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Oct 5, 2010
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Camille, Andrew, Katrina & Co, an essay By Tomas Jonsson (2010)

NECESSARY FICTIONS

Tomas Jonsson


There is a quote by Steve Rienke, the source for which I couldn’t find when I wrote this, that goes something like this: “Critical reviews often rely on an autobiographical experience to instill a personal connection to the work in question, a strategy operating with a mistaken assumption that this imbues the review with meaningful insight.”  Implied in his criticism of subjective criticism is that it mistakes the object under interrogation. The suggestion is that critical writing should be more about the art object than about a personal experience of a work of art. Irecognize that I am often guilty of this, and after reading Rienke, I have made an effort -not always successfully- to adopt other strategies.

It is true that inserting oneself within the fabric of a critical response can be too easy a strategy, and often runs the risk of being less interesting than the work under discussion. Sometimes, however, the act of viewing is a subject of the work, and, when one viewer sees multiple works he or she is at the hub of a complex web of associations and judgments. Such is the case in my viewing of Nelson Henrick’s Failure, (2007, 7:00 minutes) and Daniel Dugas’ Camille, Andrew, Katrina and Co. (2008, 109 minutes).  These two videos were screened at two distinct occasions as part of EMMEDIA’s CRASH! Narrative Explorations series.   Beyond their obvious relation to the larger programming theme, something in the works sparked my curiosity, a sense that these works could speak to each other, that their respective strategies and explorations could offer some shared insight; a simultaneous push and pull at the borders of the conventions, and their personal identities that they worked with, and within. Both also implicate the viewer in the act of viewing, and challenge -subtly and overtly- passive reception of what we are witnessing.

Subtitled  “self portrait 61,” Nelson Henrick’s Failure suggests an exhaustive interrogation of the artist.  If the previous 60 video portraits (and perhaps more that follow) exist, this is the only one so far to surface for public presentation.  It begins with Henricks lying on the floor while a melancholic piano from a Nina Simone song plays. In several shot cuts we then see him peeking out from over a kitchen counter and table, and then lying on the bed. The screen goes black before we hear him sigh and say ‘I think that is ok.” A conscious slip of editing that begins to trouble our acceptance of what we are receiving. In the second segment of this video, we see Henricks shaving, first his beard and then his legs, while the following subtitles play out:

Insert subtitles in this section

Text refers to events in adolescence

That inspired the action onscreen

But not in an obvious way

Keep it open-ended and ambiguous

Make the titles go on long enough

To preserve the integrity of the long take

Keep the performative gesture unedited

While also distracting the spectator

From their boredom

Or find another strategy

Like go to a cut-away

The subtitles reflect the actions on screen. We are left to imagine our own interpretation of the adolescent acts hinted at in this ritual (or why, for that matter, Henricks shaves his legs with his pants still around his ankles).

Following the scripted cut away of scene two (a long holding shot of the humming razor) the view shifts to a record player, and the needle positioned to a fragment of a Serge Gainsborough song, where a woman’s voice lustfully and repeatedly whispers ‘nelson’, the needle is lifted immediately following her third and last utterance of the –his- name. In the next scene, Henricks emerges awkwardly from behind a curtain in a photo studio and performs an equally awkward shuffle to a tune by Pavement. “Special Guest star” Benoit Chasse appears with a handwritten sign that reads “impoverished aesthetics”. A few very rapid cuts follow, in tune to the skipping of the audio track. Despite what this audio tic immediately suggests, none of this is accidental, but rather carefully constructed. These cuts offer a fleeting glimpse of Henricks engaged in the production of this work (setting up lights, etc.), before we return to see him again lying melancholic on the floor as the Nina Simone song plays out, extending into the credits.

Failure is coated with a thick ironic sheen. It reads like a challenge, offering a seductive possibility of inference while at the same time mocking any attempt at reading insight to Henricks’ exploration of identity, and any presumed failures, try as we might. How and where do we attribute failure? Is the performative ritual of shaving symbolic of the inferred adolescent events; a failure to align with gender conventions?  We can’t confirm the readings as true regarding the subject outside of the video, but that does not prevent us from wanting – wishing – to know something of him through this construction.

Daniel Dugas’ Camille Andrew, Katrina and Co. exists in several formats, including a website, publication and script. The DVD version is presented in eight chapters and features optional English subtitles that mirrors the French voice that both informs us what we are seeing and provides all the character voices.  At times, the visual narrative does not align with the verbal / textual description, and the results are jarring. It is as if the camera cannot keep up with the direction, or instead pursues its own aesthetic concerns. The imagery has a dream-like quality which plays out at a slow, relaxed pace, even during scenes of violent conflict or struggle.

The story follows the conventions of a crime scene drama— immediately familiar to anyone with a steady diet of televised crime shows like CSI—with some magic realism thrown in for good measure. The video employs continuous foreshadowing of the events to come, and cliffhanger endings to the episodic chapters. At times, it seems that the narrator has ambitions that cannot be realized by the constraints of the hand-held video and foley sound. There is a subtle irony to this voice-over; we don’t quite believe it. It takes us in and out of the story, reminding us that we are watching a construction.  Perhaps this is a screen test for a later, more realized version.

There are a few stylistic flourishes, such as when we are drawn in to regard a painting of a ship in a storm. The camera moves into focus on one figure who, the narrator informs us, notices us, and who then begins to move up, floating or flying into the oncoming storm. The painting is in the house of Ted, who we come to recognize as the protagonist. He is cooking eggs in the kitchen of his 1970s bungalow (we are told). Over time, we come to learn more about him: his job at an insurance company; the convention he is to give a speech at; as well as larger, sinister forces that he will soon contend with as the (fore)shadow of an upcoming hurricane approaches.

We are only presented the characters in fragments. Dugas does double and triple service performing many of the characters, distinguishable only by their clothing or through representation of their actions.  A conversation between Ted and his wife Suzie, for example, is only represented by their respective cups of coffee.

At the end credits, footage taken from houses destroyed from the real hurricane Katrina play out, and we are reminded this is not merely content fodder for a dramatic thriller.  In the real world there were no industrious children  (Ted’s son, Teddy and his friends) that saved New Orleans, and it is safe to assume that a convention of hurricanes did not plot out the damage to descend on this city.  Thinking back on this piece, what can we take from this story and bring towards an understanding of the real events?

Both videos are self-conscious about the conventions of video; neither hide the construction of their form and content. Any engagement we might feel is continually subverted by our awareness of the external frames. These videos are performances. It means something that we recognize the role the artists play in this construction. In my search for the elusive quote by Steve Reinke, I did find this one, which makes this point plain:

“Through video, figures that were previously just functions of the text can be physically embodied in ways that radically undermine the stability of authors in relation to their texts and narrators. Video artists can be positioned both interiorly and exteriorly (behind and in front of the camera) to their texts in a way that is impossible for writers, who must always, despite all their desperate efforts to the contrary, remain off-page.”1

Reading this, I was reminded of watching Adaptation, a movie that, like these two videos, exposes filmic and narrative convention even as it follows it.  In the climatic finale -an absurd battle between the protagonist, played by Nicholas Cage and a crocodile- induced hysterical laughter from myself and my friend, to the annoyance of others in the theatre who were more willing to go along with the story.2

As Reinke notes, video is more amenable to this kind of slippage. It can create a space where the real and the fiction can co-exist in a tense ambivalence that destabilizes the comfort of suspended belief. While these two works subvert the conventions of conventional filmic narrative, this subversion does not counteract but rather gives new life to tired, often meaningless, conventions. Through this tension we shift from passive viewers to active participants in the construction.

Of course, this terrain is well covered. I’m conscious that a comparative analysis of two works could be made of any number of tapes, and is in itself perhaps a banal strategy. With this risk in mind, these works, exposed to me over time and space, nevertheless instill in me a nagging thought that results in an impulse to translate this to print.

________________________________________________________________

1. Nelson Henricks’ Failure was screening on November 25th, 2010 along with Deborah Stratman’s O’er the Land. Daniel Dugas’ Camille Andrew, Katrina and Co. was screened on May 14, 2010

2. I would like to thank Donna Wawzonek for reminding me of this incident.

Download the full version of IMPACT STATEMENTS

 

© 2010 EMMEDIA Gallery & Production Society
All Rights Reserved

All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
without prior written permission from the publisher.

Library and Archiving Canada
Cataloguing in Publication

IMPACT STATEMENTS:
CRASH! Anthology of Critical Texts

ISBN 978-0-9737962-9-2

Published by
emPRESS
EMMEDIA Gallery & Production Society
#203, 351 – 11 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T2R 0C7
1-403-263-2833
www.emmedia.ca

Edited by David Garneau
Project managed by Tomas Jonsson
Design by Vicki Chau
Printed in Canada by Emerson Clarke Printing

 

Sep 28, 2010
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Les Ciné-Débats à Moncton pendant le FICFA

J’ai été invité par le Front des réalisateurs indépendants du Canada (FRIC) à participer, à titre de panéliste, à une table ronde sur la réalisation et le web. Cette activité aura lieu au 6e étage de l’Hôtel de ville de Moncton au 655, rue Main. L’entrée est libre.

LES CINÉ-DÉBATS

Pilotés par le Front des réalisateurs indépendants du Canada, les Ciné-débats sont des occasions d’échanges entre réalisateurs / réalisatrices de la francophonie canadienne et le public. Par l’entremise de tables rondes, les Ciné-débats proposent d’étendre l’expérience des cinéphiles et festivaliers au Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie en créant un espace de discussions autour de la réalisation indépendante et de ses enjeux actuels.

La réalisation et le web présenté le vendredi 1er octobre 2010 à 13h avec Anne Worrall (Vancouver), Daniel Dugas (Moncton) et Benoît Beaudoin (Montréal) Depuis la popularisation d’Internet dans les années 1990, les artistes médiatiques et les réalisateurs abordent le Web comme moyen de diffusion pour leur travail, mais aussi comme outil de création. La ruée récente vers le multiplateforme comme approche à la création d’œuvres audiovisuelles donne une large responsabilité à Internet et aux outils qui y sont reliés. La création en 2009 du Fonds des médias du Canada vient confirmer cette tendance auprès de l’industrie en venant appuyer et même obliger la création d’œuvres pouvant être diffusées sous plusieurs formes (documentaire unique, épisodes, site Internet, jeu vidéo, logiciels pour téléphone, baladodiffusions, webisodes, mobisodes) et ce, sur de nombreuses plateformes (télévision, Internet, téléphone portable). Le Ciné-débat explore de multiples approches à la création cinématographique avec Internet. Les intervenants partageront leur expérience de créer en utilisant Internet, tout en abordant l’influence que peut avoir ce médium dans le développement d’œuvres et les nouveaux rouages dorénavant partie prenante de la production audiovisuelle.

Sep 22, 2010
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Les Instants Vidéo – numériques et poétique (2010)

Ma vidéo Rouge sera présentée lors des 23es Instants Vidéo.  La manifestation se déroulera cette année du 3 septembre au 20 décembre 2010 (exposition d’installations vidéo, projections internationales d’art vidéo et documentaires de création, performances, rencontres…) en France (Marseille, Martigues, Port-de-Bouc, Aix, Nice, La Ciotat), Syrie, Egypte, République Tchèque, Algérie, Pays-Bas.

Sep 15, 2010
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Hors la loi (2010)

Hors la loi (2010) version française

J’ai été profondément interpellé et indigné par la récente marée noire dans le Golfe du Mexique. En réponse, j’ai écrit un long billet intitulé House on Fire pour mon blogue en plus de créer la vidéo Hors la loi.. Un extrait de Masse et Puissance de Elias Canetti met en relief l’inégalité des rapports de puissance entre nous et ce qui est sans défense.

Pour plus d’information: danieldugas.wordpress.com/​2010/​06/​03/​house-on-fire/​

Jul 10, 2010
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They Are Outlaws (2011)

They Are Outlaws is a video created in reaction the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The text is an excerpt of Crowds and Power from Elias Canetti.

They Are Outlaws is a video created in reaction the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The text is an excerpt of Crowds and Power from Elias Canetti.

Jun 2, 2010
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Red (2010)

Le 23 septembre 2009, une tempête de sable rouge s’est abattue sur la ville de Sydney en Australie. Pour quelques heures, la ville était d’un rouge étrange et fantastique.

On September 23, 2009, a dust storm blanketed the city of Sydney, Australia. For a few hours the city glowed red.

May 14, 2010
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Screening tonight (2010)

Camille, Andrew, Katrina and Co. is a story based on the personification of hurricanes. The ‘old storms’ Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Camille come to shore in Pensacola to prepare the ground for the next hurricane. Ted, the hero of the story, finds himself involved in all these machinations and attempts to save his city from certain disaster.

Friday, May 14th, 2010 @ 7 PM
EMMEDIA Screening Room
EMMEDIA Gallery & Production Society
#203
, 351 – 11 Ave. SW.
Calgary, Alberta T2R 0C7

Apr 28, 2010
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A Swastika in Moncton (2010)

I found a graffiti of a Swastika in Moncton NB. I called the City of Moncton weeks ago. After bouncing from one department to another, someone told me that somebody would call me back. I thought that making a video might speed up the process of removing the cross.

there is
something
a graffiti
on the sidewalk
near my home
it has been there
for many years
people have walked
over it
for many years
for some reason
nobody ever called
the town about it
no one ever came
to remove it
it’s a Swastika
and it has
become
ours

Sep 24, 2009
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Camille, Andrew, Katrina et cie (2009)

WEBSITE : http://daniel.basicbruegel.com/upload/camille/fr.html

 


• 2009 Camille, Andrew, Katrina et cie, Video installation, Volet arts médiatique, GSN-Ficfa

Camille, Andrew, Katrina et cie est une histoire de personnification d’ouragans. Les Katrina, Ivan, Andrew et Camille du passé débarquent à Pensacola afin de préparer le terrain pour le prochain ouragan. Ted, le héros de l’histoire, se retrouve mêlé à toutes ces machinations et tente de sauver sa ville d’un désastre certain.

 

J’ai voulu, depuis le tout du début du projet, raconter quelque chose qui pourrait être vu et lu de plusieurs façons. C’est une vidéo et c’est aussi une installation-vidéo. Le résultat est un travail qui est à cheval entre la pièce radiophonique et la vidéo expérimentale.
L’installation est composée d’une projection au mur, d’une table avec les accessoires qui ont été utilisés durant la production ainsi que d’une copie Française et une autre Anglaise du scénario. La présence de flux sonores indépendants (narration et effets sonores) de sous-titre anglais et d’un autre sous-titrage composé de notations qui réfèrent à la copie papier du scénario, fait en sorte qu’il est possible de présenter ce travail de plusieurs façons.
Les 33 séquences sont disponibles sur  VIMEO


Camille, Andrew, Katrina and Co. is a story based on the personification of hurricanes. The ‘old storms’ Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Camille come to shore in Pensacola to prepare the ground for the next hurricane. Ted, the hero of the story, finds himself involved in all these machinations and attempts to save his city from certain disaster.
From the very beginning of the project, I wanted to tell a story that could be seen and read in several different ways. This is a video and it is also a video installation. The resulting work straddles radio drama and experimental video.
The installation consists of a wall projection, a table with props that were used during production, as well as a French and English copy of the script. The presence of independent audio streams (narration and sound effects), English subtitles, and another subtitle stream made of notations that refer to the screenplay, makes it possible to present this work in several ways.
All of the 33 sequences are available at VIMEO


Videos also available on YouTube

 

Brochure Camille, Andrew, Katrina & Cie

Apr 6, 2009
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Prairie Tales 10, Alberta Film and Video on Tour

I drove, this first weekend of spring, to Fredericton, New Brunswick to screen the 10thedition of Prairie Tales.  The NB film Coop, who was hosting the presentation, has been a supporter of the project for some time. The cultural centre, where the Coop has its offices, was very busy as there were a number of others events happening in the building concurrently.  This abundance of activities probably contributed to a smaller turnout.  Nevertheless one member of the audience drove over two hours to see the works!  And that is saying a lot as the highways were invaded by hordes of deer!

One of the things I love about Prairie Tales is its diversity of genre and approach but what really strikes me, this year as in previous years, is the creative energy and artistic ability that can be found in Alberta.  By viewing the program one can feel that there is a vigorous discourse that is being nurtured.  The screening prompted discussions about film, video, networking, and the media arts across Canada.

In the darkness of the Doodles Café, where the screening took place, I felt something that I never felt before.  As I was looking at the program, I was seeing markers; landscapes, back alleys of Calgary and Edmonton, and in this familiarity of surroundings, I felt homesick!  Alberta, and more specifically Calgary, has been my home, on and off, for over 15 years.  I have recently relocated to Moncton, New Brunswick, my other home.  I am very proud to have been part of this year’s selection but I also feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the artistic vitality of the amazing place that is Alberta!

March 30, 2009 -Moncton NB

Prairie Tales 10
The latest collection of short film and video works by Alberta media artists.
Presented by Edmonton’s Metro Cinema Society.

 

Daniel H. Dugas

Artiste numérique, poète et musicien, Daniel H. Dugas a participé à des expositions individuelles et de groupe ainsi qu’à plusieurs festivals et événements de poésie en Amérique du Nord, en Europe, au Mexique et en Australie. Everglades, coécrit avec Valerie LeBlanc, vient de paraître aux Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel H. Dugas is a poet, musician, and videographer. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions as well as festivals and literary events in North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia. His tenth book of poetry, co-written with Valerie LeBlanc, Everglades has just been published by Les Éditions Prise de parole.

Everglades
À partir de leur exploration du parc national des Everglades, Daniel H. Dugas et Valerie LeBlanc cartographient dans cet essai poétique les effets de la présence humaine sur le milieu naturel, les traces qu’elle y dépose. Everglades est une ode à la beauté, à la fragilité et à la résilience d’une nature aux prises avec une espèce envahissante, la nôtre.

Everglades
Through their exploration of the Everglades National Park, Daniel H. Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc document, in this poetic collection, the effects of human presence in the natural world and the traces left behind. Everglades is an ode to the beauty, the fragility and the resilience of nature faced with the invasiveness of a particular species, ours.

Date : Mars 2018
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782897441029
Français/English

Éditions Prise de parole

http://www.prisedeparole.ca/auteurs/?id=1148

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