It’s the 25th anniversary of Images Festival which ‘is the largest North American festival for experimental and independent movie image culture’. For the next ten days there are three ways you can experience the festival: ON SCREEN – film and video screenings, LIVE IMAGES – live performances or OFF SCREEN – media art installations. Although some of the art shows have opened and there have been a few pre-festival screenings, this evening (Thursday, April 12/12) is the official launch of the festival.
The opening Gala film The Nine Muses by John Akomfrah is playing at the Royal Cinema. Due to prior commitments I am unable to make the screening as I am writing an exam, darn school, who thought it was a wise idea to take some night courses? The stills of the film look stunning and I am sorry I wasn’t able to attend, plus they had a Q&A with the filmmaker.
I am, however, able to attend the opening party. So here I walk along Spadina Avenue to find the ‘POP up’ gallery lounge set up for the festival. Ta da…found it. Art by Julieta Maria in the window, a bouncer at the door, down some stairs and I have arrived. It’s about 10pm and the room is more than half full. It’s going to be busy as people are still making their way over from the screening. I like this place; it’s got an edge, nothing fancy just a room set up with a front gallery showing Alexandra Navratil’s Sample Frames piece, a wall with a screen that will show Duncan Campbell’s film Arbeit, a place to buy some drink tickets, a bar to redeem the drinks from and MAGIC an ‘official grill cheese’ sponsor set up for snacks. It’s not shiny and glitzy, it’s got the feel of artists making things happen, as I said, I like it.
I have decided to fly solo, so I take my time checking out the Sample Frames piece. Four slide projectors are set up each showing the same 81 image bank and synched to change at the appropriate time. It has the feel of the past, although it could be the present, standard nature shots it seems. The project is interesting since each slide had been sitting for almost a century, when she developed them it resulted in each image having a different due to hue or texture. The story is pretty cool about how she found demo slides from a Eastman Kodak colour and tinting guide which included a demo slide that came out in the early part of the 1900s. She had to do some searching, as in searching around the world, to find the more of these demo slides. Overall, it made me miss my west coast roots. I love mountains and water.
As I venture further inside I realize some great tunes are being supplied by DJ ToddRod Skimmins from MAKEOVER Sync Mode. Importantly, he has the right soulful lounge fused mix happening at volume that is louder than the group chatter, but still allowing people to converse without having to get so close that the other person’s spit gets on you. I appreciate the skills of a DJ who gets all the elements right.
Further into the space, by the bar, I find Cheesewerks set up offering two different options. You can have the original (Balderson Aged +Double Smoked cheddars grilled on signature cracked peppercorn sourdough) or the Charleston (Double-cream Brie, oven-caramelized onions, and apricot chutney on grilled walnut raisin bread). After some hymning and hawing, I set myself up with the original, after all, isn’t that the way you’re supposed to start at a new place? The result is grilled melty yumminess. I will definitely be visiting their place at 56 Bathurst. The good news is that they will be set up here at the Images Lounge each night of the festival with different menu options.
After the snack I decide to chat with some folks, see what’s going on. It seems some people have come from the film and some are just here for the party. The overall snippets of conversation I hear are about film and being an artist. I hear the expected conversation: challenges of creating art, inspirations that allow art to exist and what people have on their list to see at the festival. All this comes without the self-importance, thankfully, that can unfortunately accompany events similar to this. I decide to brave the waters and start a conversation with a stranger. Lucky for me I get to meet Nicky Hamlyn an artist and professor of experimental film. He is here from the UK on a three week Media City residency, and by here I actually mean Windsor, he is just in Toronto for the weekend visiting friends and has decided to check out the festival. Nicky is preparing for an exhibit which will run April 23 – May 16, where he will be creating site specific films in Windsor and Detroit. This is the second time someone has mentioned Detroit and art to me this week, I feel a road trip coming on.
After our tête-à-tête, I take a look around, it seems like this party is going to keep going into the night. I am beat and need to head home. So with a feeling of thank-goodness-I-went-out-instead-of-staying-home I walk up the steps and start the journey west. I am excited to check out more of the festival, but it will have to wait until I get back from Montreal this weekend. Stay tuned for what adventures Barb and Tracey have at the festival while I am away. Good night.