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“There is some kind of very abstract, basic, human identification that theater at it’s center activates,” says artist Catherine Sullivan. A cacophony of references and influences from vaudeville to film noir to modern dance, Sullivan’s appropriation of classic filming styles, period costumes, and contemporary spaces draws the viewer’s attention away from traditional narratives and towards an examination of performance itself.
In this film, Sullivan’s exploration of behavior’s origins is illustrated through excerpts of her works Big Hunt (2002), Ice Floes of Franz Joseph Land (2003), and The Chittendens (2006).
Producer: Susan Sollins & Nick Ravich. Camera: Mark Falstad. Sound: Heidi Hesse. Editor: Monte Matteotti. Artwork courtesy: Catherine Sullivan.
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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.