Barry Schwabsky, Keynote Lecture

Barry Schwabsky, Keynote Lecture

Barry Schwabsky is a writer and editor based in New York. He is the art critic for The Nation and his essays have appeared in Flash Art, Artforum, London Review of Books, and Art in America. His books include The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art, Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, and several volumes of poetry, the most recent being Book Left Open in the Rain.

Schwabsky was a keynote lecturer and panelist for Call of the Wild, a series of artists’ talks and a round-table discussion that took place on September 28, 2013 in conjunction with the exhibition Rewilding Modernity. This lively conversation with local, national, and international art professionals reflected on the complexities and contradictions around the histories of modernism, to explore its current manifestations and future possibilities. Call of the Wild was presented in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Art and Art History, MFA in Writing, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity.


Download the audio recording of Schwabsky’s keynote lecture here.

Memory Islands

by Richard Fun (8:45 minutes, 2002)
Wednesday, October 12, Mendel Art Gallery Auditorium, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

In Islands, Richard Fung offers a winning deconstruction of John Huston’s Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, filmed in Tobago in 1956. The artist’s Uncle Clive is an extra, playing a Japanese soldier, though he doesn’t look Japanese, nor has he ever seen anyone from Japan. No matter. In a clever series of intertitles and reframings, Fung turns the background of Huston’s film into the foreground, offers details of his uncle’s life, and recounts the swap of 12,000 acres of Trinidad for 50 US warships. Here the movies appear as an extension of war, as the usual romantic veils are brought down over the bloodied imperial reach. As background turns into foreground, nocturnal animals appear in daylight, and the unheard stories of history’s supporting cast can at last assert themselves.

A Moth in Spring
by Yu Gu (26 minutes, 2009)
Wednesday, October 12, Mendel Art Gallery Auditorium, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

A Moth in Spring (teaser) from Yu Gu on Vimeo.


A Moth in Spring might have been named: embrace your failure. Yu Gu returns to her hometown of Chongqing, China, where she grew up, to shoot a dramatic movie. Word leaks, the neighbours talk, and soon the authorities arrive to shut down the whole dream. In a stunning parallel narrative, the filmmaker is forced to return to her parents’ dissident roots. She weaves a powerful generational duet that talks about art and the student movement in 1989. Instead of a dramatic turn, this lyrical hybrid, leaking accidents and unforeseen moments, opens its crushed heart to every unguarded face in the room, the looks of stunned disappointment, tearful departures, family admonitions. The continuity of political repression and the failure of the planned document, which appears in script writing intertitles, provides the means for an embrace of what is actually happening, a generosity rare in the cinema. 

The filmmaker recounts:

In the four months of living in Chongqing, there were times I felt like an alien from outer space. Leaving the cradle of Hollywood, a sense of reality set in. Unlike Beijing or Shanghai, Chongqing has no pre-existing infrastructure for filmmaking. There was no casting service, no film labs and no real equipment houses. My cinematographer, Adam, and I had to think of other alternatives fast. Then I realized that I wanted to make something closer to a documentary. Not in the sense of using a cinema verité camera style or purposeful jump cuts. Instead, I wanted to document the free spirit that still glimmered in this art school despite the perpetual tearing down of the old city, despite the onset of unbridled materialism, despite the government’s insidious indoctrination. I wanted to make a story that paid respect to my family history, one of survival of dreams despite repression. I imagined, too, that this story was not uncommon among people around the world. I discarded casting options from entertainment agencies and instead asked friends and acquaintances to act in my film.

La Jetée
by Chris Marker (28 minutes, 1962)
Wednesday, October 12, Mendel Art Gallery Auditorium, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

La Jetée is a science fiction tour-de-force by Chris Marker, cinema’s most mysterious filmmaker. If he had made only this movie, he would still be considered one of cinema’s most prized talents. There is a sharply drawn story narrated almost exclusively in photographs; only one shot appears in motion. Conjuring entire worlds with a few well-placed shadows and an incisive montage, Marker takes the viewer on a deeply engaging trek into a future dystopia, riding inside the mind of a time traveller, whose intergenerational love story leads him fatefully towards a dizzying climax in the Orly airport.
- Mike Hoolbloom

The Dubai in Me

The Dubai In Me

by Christian Von Borries (83 minutes, 2010) 
Wednesday, September 14, Broadway Theatre, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

A rigorous and relentless self-examination underscores this cine-essay on the marketplace projection of Dubai. Offering Second Life avatars and Michael Jackson moonwalks as political choreography precursors, the filmmaker shows a hyper-capitalized feudalism. In his hands, Dubai is both a state and a state of mind. It appears behind the camera in terms of gear choices and tripod height, and in front of it as a migratory global underclass of workers who are forever busy offstage. Between the weightless simulations of a city scrubbed clean of its inhabitants — where there is nothing left but the commodification of space — are panoramic postcard views of trucks filled with shit, or hijabbed tourists clutching their shopping dreams. Every picture is framed, and every frame is announced, remarked upon, unpacked. All the money that dreams can buy might be found here, in the 12-hour days of the servers, their passports confiscated, their plane fares recharged at rates that would bring smiles to any loan shark. Like every utopia, the poor will be made to pay for this promised land of new Islamic capitalisms. As the filmmaker remarks, occasionally, between the sustained views of a world that is already a picture, “Global identities laundered here … for those who can afford it.”
- Mike Hoolbloom

Jayce Salloum - Once You've Got the Gun

Once You’ve Got the Gun

by Jayce Salloum
Wednesday, September 28, Broadway Theatre, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

This is Not Beirut (There Was and There Was Not)
by Jayce Salloum (48 minutes, 1994)

This video is a personal project. It examines the use of images/representations of Lebanon and Beirut both in the West and Lebanon. It records the interactions and experiences during filming in Lebanon, focusing attention on the representational process as both a Lebanese and a Westernized, foreign-born mediator with associated cultural connections and baggage from both realms. Positioned between the disparities and disjunctions, the project also dances between genres, looking from the inside out at each. The video engages critically at the assumptions imposed and thus broken in this site of complexity, a nexus where identities are defined and articulated.


Up to the South (Taleen a Junuub)
by Jayce Salloum and Walid Ra’ad (20-minute excerpt from 60-minute videotape, 1993)

Up to the South focuses specifically on southern Lebanon, its current conditions, inhabitants, histories, politics and economics, as well as the Israeli occupation and the socio-ideological and popular resistance to this occupation. After filming more than 150 hours in Lebanon, from January to December 1992, the authors collected more than 30 hours of video images and archival film footage. With the help of several producers, researchers, historians and journalists from the region, they focus on the ways certain terms are currently used within Western discourse to describe the situation of another culture: terrorist, terrorism, occupation, colonisation, post-colonialism, resistance, collaboration, truth and fiction.

Salloum and Ra’ad’s meta-witnessing is as powerful and relevant today as when it was made, more than 15 years ago. With uncanny tact and delicacy, they create a dense mosaic of voices, broken architectures, out-of-the-car-window landscapes, all framed and reframed by their dialogues on representation. Here is a model movie, an example of a deeply engaged ethical movie practice unafraid to show both sides of the camera.
- Mike Hoolbloom


Lessons of the Blood

by James T. Hong and Yin-Ju Chen (105 minutes, 2010)
Wednesday, May 25, Broadway Theatre, 7pm
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

Focusing on the history and victims of Japanese biological warfare, “Lessons of the Blood” is a meditation on propaganda, historical revisionism, and the legacy of World War II in China. “Lessons” highlights how nationalism and the United States have influenced the Sino-Japanese history conflict, and how governments, ideology, and propaganda affect the reception and perception of “historical truth.”

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The Oath

The Oath

by Laura Poitras (96 minutes, 2010) 
Wednesday, April 27, Broadway Theatre, 7 p.m.
Songs of Experience Film Series 2011

From the director of the Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country, The Oath is a gripping documentary that unspools like a great political thriller. It’s the crosscut tale of two men whose fateful meeting propelled them on divergent courses with Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay Prison and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Abu Jandal is a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen; his brother-in-law Salim Hamdan is a Guantanamo prisoner and the first man to face the controversial military tribunals. Jandal and Hamdan’s intertwined personal trajectories—how they became bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver respectively—act as prisms that serve to explore and contextualize a world which has confounded Western media. As Hamdan’s trial progresses, his military lawyers challenge fundamental flaws in the court system. The charismatic Jandal dialogues with his young son, Muslim students and journalists, and chillingly unveils the complex evolution of his belief system post-9/11. Winner of Best Documentary Cinematography at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, The Oath offers a rare window into a hidden realm—and the international impact of the U.S. War on Terror.
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Location & Hours

950 Spadina Crescent East
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Regular Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Free admission