Innovative Media Masters: Group of Nine explores experimental directions in form and content, as well as the role of film and video classics in the evolution of new media. Works that reflect on the process of video itself, and the intersection of contemporary media arts and the creative process present rich sources for new media interpretation. The Factory hosted several well-attended events featuring Canada’s most innovative media artists. In 2011, the Factory will be host to several more esteemed media artists including R. Bruce Elder and Michael Snow.
Innovative Media Masters: Group of Nine provides a unique opportunity to increase public visibility of Canadian independent media artworks to individual artists, arts, culture and community organizations, as well as community members at large interested in eclectic and rarely seen quality independent media art from Ontario and the rest of Canada — an opportunity for the Hamilton regional public to immerse themselves in the rich fabric of the artistic and cultural life that is created by masterful media artists.
Part One: Jean Piche – VIDEOMUSIC RETROSPECTIVE
October 9, 2009
Curated by Darren Copeland
Jean Piché (1951) is a composer who has developed into a video artist over the past few years. His practice meshes moving images and music in a new hybrid form he calls videomusic. In his beginnings as an electroacoustic composer in the 1970s, he was one of the very first Canadians to employ the then emerging digital audio technologies. He has produced works in every genre of electroacoustics for mixed and acousmatic to live-electronics. His work aims for poetic expression beyond any sort of formalism. The work has been alternately described as confounding, colourful and virtuosistic.
He has contributed to the presence and development of Canadian music here and abroad while working at the Canada Council where he defended the legitimacy of many alternative contemporary music practices. This inclusivist approach was highlighted when he directed the Montréal Musiques Actuelle – New Music America festival in 1990.
As a teacher at the Université de Montréal since the late 1980s, he has nurtured a number of young into diverse careers in new media and music. He keeps a hand in software development and some of his programs, notably Cecilia, are used by composers the world over.
As artistic director of New Adventures in Sound Art I have spent the past four years programming work for the SOUNDplay festival in Toronto, which has been tracing the development of the videomusic genre. I have included work from every continent in this programming and still my inspiration for following this genre in the first place – the videomusic of Jean Piché – has remained for me one of the significant voices in the genre. Piché has developed an artistic language that places video on the same level of abstraction as that of music. He has worked out a way for them to be co-dependent. His work is neithermusic with video accompaniment or vice versa. Or, in his own words…
“The digital media space has given rise to a new poetry, anchored in the manipulation of audio samples and visual pixels. It is not cinema nor is it only music. It is a new means of experiencing the mysterious and may, in due time, be considered an entirely new artistic form.”
The program being screened is a retrospective of Jean Piché’s Triple-Screen videomusic works from 1999 to the present. The artist will be on hand to both engineer the high quality standards of presentation and be available to talk about his work as well as answer questions from the audience.
New Adventures in Sound Art is a non-profit organization, based in Toronto, that produces performances and installations spanning the entire spectrum of electroacoustic and experimental sound art. Included in its productions are: Deep Wireless, Sound Travels, Arts Birthday and SOUNDplay. The objectives of NAISA are to foster awareness and understanding locally, as well as nationally and internationally, in the cultural vitality of experimental sound art in its myriad forms of expression. This objective will be achieved through the exploration of new sound technologies in conjunction with the creation of cultural events and artifacts.
Spin is a metaphorical representation of musical time, color and form. Synchronicity (or “synchrèse”) is not a primary concern. Formally, Spin is presented in three segments each dealing with its own level of abstraction. All images are obtained by “spinning” camera techniques and severe processing, the goal being of severely altering iconicity. There are no synthetic images. Musical ideas were the determining guide for the elaboration of visual sequences, but the music was composed after the visuals. The music is made with the composer’s own music and audio software. Spin was commissioned by ACREQ and was premiered in september 2000 in Montréal, Canada.
Bharat was shot in Northern India in early spring 2002 and premiered in November of the same year. This is the first time I shot with the aim of assembling in panoramic triple screen mode. Scanned panning scenes were reconstructed from multiple exposures. The text is extracted from the last known recording of Mohandas K Gandhi a few days before his assassination in 1947. The text is reproduced below.
eXpress is a commission from the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges. It was premiered in France in June 2002. The footage was shot on the Bourges-Paris S.N.C.F. train. The highly kinetic allure of eXpress is obtained by forcing a very fast camera shutter speed with a large aperture. Trajectories and velocities … kinetic outrage… fields, village, city.
Boreales is a new Triple HD work premiered this past May at the Elektra Festival in Montreal.
Part Two: Vessna Perunovich – Triple-screen Video Installation – EXILE
November 13, 2009
Curated by Josefa Radman
Vessna Perunovich is a Toronto based artist who works in a variety of media including: drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, video & performance. She has exhibited widely across Canada, and internationally in Europe, United States and South America. Her work was part of E:vent Gallery Sound Proof project (2008), Liverpool Biennial Independents (2007) and Trampoline Multi Media Art Festival (2006), both in the UK, XII International Biennial VN de Cerveira in Portugal (2007, 2005 & 2003), VI Vrsac Biennial in Serbia and Montenegro (2004), Diaspora at Rialtosantanbrogio in Rome Italy (2004), 8th Havana Biennial in Havana Cuba (2003), Second Tirana Biennial in Albania (2003), IV Cetinje Biennial in Yugoslavia (2002). In Canada she has shown at the Hamilton Art Gallery (2008), Occurrence Gallery (2008), Nuit Blanche (2007), Language Plus (2007), Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery (2004), Art Gallery of Vancouver (2004), A Space Gallery (2004), Contemporary Art Forum, Cafka (2001 & 2003), Textile Museum of Canada (2001), York Quay Gallery (2000) and others. Her touring survey exhibition “Emblems of the Enigma” will travel to six public art galleries across Canada including art Gallery of Peterborough, Cambridge Galleries, Art Gallery of Mississauga, Art Gallery of Algoma, Saint Mary’s University Gallery and Kelowna Art Gallery, from 2007 to 2009. She has been a recipient of Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Art Council Grants. In 2005 Perunovich received a T.F.V.A. (Toronto Friends of Visual Arts) award.
“And no description of a people can be complete without reference to the character of their homeland, the ecological and geographical matrix in which they have determined to live out their destiny. Just as landscape defines character, culture springs from a spirit of place” — Wade Davis, The Wayfinders, (pg. 33), CBC Massey Lectures (2009)
Legend has it told that as a baby I screamed incessantly, though not during our long ocean crossing on a boat. In that space between and outside two worlds, I slept contentedly. And in doing so became forever a boat person—a wanderer, an exile “to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.” – Hugo of St. Victor, (12th C.).
Vessna Perunovich’s Transitory Places instalment Crossings (2003) puts us back in the boat—the eternal place it is for so many as they leave their precious homeland, take their spirit and embark on an uncertain pilgrimage of fear and hope, discontent and discovery. Floating away only to discover that the boat has collapsed within sight of the shoreline and we remain dislocated—transitory travellers of an unknown territory in an age of disintegration.
“It is the view from Away that Perunovich offers her audience.” — Robin Metcalfe, From Away (2006). That distance, the abandoned dreams, the sugar coated gaze that caresses back over the long gone place of our belonging, leaves us with a yearning to understand this displacement, to search for the arrival that never happens, to endure living a life of uncertain realities.
The motherland, the fatherland, mother and father, her mother, her father – her home, my mother, my father — my home, swept away . . . There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home anymore, there’s no place anymore, there’s no place, there’s no home . . . for all we know, we are at the dark bottom of the ocean, or perched in a fruit tree, the only constant the moon.
Vessna’s multi-media explorations, video as seen through the lens of her (W)Hole house, surround us with three simultaneous projections that envelope us as we step over the invisible boundary between participation and performance. Stepping into the role of traveller, now trapped in an amorphous cage, audience and viewer now too an exile from the outside / inside the exiles house—the house itself in exile, imprisoned in our fragile displacement, full of air and little substance, a demanding reality that is “the solemn geography of human limits.” – Donald Brackett, Emblems of the Enigma (2007)
The triple screen medium is the message that brings war into our house, and plants it squarely in the parlour of our mind. We stand by, trapped in exile, as images of explosions, one house after another blows us apart, and catastrophic devastation is our ecological matrix—no borders, no boundaries–Home a mirage, Exile our home.
“you are waving to the camera, to us, your children . . . you look like a little boy who has made a new discovery . . .only, you are aware that you will be gone next year . . .and your enthusiastic smile had a purpose . . . to plant a see of remembrance in us, who stay on . . . your moving image is not even a minute long . . . after you passed away I refused to look at it . . . i was afraid of it’s finality . . . than the record of you got erased accidentally . . . if that accident didn’t happen maybe I wouldn’t remember it so clearly, so boldly, what it meant . . . the moment may have been lost. now I spill paint over canvases, as if mocking some horrific accident . . . an irreversible occurrence . . . the paint stays on the surface as a bitter reminder . . . life could not be preserved, at the end it would spill out of its container.” . . . “home . . . a sanctuary? A place of safety? Ours was always on the edge of collapse, always in suspense . . .” — Vessna Perunovich
Inevitably, the day arrives when we have turned the other way, the day the wall of mud comes down and sweeps the house away. No longing, no desire, no art form or formlessness will turn the tide the other way, back to how it had been, bring back objects of desire and breath life once again, a chance for one more day, one more moment, one more anything, one more. I’m infuriated. I am crushed. — Josefa L. Radman
Part Three: Barbara Sternberg – Experimental Explorer
March 12, 2010
Curated by Nora Hutchinson
Barbara Sternberg has screened widely across North America and Europe, and her work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. Sternberg has been teaching at York University, working for Canadian Filmmakers’ Distribution Centre, serving on Arts Councils’ juries and committees, helping to organize the International Experimental Film Congress (May 1989) and to found Pleasure Dome Artists’ Film Exhibition Group.
Part Four: Alanis Obomsawin – A People’s Voice & Vision
April 9, 2010
Curated by Nora Hutchinson
Alanis Obomsawin, a member of the Abenaki Nation, is one of Canada’s most distinguished documentary filmmakers. She has become not only Canada’s most famous indigenous filmmaker but also one of the most well known Canadian documentarians. For over 30 years, she has directed documentaries at the NFB with strong social content, inspired by the desire to let the voices of her people be heard.
Part Five: Richard Fung – The Politics of Self
June 11, 2010
Curated by Liss Platt
Richard Fung is a Toronto-based videomaker and writer. Richard Fung has made the politics of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation his central focus. Fung brings rich visual colour to his eloquent narratives and experimental documentaries; in his use of both personal experience and cultural history.
Fung’s work investigates themes of queer sexuality, postcolonialism and issues of diaspora and family. His video pieces include My Mother’s Place (1990), Sea in the Blood (2000) and Islands (2002) and have been screened internationally. A former Rockefeller Fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at “”New York University, he teaches at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Fung has taught at University of California at Irvine, California Institute for the Arts and SUNY Buffalo. He received the McKnight Fellowship at Intermedia Arts Centre for Arts Criticism and Asian American Renaissance, Minneapolis-St. Paul (1996) and the Bulloch Award for best Canadian work in the Inside Out Film and Video Festival (1996). In 2001 he won the Bell Canada Award for Lifetime Achievement in Video Art and the Toronto Arts Award for Media Arts.
Richard Fung is a Trinidad-born, Toronto-based video artist and cultural critic whose work deals with the intersection of race and queer sexuality, and with issues of post-colonialism, diaspora, and family. His award-winning tapes, which include My Mother’s Place (1990), Sea in the Blood (2000) and Islands (2002), have been widely screened and collected internationally, and broadcast across North America. His essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including his famous “Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn,” in How Do I Look?, ed. Bad Object-Choices (1991). A former Rockefeller Fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University and winner of the Bell Canada Award for outstanding achievement in video art, he teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design.
Part 6: R. Bruce Elder – International Avant Garde Master
March 26, 2011
Curated by Tyler Tekatch
Internationally recognized for his avant-garde films and his writing on film, Canadian philosophy and computer technology, Elder studied film at Ryerson and the University Film Study Centre after graduating from the University of Toronto with an MA (philosophy) in 1970. Bruce Elder began his film career in Hamilton in the early 1970’s. He is a leading figure in Canadian avant garde films as well as the recipient of many awards including the Governor Generals Award In visual and Media Arts in 2007.
Bruce Elder, an artist and critic, is a leading figure of the Canadian avant-garde. The New York critic and filmmaker Jonas Mekas declared, “Unquestionably, [he is] the most important North American avant-garde filmmaker to emerge during the 1980s.” Initially trained as a philosopher and computer programmer, Elder became interested in experimental filmmaking rather late. His curiosity developed while studying film at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in the early 1970s, where, soon after, he became a film professor.
In his early films such as Breath/Light/Birth (1975), She Is Away (1976), Permutations and Combinations (1976), and Look! We Have Come Through! (1978), Elder explored several established experimental styles by way of academic exercise. However, following a life-threatening illness, the 55-minute autobiographical The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1979) and the optically printed, virtuoso 1857 (Fool’s Gold) (1981), ended his apprenticeship. With these films, he established a strong reputation for powerful images, technical prowess and a daunting intellect that Elder fully realized with the first of his long films, Illuminated Texts (1982), which in turn initiated the gigantic quartet The Book of All the Dead (1975–1994).
His Barbara is a Vision of Loveliness won the 1976 Canadian Film Award for best experimental film and his autobiographical The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1979) was named Best Independent Experimental Film by the Los Angeles Critics Circle. In the 1990s, Elder embarked upon the project of consolidating his previous films and his ongoing work – Flesh Angels (1990), Newton and Me (1990), Azure Serene (1992), Exultations: In Light of the Great Giving (1993), Burying the Dead Into the Light (1993) and Et Resurrectus Est (1994) – into a single 40-hour program entitled The Book of All the Dead. The entire program was screened in 1995 in New York at the Anthology Film Archives, at the 1996 Senzatitolo in Trento, Italy, and in Toronto at Images 97.
Eros and Wonder
VIDEOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY
Part Seven: Peter Mettler – In Honour of Earth Day
April 23, 2011
Curated by Dan Browne
Petropolis: Aerial Perspective on the Alberta Tar Sands
Part Eight: Jack Chambers – Working Visionary
May 22, 2012
Curated by Tyler Tekatch
Jack Chambers’ path as an artist famously led him from his hometown of London, Ontario to Picasso’s doorstep in southern France, training in surrealism in Madrid, and back to London where he developed his singular craft as a painter and filmmaker. One of Canada’s most celebrated painters, Chamber is also known for his contributions to film and artist rights. his epic film, The Hart of London, was called by Legendary filmmaker Stan Brakhage, “one of the greatest films ever made.” “If I named the five greatest films,” he continued, “this has got to be one of them.” Chambers fought on behalf of Canadian artists and is a founding member of CARFAC.
Chambers, Tracks and Gestures
Canada | 80 min. | 1982
Hart of London
Canada | 79 min. | 1970
Part Nine: Shelley Niro – It Starts With A Vision
Curated by Steve Loft
June 20, 2012
Working in a variety of media, including beadwork, painting, photography, and film, Shelley Niro challenges stereotypical images of Aboriginal peoples through complex cinematic visual experiences. Her ability to depict the reality of Aboriginal peoples in counterpoint to those generated by centuries of colonization makes her work striking…and challenging. Through her direct yet often humorous approach, the artist disturbs colonial conventions and articulates Indigenous narratives through lived experience, presenting identity as a space of inquiry, self determination and liberation.
Ivan Jurakic has written:
Niro knows first hand the complexities facing First Nations peoples, balancing the weight of tradition against the demands of living in the post-modern world. Her work moves us because of her ability to tell a story, and at heart, she is an exceedingly good storyteller. And while her work holds a mirror up to many of these same headlines to speak out on behalf of empowerment and self-determination for her people, it also points towards hope, and the possibility for understanding and reconciliation between cultures. Niro’s charged political dynamic, her strength as a storyteller and her keen sense of humour are evident in all her work. Whether through her provoking documentaries, her dynamic short works, or her imaginative and powerful dramatic and comedic narratives, she takes us on journeys of discovery, understanding and consciousness.
Shelley Niro is an artist of consummate skill, wit and poignancy. Her irreverent and at times subversive political stances combined with her aesthetic sensibilities bring us filmic documents that weave intricate stories of beauty and joy, as well as frustration, anger and rage. Her commitment to Indigenous life and culture is evident in all her work, grounding it, giving it strength, dynamism and veracity.
Shelley Niro is indeed, a “media master”, and one of this country’s most compelling and profound artists.
Shelley Niro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, from the Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario. She was born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1954, and has studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts, is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, and received her MFA from the University of Western Ontario.
Niro has received considerable attention for her work in film. Her short film The Shirt, was presented at the 2003 Venice Biennal as well as at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Her many awards include the 2001 Eiteljorg Fellowship, admission into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2002, and for her film It Starts with a Whisper, theWalking in Beauty Award from theTwo Rivers Film Festival, Minneapolis,MN. in 2009 Niro wrote and directed her first feature film, Kissed byLightning, the story of a grievingMohawk painter. The film, starring Kateri Walker and Eric Schweig,premiered in 2009 at imagineNATIVEFilm + Media Arts Festival and won the Santa Fe Film Festival’s 2009 Milagro Award for Best IndigenousFilm. Her latest film is the feature-length documentary Robert’s Paintings examining the life and career of artist,curator, educator and cultural theoristRobert Houle. Her work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada; Agnes Etherington ArtCentre, Kingston; Canada Council ArtBank, Ottawa; Art Gallery of Ontario;Banff Art Centre; Canadian Museum of Civilization; Castellani Art Museum,Niagara Falls, NY; McMichaelCanadian Art Collection; RoyalOntario Museum; Thunder Bay ArtGallery; and the Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, Illinois.
The Shirt (2003 | 5:55)
The Shirt was chosen to represent the Indian Arts Alliance based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and subsequently screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The video is an ironic and humorous take on the colonial history of North America enacted through text on t-shirts worn by an Aboriginal woman*.
Beginning with views of the Grand River in winter, the scenery alternates between summer views of grassy foothills and river scenery that eventually carries the viewer to Niagara Falls. In the grassland scenes, an Aboriginal woman stands alone dressed in jeans, white t-shirt, sunglasses and a U.S. flag bandana. At first she is coy, shying away slightly from the camera. As she reappears throughout the video her demeanor changes and she confronts the camera straight on with an assertive stare. The music soundtrack is gentle and at odds with the messages on her shirts. The statements on her shirts reveal a troubled history.
* The woman is fellow artist and photographer, Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie (Dine/Seminole/Muscogee).
Rechargin’ (2007 | 2:49)
Acclaimed dancer Santee Smith (Mohawk) electrifies the screen in this riveting visual short. Niro captures the vitality, strength and passion of this wonderful dancer.
Honey Moccasin (1998 | 49:00)
Set on the Grand Pine Indian Reservation, aka “Reservation X,” Honey Moccasin combines elements of melodrama, performance art, cable access and “whodunit” elements to question conventions of ethnic and sexual identity as well as film narrative. A comedy/thriller complete with a fashion show and torchy musical numbers, this witty film employs a surreal pastiche of styles to depict the rivalry between bars The Smokin’ Moccasin and The Inukshuk Cafe, the saga of closeted drag queen/powwow clothing thief Zachary John and the travails of crusading investigator Honey Moccasin. This irreverent re-appropriation of familiar narrative strategies serves as a provocative spring-board for an investigation of authenticity, cultural identity, and the articulation of modern Native American experience in cinematic language and pop culture.
Suite: INDIAN (2005 | Dance of the Canoe Pants and The Red Army is the Strongest…)
Suite: INDIAN is a series of short films. It contains history, mystery and magic. Participating in the creation are artists, actors, musicians and dancers mostly based on the Six Nations Reserve. It begins with the ancient Haudenosaunee story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker which sets the tone for this compilation of approaches to expressions of Haudenosaunee creativity. A set of documentary vignettes highlight the activities of “traditional” artists working with beads, stone, and corn. Then a series of narrative pieces follow that build on and recontextualize the preceding segments. “Mars Thunderchild Gets a Calling” is a humorous take on identity construction through the navigation of persistent (and sometimes self-imposed) stereotypes. Subsequent narratives enlighten us on the interrelationships between characters, moving away from overt references to stereotypes and towards a sense of self-definition. The final four segments are dance sequences that again span the traditional to the hilarious; “Living with Fire” is a reverent piece set in a traditional longhouse structure while “Dance of the Canoe Pants” and “The Red Army is the Strongest” are tongue-in-cheek performances bordering on outrageous but tempered by the ironic subtext that colours much of Niro’s comedic but critical approach to important issues.
Robert’s Paintings (2011 | 52:00)
As elegant and articulate as its subject, Robert’s Paintings examines the life and career of artist, curator, educator and cultural theorist Robert Houle. Houle’s work is, as W. Jackson Rushing has written, “notable for its sensual formalism and sensitivity to materials and their symbolic properties.” Houle draws from the long and sophisticated visual tradition of First Nations cultures, demonstrating their currency in contemporary art milieus. He also draws on Western art conventions to tackle lingering aspects of European colonization of First Nations people. His vast body of work represents a profound discourse on politics and aesthetics central to Indigenous ways of being, knowing and relating to complex philosophies and histories of oppression, resistance and sovereignty. Niro’s beautiful and compelling documentary paints an intimate portrait of this hugely influential and important artist, widely recognized for his role in the recovery and recontextualization of Canadian Indigenous heritage through art.