Images 2009 Blog 1


Although the On-Screen component of the 2009 Images' Festival does not commence until the day after April Fools' Day, many of the On-Screen installations are already in play during the maddening month of March.

Yesterday (Saturday afternoon) I visited Mercer Union (now out on Bloor near Lansdowne - oh dear!) to take in Magnetic resonance on abissologic experiments - a three 16 mm. projector installation by two Portuguese artists/collaborators - Pedro Paiva and Joao Maria Gusmao. This proved to be an often startling and frequently amusing work. Its vignettes are in undefined but desert-like spaces - not unlike serious Land Art. But... are we watching a Western or an Eastern? And we do witness a man eating a rock - he has a Piece of the Rock, so to speak. The process of eating a found object activates badly needed moisture among desert-travellers, no matter how inedible the found object. The tone of this and other vignettes - particularly a durational balancing balls on an axel performance - is deadpan and absurdist. Think Buster Keaton meets Sam Peckinpah via Bunuel. Think mad scientists out of the labs and on location, where Nature and Culture are at their blurriest. The three projections played like three sculptures in an ongoing dialogue - avoiding literality but maintaining eye contact. The "magnetic" of the title is indeed apt - no matter how far one might veer away from its others, the one would become re-attracted and the repetition would play tragi-comically. "Abissologic" is a lovely word - the logic of the Abyss? Talk about tragi-comedy!

Other Images Off-Screen installations had already settled into their gallery accommodations throughout March. Aleesa Cohene's installation Something Better, in the north gallery of YYZ, fits in with this year's festival's theme of The Print Generation. Cohene is a meticulous editor of found or appropriated stocks - she is a match editor who achieves seamlessness only to highlight the mechanics of that seamlessness. Her triptych stitches together Father, Mother, and Child moments within classical and educational films, in which the family members are not in the same frames and are not even mentally in the same plane. Classic melodrama has always presented dysfunctional families, and Cohene has made this separation within constriction official. There must be something better, but where is that something and how does one get there? And how likely are all of the principals to agree on location and/or method? On the north wall opposite YYZ's reception and reading area, Cohene has assembled a striped pattern of saturated or solarized colours. Perhaps the logic of colour-abstractionism provides the grid that might be read as "something better", because the grid is outside of the media and the machine? Too pat - this installation is hardly didactic - or anti-cinematic.

In YYZ's South Gallery - there is a collaboration between the artists June Pak and Louise Noguchi which also deploys old movies - even The Wizard of Oz. This installation is titled Somewhere - one of the English language's least-defined words. The film loops are further fragmented by the projection technologies and projected onto the wall as separate moving pictures - one sees fragments of excerpts and not homogenous entire frames. A stack of five monitors (requiring five DVD players) provides an almost leaning tower, hosting a looped film fragment with a repetitive sound motif that prevents Cohene's soundtrack from leaking through into the South Gallery. But it's the west wall that clinches this installation - it has to be The West. Here we have peepholes revealing Noguchi's set-constructions. They are of a very deep focus, like classical Westerns and time-travel movies. Deep focus cinematography was essential to the Illusion Machine. Want to buy some illusions - some are old, some are new?