Wavelengths 2010

The press-release for the tenth-incarnation of the Wavelengths program, as put together by Andréa Picard, was delivered today, striking that potently familiar mix of pure delight and envious resignation into the hearts of those of us not able to partake in the many splendors lined-up during that September weekend.  Thankfully though Michael Sicinski will be there to alleviate some of the sting and provide us with such much needed insight and clarity.  The full press-release is as follows: 


Wavelengths, the Toronto International Film Festival’s curated presentation of the best in international avant-garde film and video, celebrates its tenth year with its largest programme yet. Curated by TIFF Cinematheque programmer Andréa Picard, this year’s line-up presents six programmes featuring 36 films and videos. Over the years, Wavelengths (which is named after Michael Snow’s seminal film, Wavelength) has developed into an important destination for cinephiles, artists, curators and all audiences interested in the celebration, exploration and experimentation of film and video within the cinema. Running from September 10 through 13, the 2010 line-up includes innovative works by masters such as James Benning, Nathaniel Dorsky, Paolo Gioli, Ken Jacobs and Peter Tscherkassky, as well as outstanding emerging artists like T. Marie, Tomonari Nishikawa, Oliver Husain, Kevin Jerome Everson and Rebecca Meyers.

“There’s much to celebrate and highlight as Wavelengths reaches its decade of existence”, says Andréa Picard, film programmer for TIFF Cinematheque and Wavelengths. “Our audiences have grown, the programme has expanded and the field has changed in challenging ways. While moving images have become a mainstay in galleries and museums, it’s increasingly important to present film and video art meant for the cinema, in that very context, with the best possible screening conditions. The works in this year’s programme reveal present-day day concerns like gentrification, the need to protect our natural resources, a complex global political terrain, as well as a harkening back to the origins of cinema concurrent with video’s emergence as an aesthetic medium of its own.”

Wavelengths 1: Soul of the City

As the pace of the contemporary urban experience grows faster and the world becomes increasingly fractured, artists are documenting the vestiges and layers revealed in flux; global updates on the city symphony.
Tomonari Nishikawa’s Tokyo-Ebisu (Japan) is a 16mm in-camera patchwork constructed from multiple viewpoints from the platforms of Tokyo’s busiest railway line, Yamanote, and a masking technique which exposes 1/30th of a frame 30 times in order to capture an image of spectral apparitions. The Soul of Things (U.S.A) from Dominic Angerame presents luscious chiaroscuro images of the construction and destruction of modern structures exposing their inner soul. From Thom Andersen, director of Los Angeles Plays Itself, Get Out of the Car (U.S.A.) is a city symphony exploring Los Angeles' gentrification through a thoughtful montage of façades and a playful excursus through its musical history. Callum Cooper’s Victoria, George, Edward & Thatcher (United Kingdom) is an ecstatic, taxonomic montage-animation of images of London row-houses shot with an iPhone. With sonic dislocation and frame by frame animation, Eriko Sonoda's Landscape, semi-surround (Japan) revels in the afterglow of memory. Through a slideshow of abandoned homes and an apocalyptic tale inspired by a massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2006, Basma Al-Sharif’s Everywhere Was the Same (Palestine/Egypt) recounts a city mired and mutilated.  Oliver Husain’s Leona Alone (Canada) aesthetically intervenes in a historic Toronto neighbourhood cum suburb, offering gentrification a more wistful look.

(Get Out of the Car by Thom Anderson)

Wavelengths 2: Plein-Air

As with painting, natural light and colour are inexhaustible sources of inspiration for film and video artists, whose plein-air shooting radically transforms our scenic views, offering a stirring ephemerality and, in some cases, a poignant intimacy.

In Vincent Grenier’s Burning Bush (Canada/U.S.A.), a virtuosic use of video sets a burning bush alight with crimson colour and spiritual flight.  Kaleidoscopic colour, parenting and art-making coalesce in John Price’s domestic life frieze Home Movie (домашнее кино) (Canada), an extended portrait of his children captured with an old Russian 35mm camera and a variety of expired film stock. Ouverture (Canada/France) by Christopher Becks is a serene, yet kinetic in-camera meditation on an old barn in Normandy. Philipp Fleischmann’s Cinematographie (Austria) reinvents the filmstrip by way of an astonishing 360 degree camera obscura construction, which allows for a continuous image to emerge like a scroll. Recently blown-up to 16mm from its original super 8mm, Helga Fanderl’s intimate triptych, Blow-Ups: Portrait, Tea Time, Red Curtain (Germany) is a tender depiction of a love affair. Anne Truitt, Working (U.S.A.) is a portrait of the Minimalist painter and sculptor elegantly observed by Jem Cohen. Madison Brookshire’s Color Films 1 & 2 (U.S.A.) close the programme with winsome wavelength compositions of light.

 (Cinematographie by Philipp Fleischmann

Wavelengths 3: Ruhr

Exchanging his 16mm Bolex for a high-definition video camera, and straying from his native soil, James Benning heads to Germany with Ruhr (Germany/U.S.A.). Using his medium much like a painter would, Benning creates a monumental and surprising portrait of the Ruhr Valley, the largest urban agglomeration in Germany known for its heavy industry. Split into two parts, with six long takes in the first section and one masterful hour-long take in the second, Benning turns his mathematician’s eye toward the area’s industrial sublime, reinvigorating our viewing experience along the way.

(Ruhr by James Benning)

Wavelengths 4: Pastourelle
Nathaniel Dorsky is one of the most gifted 16mm filmmakers of our time and was recently voted “The Best Experimental filmmaker of the Decade” by a poll conducted by Film Comment magazine. Suffused with longing, Dorksy’s three latest films, Compline, Aubade and Pastourelle (U.S.A.) demonstrate a devotional cinema wherein the plasticity of the medium is met by the artist’s consummate expression. Arresting in its twilight beauty and filled with beguiling apparitions, Compline is the final film Dorsky was able to shoot on Kodachrome, his preferred and longtime-used film stock. Aubade, which is a poem evoking daybreak, signals a new beginning, with his shooting on colour negative. Glimpses of Paris – the abstraction of its flickering neon signs, the elegance of its views - appear in both Aubade and Pastourelle, the latter presented here as a World Premiere. The programme concludes with T. Marie’s wondrous digital triptych, Water Lillies (U.S.A.), which evokes Monet’s famous late Impressionist series by meticulously employing the inherent aesthetisizing properties of pixels, working with time and luminosity.

(Pastourelle by Nathaniel Dorsky)

Wavelengths 5: Blue Mantle

The ocean has always been a mythic source of life, as much as it has a legendary call to death.

In the mysterious and melancholic Atlantiques (Senegal/France), winner of the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Tiger Award for Best Short Film) by Mati Diop, a young man speaking in hushed tones describes his high-seas odyssey to friends huddled around a campfire in Dakar. Faint illuminations cast through an ornate gateway to a train platform in an abandoned station from Buffalo’s glory days create hazy, elegiac stained-glass effects, or the blurred vision of escape and disappearance in Eve Heller’s One (Austria); the first roll of film she ever shot, recently revisited and blown-up to 35mm.  Resuscitated archival footage of a tragic event is met with contemporary prophecy in Kevin Jerome Everson’s enigmatic 753 McPherson Ave. (U.S.A.). Rebecca Meyers’ blue mantle (U.S.A.) is an ode to the ocean, intercutting between the mesmeric sea with its glistening, beckoning waters and various representations of the deep. Meyers crafts an ambitious treatise buoyed by the breadth of its cast. The apocalyptic sublime of J. M. W. Turner’s 1840 masterpiece The Slave Ship, with its fiery conflagration and strewn debris amid wild waters, is the source for T. Marie’s time-based pixel painting-film Slaveship (U.S.A.). A languorous, searing abstraction with a hot palette updates the classic scene in reference to today’s skewed social hierarchy and the selling of human life. Hell Roaring Creek (U.S.A.) is the latest film by experimental anthropologist Lucien Castaign-Taylor, co-director of Sweetgrass. A static camera records the coming of day as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep across the titular stream in a prismatic, painterly pastoral.

(blue mantle by Rebecca Meyer)

Wavelengths 6: Coming Attractions

Early cinema confronted the spectator like no other art, beckoning a reciprocal engagement and curiosity as both spectacle and document. This programme pairs contemporary experimental works with those from a hundred years ago when cinema itself was a grand experiment.

Celebrated Italian artist Paolo Gioli returns to a tabula rasa with his handmade cameras allowing him to exploit and fashion film’s reproductive means. The exhilarating Photo Finish Figures (Il Finish delle figure) (Italy) relays a sense of the contemporary, sensory “photo-finished” experience using a 35mm stills camera and various masking devices. Ken Jacobs’ The Day was a Scorcher (U.S.A.) sees the Jacobs clan vacationing in Italy in stroboscopic postcards pulsing amid Roman ruins. Then to Torino in 1909, for turn-of-the-century postcards in which a bunch of bambini-in-a-barrel pucker up for the camera, blowing kisses, some through tears of terror, all’italiana in Concorso di bellezza fra bambino a Torino. In Friedl vom Gröller’s Delphine de Oliveira (Austria), a placid young woman is filmed in a Parisian courtyard. Her belle laide looks convey paradoxical and untold mysteries, while a mise-en-abyme furthers the peculiar attraction. Jonas Mekas in Kodachrome Days (U.S.A.) is another timepiece comprised of family photos resuscitated through digital technology, whose pulse harkens back to proto-cinematic devices, giving Mekas an air of a trickster like Segundo de Chomón’s Le Roi des dollars from 1905. (France). Peter Tscherkassky's Coming Attractions (Austria) is a sly, sartorial comedy masterfully mining the relationship between early cinema and the avant-garde, by way of fifties era advertising. With references to Méliès, Lumières, Cocteau, Léger, Chomette, the film playfully explores cinema's subliminal possibilities using an impressive arsenal of techniques like solarization, optical printing and multiple exposures. Completing the evening’s attractions is a selection from EYE Film Institute Netherlands’ Bits and Pieces project (Netherlands), which restores and compiles “anonymous, unidentified or otherwise interesting fragments”, saving them from oblivion for our viewing pleasure. The archival prints will be presented with live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

 (Jonas Mekas in Kodachrome Days by Ken Jacobs)