Starting Friday, October 23, 2020, with an Instagram Live (vtapevideoart) introduction by emerging curator Sanjit Dhillon at 7pm followed by the first title in her program, forgive me for speaking in my own tongue – 4 mins and 12 secs before entering melancholy by Erika DeFrietas.
This year’s Curatorial Incubator, taking place in these (as we say) unprecedented times, is a bit of a different beast. Example: this year we invited eight incubatees to each make a program that responds to the theme of Living In Hope, the largest number of participants since the very first Curatorial Incubator in 2002, where 8 participants selected a single title each. This year, there are no in person screenings in our space, no live introductions by the curators, no live q & a with the audience. But in keeping with the restrictions of COVID-19, we are taking the entire program on-line, unrolling one title per week with an on-line Zoom conversation at the end of each program featuring the curator and the artists.
PROGRAM #3 Curated by Sanjit Dhillon
I began the process of selecting these films as our established modes of being were brought to a halt. The routines and rituals that we regularly engaged in without any thought transformed into absences overnight. A rupture formed in our accelerated culture of individualism and competition.
It is this rupture, however, that has impelled a collective probing of many of the values entrenched in capitalist life. This program forms a deeper investigation into how these values are upheld and consequently shaped our ability to imagine future outside of capitalism. The films presented in Slow Unfurling arrest these socio-political constructs with stillness, contemplation and reflection.
Mark Fisher says that capitalism has not only become the only viable political and economic system, it has become impossible to imagine a coherent alternative. In the contemporary moment, the only option is to envision and work towards an alternative. Through ongoing reflection, as exemplified by these films, the potential for imagining new ways of living beyond reformist principles can be proposed. To do so is to live in hope.
Sanjit Dhillon is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and cultural worker based in Tkaranto/Toronto, Canada. Her practice interrogates constructions of memory, embodied subjectivity, precarity, and the limits of visual culture in creating and disseminating identity. She has curated for Xpace Cultural Centre, DUTY FREE zine and participated in residencies at Whippersnapper Gallery and Roundtable Residency.
Erika DeFreitas, forgive me for speaking in my own tongue – 4 mins and 12 secs before entering melancholy, 2016, 04:12
forgive me for speaking in my own tongue – 4 mins and 12 secs before entering melancholy depicts the artist, Erika Defreitas, in a state of meditative breathing. Focusing on each inhale and exhale, the act of breathing surpasses biological necessity to become an act of asserting presence. In the larger context where the right to life continues to be contested, the ability to breathe easily–without anxiety or urgency–is not guaranteed for all. Her intentionality towards presence becomes an act of resistance.
2) Raymond Tallis on tickling, Johan Grimonprez, 2017, 08:00
3) Blind Understanding, Saskia Holmkvist, 2009, 12:05
On Friday, November 6, 2020, Dhillon will speak with artists Erika DeFreitas, Johan Grimonprez, and Saskia Holmkvist at 7pm ET on a recorded conversation. Look for this on the Vtape website, followed by the final title in her program
Erika DeFreitas is a Scarborough-based artist whose practice includes the use of performance, photography, video, installation, textiles, works on paper, and writing. Placing an emphasis on process, gesture, the body, documentation, and paranormal phenomena, she works through attempts to understand concepts of loss, post-memory, inheritance, and objecthood.
Johan Grimonprez’s work dances on the borders of practice and theory, art and cinema, documentary and fiction, demanding a double take on the part of the viewer. Informed by an archeology of present-day media, his work seeks out the tension between the intimate and the bigger picture of globalization. It questions our contemporary sublime, one framed by a fear industry that has infected political and social dialogue. By suggesting new narratives through which to tell a story, his work emphasizes a multiplicity of realities.
In Saskia Holmkvist’s work, questions of agency and professionalized language are explored through fractured narrative, employing performance, orality, film and improvisation. The works address consequences of power structures in communication such as translatability of subject positions as well as historical trajectories and post colonial presence by interacting with methods of communication borrowed from fields such as interpretation, psychology, journalism, and improvisational theatre.
PROGRAM #2 Curated by Warren Chan
What does hope look like in the digital age? As digital depictions of the world become increasingly integral to our experience of the world, to live in a world with hope requires also finding hope in the digital realm. Yet, I sometimes find it difficult to be hopeful in an environment where we have been reduced to data points and our fates seem predetermined by code and algorithms.
The world we live in is a hybrid of the physical space we occupy and the digital spaces through which our vision of the world is continually refracted. As our experiences of reality are subsumed by experiences defined by corporate technologies, liberation from this mediated version of the world appears distant. What hope remains in finding humanity and freedom in a digital reality obfuscated by corporate agendas, where the language of ones and zeroes have been co-opted by corporate tech development?
In this program, I find hope in this digital reality through video works that recontextualize digital images, reject the rules of virtual realities, and interrogate the boundaries between physical space and the infinite worlds on the other side of our screens. Digital photographs, videogame worlds, and computer-generated realities are critically examined in these video works. Through this, I find hope that the opaque systems of the digital world can be understood, reclaimed, and reshaped.
Beginning with the white light of a digital screen and ending with the black void of digital nothingness, the extremes of the digital world are symbolized here. By titling this program .exe, I aim to represent hope in the digital age as executable and actionable. The featured artists here do not find liberation by opting out of new technology. Rather, they confront the new status quo and carve out their own spaces of reflection and expression within this new digital world.
Hope here lies not in Ludditism but in methods of participation that critically engage with these mediums and reject the corporate-defined parameters of these technologies.
Warren Chan is currently completing his MA in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, where he is researching the usage of A.I. generated images in experimental cinema. Outside of his studies, Warren is a filmmaker with an interest in experimental video works that analyze digital and new media technologies.
Yoshiki Nishimura, Somewhere, 2016, 07:55
In Somewhere, the natural world and the digital world form a dialogue as footage of ocean waves are translated into 3D computer images. These resulting images of waves may not represent any physical location, but this video work argues that these uncanny bodies of water do, in fact, exist somewhere. Nishimura documents and explores digital space as real and meaningful, and foregrounds its relation to natural space. Digital images here are not mechanical reproductions of scenes in the natural world, but acts of creation that use real world references to construct a new space.
In this digital somewhere, we confront the black void of nothingness beyond the horizon. Shrouded in darkness, the image is at first haunting and alien. Yet, as the computer generated sun sets, there is hope that it will rise once again in a new day–a reminder that the future of this digital landscape has not yet been determined.
Peggy Ahwesh, She Puppet, 2001, 15:15
Most virtual worlds of videogames are governed by rules that dictate what one can and cannot do. In She Puppet, Ahwesh uses the Tomb Raider videogame series to examine the limits of our actions in these coded realities and posits that we can reject those rules and find liberation within the parameters of these spaces. Through this defiance of the videogame’s predetermined goals and limitations, the virtual world becomes a space of reflection and expression.
Death in games is intended to be a lose-state. Yet, Ahwesh recontextualizes death here and examines it as a victorious liberation from the confines of the videogame world’s rules. Death symbolizes defiance of the world’s rules and with each death, one is reborn once again to keep forging their own path. Accompanied by quotations from Fernando Pessoa, Joanna Russ, and Sun Ra, Ahwesh turns Tomb Raider’s world into a platform to explore themes of identity and gender.
Alejandro Šajgalík, zuma_cuts.mov, 2016, 06:06
Zuma was a photo series by John Divola, wherein the deterioration of an abandoned building used for firefighter training was documented over a year. Contributing to the building’s decay himself during his photography, Divola frames his process of documentation as part of the structure’s continued change.
In zuma_cuts.mov, Šajgalík recontextualizes these images on the computer screen and continues the building’s deterioration as he cuts into the screen with a utility knife. The image on the screen distorts under the blade, foregrounding the materiality of the digital image and its existence within physical space. As the view outside the window is replaced by whiteness, the image ceases to index an absolute space in the physical world, but becomes a window to the infinite space on the other side of the screen. The building Divola photographed lives on in this digital space and continues to change. Through this, Šajgalík investigates the reciprocal relationship of the digital and non-digital.
On Friday, October 16, 2020, Chan will be in conversation with artists Alejandro Šajgalík, Peggy Ahwesh, and Yoshiki Nishimura at 7 pm. Check the Vtape website to watch this conversation.
Alejandro Sajgalik’s work draws from his academic background in architecture and urban sociology, as well as his performance practice. A self-taught interdisciplinary artist, Sajgalik has explored a wide array of artforms including music, dance, video, and text.
Peggy Ahwesh began her career using Super-8 film and has since experimented with a diverse range of mediums, including found footage, digital animation, and Pixelvision video. Her wide breadth of works take on different formats and styles, but are unified by a distinct voice that uses levity to investigate digital culture and gender identity.
Yoshiki Nishimura is an experimental filmmaker who primarily works with 3D computer graphics. Through this, Nishimura examines the relationship between real and virtual worlds. He teaches film and media arts at Tohoku University of Art and Design in Yamagata, Japan.
PROGRAM #1 Curated by Madeline Bogoch
Alternate Arrangements: Subjective Impulses and Social Memory
Outside of this residency I work in a video archive, so much of my day is spent organizing content in a way that is legible to those who wish to access it. Despite my best efforts, the residues of my own subjectivity inevitably leave their mark on this process. In reflecting on this intrusion of the self into the realm of objectivity, I gravitated towards works that develop their own distinctive methods of sorting through the excess of images and content we exist amongst. This program presents three films: The Innocents by Jean-Paul Kelly (2014), Bunte Kuh by Parastoo Anoushahpour, Ryan Ferko, and Faraz Anoushahpour (2015), and Hobbit Love is the Greatest Love by Steve Reinke (2007). Relying heavily on found imagery, these works are evidence of what Hal Foster refers to as the “archival impulse,” a utopian drive which seeks to gauge the present and forecast the future through the remnants of the past.
There is an economical quality in this impulse of recombination and juxtaposition, one which produces meanings greater than the sum of their parts. In The Innocents, this is used to undermine the fidelity of the documentary genre, while Bunte Kuh obscures the prototypical travelogue into something hazier and more ominous. This impulse reappears in Reinke’s acerbic video essay Hobbit Love is the Greatest Love, most explicitly in the image stream of U.S. military personnel killed in the Second Gulf War, arranged by attractiveness. While the relation between Kelly’s images remain opaque, his and Reinke’s image streams share a libidinal classification system which signals the desire to parse an overwhelming supply of content through a personal logic. Something in this drive speaks to an empathic sensibility shared by all three works, which pursues new dialogues by superimposing the artist’s own inflections onto their sources. By developing new ways of ordering and thinking about existing material, these artists exhibit a private approach to the public archive. I present these works as ways of overcoming an impasse of imagination, clever approaches that incubate new futures through existing material and unlikely interlocutors.
Madeline Bogoch is a writer and MA student in the art history department at Concordia University. Her work is focused primarily on experimental moving image practices, specifically: circulation and dispersion, media preservation, and the aesthetics of obsolescence. In addition to her academic work she is a member of the programming committee for the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival (WUFF) and is a Project Coordinator at Video Pool Media Arts Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
On Friday, September 25, 2020, Bogoch will be in conversation with artists Jean Paul Kelly, Parastoo Anoushapour, Faraz Anoushapour, and Ryan Ferko, and Steve Reinke at 7pm on Zoom. Check the Vtape website for a link to this conversation.
Steve Reinke, Hobbit Love is the Greatest Love, 2007, 14:00
Reinke opens his desktop essay with an immodest proposal to update Adrian Piper’s Calling Card project. Penned as an open letter, and speaking in the plural pronoun “we,” Reinke offers a sarcastic polemic against “that increasingly impossible category: autobiography.” In a later chapter, Reinke graphically elaborates his hyperbolic historical diagram as a diamond shape, the widest point at the centre representing the present situated between two points, past (“trauma”) and future (“apocalypse”). He arrives at this figure by combining a teleological view of history hurtling towards eventual apocalypse, with a retrospective view of biography which is derived out of an unnamed proto-trauma. Reinke’s work thrives at this crossroad of biography and history. There’s an elegant brevity to his organizational logic, often illustrated through diagrams and delivered by his resonant voice and authoritative tone. In the final chapter of Hobbit Love, Reinke presents a series of portraits of military casualties from the Second Gulf War, arranged by attractiveness. While the conceit of this gesture is certainly provocative, the sheer volume of the sample size reflects the unmanageable violence with which we are continually confronted. In response to this magnitude Reinke responds rationally, exhibiting them according to his own desire—a way of ordering the world and its overabundance of images and trauma, which makes about as much (non)sense as anything else.
Faraz Anoushahpour, Parastoo Anoushahpour, Ryan Ferko, Bunte Kuh, 2015, 5:45
Tolstoy wrote that that all happy families are alike. Following from that, it could be said that all travel photos share a similar homogeneity. In Bunte Kuh, the artists mix documentation of a family trip with footage of swimming koi fish. The image rapidly flickers between the two, with overlaid audio of fireworks, and a voice-over reading a found postcard. The integration of the layered audio against the sharp edits creates a rhythmic cadence, which lulls you into a trance-like reverie. The tone and the content strikes a stark contrast—an implication of violence lurking behind the leisure-class luxury of seeking exotic experiences. This disorienting ambience is produced by the artists’ manipulation of the audiovisual afterlife of memories, defamiliarizing their otherwise prosaic content. What transpires is a sensation not unlike déjà vu, an elusive familiarity, which leaves an eerie residue in its wake.
Jean-Paul Kelly, The Innocents, 2014, 12:50
The Innocents begins with the artist presenting 42 prints of images culled from online sources. Lacking any explicit criteria, the stream includes images of violence, sex, and several portraits of Truman Capote, a figure who functions as a sort of conceptual guide throughout the film. Each photo has one or more holes punched out, voids which reappear later as solids in a Super 8 animation. Between these scenes, Capote reappears through a surrogate who wears a plastic bag over his head, and re-enacts an interview with the author, mimicking his gestures. What Capote refers to in the interview as “poetic reporting” could be aptly applied to Kelly’s practice as a whole, particularly his capacity to extract the essence of the documentary image by prying it apart at the seams. In The Innocents, the source material is reduced to its most basic properties, only to be reassembled in new forms which probe at the tangled connections between material, representation, and perception.
Jean-Paul Kelly is a Toronto-based artist working in video, drawing, and photography. His practice questions the limits of representation by examining complex associations between found photographs, videos, sounds, and online media streams. He has extensively exhibited and screened works across North America and Europe and is currently a Visual Studies lecturer at the University of Toronto.
Parastoo Anoushahpour, Faraz Anoushahpour, and Ryan Ferko have worked in collaboration since 2013. Using various performative structures, their projects explore collaboration as a way to upset the authority of a singular narrator or position. Recent work has been shown at New York Film Festival, TIFF , Gallery 44 and Trinity Square Video in Toronto.
Steve Reinke is a Canadian artist and writer best known for his diaristic videos which express his desires and pop culture appraisals with endearing wit. His work is screened widely, and is in several collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Pompidou (Paris), and the National Gallery (Ottawa).
Image credit: forgive me for speaking in my own tongue – 4 mins and 12 secs before entering melancholy, Erika DeFreitas, 2016