The following  #GEOGRAPHIES2018 program "Her Spaces and Places: Reexamining the Man-Land Tradition with Canadian Film and Video" has been curated for VUCAVU by Holly Cunningham, a Media Arts Administrator and Executive Director of the Near North Mobile Media Lab in North Bay, Ontario. Cunningham's program, "Her Spaces and Places", includes five works that explore the relationship between gender, the body landscape and physical space.  

Cunningham's selection is the second of four free curated programs that will be released from May until September 2018. VUCAVU's #GEOGRAPHIES2018 series broadly reflects on notions of memory and identity as being connected to the physical; whether that be physical spaces, built architectures, the body landscape and the written word. The curatorial focus of the #GEOGRAPHIES2018 series is to cast new perspectives on what has already been named and defined. Geographies are existing physical entities that are often named and re-named, through active reflection on them with different lenses that are created and transformed through the passage of time.
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**PLEASE NOTE : This program is free for a private single-user use only. Groups and institutions wanting to screen this program to the public can inquire about group rental rates at admin@vucavu.com.

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario. 

We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

 
Holly Cunningham

Holly Cunningham

Media Arts Administrator

Her Spaces and Places:
Reexamining the Man-Land Tradition with
Canadian Film and Video

Essay by Holly Cunningham

Holly Cunningham is an arts administrator and emerging media arts curator based in North Bay, Ontario. Her professional work has focused on bridging gaps in media arts access in northern Ontario. Working as the Executive Director of the Near North Mobile Media Lab since 2009, she has helped establish media access spaces for young and emerging media artists in six additional northern Ontario communities. During this time she co-founded the North Bay Film Festival and sat as chair of Ice Follies Biennial, a festival of contemporary and community arts on frozen Lake Nipissing. She has also been active in cultural discourses across the region and country, sitting as a board member of MANO (Media Arts Network of Ontario), IMAA (Independent Media Arts Alliance) and chair of White Water Gallery – one of the longest running artist-run centres in Canada. In 2015, Holly was recipient of the Emerging Cultural Leader Award presented by Artist-Run Centres and Collectives of Ontario. Holly is also a professional musician currently performing and touring with Hidden Root’s Collective

Her Spaces and Places:
Reexamining the Man-Land Tradition with Canadian Film and Video


Essay by Holly Cunningham


In 1963, geographer William D Pattinson suggested that the discipline of geography was comprised of four general categories or ‘traditions’. Within these four pillars of geographical study, man-land tradition (as it was known) professed an authority over the understanding of human’s interaction with their environments. Feminist geographers in the late 1970s and 80s took up the call to question - where then, do all the complexities of women’s lives fit into the man-land tradition? As geographer Jennifer Hall writes, “Perhaps the bigger lesson for us, as beginning geographers, was that human space is not neutral, that the landscapes around us are not just containers for our activities.”1

While sifting through VUCAVU’s expansive database, after having been invited to program a series of works within the theme of Geographies, my first inclination was to think of the given theme in the broadest of terms as relating to the dynamics of place and identity. As I pressed through many channels of work that dealt with these themes, a question arose: how does a sense of self tend to shift between the spaces we occupy and how do women, in particular, respond to these shifting geographies? The following is a selection of Canadian films and videos that explore how women’s geographies shape her sense of space and place in the world. 
 


1. Jennifer Hall, “The Next Generation: Can There Be a Feminist Geography without Gender?”, The Great Lakes Geographer, Vol. 9, No. 1, (2002): 19.

 

Perhaps the bigger lesson for us, as beginning geographers, was that human space is not neutral, that the landscapes around us are not just containers for our activities.

Beginning with the immediacy of how we move through the world, Allison Hrabluik’s film This is How they Make Us Bend uses kinetic stop-motion performance to follow a figurine as it responds to a planned choreography. Seemingly without any logic or reason, this meticulously planned movement forces the figurines’ body to twist and topple into what is at times an absurd but elegant sight. Headless and unrecognizable, the character relies on a third limb in order to navigate the choreography mapped out in front of it as expectations become increasingly complicated and distorted. This effect is exaggerated by the sounds of an overextended joint creaking. Even more frustrating to the viewer is when the figure misses a piece of the choreography and is forced to start all over again. At the moment we finally believe to be the end, to be followed by a moment of rest, the figure starts shuffling backwards out of frame, likely, to begin again due to a missed step along the way. Somehow, Hrabluik makes the absurdity of it all seems so normal, causing us to question the arbitrary nature of the rules of navigation imposed by society.

... Hrabluik makes the absurdity of it all seems so normal, causing us to question the arbitrary nature of the rules of navigation imposed by society.

In MY WOUNDED HEAD, artist Stephen Chen introduces us to a transwoman situated somewhere between her immediate space and what lies beyond the room she occupies. In what appears to be a warm comfortable abode -- a hotel room, or perhaps a well-kept private residence -- we watch as the character applies her makeup, slowly and intentionally. Each layer of makeup evolves into a ritual-like performance, thus creating a tense anticipation of what is to come. There is a gentle care in the way the woman lovingly smoothes her skin, almost as though she is soothing herself in anticipation of the harsh ways of the outside world. At one point, her hands come into a prayer position under her chin. These ongoing methodical movements give us a sense that this is not so much a daily task as much as it is a deeply personal performance. The soundtrack is a reinterpretation of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” (“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”), which oscillates equally between equal moments of elation and hesitation. A black and white photo of her finished look flashes like a memory or a desire. We revel with her in this lingering moment of certainty before the woman leaves the room out into uncertainty. The privacy of her room is a geography of safety, but she can only stay there for so long.

These ongoing methodical movements give us a sense that this is not so much a daily task as much as it is a deeply personal performance.

In the visually stunning animation titled Mia’, Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett explore a graffiti artist’s yearning for memory and identity in an urban landscape. Noticing through her reflection that she has transformed into a salmon, Mia is taken on a journey to see what was and what could be. An eagle assists her ascent to a landscape far removed from the destruction of her home. The salmon here are strong, bright pink in colour and plentiful. The water is clean in this land of abundance. However, Mia is left trapped, unable to move forward into this promised land. “Where do you begin telling someone their world is not the only one?” This Lee Maracle quote at the end of the film embodies a frustration for a space and a place within the conversations of shared geographies.

 

“Where do you begin telling someone their world is not the only one?”

Midi Onodera’s film The Bird that Chirped on Bathurst opens with a chaotic motion that appears to be relentlessly pressing forward, with familiar city sights such as a busy crowd and a coin-operated washing machine. We hear a jarring drumbeat and the incessant ringing of what we eventually see to be a payphone. Through grainy 16mm image, we see women move in and out, disappearing and reappearing in the spaces of the city, perhaps with the passing of time. We sense they feel neither here nor there, or perhaps that they are waiting for something or someone. A calm moment on a harbour front is fleeting and the swishing motion presses forward again; there is a paradox of identity tied to the city that Onodera occupies. It is said that birds living in urban environments sing at a higher pitch to be heard above the drone of traffic. As cities get increasingly louder, birds are continually made to change the way they sing and communicate to one another. When thinking back to the woman with the umbrella from Onodera’s film, perhaps the way she has been forced to change is similar, but all we hear is that “she only remains the same”.

... we see women move in and out, disappearing and reappearing in the spaces of the city, perhaps with the passing of time.

Francisca Duran also explores a woman’s sense of identity and how it can be intertwined with the cityscape(s) in her film Boy. Through beautifully sublime, slow moving 16mm scenes, we follow Duran through her memories of sites. The act of bringing her son into the world dramatically shifts how she sees her space and herself. This shift is most wholly realized in the narration “It is impossible to imagine what it would be like to envelop another person so completely into my life,” and soon after “It is impossible to imagine a time he did not exist.” Though the cities she has lived in have claimed pieces of her, the birth of her son has claimed her most totally. Through two sets of eyes she now imagines the geographies of her places through his imagined experiences.

... the cities she has lived in have claimed pieces of her, the birth of her son has claimed her most totally.