31 years of dis­com­fort

Proudly provoca­tive Im­ages Fes­ti­val of film and video wears its anti-main­stream cred on its sleeve

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT & LIFE - MUR­RAY WHYTE VIS­UAL ARTS CRITIC

The an­nual Im­ages Fes­ti­val of ex­per­i­men­tal film and video posits a unique ques­tion: not so much if you’ll find your­self chal­lenged by its bold, of­ten-un­set­tling con­tent — af­ter 31 years, a given — but how?

Con­fronta­tion takes many forms at Im­ages, which wears its proud anti-main­stream cred like a badge of hon­our. Its provo­ca­tions can be so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, for­mal and of­ten all of the above, all at once. No ex­cep­tion to that rule will be found this year, which is fit­ting enough for these trou­bling times, with up­heaval on all fronts.

Here, a hand­ful of stand­outs sure to wob­ble your al­ready-shaky world view.

1. Tracy, Sara Cwynar Cwynar’s hec­tic pho­to­col­lage mash-ups pro­pelled the Van­cou­ver-born, York Uni­ver­sity-ed­u­cated artist to a sub­stan­tial in­ter­na­tional ca­reer be­fore her 30th birth­day. Now at age 32 and liv­ing in Brook­lyn with a master’s from Yale un­der her belt, Cwynar opens her first Cana­dian public mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion with Tracy, a tril­ogy of re­cent film works that tease out her tren­chant themes: how iden­tity is built al­most un­con­sciously through image con­sump­tion and ad hoc ar­chiv­ing so preva­lent in the smart­phone era; and how con­sum­able — and public — those iden­ti­ties can be.

With a talk by au­thor Sheila Heti on April 11 at 7 p.m. at Oakville Gal­leries’ Cen­ten­nial Square lo­ca­tion, 120 Navy St., Oakville

2. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Ves­sels, An­nie MacDonell and Maïder For­tuné The idea of af­fi­da­mento was adopted in the 1970s by the Mi­lan Women’s Book­store Col­lec­tive as a bond through trust from one woman to an­other, men­tor to stu­dent, coun­sel­lor to coun­selled. It’s a for­ma­tive no­tion for Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Ves­sels, a po­etic se­ries of videos in which E., a bril­liant but trou­bled young girl, is guided on her quest to make films by the en­dur­ing pa­tience of a sage teacher. A se­ries of videos in the gallery quote iconic per­for­mance works from the form’s canon but step back a layer and it’s guid­ance be­ing con­veyed from the canon to MacDonell and For­tuné them­selves.

Now open at Gallery 44, 401 Rich­mond St. W, Suite 120, with an artists’ talk by MacDonell and For­tuné on Fri­day, April 13 from 3 to 5 p.m.

3. Cana­dian Artist Spot­light: Steve Reinke Reinke, writes cu­ra­tor Jon Davies, re­gards the bal­loon­ing archive of image and video as “a flesh-and-blood, poly­mor­phously per­verse body to be poked and prod­ded like a sci­en­tific spec­i­men,” and there’s lit­tle in his ir­rev­er­ent, vis­ceral oeu­vre to con­tra­dict that state­ment. From some of his ear­li­est works ( Squeez­ing Sor­row From an Ash­tray, 1992) right up to the present ( Atheists Need The­ol­ogy, Too, 2016), Im­ages has cross-sec­tioned Reinke’s of­ten-rad­i­cal, po­lit­i­cally charged oeu­vre into a tight fea­ture pro­gram as fit­ting trib­ute.

The Spot­light pro­gram screens Mon­day, April16 at In­nis Town Hall, 2 Sus­sex Ave., at 9 p.m., but works by Reinke bleed out into var­i­ous venues, times and dates through­out the fes­ti­val, be­gin­ning with Rib Gets in the Way (2014), a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jessie Mott, screen­ing at Vtape, 401 Rich­mond, Suite 452, open­ing April 13 at 4:30 p.m. For dates and times, visit im­ages­fes­ti­val.com.

4. The In­for­mants, cu­rated by Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil and Jack­son Polys Among the litany of ills per­pet­u­ated by colo­nial­ism on Indige­nous groups, one of the sub­tler and on­go­ing vi­o­la­tions of that bro­ken re­la­tion­ship is the ex­pec­ta­tion, in this mo­ment of nom­i­nal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, that a nearly erased cul­ture might now find the mag­na­nim­ity to pick it­self up and teach it­self to the peo­ple who once sought to erase it. That’s the the­sis of The In­for­mants, a short film se­ries in­clud­ing ma­jor artists such as Kent Monkman, Shel­ley Niro and Chris Spot­ted Ea­gle, in which a ver­sion of per­formed Indi­gene­ity raises ques­tions about au­then­tic­ity and ex­pec­ta­tion in a fraught mo­ment be­tween two sides caught in a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion feed­back loop. One piece, Na­tive Fan­tasy: Ger­many’s Indian Heroes, by Axel Ger­dau, Erik Olsen and John Woo, makes things abun­dantly clear.

April 14, 9 p.m. at In­nis Town Hall

5. Bul­let Points for a Hard West­ern (Af­ter Wal­ter De Maria), Lucy Raven and Dean­toni Parks No slight to ei­ther Raven or Parks (or De Maria, whose per­ma­nently in­stalled, pho­tog­ra­phy-for­bid­den pieces The Bro­ken Kilo­me­ter and Earth Room have been icons of con­cep­tual in­stal­la­tion since they first ap­peared in New York’s Soho in the late ’70s), but this is one case where the venue shares top billing on the mar­quee with the work be­ing shown. Af­ter nearly three years of le­gal wran­gling with the city, the Toronto Me­dia Arts Cen­tre will host this work, fi­nally join­ing the com­mu­nity it was meant to serve.

A live per­for­mance by Raven and Parks ac­com­pa­nies De Maria’s tit­u­lar film, April 13 at 10 p.m., TMAC, 36 Lis­gar St.

IM­AGES FES­TI­VAL

York Uni­ver­sity-ed­u­cated artist Sara Cwynar opens her first Cana­dian public mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion with Tracy, a tril­ogy of re­cent film works.

IM­AGES FES­TI­VAL PHO­TOS

A film still from Wal­ter De Maria's Bul­let Points for a Hard West­ern.

Kent Monkman’s Dance to Miss Chief will be part of The In­for­mants, a film se­ries about per­formed Indige­nous iden­tity.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Ves­sels will be on view at Gallery 44.

Steve Reinke’s A Boy Needs a Friend.

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