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The Films of David Gatten, Apr. 7

Award-winning Filmmaker Melds Printed Word and Moving Image
What: Working with Words: Historical Documents, Systems of Knowledge, and Text-as-Moving Image Art in the films of David Gatten
Where: Perkins Library, Biddle Rare Book Room
When: Thursday, April 7
Reception: 6:30–7:00 PM
Program: 7:00–8:30 PM

Award-winning filmmaker and Guggenheim Fellow David Gatten will offer a talk and presentation on three of his films. Gatten is a visiting associate professor and Distinguished Filmmaker in Residence in the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image at Duke University.

Over the last 15 years, Gatten's films have explored the intersection of the printed word and moving image. Through traditional research methods (reading old books) and non-traditional film processes (boiling old books), the films trace the contours of both private lives and public histories, combining elements of philosophy, biography, and poetry with experiments in cinematic forms and narrative structures.

Gatten will introduce his films and discuss his use of historical documents, "out-dated" instructional texts, and rare books as both inspiration and image in his filmmaking practice.

"Secret History of the Dividing Line" (2002) is one of the nine parts in Gatten's ongoing investigation of the life and library of William Byrd. Torn fragments of Byrd's official history of the 1728 dividing line expedition commingle with the privately circulated "secret history" of the surveying party, producing a richly active space for viewers to make their own way through the text. Nearly microscopic film "splice lines" are frozen and enlarged to create a series of 57 abstract landscapes that correspond to locations along the dividing line.

"The Matter Propounded, of its possibility or impossibility, treated in four Parts" (2011) makes use of an early 19th-century "tablet of Jupiter" system for attempting to tell one's future. Divided into four sections--Instructions, Questions, Answers and Conclusions--the film invites viewers to draw their own conclusions about the questions we ask of the world and the answers we find for ourselves.

"Film for Invisible Ink, case no. 323: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST" (2010) is the latest in Gatten's austerely beautiful "Invisible Ink" series. Incorporating writings by Sir Francis Bacon, lists from Western Union telegraphic codes, and phrases from wedding vows in The Book of Common Prayer, the film also includes images made using actual pine pollen and tiny flowering plants in extreme, swirling macro-close-ups.

Gatten's films premiere annually at Lincoln Center in the New York Film Festival and have been included twice in the Whitney Biennial. They are screened regularly in the world's most prestigious film festivals, museums, and galleries. His work resides in the permanent collections of the British Film Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as in numerous university and private collections.

In 2005, Gatten was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue his film series investigating the library of William Byrd. A former associate professor and chair of the Department of Cinema & Photography at Ithaca College, Gatten has also taught the history, theory and practice of filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art in New York City. He is the recipient of two awards for Excellence in Teaching.
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Posted 9 March 2011

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Last modified March 14, 2011 10:45:29 AM EDT