There’s a new art-house theatre in town and the films have been running all day, nonstop for nearly a month. Best of all, admission is free.
An ongoing series of screenings at University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03, Moving Images brings together an impressive range of material. Works span cutting edge documentary, video art and performance, traditional narrative and cinematic abstraction, each the work of a UW alumnus or prof. The exhibition helps mark the university’s 50th year and the gallery’s 30th, and its adventurous, interdisciplinary spirit is testament to the school’s unique creative and intellectual environment.
With no shortage of material to choose from, 1C03 curator Jennifer Gibson and veteran art and film critic Alison Gillmor set themselves the task of crafting five weekly thematic collections, each a manageable half-hour long.
The first week tackled complex, often competing notions of "place." Mike Mariniuk and Matthew Rankin invited us to a Manitoba cattle auction-turned-high-speed fever dream. Paula Kelly offered an elliptical account of the 1950 Red River flood using archival materials. And we followed poet and polymath Roewan Crowe’s cowgirl action-figure avatar on her quest for queer love and acceptance in wild Western Canada.
The political got personal the next week. Ervin Chartrand’s 504938C offered a concise portrait of a former inmate torn between family and culture on one hand and gang affiliation on the other. Land Memories by Scott Benesiinaabandan was a digitally abstracted elegy to the men Saskatchewan police left to die of exposure on their infamous "Starlight Tours." The program also featured a spellbinding digital remix of Cree narration and landscape imagery by Kevin Lee Burton and experimental works looking at images of war and experiences of diaspora
Last Week’s The Haunted Cinema mined horror and pastiche in their varied guises. Acting as choreographer and filmmaker, Freya Björg Olafson exploited lo-fi digital effects and jerky time-delays to unnervingly animate and reanimate her skeletal performer’s danse macabre. In perhaps/WE, Solomon Nagler found reverberations of the Holocaust in Structural Film’s scratched, burned and brutalized celluloid, exposing a traumatized fracturing of identity and confusion of tongues.
Easily UW’s most distinguished filmmaking alum, Guy Maddin’s film Heart of the World features Soviet silent-film esthetics, a weak-willed femme fatale, a crucifixion, a cadaver and some outsized phalluses, which I’m pretty sure is Guy Maddin bingo.
Given his devoted following, Moving Images understandably succumbs a bit to Maddin-mania. On top of a speaking engagement last month, he has some fairly unremarkable photo-collages upstairs in the library, which come off mostly as product placement for his local gallery.
Visitors can also access Seances, his online collaboration with brothers Evan and Galen Johnson for the National Film Board. Groundbreaking in terms of technology, storytelling and sheer ambition, Seances dynamically recuts Maddin’s recreations of 18 lost Silent Age films. With every viewing, an algorithm churns out a new, self-destructing composition, each ephemeral and (for this avowed film philistine at least) uniquely unwatchable.
I’m personally looking forward to the current selection, Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives. Films include Danishka Esterhazy’s adaptation of witchy punk-pop fabulist Francesca Lia Block’s own retelling of the Bluebeard legend, a wry take on mass-market cultural appropriation by the Ephemerals, and further meditations on autonomy, motherhood, caregiving and loss. The Ephemerals, Esterhazy and Olafson will also join indigenous artist and scholar Dr. Julie Nagam on Feb. 9 at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall to discuss themes of the current program, which runs until Saturday, Feb. 11.
The exhibition closes on a somewhat lighter note next week with a collection titled Funny Haha and Funny Peculiar.
Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.