Posts Tagged ‘film’

As I’ve mentioned before, I tried to see as many of the CONTACT Photography exhibits as I could in the last few days of May.  I blogged about two weeks ago about the ‘blocks’ at Brookfield Place.  I have been meaning to finish posting about the other exhibits I saw but there’s so much happening in the city.  I’ve been spending a lot of time walking with my camera instead of sitting in front of my computer.

Two of the exhibits that I saw were on King St West, one by Metro Hall and the other on the corner of the TIFF Lightbox building.   I haven’t been able to figure out what to say about the photos so they have sat in a folder on my hard drive.   Unfortunately they are not alone.  Yesterday I went back to take another look at the exhibits and think through a few thoughts, but the photos are gone.  Procrastination has its pitfalls.  TIFF Lightbox is now promoting their “Canada on Screen” program – all year, all free – as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

below: The corner of Widmer and King back in May.  The photos are “On Location” by Sam Cotter.

large photo on the corner of a building, taken during a movie shoot on the streets of Toronto (Bay St), a young man is sitting against the other side of the corner of the building asking passers by for money.

bikes parked in front of a large photo mounted on the side of the TIFF lightbox building, showing an orange movie shoot cone and a fake city street sign.

below: A similar viewpoint, taken yesterday.  Different pictures.. and different bikes.

bikes parked in front of a large poster advertising TIFF's Canada on Screen program, a collage of black and white pictures taken from movies.

The other exhibit was “The Sum of All Parts” by Jalani Morgan.

This is a story about an exhibit that is showing at the Art Gallery of Ontario at the moment, “A Story of Negotiation” by Francis Alys.  The exhibit is a look at three of Alys’s large projects.  For each project there were many studies, notes, and sketches.  Drawings and paintings dot the walls and cover many tables.  There are three large videos to watch (not the ones shown below).  It is a fairly complex installation and only a small part of it is included here.

two women looking over a table with art displays on it , in an art gallery

below: In 2006 Alys tried to organize two lines of fishing boats, one from Florida and one from Cuba, that would form a bridge between the United States and Florida.  It was unsuccessful.  He repeated the project in 2008, this time between Spain and Morocco.

a young man is looking at two video screens that are mounted on the wall

a line of little sailboats on the floor, all parallel to each other, the base of the boat (hull) is a flip flop or sandal.

below: More on borders, pairs of words that depend on which side you’re on.
Words such as leave/return and us/them.

4 small green and yellow pictures on a pink wall

Alys also spent time embedded with British forces in Afghanistan.

a display of pictures, paintings, drawings, sketches, and notes as part of an art exhibit

below: Alys made a videos on kids flying kites in Afghanistan.  There was also a video of kids rolling a large reel of film through the streets and alleys in an Afghan city.

3 wood benches in front of a table mounted to a wall, art on the table, a video screen on the wall with a movie about kids in Afghanistan flying kites, some people in the background

below: Weapons made of found objects

in a yellow room with two small pictures hanging crookedly on the wall. A table in the middle of the room, glass covering artwork on the table. Sitting on the table is an automatic rifle (artwork) made of found objects

below: Instead of a round of ammunition, there is a reel of film. This is true in all of Alys’s ‘automatic rifles’ that are displayed here

close up of a sculpture of an automatic rifle where the round of ammo is replaced by a reel of film

a circle of art weapons, automatic rifles, made of found objects, with barrels all pointed inwards,

The exhibit continues at the AGO until April 2nd.

a little wooden human figure is doing the front crawl, one arm outstretched, on a bubble of clear plastic on a table top

Invention, an installation at The Power Plant gallery, by Mark Lewis.

The main part of the exhibit consists of 3 short films shot in Toronto.
When I first saw it, I thought that the films were older, perhaps from the 60s or 70s.

below:  A short film begins with a pan over part of downtown Toronto.  It circles back to the Robarts Library and focuses on a woman standing in the window of one of the upper floors.  After zooming in on the woman, the film “enters” the room she’s in and turns back to focus on what her view out the window looks like.

Two women are standing in the semi darkness in a room in an art gallery, watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is the back of the upper part of a woman as she stands in front of a window in the Robarts Library in Toronto. The scene outside the window is clearly visible, winter time, University of Torotno campus. She is holding a book in her hands.

below:  Another exhibit is a film comprised of segments filmed at a number of locations around City Hall this past winter.   The image below is shot from the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south.   Old City hall is on the left.   There are no people in the picture.  There are also no commercial images such as billboards or signs on the buildings.  Slow moving, quiet.

An older couple are sitting on a bench at an art gallery. They are watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is a shot of the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south, in the winter with snow on the ground. There are no people in the picture on the screen.

It wasn’t until I looked more closely at the images that I realized that the films had to have been made recently… for example, the recently built stage area in Nathan Phillips Square.  So I watched the films again looking for details.

One of the images shown in an art installation on a large wall screen, a black and white picture overlooking Nathan Phillips Square in the winter.

A little perplexed, I tried to find out why Lewis made these films, and why they were considered to be “art”. It wasn’t easy; it was probably made more difficult by my love/hate relationship with contemporary art.  The title of this post comes from a paragraph I found on The Power Plant website description of this installation: “Together, the elements that make up Mark Lewis’ films culminate in a body of work that is as astute as it is elegiac in its contemplation of the quotidian, offering an experience of the flux of time that is as elating in its duration as it is haunting for its sense of passing.”  Well, um, okay.

It also wasn’t easy because of the scope of the questions that Lewis seems to be tackling.  One of his interest lies in discovering what it might have felt like when film revolutionized they way we looked at ourselves and at the world around us.   That’s a tough one.  We are a society that is immersed in moving images of all kinds. Movies and TV have been part of our lives for many generations.  Can anyone truly imagine what it might have been like to see a film for the first time?

As we all know, digital technology has put video production into the hands of anyone with a cellphone.   Even my three year old granddaughter asks me to make videos of her and I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s producing them.  And that leads to another question that Lewis is interested in examining – what are the implications of these technological changes?  Not only can see video, we can be in control of making our own whenever we want.

But that’s not all.  Lewis is also interested in architectural surfaces so walls, windows, pavements and reflective glass amongst others play a role in his films.   Urban architecture; urban landscapes.  Cinema made of the ordinary everyday life of living in the city and everyday life in the city is cinema.  24/7 movie making.  You are part of the cast; you are the camera.

What I have presented here are just three pictures and I’m not sure the pictures do the films justice.   If you want to see these films, they are at The Power Plant gallery until 3 Jan 2016.


Part Picture,
an exhibit at MOCCA,
part of CONTACT Photography Festival

Like the introduction of film photography once usurped the role of painters and engravers, the introduction of digital photography has supplanted the photographer of old.  We are all photographers now.  A smartphone.  A little bit of software.  And presto, you have a picture.   Many, many bazillions of pictures.  Photography excels at visually telling stories, documenting events or capturing a moment in time either with a single image or in a series of photos.  The expression ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ comes to mind.  Even a blurry selfie says something.

Photography has always had an uneasy relationship with art (with the fine art, visual artsy stuff in particular).  This art, while also visual, often has a slightly different focus.  It too aims to elicit emotions and reactions but no one expects an artwork to document or to tell a story albeit some do.  But art too is in flux (and probably has been for a while).   What hasn’t already been done?  What rules are left to break?

So what’s a photographer to do?


pictures on a gallery wall.  the picture in the foreground has 4 coloured wires protruding from it, 2 yellow and 2 red.

Part of the description of this exhibit states: “placing photography in conversation with other artistic mediums – particularly painting and sculpture – to create hybrid works that are only part picture”.

pictures on an art gallery wall.  In the middle of the room is a large roll of photographic paper that has been developed with streaks of colour.  It hangs from the ceiling and lays on the floor.

Experiments with chemicals on photographic paper; experiments with photoshop artifacts as part of the image;  experiments with how one frames or hangs a picture.  What is photography anyhow?

two pictures on a wall of a gallery.  The one on the right is of pink flowers and is in a metal frame.   The one on the left is an abstract of white and black that looks like cracks in a white surface

Four pictures on an art gallery wall, all abstract.  One of them protrudes from the wall at a 90 degree angle.

below: close up of part of the picture from above, the one that is hung perpendicular to the wall.

close up of what looks like a collage

Just because something is different doesn’t mean that it’s good just as not all experiments are a success but  kudos to those who try.  I will leave it to you to decide which category (good/bad) these pictures fall into.