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Catherine Sullivan in "Paradox"

Despite a family background in the visual arts (her mother worked at the famous Los Angeles-based Gemini G.E.L. print studio), Catherine Sullivan was drawn to acting and the theater. “I was always interested in the body’s capacity for signification,” she says. “What was this kind of potential for infinite transformation?” Her interests turned to stagecraft, and eventually evolved into the merging of live theater and filmmaking.

Viewers follow Sullivan from a workshop with actors and students in Poland, to an exhibition space in Avignon, to a Polish-American social hall in Chicago to observe her performance-based films, many of which are influenced by popular film, real-life conflict, or ritual.

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Associate Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Alice Bertoni & Nick Ravich. Production Coordinator: Amanda Donnan & Meredith Klein. Consulting Director: Charles Atlas. Editor: Monte Matteotti. Director of Photography: Terry Doe, Bob Elfstrom, Mark Falstad, Mead Hunt, Joel Shapiro, & Abdiel Vivancos. Additional Photography: Rodrigo Menck, Nick Ravich, Miguel Sanchez-Martin, & Sergio Zeigler. Sound: Tom Bergin, Ray Day, Ron Garson, Heidi Hesse, Henry Lopez, Roger Phenix, Adilson Tatu, & Merce Williams. Audio Technician: Nick Baumhardt & Drew Weir. Assistant Camera: César Caldas, Luke Deikis, Craig Feldman, Brian Hwang, Agnes Jammal, & Michael Pruitt-Bruun. Field Producer: Glenn DuBose & Mariana Valdrighi Amaral. Production Assistant: David Gonzalez, Steve Lynn, Justyna Rutkowska, & Edward Shen. Additional Animation: Joaquin Perez.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Direction & Design: Open, New York. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins & Greg Smith. Sound Mix: Cory Melious & Tony Volante. Animation Stand: Frank Ferrigno. Assistant Editor: Ahmed Amer, Jennifer Chiurco, & George Panos.

Artworks Courtesy of: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla; Mark Bradford; Robert Ryman; Catherine Sullivan; Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Galleria Gio’ Marconi, Milan; Metro Pictures, New York; The Moore Space, Miami; PaceWildenstein, New York; The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; & Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Archival Footage Courtesy of: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla; & Mark Bradford. Archival Photographs Courtesy of: Sidney B. Felsen, Gemini G.E.L, Los Angeles.

Special Thanks: Carlotta Arlango; The Art21 Board of Trustees; Carlos Avendano; Alexander Baker; Amy Baker Sandback; Joanna Baranowska; Larry Becker; Bienal de São Paulo; Monique Birault; Lara Blanchy; Stephen Bozler; Ellie Bronson; Laurie Butler; Pat Casteel; Collection Lambert, Avignon; Elodie Collen; Dog Bark Sound; Susan Dunne; Frame:Runner NYC; Hilda Frontanes Suarez; Arne Glimcher; Pascal Guillermin; Carolin Hochleichter; Michael Jenkins; Jennifer Joy; Silvia Karman Cubiñá; Barbara Katus; Meredith Klein; My Linh Miles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dominic Mercier; My Linh Miles; Mobile Academy, Warsaw; Patches Sound; Cheryle Robertson; Amy Baker Sandback; Mônica Shiroma de Carvalho; Sound Lounge; Alessandro Thompson; Vagabond Audio; Tennia Williams; James Woodward; Steve Wylie; & Ibett Yáñez.

Director of Education & Public Programs: Tana Hargest. Education Consultant: Jessica Hamlin. Manager of Public Programs & Outreach: Kelly Shindler. Web Producer: Ana Otero. Senior Development Officer: Beth Allen. Development Associate: Sara Simonson. Development Coordinator: Erin Cesta & Katherine Payne.

Interns: Stephanie Abraitis, Alex Agnant, Gabriella della Croce, Nora Herting, Milena Hoegsberg, Rives Kitchell, Katie McCurry, Simone Otenaike, Karoline Pfeiffer, Nick Pozek, Carolina Puente, Muña Qamar, Bettina Riccio Henry, Meg Scally, Karen Seapker, Peter Sebeckis, Lucy Strong, & Kelly Williamson.

Public Relations: Goodman Media International. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Marea Alverio-Chaveco & Valerie Riley. Travel Agent: Lita Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Season 4 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Bloomberg, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Bagley Wright Fund, and W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan’s anxiety-inducing films and live performances reveal the degree to which everyday gestures and emotional states are scripted and performed, probing the border between innate and learned behavior. Sullivan’s appropriation of classic Hollywood filming styles, period costumes, and contemporary spaces such as corporate offices draws the viewer’s attention away from traditional narratives and towards an examination of performance itself. Unsettling and disorienting, Sullivan’s work oscillates between the uncanny and camp, eliciting a profound critique of “acceptable” behavior in today’s media-saturated society.

“I was always interested in the body’s capacity for signification… What was this kind of potential for infinite transformation?”

Catherine Sullivan