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Elisabeth Subrin: Her Compulsion to Repeat

Sue Scott Gallery
1 Rivington Street, 212-358-8767
East Village / Lower East Side
January 23 - February 26, 2010
Reception: Saturday, January 23, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Sue Scott Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by Elisabeth Subrin, presenting the premiere of her new video installation Lost Tribes and Promised Lands and her 2008 two-channel projection Sweet Ruin. Installed in the related project space are selected films, videos and photographic stills spanning nearly twenty years.

In her complexly layered and deeply emotional work, Subrin mines the elusive intersections of history and female subjectivity in an effort to excavate and deconstruct both dominant and minor narratives. Investigating the residual impact of recent social movements, the nature of evidence, and the poetics of psychological “disorder,” Subrin’s projects rarely take the same form, working across narrative, documentary and conceptual art practices and production models. Her Compulsion to Repeat is organized around one of her primary preoccupations—the repetition and re-enactment of primal scenes from the past.

Her latest installation Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, presents views of Williamsburg, Brooklyn on twin projections shot by Subrin on 16mm film: one made in the days following September 11, 2001, the other presenting the same locations on the same date in 2008. Critic Ed Halter writes that Lost Tribes “offers a bittersweet meditation on loss, longing and the passage of time, achingly personal and sharply political.”

Originally commissioned as a response to Michelangelo Antonioni’s never-produced 1966 screenplay Technically Sweet, and shot on outdated 16mm stock to mimic discarded footage from a feature film production, Sweet Ruin reworks elements of the original script into a meditation on love, violence and double identity, starring actor Gaby Hoffman in a dual role.

Her trilogy of works, Swallow (1995), Shulie (1997) and The Fancy (2000) have been hailed by critics and curators as three of the most important works to emerge in American artists’ film and video in the previous decade. Of the series, Nicole Armour wrote in Film Comment that “Subrin’s videos are acute, highly imaginative excursions in precise yet speculative detective work. Drawn to marginal figures, she subjects them to rigorous biographical needling, devising a whole new approach to documentary in the process. In fact, the filmmaker’s work[s] … are unclassifiable; you could call them formalist experiments in documentary wrappers. Through them, Subrin cunningly insists that all along the wrong people have been asking the wrong questions. Forget what you’ve read. This is history the way it should have been written.” In the New York Times, A. O. Scott called The Fancy “one of the most moving evocations of the irreplaceable quiddity of a person … Somehow, Ms. Subrin confers immortality on her subject while at the same time making vivid her irrevocable absence.”

On January 24, 3PM, the gallery will present a screening of the artist’s films and single-channel videos in conversation with critic Ed Halter. The event will include rarely seen early videos such as Is A Lie (1988, her first video), Interference (1989), and Evidence Acquired Without Consent (1990), all made by Subrin as a student at the Massachusetts College of Art. Displaying the emergence of her longstanding themes, these early works also foreground the lasting influence of her education in avant-garde cinema and video art: Subrin has always exacted complete formal control over her work, typically producing, directing, writing, editing, and shooting them herself, or overseeing a minimal technical crew.

A catalog will be available with a new essay on Subrin’s work by Ed Halter.

Elisabeth Subrin’s award-winning work has screened widely in the US and abroad, including solo shows at The Museum of Modern Art, Thread Waxing Space, The Vienna International Film Festival, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Harvard Film Archives, The San Francisco Cinematheque, and in group shows, festivals and museums internationally, including The Whitney Biennial, The Guggenheim Museum, The Walker Art Center, The Wexner Center for the Arts, The New York Film Festival, and The Rotterdam International Film Festival. She has received grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Annenberg, and The Creative Capital Foundations, and participated in the Sundance Institute Screenwriting and Directing Fellowships with her first feature-length narrative film, in development with Forensic Films in New York. She has received film commissions from The MacDowell Colony and The Danish Arts Council for recent projects, The Caretakers and Sweet Ruin. A solo exhibition curated by Lia Gangitano will take place at Participant, Inc. in New York in 2011.

Subrin was born in Boston and received a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1990. She received an MFA from The School of the Art Institute in 1995. She has taught extensively, including at Amherst College, Cooper Union, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard University, and The Yale University School of Art. She is currently Assistant Professor of Film and Media Art at Temple University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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