Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan
Credits: Catherine Sullivan, Afterword Via Fantasia, 2015, Frac Franch-Comté collection, © DR

Afterword Via Fantasia, 2015

Video installation, 97'27"
In collaboration with George Lewis and Sean Griffin

Work presented as part of the exhibition Echos d'une collection - Works by Frac Franche-Comté

The film tells the story of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), founded in 1965 in Chicago, a vital creative hub that enabled a generation of black musicians to break out of the clichés in which they were confined, and develop free jazz and experimental jazz close to contemporary music. The composers and artists of the AACM are also known for the innovative methodologies of improvisation and musical notation they proposed.

Afterword Via Fantasia is based on the landmark book by AACM member, trombonist and composer George Lewis, A Power Stronger Than It self: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) and dialogues with the opera he himself drew from it(Afterword: an Opera). Film and opera premiered in 2015 alongside The Freedom Principle exhibition at Chicago's MCA.

Catherine Sullivan opts for a kaleidoscopic montage, mixing readings of excerpts from the book, choreographed sections, a music composition class and theatrical scenes for which she uses, like ready-mades, sets from other shows, all linked, by their script, author or director, to the cultural history of Blacks in the United States.

Catherine Sullivan

Born in 1968 in Los Angeles
Lives and works in Chicago

Trained as an actress, Catherine Sullivan first became interested in the history of theater and performance before exploring the visual arts, studying with Mike Kelley at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. She teaches at the University of Chicago.

She uses the performing arts, cinema and anthropology to compose unclassifiable works in which everything, from the direction of the actors and actresses to the editing, is meticulously thought through. The complexity of her pieces tends to thwart expectations, so as to be more incisive in the committed questioning she raises.

In 2001, one of his first major video installations, Gold Standard (hysteric,melancholic, degraded, refined), seized on a sequence from Arthur Penn's film Miracle in Alabama (1962), with its blind and mute heroine, to explore the issues of language and the body as it grapples with norms and repression.

She regularly draws on existing cultural material to raise more contemporary issues. The video installation Tis Pity She's a Fluxus Whore (2003) combines reconstructions of a 1953 production of a play by Elizabethan playwright John Ford with a 1964 performance by Joseph Beuys at the Festival of New Art at the Technical College of Aachen, which led to him being struck by spectators.

The Chittendens (2005) is a series of situations, attitudes and gestures modelled on the archetypes of the 20th-century middle class and the 19th-century idle class. In particular, the work questions automation and mechanization in the world of work, like "a core of unconsciousness".

In 2018's The Startled Faction (a sensitivity training), Catherine Sullivan evokes the inferior status and invisibility of women's work in the face of the racial and economic urgency of a strike. Nine men and women are challenged to find the limits of their demands on each other.

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