Codes for North is a study of the early evolution of the Canadian avant-garde film and its roots in an aesthetic of difficulty. Stephen Broomer traces the evolution of this cinema through the work of three artists—Jack Chambers, Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland—from their early development as painters in the 1950s to the creation of their epic films: Reason Over Passion (1969), The Hart of London (1970), and La Region Centrale (1971). Their work formed in response to a strain of Neo-Dada that took root in southern Ontario in the late 1950s. From this they developed their individual practices, in directions marked by the purposeful difficulty of late modernism. For Jack Chambers, that difficulty lay in the interstices between lyricism and outrage, and the rare, transformative experiences of heightened perception. For Joyce Wieland, purposeful difficulty came in a collision of earnestness and wit to compose a deeply ironic, militant sentimentality. And for Michael Snow, difficulty formed in the flexible rules of an invented game, self-prescribed boundaries in which to improvise. They focused their individual energies on creating major works that were not only cumulative achievements of purposeful difficulty, but which were also distinctively about Canada the ephemeral, a nation wrestling with its identity, its cultural sovereignty and its future.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017