by Marc Glassman.
The Images Festival
Info line: 416-345-8181
Screenings at: the Joseph Workman Theatre, 1001 Queen Street West & The Royal, 608 Queen Street West
Live performances and off-site exhibitions: over thirty locations from Harbourfront Centre to York University
When the Images festival started two decades again, the media world was far simpler than it is today. Images was considered radical for screening films and videos together in one programme. Amazingly, no festival in Toronto had thought to do that before 1987.
That was then. Now the festival offers three distinct set of programmes, all of which celebrate their expanded curatorial mandate: “contemporary moving image culture.”
Live Images consists of six performances where musicians and digi-artists combine with on-screen projections in exciting collaborations. For many, these are the must-see events at the festival. Highlights include: The Valerie Project in which ten musicians including members of a “psych folk” Philadelphia band, Espers, will create a live soundtrack to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a surrealist and quite erotic Czech New Wave film from 1970. Charles Atlas and Alan Licht will create an imaginative sound and image ‘scape, combining repetitive film and video sequences with improvised electronic music. Theda offers imagery of silent screen star Theda Bara and other femme fatales created and edited by British artist Georgina Starr to the accompaniment of the sound-stylings of avant-garde Toronto group CCMC.
Images Off Screen presents 36 installations in galleries across the GTA, exhibiting moving imagery generated by computers and video and film projectors. Key installations include: Sadie Benning’s Play Pause (at the Power Plant) in which the famed underground filmmaker presents a two-screen video projection comprised of hundreds of drawings covering a day in a Midwest North American city; Artur Zmijewski, (at Gallery TPW), a brilliant Polish video artist, offers such provocative pieces as Them, where competing groups are allowed to “rework” murals created by their rivals—of course, conflict ensues; and Documentary Uncertainty (at ASpace and the Goethe Institut), where Berlin-based lecturer and filmmaker Hito Steyerl, visual artist Stephen Andrews and video & filmmaker John Greyson show work that explores the changing nature of doc practice.
Images On Screen, the festival’s core events, includes eight programmes of International Shorts, a marvelous dance documentary Hail the New Puritan, in which Charles Atlas explores the exciting collaboration between choreographer Michael Clark and The Fall’s lead musician Mark E. Smith; Trading the Future, a documentary (and Closing night gala) by b.h.yael, looks at the meaning of divinity and the apocalypse today; and Nelson Henricks: the Canadian Spotlight, highlights the work of a superb video essayist from Montreal whose key work Conspiracy of Lies offers a voice-over of alienated twenty-somethings recounting their tales to the visual accompaniment of the objects—disco balls, city streets, coffee cups—that make up their lives.
If Images has a problem, it is that their supposed core, the shorts programmes, is less interesting to reviewers and the public than the live events, gallery installations and retrospectives. Somehow, it’s fitting that this unique festival—half film and half art—should be prospering while having an identity crisis. Will the shorts ever become sexy? Who knows? One thing is certain: Images has become a key event for lovers of art as well as film.