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Leslie Thornton (b. 1951)


Photography is Easy - Version 2 (2010)
Novel City (2008)
The Last Time I Saw Ron (1994)
Strange Space (1993)
Peggy and Fred in Kansas (1987)
Oh, China, Oh (1983)
Jennifer, Where Are You? (1981)
Howard (1977)
X-TRACTS (1975)


Refracted through archival material, texts, found footage and dense soundtracks, Leslie Thornton's rigorously experimental film and video work is an investigation into the production of meaning through media. For Thornton, form and content are co-extensive, as exemplified by her epic project Peggy and Fred in Hell, an ongoing cycle of interrelated films, videos and installation environments focusing on two children who have been "raised by television." Heterogeneous and open-ended, the series defies conceptions of masterwork, author, and the strictures of beginning, middle and end.

This resistance to categorization is informed by Thornton's concerns with language and her view of media as a linguistic system that is ideologically coded and subject to the controls of culture and the market. Her works are interventions on contested terrain, in which the stakes are conventions of reading and writing, legibility and transparency. For Thornton, the conventions of narrative and montage must not simply be renounced, but used as tools against themselves. The result is a unique and strangely beautiful syntax, one that poses its critique at the same time that it mesmerizes, confounds and provokes. Thornton writes, "I see myself as writing with media, and I position the viewer as an active reader, not a consumer. The goal is not a product, but shared thought."

Leslie Thornton was born in Oakridge, Tennessee. Originally a painter, she went on to study with filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Stan Brakhage, Paul Sharits and Peter Kubelka at the State University of New York/Buffalo, and with Richard Leacock and Ed Pincus at MIT in Cambridge, MA. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Maya Deren Award, the first Alpert Award in the Arts for media, a nomination for the Hugo Boss Award, two Rockefeller Fellowships, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, and Art Matters.

Thornton's film and media works have been exhibited worldwide, in venues including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Biennial Exhibition; Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Rotterdam International Film Festival; New York Film Festival; capcMuse, Bordeaux; Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley; and festivals in Oberhausen, Graz, Mannheim, Berlin, Austin, Toronto, Tokyo and Seoul, among many others. Her ongoing work Peggy and Fred in Hell was cited in several "Year's Best" lists, including the Village Voice and The New York Times, and she was the only woman experimental filmmaker included in Cahiers du cinema's "60 most important American Directors" issue. Thornton is Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.

Thornton lives and works in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island.

RESOURCES:
These videos are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only.
All rights to this recorded material belong to Leslie Thornton. Used with permission of Leslie Thornton.
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