Audiences who have spent the last week sequestered away in theatres for the Toronto International Film Festival are by now primed with enough visual stimuli to confuse cinematic reality with the everyday variety. Those who want to take a shortcut to that uneasy yet thought-provoking headspace need look no further than Future Projections, the festival’s program of experimental film projects and installations on view for free at site-specific venues and gallery spaces across the city.
Like its TIFF cousin Wavelengths, Future Projections is specifically focused on expanding perspectives on film as art and vice versa. To that end, the program has gathered moving-image works by a broad spectrum of local and international creators who straddle the art/film divide.
Site-specific projects showing to Sept. 19 run far and wide. Danish artist Jesper Just fills the windows of the Drake Hotel with A Vicious Undertow, which makes a cinematic display of longing and loss with slow, detailed tracking shots photographed in black and white and an emotive, siren-song soundtrack (a whistled version of the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”). At the festival’s Nathan Phillips Square box office, artists Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak premiere Speak City, a moving image ode via neighbourhood street signs to Toronto’s diverse and distinct urban fabric. Short experimental works by Jeremy Shaw, Marco Brambilla and Oliver Pietsch are projected onto the façade of the festival’s under-construction headquarters at the corner of King and John. One-off events by British “visual mash-up” artists Eclectic Method and New York artist Adam Pendleton’s Jean-Luc Godard/Rolling Stones–inspired film projection (with a performance by art-rock favourites Deerhoof) titled BAND are slated for later this week at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Despite the ambitious potential of bringing these art-film projects into the public realm—Future Projections programmers and curators deserve kudos for that—the works feel somewhat lost to the desensitized distraction of an already busy urban environment. Whether it’s a Queen West sidewalk or the manic ad-media zone of Yonge and Dundas, it seems rare that passersby will have the time or attention to stop and consider the subtleties at play in many of these works. It’s an unavoidable pitfall, and perhaps that’s part of the program’s point.
Gallery-sited projects included in Future Projections offer more time and space for contemplation, and are stronger for it. Major exhibitions of cinema-related works by Mark Lewis at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and by Candice Breitz at the Power Plant have been dovetailed into the Future Projections lineup. Toronto director and actor Don McKellar is at Stephen Bulger Gallery with Imaginary Lovers, a series of six diaristic video portraits shot on mobile-phone cameras in various international cities. Film veteran Christopher Doyle debuts a career-spanning collage work titled Picture Start at Index G. At the Royal Ontario Museum, cinema diva Isabella Rossellini screens selections from her ongoing Green Porno series of “educational” shorts based on the sexual lives of various sea creatures.
But if there is one must-see work in Future Projections it is Thai artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s film installation Phantoms of Nabua, which takes over the project space at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art until Sept. 20. Excerpted from Weerasethakul’s larger multimedia project Primitive (another section from the work, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, was part of Wavelengths), the film is an elemental display of the power of light and dark and the temporary afterimage of memory. From the opening shot of a lone fluorescent light standard backed by the sounds of a brewing storm, the film moves through a symphony of lightning strikes to a nighttime game of soccer played with a flaming ball. Darkness is lit in flashes. Sounds are explosive. Images appear and fade. Sitting in the darkened gallery, it all feels very threatening—and very real. (Various locations, Toronto ON)