Film screening: Peggy Ahwesh in conversation with Michele Pierson

Film screening: Peggy Ahwesh in conversation with Michele Pierson

A special evening with filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh, organized in parallel to e-flux journal's double issue on feminism(s). The evening features a screening of Ahwesh's films The Star Eaters (2003), Alluvium (2015), The Blackest Sea (2017), and The Falling Sky (2017), followed by a discussion between Ahwesh and film scholar Michele Pierson.

The Star Eaters (2003, 24 min) is a short and inconclusive treatise on women and gambling. The allure of risk-taking, playacting, excessive behavior, and a penchant for failure combine in this fairytale set in the landscape of abandoned decay that was once a glamorous Atlantic City. A sentimental education at the seashore, off-season—featuring Jackie Smith, Alex Auder, Aaron Diskind, and Ricardo Dominguez.

Alluvium (2015, 25 min) is a visual essay based on Ahwesh’s experience being embedded in a foreign place that is both a beautiful ancient land and an abysmal war zone—the occupied West Bank. Inspired by Jalal Toufic’s 1993 book (Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film, the video draws parallels between the familiar tropes of the undead/revenant and the conditions of life led by the Palestinians there: as refugees on their own soil trapped between worlds, as unsettled citizens of nowhere who yearn for return, as a people in limbo, lost in the labyrinth. The word Alluvium describes rich, workable soil—a strong metaphor for the vampire who thrives and finds strength on the connection to ‘home.’

The Blackest Sea (2017, 9 min) is constructed from ‘found footage’ animations on YouTube made by a Taiwanese news agency and repurposed into a darkly poetic vision of calamity. Embedded in the deep unconscious flow of the ocean, The Blackest Sea is a cautionary tale told through the tropes of the sea, the great white whale, and refugees on their desperate journey into the unknown. In The Falling Sky (2017, 10 min), these tropes are transposed to the wind and sky, the airwaves and the man-made data flow, the invisible force field that surrounds us when we work, and that we carry along in our handbags and coat pockets. Together, the two films take us on a lyrical tour through the dense landscape of human foibles and crises increasingly out of alignment with the forces of nature.

Over the last thirty years, Peggy Ahwesh has produced one of the more heterogeneous bodies of work in the field of experimental media. A true bricoleur, her tools include narrative and documentary styles, improvized performance and scripted dialogue, synch-sound film, found footage, digital animation, and Pixelvision video. Using this range of approaches, she has offered a sustained investigation of cultural identity and the role of the subject. With one of the most varied and sublime bodies of work in artists’ film and video, previous Ahwesh retrospectives have been hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Filmmuseum, Brussels; and the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK.

Michele Pierson teaches film studies at King’s College London. Her writing on experimental cinema includes Optic Antics: the Cinema of Ken Jacobs (co-edited with David E. James and Paul Arthur) and essays in publications such as Discourse, Film History, Cinema Journal, and Millennium Film Journal. She has written about Peggy Ahwesh’s Trick Film and Philosophy in the Bedroom, Pt. 1 and 2 in Screen and about films by Ahwesh, Barbara Hammer, and Yvonne Rainer in “Feminism from the Ground Up: Three Films from the 1980s” (forthcoming in A Companion to Experimental Cinema, edited by Federico Windhausen). She is working towards completion of a monograph with the title, The Accessibility of the Avant-garde: Talk about American Experimental Cinema, which includes chapters on Ahwesh’s and Hammer’s feminist filmmaking.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Feminism, Technology
Experimental Film
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