With a curatorial mandate to program time-based work from local, national, and international artists, Pleasure Dome presents a variety of different genres, styles, and traditions from those of the historical avant-garde to contemporary post-modern strategies of video/film mixes, and other attempts to re-imagine the modernist experimental tradition.
To foster a diverse and inclusive screening environment that encourages attendance from as many sectors of the public as possible, Pleasure Dome screens innovative works in engaging and “expanded” presentations. This programming includes installation and other unconventional exhibition formats.
To exhibit marginalized moving image works, we often program short length and small-format work. We seek out and present works by women, visible and invisible minorities, First Nations and Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons across the spectrum of sexual orientation or gender identity. We believe in artists first, the voice of the artist, and the payment of artists. Everything else follows from that.
The 2019/2020 Board of Directors:
Shahbaz Khayambashi (Co-Chair)
Rupa Morzaria (Secretary)
Pleasure Dome partners with media art organizations and artist-run centers in Toronto, nationally, and abroad to initiate co-presentations, collaborations, and sponsorships to bring forward culturally diverse and experimental media projects. We are continually looking for ways to enhance the audience experience and welcome new ideas or suggestions for future programming and member interactions.
Pleasure Dome is generously supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Arts Council, and by our members, sponsors, and community partners.
“We were just bored that’s how I think it started, bored with watching the same new avant pictures hitting the screen by fathers we never wanted, mothers we’d spent our lives saying no to. We thought fringe cinema wasn’t the church but serious fun, strange new emulsions for strange new lives, and wanted to lend a stage to all those queer, trans, post-pop underthings that had been waiting all along for a place to shine.
We loved super-8 and when our friends were dying we gave them cameras and then the punks came and made zinekinos and there were performances by people who were fucking with emulsion not because they could but because they had to, because it was the only way to face the next day…the miles of tape and emulsion keep running past eyes still open for something akin to our capacity for wonder. Welcome to the Pleasure Dome.”
— Mike Hoolboom, Co-founder of Pleasure Dome
Pleasure Dome isn’t really a place, it’s a state of exhibitionism. Inspired by the muse of experimental film, Kenneth Anger (Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, 1954), the Pleasure Dome programming collective began in 1989 to programme some of the most innovative and challenging work produced by media artists from Canada and abroad. In the course of over four hundred screenings (including feature-length works, solo screenings, mid-career retrospectives, open screenings, thematic programs, and gallery installations), Pleasure Dome has been presenting year-round experimental media arts screening programs, often curating expanded forms of presentations, installations, and other non-traditional formats. We have an on-going commitment to alternative media arts and artists through commissions and exhibiting shorter length and small format work, and to the public appreciation and critical understanding of experimental media art through the distribution and publishing of critical writing on the art form.
This includes the recent publication Sculpting Cinema (Editors Melanie Wilmink & Solomon Nagler) which documents the intersections of sculpture, architecture, performance, installation art, and expanded cinema within contemporary Canadian art. Through seven pieces of writing and two artists’ projects, a selection of scholars and creatives from across the country have explored the ways that cinema flows off the screen and into physical space. The book embodies this thematic content through a creative design, making it an attractive collectors’ object and critical discourse simultaneously.
Other publications are Sami van Ingen Moving Shadows: Experimental Film Practices in a Landscape of Change (Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, 2012, Helsinki); The Beauty is Relentless; The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby (2012, Pleasure Dome / MOCCA), a collection of twelve essays, scripts and art projects on the art of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby; the 2009 catalogue on the work of Toronto media artist Daniel Cockburn, You Are In A Maze Of Twisty Little Passages All Different, edited by Daniel Cockburn and Jon Davies; and the 2008 anthology Cinematic Folds; the furling and unfurling of images, edited by Firoza Elavia. See the Publications page for complete list.
Pleasure Dome has emerged as the conduit whereby Toronto audiences can see experimental media art that may otherwise have fallen between the cracks of other institutions mandates. From the likes of Peggy Ahwesh and Linda Feesey in 8mm at the Rex Hotel bar to Marnie Parrell and John Kneller at The Cabana Room, John Porter at The Euclid Theatre, Annie Sprinkle at A Space Gallery, Bruce LaBruce at the Metro Porn Theatre, Matthew Barney at the Bloor Theatre, Mike Hoolboom and Barbara Sternberg at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Sadie Benning at the Latvian House, and Frank Moore, George Kuchar, Alex Bag, Rick Prelinger and many, many others at CineCycle, we inhabit any and all spaces which suit our exhibition needs. In all its modes (curatorial/exhibitionist/critical), Pleasure Dome seeks both to preserve the history of image-making and its surrounding discourse and to clear a space for those who are still bored with pictures that don’t hit the screen hard enough.