The Toronto International Film Festival may be long over, but that doesn’t mean bits and pieces of it aren’t still lingering around. The Future Projections programme is a collection of art projects about film that TIFF will keep running for another week. They’re all free and waiting to be discovered by someone wandering around downtown. Originally there was a multitude of shows, but since the festival ended,they’ve been narrowed down to three: Mr. Brainwash in Toronto, Sanctuary, and Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.
Coinciding with their Fellini celebration last month, Sanctuary showcases Fellini’s old filming grounds, Cinecittà Studios, in a series of photographs by Gregory Crewdson. The exhibit is held unassumingly in a fourth floor gallery on Spadina. It’s a small place and doesn’t take much time to explore. The walls are covered with black and white images of Cinecittà Studios, and the remnants of sets from movies like Ben Hur and the Gangs of New York. Crewdson is no longer around to give his commentary, but his visual artis enough of a statement. Cinecittà Studios appears decrepit in almost every photograph, torn apart bythe 2007 fire. The photographs themselves convey a sense of lost history, and of lost imagination, as if the destruction of the sets represents an abandonment of these old ideas.
The photographs themselves are of an astonishing quality. These black and white images have a sense of depth to them. They feel three dimensional without any technological illusions, just good camera-work on Crewdson’s part. Any fan of the TV series Rome, or just about any Fellini film will find this gala intriguing. It shows what happens to old sets after they’ve been abandoned, and tries to discover what happens to stories after their pasts have been forgotten.
Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board
This is the most cerebral of the three Future Projections. Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board is a series of four videos created to showcase the magic of cinema. Its location at the Birch Libralato gallery is a tad out of the way, though still located downtown, by Queen and Bathurst. The videos each focus around one effect with the theme of romance behind it. One has a woman hovering above a bed, while another involves a bride slowly, yet violently, twisting around in the air. The more intriguing videos are the ones that mess with one’s perception of time. In one such video, the two artists, Shelia and Nicholas Pyre, both eat a rose. However, as Shelia picks off the petals to put in her mouth, Nicholas is taking petals out, and putting them back on the rose. Nicholas is going in reverse while Shelia moves ahead. Yet, whenShelia finishes eating and Nicholas has a created whole rose, their roles switch. Nicholas takes the rose petals into his mouth as Shelia puts them back. Part of the game is trying to figure out how they did it. It could be all simple editing tricks or carefully placed physical illusions. Watching all of them takes about forty minutes, though it takes significantly less time to get the gist.
Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board is the least rewarding of the three shows because they create more questions than they really attempt to answer. The Globe and Mail put a lot on emphasis on how this piece is a romantic comedy without the dialogue, however this is not as evident as the article relates.
Nevertheless, the Pyres’s work engages the viewer, if only out of puzzlement, and offers an interesting way one can talk about movies and love.
Mr. Brainwash in Toronto
For those looking for something immediately recognizable as art, Mr. Brainwash has left a treat just west of the Toronto Reference Library. A collection of his work, along with a flatscreen monitor constantly replaying his movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, is on display at Gallery One. In terms of presentation, this is the most visually interesting of the three remaining galas. It’s an art exhibit with pure iconoclasm. Using stencils of common multimedia icons from pop culture and old art, Thierry Guetta (the man underneath the Brainwash persona) destroys common perceptions of art icons. From music, there’s Bob Marley made up of entirely record labels. For comic books, there’s the torn apart image of 1960s Superman, and the illusion of the American dream. And for animation, Mickey Mouse acts as a dictator along with Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. The walls are covered with Guetta’s work, enough to take at least thirty minutes to see them all in detail. Even if you don’t like the idea of seeing famous images marked by graffiti art, the images are universal. Almost everyone has something to say about Superman, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, and Albert Einstein, more so if these icons suddenly put on a garish outfit and began to fall apart.
Given the option of seeing one of any of these three exhibits, Mr. Brainwash in Toronto is the clear choice. His graffiti feels like a direct assault on universal pop culture icons and is fascinating to see. Plus, his documentary is constantly playing in the background. Thus, Gallery One gives the right context for his work, allowing almost anyone, given a cursory glance at the film, to know who Guetta is and what he intends to do. Thierry Guetta may be long gone, but he never had to explain himself. His art is striking and almost immediately understood.
Did you miss anything?
The short answer is yes. The Future Projections had some far more poignant art projects running during the festival. Buenas Ares and Slow Motion were noted by TIFF curators and reviewers alike for their arresting images and unique use of film.
The most high profile project was Memories of Idaho involving James Franco and Gus Van Sant. Their collaboration was a two film work. The first, My Own Private River, was a re-editing of Van Sant’s original My Own Private Idaho using only the outtakes and deleted scenes from Mike’s (River Phoenix) perspective. The other film, Idaho, was based on an alternate earlier script for Van Sant’s movie.
Idaho is a great example of why some TIFF Future Projections were better than others. It seems pretentious and devoted to a fairly specific audience. The price for these events is always free. So when considering the remaining three, remember that they are to be paid in intrigue per time spent. Some shows just aren’t worth visiting, only to then wonder if the show is worth the price of gas.
For more info on the Future Projections programme, visit tiff.net.
Top image: One of Mr. Brainwash’s works. Courtesy TIFF.