Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, Kodak Lecture

November 29, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Literature & Writing

To paraphrase Joshua Davis (of, "I hate Jackson Pollock. I hate his works with a passion. So what did I do? I read everything I could about him." Seems bizarre to immerse yourself in what you hate but it's more than likely that you hate what you don't understand.

I must admit that I didn't like Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner at all. I felt that the plot was hard to follow, the scenes seemed haphazardly put together and slow moving, and my opinion of the acting wasn't very high. While watching the film for the first time, I had to leave halfway through because I didn't think I could make it all the way to the end.

When I arrived at the Kodak Lecture they were showing The Fast Runner. (Having to see it again is truly a test of understanding through immersion.) At the halfway point, they stopped the movie and turned the floor to Zacharias Kunuk (director) and Norman Cohn (photography director).

Kunuk, in his accented English, spoke shortly about his childhood growing up in Nunavut and how he started making videos in the North at a time when television was rare. Cohn, a New Yorker, continued Kunuk's story of how they met and ended up working on The Fast Runner together.

The majority of the lecture was a Q&A period and it was actually quite revealing of Kunuk and Cohn's character and viewpoints. Kunuk mostly remained quiet and was content with watching Cohn's hands through the eyes of his mini-DV camcorder -- evidence of the Inuit non-didactic storytelling style. On the other hand, Cohn was very opinionated and he usually spent a few minutes answering each audience member's question. (Unfortunately, his humour seemed to be coloured with a slightly condescending tone which affected my view of the presentation quality.)

The answers of most interest to me were on the topic of video versus film. I suppose Hollywood has brainwashed me into thinking that each scene should be well planned in order to save on film but Cohn argues that video will change that mindset and allow a wider range of freedom. Video allows the director to stop worrying about the costs of shooting and instead focus on catching the unexpected moment which can be more interesting than what's written in the script.

In the end, I still didn't think The Fast Runner was any better but having Cohn and Kunuk as speakers did explain quite a lot to me. They definitely used an approach to cinematic representation that hasn't been seen often before and even the subject matter of the North has been scarcely touched.

Cohn had asked, "Who has the power to represent?" And just as Walter Benjamin optimistically wrote in his essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Cohn and Kunuk seem to believe that the magic of video is that everyone can have that power."

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Canada vs. USA

November 23, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Internet & Technology

Very amusing to read this forum war on CBC....

Canada vs. USA

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Find the art in everyday objects

November 23, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Art & Design, Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

I knew that this whole open source thing was a good idea...

The creators of ReadyMade magazine have been recently interviewed on radio (listen here).

These two ladies certainly know what it's all about:

"Today everything is mass produced and we lose our sense of process and tactile art. Ready Made is empowering to people because it helps them figure out how things are made.... Find the art in everyday objects." (paraphrased from the interview)

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Links: stock photo

November 20, 2002 at 06:57 PM

Category: Art & Design

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website ideas

November 20, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Internet & Technology

The creator of Strong Bad is soooo in tune with the web design world. (And I don't mean that sarcastically at all... For those that know, I wonder if he's been visiting the forums of FITO? hehe.)

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Take Me, I'm Yours

November 19, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Art & Design, Literature & Writing

Take Me, I'm Yours

Novemeber 14 to December 15, 2002

Curated by:
Jan Allen

Featuring works by:
Laurel Woodcock

Laurel Woodcock's Lured I (front) and Lured II (back)

Laurel Woodcock is an artist, writer and teacher in Montreal so I haven't ever met her before in my life but I think Laurel and I must have a psychic thing going on.

The shoes that appear in her cinematic-sized video projection Lured I are in my closet. And since I actually have a few fly pictures of my own, it's good to know that I'm not the only one who thinks flies can be made into an art form as Laurel has done in her operetta piece.

Overall, I thought that Laurel Woodcock: take me, I'm yours, a selection of her works since 1997, was a great show. I was worried when I read that her works were 'ambiguous juxtapositions' because I thought it would end up to be one of those bizarre art shows where nothing makes sense while a curator prances around proclaiming how "marvelous!" everything was but Laurel's art pieces were definitley down to earth.

There seemed to have been an overall theme of taking little things and blowing them out of prorportion. For example, Woodcock's Advisory Warning seemed to have been examining the futileness of trying to predict our future. Next to a magnify glass examining a 'business card horoscope', a tiny LCD screen was showing a tornado. Much like how weather is based on chaos theory, trying to understand our future using the occult pokes fun at those who obsess over their daily horoscope. The use of a magnify glass was quite amusing since it was hard to read the horoscope without twisting my head this way and that. It also seems to play on the idea of those who examine parapsychology phenomenon and how they are fighting to have their field taken seriously as a true science.

A whirlwind tour of the rest of the exhibit:

  • Extreme Sport was quite amusing. It reminded me of sitting in the nose bleed section of a sporting arena, staring at dots of people, wondering what the heck is going on down in the playing field or basketball court.
  • Lured I seems to capture the human psyche very well. As I wondered why I was watching this woman lose her keys in the sewer drain over and over again (a different angle each time), I thought about how we replay are most stupid moments again and again in our heads as if we could somehow change the past.
  • Lured II (a pile of silver candy and a video of a pre-teen girl examining how our personality is projected in the way we eat candy) caused an interesting effect on me. I had a candy before listening to the video so when the girl started talking, I immediately felt self-conscious. Turn that around and it made me remember how it felt to be her age again with everyone scrutinizing me (or at least feeling like everyone was scrutinizing me).
  • A series of framed, stark white photos of a sole fly were in one corner. Definetley a play on the idea of a "fly on the wall". It's interesting how we have an ability to pay attention to only what other people tell us to pay attention to.
  • Operetta was talked a lot about during my visit so I'll only compliment Laurel here. (Good job, Laurel.)

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Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi

November 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Moving Media

And so I must add one more movie onto my growing list of 'wow' movies...

After seeing Naqoyqatsi last week, I was pumped to see Koyaanisqatsi (1983) playing at the Royal alongside Baraka (1992) (more info).

Koyaanisqatsi was on first and I couldn't help but think that the movie would probably look the same even if it was filmed today. (Except perhaps more frantic? It's hard to tell because I see Koyaanisqatsi as being very modern but I really can't remember how life was when I was 3 years old.)

Ron Fricke did an amazing job with the photographic directing. If there's one thing that I love about film, it's time elapse scenes. Then also add time elapse to night light and traffic scenes... drool.

And so I wasn't prepared for Baraka... I was recommended Baraka over a year ago and I wish I would have seen it earlier because it was awesome. (And by that, I do mean awesome in that awe-inspiring way... My next mission is to see Baraka on an IMAX screen!)

Very interesting to see how Fricke used some of the same footage used in Koyaanisqatsi but he was really able to revisit it in order to give it a different feel. The time elapse in this film was also much more elegant.

Seeing these two movies in one night totally makes me want to travel and see what's outside my little Canadian bubble. It's a bit crazy how we take our current lifestyles as the only lifestyle.

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Ian-Carr Harris

November 12, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Art & Design, Literature & Writing

Ian-Carr Harris

Power Plant
September 21 to November 17, 2002

Curated by:
Philip Monk

Featuring work by:
Ian Carr-Harris

"My work centers on acts of re-tracing -- we could call it 're-touching' -- conceived as forms of demonstration. Events rather than objects, they require that we look at something that we already 'know', and in that looking to discover -- not quickly, nor entirely grasped -- something we took for granted." -- Ian Carr-Harris

Okay, well I seem to understand what Carr-Harris' goal was but I found that this survey exhibition of his work from 1989 to 1999 was very 'un-eventful' and unimpressive for an artist producing work for the past few decades.

Perhaps it's because I don't care to put the effort and time into understanding his complexities -- just as our tour guide seemed to suggest about the art critics who have decided against even writing anything about Carr-Harris' works. At least it makes me feel good that I'm not alone in my feelings and that the befuddlement that is Ian Carr-Harris has caused the current issue of Lola Magazine to feature an entire article about this 'generation art gap'.

Let's examine his piece Jan. - Mar. then. Okay, so it's some sort of wooden office island/cabinet with a bundled stack of magazines on top. The magazines are contemporary and the title of the work seems to suggest something about time. One end of the office island appears unfinished, the tour guide doesn't want us to touch anything so we can't open any of the drawers and, most importantly, it's a piece of furniture in the middle of an art gallery. All of this must be focusing on the non-functional nature of the work.

So, now am I suppose to realize how much I take office furniture for granted? (How much I take functional office furniture for granted??) Made in Hong Kong (a bookcase cabinet) caused similar confusion with me.

Yes, indeed, there seems to be a generation gap (mental gap?) going on here.

Even Annabel, created in 1999, would have appeared to connect more with me since it featured a computer voice but I felt no emotional tug with this one either. The voice was a bit garbled too so I couldn't even tell what the words were.

The curator, Philip Monk, writes in his essay, "the banality of the voice... [leaves] a strange mix of longing and loss."

Unfortunately, I only feel that Carr-Harris' message was lost.

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November 09, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Moving Media

And so the battle of man vs. technology continues in epic proportions in Godfrey Reggio's Naqoyqatsi...

My first impression of this movie was that it was like a 90 minute After Effects music video. Very breathtaking at some points while also using too many early-90s style computer graphics. (But I forgive Reggio for that since I'm pretty sure that most of the production was done in the early-90s.)

I loved the music so much. I'm going to have to buy the soundtrack. The score was by Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma performed the cello solos. Ahhh, so beautiful. I'm kicking myself for not seeing Glass when he performed in Toronto last week!

Some powerful moments:

  • the crash test dummimes on the airplane

  • the dancer who left Muybridge-esque x-ray imprints of movement

  • image of the football players, then the surgeons

  • dolly the lamb

  • flying through the stars and finally realizing that the chanting was saying 'Naqoysati' because I never remember how it's pronounced.

Statement from Reggio:

"From the p.o.v. of NAQOYQATSI, we do not use technology, we live technology; technology is our way of life. Being sensate entities, we become our environment - we become what we see, what we hear, what we eat, what we smell, what we touch. Where doubt is prohibited, we become, without question, the environment we live in."

Qoute from Ivan Illich:

"To the degree that he masters his tools, [man] can invest the world with his meaning; to the degree he is mastered by his tools, the shape of the tool determines his own self-image."

Also very interesting to read other people's comments on the Naqoyqatsi website in response to Reggio's statement.

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Profit with a cost

November 07, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Misc

A bullentin board post on xvi by K'an:

"I read about this psych experiment once... they wanted to test the effects of profit-incentive on people, So they tracked down a few NYC graff crews and offered them quite a bit of cash for specific murals on specific walls for a specific amount. After several murals, they informed all of the crews that they ran out of funding and couldn't continue paying them. They ALL stopped graffing permanently...

"moral of the story: Anything you're passionate about becomes distasteful when the profit motive is introduced."

His recommened reading: Hakim Bey's Immediatism

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A Letter to Fiona

November 06, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Literature & Writing

Excerpts from a Jessica Helfand essay, written in the style of Fay Weldon's ""Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen:

"Dear Fiona:

You are turning two in a few weeks and I think that it's high time you understood a thing or two about graphic design. After all, you are part of Generation ABC and what are ABCs, after all, but typography?

... A lot of people say print is dead... Print isn't dead, sweetheart. It's just sleeping.

So as you begin to learn your ABCs, remember that your mind is like a giant alarm clock that wakes those letters up so that they spell something, so that they mean something.

... Remember that your ABCs are what helps you read, and reading is what opens up your mind so that you can learn about anything you want... And even though we read them printed on paper and you will very likely read them emblazoned on a screen... It doesn't matter, because no matter what the typography does (or doesn't do), and no matter what print is (or isn't), words are just ideas waiting to be read. And reading will never die. Reading is your ticket to the world.""

A Letter to Fiona on First Reading The End of Print
from Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
by Jessica Helfand (2000)

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Coffee with a conscience

November 02, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Category: Misc

When I use to live in Ottawa, there was a great coffeeshop in Westboro called Bridgehead. They sold fair trade coffee and the most wicked chicken morocco sandwiches.

They didn't have any chicken sandwiches when I got there but I was happy to see the place very busy.

And I was extremely happy to see that the Bridgehead has expanded with two more locations: one in the Glebe (108 Third Ave) and another on the corner of Bank Street/Gilmour Street (this location also busy when I went there).

Toronto people can check out Alternative Grounds for their fair trade coffee fix and other links.

Coffee Facts:

  • it takes about 3,500 coffee beans to produce one pound (454g) of roasted coffee
  • the world market price for coffee is around $0.65US for 1-lb. (Almost 50 percent lower than the farmer's cost of production.)
  • it takes five years for coffee bushes to produce their fruit.

Interesting tidbit:

"With prices what they are, farmers can't cover costs; they don't take care of their crops, and that makes for bad coffee," said Juan Osco, president of the La Florida cooperative to which Alto Incariado's farmers belong. "That way, the only option we have is coca." Coca is the raw material for cocaine.

"The higher price they get tips the scales for farmers torn between trying their luck with traditional coffee, yucca or banana crops, and those joining the growing ranks of producers of illegal coca leaf."

- from article Peru jungle farmers raise cups to fair trade coffee by Missy Ryan, Reuters, September 25, 2002

another article: The Shadow of Globalization

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