Better and cheaper technologies have made video and new media considerably more accessible in recent years, but significant barriers remain. While any middle-schooler with laptop privileges can broadcast her own YouTube channel, fully realizing one's artistic vision still requires technical know-how, access to equipment and facilities, time and, of course, money. Each year, Video Pool Media Arts Centre's New Artists in Media Art program and Media Production Fund provide emerging and established artists with all of these. The annual showcase of works created with the two funds, Memory awareness expectation, recently opened at Platform Centre.
Nadia's Song by Marianne Jonasson is a loving tribute to the artist's mother, a concert violinist and original member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra who passed away last year. In the video portrait without narration we watch and listen as Nadia Novak Jonasson, 90, gives a commanding piano performance while a silent stream of photographs and ephemera trace key accomplishments and hardships in the musician's life.
A more conventional narrative short, Kevin Tabachnik's Memory Lain tells the story of a young man mourning the death of a partner. Inconsolable at first, he comes to a realization about the sustaining power of memory in a climactic, cleverly shot scene where a wall of empty picture frames flicker to life in a cluster of ghostly projected vignettes.
Jamie Isaac uses projection to address memory and loss -- as well as anger -- in Burning an Effigy, a reflection on the enduring legacy of residential schooling at Sagkeeng First Nation. A detailed model schoolhouse sits mutely on a plinth in a back corner of the gallery, lit by a sequence of disconnected images, including grainy archival photographs and flashes of a crackling fire. At once a monument and an exorcism, the work is a gesture of both remembering and letting go.
Another video-sculptural hybrid, Ryan Amadore's Float On is a charmingly rough-hewn diorama built into a freestanding alcove. A pair of projected videos illuminate a featureless wax figurine bobbing on the surface of a papier-m¢ché lake. Clouds drift across the dome-shaped sky and shafts of light glimmer beneath the surface. A sub-aquatic soundscape further evokes the experience of tranquil solitude, even as the work's modest materials and construction insist on shattering the illusion.
In The Last Tea Party, Elvira Finnigan continues her long-running "Saltwatch Experiments." For this new narrative iteration, Finnigan gathered a group of local artists for a formal tea party, relived through brief glimpses and fragments of dialogue. Once the guests leave, the elaborate table setting is bathed in concentrated salt water, encrusting every surface with chalky films and glittering crystals as it evaporates. Flashbacks to the party are intercut with sweeping shots of the transformed tablescape. The formal tea and its trappings are presented as a disappearing vestige of British colonialism and a jumping-off point for a rumination on the passage of time.
While Last Tea Party's gentle studio lighting and artist Diane Whitehouse's crisp, forbidding narration lend it the darkly whimsical air of British TV mystery, Shawn Jordan's sacred not sacred: pilgrimage investigates ephemeral, overlooked "landscapes" with the reverent attention of a nature documentary. The camera lingers on Winnipeg's ubiquitous parking-lot snow piles: bathed in winter light and with few clues as to scale, they take on the grandeur of glaciers and mountain peaks. Only the occasional glimpse of a traffic light or hydro pole breaks the spell, and a solemn, philosophical voiceover questions our seeming need to escape the everyday in order to find transcendence.
The showcase is on until Aug. 23 -- if you have an idea of your own that could use a bit of support, the next round of deadlines at Video Pool isn't until May 2015.
Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist and writer.