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2013 Blog #8 – Paterson on Thursday 4/18

April 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog 8              Andrew James Paterson

Thursday April 18 

On Thursday afternoon I attended the launch of a new book published by Images festival and LIFT and to be distributed by YYZ BOOKS. This anthology, edited by the venerable Chris Gehman, is titled Explosion in the Movie Machine: Essays and Documents on Toronto Artists’ Film and Video. This anthology does indeed include documents: timelines of Toronto festivals, organizations and exhibitors and also the infamous Let’s Set the Record Straight open letter circulated and signed by many Canadian and American experimentalists critical of the dynamics of the 1989 International Experimental Film Congress, which was held in Toronto. Another document included in this publication is a Statement of Unity adopted by participating organizations in the landmark Six Days of Resistance Against the Censor Board: Ontario Open Screenings, action initiated and followed through in 1985, when film and video artists were routinely harassed and even arrested with regards to ridiculous bureaucratic procedures involving censorship and co-operation with the powers of censorship. Thus, the book launch was held in tandem with a panel addressing histories of censorship. This issue may appear to have subsided with entrenched exemptions for “artistic merit” events and venues, but these are not easy set definitions and it is naïve to think that the overall issue of censorship has been resolved or eradicated.

The early evening programme, composed of six works, was titled Before Your Eyes. In moments of severe crisis events of one’s life flash before the eyes…in rapid eye movement. Impending death is certainly such a severe crisis, as are various traumas and illnesses. There were works in this programme physically addressing either sight deprivation or strategic denials of sight (and also sound). Thirza Cuthand’s Super 8 film on video, Sight, deployed coloured staining on top of documented images in order to address both loss of sight and inability to see clearly during episodic moments. Dan Browne’s memento mori consisted of still images the artist has collected during his lifetime, over 100,000 photographs. At the film’s conclusion, I did wonder if that’s all there was. This was truly a durational work, which might have benefited from being installed in a gallery situation in combination with other works (perhaps some still images framed as still images?).

Jorge Lozano’s diptych – Underscore _ Subguion - was this programme’s concluding work which I thought also might have benefited from a gallery installation. However, this diptych (left side man recounting events around an assassination attempt that forced him into hiding) and the right side (red and yellow abstract grids suggesting both pixilation as a device for obscuring faces and bodily details and also abstract painting filtered through video games) is as much about listening as it is watching. Lozano omits references to name, place, and other facts in the man’s story, during which the artist as interrogator is audibly present when necessary. The audience can guess but the audience is not meant to know important details which must be concealed. The underscoring of the omitted names and locations is done within the English subtitles – what is revealed, concealed, and also apparent in Spanish? Lozano adeptly plays with necessary constraints on testimony while highlighting the fact that there are indeed many individuals who are caught in a bind between needing to be seen and needing to avoid identification.

Takahiro Suzuki’s 9214 quite breathtakingly depicts a freight train from below and thus landscapes as well as the machine itself become deliriously abstracted. Jeannette Munoz’s Strata of Natural History draws attention to what is more a stain on natural history practices. Her 16mm film is concerned with a case in which Kaweskar natives from Tierra del Fuego were exhibited in European zoos – there is the pacing wild animal layered behind the showcased “wild animals”. To put it mildly, ugly territory and not so distant either. Izabella Pruska- Oldenhof’s time poem This Town of Toronto … was puzzling. It was layered from the POV of a time-traveling tourist (therefore the ellipsis in the title) – there was a lot of the great fire of 1904 visible amongst the multi-layering. But the film and its title promise so much more, and I felt that three minutes is absurdly short just as Browne’s film could easily lose ten or so minutes and still make its point. But of course there is also a tradition in which works must be of pre-determined lengths, whether because of commission stipulations or because of specific durations of the event or material being documented. So perhaps length is a moot point here; and perhaps my feeling that certain works might play better in a gallery situation is flawed as it assumes that audiences will not watch all of the work in front of them but rather tune in and out of them. Audiences of course can never be assumed a homogenous entity.

Neither can maintenance workers, or homeowners. The next programme was a ninety-minute feature called maintenance, by the appropriately named Adele Horne. This work consisted of fifteen portraits of people cleaning up their homes – mostly their own homes but at least one portrait does feature a paid cleaner. Most of those portrayed are the filmmaker’s friends (including the experimental icon director James Benning), but some are individuals who responded to a call for participants. The film does seem to hover between documentary and performance – as with similar projects it can be interesting to project what is verite and what is staged or performed. Set in Los Angeles, Maintenance features a good variety of subjects and subtly comments on social mobility, economic status, and general mobility. Home portrays her subject not necessarily with single long takes and then keeps the audio going while presenting text from interviews she made with her subjects prior to the filming. Some of these texts are more surprising than others.

Many of Home’s subjects refer to “spring cleaning”. Spring has arrived, although winter is threatening to take a final bow this weekend. After the Images Festival concluded, it is time to finally undertake (perform?) spring cleaning. But I have so much required reading to do, so will I or won’t I? One subject (Benning) bemoans how much time he spends on the computer and how little time he spends working with his hands and body. Well, if I could clean my abode by using a computer, I would certainly do so accordingly. Dusting can be such a detour, especially when the cobwebs are your own.

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2013 Blog #7 – Paterson on April 16 + 17

April 18th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog 7               Andrew James Paterson

Tuesday April 16 + Wednesday April 17

I take in French artist Louidgi Beltrame’s projection Brasilia/Chandigarh, which is installed in V/Tape’s small studio gallery. This work is concerned with landscape and architecture, specifically two constructed capital cities dreamt and executed by two world-famous architects. Oscar Niemeyer did Brasilia and Le Corbusier Chandigarh, in Brazil and India respectively. These cities were imposed on landscapes and now lie like remains of unrealized modernist visions even more at odds with their surrounding landscapes.

This work is almost half an hour and it is paced like a slow tine poem. Beltrame creates a dialogue between these two modernist monuments by deploying sparsely minimal musical tones along with snippets of dialogue. I had trouble hearing the dialogue in relation to the musical tones, not that they were competing for space. I think, despite its length and its frequent silence, that Brasilia/Chandigarh might have been better served by being projected as a film or video in a theatrical programme. The work certainly addresses relationships between constructed and natural, but is not particularly addressing gallery space or architecture.

In the evening it’s time for Scoring CineCycle - a programme composed by mashing up live music with films from CineCycle proprietor Martin Heath’s wonderfully eclectic film collection. Is anybody reading this blog who doesn’t know CineCycle? If so, try to attend the Images festival’s late-night lounge in this wonderful venue, which combines Heath’s interests in things with spokes (film reels and bicycles). Martin is one of the world’s true resources.

Three musical ensembles were invited to provide live accompaniment for four films from Heath’s collection. These ensembles were Lina Allemano Four, Eucalyptus, and Del Bel.

Lina Allemano (I believe she is the trumpeter) scored two films – Leon Prochnik’s The Existentialist and Jordan Belson’s amazing animation Allures, which was radical in 1961 and still is today. The Existentialist was a treat, as the band provided a literally walking score which synched with the film without being too literal (although it was deadpan hilarious when the protagonist would stop walking and so would the band – just for a pause – and then start up again.) Characters in this film walk both forward and backward, but the music stuck to its rhythms. Allures encouraged more psychedelic, and while Allemano’s quartet rose to the challenge admirably, I thought that electronic or more textured instruments might have been more sited to the film (without becoming too literal).

Eucalyptus’ accompaniment of Betty Ferguson’s Kisses was less successful, probably due to personal tastes. Their soundtrack had more of a “jazz fusion” flavour than the Allemano quartet, even though saxophonist Brodie West plays in both ensembles. Also, the film itself is too long. Kisses is a match-edited collage of, well, people kissing in different source films. Although some of the kissing takes place in humorous situations, there is not enough variety or contrast to justify the length. Also, the kissing was almost completely heterosexual, which is not the composition of the world.

Del Bel was a tight ensemble from the Guleph independent scene, with more “rock” make-up than the previous jazzers. They provided a tight accompaniment to a wonderful silent German film titled Uberfall (by Erno Metzner) – with lots of smoking and tantalizing criminal intrigue probably going on. Live musical accompaniment was a key component of early cinematic presentation; and many cineastes may bemoan the eventual introduction of sound on film but music has always been intrinsic to the cinematic medium. Ask any editor – music provides the template for effective editing, whether rhythmic or atmospheric.

And, speaking of bicycles, I walked over to German artist Bjoern Kaemmerer’s installation 8, at Unpack Studio. This space is on a side side street and could easily be missed except for the festival signage outside – I’m sure it was once an Internet café or was that a tax preparation office? Regardless, what is now a small gallery hosts a filmic installation involving a bicyclist (the artist) riding in a figure 8 as a 16mm projector (not Super or regular 8) has been equipped with a rotating motor in order to project this image of the cyclist around the gallery space – the projected image is rotated. The cyclist is thus endlessly riding away from the direction of this rotating image – into infinite space and not really going anywhere. Kaemmerer is also the filmmaker who made Torque (in the Sleight of Hand programme), in which he sets up a tracking shot across railroad tracks, and that shot could also continue across the tracks forever as it is circular and not linear.

In the evening, I attend a presentation focussed on works by iconic American artist David Wojnarowicz, who combined a fluid interdisciplinary practice with activist anger. Wojnarowicz, who passed from AIDS-related causes in 1992, worked in painting, photography, sculpture, film, music, and writing. Above all he was a writer, but his work in film and music are perhaps the least known of this considerable body of work.

The Images presentation revolved around a 1987 Wojnarowicz film called Beautiful People, shot on Super 8. This film shows collaborator and performer Jesse Hultberg making himself up in drag and then taking a cab to a forest and then immersing himself in a body of water. The film is shot in black and white stock until a moment just before the water immersion, where it butts into glorious colour. I had been trying to guess the colour of the performer’s dress – gold perhaps, or silver – and lo and behold it is a glorious red dress. The ruby-toed slippers Hultberg had donned before his excursion should have been a clue – The Wizard of Oz is truly one of the great cultural reference points of not only the twentieth century. The half hour film is silent (with some location sound bleeding in), and relatively unedited. Hultberg, who was present for a discussion with Toronto polymath Don Pyle, also showed a heavily edited seven minute version which paled in comparison to the original. Making oneself up in drag is itself drag -a commitment to performance has been made and therefore making oneself up is already performance. I could have watched the original for more than half and hour, although the act of going underwater water raised obvious alarm bells.

The short version also contains a song by the band 3 Teens Kill 4 No Motive, of which both Wojnarowicz and Hultberg were members. The song is light and poppy and in a very different tone than the film – I don’t think it “works”. The collaboration between Wojnarowicz and Hultberg was intended to restore a friendship which had become strained after the band disintegrated. Earlier performative footage of the band was presented after the discussion between Hultberg and Pyle, and the band was much more interesting (funkier and kind of love-fi industrial, with use of non-musical noise objects and found texts) than what is heard on the soundtrack of the short version of Beautiful People. That title is plural, and it refers not only to both Wojnarowicz and Hultberg but also to those who dare to live performatively and for whom artifice can make the world go round.

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Dangling That Rope : Essay on FILM: ROPE by Andrew Paterson

April 16th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

Francesco Gagliardi’s FILM: ROPE

 

Dangling That Rope

Essay by Andrew James Paterson

Edited by Chris Gehman

 

FILM: ROPE

Performed by Francesco Gagliardi,

Michael Caldwell, Marcin Kedzior & Cara Spooner

 

Presented by FADO Performance Art Centre at the 26th Images Festival, Toronto

April 11 to 20, 2013

 

Francesco Gagliardi’s performance Film: Rope is one of a series of

performances in which Gagliardi breaks down seminal — or at least

recognizable — film texts into recalled or recollected movements

in relation to selected audio components.1 The performers, whether

they are actors, dancers or performance artists, move through the

sets carrying old-fashioned tape recorders in their hands. These tape

recorders play back audio dubs from DVDs of particular scenes from

the selected movies.2 It is recommended in Gagliardi’s instructions

that the duration of a scene be at least three times the duration of the

corresponding scene from the source film.

For some of the scenes, the performers consent to having

their performance interrupted by a clock, which signals them to

move on to the next scene, while for others the performers have the

option of ending prior to the clock’s signal. Fulfilling a scene before

the alarm sounds is not necessary artistically preferable to having

the clock inform the performers that it is time to begin a new scene.

As far as the performers are concerned, either ending the scene

before the bell or not completing the scene by the time the bell rings

is perfectly acceptable. The clock does not provide a deadline; it is

simply a structural event.

 

In Film: Rope, Gagliardi has accentuated the simultaneous

clash and fusion of different disciplines by using as source material

a film that has been controversial at a number of different levels:

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). Rope is something of an anomaly

within the Hitchcock canon, as it is directed to appear as if consisting

almost entirely of one continuous shot.3 In this respect it breaks the

modernist dictum that film should not appear simply to be recorded

theatre. The film eschews montage altogether. It is also controversial

for reasons related to tone and subject matter. Rope is a film about

two rather naughty boys named Brandon Shaw and Philip Walker

(played by John Dall and Farley Granger respectively), who kill a

young man they consider their inferior for the sheer thrill of it.4

They conceal his corpse right under the noses of their dinner guests,

among them their mentor-cum-professor Rupert Cadell (played by

James Stewart), who slowly comes to realize what his protégés have

done. It dawns upon the professor too late that extremist ideologies

should never be taught to impressionable, precociously bright

young things.

 

Of course, Rope is not really composed of one continuous shot.

The eighty-minute film requires eight ten-minute rolls of film, and

part of the fun for the viewer is watching for the transferences: the

points where Hitchcock directs the camera behind a character’s dark

jacket or a chair in order to stop, reload the camera, and then resume

filming. Another part of the fun of watching Rope is noting furniture

and other set discontinuities as a result of the constant rearrangement

required to accommodate the roving camera as it moves through the

set. Hitchcock tended to talk about Rope in strictly technical terms, as

a stunt,5 but the nature of the stunt created recurring points at which

concealment became necessary. Rope is a film about confinement

and concealment, in which the reel changes are not unlike exchanges

of illicit currency or weapons. Hitchcock’s emphasis on his own

formal audacity also served to partially mask his own fascination/

revulsion with male homosexuality, which he associated with

amoral superiority and outright criminality. The very title Rope is so

appropriate; it refers to more than just the murder weapon. Pull that

rope tighter; stretch the shot as far as possible; dangle the evidence

right in front of the fools while smirking in their innocent faces.

Just as Rope only appears to be composed of one continuous

shot, so the idea that it could be accurately described merely as

“recorded theatre” is a clear misperception; rather, it has been called

“one of the most cinematic of films, carrying one of the defining

characteristics of the medium — its ability to use a camera as the eye

of the spectator, to take him right into an action, show him around

inside it as it were — to its ultimate conclusion.”6 But of course the

camera sees what Hitchcock directs it to see. The camera movements

are thus choreographed; and the word “choreography” is central to

the vocabulary of dance, a live art form. Ropemay have been adapted

for the screen from an original stage play, but the fluid camera

movements so necessary to counteracting the inherent staginess of

the script practically beg the question of how the performers adapt

to the camera’s movements. The camera in Ropemay function as a

substitute for the eye of the spectator, who is accustomed to moving

his or her head and entire body in order to follow some visual trajectory

through space, while the actors’ movements have been blocked

so that they are either dancing with or avoiding the camera.

Gagliardi’s performance Film: Rope explores this peculiar

relationship between actors and camera. The performers react to

the audio taken from the film by attempting to recall gestures made

by their characters in the film, and also enact (or reenact) the spatial

relations between themselves as performers and the shifting positions

of the camera in the original cinematic space. The performers have

both viewed and rehearsed with selected scenes from the source

film, and they have worked out individual blocking and gestures in

relation to the camera’s movements as well as the character’s gestures

or mannerisms in relation to the sound on their tape recorders. If

they can’t quite succeed in enacting the movements they recall from

the film, they make another attempt. And often another and another

and another.

 

In the performances in Gagliardi’s series, dramatic time

becomes skewed, through repetition, into something so much

slower than real time that it becomes spatial rather than temporal.

Narrative film compresses time in ways rarely used in live theatre

(except when a play is attempting to be cinematic). Here, these

options are reversed, until dramatic scenes oscillate between the

status of tableaux and the cacophony of a kindergarten classroom.

Words either become converted to mechanized gibberish or are

repeated beyond their capacity for signification. In many scenes

there is more than one character in the performing space. The

busier the scene, the busier the audio, and Film: Ropemoves toward

cacophonic sound or concrete music, and away from theatrical

dialogue. This also happens in scenes where the characters are

blocked into a tight playing area. Sometimes snippets of dialogue,

or even single words or syllables, are repeated to comic effect, as

repetition tends to create absurdist humour.

The effect of the performance will vary significantly between

viewers who are familiar with the source film and those who are not.

I know Hitchcock’s film, so I do find myself placing these scenes in

relation to the plot. But those viewers who have not seen the film

will see these scenes independent of their narrative function within

the source film’s structure, merely as isolated scenes.

In Rope, the camera’s generally tight framing amplifies the

actors’ gestures and movements. In Film: Rope, Gagliardi has

refashioned Hitchcock’s film into an ensemble dance work, one

in which performers attempt to recall movements in their own time

and in their own space within the overall performance space.

Although the performers share the space, most of the time their

actions do not mesh or cohere. The performative premise of Film:

Rope and Gagliardi’s other film-based performances does not

prescribe set scores or determinant scripts or seamless ensembles.

What is seen in Gagliardi’s performance is several degrees

removed from the once-controversial film which two prominent

actors quite emphatically did not want their names associated with.7

The film’s dialogue, perversely blending Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde

and Friedrich Nietzsche, in the performance becomes primarily

sound, only revealing its inherently campy flavour at relatively calm

moments in the performance. Especially in the scenes involving

several characters blocked into a tight space within the cinematic

frame, sound tends to override meaning, as gestures usurp spoken

language, and movement is accentuated where it was previously

subdued or even concealed. A highly formal exercise in tight control

has been radically altered so that it now provides a loose and undefined

structure for chance encounters and unpredictable tableaux.

Gagliardi has selected scenes from Hitchcock’s film not for

dramatic reasons, but rather for formal concerns:

In terms of sound, I was interested in segments that contain very

specific “accents” or “marks” (diegetic music, a doorbell, a car horn,

gunshots, a distinctive pitch in the articulation of a line of dialogue),

and in how those accents would recur and combine in the performance,

creating random, yet distinctive, effects of repetition, phasing, overlap,

echo, hiccup, etc. In terms of movement, I composed the selection

considering the juxtaposition of “busy” scenes with more static

ones, and scenes involving wide, cross-stage movement with scenes

encouraging a focus on small actions and gestures (playing with a rope,

drinking, lighting a cigarette, shooting a gun). I was also considering

how these more recognizable actions would punctuate an overall

texture of less specific, less recognizable movement.8

 

The performing arts, almost by definition, set up expectations of

proficiency and accuracy. In film, take after take is necessary until

those in charge feel that they have “got it right.” What might seem

like a perfect take to an actor could appear a failure to the camera

operators, lighting people, continuity experts and other technicians.

In live arts (theatre, dance, and live music) mistakes are made and

mistakes therefore must be incorporated into the live performance.

The performers and technicians must persevere without blinking

in front of the audience, some of whom will recognize a mistake

and some of whom will remain oblivious. With certain forms of

live or recorded performance involving improvisation (jazz or other

improvised music, films without scripts, improvisational theatre,

etc.) there is still an imperative for performers and crew to arrive at

a coherent result. There will always be wrong notes and other errors

that are to be avoided in anything other than rehearsals. But what

about chance music or dance forms that permit and even encourage

performers to work individually in a collective format? What about

works that are structured to permit indeterminate movements and

gestures from the performers? What here constitutes a cohesive or

coherent result or “product”? If process is the point, then what

constitutes the end product, or is there one at all? The question is

not entirely rhetorical: if there is a public presentation, then the

answer is yes, a product or offering is created.

 

In Film: Rope, Gagliardi and his performers are working in a

form in which nothing can clearly be identified as a “mistake.”

Performers try to recreate gestures and spatial relations in response

to their individual audio triggers; they attempt to remember specific

pictures or images, but they do not have automatic recall. The

performers go through a process in which they do not feel satisfied

that they have successfully recreated the appropriate movements,

so they make another attempt. But their process is not framed or

presented in a format that creates audience demands for perfection

and accuracy. Here, a not-quite-successful attempt at recollection

does not constitute a mistake in any technical sense of that word.

There is no authority figure lambasting performers for making

mistakes.9 The concept of a “mistake” implies right and wrong, and

thus morality.10 But in Film: Rope, a failed attempt might itself be

interesting; it is not wrong but rather tentative, and tentativeness and

hesitation are intrinsic to the performance. In the making of Rope,

numerous takes were surely required because of technical glitches,

even when the performers had their lines and movements down

pat. Film: Rope, in contrast to Rope, encourages accidents, which are

easily incorporated into its form or shape. It is up to the performers

to decide when they have accurately portrayed a particular source

gesture in relation to the replayed dialogue. The performers are

working individually: they are certainly aware of scene blocking

and they know their workings will be perceived in relation to those

of the other performers, but they are not under obligation to form

an identical collective tableau for each performance.

Process is not separate from product in Film: Rope, whereas,

in classic cinema and in most professional theatre and even dance,

process is called rehearsal and is not open to the public. A cinematic

work devised by one of the all-time masters of control has been

perversely converted by Gagliardi into a vehicle for unpredictable

recollections and movements, in which the performers take responsibility

for their own decisions in the performance, rather than

following the detailed instructions of a director, writer or producer.

Improvisation is fairly common in dance, whether in sections

of a work in which the performer is free to execute spontaneous

movements or choreography, or in works in which a minimal

structure is present only to frame improvised passages. Improvisation

in dance, as with improvised music, traditionally permits the

performer to execute his or her own ideas or movements, and thus

the performers tend to be expressive. In Film: Rope, the performers

are not free to invent and then execute their own gestures, although

the performers recall different aspects of their characters’ scene

trajectories in different performances. What is paradoxical in

Film: Rope is the emphasis on expressive gestures, which exists

parallel to the performers’ obligation not to express themselves —

to suggest only the emotions of the characters in the film, never

their own feelings. No two performances of Film: Rope will ever be

identical, but this work is devoid of improvisation, at least in the

sense of self-expression. Yet it does not entirely eliminate or reject

emotion. The characters’ gestures are often caused by either emotional

vulnerability or (particularly in the case of the Brandon Shaw

character) by a suppression of emotion. But the actual words of

the characters, spoken in tandem with what are often emotional

gestures, are not always clearly audible in the performance. And

these gestures are quite removed from the emotional trajectory of

the source film, which is an exercise in the manipulation of audience

points of identification and character sympathies.

Film: Rope is certainly a dance-flavoured performance piece,

but it also musical in its structure and execution. (Dance, of course,

generally implies musical presence even when it is not accompanied

by music.) Gagliardi himself sees his role as that of a performing

composer.11 His fellow performers manipulate the volume controls

on their tape-recorders in a way similar to the effects-pedal

manipulations of some electronic keyboards or guitars. They may

be following cues or directions, but they are not adhering to a fixed

score as classical musicians do. They will rewind the tape to roughly

the same point in time, but seldom, if ever, to precisely the same

point. Nor are they improvising, as the contents of their “instruments”

have been determined prior to the performance (and indeed prior

to the rehearsals).

 

The composer-cum-philosopher (or vice versa?) John Cage

composed works featuring tape recorders, record players and radios

as manipulated instruments in performance situations. Cage also

had a complex history and shifting relationship with concepts of

improvisation. Although some of his early prepared piano pieces

were composed by his improvising and then notating the successful

or interesting parts of the improvised exercise, Cage came to disdain

improvisation for its reliance on memory and personal taste, which

he saw as preventing the creation of something unprecedented.

Cage became suspicious of improvisation (and especially jazz),

because he had come to reject music based on both personality

and emotions.12 Through various strategies, including the use of

“chance operations,” he eliminated deliberate relationships between

sounds and created a novel type of abstract musical continuity

largely “free of individual taste and memory (psychology) and also of

the literature and ‘traditions’ of art.”13 This new kind of objectified

musical continuity seemed to counteract all types of communicative

improvisation based on common idioms or phraseology as they

are found in improvised traditions such as jazz, flamenco, Indian

classical music, and so on. Improvising musicians (even the best?)

tended to fall back on what they remembered would “work” within

a given structure or situation.

 

In Film: Rope it is bodily movements, gestures and spatial

dynamics that the performers are in the process of remembering

and recreating. The sound itself repeatedly plays back phrases or

speeches from the source film, but the phrases are rarely if ever

repeated identically. (As noted above, the performers cannot roll

their tape recorders back to exactly the same point, although they do

attempt to retain a fairly consistent touch.) Also, each performer’s

tape recorder contains the dialogue and noises made by specific

characters, so the performers work in parallel within the playing

space, sometimes relating to each other, but frequently not. Thus

the performance tends to be cacophonous, and never quite the same.

The audio resulting is not chamber music and not ensemble jazz,

but rather a sound or noise sculpture based on indeterminacy, as the

performers are not working from instructions designed to guarantee

a specified, cohesive result, but rather one permitting variant collisions

in non-scripted tableaux. The performers are not improvising

or self-composing, but at the same time they are not adhering to

rigid stage directions or a fixed notated score. Gagliardi tries not to

over-rehearse the performers: he is wary of having them fall into

the trap of habitually repeating what worked in previous renditions.

Film: Rope is anything but body-averse. The not-quite-repetitive

movements of the performers’ bodies are the most prominent

components of the presentation — certainly more apparent than the

dialogue, and probably even the cacophony into which the dialogue

mutates whenever there is more than one performer in the playing

area. Is the body not expressive? Well, the performers, whose

thoughts are focused on remembering previously seen images or

character dynamics, are not expressing themselves, except for the

inescapable fact that it is their bodies interpreting the speech and

gestures of the corresponding Hitchcock film characters.

I look at a clip from a similar performance based on Ozu’s 1953

film Tokyo Story, and I hear noise in tandem with the movements I

see.14 I don’t speak Japanese, and I’m not as familiar with this film as

I am with Rope. The performers move across what appears to be a

wide but shallow playing area; they are often relatively distant from

each other, but the sounds I hear are not comprehensible as words.

Likewise, watching Film: Ropemust be very different for someone

who knows the source film and the language than it is for someone

who doesn’t, or is indifferent to the source material. I observe the

rehearsal for a scene Gagliardi has selected because in it Hitchcock has

violated his own formal strategy. At the top of this scene, Brandon

and Philip’s housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (filtered through performer

Cara Spooner in Gagliardi’s performance) decides to move down a

hallway, and there is an edit in the film, forcing all of the other

performers in Film: Rope to shift their positions, as this edit occurs

within the selected scene. In Film: Rope, this selected scene stands

out for its formal absurdity — as Mrs. Wilson commences to wheel

her tray down the corridor all the other characters must suddenly

shift from her left side to her right. Small wonder that Hitchcock

cheated with a forced edit in the original film. In Rope, Mrs. Wilson’s

curiosity about unusual dining arrangements becomes a source of

serious concern for Brandon and Philip, especially when they overhear

her talking to Rupert instead of just doing her job. In Gagliardi’s

performance, these scenes are stripped of their suspense elements

and become abstracted into not-quite exactly-repeated small and

insignificant actions or gestures.

 

In rehearsal, I watch another scene in which I know that the

Brandon character (as reenacted by performer Marcin Kedzior) is

going to slap Philip (as reenacted by performer Michael Caldwell), so

that his quivering partner-in-crime will not break down and confess

to their Mentor Superior (James Stewart, filtered through Francesco

Gagliardi). I know this confrontational moment is going to occur,

so I watch the performers seemingly trying not to build up to it, but

I also want it to happen. I pay close attention to this particular scene,

in which only Brandon and Philip appear, a scene that utilizes a

tigher playing space than many of the other Rope scenes Gagliardi

has incorporated into his performance. Because of these factors, the

repeated dialogue from the source film is clearer in this scene than in

others, where there are more characters compressed into a smaller

playing area. Although the repeated dialogue does become fragmented,

the words do not convert into pure sound as much as in other scenes,

so surely elements of suspense must come across to the audience.

Philip’s voice must sound paranoid; and will they or will they not

answer the damn telephone? Surely the fact that Rupert has left

something behind and is returning for it is a bad sign?

I watch the scene that begins with Gagliardi miming Rupert’s

firing of three bullets on the soundtrack, meant in the film to draw

the outside world’s attention to the crime that has been committed

in this perfect penthouse. Beginning (rather than concluding) this

final scene of the performance with the three climatic shots diminishes

its climactic quality, but I still detect emotion in the size of

the gesture and the sound of the gunshots. Because these shots are

directed to the world outside the apartment, the outside noises and

sounds that have occasionally entered the soundscape now become

amplified. One can even make out functional dialogue from “the

street” as Brandon and Philip move forward, and then backward and

forward and backward, but inevitably toward the performance’s and

the film’s conclusion. This final scene of Film: Rope will undoubtedly

seem more abstracted to a viewer who does not recall the source

movie, yet audible gunshots are always gunshots, and they tend to

determine actions and reactions occurring in their wake. At the

conclusion of this final scene of both Rope and Film: Rope, the

music for the final credits takes over the soundscape. In Film: Rope,

this transition from the body of the film into the final credits is

repeated and repeated as many times as the performers feel necessary.

Perhaps, even at the end of the line, Gagliardi’s film performance is

not literally linear, although it is certainly temporal. The closing

music, which is so glaringly opposed in tone and emphasis to the

sirens that signal the imminent arrest of the two murderers, starts

and then stops again and repeats this starting and stopping as the

characters advance and back away from their final positions. The

performers may or may not bow; and they don’t need obvious

orchestral cues to inform them when their performance is over.

-Andrew James Paterson

 

ENDNOTES

1. Other films used as source material for performances in this series

include Tokyo Story (dir. Ozu Yasujiro, 1953), East of Eden (dir. Elia

Kazan, 1955), La Dolce Vita (dir. Federico Fellini, 1960) and The Birds

(dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1963).

2. It is recommended that the duration of the piece is at least three times

the duration of the scene from the source film. Quoted from film {progressive

number}: {number of film} document sent to me by Francesco Gagliardi.

3. Actually, there are four ordinary cuts in the film, in addition to the

disguised cuts necessary for the transitions between camera rolls.

4. The film was adapted from a play titled Rope’s End (1929), by Patrick

Hamilton, which was based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case in Chicago

in the 1920s. Other films based on this case are Compulsion (dir. Richard

Fleischer, 1959) and Swoon (dir. Tom Kalin, 1992).

5. François Truffaut. Hitchcock, revised edition (New York: Simon &

Schuster, 1983), p. 179-184.

6. Robin Wood. Hitchcock’s Films (New York: Castle Books, New York,

1965), p.33.

7. “Hitchcock approached Cary Grant and Montgomery Clift for two of

the three key roles, but both declined, at least partly out of concern for

their images. The roles of the young murderers went to gay actors John

Dall and Farley Granger. James Stewart played their mentor (the role

Hitchcock wanted for Cary Grant).” Glen Johnson. “Homosexuality in

Hitchcock Movies,” http://faculty.cua.edu/johnsong/hitchcock/pages/

homosexuality/homosexuality.html (accessed March 2013).

8. Francesco Gagliardi, e-mail correspondence with the author,

March 17, 2013.

9. Francesco Gagliardi may be the director and conceptualist of Film: Rope,

but he is also engaged with his own performance, referencing character of

Rupert Cadell from the film, and not placing himself in a superior role in

relation to the other performers.

10. The source material, of course, dangles amorality before us, but must

chastise it, according to the stipulations of both Alfred Hitchcock and the

Hays Production Code, which was in force in Hollywood at the time of

the filming.

11. “Although performers focus exclusively on the task/process they are

carrying out, without any concern for the final ‘effect’ of each segment of

the performance, in choosing the scene/segments that we work on I was

thinking of the spatial and aural ‘feel’ that might emerge from each segment.

We were talking last time about my role as a director/composer: I suppose

that this is the one aspect of the piece where I exercise the most control in

that capacity.” Francesco Gagliardi, e-mail correspondence with the author,

March 17, 2013.

12. Cage’s notions of experiment and improvisation are not compatible, due

to his belief that improvisation “does not lead you into a new experience,

but into something with which you’re already familiar” (Darter, 1982:21).

Many other composers and improvisers, however, see experimentalism

and improvisation as related to one another. See Tom Darter, “John Cage,”

Keyboard 8 (9) (1982), p. 21, cited in Sabine M. Feisst, “John Cage and

Improvisation: an Unresolved Relationship,” in Musical Improvisation:

Art, Education and Society, eds. Gabriel Solis and Bruno Nettl (Chicago:

University of Illinois Press, 2009), p. 38-51.

13. John Cage. Silence. (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University

Press, 1961), p. 57-59, cited in Feisst.

14. Francesco Gagliardi. Film 7: Tokyo Story, performed by the Ensemble

for Experimental Music and Theater at Esorabako (Kagurazaka, Tokyo),

http://music-theater.tumblir.com/.

 

BIOGRAPHIES

 

FRANCESCO GAGLIARDI is a performance artist and occasional

filmmaker based in Toronto. Programs of his work have been

presented in San Francisco, Berlin, Tokyo, Milan, Turin, Los Angles

(The Wulf, 2008; Sea and Space, 2009; Pieter, 2011), and New

York City (Ontological Theater Incubator, 2009; The Stone, 2009;

Presents, 2011; Willow Place Auditorium, 2012). His film Short

Sentences: 1993-2005 was awarded the NOW Magazine Overkill

Award at the 2006 Images Festival. As well as performing his own

work, he is active as an experimental music performer, and has

premiered work by a number of composers including Jennifer

Walshe, Mark So, Adam Overton, Travis Just, and G. Douglas Barrett.

 

ANDREW JAMES PATERSON is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary

artist working with video, film, performance, writing, and music.

His works have played locally, nationally, and internationally for

over thirty years. His videos have largely been concerned with

boundaries between what is public and what is private, and also

with shifting relationships between bodies and technologies. He

has edited publications by YYZBOOKS in Toronto and contributed

to periodicals such as Impulse, FILE, C Magazine, Lola, and FUSE.

Paterson has also presented performances which investigate archives

and institutional collections. He is currently the coordinator for the

8 Fest Small-Gauge Film Festival.

PUBLISHED BY FADO PERFORMANCE ART CENTRE, April 2013

www.performanceart.ca

 

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2013 Blog #6 – Paterson on Sunday + Monday!

April 16th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog 6                       Andrew James Paterson

Sunday April 14 + Monday April 15

After fulfilling other chores and obligations in the afternoon, I attended the On Screen programme Sleight of Hand. This was another tight programme largely focussing on quirky phenomena and on properties of the film medium itself. I stress film here, as four of the eight works in the programme were realized and then projected on 35mm film and two others on 16mm.

Torque, by Bjorn Kammerer, was a tracking shot about tracks  railway tracks. The tracking was sideways rather than the more usual or traditional forward motion or revealing pullback. Anything with tracking shots suggests suspense, as in when is something else going to happen. And Kammerer’s film pulled the viewer in different directions and then peacefully concluded. Torque was pleasantly succeeded by Peter Miller’s Ten Minutiae  ten little cinematic details that make the medium go round (or rectangular or…). Why, at one point Miller had three train travel segments running side by side. The Lumiere Brothers did predate the airplane, and trains are still a location where phenomena happen.

Early Figure, by Brian Virostek, utilized close-up lenses to reveal the nooks and crannies of a piano in its disassembly and subsequent reassembly. The piano is indeed an architectural structure. Fern Silva’s  Passage Upon the Plume continues exploration of black and white fragments and continues this programmes black and whiteness. But now Mark Loeser’s Sugar Beach introduces colour, with fixed camera multiple exposed various coloured dots. Sugar Beach ingeniously segues into Kevin Jerome Everson’s Stone, in which a shell gamer endlessly and effortlessly juggles three coloured stones for a midway audience. The shell gamer is a magician and a con-artist and he is in video, which at first seemed to disrupt the programme but didn’t really.

Simon Quehiellard’s Maitre-vent (Master Wind) depicts a series of attempted sculptures by a performer at a roadside too close to the constant traffic. He attempts to combine incompatible elements, and either passing trucks or the wind itself force an inevitable collapse. The humour and the frustration lies in the performer’s persistence in constructing failures. The programme notes suggest Buster Keaton and the artist Roman Signer; I think of Fischli and Weiss’s The Way Things Go but ultimately Beckett. I can’t go on, I must go on. And on.

This programme concluded with JB Mabe’s  Addy CHOO (not achooo but a sneezing sound) which merges low-end video, wildly coloured Kodachome, and animations perhaps found in the artist’s attic but not his computer. The film is made around but not of a funeral. Kodachrome’s? Analogue’s? Hands-On-ness? Whatever, but may you rest in peace.

I find myself haunted by Filipino director John Torres’ Lukas The Strange, a feature film which was shown Sunday evening when I had already had a long day. At least one narrative was already in progress when the film began, and there was a film within a film which sometimes drew attention to itself and sometimes didn’t seem to. The film was (quite gorgeously) shot in verite mode, yet the tone veered between realism and fabulism. At times I thought of Terence Malick’s films in which narrative and pure visuals for their own sake uneasily co-exist; yet Lukas The Strange was seemed very site-specific (and nation specific?), and not only for its commitment to location shooting. Why were subtitles sometimes capitalized? I had the feeling there was something allegorical happening here that I couldn’t decipher and I wasn’t sure that I was meant to. Why can’t fabulism (or surrealism) appear to be realistic? Whatever. Young Lukas’s life was certainly complicated by the disappearance of his father, who was rumoured to be a tikbalang  half man and half horse. Does this mean that Lukas has inherited this condition or blessing? Torres’ film was truly liquid, with answers to mysteries being found underwater along with so much more. Lukas The Strange was preceded by Kathy Rugh’s short film Light Streaming, which is what the title adequately lays out. A series of liquid locations across the United States are edited into a stream that seems to bypass land, which cannot provide the illuminations that water is so metaphysically capable of providing.

On Monday night I attended the programme Rhythm and Reflection, including six works. These works were linked by portraiture, and a portraiture concerned with fathers and father-figures and inspirational friendships. John Smith’s Dad’s Stick (dad was a painter and Smith just might be the driest filmmaker of all time) was joined by JB Mabe’s Pasture, which appropriated and reframed Stan Brakhage’s Stellar while adding further abstractions and digitized low-end (Windows Movie Maker!) video stock while retaining Big Daddy’s Brakhage’s rhythmic template. (Note: my spell-check suggests Breakage for Brakhage) Also further abstracting fatherhood was Kevin Jerome Everson’s Charlie’s Proof, in which a man from Columbus, Mississippi ignores documentary protocol yet testifies to his own perseverance and survival by wit.  I Remember: A Film about Joe Brainard (by Matt Wolf) opens up traditional documentary practices by focussing on a lifelong friendship between artist Brainard and poet Ron Padgett, by means of home movies and fifties found footage. “Father” here can refer to men who look up to each other and play off each other.

And then there was Scott Stark’s Bloom, in which archival footage of oil drilling (the father) was collaged with floral imagery and audio from, of all things, The Sound of Music. The musical structuring of Stark’s film (top of the programme) anticipates Elizabeth Price’s Woolworth’s Choir (end of the programme). This work by Turner-Prize winning Price is truly symphonic. In three movements, she associates architectural details of chapels in which choirs perform (choirs, chorals, quires, et cetera), pop musical footage which is deliriously distorted while not necessarily requiring (re-choiring?) drugs, and news footage of a notorious 1979 fire in a Manchester department store (Woolworth’s, the father?). Price uses a recurring snap sound not only as an editing embellishment but as a motion purveyor. Her video is truly orchestral  it blends hidden crevices and treasures with amplified everyday media and makes a local disaster truly apocalyptic. And, on that note, off to bed and sweet dreams.

 

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2013 Blog #5 – Paterson on Saturday April 13!

April 14th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog #5   —   Andrew James Paterson

Saturday April 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 festival’s submissions for this twenty-sixth year. In Interim Director Kate MacKay’s opening remarks, she refers to this year being “notable for ideas around hidden histories and unseen labour, re-enactment and reframing.”

Indeed it is. I’m 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 there’s 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 noir’s ur-voiceover, so simultaneously authorities and unreliable).

I pop into Christina Battle’s 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 don’t 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 artist’s 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  it is highlighting an example of constructive networking which continues to be a vital role-model in today’s post-post-post modernist age. (I would say especially today’s much less linear globalist age).

Greg Staats’ 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 TPW’s temporary R&D location, and take in Laure Provoust’s The Wanderer. This was a move from laboratory to hair salon, literally. I get off the bus and what I think is TPW’s space has been transformed into a hair salon, with video monitors mixed among the gels and lubricants in front of the clients’ chairs. This is a work about translation, or its impossibility. The original source material is Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but Prouvost’s primary source is Rory Macbeth’s English translation of Metamorphosis. Macbeth did so in spite of his inability to speak German. (Thought of the month, perhaps he should have translated Kakfa’s parable into insect-speak?).  I’m reading that Provoust has adapted Macbeth’s translation into a seven-part feature film and that one of that film’s 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 it’s time to return to On-Screen, and I take in Jean-Marie Teno’s Leaf in the Wind. Of everything I’ve seen so far on screen, this is the most “documentary”. 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 wasn’t sure what to do with the material. However, Ernestine took her life and Teno decided he needed to restore the father’s 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 I’ve seem so far. Prominent 26th festival themes of course emerge again. Deanna Erdmann’s 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. Erdmann’s 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 today’s 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 Webber’s 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 McLean’s 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 people’s 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 mmNemonic DVices. This programme expresses more ambivalences about then importance of memory for exploring futures while dealing with unstable present tenses. I’m 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 festival’s first decade.). Nevertheless, this was not just some sprawling “community survey”  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 …?

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2013 Blog #4 – Paterson on Thauberger + Gillooly

April 13th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog 4         Andrew James Paterson

Friday April 12

Friday night just after quick dinner and now it’s time to make good on my promise to take in Althea Thauberger’s program: A Memory Lasts Forever. This artist has built a sizable reputation based on a body of work touching many bases, or perhaps many conundrums. What are actual representations of nature (or are there any actual meaning genuine representations of nature)? What are boundaries between performance documentation and documentary (or is it all performance)? In some cases, Thauberger begs questions of not only what is collaboration but also what is authorship. Is who made this work the same question as whose work is this?

Many of Thauberger’s works (all except for one of this program for instance) take place in “real time”. This does not mean there are no edits, although some of the works shown on video were shot on film stocks and the amount of stock used was the actual length of a roll or a number of rolls of film. Thauberger here references structuralist and materialist filmmaking by focusing on the properties and capabilities of her materials. An observation about the 26th Images Festival is that I’m noticing programmes and works concerned with what is both theatrical (meaning non-montaged) time and cinematic (meaning literally matching the length of the roll or the cassette) time. The exception to this edict within Thauberger’s programme is the title centrepiece, which is slightly longer than the length of an afternoon soap opera and which involves four cameras to track or “document its four performers or actors.

On the nature or natural conundrum, Thauberger’s contrasts different definitions of “nature” (surely as loaded a word as “culture”. There is nature as in flora and fauna (real nature surrounding the fake nature of the suburban swimming pool on A Memory Lasts Forever). There is domesticated nature which fails to return from cruel wild nature in the midst of fake nature (dead dog in the suburban swimming pool). There is nature which must be nature because it is familiar or recognizable form films set in nature (the Brokeback Mountain landscape of “Northern”). There is natural behaviour, which can denote everyday social interaction and also theatrical behaviour such as singing. (What one minute seems a soap opera is now a musical?) Performativity is in fact naturalistic, as people do possess performative instincts and desires which they censor in the everyday or the non-theatrical.

Thauberger is also obsessed with mores and structures of institutions.  Her body of work consists of many residencies (maybe collaborations, but that is also a loaded word) within institutions. In Zivildeist =/ Kunstproject, made in a residency at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, she negotiated a working relationship with conscientious objectors to compulsory German military service who engaged in civilian rather than military service. With these eight men, she wrote an eighteen minute film exploring nationalism (another major concern of the artist’s), work ethics, group behaviour, ideal social conduct, individualism and collectivity, and so forth as social models. This work begs questions of authorship and also power dynamics. Thauberger is an outsider looking in, or is she also inside and if so, then how? Is she is a woman both observing and representing men who deviate from masculine expectations by objecting to military service, or is she is a North American among German men, or is she is an artist among men who may or may not be artists?

At the conclusion of this piece the outside world demands that fragmentation become unified. At the end of “North“, the seemingly comatose tree-planters are rescued by an angel landing by helicopter. Thauberger speaks of her deployment of allegories; here I thought of Lord of the Flies more than Jesus Christ. Actions or voices from the outside word (the real world) tend to restore order. This also happens at the conclusion of Zivildienst =/ Kunstproject. The four script variations, or four narrative possibilities, of the four drunken girls of A Memory Lasts Forever also will presumably be eventually resolved by an intrusion  by a responsible adult if not actually by the police or the veterinarian. But resolution or closure is a demand of melodrama and its domesticated cousin the soap opera; and Thauberger flirts with these vocabularies only to retreat from them.

On the subject of veterinarians, the evening’s second On Screen program consisted of Jane Gillooly’s Suitcase of Love and Shame. This work (part documentary and part voyeuristic fantasy of the non-fantastic) was constructed from sixty hours of reel-to-reel audiotape found in a suitcase purchased on eBay. The tapes not only reveal but were made by two middle-aged adults having a prolonged affair. She is an unmarried woman and he is a married man (and a respectable veterinarian). The filmmaker finds images to loosely match the audio-narratives. She is lonely and longing and often .looking out windows of perhaps this house; he is deviating from the normality of the animal hospital and he is sneakier than her. Many of Gillooly’s images are of sixties analogue recording devices  parallels emerge between old-fashioned moralities and old-fashioned recording devices which of course are most often used for matters of surveillance. As is per usual within melodrama, sooner or later, the vet’s wife finds the tapes and the affair, um, peters out.

In the subsequent Q&A Gillooly was asked if she had any ethical qualms about using this found material (she didn’t). On Sunday afternoon, Images Festival will be holding a panel on the ethics and proprieties of artists working with found or appropriated materials. This of course is one of those subject realms that can host provocatively fascinating debates because there are never easy answers for all but probably the most obvious questions.

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2013 Blog #3 – Paterson on opening night!

April 12th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

2013 Images Blog 3  –   Andrew James Paterson

Thursday April 11

Well, here we go again After the free wine and oysters it’s time for opening night. People file from the Workman Theatre reception space into St. Anne’s Anglican Church where the opening gala will be held.

And this is a very different gala than the last few years Images Festival galas. This is a Live Images Event, but it most certainly involves a screen, as in there are to be images projected onto a screen. A small screen, in comparison to the enormous church.

The first act, in a support slot to the main act, was SlowPitch, who came equipped with a turntable, a percussion sequencer and an effects/looping device. SlowPitch supplied audio to be complemented with video artist Wifihifiscifi (how poetic and how fantastic), whose images were projected onto the relatively tiny screen. The set was pleasant but not unlike watching one’s home computer screen savers under the influence of a relatively mild stimulant.

And the headliners (yes, I’m talking like this was a rock concert or something parallel) was the duo of electronic composer Tim Hecker + experimental filmmaker Robert Todd. Todd is an artist whose work I have screen before and been quite impressed by. His images are photographic and poetic  they can oscillate from documentation of specific places to abstractions of those places. Sometimes Hecker and Todd blended well and sometimes they seemed to be playing at the same time without particularly meshing, not unlike a jam session

The overall problem I had with this event was that the music just seemed so much bigger than the images. I would have liked to have seen the images expanded off-screen, or off of the screen as in beyond and above and outside of. I found myself resenting the screen and wishing that Todd’s images had been projected onto the higher walls and maybe even the ceiling of the church with its wonderful rafters and acoustics. Why show moving images in a church unless one is going to seriously engage the architecture?

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2013 Blog #2 = Paterson on Thauberger, Sietsema + Kelly

April 11th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

kelly

2013 Images Blog 2  –  Andrew James Paterson

Wednesday April 10, 2013

On this rather miserable day I set out for the Power Plant at Harbourfront, which was an unpleasant excursion due to mud and construction. But I had decided I needed to look at Althea Thauberger’s project for the Power Plant – Marat Sade Bohnice. The play Marat/Sade (and the filmed version by Peter Weiss) is of course is a landmark  imagining that the Divine Marquis wrote and directed a play (thus a play within a play) about the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat in an asylum in Charendon by the asylum’s inmates, nineteen years after the French Revolution, which was of course a time of serious social upheaval.

Thauberger is an artist known for her residencies and collaborations with “communities” Her work at the Power Plant involves on a recent restaging of Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital in Prague. Thauberger focuses not only on the play but on the hospital and social infrastructures in play. This restaging is taking place a couple of decades after a “revolution” or reformation in former Soviet Bloc countries. At the time of the initial play, treatments and definitions of mental illnesses were undergoing a shift, broadly speaking from “punishment” to therapy. In the twenty-first century, of course, there are further knots (Laingian pun intended) in definitions and “solutions” for problems involving mental illness. Thauberger’s hybrid document and documentary combines and contrasts excerpts form the theatrical performance with interview segments with various specialists and professionals involved with the Bohnice Institute and with the psychiatric profession. Is art a useful form of therapy, does it actually invigorate patients for example, or do such theatrical projects merely serve as window dressing masking a corrupt and self-sustaining system of incarceration? A patient describes her grounded suspicion that the pharmaceutical industry is not interested in curing schizophrenia or other mental illnesses but is instead dedicated to preserving conditions which demand the use of (and addiction to ) the industry’s chemical products. What is reform and who are reformers and what are their motives et cetera.

In Marat Sade Bohnice members of the documented community (are patients, actors, and psychiatric professionals all one community?) do indeed have opportunities for self-expression or self-definition. But I am not sure that this work is best served or presented in a gallery screening format. There is certainly dialogue concerning usefulness and social roles of art as represented by theatre and/or performance, but the work does not particularly address gallery situations or dynamics and would have benefited from being shown in a more theatrical situation with a better sound system and more comfortable seating. I certainly plan to attend Althea Thauberger’s On-Screen program Friday night at Jackman Hall.

Then I travelled to Mercer Union to take in Paul Sietsema’s Four Works. One work took up the entire front gallery and then three works (still images) were installed in the back. In the front gallery a 16mm projector projecting filmic images onto the opposite wall. There is nothing else in the room. The projections are into a framed area which could be used for a framed still image as is more typical in an art gallery but which here is being used to host a succession of industries which occur sequentially and this are moving images or pictures. This projection is titled Telegraph, and its images are edited into an add a part and subtract a part and invert or resize a part schematic; and these parts are pieces of wood Sietsema had found between his studio and car after Hurricane Katrina (late summer, 2005) Here is a film made not by using found footage as much as by collecting and then framing found objects, which had been shaped by destruction of larger objects but which the artist now claims as worthwhile creative objects and not merely dead wood.

In the back room there are three still images. Four Corners depicts four sailboats, all innocuous except for dates on their masts. The dates are both personal to the artist and historically significant to more than just historians. For example, 1968 is the year of the artist’s birth but also the year of the revolutionary riots in Paris and Rome as well as those at the American Democratic Party convention (and not to mention the Soviet clampdown on reformist Czechoslovakia). Four ships occupy corners but the sailboats themselves are not still. So will they continue to move in the same sequence at consistent distance from one another? How do those currents flow? Untitled Figure Ground Study (New York Times) is notable for its hosting of dripping white pain on a canvas of the New York Times (upside down). This work recalls the prototypical pop art of Rauschenberg and of course the inversion reminds me of Georg Baselitz, but the newspaper’s headlines are decipherable enough to make it clear that the paper contains a review of the artist’s 2012 film Empire. And will gallery viewers twist their heads and necks around for long enough to read the review? Unlikely, although the works in this show are about gallery viewers and their perception processes and positions. In Telegraph, the projector is situated in the viewer’s ideal position, so the projector is the projecting viewer, so to speak.

After a roti at Vena (across the street from Mercer Union in the rapidly changing Bloor and Lansdowne neighbourhood) I walk to Scrap Metal to witness Jean-Paul Kelly’s (still image above) exhibition Service of the Goods. This huge warehouse space permits the showcasing of a lot of goods  both in terms of valuables or commodities but also the quality of all that is being showcased. The warehouse space provided room for various works of the artist to play autonomously while also bleeding into or directing audiences toward other pieces in the exhibition. Kelly is concerned with goods in the sense of properties and questions of who exactly own or claims properties. He is recontextualising and refashioning various practices from the nineteen sixties, as varied as the institutional documentaries of Frederick Wiseman and the Op-Art paintings of the one and only Brigit Riley. Kelly is concerned with the optics of perception. For example, Riley is not an abstractionist but an assembler of recognizable shapes but in sizes and depths at the limits of perceptive possibilities. (“Op” is shorthand for optical, of course.) Kelly audaciously mixes found and original source materials and suggests connections and continuities not obviously apparent to more literal image-purveyors or presenters. He moves from gay pornography to Op Art patterns to test colour blocks inserted into his charcoal-grey animations. And then there is that ghost “drama” in the gallery’s back room! Kelly is both an inventory artist and magical mystery tour guide and kudos for all concerned in securing Scrap Metal as a host for Service of the Goods.

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2013 Blog #1 = Andrew Paterson on Barbara Hammer

April 9th, 2013 · No Comments · Andrew Paterson's Blog

Images Festival Blog 1  - Andrew J. Paterson

Witness Palestine (Friday April 5 – Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario)

Although the On Screen component of the 2013 Images festival does not begin until Thursday April 11, Live Images kicked almost a week earlier with Witness Palestine: a cinematic performance by Barbara Hammer timed to mesh with her retrospective survey at TIFF’s Free Screen. Hammer’s performance utilized twelve volunteers from the audience (as in twelve disciples?) as three-dimensional screens consenting to have images projected onto T-shirts which the artist had supplied. These images accompanied testimonies or testimonial texts Hammer had accumulated during a LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Queer) Solidarity Tour (yes tour, but….) of Palestine in winter 2012. The volunteers embody the speakers without “becoming” them  they are neither actors nor talking heads.

Hammer’s performance followed a lengthy film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, made in 1963, in preparation for his later feature The Gospels According to Matthew. Pasolini, present in the Holy Land with a film crew and not an LGBTQ contingent, finds himself frustrated by the fact that the Holy Lands are no longer at all akin to the landscapes he had projected from the Bible and from earlier representations of the locations. This film became weirdly comical in its naïve ethnographic fantasizing, its disappointment that Israel as well as so many crucial Arab world locations are now so “modern” and therefore unusable. Here the filmmaker encounters problems inherent in re-enactment and re-visionism and all forms of re-creation. How can one replicate the original when the original didn’t even replicate the original? And how can one revise or re-enact if one is not at least making some attempt at imitation or illusory simulation? Or…why proceed with what is actually impossible? Serious food for thought here.

Pasolini’s pre-production here is akin to Cecil B. De Mille’s or David Lean’s (Lawrence of Arabia) or Hollywood. The renowned queer Italian director is particularly concerned about proper locations and appropriate extras for those massive crowd scenes. Hammer’s practice here has documentary roots, but she resists ethnographic tensions as well as acknowledging the performativity of testifying witnesses. Her performance projects onto bodies and not faces  the volunteers from the audience do not correspond to or represent particular testimonies from those who remain unseen. Would those who remain unseen have been better served by a conventional talking-heads documentary? Do such documentaries “give voice”? Or are they fundamentally subjective, so why pretend differently?

Note too good to resist:  my spell-check did not recognize the name/word “Pasolini”. One of its suggestions was “gasoline”. Tres explosive, n’est ce pas??? – Andrew J. Patersonpasolini_visit

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Fair Trade Film Festivals?

March 16th, 2013 · No Comments · scott miller berry's blog

fair_trade ????

Greetings from the 2013 Images Festival!

Our program launches Thursday March 21, but here’s a wee preview to get your talking points on!

The Images office was a buzzing when this article by former Hot Docs programming director Sean Farnel appeared in Indiewire in February.  In it, he proposes that film festivals should share box office revenues with filmmakers in a similar way that the commercial film distribution systems and the music touring worlds operate.

We were all super excited about this level of discourse around screening fee payments to filmmakers, as Images has a mandate to pay EVERYONE we engage to screen/show/present/commission/talk a fee. Our public funding requires we pay Canadian artists but we feel strongly that artists should be remunerated for their work and insist (sometimes to the shock of many!!) on paying everyone who presents a project at Images.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as we were finalizing our daily free “TALK” series (with free pie and coffee!)  and we decided to extend Sean’s online discussion around “Fair Trade Film Screenings and Festivals” – so please add your voice and MARK YOUR CALENDARS for Wednesday April 17, 3 PM at Urbanspace Gallery, 401 Richmond Street West, Ground Floor. More info on our website after March 21!

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