Close Up

1 June 2017: Abigail Child and Ruth Novaczek: Trilogies


Close-Up is pleased to present a joint programme focusing on the works of experimental filmmakers Abigail Child and Ruth Novaczek. Each of the filmmakers present trilogies of films which explore boundaries of Identity, desire, memory and the built environment, as they journey through personal and collective histories. 

Abigail Child and Ruth Novaczek will be conversation following the screenings.

Programme 1: A Woman Returns from a Journey

The New World

Ruth Novaczek
2013 | 23’25 min | Colour & B/W | Digital

“The nights are so inky and dark, the snow-scenes blown out, it’s a reprise of the mid-late 20th century. All of the smoking women were fierce” – Chris Kraus

A cinephilic bricolage in which the gaze and the subject are intertwined in an emotional narrative that cites cinema and experience to tell an inconclusive story of forgotten moments. Shot in London, Tel Aviv and New York our heroine is lost in time and space. Novaczek’s film is “a kind of diasporic standup that gets ventriloquized through bridges and animals and cigarettes and women’s faces and out the window of moving cars. The congenitally haphazard avant-garde that the accidental is at the apex of her formalism. The film has a single subject, she, and she seems to be all the waitresses, all the smoking women looking out windows, and the men too seemed to be immersed as well in the same cranky tragedy of this hurt and elevated world; just a slippery history full of the broken puppetry of her narrators. The elegant sprawl of The New World is walking off into the distance with its head tiled to the side in the midst of a beautiful and unanswerable thought.” – Eileen Myles

A Woman Returns from a Journey
Ruth Novaczek
2015 | 11 min | Colour & B/W | Digital

Books, longing, cigarettes and memory collide in a biographical collaged memoir. Shot in New York, Paris and London, mixing 50s and contemporary Super 8 with digital footage shot on a phone, several stories are told and remembered, intercut with found footage and found sound interweaving in an oneiric narrative.

Ruth Novaczek
2017 | 10 min | Colour & B/W | Digital

A collaged narrative about the nature of love and distance, with Eileen Myles, Chris Kraus, and Salit Krac. Phone footage shot in Berlin, Crete, London and Minnesota is intercut with ripped films noirs and overlaid with an ominous soundtrack, Footnote cites Franz Kafka’s letters to lovers mixed with the filmmaker’s messages to a friend, Chris Kraus reads John Wieners and Myles talks of loves mysticism.

Programme 2: The Suburban Trilogy

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
2002-04 | 21 min | Colour | Digital

Cake and Steak excavates ‘girl training’ in the legacy of home movies and post-war American suburban culture. 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, Cake and Steak is conceived for single-screen, loop and multiple projection.

The Future Is Behind You
Abigail Child
2004 | 20 min | Colour | Digital

A fictional story composed from an anonymous family archive of 1930’s Europe with two sisters who play, race, fight, kiss and grow up together under the shadow of oncoming history. There are at least 3 levels of research: 1) the home movie in which a family poses for the camera, preternaturally happy; 2) the historical moment which remains as text trace, undermining the image and serving as covert motive; 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, arranged and performed for the movie by Sylvie Courvoisier and Mark Feldman.

Surf and Turf
Abigail Child
2008-11 | 32 min | Colour | Digital

Contemporary ambiguities on the Jersey shore: the look is secular, the lifestyle capitalist, the religion orthodox. 40,000 Syrian Jews have moved into a landscape previously occupied by Irish, Italian and the quite different sect of Askenazi Jews. The “un-melted pot” of America’s small towns is set within memory and contemporary oppositions. 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: neighbouring 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?