31 years of discomfort
Proudly provocative Images Festival of film and video wears its anti-mainstream cred on its sleeve
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.
York University-educated artist Sara Cwynar opens her first Canadian public museum exhibition with Tracy, a trilogy of recent film works.
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.