About

Jog + Shuttle by Renuka Bauri

These days, there are very few video co-ops that ask you to work with 30 year-old technology, but that's exactly what SAW Video did. As part of their 30th anniversary, they commissioned a group of artists to create short videos using only analogue technology, and four projects were made: Utah 1978 by Inflatable Deities (a.k.a. Emily Pelstring and Jessica Mensch) (Montréal), Evolution de l'avenir by Kerry Campbell (Gatineau), Music Video #3 by Tyler Reekie (Ottawa) and Gay Men and Jamaicans by Roy Mitchell (Toronto). This commission was ultimately a challenge to not use any of the latest computer technology, non-linear editing suites or digital media. All the artists could use was technology that was at the forefront of the media industry when SAW Video was inaugurated in 1981. The results are surprisingly varied, humourous and thought-provoking, as examinations of media art's technological past.

Old technology isn't defunct; it's merely a point of understanding how far we've come. With the influx of computer and digital technology incorporated into our world at an increasing rate, analogue seems defunct by comparison. ¾ inch tape and 8-track have been replaced with digitized sound and image that can be stored and edited with far more ease and artistic flexibility. 

The overall challenge of working with analogue was unanimously felt amongst the artists; it was cumbersome to work with physically in production and post-production. “You definitely have less control,” says Kerry Campbell, an Ottawa-area artist and also known as VJ Daisy, “your work has to be linear and that can really affect the final product.” Campbell's video portrays a transition from the natural world to a technological landscape, which is conveyed through abstract visual effects achieved with an analogue video mixer, rather than with a more conventional story. “Originally I had started out with a traditional narrative … but that changed when it came to editing the final piece because this [analogue technology] isn't as compliant as digital.”

Reekie, whose work is a clever pastiche of the melodramatic plots of 1980's music videos, echoes Campbell when asked if he faced any challenges working with analogue technology: “What was challenging? The equipment! It's just really heavy and portability became an issue. Even when using the equipment, I had to trick it sometimes in order to get it working the right way… but HD is also too clean sometimes. The medium tends to disappear… when you see a painting you want to see the brushstrokes and see that texture.”

“My work is DIY so I don't mind the glitch-iness of things as long as I can work around them,” says Roy Mitchell, when asked about the difference between working with analogue versus digital technology. Mitchell's piece for Jog + Shuttle recounts a speech given at a demonstration against police raids on Toronto bathhouses thirty years ago: “What excited me was the idea of using the technology that would have been around then when the speech was made... but in hindsight! And when I started to edit, I realized I'd have to learn something that really would not help me in later years... like learning to use a typewriter to write a novel... conceptually, a great idea... practically, not so much.”

But filming and editing in an analogue medium aren't the only elements that the Jog + Shuttle project highlighted. Across the board, memory was presented and confronted in various ways, including Campbell's abstract interpretation of the evolution of technology, Reekie's video as a memory generator that questions how the medium remembers itself, Mitchell's intertwining of personal and collective memory, and Inflatable Deities' re-presentation of a childhood and imagined memory.

Pelstring says of Utah 1978: “We wanted to create a visual representation of a specific time. The idea of obsolescence was conceptually and aesthetically important, especially when you're working with this [analogue] equipment.” In one sketch, Pelstring and Mensch play elderly women searching for an elusive prosthetic leg, while a slowed-down version of Bobby Darin's “Dream Lover” plays hallucinogenically in the background. “The 'Christmas Leg' sketch was a way of asking, 'how could we recreate this memory?'” Like Campbell, Pelstring and Mensch felt they had less control working in this medium, but that it was also highly educational in terms of learning what their limitations were. 

Looking back on 30 years of media art, you develop an appreciation for both ends of the current technological spectrum. The images strung together by magnetic tape or celluloid are representative of the different ways in which we try to re-present or evoke a particular time. Digital media hasn't reduced those images to 0's and 1's, but it has changed the immediacy with which we can work with those images. It also affects our memories of the past. The Jog + Shuttle videos make it evident that in order to appreciate the tools we work with now, we have to acknowledge just how much technology has changed how we remember, interpret and re-present those memories.

Évolution de l'avenir by Kerry Campbell

 

Music Video #3 by Tyler Reekie

 

Gay Men and Jamaicans by Roy Mitchell

 

Utah 1978 by Inflatable Deities

Synopses and Bios

Utah 1978 by Inflatable Deities

Utah 1978 is a series of vignettes that combine the sensibilities of video art, sketch television comedy, and home videos. “Was That Expensive?” follows the character Marygold as she naively wreaks havoc on an otherwise peaceful neighbourhood. In the sci-fi world of “Das Baby,” two club-goers get stuck in a time loop. Set to the warped soundtrack of Bobby Darin's “Dream Lover,” the 3rd sketch opens on the humble Utah dwelling of Frankie and her niece, Finessa. Chaos, sinister magic, and miracles ensue when Frankie's Christmas Leg goes missing...

Jessica Mensch and Emily Pelstring do their collaborative work as a two-person collective called Inflatable Deities. Before becoming a collective, they worked together on the percussion/vocal performance Abortion Spa in 2009 and 2010. They formalized their collaboration through the Open Residency Program at Studio XX in 2011, which culminated in the multimedia performance The Slow Drip. They immediately followed up with an immersive gallery installation involving video and panoramic mural painting entitled Strange Shapes Seen the Sky. They then choreographed and performed Astral Drain, a live dance with interactive lighting and giant inflatables for the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival at Sala Rossa in June 2011. They also write electronic music together and perform as a band.

Music Video #3 by Tyler Reekie

“Should've known better than to cheat a friend, wasted chance I've been given” are the infamous words of the living zeitgeist of the 80's, George Michael. These words, and the music video that came with them, are among the many impressions that influenced Music Video #3 by Tyler Reekie. The music video came to fruition during the 80's and advanced pop media art, using the tropes of cinema, television, and video art in a stylized saturation that left a mark on our media forever. Music Video #3 pays homage to this 'medium,' recreating the techniques, metaphors and styles of 'back then'. In this video, two lovers struggle for power in a relationship that pushes them to make mistakes that can't be undone. “Guilty feet ain't got no rhythm”.

Tyler Reekie was born and raised in northeast Edmonton. He left Edmonton to study cinema in Montreal, where he worked in various positions on movie sets and also directed and edited his own short films. He returned to Edmonton to do an internship at Studio Post, where he learned that he actually doesn't know anything. Afterwards, he moved back to Montreal, added a minor in English literature to his cinema degree, edited his graduating film, Opaque/recall, and worked around town as an assistant editor. Tyler is glad to have been brought to Ottawa and SAW Video to work, teach and partake in the local media art community.

Évolution de l'avenir by Kerry Campbell

Évolution de l'avenir is an exploration of the evolution of the future. This abstract video begins with simple greenery and progresses to a speculative vision of the future. With the constant bombardment of chemicals and pollution, our Earth will one day evolve into something beyond our imagination. Using a combination of antiquated equipment and modern techniques, Évolution de l'avenir portrays what that future might hold.

 

Kerry Campbell (aka V.J. Daisy) creates and manipulates moving images that are infused with live footage and feedback loops, resulting in a live multimedia performance that makes use of literal and artistic images to uniquely interpret events. VJ Daisy has worked with many bands, including Unireverse, My Dad vs. Yours and the Fiftymen. Kerry is currently the chair of the SAW Video board of directors, the resident VJ at the monthly party Timekode in Ottawa, and a member of Ghettoblast Sound System and raas, an audio/visual noise dance music band.

Gay Men and Jamaicans by Roy Mitchell

Thirty years ago, the power of a speech and its impact speak to a specific historical moment formed an alliance between two communities that today mainstream and queer press do not present as allies: Jamaicans and Queers.  Mitchell's piece reflects on a time when two communities recognized that the power harassing, arresting and murdering them came from outside. In the wake of last year's G20 and the unprecedented power given to the police, Mitchell looks back to 1981 when he witnessed the speech and reflects on what makes it so powerful then and today.

Roy Mitchell is a media and performance artist with the heart of a stand-up comedian who prefers to sit down. Roy was also elected to the Board of Pride Toronto in 2010. His film and video work has been screened across Canada and internationally.

 


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