29th November| Friday | 2:00pm | 60mins | MMB
THE SEVENTH GATE – FOUR FILMS AND AN ARTIST TALK BY CHRIS GEHMAN
“The seventh gate is the gate of projection, which will take off all veils that have been upon the most Holy place, where we may enter, as all knowing in wisdom’s mysteries and wonders.” Jane Leade.
Toronto-based artist Chris Gehman has been making experimental films for more than twenty-five years, and several of his works use animation as the vehicle for experimentation. This short screening will feature four of his 16 mm films, along with an entertaining artist’s talk on his work, and his ideas about contemporary developments in experimental animation. Gehman tends to approach each film as a unique object exploring a particular set of ideas, images and methods – he has always resisted the idea that an artist must repeat and refine the same basic idea. His films play with found images and sometimes with narrative, as well as with the mechanics and structures of filmmaking, and behind their experimentalism lies a mischievous sense of humour.
1. Chris Gehman ‘First Dispatch from Atlantis’ Canada 1993 16 mm 5 min
Gehman’s first collage animation, made while he was a student at Ryerson University, is described as “a journey through the lands of the dead.”
2. Chris Gehman & Roberto Ariganello ‘Contrafacta’ Canada 200016 mm 15 min
Using images from medieval artworks, and quotations from the writings of Christian mystics and poets, Contrafacta creates a web of related images and events without a simple connective narrative. A “painstakingly crafted medievalist tale… Birth, death, plague and the farming of souls all rub shoulders in this episodic surrealist fable. In a dance of grace and punishment where miracles are commonplace, we follow the descent of a royal egg which hatches the changing shape of the world” (Mike Hoolboom, Images Festival). “The horror of an incomprehensible world ruled by an unfathomable God is expressed through sublime cutout animation; medieval art moves to a creepy and funny soundtrack, inadvertently inventing a new genre: spiritual slapstick” (Daniel Cockburn, “Cinéma Naïveté”).
3. Chris Gehman & Roberto Ariganello ‘Non-Zymase Pentathlon’ Canada 1995 16 mm 5:30 min
In this film Gehman and Ariganello animate the commercial imagery of post-war North America, culled from the pages of popular magazines like Life, Maclean’s and National Geographic, bringing fragments together in absurd and arbitrary juxtapositions. Animals, people, consumer goods, military equipment, and other detritus float across different planes in an ambiguous film-space. The film is structured into five “events,” preceded by a brief introduction.
4. Chris Gehman ‘Rostrum Press: Materials Testing’ Canada 2008 16 mm 4 min silent
“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge” (Mikhail Bakunin). In this film Gehman uses a traditional Oxberry 16 mm animation stand as a mechanism to test the response of a variety of objects and materials to the downward pressure of the camera. Each shot is essentially a self-contained little film in which the camera moves inexorably closer to its object until contact is made and the object is pressed down towards the rostrum table as nearly flat as possible. Commissioned for the touring program ReGeneration: New Animations on Seminal Films, the film responds conceptually to an isolated aspect of two films by Michael Snow: Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) and Presents, with an additional/ incidental nod to Snow’s Wavelength.
29th November| Friday | 3:30pm | 78mins | MMB
ARTIST PROFILE 3 – JACK CHAMBERS SHORTS
Curated by Lauren Howes, Director, Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC)
Jack Chambers is regarded as one of Canada’s most important visual artists. With a well-established career as a painter, he embarked on a short-lived but significant career as a filmmaker in the mid-1960s. Chambers’ artistic practice was described as ‘perceptual realism’ and stood in counterpoint to the dominant abstract styles of his day. He completed five films in his lifetime: Mosaic (1965), Hybrid (1966), Circle (1969) and Hart of London (1970). His films are particularly noted for their formal investigations of the properties of light and for their thematic examinations of the cycle of life and death. His filmmaking style has been compared to that of Stan Brakhage. Jack Chambers is celebrated with an acclaimed international reputation for his unique and impressive body of films. In 1967, issues surrounding copyright payment and rental fees led Chambers to stage a campaign for what he termed ‘fair exchange: payment for services’ and eventually he became one of the founders of Canadian Artists’ Representation (CAR/FAC). After a ten-year battle with leukemia, Jack Chambers died in 1978 at the age of 47.
1. ‘Mosaic’ Canada 1965 16mm 9 min
Mosaic’s carefully tuned strategies of montage are already present in its opening title sequence. Isolating the individual letters of its entitlement, it shows them in succession before gathering them all together. Likewise, Chambers recasts details from his surroundings in a symbolic lyricism that joins the rhythms of mortality and rebirth. Its fragmented collage collects a fly infested corpse, a woman strewing flowers, a runner, an old man standing, and a child nursing from his mother’s breast. An elegant and sophisticated reshuffling of domestic temporality, ‘Mosaic’ boldly anticipates the themes of Chambers’ well-known later work.
2. ‘Hybrid’ USA 1966 16mm 15 min
Hybrid’ shows, in near-documentary fashion, the planting of flowers crosscut with a looming military presence viewed in photographs. This polarity of life and death, still and motion, courses throughout the film until its final eruption into colour drafts between a war-scarred generation of Vietnamese children and a flowering London stalk. A defiantly personal response to a war whose images haunted the public imagery of the 60s, ‘Hybrid’ stands in answer to any who feel an irreconcilable divide between art and politics.
3. ‘R-34’ USA 1967 16mm 26 min
Begun with a softly focused series of close-ups, London artist Greg Curnoe is unfurled in an impressionistic hue that gives way to a cataloguing of his Schwitters-like collages. Chambers proceeds with a strict attention to rhythm, chaining together recycled fragments in a round dance that swings in and out of closing doors, image winking out of darkness, the products of Curnoe’s labour intertwined with his own cooking, combing, taking out the garbage. His montage is not merely content to show an artist at work, but actively mimes the very work it is witness to.
4. ‘Circle’ Canada 1969 16mm 28 min
A cinematic document of one year, shot day by day from the same viewpoint.
29th November| Friday | 5:30pm | 99mins | MMB
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION 2
1. Joshua Gen Solondz ‘Burning Star’ USA 2012 video 4 min
Dedicated to my father, who asked that I make a more colorful work. Made during my residency at the now defunct Experimental Television Center, Burning Star is a colorful implo/explosion.
2. Ella Raidel ‘Play Life Series’ Germany 2012 video 11 min
It opens with a traditional Chinese sword fight. Two men in armor carefully exchange choreographed blows while twirling elaborately through the air. Upon closer inspection, the chords with which their bodies are lifted into the air become visible. The illusionary character of this martial arts scene is, in general, more than transparent. The camera wanders back and forth between the intently acting players and those who watch them or record the game on camera.
3. Neil Beloufa ‘Party Island’ France 2012 video 9 min
Neil Beloufa’s moving image works look at social interaction and conversation. Set in often mundane or ambiguous settings his characters play out scripted events that reveal subtle consequences and intimate gestures.
4. Chaoba Thiyam ‘Black Pot and Movement’ India 2013 video 13 min
The film is a search for a new movement by two dancers (Mayuka Ueno Gayer from Japan and Surjit Nongmeikapam from Manipur) picking the Longpi (Black) Pot in Manipur as an interface between the body and the region.
5. Köken Ergun ‘Ashura’ Turkey 2012 video 22 min
The Battle of Karbala was a military engagement that took place on 10 Muharram, 61 AH (October 10, 680) in Karbala, in present day Iraq, between the forces of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph and Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad. Hussein and all his supporters were killed; women and children were taken as prisoners. This battle is central to Shi’a Muslim belief in which the martyrdom of Hussein is mourned by an annual commemoration, Ashura. There are approximately 1 million Caferi Shiites in Turkey, most of which live in Istanbul and the eastern border town of Igdir. In Istanbul they inhabit a shantytown neighborhood in the outskirts of the city, which they started building in the late 1970s. The neighborhood is called Zeynebiye, referring to Hussein’s courageous sister, Zeyneb.
6. Kush Badhwar ‘Blood Earth’ India 2013 video 40 min
Kucheipadar village in Odisha is a bauxite-rich block that since India’s economic liberalisation has been the subject of violent conflict between Adivasis and a mining venture. The singing of songs has come to articulate creative forms and political structures that steered the Kashipur resistance movement from subalternity, through solidarity and into dissolution. Blood Earth interweaves the efforts to record song, farming, village life and a political meeting to improvise a junction between voice, music, silence, sound and noise.
29th November| Friday | 7:30pm | 60mins | MMB
SPECIAL FOCUS – JAPAN
THE SHADOW WORLD
Curated by Chris Gehman, Independent filmmaker and critic
The practice of experimental animation in Japan has produced many riches. Its history begins at least as early as the 1930s, with the singular 9.5 millimetre films of Ogino Shigeji (preserved by the National Film Center in Tokyo). But experimental film in general, animation included, did not establish an unbroken historical continuity until the late 1950s, with the emergence of a determined generation of young producers dedicated to the creation of experimental films. Animation has shown a definite appeal for graphic designers, painters and others who have seen in the cinematic arts a field in which to employ their skills and aesthetic ideas using media that add time and sound, rhythm and change to the elements with which they can work. The international structural film movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s influenced experimental filmmakers in Japan as well, and produced a sub-genre of films in which frame-by-frame techniques are applied to the exploration of cinematic space. More recently, the naïve and grotesque illustration styles of contemporary drawing and painting – mutant offspring of pop culture – have made their influence felt in the work of many younger animators working in film or digital animation.
These artists come to animation from many different directions, including graphic design, painting, drawing and sculpture, photography, performance art and digital media. The works are diverse, but all exist well outside the conventions of commercial film and television; many of the artists work alone or with just one or two collaborators. Some use the simplest materials imaginable (such as Tsuji Naoyuki’s charcoal drawings on paper), while others mount astonishing and elaborate experiments with film technique (e.g. Ito Takashi’s Zone). These two programs include a number of established classics of Japanese experimental animation as well as important contemporary works.
1. Ishida Takashi ‚Gestalt‘ Japan 1999 16mm 6 minutes
Gestalt is already an established classic of experimental animation. An elaborate and meditative film made by continuous repainting of the wall of a room, it creates an ever-shifting representational space that plays with conventions of perspective and effects of spatial perception. One of the most important experimental animators in Japan today, Ishida has presented his work around the world; he has won numerous prizes, including the 2007 Goto Commemorative Culture Award (Fine Art Division). He has extended his animation work by doing site-specific animations over the course of gallery shows, and improvisational painting performances in conjunction with live music.
2. Tsuji Naoyuki ‘A Feather Stare at the Dark’ Japan 2003 16mm 17 minutes
Pitched somewhere between myth and dream, this film was featured at the Cannes Film Festival, and launched Tsuji Naoyuki’s career internationally. His characteristic method involves frame-by-frame animation of charcoal drawings, which are painstakingly erased and redrawn to create movement within the frame, leaving a kind of trail of marks behind. In this ambitious work, the filmmaker builds images of “a pre-world before earth, in chaos, with forces of good and evil” in contention. Originally trained in sculpture, Tsuji’s film practice is firmly rooted in drawing. He has been recognized as one of the foremost contemporary animators from Japan, with numerous retrospectives around the world.
3. Aihara Nobuhiro ‘Yellow Snake’ Japan 2006 video 10 minutes
Aihara Nobuhiro initially worked in the commercial animation industry, but became famous for his independent, experimental works. He is known for the simplicity of his materials – most of his films were made simply using pen and pencil on paper – but also for the wildness, complexity and voluptuousness of his images and ideas. In this film, Aihara’s presents two overlapping views of the same body, blending and diverging; he described this doubling as “part of the labyrinth or the paradox which is going to continue.”
4. Nakamura Tomomichi ‘My Town’ Japan 2007 video 17 minutes
An award-winner at the 2007 Image Forum Festival (Tokyo), My Town represents contemporary currents in experimental animation, combining hand-drawn animation with sophisticated use of digital tools. It offers a deceptive opening, beginning with thin, feeble images, but builds slowly to a frightening pitch through repetition and increasingly complex images, sounds and animation that refer to duplication and the atomic bomb. Drawn over the course of several years while the filmmaker worked in an office job, this film is a major work of contemporary animation.
5. Ito Takashi ‘Spacy’ Japan 1981 16mm 10 minutes
This mind-boggling tour-de-force exploration of cinematic space was created using hundreds of still photographs taken inside an empty gymnasium. Spacy is a recognized classic that established Ito’s name at an international level. It is a kind of cinematic roller-coaster ride and intellectual puzzle at the same time; and it’s the kind of film that no viewer will ever forget! Ito is a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design, and one of Japan’s most highly regarded experimental filmmakers.