Born 1971, Ann Arbor, Michigan; lives in Ithaca, New York, and Brooklyn, New York

Over the past six years, David Gatten has worked on a cycle of films that take inspiration from the library of William Byrd II, an American colonial writer, planter, and government official. Sweeping in scope, Byrd's collection of about 4,000 volumes was one of the largest in early eighteenth-century North America and a conduit for introducing important works of European philosophical and political thought to the continent. Since happening upon Byrd's little-known title The Secret History of the Line, along with its better-known companion History of the Dividing Line, Gatten has delved into the Virginian's life in four films thus far (eventually the project will encompass nine films under the overall title Secret History of the Dividing Line, A True Account in Nine Parts). Focusing on specific volumes from the library, letters, and personal papers, Gatten's series probes the relationships between printed words and images, philosophical ideas, historical records, and biography. Throughout, his thematic concerns are realized in an array of cinematic processes and techniques, constituting a parallel survey of the medium's history.


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Still from The Great Art of Knowing, 2004. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent; 37 min.