Canadian Art Film Series and Symposium screenings at Ryerson University (350 Victoria, room L72), Friday and Saturday (February 27 and 28), 7 and 9:30 pm, and symposium at Innis College Town Hall (2 Sussex), Saturday (February 28), 9 am. Reception at the NOW Lounge (189 Church) February 27, 5 pm. 416-368-8854 ext 307. Rating: NNNN
Despite the fact that contempo rary art is more accessible to the public than contemporary film, theatre, music and even literature - most galleries offer free admission - people still don't go to see art in droves. This is partly due to the intimidation factor. Art appears to be, and to a certain degree is, snooty. And the public rarely gets exposed to art in a passive, non-threatening way like, say via TV.
There's Fashion Television, Movie Television, Book Television, but no Art Television. The argument I've heard time and again is that art doesn't make for lively TV. That's ridiculous.
Canadian Art Foundation is trucking out a cartload of documentary films on prominent international contemporary artists that prove that art makers do make fascinating subjects.
Some of the filmmakers focus on artists who use film or video as a medium, which is an easy cheat. Not surprisingly, film and video translate better into film and video than does painting.
Mark Kidel 's film on American video art pioneer Bill Viola (Friday, February 27, 9:30 pm) is a classic example of a good documentary. Interweaving Viola's work with commentary on the artist's life and process, it reveals how an unsuccessful advertising student parlayed summer cottage experiences and a fascination with the Italian Renaissance into a groundbreaking career. Viola manipulates video as if it were paint, slapping images onto screens and influencing a whole generation of video artists.
Another huge influence on film and video artists is the work of Canadian Michael Snow , the subject of French filmmaker Teri Wehn-Damisch 's documentary On Snow's Wavelength (Saturday, February 28, 7:30 pm). The title refers to the famous Snow work in which he slowly zooms the lens over the span of 45 minutes. Here, Damisch gives us a slow zoom out on the life of Snow that spans 56 minutes.
Watching the tireless experimenter for nearly an hour is exhausting. The work could easily be called Snow: Look At Me! look what I can do with a camera! see how clever I am! His revelations (photos turn 3-D into 2-D) seem rather quaint now. It is, however, an interesting film about an important artist that has been shot and edited with a subtle artistry of its own.
But it's a young British filmmaker who really impresses. Twenty-eight-year-old Rory Logsdail has made more than 50 artist documentaries in his short career. They're short, spunky snapshots that don't attempt to tell the whole story. (Is there such a thing as the whole story?)
Five of Logsdail's works screen Friday, February 27, at 7:30 pm. He follows Rodney Graham - an artist who was deservedly blessed with a show at the Power Plant last year and will have one at the AGO later this year - around a guitar shop, and looks over Julian Opie's shoulder at his simple line drawings of the members of the band Blur.
Gilbert and George , the ever-so-British art duo, take us on a six-minute tour of their Dirty Words Pictures exhibition, perfectly enunciating words like "suck" and "cunt" in their proper accents. Unfortunately, the most recent film in the program, on painter Shirazeh Houshiary , is longer and far more sober and conventional than the rest.
Hopefully, some television producers will check out some of the early work Logsdail produced for the BBC to see how art can work on TV.