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Pleasure Dome begins our Fall screenings with a collection of recent tapes by four of the most inventive video artists working in Canada today. These are sophisticated, literary videos which, depending on your preference, enact either a simulacral breakdown or a breakdown in simulacra. Each absorbs and integrates the waves of media interference that threaten to destroy the possibility of first-person narrative. The following seven videos succeed at this near-impossibility by the skin of their (electronic) tongues. The program is comprised of Joanne Bristol’s Videobut, Nelson Henricks’ Emission and Shimmer, and Jan Peacock’s Sirensong and Whitewash. Also included, as filler, are Robert Lee’s Reading in Public and Grand Guignol .
‘It’s a landscape of associations, and you map yourself into them. Like the lights of a town seen far below from an airplane at night. You think: Someone lying awake on floral sheets or driving around after an argument at home or double checking the windows looks up to see what kind of sky it is, sees a bright blinking star. No. It’s a plane, I guess and I guess it’s the plane you’re on. And you’ve fallen asleep…’ (Jan Peacock, Sirensong)
‘There was once a man who could feel ghosts. He could not see them but he could feel them as they passed through his body – thousands of ghosts, some of them from as far away as Malaysia, beamed off satellites and through his body. (Nelson Henricks, Emission)
By the Skin of Their Tongues
Videos by Joanne Bristol, Nelson Henricks,
Robert Lee & Jan Peacock
Videobut, Joanne Bristol, 1994, 5 min.
Videobut humorously examines the toll video production takes on an artist’s body.
Shimmer, Nelson Henricks, 1995, 7:00 min.
‘Our apartment was a hundred years old, and was haunted. Friends had suggested that we paint a black spot on the ceiling to get rid of the ghost. But she wasn’t a bad ghost. She was just an old hooker. She loved sex and she loved parties, so we were forced to have sex and parties all the time to appease her. Other ghosts were there, too. They were immigrants, who spoke neither English nor French. They came from far away, and longed to return to their homelands. Sometimes they sang sad songs. Shimmer started as their story. My grandmother’s story, my parents’ story and mine got mixed up with theirs along the way.’
Reading in Public , Robert Lee, 1994, 4 min.
Sirensong, Jan Peacock, 1987, 8:30 min.
The landscape of Monument Valley, Arizona, recognizable from its frequent use as a backdrop to movies, television and print advertisements, is subjectively reinvented by one person walking, pointing and ‘remembering’ never having been here before.
‘It’s a landscape of associations, and you map yourself into them. Like the lights of a town seen far below from an airplane at night. You think: Someone lying awake on floral sheets or driving around after an argument at home or double checking the windows looks up to see what kind of sky it is, sees a bright blinking star. No. It’s a plane, I guess and I guess it’s the plane you’re on. And you’ve fallen asleep…’
Whitewash, Jan Peacock, 1990, 14:15min.
Whitewash presents television as a landscape of appearances whose familiarity induces in us ‘the sleep of complicity’, and where our willingness to participate is mere product.
‘Anchorwoman: I want to remember what this is like.
Anchorman: The perfection of habit simulates remembering.
Anchorwoman: I invent and gather these images.
Anchorman: These images are gathered in you, but describe only themselves.’
Emission, Nelson Henricks, 1994, 12:00 min.
‘The videotape Emission found its origin in three performances which I wrote between 1988 and 1991. In their original form, the performances dealt with sex, romance and communication technologies. The videotape elaborates upon these themes to speak of how human beings exist in a margin between nature and technology, and works towards confounding any simplified analysis of this worn-out duality.’
Grand Guignol, Robert Lee, 1995, 10 min.
Born in Ontario in 1955, Peacock studied at the University of Western Ontario and San Diego where she received her MFA in 1981. Since 1982 she has been assistant professor of Intermedia at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Her award-winning tapes have been screened internationally, and her tapes and installations are in numerous collections. This fall she is featured in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Perspectives show.
Henricks was born in Alberta in 1963 and studied at the Alberta College of Art and Concordia University, where he currently teaches. Although he also works in installation and performance, he is best known for his award-winning videos, which are exhibited internationally. A retrospective of his work, curated by Christine Ross, will be exhibited at YYZ Artists’ Outlet early in 1996.
Saskatoon-based Bristol is primarily known for her performances, book-works and installations. She graduated with an MFA from NSCAD in 1992. She has a solo show at A-Space in January, 1996.
Little can be said about the mysterious Mr. Lee for contractual reasons. He has stipulated that we can only show his brilliant tapes if we refer to them in all publicity materials as being merely ‘filler’ and give no further information.
by Joanne Bristol