Anthology Film Archives


March 24 – March 28

This spring, Anthology hosts a long-overdue retrospective of the work of the moving-image artist, writer, and poet Abigail Child. A leading figure of the generation of experimental filmmakers that emerged in the late 1970s-early 1980s, Child has continued to make innovative and challenging work – in a dizzying variety of forms and on a wide range of topics – ever since.

Child, who has often grouped her films into thematically and/or formally linked series, first gained widespread recognition with the seven films presented under the title “Is This What You Were Born For?” Created between 1981-89, these works inspired (and continue to inspire) a plethora of commentary, and have become modern classics. But Child’s body of work extends far beyond this renowned series, encompassing her rarely-screened but remarkable early films; later cycles such as the “Suburban Trilogy” (2004-11) and the “Foreign Film” series (2005-14); and feature-length works produced over the past decade, including the experimental biographical films UNBOUND: SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF MARY SHELLEY (2013) and ACTS & INTERMISSIONS: EMMA GOLDMAN IN AMERICA (2017), and the recent ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES (2020), which explores the growing field of android development and the ethical, emotional, and psychological impacts of these technological developments.

This retrospective gathers together all these films and many more, offering a rare chance to experience and grapple with Child’s body of work as a whole. Child has restlessly explored different mediums and modes, often working with preexisting footage – drawn from Hollywood films, advertisements, home movies, and many other sources – which she radically transforms in ways that unite formal experimentation and social-political analysis. But what unifies her moving-image work above all is the unparalleled dynamism of her investigations into the relationship between sound and image, the still not-fully-tapped possibilities of cinematic montage, the technique of audiovisual fragmentation, and the complex mechanisms of language. Child’s films, videos, and installations activate the potential energy of the cinema to an extraordinary degree.

Child will be here in person for the majority of the screenings!

“[Child] has for decades been an inspiring teacher, and I feel the same energy drives her films. The very title of the series: ‘Is this what you were born for?’ captures the tone of her pedagogy: Asking questions, not instilling answers, demanding a personal address from filmmaker to viewer, probing the very foundations of one’s existence. […] The complexity of Child’s pedagogy relies on such juxtapositions and transformations in meaning between image and sound, image and image, language and noise, as well as image and language.” –Tom Gunning, “Abigail Child: The Pulse of the Last Machine”

“As an artist and writer, Child has worked seriously across a range of media. In all of them, her principal form has been montage, developing, as Tom Gunning writes, ‘a system founded not on coherence, but on breakdown, not on continuity, but interruption.’” –Colin Beckett

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