April 29th, 2015, 7:30pm
Club SAW, 67 Nicholas Street, Ottawa
Presented in association with the NAC’s Ontario Scene & the Downtown Rideau BIA\
Climate change, urban expansion, dreamscapes, Aboriginal traditions, ice-fishing shacks, and witchcraft are united in this screening of short video works from across Ontario. The influence of the diverse environments from which these artists originate is central to the themes of these videos. From natural landscapes to urban cityscapes, the breadth of this province’s locations complements how Ontario artists honour the past and depict the future.
Curated by SCOTT MCGOVERN, program director at Guelph’s Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Videontario shows how artists, their ideas, and their locations are linked, both physically and spiritually.
Wakening, Danis Goulet (Cree/Métis, Toronto), 8:51, 2013 / English & Cree with English subtitles
Cooling Reactors, soJin Chun + Alexandra Gelis (Toronto), 2:11, 2011 / No dialogue
NiiPii (Water), Jules Koostachin (Sudbury), 6:20, 2012 / English
Repercussions, Terril Calder (Métis, Fort Frances/Toronto), 3:35, 2013 / No dialogue
Tea Service, Lisa Birke (Kitchener), 10:45, 2013 / No dialogue
Willow, Deirdre Logue (Toronto), 1:13, 2012 / No dialogue
Life in the Fast Lane, Almerinda Travassos (Toronto), 21:30, 2010 / English
Ice Follies, Eric Boissonneault (Métis, North Bay), 3:27, 2012 / No dialogue
Denim Pox, FASTWURMS (Creemore), 5:35, 2002 / English
Mohawk Midnight Runners, Zoe Leigh Hopkins (Heiltsuk/Mohawk, Ottawa), 16:14, 2013 / English
Videontario – Outward Manifestations
by Scott McGovern
The vast and varied geography of Ontario allows for polar bears to roam its far north and wild cactus to grow at the far south. Four distinct and pronounced seasons measure time, providing situations to place our memories. Some of the most beautiful lakes, forests, and farmland in the world can be found in Ontario. Of course, the enormity of this province also contributes to the dynamic variation found in the people who live here.
The various landscapes and cityscapes in Ontario profoundly influence the conceptual concerns of the media artists presented in Videontario. Although a video may often be primarily about a person (the subject), something will always be in the background (the setting) which defines the context of the subject. In these ten works, the setting is more than just a background, but instead an integral character in the story, and sometimes the importance of the background is at the forefront of a work. Hollywood often uses Ontario as a stand-in location to mimic other places, but these independent artists use the location honestly to tell their own stories, thereby promoting the artistic license of Ontarian productions elsewhere.
Certainly, one’s concept of place extends beyond their immediate environment. Increasingly, we travel physically and virtually to other places and to meet other people. This creates a stronger awareness of the nuances of one’s physical environment and community. Therefore, thinking of a singular place as the sole creator of identity is simplistic and rapidly becoming an outdated notion. Identity is comprised of many factors – cultural background, influences, interests, and beliefs. Fortunately, cultural multiplicity is increasingly becoming valued, and people are now appreciated for the cumulative complexities which define individuality.
This program proposes that an artist is intrinsically influenced by the place which is called ‘home’, and this singular province can inspire an enormous range of responses. People react to the land, and sometimes the land reacts to people. As within, as without, place and its inhabitants are inescapably linked.
The program starts with Wakening by Danis Goulet, a beautifully-produced short thriller which combines the past with a post-apocalyptic future. The Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto, a bombed shell of its former opulence, is the set where Wesakechak meets the ancient, terrifying spirit of Weetigo. However, instead of causing dread in Wesakechak, Weetigo is now an ally to help her conquer the warring forces which are destroying the land.
At Cherry Beach in Toronto, performers lie on the sand in Cooling Reactors by soJin Chun. Several possible readings are suggested: five blanket-wrapped performers are seen lying on the sand, behind them are windsurfers who are oblivious to the high levels of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and PCBs in the area. As the performers, who resemble either shrouded sunbathers or corpses, disappear one by one, so do the windsurfers, leaving only a flock of seagulls on the beach.
NiiPii (Water) by Jules Koostachin is a dreamlike journey of a woman participating in traditional Cree water teachings. Through this ritual, past fears and traumas are faced head on in order to find strength from the past and peace in rebirth.
The front steps of Queen’s Park in Toronto is a politically charged space, and has been recreated as a stop-motion set for Repercussions by Terril Calder. The steps are more rubber than concrete, allowing a young Aboriginal woman to spring into the sky on a spiritual voyage. When she lands, what seems to be the foreboding authority figure ends up being a friend in arms ready to embrace an optimistic future.
Lisa Birke subverts expectations of the feminine rituals usually associated with a tea party in her performative video, Tea Service. The pieces are in place – the bone china, doilies, floral dress, and apron, all within a romantic clearing in the woods, but the actions are more lumberjack than lady-in-waiting.
In another performance-for-camera work, Deirdre Logue rushes through the thick, hanging tree branches in Willow. This intimate video depicts an uncomfortable yet self-determined experience, suggestive of steadfast perseverance against obstacles.
The theme of perseverance is also examined in the short documentary, Life in the Fast Lane, by Almerinda Travassos. Ninty-two-year-old Ben Madill continues to live on his farm in North Toronto as busy highways, shopping malls, and suburban sprawl have surrounded it. Ben has owned his farm for 62 years, a fact he knows with certainty from his massive clock collection which he as been collecting since he was a teenager in the 1930s. The cacophonous ticking serves as a constant reminder of the inevitable fate of his farm.
Ice Follies 2012 by Eric Boissonneault documents a unique, annual contemporary art exhibition which takes place on the frozen waters of Lake Nipissing near North Bay. Artists from the region and from across Canada create site-specific sculptures in sub-zero conditions, and this video includes work from Brian Bertrand, Bruce Montcombroux, Peter Hargraves, Michael Allegower, and Laura Hale.
Combining original and found footage, Denim Pox by the FASTWÜRMS is an examination of rituals, taking place in small town Ontario, in nature, in movies, at an art party in Toronto, and on the artists’ farm. There is magic in all of them, visible to those who can focus and appreciate.
The last video featured is Mohawk Midnight Runners by Zoe Leigh Hopkins, an uplifting story of three Mohawk men who honour a departed friend by adapting his habit of running naked through the reservation at night. Through this action, they challenge themselves to find a renewed respect for themselves, forging optimism from tragedy.
Video is a vessel of creativity, as it can carry images, movement, sounds, language, stories, music, and more. The technology is portable, functions best in natural light outdoors, and can be used to transport the viewer to a different time and space. When it captures something which captivates the viewer’s imagination, it has it’s own lifeblood and its potential is immeasurable. These artists effectively use video as an extension of themselves to honour the places they inhabit, creating a richness of stories from Ontario.