Saturday, September 11, 2010

A few TIFF art picks: William Kentridge, Women Art Revolution, Otolith Group

Though TIFF's new exhibition space doesn't officially open until tomorrow, there's related art programming happening around town. Here's my reviews of three; they're also in today's Post in condensed form; I'm posting the full ones here.

1. ! Women Art Revolution at the AMC (10 Dundas E) September 12, 14 & 19
Condensing a remarkable 40 years of footage, American artist/filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new flick (world-premiering here) tries to show how the feminist art movement has fused creativity and politics to striking effect from the late 1960s on. The grassrootsy result is far from perfect. After all, many creative movements have sought and achieved a similar fusion, and the film has annoying repetitions, omissions and self-reflections that undermine viewer attention. Fortunately, these problems are overpowered by the film’s strengths, like the opportunity to see legendary artists like Nancy Spero and Adrian Piper talk about their work and the challenges sexism has presented. LA art star Mike Kelley makes a surprise cameo on how women form a key (if double-standard-affected) avant-garde, and clips of the US House of Representatives debating a ban on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party have to be seen to be believed. Best, though, is the film’s extended life online at There, many of Leeson’s full artist interviews are available for free viewing at your own pace. (One question not answered: Would these ladies picket the Lightbox, which features just one female director in the Essential 100?)

2. William Kentridge at Gallery TPW (56 Ossington Ave) to September 19
South African artist William Kentridge is renowned for his charming (and often profound) hand-drawn animations, which received a MOMA survey earlier this year. His short film Journey to the Moon, which has been circulating worldwide since 2003 and is now showing here, isn’t Kentridge’s best work, nor his newest—but it’s still pretty goddamn delightful. For it, Kentridge uses the 1902 sci-fi flick and Film Studies 101 staple Voyage Dans La Lune as a point of departure. Where the original Voyage (helpfully screening in an adjacent room, and truly the Avatar of its day) has umbrella-wielding astronauts being attacked by uncomfortably tribal-looking aliens, Kentridge’s Journey focuses on inner universes, with a white-collar artist haunted by the memory of a mysterious woman. Despite the content inversion, Kentridge still makes great, ingenious play of reproducing Voyage’s key scenes, art-studio style: his coffeemaker becomes a rocket ship; his espresso cup, a handy telescope. The result, enhanced by a beautiful, single-piano soundtrack, is both sweet and mournful—a wry, witty lament that ably counterpoints (and co-opts) the original film’s fantasies of external ecstasy and androgen-fuelled adventure.

3. The Otolith Group at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay W) to September 19
Film-theory headz won’t want to miss this exhibition of Otolith III, which UK collective the Otolith Group dubs a “premake” of The Alien, an abandoned 1967 Indian sci-fi film. The rest of us folks, well… we might find it a little trying. Intentionally disjointed and dislocating, Otolith III (named, like the group, for an inner-ear particle that helps humans maintain a sense of balance) mashes up old Indian cinema clips, contemporary London street scenes and lines like “How did we exit the screenplay? Let’s just say we practiced.” Many will find it obtuse, cryptic and boring, and rightly so. But there’s a quiet courage here too—one that finds a crack in the celebrity-filled, culturally homogenous certainty of so much cinema and dares to crowbar the whole thing open. That gumption’s worth a nod, as well as the wholly enjoyable segments that assess passing pedestrians using central-casting lingo.

Image from Kentridge's Journey to the Moon from Objective Correlative

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