Peggy Ahwesh

Peggy Ahwesh

Fellow: Awarded 1996

Field of Study: Film

Competition: US & Canada

Aptly described as a media bricoleur, Peggy Ahwesh’s work combines a variety of experimental narrative and documentary genres, often with improvisational performance. Utilizing found footage, noise, the arcane, and a variety of obsolete, low-end technologies Ahwesh’s work is primarily an investigation of cultural identity and the role of the female subject. Ahwesh’s practice insists on political and social topicality, handled with theoretical rigor, while at the same time using humor and the absurd in an open embrace of the inexplicable. Subjective experiences of the individual, the mundane, and discourses of non-closure are subjects of her work. The discourses of feminism and film theory are applied to traditionally female-gendered themes—home movies, family drama, relationships and confessions—while turning the conventions of realism on end.

Peggy Ahwesh came of age in the 1970s with S8 amateur filmmaking, feminism, and the punk underground in Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of Antioch College. Currently, Ahwesh is Chair of the Film & Electronic Arts Program at Bard College. Her film and video work is distributed by EAI in New York and Lightcone in Paris. Ahwesh’s films Martina's Playhouse (1989), The Deadman (made with Keith Sanborn, 1989), Strange Weather (1993), and Nocturne (1998) are in the permanent collection of the MOMA. Ahwesh has received grants from the Jerome, Creative Capital and Guggenheim foundations and NYSCA. In 2000 she received the Alpert Award for film/video.

A number of prominent venues have recently mounted retrospectives of her work. Among them are the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain (2009); The New Media Festival, Seoul, Korea (2009); PDX, Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival, Portland, Oregon (2009); Rodina Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia (2008); and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2006).

Her recent exhibitions include The Ape of Nature, The James Gallery, New York, curated by Linda Norden (2009); Art Park at Art Dubai, sponsored by Bidoun Magazine (2010); Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, in collaboration with Jennifer Montgomery, 2008 Whitney Biennial, Park Avenue Armory, New York (2008); The Greenroom: Reconsidering the Documentary and Contemporary Art, Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale, New York (2008); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, panel and film screening P.S.1, Queens, New York (2008); Orphan Film Symposium 6: Film and the State, NYU, New York (2007); The Great Issues Forum, conversation with poet Eileen Myles, The Center for the Humanities, CUNY, New York (2009).

For more information about Peggy Ahwesh, follow these links:

Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database, essay by John David Rhodes

Electronic Arts Intermix Distribution

Stranded in the Jungle, Ch. 17, essay by Steven Shaviro

Millennium Film Journal, interview with Scott MacDonald

Brooklyn Museum, Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art