Long overdue is this retrospective screening of classic experimental films by Joyce Wieland. Wieland is regarded as Canada’s foremost woman artist. She produced an acclaimed body of work in a great variety of media, from drawing and painting to quilts and film. Her work tended to be overshadowed in the United States by that of her husband, Michael Snow, but her cinematic explorations elude easy categorization. She gained a unique respect for incorporating strong personal statements in her work about issues of feminism, nationalism and ecology long before it had become fashionable to do so.
Her retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario was the first-ever afforded a living Canadian woman artist. She passed away almost two decades ago, and although a few of her films have appeared in scattered shows in LA since then, this is a chance to see most of her finest works in one screening. We’re delighted to have Lauren Howes, executive director of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, introduce the show.
Programme (all from 16mm):
- Water Sark ( Canada / 13:30 / 1965 / sound / color )
I decided to make a film at my kitchen table, there is nothing like knowing my table. The high art of the housewife. You take prisms, glass, lights and myself to it. “The Housewife is High.” “Water Sark” is a film sculpture, being made while you wait. (JW)
- Handtinting (Canada / 6:00 / 1967-68 / sound / color
"Handtinting’ is the apt title of a film made from outtakes from a Job Corps documentary which features hand-tinted sections. The film is full of small movements and actions, gestures begun and never completed. Repeated images, sometimes in colour, sometimes not. A beautifully realized type of chamber-music film whose sum-total feeling is ritualistic.” - Robert Cowan, Take One
- 1933 (Canada / 3:50 / 1967 / sound / color)
"1933. The year? the number? the title? Was it (the film) made then? It's a memory! (i.e. a Film.) No, it's many memories. It's so sad and funny: the departed, departing people, cars, streets! It hurries, it's gone, it's back! the film (of 1933?) was made in 1967. You find out, if you don't already know, how naming tints pure vision." - Michael Snow
- Sailboat (Canada / 3:00 / 1967 / sound / color
‘Sailboat’ has the simplicity of a child's drawing. A toy-like image of a sailboat sails without interruption on the water, to the sound of roaring waves, which seems to underline the image to the point of exaggeration, somewhat in the way a child might draw a picture of water and write word sounds on it to make it as emphatic as possible. The little image is interrupted at one point by a huge shoulder appearing briefly in the left-hand corner." - Robert Cowan, Take One
"This little Sailboat film will sail right through your gate and into your heart." - Joyce Wieland
"A day at the Beach, at the Sea, at the Sky and at the Sailboats." - Michael Snow
- Cat Food
(Canada / 13:00 / 1967 / sound / color)
"A cat eats its methodical way through a polymorphous fish. The projector devours the ribbon of film at the same rate, methodically. The lay of Grimnir mentions a wild boar whose magical flesh was nightly devoured by the heroes of Valhalla, and miraculously regenerated next morning in the kitchen. The fish in Wieland's film, and the miraculous flesh of the film itself, are reconstructed on the rewinds to be devoured again. Here is a dionysian metaphor, old as the West, of immense strength. Once we see that the fish is the protagonist of the action, this metaphor reverberates to incandescence in the mind." - Hollis Frampton
- Rat Life and Diet in North America (Canada / 16:00 / 1968 / sound / color)
"I can tell you that Wieland's film holds. It may be about the best (or richest) political movie around. It's all about rebels (enacted by real rats) and police (enacted by real cats). After long suffering under the cats, the rats break out of prison and escape to Canada. There they take up organic gardening, with no DDT in the grass. It is a parable, a satire, an adventure movie, or you can call it pop art or any art you want - I find it one of the most original films made recently." - Jonas Mekas "The film is witty, articulate, and a far cry from all the other cute animal humanism the cinema has sickened us with in the past. Nevertheless it is a vital extension of the aspect of her films that runs counter to the structural principle: ironic symbolism." - P. Adams Sitney, Film Culture
Solidarity (Canada / 10:40 / 1973 / sound / colour
A film on the Dare strike of the early 1970s. Hundreds of feet and legs, milling, marching and picketing with the word “solidarity” superimposed on the screen. The soundtrack is an organizer's speech on the labour situation. Like her films “Rat Life and Diet in North America,” “Pierre Vallieres” and “Reason Over Passion,”
“Solidarity” combines a political awareness, an aesthetic viewpoint and a sense of humour unique in Wieland's work.
- A & B in Ontario (Canada / 16:05/ 1984 / sound / b/w)
“Hollis [Frampton] and I came back to Toronto on holiday in the summer of '67. We were staying at a friend's house. We worked our way through the city and eventually made it to the island. We followed each other around. We enjoyed ourselves. We said we were going to make a film about each other - and we did.” - Joyce Wieland “A & B in Ontario” was completed eighteen years after the original material was shot. After Frampton's death, the film was assembled by Wieland into a cinematic dialogue in which the collaborators (in the spirit of the sixties) shoot each other with cameras.
Joyce Wieland was born in 1931 to English parents who emigrated to Toronto in the mid-twenties. She lost both her parents before ten years of age and was brought up by her older brother and sister. From 1944 to 1948 Wieland studied at Central Technical School in Toronto, where she made a lasting impression on her teachers, Doris McCarthy, Elizabeth Wynn Wood and Robert Ross. For four years she worked as a commercial artist before becoming associated with Graphic Films, where she worked as an animator and got her first opportunity to produce short films for herself. She had her first one-woman show in 1960, and in 1962 moved to New York, where she continued to paint and gained recognition as an experimental filmmaker. She was married to Canadian artist Michael Snow at the time.
Living in the United States awakened feelings of nationalism in Wieland. She returned to Canada in 1971. That same year, her solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, the first given to a living woman artist, dealt with nationalistic sentiments. Entitled “True Patriot Love,” the exhibition was a complex, extensive development of the theme interwoven with issues of feminism, ecology and politics. Her collages, three-dimensional assemblages, and particularly her quilts were imbued with concerns for the environment, the Vietnam war, her love for Canada, and the status and place of women in society, and sent forth a bold feminist statement long before Judy Chicago’s work. “The Dinner Party” made feminist aesthetic popular.
Joyce Wieland passed away on June 27, 1998.
Lauren Howes is the Executive Director of CFMDC. Prior to coming to CFMDC, she was the Distribution Manager of Video Out Distribution in Vancouver, BC from 2002-2006. Howes has fifteen years in the not-for-profit management field. In addition to her work in distribution, she has curated and presented screenings for events in Vancouver, Toronto, Dublin, Hamburg, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, London UK, Paris, Buenos Aires, Bangalore, and was selected as a Goethe Scholar to participate in the Living Archive program at Arsenal - institut für film und videokunst in Berlin in 2014. Howes currently sits on the Board of Directors at the Toronto Arts Council and is on their Advisory Committee for Visual and Media Art. She graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BFA in Film Production and endeavors to make films when possible, outside of the demands of arts administration.
Tickets: $10 general admission; $6 students (with ID)/seniors; free for Filmforum members.
Tickets available at http://wieland.bpt.me or at the door
For more event information: www.lafilmforum.org, or 323-377-7238
This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and Bloomberg Philanthropies. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2017 is our 42nd year.