Finding Things I Don't Want To Find

Based on six years of documentary fieldwork, Finding Things I Don’t Want To Find traces material and spectral encounters around a small historic house museum of Native American and settler history located in Southern California. An obscure national historic landmark, the Bancroft Ranch House Museum is also a social hub where a medley of things ranging from artifacts to discarded goods are exchanged. Now add to this scenario two voracious collectors able to find history in the “most worthless trash.” One tinkers in the yard: the museum’s caretaker, who invests each object with a new sense of purpose. The other one looks down from the wall: the museum’s namesake, a largely forgotten Victorian historian, who acts as both the caretaker’s model and nemesis. My own persona, as a filmmaker collecting material to craft a story, puts the two in conversation. Finding Things I Don’t Want To Find takes its cue from the museum’s unorthodox archive and observes how history is made, represented, and lived within this environment. By following the site’s caretaker as he attends to his chores and peculiar collections, the film unravels how eccentric practices and objects destabilize the museum’s official narrative.

  • Katrin Pesch
    The Yellow Wallpaper, 2008; The Uninvited, 2005
  • Katrin Pesch
  • Katrin Pesch
  • Jim van Meter
    Key Cast
  • Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
  • Ishan Gupta
  • Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental
  • Genres:
    essay film, experimental documentary
  • Runtime:
    57 minutes 57 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    13,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    HD video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin
    Country: Germany
Director Biography - Katrin Pesch

Katrin Pesch is an artist, filmmaker, and writer. She holds a PhD in Art History, Theory, and Criticism with a Concentration in Art Practice from the University of California San Diego and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. Her practice is invested in questions of cultural memory and place and driven by a concern for contemporary ecological issues. Her work has been exhibited internationally in festivals, independent spaces, and museums. Occasionally, she curates exhibitions and film programs. Her films are distributed by Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art.

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Director Statement

I arrived at the museum by chance, and what I found there was not exactly what I was looking for. I had just moved to San Diego and was scouting locations for a fiction film. I was looking for a place where the city meets the country, and Spring Valley caught my eye on the map. Located at the end of a dead-end street, the Bancroft Ranch House Museum is the kind of place that looks like nothing ever happens but where stuff goes on all the time. In the process, the historical meshes with the everyday. My desire for staging a fiction got jumbled up with the stories of objects circulating around the old adobe building that houses the museum. Something in the casual mix of artifacts, curiosities, and rummage “caught my attention,” to borrow a phrase from the museum’s caretaker, Jim van Meter. Something caught his attention when he arrived at the adobe by accident in the late 1970s, and he has been guarding it ever since. The caretaker lives on site and choreographs the entirety of the place. He moves things he is moved by, in some way or other. And collects everything that that has to do with Spring Valley, in some way or other. No matter how whimsical or broken they might be, all the objects that end up in the museum carry weight––whether it is by virtue of their history or just because they have to be hauled around.

I began to document objects and community events, perusing the archive, listening to the caretaker’s stories and tracking his every move. But for the longest time the footage I gathered was merely creating another archive that was as unruly and personal as that of the caretaker. As it so happens, the Bancroft Ranch House is dedicated to another passionate and voracious collector. The 19th century historian Hubert Howe Bancroft was able to find history in the “most worthless trash,” just like the caretaker. My own persona, as a filmmaker collecting material to craft a story, puts the two in conversation.