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Journal of Media Art

Film and Consciousness

The Flux Media Art Gallery is dedicated to

presenting innovative art works by local, national and

international media artists. It is a place for the exchange of

ideas surrounding media arts practice.

510 Fort St. (second floor)

Victoria BC, V8W 1E6



Trace Nelson, Installation view of Rotor, Flux Media Art

Gallery, 2017. Photo by Peter Sandmark.


Waking Dreams

- Catlin Lewis

Interview with Penny McCann

-Peter Sandmark

Dream Cinema

- Andrew Struthers

Interview with Trace Nelson

-Catlin Lewis

Deirdre Logue’s Psychic Conditions of Living

- Peter Sandmark

The Dream Life of Animals: An Interview with Melanie Shatzky and

Brian M. Cassidy

- Catlin Lewis

Addendum - The Secret Bank Account (Part One of Three):

Introducing an Economy of Art

-Petra Muller

On the cover: (Front) Penny McCann, still from Crashing Skies, 2012.

(Back) Melanie Shatzky and Brian M.Cassidy, stills of dream sequences from

Animals Under Anaesthesia: Speculations on the Dreamlife of Beasts, 2016.

InFlux is a publication of MediaNet (510 Fort St, Victoria BC). All writings

published with permission of the authors. This magazine or its contents may not

be reprinted in whole or part without express permission of the authors and


© MediaNet 2017

Waking Dreams

They sleep; their eyes no longer see. They are no longer conscious of their

bodies. Instead there are only passing images, a gliding and rustling of


Thus spoke art critic Jules Romains, on observing an audience in

1912 watching the films of Georges Melies. From the earliest days

of cinema, people have commented on film’s ability to mirror our

dreams and subconscious states. From the phantasmagorias of early

pioneers of Cinema, like Melies, who created elaborate sets and

costumes, to the filmic explorations of the Dadaists and Surrealists,

to contemporary fantasies by filmmakers like David Lynch, film has

sought to understand our psyches, and to reflect them back to us.

If traditional, representational and linear cinema can seem to replicate

human consciousness, what about non-liner, abstract and

experimental film and media art? The writers and artists in this

issue of InFlux explore these questions through interviews and

essays, sharing with us images from their own dream landscapes.

Catlin Lewis


Contribute to InFlux!

Send your submissions to fluxmediagallery@gmail.com

Attn: Catlin

Interview with Penny McCann

- Peter Sandmark

Peter Sandmark: Thanks Penny for agreeing to an interview about

your new film and your filmmaking technique. I wanted to frame

the questions a bit, because I am interested in the way experimental

filmmakers use imagery in their films, and in particular I am

interested in film in general as a metaphor for consciousness. While

conventional cinema emulates an ordinary day to day (linear) sort

of consciousness, experimental filmmakers tap into dream or memory

states with how they use or treat imagery. Sometimes I see

films which use images in a conceptual manner for their symbolic

meaning, which can reduce their potential aesthetic value. In some

of your films I have seen a more mysterious interpretation of the

imagery, which leaves them more open ended for the audience. So,

this is the approach I wanted to bring to the questions. Let’s start

with how you select images for your films, and let’s start with your

new film, Gibraltar Point (transformed).

Penny McCann: Gibraltar Point (transformed) was a relatively simple

idea. I filmed it at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island, which I have

been to a few times. I love the place because I am from Kingston,

I was raised on Lake Ontario, and I miss living next to a big,

open body of water. So, when I go there I am very fixated on that

horizon, that landscape. In this case I was there for a Super-8 and

16 mm film residency, and was focusing on another project called

Landlines. I shot a whole bunch of Super-8, but I also had three

rolls of black and white 16 mm film that I wanted to shoot and

hand-process while I was there, because there was a darkroom,

and it can be hard to access a darkroom away from a workshop.

In 2006 I had made a film called Lake Ontario In My Head at Gibraltar

Point, so I was really conscious of the fact that I was duplicating

something [with Gibraltar Point (transformed)]. I thought it could be

an homage to that earlier film, which is the only experimental film

that I had finished on 16 mm. For that reason, I had very mixed

feelings about the footage [of Gibraltar Point (transformed)]. I had

only seen those 3 rolls of black and white 16mm projected at the

end of the workshop, and I was afraid of them. I thought, I don’t

want to deal with this footage, even though I knew I had something.

I needed instead to focus on Landlines.

A year later I finally transferred the 16mm film at FRAME DIS-

CREET [in Toronto], and when the digital images came back I

thought Oh my god… Well okay then, I have a film. It was very

simple from there, because the footage was so perfect I knew to

just let it be. It has a randomness, the alchemical process [of film]

and a lot of solarizing effects, the hand processing, all combining

to be this random trip through consciousness. I simply cut out

bits,… I looked, and thought okay, that whole part didn’t turn out,

or that goes on for too long. So I cut out sections, but other than

that, what is on there is largely what came back to me from the lab.

Experimental film is about punctuation, it’s about duration and moments,

and about how to lead the viewer, because there is no story.

So it’s about how you create a shape, how you give it some sort of

structure. Finding structure is always the key in these works, and

I know to keep the short, sweet, immersive moments. In this case

it was the strength of the visuals that did it. The luminosity of that

film still kills me.

Peter: You talk about solarization and that this is part of the luminescence

of the imagery… You have chosen to do some hand-processing

and some solarization in the processing, and that’s a choice

in the image quality of the film. What’s your interest in that?

Penny: Although I like shooting with a Bolex, and I enjoy Super-8

and celluloid in general, I am not a technical filmmaker like many

experimental filmmakers out there, who are very much into chemistry

and the machinery of chemistry. I am a director, and I sort of

skim above the surface of all of that. In 2000 I made the first of a

sequence of short experimental poetic landscape films, Marshlands,

which was a mix of Super-8 and 16 mm and video. That was my

entry into working with celluloid in an experimental way, because I

had made short dramas prior to that.

Still from Gibraltar Point (transformed), 2017

Marshlands is on 16 mm film shot with a camera that didn’t work

correctly, and the gate kept stuttering, so I just referred to it as my

dream camera. It was like, wow! You can’t duplicate that kind of

effect. It was beautiful, very beautiful. So, I am always looking for

things that evoke this conscious space in the head. How do I get

there? It could be through the dream memory camera, it could

be through optically printing Super-8 , blowing it up to 16 mm, or

through hand-processing. I first discovered hand-processing at Phil

Hoffman’s Film Farm when I was there in 2008, and it is currently

what I am working with. That may change, as I find it can be a bit

over used as a trope. It is a bit difficult to work in as a format.

Peter: Why?

Penny: Because it can look all the same after a while. Just like any

imagery. My work is about creating psychic shifts in the mind, to

trigger memory or changes in consciousness.

Peter: Would you say that the hand-processing and the artefacts

that you see makes the audience conscious that they are looking at

an image?

Penny: No, it is not about that, it’s about sublimnity. I don’t know,

maybe because I am Irish Catholic, but I am always trying to find

the sublime. If you overuse it, you will lose the surprise, the moment.

But for now that is what I am working with.

To go back to the Film Farm, when I first went there I got into

hand-processing and within hand processing, found that there is

a whole bunch of techniques that you can use. I have discovered

that I seem to be the queen of solarization. I mean how would you

know? I am very good with tinting and toning, I really like that, to

create colour and so on, but solarization is my thing. And I love it,

because it is so random and so kooky, it blows up the image and

you don’t know what you are going to get. A lot of filmmakers try

to control the image, by superimposition and things like that, and

I am not interested in controlling the image. I am happy when it

turns out. That’s always a bonus! And I am always surprised when it

turns out, because I am not a technical filmmaker. But the solarizing

adds the element of accidental alchemy to an already accidental

process, of hand-processing. Tinting and toning you can choose the

footage you want to tint and tone, but with solarizing you can’t. Because

it works in the dark.

Peter: We hope people reading this will look at some of your films,

and we have provided the Vimeo link at the end of the article. Let’s

get to the psychic space. Earlier you talked about trying to create

Still from Marshlands, 2000

this psychic space, and that the quality of the image is a part of it.

Can you elaborate a bit on how you create this psychic space for

the viewer?

Penny: With Marshlands, my first piece, I used a multiplicity of formats,

and what I was trying to do was to create a space of memory

and contemplation. I discovered that by going from Super-8

film to video, (and of course editing plays a role), I was creating

psychic shifts within the piece. I am hoping to move [the viewer]

into memory, into nostalgia. I don’t try to control the meaning in

my work, I try to keep it as open ended as possible, allowing the

viewer to enter. That’s a very important thing for me. So, my films

- In particular this body of work - are not content driven. I am just

trying to take the viewer to a place, and let their imaginations free.

So that is my vision for Marshlands and the nine short works that

I have created, leading up to and including Gibraltar Point (transformed).

Peter: Following up on this idea, I am assuming this is why you use

celluloid. These are all film based works, so what does celluloid

bring to this approach?… you mentioned nostalgia…

Penny: Nostalgia does play a role. I keep trying to come back to

that “dream camera” moment that I had, with the camera that now

no longer works at all. I am trying to find this ability to create an

image that is mysterious - that’s a good word for it - and evocative.

It could be nostalgic, it could be a dream state, it could be

immense loss. I don’t know what it could be, it could be a range of


Peter: Would you say the use of film stock, per se, evokes or suggests

the past, because it is something from the past?

Penny: Yes, I thinks that is true, that we are still working with that

assumption. Maybe I need to experiment with video more, right?

But often you can’t get those results without effects. And I am not

interested in effects. I don’t use effects in my work, except I might

slow the film down or reverse it. But that’s not what I am interested

in. So, it’s difficult… Maybe to some degree that is the next

thing I should be experimenting with, to find that same degree of

challenge with what I’ve done before, and maybe celluloid won’t be

the answer… Because 30 years from now our relationships to film

will be quite different.

Peter: You were also talking before about the importance of gesture

in your work, and I wonder if you could talk about how you see

gesture in your films?

Penny: By gesture I mean the gesture of moving the camera, because

I rarely use tripods, and in fact I was looking at works last

night at Antimatter [Film Festival in Victoria], and I was thinking,

they’re using a tripod, whoa what a concept! (Laughs). My work

tends to have the feeling of the human behind the camera, which

I feel is another trigger, another switch, it’s another thing in my

vocabulary. The gesture of the camera tends to be a range of pans in

either direction, and I have learned how to edit with that. If you look

at all of my films together, you see what I mean. Basically it’s always

me as the camera person, and it’s always the same motions. So, it’s

very literally gestural. I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it, it is just

the way that I film.

Peter: So, motion as an expression of attention…?

Penny: I think it is about the embodied camera. You can feel the

person behind it…

Peter: It is the viewpoint behind it, it is your eye…

Penny: Yes, yes… or it is the viewer’s eye. That is the more important

thing. Because if there is an open interpretation, the viewer

needs to be the person behind the lens looking, so as the camera

moves, they move with it. So it is that connection.

When I put a camera on a tripod, I feel very conflicted about that,

and maybe I need to do a whole lot of fixed camera things to understand

it. But it doesn’t feel right to me, to be static and to have a

camera on a device. I don’t talk to other filmmakers much, so I don’t

talk about how they do things. Most filmmakers come out of film

school and have a well articulated way of talking about how they

do things, or are technically inclined, and I am not that person. So,

again it comes back to this notion of being a director, it’s about

choice, it’s not about the proper way to do things, or how you are

supposed to film with a Bolex camera.

Canadian media artist Penny McCann’s body of work spans more than

twenty-five years and encompasses both dramatic and experimental

films and videos. Her work has been exhibited extensively at festivals

and galleries nationally and internationally, including the Centre national

d’art contemporain (Grenoble, France), Oberhausen International Short

Film Festival (Oberhausen, Germany), the Owens Art Gallery (Sackville,

New Brunswick), the Canadian Film Institute (Ottawa), and the Festival

International du film sur l’art (Montreal).

Watch Penny’s films on VIMEO: www.vimeo.com/pennymccann

(Note: Penny’s latest film, Gibraltar Point (transformed) is not currently

available for viewing).

Above and below: Missie Peters as “Missy” in Down to the Sea on Drugs.

Dream Cinema

-Andrew Struthers

When my film, Down to the Sea on Drugs, screened at the Van City

Theatre this summer, the curator, Curtis Woolchuck, warned the

audience beforehand it belonged to the “What the heck did I just

see?” school of film.

Fair enough, although the technical term is oneiric cinema: films

that mirror the nightly fare of our own dream theatres. Down to the

Sea opens with our hero, Dave, attending a small town talent show.

On stage a woman tosses a screaming child high into the rigging,

plays a flute solo, catches the child, hurls her aloft again, and tootles

some more.

That’s a very unusual talent, which hopefully none of us have seen

demonstrated on stage, yet the audience somehow recognizes it

from their own Dream Cinema. In a later scene the heroine, Missy,

(played by local screen goddess Missie Peters) sings while Dave

plays a xylophone solo on her teeth with a big old church key.

How can such surreal images move the audience to laughter? It’s

hard enough to get them to laugh when they understand the joke.

But somehow the connection is made. This is one of the deepest

mysteries of Dream Cinema, and I think I’ve finally grasped what


I first entered the cinema of dreams when I saw David Lynch’s

Eraserhead at what is now the Vic Theatre. Later my friends argued

about what the film meant but I sat stunned in a corner thinking

Dreams on screen? I had no idea such a thing was possible. So I set

out to do it myself. Making dream movies became a lifelong dream.

But life had other ideas. Following your dreams is so difficult that

Mitch Hedberg recommended you should just ask them where

they’re going and hitch up with them later, and it worked for me. I

didn’t even have to ask. Life led me on one adventure after another

until, at 37, while living in Tofino Harbour on an old wooden fish

boat, knee deep in the oily bilge, wrestling with a giant monkey

wrench, my filmic dreams showed up unannounced and said, “It’s


This was in the wee hours of the new millennium, when digital

filmmaking had suddenly made it possible to get something in the

can for a tenth of a shoestring. But the bright clean banality of digital

imagery seemed to strangle dreamtime in its crib. I was utterly

convinced that to capture the dark beauty of Dream Cinema I

needed the sort of Eraserhead look that only film could deliver. So

I set out to raise money.

Then I had the strangest dream.

I was in Rome with Art Clark, the wharfinger in Tofino Harbour.

Art was one of that breed of BC old-boys, now mostly gone along

with the old-growth, who had formed an almost spiritual bond

with their machines. Art once fixed a deep fat fryer with a coat

hanger. If he said a tool would work, I believed it. He had built a

skinny scaffold over top of St. Peters so we could get an aerial

shot of the crowd. It looked rickety as hell, but Art had built it, so

it must be safe. We clambered to the very top. I could see all of

humanity below us. I reached back for the camera and Art handed

me a Super 8 film camera that had a digital camera duct-taped to

it. I asked “Are we shooting on film or video?” Art said, “From up

here, it all looks the same.”

I didn’t get the joke until I woke up. Art? Ha ha, very funny. My

dreams are always making jokes like that at my expense. I thought,

“I’ll show them.”

So I ignored my dream and went to great expense to shoot on

16mm, with a professional crew and all the rest. The results were

horrifying. There was nothing non-banal about what I’d shot. It

took three years of painting houses to pay off the debt.

Around that time Lynch made Mullholland Drive. Near the begin-

ning two men sit in a diner in broad daylight while one tells the

other his dream. The dream takes place in that same diner, and

both men are in it. The dreamer explains, “It looks just like this.

Except for the light.”



Despite the broad daylight and banal setting it’s one of the most

dreamlike scenes in cinema, in a sense more dreamlike than anything

in Eraserhead. It made me realize Dream Cinema can’t be just

about looks. That Lynch could invoke dreamtime just by cutting

back and forth between two actors suggests there must be something

about the structure of cinema that mimics consciousness

itself, dreaming or waking.

This has turned out to be true. In a recent Aeon essay the psychologist

Jeffrey M Zacks asks Why don’t our brains explode when we

watch movies? (although sometimes they do, Jeff. After Eraserhead

it took me a week to pick up the pieces. But I digress.)

Zacks points out that in all our millions of years of evolution it

never once occurred that our entire field of vision was replaced

instantly with a completely different set of information, as happens

when you cut from, say, a pram going down a flight of steps to the

face of a screaming woman.


Yet movie cuts don’t cause any cognitive dissonance. In fact, done

right, they seem to disappear completely. How can that be?

Zacks’ research indicates it’s because we don’t actually perceive

the world in the long Tarkovsky-type shots we imagine we do, but

in the scattershot of images we associate with Eisenstein montage.

This in turn suggests that consciousness is focused not on the

outside world, but on the screen of the visual cortex, in the back of

our heads.

The bizarre end-game of this line of inquiry is that we don’t directly

perceive reality at all. Rather, as with Plato’s Cave or Lacan’s

category of The Real, what we call the world is in fact a sloppily-constructed

movie set.

Ten out of nine cognitive scientists would agree - we don’t see

what’s there, we see a cheap mockup that we’ve hastily edited until

it matches our preconceived notions.

Donald D. Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at the University of

California, Irvine, uses the computer desktop as a metaphor. What

we see are folders, say of vacation photos, but not the photos

themselves. Our consciousness has evolved to focus on the folders

rather than their content because, to quote Southpark, “to show

it all would take too long.” Or as Hoffman puts it, by the time you

process all that info, “The tiger has eaten you.”

So what we call the world is actually just a desktop with a nice

waterfall screensaver and a bunch of folders. In both consciousness

and movie cuts, our mind flicks from folder to folder. Reality is

forever out of reach. In other words, it’s all Dream Cinema, all the


This explains why in the bar fight scene in Down to the Sea, when

the cook changes from my sister to my friend Dan in a single cut,

no one seems to notice.

It also explains what’s going on in America right now, from the

refusal to entertain gun control in the wake of mass shootings to

the failure of the media to call the last election. Left and right live

in conflicting dream worlds, so whether you’re Steve Bannon or

Stephen Colbert, best to avoid smug certainty.

Yet each faction is utterly convinced by what’s playing in their own

Dream Cinema and cannot be convinced otherwise, much like

myself in 2006, still clinging to the idea that celluloid is an essential

ingredient of Dream Cinema.

Lynch meanwhile made Inland Empire, visually reaching the opposite

pole from Eraserhead. Instead of the rich blacks and whites of celluloid

negative, that most stylized and seductive of cinema’s many

tongues, Lynch shot on a crappy little home video camera, the Sony

DCR-VX1000. The results were no less dreamlike. When friends

warned him against his choice of tools he said, “If you just listen to

these things, they talk to you.”

But I’m still not listening. I went to great expense to shoot Down

to the Sea on Drugs on black and white neg using a vintage wind-up

Bolex. The results this time were satisfactory. What made the difference

was not visual quality but syntax, the tacit juxtaposition of

ideas: a mom (as opposed to a dad) tossing a child in the air, and on

stage no less, with superhuman strength, while playing the flute; the

ringing of a chunk of metal on an actresses’ perfect pearly whites.

As in a dream, these juxtapositions are both familiar and shocking.

So the dreamtime quality lies in the cuts, or in what is not shown -

in negative space, where it belongs. This is the essence of cinematic

power, and perhaps of consciousness itself.

Since I first saw Eraserhead, Lynch has gone from unknown auteur

to cultural Thor, smashing our heads in with Dream Cinema content.

Twin Peaks ended its quarter-century hiatus last night, and this

morning the Interweb is a-blog with cinephiles trying to explain

what it all means. It’s fun, but it’s also a golden goose chase. Those

who see (for example) Jung in Lynch’s works are actually glimpsing

deep structures of human consciousness - in this case Lynch’s - and

by analogy, their own.

That’s why it’s impossible to force oneiric cinema into the tuxedo

of reason. The unconscious is a deep ocean. Opposing schools of

thought swim in its depths.

And that’s why after all these years in the city I still see myself not

as a filmmaker, but as a fisherman, wrestling monsters from the

deep up onto the silver screen.

Andrew Struthers is a writer, illustrator, storyteller and filmmaker. A

native of Glasgow, Scotland, he now lives in Victoria, where he runs his

own production studio. Andrew has written for numerous periodicals,

published three books, and made the mega-hit video Spiders on Drugs.

His recent filmic projects include a video for Sarah McLachlan’s song

Monsters, and the multi-part experimental narrative film Down to the

Sea on Drugs.

Watch Andrew’s films: www.youtube.com/user/apeman888

Interview with Trace Nelson

-Catlin Lewis

Catlin Lewis: Hi Trace. Thanks for agreeing to this interview to talk

about your exhibition at Flux Gallery and your new work Rotor. I

wanted to start by asking about the relationship between Rotor

and past work that you have done.

Trace Nelson: The Rotor exhibition at FLUX gallery in July 2017

was an installation that was a continuation of work I have been

doing over the past five years. I like to work with collaging, and

if you look at my previous work, I often collage work together.

The sculptural component of the exhibition was the same kind of

mapping of the space, with bio-morphic forms that were made of a

combination of sculptures using found textiles, and directly painted

drawings on the walls, and then the components of the videos and

the video boxes. In previous exhibitions I had made video viewing

boxes, that were wood constructions, covered in textiles, and wires

in biomorphic sculptural forms.

Catlin: In your Rotor exhibition in the Flux Gallery you had a

triptych of 3 video flat screens on one wall surrounded by biomorphic

sculptural forms and two other videos inside sculptural boxes.

Could you start by talking about the videos in the boxes…why are

they inside the boxes to be viewed through a small hole, and how

did you make those videos?

Trace: I like making the video viewing boxes, because I want the

audience to have a secondary interest with the pieces. The first

encounter the viewer has is with the sculptural forms, which are

standing at eye level. At first, the forms are not so recognizable,

except perhaps as something you might see under a microscope.

But then I want the viewer to look into an inner world, again using

collaging methods and animation, so one would have an interior

vision of the piece. All of the videos - Sous le Ciel (the carousel

video), the textural one, the morphing video - all went into video

Installation view, Rotor, Flux Media Art Gallery, 2017

viewing boxes. Then, from those ideas I wanted to expand out into

the space. The viewer is asked to move around the space, and look

into things, and then look at the installation space as a whole, using

all the walls and the floor, using the space as a sculptural encounter.

Catlin: There seems to be a correlation between the shapes in the

morphing video and the shapes on the walls in Rotor. Could you

talk about the connection?

Trace: About seven years ago I had made various shapes and

objects, and I wanted to animate them in a simple kind of way, so

I used a program called Morpheus, that would take one image or

object and morph it into the next. I liked the in-between areas created

by the morphing software, going from one object or drawing

to the next. That interested me in making more abstract images.

So, if we are talking about the images on the three screens in Rotor,

they are a continuation of the work I had been doing. Last year I

had made a video of the carousels during a trip to Paris. I was just

wandering around enjoying the scenery, being a tourist, my first

encounter with Paris, and then I found all these antique carousels,

and started to capture them with my camera. The thing that came

out of that project was that I discovered the gesture of the camera

movement. I started to just move the camera around while reacting

to the movement of the carousel, and that was the beginning

point of the Rotor ideas.

Once I finished the Sous le Ciel video, which I showed at the Victoria

Film Festival earlier this year, I went on another trip to Europe,

and I was caught by the textures and patterns that I found when

walking through new environments, particularly in Paris, but in

France in general, as I travelled around France a bit on this trip. So,

whenever I saw something that was interesting to me, some sort

of texture or architectural element or patterns of cobblestones,

I would just capture them with my camera. For the Rotor videos,

one of the most important elements for me was a visit to a castle

in Angers France, a medieval castle, a very beautiful and timeless

place, and I started to play with the gestural movements of capturing

this place. Those are the main images in Rotor.

Catlin: We can see bits of the imagery from Sous Le Ciel in the

Rotor triptych. How did you work that imagery into those videos?

Trace: I didn’t have a set idea about what was going to happen with

all that imagery. But when I got back to Victoria, I started working

with Final Cut Pro, using some effects, and started putting the images

together, including the Sous le Ciel imagery, and changing colours,

playing with the movement and the timing. I wanted the videos

to be a kind of rotating loop. They are all three loops of different

durations, so they not only overlapped in the process of the editing,

but also overlapped in relation to each other on the screens in the


Catlin: There are many layers of images in your videos. What was

your strategy in editing those pieces?

Trace: I think that comes out of a few things, one was the nature

of the imagery, and that would be the textures and the carousel,

and the other would be the gesture, the hand held filming of the

patterns of the castle, and the rotating movements. I also wanted

to have a work that had recognizable imagery in it, but not in a way

that the viewer would get stuck on it. Part of the editing process

for me - an intuitive process - was to keep anything that was too

long or too recognizable or literal to a real minimum in the flow of

the work.

Catlin: There’s a variety of textures as well in the Rotor triptych.

Can you explain your interest in textures and how you came to

use them in the videos?

Trace: I’d like to go back to the idea about collaging - which is an

important process for me when I am working, and also collecting.

When I first moved to Victoria, I went out for walks and I started

to collect various kinds of textures and patterns in nature. But

I didn’t do anything with that imagery for about 10 years. Then I

decided to do something with it when I had the exhibition called

Microfauna, earlier this year, and the imagery was used in a work

that went into one of the video boxes in that show. That reinforced

my interest in collage and collecting. With the three screens of

video in Rotor I wanted to push it further and play around with different

effects, and keep that continuation. It’s like a seed of something,

that ends up moving into something new. It started with the

nature textures, and then went to the morphing video and then to

the Sous Le Ciel carousel video, and then the collections of textures

in France and the castle in Angers. I always like to find new ways

of keeping the creative practice going. I find that going on a trip is

a great way to see things in a new way and to motivate myself to

work on a project.

Catlin: Can you talk a bit about your working process?

Trace: I am interested in pushing abstraction with what I am doing.

In the past, 10 or 11 years ago, I was working more with objects

that were recognizable, symbolically, we would say “Oh yes, that

is a monkey”, or whatever it was. But then through the morphing

video I discovered something that was very interesting, which was

the idea of playing with an object that has transformed into something

that was more abstract, but still kind of recognizable. It was

the process of understanding how something can move towards

abstraction. There is something that the brain is always looking

for, an understanding in a symbolic way, of what you are seeing.

Through the process of working on experimental video or filmmaking

the image is always transforming. You start with something

that is perhaps slightly recognizable, like a scene or an object or a

pattern or something like that, and then it changes to another form

or image, and your brain doesn’t have time to study it and decide

what it is seeing. So, you are kind of lulled into a state of meditation,

and relax into it and let go, as the imagery keeps moving

towards more and more abstract forms.

Catlin: In your description of the work Rotor, you refer to “the

dreamer.” Could you talk a bit more about the idea of the dreamer

in your work? What techniques do you use to invoke dreams in

these films?

Trace: In my text about Rotor I wrote: “The Dreamer is transported

to a place suspended in time, attempting to hold onto an elusive

moment that moves, changes and colours our memory in rotating

cyclical movements.” The idea of the dreamer refers to the idea

of the flâneur/flâneuse or one who strolls through the scenery idly

enjoying the moment. In the making or gathering of material for

the Rotor work the images collect together to form a dream like

souvenir or lucid dreaming meditation on a travel theme.

Trace Nelson is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Victoria

BC. She has exhibited her work in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and has

worked as an art educator for the past 15 years, teaching at Concordia

University and the Vancouver Island School of Art. While living in Montreal,

she worked at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Nelson creates

sculptural objects by disassembling found materials associated with crafting

and hand work. She reassembles and reconfigures furniture items

and household appliances, using video animation and reclaimed textiles

to create new meanings in the form of hybrid objects.

BFA, MFA Concordia University

Trace’s exhibition, Rotor, was held in the Flux Media Art Gallery from

June 29 - July 22

See her work: www.tracenelson.com

Deirdre Logue’s Psychic Conditions of Living

-Peter Sandmark

Still from Deirdre Logue’s Moohead, 1999

The first works I encountered by Deirdre Logue were her short

16 mm experimental films, many made at Philip Hoffman’s Film

Farm in Ontario. These short films seemed to be an extension of

Deirdre’s public persona: quirky, playful, intriguing, suggestive of an

iconoclastic spirit, but resisting easy interpretation. The simple act

of having a basketball bounced off her head plays like a slapstick

vaudeville act (Moohead, 1999), but her place as the self-imposed

victim played out for our vicarious enjoyment placed Deirdre

Logue, in my opinion, as the Harold Lloyd of the Canadian media

arts scene. The films became part of a body of work entitled Enlightened

Nonsense, made between 1998 and 2000.

In 2010, MediaNet and Open Space were fortunate to co-host an

artist talk and screening of Deirdre’s work. At that talk she was her

usual funny self, and I thought that she was like a stand up comedian,

but for the artist run centre crowd! It was during that visit that

Open Space developed the idea for a residency for Deirdre.

I had previously known Deirdre from her work as an advocate and

promoter of media arts in various roles: at the IMAGES Festival in

Toronto, as head of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre,

and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Independent

Media Arts Alliance, where she championed the rights of artists to

free expression and respect.

In her art works, films, videos and installations, she personifies

these principles. Id’s Its, Logue’s installation in Victoria, at the Open

Space Arts Society in 2012, was an uncompromising presentation

of the artist’s intimacy and psychological self-explorations. In the

press release for the exhibition, she stated: “Leaning lightly on

Freud’s somewhat archaic concept of the Id and heavily on performance

for the camera, my new work explores the richness of

our malfunctions, psychic unrest, the power of the abject and our

tendencies toward self-destruction.”

In the installation’s video pieces she brings the viewer close to her,

but still leaves us wondering, who is she?

I thought about Deirdre’s work while reflecting on the theory of

the artist as a self-actualized individual. Dutch artist and theorist,

Hans Abbing, writes in his book Why Are Artists Poor? - The exceptional

Economy of the Arts: “It’s as if artists have injected their individuality

into their artworks. Even though everybody is probably authentic,

it’s only artists who produce public proof of their individuality.”

Abbing’s interest is in revealing why people pay high amounts for

original works of art, and how that affects the art market: “And so

it’s my hypothesis that the general public wants to be like the artist;

they want to be the artist. Because this is impossible, people magically

connect with the artist through his or her artwork. People

believe the artist is ‘in’ the artwork.”

It would seem like Deirdre is in her work, but having known

Deirdre personally, the more I looked at her art in the exhibition

at Open Space, the less I felt that I knew her. She has succeeded

in placing her “person” into the videos, in intimate settings, and

often in extreme close-up, to the extent that the viewer identifies

with her. The viewer may even “experience” what her character is

going through in the video - for example, crawling painfully underneath

a mattress, then struggling to make it out from under its

suffocating weight. But Deirdre does not let us into the personal

thought processes of the situations depicted in the videos. She is a

“mediated self” in her works. Her videos make me think that we

are experiencing things vicariously, as though we were by ourselves.

We project ourselves onto her “character” in the videos, but the

videos are not really self-portraits or auto-biography… per-se…

But there is no question that the Id’s Its exhibition declared that

Deirdre had arrived as a formidable artist on the Canadian scene.

The recent book, Beyond her usual limits: the film and video works

of Deirdre Logue, 1997 to 2017 confirmed this, and provided

recognition for her work’s ability to engage us in the “psychic

conditions of living,” (M. Hyland, page 14). The Velvet Crease piece

was the key work in the exhibition, highlighting that the closer we

get to Deirdre the performer (or her meditated body in the video)

the less we know about her. I would suggest that her work asks us,

more than anything, to look at ourselves, and that she performs so

that we can experience the anxiety and uncomfortableness, indeed

the burden, of existing.

Deirdre Logue lives in Toronto, where she is Development Director of the

media arts centre VTape, and a director of FAG (Feminist Art Gallery)

with her partner, collaborator and artist Allyson Mitchel.

See Deirdre’s work: www. deirdrelogue.com

The Dream Life of Animals: An Interview with

Melanie Shatzky and Brian M. Cassidy

-Catlin Lewis

I first saw Melanie Shatzky and Brian M. Cassidy’s poetic film essay,

Animals Under Anaesthesia: Speculations on the Dreamlife of Beasts at

Victoria’s Antimatter Film Festival in October 2017.

I found the film both alluring and disturbing, with its intimate shots

of animals rendered unconscious on the beds of veterinary hospitals,

cats and rabbits with their legs tied and masks put over their

faces. I had to keep reminding myself, it’s ok, the animals are being

helped. And once the anesthesia kicked in, it was down the rabbit

hole (so to speak) and into a strange and disorienting world of

terror and fascination.

Anyone who has lived with an animal has witnessed evidence of

their seeming dream-lives; twitching paws and whiskers, barks, sighs

or whimpers. But we are left to wonder, what do our companions

dream of?

That animals do dream (or have conscious lives at all) has been the

subject of debate for as long as humans and animals have coexisted.

In fact, animals were not even legally recognized as conscious

beings until the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness in July

2012 (which is ridiculous as far as I am concerned). And yet, even

as far back as Aristotle, people have been aware of animal dreams

and curious about their dream lives. As Aristotle writes in The

History of Animals, “It would appear that not only do men dream,

but horses also, and dogs, and oxen; aye, and sheep, and goats, and

all viviparous quadrupeds; and dogs show their dreaming by barking

in their sleep.”

As we have read in the essays in this journal, experimental film is

particularly apt at mirroring our dream lives. I wrote to Melanie

and Brian to further explore the film, and their thoughts about the

unconscious experiences of animals.

Still from Animals Under Anesthesia, 2016

Catlin Lewis: Hi Melanie and Brian. Thanks for answering some

questions about Animals Under Anesthesia. I wanted to begin by asking

you, how did you first come up with the idea for this film?

Melanie Shatzky/ Brian M. Cassidy: We made a narrative feature film

a few years ago called Francine in which there was a scene of a cat

being anaesthetized. The image was striking - of the animal on its

back with seemingly no will of its own. In this vulnerable position,

the animal was firmly at the mercy of human will. We were deeply

haunted by this image, and it lingered with us. We felt it was an apt

visual representation of humans not only imposing their own will

onto animals, but also of humans projecting their own sentiments

onto animals. And from that, Animals Under Anaesthesia: Speculations

on the Dreamlife of Beasts was born.

Catlin: Did you have other animals that you considered? and other

types of dreams?

Melanie and Brian: We wanted to focus on household pets, so the

four that we chose seemed like the right balance.

Catlin: How did you decide which attributes to assign to an animal?

Melanie and Brian: Our starting point was a pseudoscientific and

absurdist attempt to psychoanalyze the inner thoughts of animals,

the result of which becomes a nightmarish reflection of our own

human anxieties. The attributes, which were assigned intuitively,

were meant to underscore the dominant themes of each segment,

while discreetly poking fun at the often presumptuous

impulse to anthropomorphize the animal world. When we refer

to “Speculations on the Dreamlife of Beasts”, it might be said that

the beasts we are referring to are humans, and not animals.

Catlin: The pig is the only one not actually under anesthetic. Why?

And why did you decide that his dreams would be about sex and


Melanie and Brian: The pig was undergoing a therapeutic procedure

to soothe its aching joints. The tank is an unusual contraption

that slowly fills up with water as the pig walks in place. It’s

difficult to talk in concrete terms about the links between this

phenomenon and the images of violence, menace and sexuality

which follow. As with an actual dream, oblique relationships grew

more and more insistent as we were editing.

Catlin: Could you talk a bit about the devices that you use to

visually invoke the sense of subconsciousness or dreams in the


Melanie and Brian: Water is a recurring theme from segment to

segment - from an aquarium to a sink of dirty dishes, a city drain,

ponds, water pooling around the base of a headstone… We felt

this provided a certain life force to the piece while at the same

time permitting a way to signify a shift in consciousness.

Catlin: I find the film both fascinating and disturbing. It is strange

that, although these animals are actually being helped (as patients

in veterinary hospitals), they look as though they are being hurt,

or are even dead. Could you talk a bit about this mixture of empathy

and fear in the film?

Melanie and Brian: Like with most of our work, there is a strong

feeling of dread and discomfort, which inevitably polarizes audiences.

And yet within that dread and discomfort, we try to find moments

of grace and beauty. We are not after facts or answers, but

rather try to find moments of resonance within discord.

Catlin: Do you have pets?

Melanie and Brian: We have a dog, Pixel, a 12 year old black lab/

schnauzer mix who is the most empathetic being we’ve ever encountered,

and with whom we are madly in love.

Still from Animals Under Anesthesia, 2016

Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky are based in Montreal, where

they make work under the name Pigeon Projects. Their films have

screened at the Sundance, Berlin,Rotterdam and other film festivals, as

well as The Museum of Modern Art and other art institutions. Cassidy

and Shatzky also maintain an active photography practice, and in 2015

were invited to guest curate “A Photographer’s Eye: Photography & The

Poetic Documentary”at La Cinémathèque Québécoise.

Their work can be seen here: http://www.pigeonprojects.com/

The Secret Bank Account

(Part One of Three):

Introducing an Economy of Art

-Petra Muller

Filmmakers talk a lot about money, much of the work in experimental

film and video is about the practical business of production

and distribution. There’s the need to find money to produce the

films, the need to finance teams and equipment, and then all the

post-production work of the editing process and sound production,

and then the drama along the way, the cameras stolen from parked

cars, and equipment that needs to be begged and borrowed. Once

that’s all done there’s the work of getting things out to festivals, art

houses, internet channels, and so on. All this focus on production

and distribution also seems to apply just as well to art in general

(photography, ceramics, sculpture, painting, performance). There’s

the efforts in securing and financing materials, for deals on studio

space, for access to specialized equipment and so on, and drama

along the way, and then once that’s all done and the work is made,

well then there’s the task of distribution, of getting the finished

products out to festivals, art galleries, internet channels and so on.

Talk about what is in the films, in the videos, in the photographs,

etc, questions on all the important stuff, the questions of content,

intent and merit are left to critics, curators, funding agencies and

attendee views and buys and clicks, and the occasional artist interview

on cultural programs. It’s a manufacturing model, minus the

factories and mass production. Manufacturing is so old school, so

mid 19C, and we’re living in post-post-everything times. Yet here we

are. Even new technologies haven’t managed to shift things around.

New platforms, same order. Production, distribution, reception (to

borrow a phrase from communication studies).

Here we are, with an economy of art that’s not simply mass culture

nor is it a new born digital everything. Which brings me to a joke,

maybe you’ve heard it. It goes something like this. When in public,

and everyone can hear, it’s the bankers who talk money and the

artists who talk art. In private, at dinner parties, art openings, and

casual beer get-togethers, it’s the bankers who talk art and the artists

who talk money. We laugh when we hear it, for we know it’s true,

especially for the artist part. Let us therefore continue and keep the

conversation going on what’s going on with the current setups of

production, distribution and reception, there’s a lot to talk about.

More on the economy of art in Part 2 of The Secret Bank Account in

the next edition of Flux.

Petra is a photographer and filmmaker who was born in Germany and is

currently based in Montreal. She studied film with David Rimmer while

completing her undergraduate degree at Emily Carr University, and

received a Master’s Degree at Concordia University in 1992. She has

contributed photographs and writing to numerous publications, and has

just completed an artists’ book called What the World Wears (2017).

Her latest project is called the Jezts Set.

See her work here: http://www.petramueller.ca/

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