Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Fascinating Images

DRAWN TO A QUEER AUTHENTICITY. Winnipeg-based Daniel Barrow unleashes a bizarre TV archives on the images fest.

Fascination, Mike Hoolboom’s powerful new biopic about late video artist Colin Campbell, sets the tone for this year’s Images Festival: subversion, interrogation and humanity. As one of the opening lines states: “This is a movie about you, not about Colin Campbell.”

In this opening presentation ($15, 8pm, Thu, Apr 13, the Bloor), Hoolboom reframes the biopic, creating what he calls a “meta-biopic.” Combining interview footage of friends and video luminaries (including John Greyson, Lynne Fernie, Andy Paterson, Lisa Steele and Tanya Mars) along with his definitive style of disparate found footage, a textured audioscape and an ominous voiceover, Hoolboom creates a work that is both challenging and moving.

Hoolboom openly puts his own ideological fascinations into the work, creating a video text that includes commentaries on the atom bomb and the advent of television and video art. What results is a beautiful mishmash of Campell’s own work along with Hoolboom’s disturbing imagery and complex ruminations. Hoolboom even superimposes himself on Campbell’s 1972 classic character Art Star In Sackville, I’m Yours, implying dual artists and dual visions.

Campbell was a pioneer whose underground classics Modern Love (1979), Bad Girls (1980) and No Voice Over (1986) set him as a forerunner in (queer) video art. When he passed away from cancer in 2001, many in the community felt the impact. Campbell’s penchant for camp and colourful, sexually ambiguous characters gave birth to a particular videomaking style. Usually dressed in women’s clothes, he addressed the viewer directly with confessional monologues using long takes.

Hoolboom posits that Campbell’s narrative is as much the narrative of North American video art as it is about you and me. The movie traces the history of video art and its emergence as a defiant voice in the face of television’s ubiquitous imagery. Television is presented as an eradication of time and image, where “amnesia is the organizing principle.”

But is this an homage to Campbell or is Hoolboom just plundering Campbell’s work and image to fit his own style? I think Fascination puts forth the inherent dilemma with biography and the inability to get outside oneself — something that Campbell himself was constantly addressing. Ultimately, Hoolboom hints that all artists are connected and that Campbell was a major force, stating that he had “atomic personality.”

The debate over biography continues with Hoolboom and Dutch artist Mieke Bal in one of the free artist talks at 3pm on Fri, Apr 14 at A Space Gallery.

Another highly anticipated event will be Deirdre Logue’s installation at Paul Petro Why Always Instead Of Just Sometimes (opening 7pm on Apr 14; till May 13). In 12 parts, this new video installation includes home movie loops and solo camera performances. Logue also has an artist talk with Vincent Grenier at 3pm on Tue, Apr 18 at the Gladstone.

Queer artists Steve Reinke and Bobby Abate are part of the program International Shorts 1: Stranger To Strangers (7pm, Fri, Apr 14, Workman Theatre). Cyborgs, pig-killing and more. Also of interest will be the International Shorts 8: The Wild Ones (PWYC, 9pm, Fri, Apr 21, Workman). A funny and attractive program with videos about surreal wild boys, camera movement galore and famous “hysterical” women.

The shorts program Loud Meat (not what you’re thinking) screens at 11pm on Apr 15 at the Workman and includes Jubal Brown’s latest, Life Is Pornography (still not what you’re thinking). There’s also a rare experimental India program ($10, 7pm, Sun, Apr 16, Workman) and an experimental audio and light performance with Some Cats From Japan ($10,11pm, Fri, Apr 21, Vatikan).