Art & Culture My Projects

Liminal Screen


The Banff Centre for the Arts in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Canada is world-renowned as a place where artists retreat to create and think. For over 70 years this very special place has been catalysing creativity and developing leaders in the arts — a track record few places in the world can lay claim to.

I’ve been invited to be a peer advisor for the upcoming Liminal Screen co-production residency at the Banff Centre, within the Banff New Media Institute. I wanted to post the opportunity here to entice ambitious artists from around the world who are engaged with screen-based practices to apply.

This residency will “…focus its inquiry on the transitions between screen and life, as the screen reinforces its central position as an ubiquitous communications portal, data visualization surface, and frame on an ever more meditated world. Practitioners from all walks of screen-based practice are encouraged to apply to the program. We are particularly interested in practice that extends its investigation of the screen out into other media or networks (biological, philosophical, social, and other systems) and explores the spaces and relationships between screen, mind, and hard reality.”

Scholarships and financial aid are available. Apply via the Banff Centre website, deadline September 25, 2009.


Much Ado About a Meme

Eight years ago, a filmmaker by the name of Charles Stone III was approached by Anheuser-Busch to turn his short film into a series of adverts for Budweiser, and the Whassup? meme was born. (There is extensive history and information on the awards this ad campaign won on Wikipedia.)

Soon, “True, true”, “Yo dookie”, and of course, “Whassup?” became part of the vernacular, at least in North America. The popularity of the series led to a torrent of parodies and homages. My favourite is the painstakingly crafted mashup wherein the Superfriends play the roles of the Whassup boys.

In 2008, this meme is pretty old, and basically out of circulation. And so it goes with these things: they come and go, enjoy their moment in the pop culture sunshine, and then are replaced with something else. But this time is different: with the American election imminent, the Whassup boys are back, imbuing their initial schtick with substance and effectively playing on the power of the meme created by the initial advert and subsequent parodies. Enough time has passed that people have forgotten about Whassup, but not enough time has gone by for it to be a totally irrelevant reference.

It’s marvellous to see such a clever re-use of a much-loved meme. …and it gives me an excuse to say: get out there and vote, my American friends!

Repetition and gesture

Yesterday evening, I attended a video programme at FIFA (Festival Internationale du Film sur l’Art). This solid programme was curated by Nicole Gingras, one of my favourite video curators around, and included a few artists I am aware of and enjoy very much (Daniel Cockburn, Nelly-Ève Rajotte, Paul Landon), with some work by artists whose work I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing (Mario Côté).

Among the pieces I enjoyed was “Peindre la Peinture”, a video by Katherine Liberovskaya, with an original score by Phill Niblock, and the participation of painter Graham Cantieni. The premise of the video was simple: a camera was attached to the painter’s wrist as he painted. The video was hypnotic, a rhythm developing as we follow the progress of the painter’s gesture: dipping the brush, sweeping it across the canvas, dipping the brush in the paint again. The piece was long, by current hip video art standards, at just over fifteen minutes. Though the constant swooping did make me a little dizzy, I think the length was required to achieve the trance-like effect it eventually induced; and relaxing completely into the piece’s rhythm caused me to think how similar the feeling I was having was to the feeling one has when creating – a concentration and intensity that comes with the act of execution, once past the euphoria of generating the idea.

I thought about how at first glance, painting might seem to be a series of mysterious and complicated gestures – the magic is all in the wrist and hand, right? Perhaps this is true, for certain kinds of painting, but in the case of this video it was represented as an endlessly repeating, broad gesture. I liked this about it, and it led me to thinking about how much obsessive repetition plays a part in all art making – performers repeating lines and gestures, video loops, sculptures based on molding and casting. Implicitly, repetition is about perfecting something – a perfect image, a perfect experience, a perfect object. The execution of a style becomes an artist’s second nature, perfected through repetition. I think particularly of paintings by Roman Opalka and Agnes Martin, which are very different, but still repetitive, comtemplative work. Their painterly gestures became repetitive in the extreme.

Perhaps finally, repetition becomes a trusted technique because it is comforting. It is rule-based, it is part of a quest for perfection and the regulations it imposes enable us to focus on a singular path of attaining perfection. Perhaps it seems simple, and even ridiculous, to strive for this. It is definitely futile – however many times something is repeated, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to say that you have truly perfected a thing – be it painting a line, delivering a line of dialogue, or popping a wheelie. Perhaps I’m forcing a point when I say the end goal of all this repetition is perfection – it’s an end point that we actually don’t want to reach, since the results of endless attempts are so beautiful in and of themselves. Or as Mark C. Taylor wrote in the catalogue for the exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, “Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present“: “There is no end to art because the gap in which it emerges can never be closed.”