By Sophie Bennett, Staff Writer
Peggy Ahwesh was born in in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1954. She began making films at a young age and was inspired by artists like Joyce Wieland and Carolee Schneeman. Ahwesh, who began her career in film as production assistant, eventually became a programmer with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Shortly after she created “The Pittsburgh Trilogy.” The series centered on some of her friends in 1983 and showed them in a very experimental style. The trilogy is often regarded as “portraits” of the characters she met in Pittsburgh. In fact, it is Pittsburgh where Ahwesh regards a lot of her filmmaking style.
As part of Anthology Film Archives’ new “RE-VISIONS” series, several Peggy Ahwesh films are being presented. The Peggy Ahwesh series fits right in. From horror to feminism to sexuality, Ahwesh doesn’t feel a need to focus her style on a single theme. Instead, she uses inspiration in all types of genre.
Ahwesh explains that she likes “when a work involves the viewer in some kind of dilemma about how to read its meaning… It’s a very exciting, ethical and philosophical place for me. My work is not supposed to be comfort food.” And that it isn’t. All of her films thrive in the experimental genre. They force the audience out of their comfort zone and into a world of thought provoking images and virtual reality.
Through her films, Ahwesh is able to convey her emotions about the world in such a raw, unique way. “The Third Body” is an Ahwesh short that examines sexuality with use of virtual reality, projections and actors. “From Romance to Ritual” also plays on those themes.
Feminism is another prevalent topic throughout her work. “She Puppet” follows a woman in a violent video game, specifically “Lara Croft,” an incredibly popular female adventurer from a video game. “Lara Croft” was the first videogame to feature a female protagonist in an adventurous fighting setting. Ahwesh uses Croft as a symbol for the feminism in her story. Much like the rest of her shorts, “She Puppet” does not have one set, conclusive narrative, but explores Croft’s strength and symbolic importance with her regular experimental style.
As far as experimental film goes, Ahwesh has had groundbreaking productions through her use of numerous media and cinematography methods. Always ready to speak about social and political issues surrounding our culture, Ahwesh is an inspiration in the independent, experimental cinema world. This Anthology Films picked correctly to publicize her incredible work.
Ahwesh’s films were screened at the Anthology Film Archives at 32 2nd Ave., Nov. 12-13, 2016.