The 2022 Images Festival: Slow Edition was the organization’s first-ever hybrid festival. It took place over four months, making it the longest festival in the organization’s history. The invited curators and I meditated on tenderness as transgression and modelled the festival’s framework within a similar ethos. In asking curators to engage in these themes, the form of the festival emerged. Rarely were two events back-to-back. Participants and Images team members could rest between each event, making time for reflection, recuperation, or well-being without compromising attendance at the festival. This organizing principle was at the forefront of both operations and programming.
These learnings have been woven into the 2023 festival schedule, which offers varying levels of engagement—ranging from online screenings to large-scale cinema presentations, intimate filmic showcases and performances to late-night parties, informal and responsive readings, to more traditional vernissage, as well as workshops, exhibitions, and extended Q&A sessions. At the same time, the 2023 Images Festival takes an altogether different thematic approach by presenting a nestling of two concepts: ghost and host. Though inlaid, these two words suggest entirely different ontological states: one of spiritual liminality—an ethereal in-between on the way to elsewhere—and the other consequential, rooted and embodied. This complexity echoes the stuff of moving images: present yet past, visible yet elsewhere, physical yet representative. And, despite their veracity, moving images can evoke powerful emotional responses. The medium itself does away with temporal binaries; a sort of once was and here and now sit together in ripe tension. A theme such as (g)hosts invites you to consider the links between spectrality and moving image culture, both in form and in content.
Entwined, ghost and host have equal footing in the programs presented at the 36th Images Festival. Together they not only ask, “What remains?”, but also “where might we find it?” One might wonder about a spirit’s complex tethers: Can one conjure or haunt without a location, whether a body, place, or through an object? What or who can act as a host? What might the role of a host be, if not to receive something or someone? Must a thing be received (as opposed to perceived) in order to exist? Do only phantoms haunt? Can one conjure more than a memory? To engage with (g)hosts is to suspend disbelief, at least for a short while. As Jacques Derrida said, “you believe without believing, but this believing without believing remains a believing.” If this is the case, it leads me to wonder: is faith a pillar of moving-image culture?
There are as many readings of the theme presented in this festival as there are people involved. We encourage you to spend time with the catalogue and explore how each individual program interprets the theme by reading the accompanying micro essays. Guided by the invited filmmakers, artists, and curators, as well as the writing of Avery F. Gordon, Dionne Brand, Eve Tuck, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Katherine McKittrick, Legacy Russell, María del Pilar Blanco, and more, there are countless ways that (g)hosts may still be interpreted. To this, we say welcome. Images encourages you to share your thoughts and feelings about this theme, and we look forward to speaking with you at one of our many events this season.
-Jaclyn Quaresma, Programming Director
A note on the programming streams:
In consideration of the complex relationship between screens, internet access, and moving-image culture, Images Festival acknowledges that our traditional program streams—ON Screen and OFF Screen, first introduced in 2005—are no longer representative of our current-day practices of looking. From the cables that cross ocean floors, immense data storage centres, and the countless connections made between people through their myriad devices, it has become clear that the contemporary lived experience in Toronto is rarely bifurcated by the digital and physical worlds.
Once named to describe the in-cinema experience, the language of ON Screen in 2023 describes a large possibility of viewing options: in gallery on a monitor, at home on a television, projected in cinema, on the TTC from your mobile device, pre-recorded or live…. OFF Screen, then, was meant to designate all programming efforts that did not take place in-cinema. Festival workshops, talks, tours, and exhibitions fell under this category. But with digital capabilities and hybrid models, we can imagine much more of this happening online.
In fact, Images Festival was an early adopter of online streaming and took our 2020 festival entirely online with less than one month of preparation. During the Great Resignation, while limitations to online access in relation to daily progress in the workspace have been reassessed, and more and more people are working remotely, Images has intentionally scheduled select weekday lunchtime screenings online, acknowledging our audience is often, if not always, online and ON Screen. At this stage in the pandemic, it has become increasingly hard to speak about screens solely as viewing platforms. They fill almost every facet of our lives. We instead offer two alternatives: Online and AFK.
Online describes any programming that a participant can access outside of a festival venue with an internet connection and a digital device of their choice.
AFK describes programming that happens Away From the Keyboard. Whether people are at a computer, or messaging on their mobile device or through their Apple Watch, Images acknowledges that they are consistently online and that there are many ways to access the internet. AFK programs simply ask that we step away from the keyboard to engage with a program. The programs are location-based, require physical attendance, and do not require personal access to the internet or a device of their own.
Given our complex relationship with screens and moving-image culture, and the experimental heart of Images Festival, we will surely produce situations where these categories overlap. For example, an AFK exhibition might require one to use a tablet or phone, essentially tethering them again to the figurative keyboard. Nevertheless, one would still be required to visit the exhibition physically. We at Images also understand the prevalence of our use of mobile devices for messaging, documenting, and making those quick reference checks. We know that the audience will never truly be away from the keyboard. We just ask that when you are in-cinema, your devices are on silent and put away.