Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

David Gatten at Hallwalls, Buffalo, May 2005

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

David Gatten at Hallwalls, Buffalo, May 2005

Article excerpt

I'd like to say thank you to Joanna and to the curators from Beyond/In WNY biennial. It's exciting to be able to bring work to Buffalo, and so this feels like a special occasion for a couple of reasons. This is a cycle of nine films that I've been working on since 1996, and now the first four of those nine are Tonight is the first time that they'll all be shown together. 1 there's about nine more years of work and five more films. significant for that reason. I know that many people here tonight have seen some of those films over the years, but for people that don't know what all this is about: these are nine films all of which take as a point of departure a volume from the library of William Byrd of Westover who was living in Virginia during the early part of the 18th century and, among other things that he is noted for, he collected the largest personal library of anyone in the colonies. He had about 4,000 books. And he organized them according to his own scheme; he made sense of them in a very particular way. When he died in 1744 his son inherited his estate. After his son's death in 1 777 , the library was auctioned off, and a number of the books were bought by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's books were later given to the government to form the basis for what is now the Library of Congress collection. I'm interested in the Byrd collection as a site for the transfer of European intellectual, religious, scientific, philosophical thought to North America.

All of the films take a book as a point of departure. I'm interested in those books and in William Byrd, his daughter Evelyn Byrd and certain events in the life of that family. The films are also explorations in a biographical sense , in a historical sense of that time and that family. They are also all films of different manifestations of division. Division of landscape; division of objects; division of people across time and space; the categorization of knowledge; the division of labor that existed in Virginia and most of the colonies in the early 1 8th century and the way that can be envisioned in plantation architecture; the line between life and death, between knowing and not knowing.

The second reason I feel this is a significant place to bring this work is because I always associated Hollis Frampton with Buffalo. Frampton's work has been deeply important to my own thinking, his films certainly but perhaps more than that, his writing. It makes me very happy to bring this work to a place where Frampton spent so much time.

Thirdly, I'm a little overwhelmed with the people who are here right now and the distances people have traveled from Boston, and New York, and Toronto, and Detroit, and Ithaca, Syracuse... all sorts of places. Some of you know I'm a little bit under the weather right now and had a turning point in Toronto a few weeks ago at the Images Festival, and it's great to see so many people from Toronto again in such short order. I feel really blessed I have such a good community of people in Ithaca where I live, and such strong support. I have fantastic students there and that is one of the things that keeps me going as a filmmaker, that keeps me thinking, active, enthusiastic and inspired about cinema, it's the community of filmmakers that exists in and around the college that's meaningful.

One of the other things that keeps me going these days is knowing that this work has, and I hope can continue to participate in, a conversation. I feel lucky to have been able to show it as often and to as many people as I have.

There are a lot of people who have made that possible. There is one person in particular who has been consistently interested in, advocated for and supported this work and has shown it all over the world and so for that reason I would like to dedicate tonight's screening to Mark McElhatten. I'm very happy that he can be here tonight.

There will be slight pauses between the films, I don't want them to run together too much. …

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