About the Images Festival

// the short story //

Established in 1987, the Images Festival is the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent moving image culture, showcasing the innovative edge of international contemporary media art both on and off the screen. Images has presented thousands of vanguard media-based projects in its 28-year history and is committed to an expanded concept of film and video practice: Alongside film and video screenings (ON SCREEN), the festival presents groundbreaking live performances (LIVE IMAGES), media art installations (OFF SCREEN) in local galleries and new media projects by Canadian and international artists. Images provides audiences with an annual array of contemporary moving image culture. For our exhibition archive, click here.

// the longer story//

Toronto's original interdisciplinary arts festival is a critical forum for the independent media arts in Canada and around the world and provides artists with a supportive and professional forum in which to present their projects. Many influential media artists have been nurtured by Images' willingness to embrace new creative concepts and modes of expression in the media arts field. The Images Festival exhibits and encourages the work of artists producing film and video outside of mainstream commercial production, distribution systems and aesthetic conventions. In addition to the international competition programs drawn from submissions to the festival, Images includes artists' retrospectives, national and regional spotlights, publishing projects, touring programs and special guest-curated programs.

The Images Festival was established by the Northern Visions Collective to look closely at the dynamics of accessibility. Images began as Toronto's only alternative to the Toronto International Film Festival, integrating film and video from its inception, and later expanding to include installations, performances and new media. From the beginning, Images has been at the forefront in identifying and supporting work that has been marginalized or unrecognized by existing exhibition venues, and was crucial in opening up dialogue in the media arts community around issues of race, culture, gender and sexuality.

Images has presented numerous important retrospectives dedicated to Canadian artists (e.g. General Idea, 1989; Sara Diamond, 1990; Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1991; Mike Hoolboom, 1995; Vera Frenkel, 1997; Ali Kazimi, 1998; Barbara Sternberg, 2000; Philip Hoffman, 2001; Richard Fung, 2002; Leslie Peters, 2004; Robert Lee, 2005,  Vincent Grenier, 2006;  Nelson Henricks, 2008, Louise Bourque, 2009, Ross McLaren, 2010, James MacSwain, 2011, and more recently Althea Thauberger, 2013 and Jennifer Chan in 2014) featuring spotlights on Canadian organizations such as the Western Front (Vancouver), Quickdraw Animation Society (Calgary), Les Films de L'Autre (Montréal), MobileGaze (Montréal), Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (Halifax) and La Bande Vidéo (Québec). 

Our purpose is threefold:
•    to ensure the visibility of film, video and the digital arts, new media and related installation works from all regions and communities;
•    to promote the professional advancement of and cultural exchange between independent Canadian media artists; and
•    to create a progressive, inclusive, and engaging forum for critical dialogue.

Our focus on expanding definitions and featuring the multiplicity of media arts practice has made the Images Festival a major showcase for what is innovative and thoughtful in artist film and video. We are dedicated to works that operate outside the confines of dominant media programming and are constantly improving our responsiveness to the challenging work that independent Canadian artists are producing across genres and media. Many of this country's most influential artists have been brought to centre stage as a result of Images' willingness to embrace new modes of expression in moving image culture. We exhibit many first works by emerging artists, providing visibility and context within an international festival. Images has a longstanding reputation as an advocate for artists of colour and Aboriginal artists, reflected in twenty years of programming. By developing strong partnerships with other programming organizations and by maintaining relationships with art service groups, such as the Media Arts Network of Ontario/Reseau des arts mediatiques de l'Ontario (MANO/RAMO) and the Independent Media Arts Alliance/Alliance des arts mediatiques independants (IMAA/AAMI), Images participates in activities that directly affect the future of media arts exhibition in Canada.

The festival's mandate is to present and promote excellence in independent film, video and other time-based media; to expand the definitions of media art and art in general; and to expand the audience for this work. Images' detailed mission statement is designed to implement the festival mandate:

•    To host an annual Canadian festival of independent media art that includes an international component and is considered a major cultural event in this country;
•    To ensure that media artworks from all regions of Canada are well represented;
•    To raise the profile of independent media art in order to develop an educated and appreciative audience for the Canadian media arts;
•    To produce a festival which has a progressive and inclusive scope and is committed to audience development and outreach;
•    To provide an engaging forum for the exchange of information, whether of a technical, aesthetic or critical nature for educators, curators, media arts professionals, and the public;
•    To continually expand traditional definitions and understandings of media art by exploring the multiplicity of Canadian artistic practice;
•    To work in collaboration with a diverse range of exhibition, production and distribution organizations, both in Canada and abroad.

Media artworks produced by Canadian independent artists are seldom available through commercial media outlets such as television, commercial movie theatres, industry-oriented film festivals, etcetera. This is unsurprising, as the work of these artists is often conceived in opposition to the conventions, ideological assumptions, aesthetic and technical standards of commercial media production. A great deal of Canadian independent work produced is technically accomplished, interesting, and accessible. However, because media artists do not produce work that fits within the narrow mandate of commercial media, they have fewer opportunities to connect with their potential audience; the question is one of access, both economic and cultural.

Many ground-breaking works have premiered at the Images Festival, including Matthew Barney's Cremaster 1, 2, 4 & 5, Bruce Elder's completed 40-hour film film cycle The Book of All the Dead, Zacharias Kunuk's Nunaqpa, David Rokeby's installation Guardian Angel, Philip Hoffman's What These Ashes Wanted, Barbara Sternberg's Like a Dream that Vanishes, Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg, Robert Lee's Minima Moralia and G.B. Jones's The Lollipop Generation. Every year Images collaborates with various arts organizations to facilitate innovative and rigorous panels and workshops that engage audiences with the issues and media relevant to Canadian independent artists. Highlights include: Urban Space, Media & Technology (2003), Honey, Your Digitalia is Showing (2000), the hands-on Establishing Independence workshop series (1997-1998), and the online web art exhibit and discussion forum >>iceflow>> (1997).  Images teamed up with York University to present "Urban Interventions: A Visible City Symposium on Art in the City" featuring Kaja Silverman, George Yudice and WJT Mitchell amongst others at the 2005 festival, an archive and research project conducted under the auspices of the Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization held by Images Festival co-founder and Advisory Board member Janine Marchessault at York University. As a part of our 20th anniversary celebrations in 2007, we presented a 10-day cross disciplinary symposium entitled MOMENTUM which featured artist dialogues and presentations in addition to an online video project called 'ifpod'. Concurrent with our 2010 Festival, Images hosted the 4-day INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL MEDIA CONGRESS, with over 50 presenters and 300+ delegates from around the globe interrogating the ecology and landscape of artist moving image practices. 

Over the last 28 years, the Images Festival has played a very important role in exhibiting the work of culturally diverse artists and Aboriginal artists. Images has been crucial in focusing attention on Aboriginal artists such as Zacharias Kunuk, and on artists representing a range of cultural backgrounds, including Dana Inkster, Richard Fung, Ali Kazimi, Steve McQueen, Deanna Bowen and hundreds of others. The space that Images created has resulted in the creation of a number of festivals and exhibition organizations in Toronto that now screen much of the work for which Images was once the sole forum. An effective strategy for maintaining and increasing Images' support for media art in these communities, without duplicating programming, is to sponsor programs and awards at culturally specific festivals. Each year, Images sponsors a screening program at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival and awards a $1,000 award for the best experimental work in the festival (established in 2003), and also presents programs at other local festivals which include an experimental component including Reel Asian Festival and the Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival. Images is always looking for opportunities to link with other exhibition organizations to support work by culturally diverse artists and work with festivals from Rendezvous With Madness to Toronto Palestine Film Festival to aluCine Toronto Latin Film and Media Arts Festival, among many others.

Images believes strongly in disseminating the work of independent Canadian media artists and has recently presented tours including 2005 spotlight artist Robert Lee (screenings in Tokyo, Seoul, Berlin, New York, Buenos Aires, Detroit, Windsor, Ottawa, Hamilton); an 8-month series of Canadian artist film and video at the venerable Anthology Film Archives in New York City (September 2006 - April 2007) and the recent Double Vision tour (October 2007 - July 2008) which travelled to Paris + Montreal, London UK + London, Ontario and Berlin + Kitchener, Ontario. Our recent Commissioning Project allowed us to assist 5 Canadian media artists [Christina Battle, Vera Frenkel, Clive Holden, Guy Maddin and Daichi Saito] create new films which premiered at the prestigious Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam in November 2008 and again at the Opening Night of the 22nd Images Festival in April 2009.

In fall 2010 we presented Images Across Asia, a six-country tour of Asia in which saw us taking Canadian film/video to Seoul, Korea; Bangalore and Baroda, India; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Bangkok, Thailand and Taipei, Taiwan. More recently we wrapped up the Images Across Canada tour which took our 25th Anniversary programs to almost every province and territory throughout 2012, and yet another tour to East and Southeast Asia in Fall 2013 had us showing films in Tokyo, Manila, Seoul and Jakarta.