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Mar 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm

The Suburban Trilogy with Abigail Child

w/ Abigail Child and Melissa Ragona

A feature-length project about girlhood and the immigrant dream, focusing on post World War II North American suburbs and between the war Europe, critically seen through the lens of gender, property and myths of nation. —A rambunctious embrace, body to body, woman to woman, entrance to exit—in-laws foregrounding the construction of cinematic meaning, the elusive nature of memory and desire, the hysteric familial arena of the social.


Cake and Steak

Abigail Child, USA, 2002-2004, 21 minutes, digital projection

Like all parts of this series, excavates ‘girl training’ in the legacy of home movies and post-war American suburban culture, and is conceived for both single-screen, loop and multiple projection. Cake and Steak is constructed as a series of achronological ‘chapters’ in which Edenic images of adolescent twirlers, basement parties, and ‘dress-up’ are challenged by a sound montage composed of horror movie music, old TV shows, laugh tracks, and machine noise of our modern Arcadias.

The Future is Behind You

Abigail Child, USA, 2004, 20 minutes, digital projection

A fictional story composed from an anonymous family archive of 1930’s Europe, reconstructed to emphasize gender acculturation in two sisters who play, race, fight, kiss and grow up together under a shadow of oncoming history.  Here there are at least 3 levels of research: 1) the home movie in which a family from 1930s Germany near the Swiss border poses for the camera, preternaturally happy;  2) the historical moment which remains as text trace, undermining the image and serving as covert motive for the action; 3) the development of gender identities—the innocent freedom of the elder transformed into socially bruised ‘bride,’ the irrepressibility of the younger moving from tomboy to awkward, diffident adult. At once biography & fiction, history & psychology, The Future is Behind You excavates gestures to get at the heart of narrative; it seeks a bridge between private & public histories. Music by Jon Zorn from The Circlemaker, arranged and performed for the movie by Sylvie Courvoisier and Mark Feldman.

Surf and Turf

Abigail Child USA, 2008, 34 minutes, digital projection

This film examines contemporary ambiguities of Syrian Orthodox Jews who have built extensive synagogues, restaurants and schools on the Jersey shore, profoundly changing the local culture, continuing a tradition of immigration, if not exactly, assimilation. The look is secular, the lifestyle capitalist and religious. The topic—that of the “unmelted pot” of America’s small towns combined with a portrait of wealthy orthodox religious sectarians— is a compelling one. What does it mean to have class in America? What does it mean to be Jewish? I think of conflicts between Israel and Palestine, Serbia and Bosnia, India and Pakistan: neighboring families and races split apart by religion. Extreme poverty enforces the tribal, while extreme wealth maintains it. Surf and Turf provides no easy answers but raises issues that have too long stayed behind closed doors: what do we say when we think no one is listening?

75 min

Abigail Child is a media artist and writer whose original montage pushes the envelope of sound-image relations to make, in the words of LA Weekly “brilliant exciting work…a vibrant political filmmaking that’s attentive to form.” Her films explore gesture as language, using radical strategies to rewrite narrative, including the cult classics Mayhem (1987), and Covert Action (1984), as well as the more recent Dark Dark (2001), The Future is Behind You (2005) and Mirror World (2006). Other productions borrow documentary to poetically envision and interrogate public space including B/Side, Below the New, and Cake and Steak (2004). Recent work has expanded into installation utilizing surround sound and multiple projectors. She is currently completing a feature of the life of Percy and Mary Shelley, shot in Italy in the form of imaginary home movies. A monograph with interview and articles on her work, in both French and English, accompanied with DVD, will be appearing in April 2011 out of MetisPresse, Geneva, Switzerland. Winner of the Rome Prize, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, both Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, as well as participating in two Whitney Biennials, 1989 and 1997, Child has had numerous retrospectives including the Buena Vista Center in San Francisco, Anthology Film Archive (in conjunction with The New Museum, NY), Harvard Cinematheque, Reservoir, Switzerland and most recently at the Cinoteca in Rome.

Melissa Ragona’s essays and reviews have appeared in October, Frieze, Art Papers and in the edited collections Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound, eds. J. Beck and T. Grajeda (U of Illinois Press, 2008), Women’s Experimental Cinema, ed. Robin Blaetz (Duke University Press, 2007), and Andy Warhol Live (Prestel, 2008), among others. She is currently completing a book on Andy Warhol’s tape recordings tentatively titled Readymade Sound: Andy Warhol’s Recording Aesthetics, forthcoming from University of California Press, Berkeley. She is an Associate Professor of Critical Theory and Art History in the School of Art at Carnegie-Mellon University.


Mar 19, 2011
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

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