Video night experiment succeeds

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May 4, 2013

Video Art @ Garrick’s Head Pub, Victoria, BC
Featuring works by Rick Raxlen, Janet Rogers, Scott Amos, Carolyn Doucette, Pamela Millar, Alejandro Valbuena, Constance Cook, Carrotkid Films, and Morgan Tams.

Reviewed by Julian Gunn

I recently attended an experiment. There were no electrodes involved, though electronics played a key role. Open Space Gallery, MediaNet, and the Garrick’s Head Pub hosted a showcase of local video artists.

The Garrick’s Head expansion crowns Bastion Square and has a friendly, over-scale feeling, with a mixture of ordinary seating and enormous banqueting tables attended by stools. Our party of three occupied a corner of one such edifice, facing the large screens arrayed along the south wall above the bar. Another filmmaker (not part of the show, but very friendly) and an artistic associate sat down across from us, and another pair of viewers joined us further down. There was a general sense of creative camaraderie. The evening was a little ad hoc, in that there were no printed programs, but Doug the MC very kindly lent me his script so that I could make notes on the titles and creators of the works.

The night began with Morgan Tams’ Killer’s Crossing, subtitled “A Pacific Northwestern”–a surreal cow-metal rock opera in miniature, with words and music by Brooke Gallupe (of the late lamented Immaculate Machine). Richard Raxlen‘s playful envisioning of Jane Siberry’s “Everything Reminds Me of My Dog” followed. Raxlen showed two pieces; the second was a visual accompaniment to “Mumbles,” the jazz tune known for its cheerfully incomprehensible vocals, a kind of virtuoso glossolalia. Raxlen’s jumpy, layered lines and half-seen figures worked similarly at the edge of interpretability.

The pub noise sometimes presented a challenge during the quieter or more verbal pieces. Victoria Poet Laureate Janet Rogers‘ contribution, Just Watch, used a simple juxtaposition to powerful effect. Tiny silhouetted figures crossed an unstable surface that seemed to rise and fall above a brightly coloured static scene. I won’t explain the trick of it here, since I found the disorientation so effective, but it’s worth seeking out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really hear what the speaker in the video was saying.

Scott Amos‘ highly textured experiments in Primordial Soup stirred O’Toole to comment wistfully that it was “Very NFB,” and it did have the exploratory feeling of the golden era of NFB film-making. (A YouTube description notes that Primordial Soup is “an experiment with acrylic paints, India inks and drain cleaner on an old 16mm film.”) In contrast, Paul Whittington‘s L19 Disposed is a bleakly funny dystopian animation that accomplishes a lot of (non-verbal) storytelling in two and a half minutes.

Originally shown on Bravo!, Alejandro Valbuena’s Caffeine uses a cafe and the delicious drug it dispenses to frame dance sequences. My favorite segments reminded me of the risk-taking momentum of Québécois dance troupe La La La Human Steps. Caffeine was followed by Carolyn Doucette’s Little Plank Walk, in which live-action foraging to chanted vocals gave way suddenly and delightfully to experimental saxophonage and edgy animation. Pamela Millar’s Blue Minute Bridge is a metallic noise poem, a visual and auditory dissection of the Johnson Street Bridge, previously screened as part of the BC Spirit Festivals. The evening ended with Constance Cook‘s Anarchist Footwear, a playful depiction of a community’s feet that filled me with reminiscences.

Even with minor sound issues, the night was a success. Many of the video pieces shown are available online through YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources. I recommend that you look them up.

Julian Gunn is a local writer with eclectic tastes.

 

 

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