Curated by Brian Price
Featuring works by:
Monday July 6, 2015
8 – 10pm
Mississauga Celebration Square
300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga
Presented by the Blackwood Gallery in partnership with Art on the Screens, a program hosted by Celebration Square, Culture Division, City of Mississauga.
Moving Places features the work of seven important artists working in and with film and video, all of whom are dealing with, and drawn to, recognizable places. These may be places you know, or think that you know. You may already find these places moving, have already been drawn to them for their interest, their significance, and their beauty. It might also be the case that we will be shown something more in these places than we think we recognize, than we think we know, even if we see those things, too. In all likelihood, what brings us to “a place,” as a point of distinction—as a so-called destination point—is a general understanding of what a place is supposed to be like. What the artists featured in Moving Places seem to know is that every place is a moving place, that in every destination there is more than what brought us there, and that a camera does not freeze time or place: it is merely the beginning of something else in what nevertheless appears in the world before the camera as something that we all could see if we can get there.
Since the advent of moving image technologies, film and video artists have had a unique relation to place. We might say, as many have, that prior to the invention of cinema, painters often depicted real places, but in a static way, no matter how far removed from the conventions of realism a given painting or painter might have been and no matter how determined the painter was to depict movement. One need only think of Claude Monet’s famous paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, initiated in 1892, in which successive paintings of the same Cathedral suggest the passage of time, by way of varied gradations of colour and light from canvas to canvas. For many, however, the arrival of moving image technologies in the late 19th century gave material form to a promise: namely, that one could overcome the subjectivity of the painter, which cannot be separated from what the artist shows us in the depiction of a real place, by virtue of the objectivity that follows from the automatic registration of the camera itself. What the camera shows us, we assume, must once have been there. In this way, the moving image has maintained a privileged relation to place, insofar as the filmmaker has no need to simulate movement, since the film—and now, the video (digital or otherwise)—is motion itself. And what we see in motion, most striking of all, are real places; real places, moreover, that come to us as they were captured objectively in time.
One need only look at the Lumière Brothers’ Place des Cordeliers à Lyon (Cordeliers’ Square in Lyon), from 1895, one of the first films ever made and one that shows us, it seems, nothing more than what the title already promises: Cordeliers Square in Lyon in 1895. In this very short film, lasting less than a minute, we witness from one vantage point—from one camera set-up alone—an image of downtown Lyon, filled with people walking down and across a road, as well as a trolley, led by a horse, bustling with commuters. It has been very tempting to historians of film and photography to cite such films as founding instances of film’s capacity for objectivity, and thus as an important method and record of place, so much so that the crowning achievement of history as the successive documentation of everyday life might come to be realized in time. However, what is hard to ignore in the Place des Cordeliers à Lyon is the way that the camera shakes, how restless the image seems to be. It may be that the camera merely shakes in the wind, unsteadied on the tripod that has been secured as an instrument of objectivity. The shaking might also be derived from the hands of the camera operator who was either unable to disappear forever behind the image of place that he nevertheless produces. He might have felt the difficulty of measuring up to the place he so desired to record, and began to tremble, which means that the image will also tremble as if it were the very trace of an anxiety that cannot be known. It might also simply be that the film strip itself has decomposed in time, has shrunk in one way or another, such that the image—unsteady, this time, in the grip of the projector—moves in ways that it once did not. No matter what explanation satisfies us, what the film shows us is not a view of real places recorded, objectively, and shown back to us as if frozen in time. Rather, what we become aware of is the fascination with place itself that seems to have propelled the emergence of a new medium, or at least, corresponded with the artist’s desire to show us the places he loves and wants us to see as he sees it. If the camera of the Lumière Brothers shakes, what the shaking might most forcefully indicate to us is an affinity that the Lumière Brothers share with painters like Monet and Cezanne—how to depict motion in place (light moving across the façade of building, the movement of waves)—knowing, as the filmmakers did, that this “new” medium raised the stakes of depicting place quite considerably. If film advanced the artist’s capacity for depicting real places, it also meant that the recognition of a film as art, as something more than mere document, was challenged to a degree never experienced by painters. Put differently still, film and video artists can quite easily show us places in motion. More difficult, in a medium prized for its objectivity, is to show us place in the way that it has moved the artist, and then, in a way that moves its viewer; that is to say, the medium, the place, and the artist become merged, but never fully collapsed into one.
Moving Places features the work of seven important artists working in and with film and video, all of whom are dealing with, and drawn to, recognizable places: Venice in Scott Johnson’s Ruminando, for instance; the Brooklyn Bridge, in Joan Jonas’s eponymous video. These may be places you know, or think that you know. You may already find these places moving, have already been drawn to them for their interest, their significance, and their beauty, just as Mary Lucier seems drawn to the rodeo in Arabesque as an event that happens in certain kinds of places that are in possession of their own textures, procedures, and ways of understanding. It might also be the case—and again, much like Mary Lucier—that we will be shown something else in these places than we think we recognize, than we think we know, even if we see those things, too. In all likelihood, what brings us to “a place,” as a point of distinction—as a so-called destination point—is a general understanding of what a place is supposed to be like. If we find ourselves contemplating a summer holiday, for instance, we would not seek a place entirely unknown to us, even if we have never been there before. We rely on images, in many cases, to help us anticipate our ease and our pleasure at the satisfaction of an expectation. On holiday, we want to check out, to live comfortably with predictability in a place not our own, and in a way that life rarely, if ever, allows. It is summer, after all. Perhaps, then, the artist is never on holiday, even when she is somewhere other than where she lives, since art—and moving image media in particular—shows us something else in what we already know or recognize, something more than the artist already knows or expects in this or that place. What the artists featured in Moving Places seem to know is that every place is a moving place, that in every destination there is more than what brought us there, and that a camera does not freeze time or place: it is merely the beginning of something else in what nevertheless appears in the world before the camera as something that we all could see if we can get there.
- Brian Price
Brian Price is Associate Professor of Film and Visual Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Neither God Nor Master: Robert Bresson and Radical Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), co-editor of two volumes, Color, the Film Reader (Routledge, 2006) and On Michael Haneke (Wayne State University Press), and is currently completing a book on regret. He is a founding co-editor of world picture (www.worldpicturejournal.com).
Illusions & Mirrors, writes Peggy Gale, looks forward, perhaps with dread, to a future already lurking in shadowed, antique rooms – as Natalie Portman follows a man in black who appears on the shore, then hurries over the dunes to glide up stairs and through empty halls. She comes upon other, mysterious elements: a line of people on chairs along a wall, an older woman stroking the hair of “another,” of herself. Movement is cautious and tense, the narrative wordless and insinuating. Views fade and double, alternating clear and sharp with other, wavering scenes, like memories or hallucinations, portents of what-will-be. Finally we see Portman from a darkened window as she observes herself outside in sun and wind, back on the shore at the beginning.
Born in 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, Shirin Neshat is an artist and filmmaker living in New York. The Detroit Institute of Arts recently presented a major retrospective of Neshat’s work (2013). She has also held numerous solo exhibitions at galleries and museums internationally. She was also awarded the Grand Prix of the Gwangju Biennial (2000); the Golden Lion for best international artist at the 48th Venice Biennale (1999); the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005); the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006); and the Crystal Award, World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (2014). Neshat’s first feature-length film, Women Without Men, received the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 66th Venice International Film Festival in 2009. She is currently working on her second feature-length film, based on the life and art of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kolthum. Neshat is represented by Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
Scott Johnson was born in 1969 and grew up in the Colorado Rockies. He obtained his BFA from The University of Colorado at Boulder and his MFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. His work as an artist has been informed by such experiences as herding cows on the Navajo Reservation, traveling upon the Silk Road and living in Venice, Italy. He presently teaches at The Colorado College in Colorado Springs
Pipilotti Rist was born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland. She studied graphic design, illustration and photography at the Institute of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well as audiovisual communications and video at the School of Design in Basel. She has had solo exhibitions at the Fundació Juan Miró, Barcelona, Spain; Museum of Modern Art, New York; AROS - Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Museo Nacinal de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Musee des Beaux Arts, Montreal; Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among many others. She has been in numerous international group exhibitions, at venues including the Serpentine Gallery, London; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; New Museum, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York; P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art, New York; Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland; Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain; among many others. She teaches at the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA). Rist lives in Los Angeles and Zurich.
Deirdre Logue holds a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA from Kent State University. Recent solo exhibitions of her award winning film and video work have taken place at Open Space (Victoria), Oakville Galleries, the Images Festival (Toronto), the Berlin International Film Festival, Beyond/In Western New York, YYZ (Toronto), and articule (Montreal). Logue has contributed over 25 years to working with artist-run organizations dedicated to media arts exhibition and distribution. She was a founding member of Media City, the Executive Director of the Images Festival, Executive Director of the CFMDC, founding member of the Media Arts Network of Ontario (MANO) and is currently the Development Director at Vtape. She is a champion of artist rights and has held numerous positions with organizations such as CARFAC National and the Independent Media Arts Alliance. Logue has been a member of the Independent Imaging Collective (the Film Farm) with Phil Hoffman since 1999 and directs the FAG Feminist Art Gallery with her partner, collaborator and artist Allyson Mitchell.
Miranda Pennell (born 1963, London) originally trained in contemporary dance and later studied visual anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her current practice reworks colonial photographic archives as a material for film. Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed (2010) was awarded best international film at the Images Festival in Toronto and the Courtisane Festival of Media Art in Ghent. The film has been widely screened in international exhibitions including The Politics of the Fixed Image, Xcéntric at CCCB in Barcelona; Colonial Specters, Mumok Kino at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna; Tate Britain’s Assembly: survey of recent artists’ film and video in Britain 2008–2013; Autobiography and the Archive, Whitechapel Gallery in London. It is available on DVD, published by Filmarmalade. Pennell is currently completing a feature-length film based on the photographic archives of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now the British Petroleum Company).
Still photographs, live video, and superimposed drawings created on a Quantel Paintbox are fused in this visual poem dedicated to a New York City landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge. Emphasizing its strength and beauty, Jonas locates the bridge as an iconic site in this meditative, cryptic study of identity and place. In Brooklyn Bridge, the transformative power of video is used to infuse the static photographs and naturalistic footage of the bridge with a mythic, animistic force, which is heightened by the artist's emblematic inscription of self onto the site.
Joan Jonas was born in 1936 in New York. She received a B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College in 1958, studied sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Columbia University in 1965. Since 2000 Jonas has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Jonas has performed and exhibited her work extensively throughout the world. In 2004 she was honored with a retrospective at the Queens Museum of Art in New York, titled Joan Jonas: Five Works. She has also had major retrospectives at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands, and Stadtsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany. Other one-person exhibitions and performances include Kunstmuseum, Bern; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Kitchen, New York; San Francisco Museum of Art; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; University of California, Berkeley; Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris and New York; Pat Hearn Gallery, New York, and Sonnabend Gallery, New York, among others. Group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Long Beach Museum of Art, California; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Documentas 5, 6, 8, and 11 in Kassel, Germany; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York; Kunsthaus Graz, Austria; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, and Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema et de la Video, among many others.
In Day and Night, Jacobs teases out and toys with the ability of digital video to be infinitely and seamlessly manipulated, as well as its capacity for keeping reality just beyond the viewer's grasp. Here he uses images of nature as his source material, applying exacting technical effects to create a stunning fusion of the organic and the digital.
Ken Jacobs was born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. He has received numerous awards, including the Maya Deren Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1969, with the help of Larry Gottheim and Gottheim's students (one of whom was J. Hoberman, current senior film critic for the Village Voice), Jacobs began the Cinema Department at SUNY Binghamton and taught there until 2002. His films, videos and performances have received international venues such as the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the Hong Kong Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, the American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was a featured filmmaker at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2004.
Moving Places is presented by the Blackwood Gallery in partnership with the Culture Division, City of Mississauga. The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Department of Visual Studies (UTM), the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Funding for additional staff support made possible through the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations program, Department of Canadian Heritage. The Canadian Museums Association administers the museum component of the YCW program on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage.