Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film 2012

Us Animals

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Monday, August 5, 8:00 pm, @ Durham Town Hall

Programmed by Corinna Ghaznavi

Us animals
Dogs + Boats + Airplanes Choir, Bill Burns, 2007

Us Animals celebrates the significance of human and non-human animals, their joyousness, abilities, points of intersection, and impact as meaningful beings in and of themselves and with and for others. While dogs and cats and their relationships with their human companions are rife subjects for stories, all works in this program are centred on individuals rather than anthropomorphic narratives. When these narratives are introduced they are done so obliquely and wryly: Is Joanne Bristol’s cat particularly interested in the Art Examiner, demonstrating a sophisticated taste for contemporary art; does Kelly Mark’s subject relate more to certain objects than others, and what are the reasons? These, like early William Wegman films tend to turn the human into an object of mockery, confined to merely human ways of understanding the world, rather than finding the animal wanting by human standards.

Artists like Julie Andreyev and Jan Peacock focus on the joy and specific abilities of individuals at play, vocalization, and in pursuit of some scent that only their highly tuned noses can detect. These challenge established practices of humans testing animal abilities against their own rather than concentrating on what is specific to each different species. Humans can never hope to emulate the sense of smell or hearing that dogs have, they consistently scored lower than birds on an aerial mapping test, and yet, they insist on being the most highly developed animal. As J.M. Coetzee’s Elisabeth Costello remarks, if a human was dropped into the middle of the jungle without equipment they would not last a day, and yet we measure animals according to those same kinds of parameters and find them lacking.

Opening the way to understanding non-human animals differently not only allows them to be understood as fully developed subjects, but also moves human animals to enable their companion and at-liberty animals to expand and live out their own desires and interests most fully. This means to run, to sing, to hunt, to play, and to interact freely with others and their environment. This means too to consider carefully when encroaching onto their territories to such a degree that they become not only confined but drenched in the debris that humans bring with each such encroachment as Su Rynard’s Bear shows us. While each cottage is well maintained and sought after for its proximity to ‘nature’ the human inhabitants think nothing of what destruction this habitation creates just down the road. The last image of a bear limping due to being cut by some sharp edge of garbage, is a mournful note on a human’s lack of real care for their environment and for those who have inhabited it before and alongside of them.

There are several works focusing on birds – the play, flocking, and song of birds that are ubiquitous in our lives, just outside of our windows, settled often invisibly within tree branches, and so normal that we scarcely note their constant voices in our daily lives. The program has chosen to focus on those animals most close to us, that inhabit our same environments, be they our homes, our yards, or our extended properties. It is meant to bring awareness to the proliferation of lives lived fully and busily alongside and together with ours by highlighting these presences. It also looks at relationships that are significant, and how these relationships enrich human and non-human lives and lead to new understanding. Christina Zeidler’s film closes this program with a look at how the human and non-human animal grow, interact, and become mutually, and happily, dependent. And how the loss of such a companion has an impact equal to the death of a human companion. Us Animals: we are all intertwined and related; when we open ourselves up to the lives of others our own lives are enriched and our own abilities tested and expanded, as Bill Burns demonstrates with his children’s choir that richly, happily, and creatively become hybrids: human-animal, human-machine, creature-creative. -- Corinna Ghaznavi

Songbirds, Su Rynard, 2012

Soaring with Dogs
(Canada, 2003-2013, 11 min.)
Jan Peacock

Art Examiner
(Canada, 2001, 3.5 min.)
Joanne Bristol

Joanne Bristol

(Canada, 2009, 11 min.)
Julie Andreyev

Julie Andreyev

Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Children’s Choir
(Canada, 2007, 6:17 min.)
Bill Burns

(Canada, 2004, 9:15 min.)
Su Rynard

(Canada, 2008-2013)
Jan Peacock

(Canada, 1999, 7:30 min.)
Kelly Mark

Kelly Mark

(Canada, 2009, 6:10 min.)
Julie Andreyev

(Canada, 2012, 2 min.)
Su Rynard

(Canada, 2001, 10 min.)
Christina Zeidler