The Images Festival was born in 1988, when a collective of Toronto artists decided that there needed to be an event (an anti-TIFF, perhaps) devoted to then-marginalized moving-image formats—such as video—and overlooked moving-image voices, be they female, queer, of colour and otherwise. Fast-forward to 2012, the festival’s 25th edition: now, Images includes artists from around the world, has an ever-expanding commissioning program, and boasts an array of works, from short films to sound pieces to installations.
“It’s pretty momentous,” says Pablo de Ocampo, artistic director of the festival. “How does an institution recognize time passing, or history? We’re trying not to pat ourselves on the back—not to think so specifically or literally in terms of recognizing our accomplishments. We want to take this as an occasion to look really closely at what the fabric of the festival is.”
The highlights of this year’s festival are thus as progressive as they are reflective. (One might point out that, for an avant-garde entity like Images, a look backward is by nature a look forward.) Indeed, from anniversary screenings and works by experimental-film icons, to present-day movers and shakers and revisitations of classic works, Images 2012 spans periods and sensibilities. In other words, a quarter of a decade later, it remains eclectically itself. Here’s our picks.
1. 25th-Anniversary Screenings
Images’ unique approach to its anniversary includes a microsite, iFpod, which began in 2007 with the festival’s 20th edition. The site is an archive of Canadian video art; this year, view a temporary selection of 1988’s impressive program, which includes works by now-canonized artists in the field, among them Vera Frenkel, Philip Hoffman, R. Bruce Elder and recent Governor General’s Award–winner Jan Peacock. A two-part screening series of 1988’s schedule is also in the offing; for Part 1 on April 13, founding board members and programmers—including Cameron Bailey, now TIFF’s artistic director—choose and discuss work from that first year which they found personally significant.
Images’ reputation as a leading international experimental-film festival is now such that it not only kickstarts careers, but also honours established ones. Renowned American collagist Lewis Klahr’s dazzlingly colourful animated crime tale The Pettifogger played on Wednesday as a pre-festival bonus. The opening-night selection for 2012 is The Nine Muses by John Akomfrah, co-founder of the influential 1980s British group Black Audio Film Collective, known primarily for their essay films. The Nine Muses is Akomfrah’s meditation on notions of migration, weaving together still images, found footage and sound pastiches. Also not to be missed: April 17’s “A Letter to the Living” program, which includes important California filmmaker Chick Strand’s last film Señora con Flores (Woman with Flowers); painterly durational-film icon James Benning’s latest, inspired by Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski in the “Two Movies” program, also on the 17th; and Florentina Hubaldo, CTE by the award-winning Lav Diaz, who has been called “ideological father of the New Philippine Cinema,” on April 21.
3. New Voices
Images is, by nature, rife with new voices, its shorts programs providing exposure for relative unknowns on the cutting edge of the moving-image arts. This year’s “S is for Student” program on April 15, curated by Dan Browne, Jennifer Sider and Cam Woykin, features student work from Russia, Germany, the UK and Canada. In three separate Images programs, young Chicago filmmaker Mike Gibisser shows three parts of his four-part The Motive Power Series, which combines concepts of thermodynamics with studies of solitude and old age. Multidisciplinary artist Keren Cytter, born in Israel in 1977 and now based in Berlin, performs live April 19, coinciding with her largest retrospective to date at Oakville Galleries.
Fitting for an anniversary year, Images 2012 boasts a number of reinventions of older works. Erik Bünger’s April 18 performance The Third Man explores memory and melody, beginning with recollections of his father’s obsession with the titular Carol Reed film’s eerie zither theme. The Sounds of Science is Images’ closing-night event, featuring Hoboken indie-rock legends Yo La Tengo providing a live soundtrack to the stunning, magical nature films of Jean Painlevé.
5. Off Screen
Images’ Off Screen component, a series of installations in galleries across the city, continues to grow. This year at Gallery 44, don’t miss The Paul Good Papers by Deanna Bowen, Images’ special residency project in honour of its anniversary, which explores the civil-rights movement by delving into audio archives recorded by Paul Good, ABC News’ Southern bureau chief in the 1960s. Sound is also an essential component of other must-see offerings: Deborah Stratman’s uncanny piece at Mercer Union, which creates an immersive, terrifying militarized landscape through sound collage, and Naeem Mohaiemen’s The Young Man Was (Part 1: United Red Army) at A Space Gallery, a video based on audio transcripts from a Japanese Red Army plane hijacking in the 1970s. (The latter runs alongside Silvia Kolbowski’s A Few Howls Again?, a stop-motion work based on the life of journalist and political militant Ulrike Meinhof.)