Experimenta 2011 Joyce Wieland Artist in Focus


JOYCE WIELAND is a pioneer of feminist avant garde filmmaking, largely regarded as one of Canada’s most influential and important artists. A multi-disciplinary artist who produced work in a wide variety of media, Wieland’s intelligent and irreverent explorations of female sexuality, domestic life, ecology and Canadian nationalism put her at the forefront of feminist practice. Wieland made her mark in the film underground in New York in the 1960s, where she was associated with structural filmmakers such as Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton. While her film employ materialist formal strategies, the irony and socio-political content of her work sets her apart from her structuralist compatriots, as does her exploration of narrative.

1st December| Thursday | 6.30pm | 80mins | NGMA

1. Barbara”s Blindness Canada 1965 16mm colour & b&w sound 16.15mins
“There is no one named Barbara to be found; a pair of mysterious blind-person”s hands (looking suspiciously like Wieland”s) make only one cameo appearance to “read” us the title; yet these seemingly incongruous elements provide the perfect introduction to the ironic humour of the film itself. The main source of the film seems to be an old grade-school morality-movie on the appreciation of eyesight, starring golden-haired Mary, who finds herself temporarily blind, and a leaden-voiced narrator, who finds himself our unwitting straight-man. The filmmakers re-edited this curiosity and intercut it with other stock footage of disasters, agricultural techniques, and monster movies, to create a very different object lesson on the nature of vision.” – B. Ruby Rich

2. A&B in Ontario Canada 1984 16mm b&w sound 16.05mins
“Hollis and I came back to Toronto on holiday in the summer of “67. We were staying at a friend”s house. We worked our way through the city and eventually made it to the island. We followed each other around. We enjoyed ourselves. We said we were going to make a film about each other – and we did.” – JW

“A & B in Ontario” was completed eighteen years after the original material was shot. After Frampton”s death, the film was assembled by Wieland into a cinematic dialogue in which the collaborators (in the spirit of the sixties) shoot each other with cameras.

3. Water Sark Canada 1965 16mm colour sound 13.30mins
“I decided to make a film at my kitchen table, there is nothing like knowing my table. The high art of the housewife. You take prisms, glass, lights and myself to it…“Water Sark” is a film sculpture, drawing being made while you wait.” (JW)

4. Handtinting Canada 1967-68 16mm colour sound 6mins
“‘Handtinting’ is the apt title of a film made from outtakes from a Job Corps documentary which features hand-tinted sections. The film is full of small movements and actions, gestures begun and never completed. Repeated images, sometimes in colour, sometimes not. A beautifully realized type of chamber-music film whose sum-total feeling is ritualistic.” – Robert Cowan, Take One

5. Birds at Sunrise Canada 1986 16mm colour sound 10.15mins
“The film was originally photographed in 1972. Birds from my window were filmed during the winter, through to the spring, with the early morning light. I became caught up in their frozen world and their ability to survive the bitter cold. I welcomed their chirps and their songs which offered life and hope for spring. In 1984 I was part of a cultural exchange between Canada and Israel. During my visit my unfinished movie came to mind. A connection was established in my mind – so that the suffering of the birds became, in a sense, symbolic of the Jews and their survival through suffering. The film begins with the reading in Hebrew of the 23rd Psalm. This lays the spiritual ground to the film. I dedicate this film to Ayala.” (JW)

2nd December| Friday | 4.30pm| 84mins | NGMA

1. ‘Reason Over Passion’ Canada 2006 16mm colour sound 84 mins
“Reason Over Passion… is Joyce Wieland”s major film so far. With its many eccentricities, it is a glyph of her artistic personality; a lyric vision tempered by an aggressive form and a visionary patriotism mixed with ironic self parody. It is a film to be seen many times.” – P. Adams Sitney, Film Culture
“This film is about the pain and joy of living in a very large space: in fact, in a continent. It is painful, because such an experience distends the mind; it seems too large for passionate reason to contain. It is joyous, because “true patriot love,” a reasonable passion, can contain it, after all. But what is remarkable, for me VigRX, is that all its urgency is lucidly caught, bound as it were chemically, in the substance of film itself, requiring no exterior argument.” – Hollis Frampton

3rd December | Saturday | 4:30 pm | 67mins | NGMA

This program offers a sampling of Wieland”s more overtly political work. “She made experimental films — at that time a male-dominated form of cultural production. The very fact that she chose to work in this mode was a political statement, but her films are also often political in their formal treatment and subject matter, whether overtly or more subtly.” – Dr. Allyson Mitchell
“The films of Joyce Wieland are not only a major contribution to filmmaking in the 20th century, but also serve as visual remnants of a particularly turbulent, yet exciting, historical moment. In her experimentation and interest in the structural film aesthetic, feminist politics and Canadian nationalism, Wieland has provided a complex, passionate and critical response to the evolving political, cultural and social climate of the 1960s.” – Dr. Kristy A. Holmes

1. ‘Rat Life and Diet in North America’ Canada 1968 16mm colour sound 16mins
“I can tell you that Wieland”s film holds. It may be about the best (or richest) political movie around. It”s all about rebels (enacted by real rats) and police (enacted by real cats). After long suffering under the cats, the rats break out of prison and escape to Canada. There they take up organic gardening, with no DDT in the grass. It is a parable, a satire, an adventure movie, or you can call it pop art or any art you want – I find it one of the most original films made recently.” – Jonas Mekas

“The film is witty, articulate, and a far cry from all the other cute animal humanism the cinema has sickened us with in the past. Nevertheless it is a vital extension of the aspect of her films that runs counter to the structural principle: ironic symbolism.” – P. Adams Sitney, Film Culture

2. ‘Patriotism’ Canada 1964 16mm colour sound 4mins
Wieland”s kinetic romp casts filmmaker David Shackman as an overexposed sleeper dogged by a patriotic march of tube steaks that finally refigures him as Canada’s most familiar icon of freedom. This pixilated short about hot dogs is the latest of Wieland”s early film works to be restored to circulation.

3. Patriotism II Canada 1965 16mm colour sound 3.45mins
In a way a portrait of filmmaker Dave Shackman with the American flag. The ending is a stop-motion animation of a set table with food moving and swirling and finally gathering together in a ball. Looking back at the film, the animation sequence seems to foreshadow Dave Shackman’s early death. He died shortly after the film was made.

4. Pierre Vallieres Canada 1965 16mm colour sound 32.30mins
Quebec journalist and revolutionary Pierre Vallières was the intellectual leader of the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ). Vallières called for armed struggle and in 1970, during the October Crisis, the FLQ kidnapped and murdered the Quebec Vice-Premier, Pierre Laporte. The following year, Vallieres renounced violence as a means to achieve Quebec independence. “Pierre Vallieres is one of the most effective political films I”ve seen… Joyce Wieland concentrates on the speaker”s voice; she presents Pierre Vallières’s voice in close-up, so that nothing is hidden. And the truth of the voice, the sound of the voice, the nuances of the voice, its vibrations, and its colors merge so totally with what is being said that no other images are needed to make the point.” – Jonas Mekas

Pierre Vallieres delivered three essays, without stopping, except for reel change and camera breakdown:1) Mont Laurier; 2) Quebec history and race; 3) women”s liberation. Everything which happened is recorded on film. It was a one-shot affair, I either got him on film or I missed. What we see on film is the mouth of a revolutionary, extremely close, his lips, his teeth, his spittle, his tongue which rolls so beautifully through his French, and finally the reflections in his teeth of the window behind me.” (JW).

5. Solidarity Canada 1965 16mm colour sound 10.40mins
A film on the Dare strike of the early 1970s. Hundreds of feet and legs, milling, marching and picketing with the word “solidarity” superimposed on the screen. The soundtrack is an organizer”s speech on the labour situation. Like her films “Rat Life and Diet in North America,” “Pierre Vallieres” and “Reason Over Passion,” “Solidarity” combines a political awareness, an aesthetic viewpoint and a sense of humour unique in Wieland”s work.