Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film 2012

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Saturday, August 4, 9:30pm, The Middle Dam, by the Saugeen River
(at the Quilt Barn in the event of rain)

by Amy Kazymerchyk
During nautical dusk and dawn, the sun is 6-12˚ below the horizon, rendering it indistinct. The sky is neither bright enough for unaided vision nor dark enough for celestial navigation. The earth is absent of a guiding light. In Vancouver BC, this mutes the definition of the Fraser River Delta, University Endowment Lands, False Creek, Stanley Park, North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet against the Pacific Ocean. There is always the possibility of dusk settling into a still black night, absorbing the city and its brief history. In this flicker of possibility lies our opportunity to inaugurate new beacons.

Third Beach is a popular Stanley Park vista for watching the sun set over English Bay, the nautical entry point into Vancouver. The Coast Salish may have watched colonial ships approach Xwáýxway from this shoreline. Today, the bay is trafficked by oil and container tankers and cruise ships. From Third Beach 2 (2011), Mark Lewis captures the sun-pierced sky above the bay hours before dusk. Lewis resists the trope of the sunset time-lapse. In fact, the moving image is almost a still photograph, save for the subtle movement in the lapping tide and the crossing clouds. Lewis frames a brooding, mercurial moment that is a frequent phenomenon in Vancouver. In his composition the sea and sky are exalted, dwarfing the tankers that linger at the horizon under the command of the sun.

Hanover Drive-In
Mark Lewis, From Third Beach 2

Much further north, Kevin Schmidt’s lighting rig, mounted speakers and smoke machine face the deep night in Yukon’s solemn wilderness. The colored lights, controlled by the five-note melody of John Williams’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme song (Spielberg, 1977) pierce the opaque night. In Close Encounters the melody is a gesture of communion towards extraterrestrials and the cosmos. In Wild Signals (2007) this gesture is augmented by a light and fog show that emulates the Northern lights, a rock concert and an outdoor rave. Wild Signals produces a rendering of contemporary transcendental experience and the technological sublime.

Barry Doupé experiments with the phenomenology of light and colour through fiber-optic flower arrangements in Thalé (2009). Doupé’s animations are inspired by the Thale Cress plant, which is commonly used in biological mutation experiments. His rotating electronic floras, resembling neon lights, sex toys and fireworks, glow in the dark digital void.

Conversely, François Roux challenges our romantic affection for light in Switch Off (2011). During a lunar eclipse he disengages the lampposts in a public park that illuminate trees like museum objects. Cutting the light is Roux’s trenchant gesture against the gradual phasing of the moonlight. His monkey-wrenching symbolically resists naturalization by erasing the chiaroscuro of the foliage.

The aura of romanticism, phenomenology and psychedelia encompass these works. Through conceptual interventions into these aesthetics, Lewis, Schmidt, Doupé and Roux inaugurate new frames around perception, cosmology and panorama.

The figures, materials and forms of the Pacific coast’s terrain are reframed in the studio practices of Julia Feyrer, Paul Kajander and Jordy Hamilton. By proposing the artist’s studio as the film set, processes of assemblage, collage and sculpture compose mise-en-scène tableaus. Narratives are constructed through collaboration, improvisation, scavenge and montage–merging studio experimentation and cinema processes.

The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar (2010) was a reconstruction of a late 19th century bar of the same name that was situated near the Vancouver port. True to the original, Julia Feyrer’s Poodle Dog was built out of foraged cedar bark, vine maple twigs, moss and fungus. Over a summer it hosted readings, performances and happenings. The Poodle Dog was less a film set then a site for spontaneous propositions of cultural production, exchange and valuation. Rather than narrativize its unfolding, Feyrer films off-stage tableaus of empty cider bottles, apple trees being watered and friends sleeping in hammocks. These punctums are collaged with Feyrer’s reflection in mirrors and glimpses of gatherings through knotholes in the bark façade.

Similarly, Walking Stick for Ron Tran (2011) was created as part of a collective process of meaning making. For his exhibition “It Knows Not What It Is” at the Charles H. Scott Gallery in 2011, Ron Tran invited eleven artists and writers to reinscribe the use value, meaning, and attachment of a stick he bought for six dollars from a street seller. Paul Kajander’s response positions the stick as a divining rod that guides the camera through a studio. Though the stick is searching, it knows not where it is going, nor what is guiding it. Alternately, the stick’s objectness, its autonomy and its aimlessness, is provoked against studio backdrops, simulated natural environments, and the artist’s hands.

In one tableau, the stick is tentatively passed between two people. In unison they concur, “I’m not quite sure that it won’t give me an answer. I’m not quite sure that it will give me an answer.” This uncertainty with the authority of the (art) object, its capacity to endure veneration, and the artist’s challenge to make meaning resonate in Jordy Hamilton’s Freedom Machine. The work emerges from a collection of family videos and photographs documenting the Welland County Motorcycle Club’s annual trap-shooting event held on his family’s property. Though taken by his father William and father’s friend Jim, Hamilton re-purposed the video and photographs into art objects. This practice of working with found materials situates the artist’s studio in the gallery. The work of art is not the production of images, but the task of framing them. Hamilton’s re-framing draws attention to the composition of the motorcycle against the landscape, its colour palette, the texture of video-8mm and the artifacts of its degradation. The attention of the attendees to the presence the camera, its frame and the engulfed rite elicits questions around who is producing art, and how we make meaning in our lives.

The presence of the artist is palpable in most of these works–like the aural evidence of Roux dismantling the park lights or Feyrer’s reflection in the mirror. Carole Itter and Jin-me Yoon are central figures in their practices, which gesture towards reconciling the natural and cultural history of Vancouver and Canada through embodied and performed acts.

Carole Itter’s A Fish Film (2003) is shot on Burrard Inlet near Indian Arm. A fisherwoman in a jacket of iridescent scales and sequined tails stands at the shore watching silver fish-like forms ebb and flow in shallow waves. She casts a net over the fish and pulls in the catch. On a barren beach she packs them into metallic buckets, covers them with iridescent fabric, ties them with silver thread and carries them away. This work is part of a trilogy with Tarpaulin Pull (2010) and UpInLetDown (2011) that are informed by the 30 years Itter has watched life in Burrard Inlet. A Fish Film is a sophisticated and equivocal reflection on the ecological and economic changes in the inlet.

Unbidden: Channel (2003) is an extension of Yoon’s practice of politicizing Canada’s landscape as a terrain of trauma, loss and alienation. Unbidden empathizes with survivors of war who are mediating their own estrangement as citizens or refugees. Channel is one of four Unbidden videos in which Yoon enacts gestures of battle, reconnaissance and escape in unidentified landscapes. Yoon, dressed in a traditional Korean dress (recalling the Korean war), floats motionless down a river. The act, which at first appears effortless, becomes strained as the infinite loop transforms her repose into an endurance act. Did the river simply catch her already dead body or did it take her life? Did she resist death or was it a relief from trauma? The image refuses to answer these questions and we are left with the tension between Yoon’s figure and the river.

Both Yoon and Itter’s performances orient them as beacons on the landscape. Yoon’s body retains its buoyancy in the river, resisting the pull of its current to absolve her form and the story of her specter. As the fisherwoman, Itter enacts a prophetic eulogy for the Pacific Coast. She stands witness at the entrance to Burrard Inlet–an atavistic posture that recalls the lookout we keep–as the sun slips under the horizon, from Third Beach.


From Third Beach 2
(Canada, 2011, 3:40 min.)
Mark Lewis

Wild Signals
(Canada, 2007, 9:45 min.)
Kevin Schmidt

(Canada, 2009, 5 min.)
Barry Doupé

Barry Doupé, Thalé (2009)

Switch Off
(France, 2011, 5:45 min.)
François Roux

Freedom Machine
(Document #1, Billy)

(Canada, 2011, 10:20 min.)
Jordy Hamilton

The Poodle Dog
Ornamental Bar

(Canada, 2010, 9:45 min.)
Julia Feyrer

Julia Feyrer
The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar

Walking Stick for Ron Tran
(Canada, 2011, 5:30 min.)
Paul Kajander

A Fish Film
(Canada, 2003, 5:08 min.)
Carole Itter

Unbidden: Channel
(Canada, 2003, 3min/9min (loop))
Jin-me Yoon