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News / September 5, 2018

TIFF Premieres Notable Artist Films

Maria Lassnig, Richard Billingham, Sky Hopinka, Beatrice Gibson and Steve McQueen are among those featured
Kevin Jerome Everson's <em>Polly One</em>, which focuses on the August 2017 solar eclipse, is having its Canadian premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. Kevin Jerome Everson's Polly One, which focuses on the August 2017 solar eclipse, is having its Canadian premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.

A number of notable films by and about contemporary artists are having world, international and national premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival this month. Many of these are part of Wavelengths—a special program of the festival named for an iconic Michael Snow film and featuring, as a release puts it, “the ways in which filmmakers continue to expand cinema’s aesthetic, narrative and documentary forms and languages.” But other artist films are part of the main festival program too.

Among the highlights in Wavelengths is the North American premiere of Walled Unwalled by Lawrence Abu Hamdan—the very work that won the German artist the 2018 Abraaj Group Art Prize in Dubai this March. The piece addresses the proliferation of border walls between various countries over the past two decades. Another notable selection is the world premiere of Beatrice Gibson’s I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead—a work co-commissioned by Toronto’s Mercer Union in tandem with Camden Arts Centre in London, Bergen Kunsthall in Bergen and KW Arts Centre in Berlin. Gibson, a past Baloise Art Prize winner, focuses on poetics and mothering in her new film, including appearances by Eileen Myles and CA Conrad.

Other Wavelengths selections include the international premiere of Sky Hopinka’s Fainting Spells, recently installed at the Haggerty Museum of Art in Milwaukee and offering “an imagined myth for the Xąwįska, or the Indian Pipe Plant—used by the Ho-Chunk to revive those who have fainted,” says the artist’s website. The Canadian premiere of Kevin Jerome Everson’s Polly One, shown earlier this year at the Brooklyn Art Museum and the Harvard Film Archive, features footage filmed during the August 2017 solar eclipse, the day after the artist’s grandmother passed away. And Ben Rivers brings his latest film, TREES DOWN HERE, to TIFF as well for an international premiere.

There are also filmic works at the festival by artists better known for paintings and photographs. For instance, Maria Lassnig’s film portrait Alice from 1974 is at last having its Canadian premiere, demonstrating connections between her haunting painted self-portraits and her cinematic work. And Turner Prize–nominated photographer Richard Billingham, known for photographs of working-class life in the UK, presents his debut feature RAY & LIZ, “inspired by his family and his own Thatcher-era childhood memories,” says a TIFF release. (RAY & LIZ is a North American premiere.)

Last, but certainly not least, is Turner Prize winner (and Oscar winner) Steve McQueen’s latest film, Widows, having its world premiere in Toronto; Walking on Water, a North American premiere documentary about Christo’s struggle to create The Floating Piers on Italy’s Lake Iseo following co-creator Jeanne-Claude‘s death; and the world premiere of Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. The latter feature accompanies the trio’s exhibition of the same title opening at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada on September 28.

This article was corrected on September 7, 2018. The last name of Richard Billingham was incorrectly spelled “Bellingham” in the original article.

Jayne Wilkinson

Jayne Wilkinson is a writer, independent curator and is editor-in-chief at Canadian Art.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via