2013 Images Blog 5 Andrew James Paterson
Sat. Apr. 13
On yet another cold rainy day I have allotted some time for Images Off-Screen installations, not all of them in the 401 Richmond building. I think of a note cvo0ncernming the festivalÕs submissions for this twenty-sixth year. In Interim Director Kate McKayÕs opening remarks, she refers to this year being Ònotable for ideas around hidden histories and unseen labour, re-enactment and reframing.Ó
Indeed it is. IÕm not seeing a lot of abstraction and certainly not futurism (unless retro-kitsch). I dash into Prefix gallery and I see a sparse installation by Alejandro Cesarco called The Reader. This is indeed a cinematic setup but thereÕs no movie. Only projected text and a male voice-over. It occurs to me that there are striking parallels between Lawrence Weiner (whose voice it is) and Robert Mitchum (film noirÕs ur-voiceover, so simultaneously authorities and unreliable).
I pop into Christina BattleÕs fog vortex, at WARC. Battle is a prominent artist with a thing for (super) natural disasters. There are twelve vile vortexes around the circular globe (Bermuda Triangle, etc.), where time and space fold in among themselves. Images Festival and its cousins all share fascination with zones in which time and space blend and overlap and donÕt immediately declare themselves to be incompatible opposites. Time should always be capable of becoming frozen. Battle offers a suspended projection, some informative maps, and a flickering strobe. What indeed has Tony Conrad begat?
Further down the hallway in the 401 building I take in Sound Giving Will Feeling, by Andrea Geyer. This is well-installed and informative work concerning largely unrecognized artists and art benefactors: this exhibition specifically addresses roles and participation of women in what can be called the early modernist project. Fifty of the three hundred artists in the landmark 1913 Armoury show in New York were female; and many of the funders of the show. And despite the presence of the name Rockefeller, these were not just rich woman seeking out venturesome tax credits. In her artistÕs talk on Friday, Geyer made the point that there were complex working relationships between the wealthy benefactors and the not-so-wealthy artists, not just traditional patronage or patronizing. This exhibition is not merely revising history ¾ it is highlighting an example of constructive networking which continues to be a vital role-model in todayÕs post-post-post modernist age. (I would say especially todayÕs much less linear globalist age).
Greg StaatsÕ working installation it dropped down their minds/for at least one day you should continue to think calmly plays with past and present, with stillness and movement, with words and images generating each other rather than fighting for space, and with phenomena of condolence. Staats (wonderful palindrome name, that) sets up situations in which bodies and images can respond to one another, without any forbidding theatricality. He has used his residency at Trinity Square Video to offer viewers an unforbidding laboratory.
I decided to somewhat cross town, over to Gallery TPWÕs temporary R&D location, and take in Laure ProvoustÕs The Wanderer. This was a move from laboratory to hair salon, literally. I get off the bus and what I think is TPWÕs space has been transformed into a hair salon, with video monitors mixed among the gels and lubricants in front of the clientsÕ chairs. This is a work about translation, or its impossibility. The original source material is KafkaÕs The Metamorphosis, but ProuvostÕs primary source is Rory MacbethÕs English translation of Metamorphosis. Macbeth did so in spite of his inability to speak German. (Thought of the month, perhaps he should have translated KakfaÕs parable into insect-speak?). IÕm reading that Provoust has adapted MacbethÕs translation into a seven-part feature film and that one of that filmÕs primary locations is a hair salon. But television (or even video art) in a hair salon is not at all absurd. Hair salons are social settings, so why not what can be a very social medium. Still, what are the clients watching? A soap opera starring a hybrid hybrid character named Gregor who engages in dialogue with his hairdresser while having his hair done and is interrupted by laugh tracks from a hidden sound source? Well, that of course is life.
Now itÕs time to return to On-Screen, and I take in Jean-Marie TenoÕs Leaf in the Wind. Of everything IÕve seen so far on screen, this is the most ÒdocumentaryÓ. Cameroonian director Teno has found a daughter of Cameroonian freedom fighter Ernest Quandie (executed by Cameroonian authorities in 2114). The daughter, Ernestine had never met her father. Shunned by her mother, Ernestine searched for information (hidden and unacknowledged) about her late father. Teno interviewed her and wasnÕt sure what to do with the material. However, Ernestine took her life and Teno decided he needed to restore the fatherÕs memory through the account of the daughter. This film is primarily the interview with Ernestine, and it requires listening. Serious committed listening
The next programme was titled All That Is Solid, and it was the tightest programme IÕve seem so far. Prominent 26th festival themes of course emerge again. Deanna ErdmannÕs Quartet for the End of Time (homaging the composer Olivier Messiaen) is composed from 1,700 photos the filmmaker took in the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. This film is simultaneously with-taking time-travel and a roller-coaster that travels around and around with the repeating sights never quite being identical. This location is one of the true remaining wilderness areas and it hosts many endangered species. ErdmannÕs work preceded A Third Version of the Imaginary, by Benjamin Tiven. The video or film (does it matter, yes and no?) depicts an archivist in the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation in Nairobi in his work place. This is a film about preservation of the analogue. In todayÕs digital world, film and video are both analogue and what is a print anyway? Why print and why not keep everything on-line? Meanwhile, in the days of analogue video (and audio), one could record over what had already been recorded over. So, how can an archivist find specific archival stocks or footages? And, of course, who makes decisions as to what should be preserved and correctly inventoried?
All That Is Solid also offered one of the earliest experimental animations produced in Quebec (Gordon WebberÕs 1945-1950 Un Film Unedit). Webber, parallel to the radical modernist painters then active in Quebec, painted on film and Images was treated to a valuable and necessary restoration. The programme concluded with Chicago artist Jesse McLeanÕs The Invisible World. How can one live in a virtual world without material or materialist temptations? (and why would one want to resist?) Does science lead the way or does it merely complicate things further? What does happen to peopleÕs things and information after departing the visible world? How does one avoid silly love songs or is it worth even trying (is musical modernism futile)? McLean puts so much flotsam and jetsam on the dinner table with a trademark engagingly deadpan humour.
The lengthy day concluded with the Toronto-focused programme mmNonic Dvices. This programme expresses more ambivalences about then importance of memory for exploring futures while dealing with unstable present tenses. IÕm not sure that many of these works were best served in a strictly Toronto programme, but Images has decided to return the Toronto programme after many years of the festival not having it (It was a festival mainstay over at least the festivalÕs first decade.). Nevertheless, this was not just some sprawling Òcommunity surveyÓ ¾ the three programme curators did work to achieve a relatively coherent package although I think the programme was too long. But this could have been end of the day exhaustion, so É?