About David Gatten

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The title of David Gatten's lecture is Working with Words: Historical Documents, Systems of Knowledge, & Text-as-Moving Image Art

“The films of David Gatten brand the brain and the retina with equal force. They consist partly of cerebral puzzles and partly of lyrical reveries, and their central drama lies in the space between, where facts transform into poetry and transient experiences are assimilated into systems of knowledge. —Tom McCormack, Moving Image Source

Over the last 19 years, David Gatten (b. 1971, Ann Arbor, Mich.) has explored the intersection of the printed word and moving image. The resulting body of work illuminates a wide array of historical, conceptual, and material concerns, while cataloging the variety of ways in which texts function in cinema as both language and image, often blurring the boundary between these categories. These movies measure the movement of desire across distance and the manner in which words, books, letters, and other written or printed communications might both produce and mediate that distance.

Using traditional research methods (reading old books) and non-traditional film processes (boiling old books), the films trace the contours of private lives and public histories, combining philosophy, biography, and poetry with experiments in cinematic forms and narrative structures. Exploring the archive in unusual ways and making connections across categories of knowledge and fields of meaning, Gatten's movies construct new compositions and generate unexpected conclusions from 19th-century scientific treatises, “outdated” 20th-century instructional texts, and rare books from 18th-century personal libraries.

Since 1996, Gatten’s work has appeared in over 60 solo exhibitions and screened in over 1,000 group shows around the world. Gatten is a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow, and his films premiere regularly at Lincoln Center in the New York Film Festival. His films have been included twice in the Whitney Biennial (2002 and 2006), as well as in the landmark exhibition “The American Century: Art & Culture, 1900–2000” at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Gatten’s films are screened in international film festivals (London, Toronto, Rotterdam, Oberhausen) and cinémathèques (Anthology Film Archives in NYC, Cinema Project in Portland, Cinémathèque Française in Paris), as well as exhibited in museums (National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, ICA-London), galleries (Gladstone Gallery and Exit Art in NYC, Pierogi, WORK in Brooklyn, Paul Young Projects in L.A., SKE Gallery in Bangalore), and university and art-school spaces (Harvard Film Archive, Gene Siskel Center, Pacific Film Archive, RedCat).

Texts of Light: A Mid-Career Retrospective of Fourteen Films by David Gatten, opened in November of 2011 at the Wexner Center for the Arts and, in 2012, toured to the National Gallery of Art; Harvard Film Archive; SFMoMA; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; ATA Gallery in San Francisco; RedCat; Los Angeles Film Forum; and The Panorama.

A 2010 Film Comment critics’ poll of artist cinema in the 21st-century placed Gatten within the top 10 filmmakers of the new century and included two of his films in a list of the 50 best individual works of the decade.

In May 2012, an international critics poll conducted by Cinemascope named Gatten one of the “Fifty Best Filmmakers Under Fifty” alongside Academy-Award® nominated directors Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino, as well as international “festival-circuit” filmmakers Jia Zhangke, Lucrecia Martel, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Carlos Reygadas, and American independent directors and film artists of Gatten’s generation including Kelly Reichardt, Jennifer Reeves, Sharon Lockhart, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

His latest major work, The Extravagant Shadows was ranked the no. 9 film of 2012 in the Film Comment international film critics poll of the “50 Best Independent Films of 2012.” Feature articles about and reviews of The Extravagant Shadows have appeared in Artforum, Film Comment, Reverse Shot, Fandor, and IDIOM, among others.

In November 2013, multi-program retrospectives of Gatten’s films were presented by the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna and the National Film Archive in Prague. In 2014, THE MATTER PROPOUNDED: The Films of David Gatten, 2010–2013 was featured at the Festival International de Cine de Gijon in Gijon, Spain. In March 2015, the Irish Film Institute and the PLASTIK Festival of Artists Moving Image presented the international premiere of The Extravagant Shadows as a part of their retrospective DAVID GATTEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY: 16mm Films & Digital Cinema, 2004–2014.

Gatten’s work will be the subject of another major retrospective in January and February of 2017 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea.

His work resides in the permanent collections of the British Film Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Austrian Film Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cinémathèque Française, the Scottish Poetry Library and the Harvard Film Archive, as well as in numerous public and private collections.

This series is sponsored by The Media School, The Media School’s cinema and media arts program, and IU Cinema.

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