Frames Frozen

sno-screen: Various Artists
February 23, 2002

a project of aceartinc. and the National Screen Institute held in Old Market Square including work by U of M video students

a response to the exhibition by Alex Poruchnyk

It all seemed to start when jake moore saw Heaven, a co-production by Jack Lauder and Lloyd Brandson, at a Video Pool First Video Fund meeting held one snowy night. In Lauder and Brandson’s video, two people walk off across the lake on a frozen winter day wearing only the barest of necessities. Eventually, they disappear on the horizon.

Jack and jake started talking about the idea and how great it would be to have a screen made of snow to project the video onto. We all had various images of such a screen valiantly piercing the horizon of a barren wind blown plain like an obelisk. Little did we know how cold the reality would be.

Difference between wow factor i.e., (spectacle) and What if factor (i.e., Exploration ). What will happen? How will it look? What will it mean? How will the meaning change it?

Images passing across a surface locked in solid form for a short time, waiting to become water and air.

Months later, there was a call from jake to see if video students at the University of Manitoba School of Art were interested in participating in an outdoor screening put on by ace artinc. The screening was slated for the middle of February, and why not make it an open call?

After consulting with the students, the answer was yes! As time passed the event became larger. The City of Winnipeg was very helpful, and the National Screening Institute was becoming involved. William E. White International Inc. graciously contributed to the event.

Maybe some NFB animation could kick off the evening and mark the beginning of the Film Exchange Festival.

What would Marshall McLuhan say about all this “Hot” medium of film and “Cool” medium of video together on icy snow screen?

For this event both film and video would be projected as video. The video class at the School of Art spread the word, and they helped organize and compile the video entries. Tim Phillips from the board of ace artinc. came out to the school to work with us. Many of the video students also volunteered downtown, by cleaning the area and setting-up for the event with the volunteers from aceartinc.

Along with countless gallery volunteers, jake moore, Jean Klimack, Liz Garlicki, Doug Lewis, and aceartinc.’s board carried out the bulk of the organizing. Doug’s dad supplied the logs for the fire. Steve Bates set up the sound system, and Erica Lincoln ran the sound for the night while Tim Phillips handled the projector.

Once all the logos were carved into the side into the snow screen, it began to look like a Flintstone’s TV. I’m sure it related to the depth of the screen.

Who would have guessed it would get so cold. The long intermission was brutal.

Community involvement and communication versus Power

With the CBC in attendance, the formal event began with speeches. Lights go up, then lights go down. Hot chocolate / Pop-corn / Tents

Director Cordell Barker Strange Invaders, was well received and was followed by a lengthy intermission. Parents with children drifted off to thaw them out with bath and bed. Much of the audience moved off to warm themselves and visit with people they hadn’t seen in a while all with the best intentions of returning.

I’m reminded of the movie Down Hill Racer. Near the end of the movie the racer (played by Robert Redford), beats the winning time of the other favorite in the competition. By all appearances he’ll win except that there is still one last competitor racing down the hill. The snow is now icy and cut up with frozen ruts that impede the young racers progress. Although people are crowding around him, Robert Redford’s cheering character is looking back up the hill remembering his journey to this moment while continuing to watch the last entry. He realizes that this last racer is very close to beating his time and that could still take away his win. Suddenly the last racer slips and crashes to the ground, his valiant run unnoticed by the crowd that’s heading off to celebrate.

I looked around with some concern as the chances of an audience for the remaining works seemed to dwindle. The cold plastic chairs in front of the screen were empty and only a few scattered bodies remained most of them right beside the fires burning in 45-gallon drums.

As I shivered by one of these drums, I noticed that people were starting to drift in like ghosts. They took up the plastic chairs and gathered around the screen. It was a heart warming sight to see a second audience taking shape, and adding to the remaining brave souls, who were still stomping their feet to keep warm.

All of ace artinc.’s planning and effort, combined with community support made the event successful. They put together all elements for the event and were even around for the glamorous and sexy process piece called ‘teardown.’

Power and Spectacle was overcome by commitment and involvement.

Although many of the video works were studies or sketches, produced by students mid-way through the year, it was a strong package. There is no mistaking talent and potential. The works ranged from visually enticing entries to works both funny and outrageous.

Dave Witick’s Smut Salesman was just trying to bring a little joy into a lonely and lackluster world. Victoria Prince’s animation work was beautiful and challenging — another crowd pleaser. The writing and performance presented in Erica Eyres’s video was skillfully handled. Her persona-based character is at one time disarming and funny, then suddenly bittersweet and tragic. We catch ourselves fist laughing and then trying to figure out how things have changed.

These works were driven by various notions of art making held by people who are in the process of being trained in photography, video, painting, drawing, media and performance and installation. It is also not surprising that many of these students are also interested in film theory and production. Increasingly, students are coming into these areas computer-literate, and they have access to the latest software via the internet, so their objectives with art creation and output is totally changing.

The growth in technology over the past decade has bridged the gap between film and video editing; often the same software can be used. The skills are transferable but the intent still seems quite different. Time is compressed for these students — their influences come from music, art, film, video, performance, writing (books and articles) from around the world, and they have access to samples of these on audio and video, from archives, from libraries and via the internet — not to mention primary research and experience.

They can now easily output direct lyto the internet, burn a DVD — the same medium that movies are seen from. This may account for the diversity of interest shown by new producers.

It is also interesting that many new works were shot or created digitally using programs like Aura, Photoshop, After Effects, and their like. These producers work with tools that can change the composition, the lighting, character and the colour of the image to the point of layering and compositing and animating at an extremely a high quality. Many artists also are intrigued by the notion of processing over and over, working with the images caught in the process of devolving. Still others are interested in the debris from popular culture.

Sound is also digital-quality with software to sequence, alter, and clean in ways that at one time were only hoped for with expensive, high-end pieces of equipment. Andrew McMillan and Steve Siemens presented two examples of this interest. Their audio-based pieces were created using sound (music or sound-scape) combined with image or story.

It’s worth noting how abstract many of the works in the program were. With the potential to shoot work and capture subtleties of light and color it seems that some works are focusing more on these elements. There are too many works to discuss each one, but the entire body of film and video was worth the watch.

There is a changing relationship between huge Hollywood productions and independent works.

It is a gift to see promising work created by dedicated people who are stretching their knowledge and pushing the boundaries. One day we can look back to remember the screening and have an insight into an artist’s work. The audience was there to celebrate their accomplishments.

Dave Barber, from the Film Group, put together a couple of shows that included some of the participants from that night. Bless his Video / film / art-loving soul.

Hope for the future.

If this event becomes an ongoing thing maybe a way can be found to raise the screen and make it larger. That will help the entire area become more of a sculptural plane while making viewing more possible. It was difficult to see over people were who were standing.

The mix created by involving NSI was interesting if not a little schizophrenic but both sensibilities were pulled off with an air of professionalism and we all got a good show.

I admire ace artinc.’s risk-taking and all around sense of adventure. This brings us interesting programming that energizes the community. The night reminded me of Video Pool’s early efforts to bring us work and introduce new artists and ideas. Bravo.

Alex Poruchnyk is a video and installation artist who lives in Winnipeg. He has taught at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art since 1989, and is currently chair of video. Poruchnyk’s research focuses on issues of multi-media, both 2-D and 3-D spaces expressed through video, 3-D animation and scuptural constructions. These become the backdrop to investigate deconstructed/reconstructed narratives. Poruchnyk’s single-channel video continues to be screened both at home and abroad, and his work can be found in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Alex has been actively involved in the arts community since 1978. He was President of Plug-In Gallery in 1981 as well as executive member of the original Artspace Board, co-founder of Video Pool Inc. and a past member of Shared Stage.