Award winning filmmaker and Guggenheim Fellow, David Gatten, will give a talk and present a program of three films on April 7th in Duke's Perkins Library. 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 fifteen years David Gatten's films have explored the intersection of the printed word and the moving image, while investigating the shifting vocabularies of experience and representation within intimate spaces and historical documents. 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Gatten will introduce his films and discuss his use of historical documents, "out-dated" instructional texts and rare books as both inspiration and image in his filmmaking practice.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 creates an open text inviting reader-viewers to navigate the distances between the four sections - and to draw their own conclusions about the relationship of the questions we ask of the world to 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. This rigorous, moving and very personal film actually served as Gatten's wedding vows at his marriage in July of 2010.
Gatten's films premiere annually at Lincoln Center in the New York Film Festival and his films 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. Gatten's films are included on over two dozen film history syllabi at universities and colleges in the US, Canada and Europe. They have won more than twenty awards at festivals around the world since 1997 and in 2005 Gatten was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue his film series investigating the library of William Byrd. A former Associate Professor & 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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