Voiceover: Does she do it in a particular way? Is she particularly faithful to the original? Voiceover: She does not crop the image. Unless you really are a connoisseur of prints, it would be very hard for you to tell the difference between her photograph and the original. A lot of times she might just photograph out of a catalog rather than standing in front of the actual thing. Voiceover: She also photographed works of other artists, not just photographers. Voiceover: Exactly; and recreates things from paintings into sculpture. It's very much about being influenced and being in the zone of influence. Voiceover: Actually, we live in a world where so little is original anyway. Maybe that's the whole point too. Everything is mass created. Everything is multiples. Voiceover: It's an essential truth. Voiceover: Where is the original anymore? Voiceover: Right. (jazzy music)