SHOWING INITIATIVES II

The Video Pool Media Arts Centre is excited to host Showing Initiatives II, a program curated by Jenny Western. In this program Western continues her look at initiatives that encourage Indigenous artists to take up video art and filmmaking. The program exhibit nine films and videos made across the prairies. This program was planned to tour to Calgary, Saskatoon, Brandon and Winnipeg, but had to be postponed.

VP are planning on holding in-person screenings at a later date, but we are thrilled to present them for free streaming on VUCAVU.com from April 6 to 19, 2020.

Please Note that the free period for this program has expired.
Each title can now be rented individually.

*** PLEASE NOTE: These programs are free for private single-users use only. Groups and institutions wanting to screen these programs to the public can inquire about group rental rates at admin@vucavu.com.

 
Jenny Western

SHOWING INITIATIVES II

 

Program Curated by :

JENNY WESTERN

 

SHOWING INITIATIVES II

Curated by Jenny Western


For the occasion of Video Pool’s 30th anniversary in 2013 I was asked to curate a video program and produce an accompanying essay highlighting Indigenous works from the Video Pool collection. After reviewing many pieces from the vault and consulting with a handful of local Indigenous filmmakers, curators, and administrators I submitted a package called “Showing Initiatives” that offered what I hoped would be a celebratory look back in time. The program also put forward questions about the legacy of Indigenous media work over the past several decades. In the original essay I wrote, “Much of what has been produced for the Video Pool collection under these auspices are one-off videos created by first time directors who in several cases have never made another video. These types of videos are often produced with funds set aside specifically for just this type of emerging artist, but the result is a dead-end archive of works that seem to tell the tale of Aboriginal artists as creatively nomadic, unable to build or sustain a professional practice.”

 

Since that time, Video Pool has responded to some of the questions that arose in the program and essay, in particular taking into account the ways in which Indigenous youth and emerging video artist may or not may receive support to continue their media art practices. “Showing Initiatives II” is my attempt at a follow up that revisits the original program and takes a look at media work produced since that time with the assistance of Video Pool’s resources as well as other more recent initiatives across the prairies.

 

... taking into account the ways in which Indigenous youth and emerging video artist may or not may receive support to continue their media art practices.

The original program included a variety of work from the Video Pool vault including pieces from noted artists such as zachary longboy, Thirza Cuthand, and Darryl Nepinak. And yet when looking back at the program a piece called “Judging” from 1998 by C.C, C.Stylin, and Hibreed continues to stand out. This piece was made during an initiative called the Urban Story Tellers series (Aboriginal Teen Video Initiative Program) which was produced, acted, and edited by Indigenous teens living in Winnipeg’s North End neighbourhood. Youth were paired with experienced media artists from the community and “Judging” was produced with help from Liz Barron who is credited as the videographer. As I wrote in 2013, “This music video retells a story of experienced street violence through re-enacted images and an original rap soundtrack. On paper it may confirm all the assumptions about inner-city Aboriginal youth in Winnipeg, yet the truth of this video somehow denies all of the cliches with an earnest tone.” This is the only offering from C.C., C.Stylin, and Hibreed in the Video Pool collection and the video’s makers have not stayed in contact with Video Pool staff, yet “Judging” remains a document of three young men learning how to use video and media tools to have their voices heard. Twenty years on, audiences can still apprehend a certain playful learning curve in the experimental editing of the piece and the way that their story has been pieced together.

The original 2013 program also included Curtis Kaltenbaugh’s “Apocalypse 16”. This piece was created in 2005 with assistance from the Video Pool First Video Fund. It is a mesmerizing pastiche of video images, from found footage to urban cityscapes and wheat blowing in the wind all set to a traditional flute soundtrack. In 2007, Kaltenbaugh went on to create a thoughtful full length documentary for the National Film Board called “A Place Between: The Story of Adoption” about his experiences as a cross-cultural adoptee. It is remarkable to note that he moved from his first video work to something so ambitious in just two years. As I wrote in 2013, “As a first offering, “Apocalypse 16” is a testament to Video Pool’s nurturing of new and emerging video makers.” Although there appears to be no recent record of media work from Kaltenbaugh, “Apocalypse 16” stands as one example of how Video Pool’s support for first time video makers could propel them forward in their media practices.

 

... retells a story of experienced street violence through re-enacted images and an original rap soundtrack. On paper it may confirm all the assumptions about inner-city Aboriginal youth in Winnipeg, yet the truth of this video somehow denies all of the cliches with an earnest tone...

The last work to be included in “Showing Initiatives II” from the original program is “Mikomiing” (2009) by Leonard Sumner. “Mikomiing” is a nine minute documentary about Jerry Sumner, a commercial fisherman from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation. “Mikomiing” means “on the frozen water” in Anishinaabemowin and the piece follows Jerry through a winter day as he checks his nets under the lake ice. More recently Sumner has become known for his music career although he holds a degree in Media Production and has served as a Cultural Liaison for Video Pool’s Aboriginal Video Artists Scholarship. “Mikomiing” was created through a one-month residency at Video Pool and as I wrote in 2013, “This original, heartfelt, and well-crafted piece is undeniably the story of an Aboriginal experience told by an Aboriginal voice, and it has universal appeal.” “Mikomiing” is indeed an informative and insightful look into a modern Indigenous experience told with tenderness and a little humour. Once more returning to my words in 2013 I wrote, “Beyond telling a great tale with immense skill, ‘Mikomiing’ represents a successful example of what can be accomplished when the system of Aboriginal initiatives in video production really works.” An artist was able to forge a relationship with Video Pool and the resources there, and what was produced is a terrific video piece that still has massive relevance over ten years later.

...original, heartfelt, and well-crafted piece is undeniably the story of an Aboriginal experience told by an Aboriginal voice,...

Since the release of “Showing Initiatives” in 2013, Video Pool has worked steadily to build on the successes of their programs and to address some of the questions posed in the original essay. In 2015 Video Pool established a youth mentorship program called the Indigenous Media Arts Initiative which pairs participants with an established Indigenous media artist as their mentor for training and access to Video Pool resources. Although this program was preceded by the Aboriginal Media Arts Initiative which ran from 2008 to 2012, the Indigenous Media Arts Initiative’s inclusion of active mid-career artists working alongside emerging mentees over a course of thee years aims to not only arm new video makers with the necessary tools for their ongoing practice but to create relationships that demonstrate how an ongoing practice is indeed possible. Works produced through the Indigenous Media Arts Initiative include “High Altitude” by Victoria Inglis, “Grow Up” by Michael Captain, and “Going with the Flow” by Winona Bearshield and Jaylene Wood. These three works are included in “Showing Initiatives II” and demonstrate the trajectory produced through sustained relationships between artists and the necessary resources. 

 

“High Altitude” by Victoria Inglis was created as part of the 2018 Indigenous Media Arts Initiative. During this time Inglis was mentored by artist KC Adams. “High Altitude” centres around spoken word poetry that explores contemporary experiences of activism, decolonization, and racism paired with imagery culled from mass media alongside original footage. There is a healing quality to the work as audiences travel with the voice of its narrator through the piece’s various movements. “High Altitude” is a sophisticated offering for an emerging creator and it was recognized with an award for Best Prairie Work at the WNDX Festival of Moving Image.

...spoken word poetry that explores contemporary experiences of activism, decolonization, and racism paired with imagery culled from mass media alongside original footage...

Michael Captain also participated in the Indigenous Media Arts Initiative from 2016 to 2018 and produced “Grow Up” during the 2018 year of the program when his mentor was Luther Alexander. “Grow Up” is a personal, reflective, and vulnerable piece that comes across much like a video diary of a young man’s life. Shot in black and white, the viewer feels as if they have been brought into the inner thoughts of its maker as feelings of anxiety, homesickness, and love of a new sweater are shared.

“Going with the Flow” from the 2016 Indigenous Media Arts Initiative program offers a lighthearted take on media art with its freeform, experimental style. The video’s makers Winona Bearshield and Jaylene Wood were mentored by artist Jackie Traverse during this time and although Traverse’s influence can be seen in the time-lapse painting style and vibrant colours, there is a distinctly youthful energy that comes across the screen from its creators. All three of these video works produced through Video Pool’s Indigenous Media Arts Initiative demonstrate a different take on how youth approached the tools, resources, and mentorship opportunities offered to them. But each speaks to the potential that can be created through a sustained relationship that fosters new media artists in the pursuit of their practice.

...time-lapse painting style and vibrant colours, there is a distinctly youthful energy that comes across the screen from its creators.
“Little Blue Bird” by Amber Twoyoungmen and Kez Lefthand, Nakoda AV Club (Calgary, 2014)

“Little Blue Bird” by Amber Twoyoungmen and Kez Lefthand, Nakoda AV Club (Calgary, 2014)

 

Other works in “Showing Initiatives II” include “Skate Break” by Peatr Thomas, “Little Blue Bird” by Amber Twoyoungmem and Kez Lefthand, and “The Unbothered” by Shawn Cuthand. Thomas’ piece “Skate Break” follows a young man through the streets of Winnipeg as he visits various murals on his skateboard and eventually solves a riddle that will take him to the pow wow. The piece was completed during the Manito Ahbee 48 Hour Film Contest in 2019 and although not made through any initiative brought about by Video Pool, it is a video that has been supported by being in Video Pool’s distribution network. This fresh voice offers a new contribution to the media arts scene that is a most welcome addition.
 

Little Blue Bird” by Twoyoungmen and Lefthand came out of an initiative through Calgary’s Nakoda AV Club in 2014. The song featured in the video is a Nakoda lullaby that was recorded and animated by Stoney youth. Working with the Stoney Education Language and Culture Team, this project aimed to use multimedia tools to assist teachers in bringing the Nakoda language into a classroom setting. The result is a short, sweet video with appeal to children and adults alike.

 

The final work included in “Showing Initiatives II” is “The Unbothered” by Shawn Cuthand of Saskatoon. This piece was created in 2019 as a Super 8 One Take short film, shot on one roll of super 8 film with no editing or splices. Cuthand is a comedian and the piece is imbued with a sense of humour as it tells the tale of two hikers who come across “The Unbothered”, a duo who offer to show the hikers how to live off the land in the Saskatchewan bush. There is an energetic immediacy and a sense of playfulness to the piece that speaks to the way in which it was made. Although these three video works were not created through assistance from Video Pool their inclusion in “Showing Initiatives II” is important as a signifier of ways in which Indigenous youth and emerging video artists are making their mark in media arts across the Canadian prairies.

 

It’s been seven years since Video Pool’s 30th Anniversary and the launch of “Showing Initiatives” yet much has changed in the landscape of media arts since that time. In the 2013 essay I wrote that “The possibilities for encouraging the ongoing creation of video work by Aboriginal artists are vast, and as Video Pool heads toward its thirty-first year, it is my hope that these initiatives mature and grow dynamically in the same way that this organization has done over the past three decades.” While there remains work to be done, particularly around the means of further supporting established and senior Indigenous video artists, Video Pool continues to refine the ways in which their initiatives serve to assist in the ongoing practices of young Indigenous video artists. “Showing Initiatives II” offers a small glimpse at how things are moving ahead and perhaps hinting at where things can go into the future. Whether it is the next seven years or the next thirty years, Indigenous video artists will continue to help shape the sphere of media arts with their voices and stories, and that is an initiative worth showing.

 

“Showing Initiatives II” offers a small glimpse at how things are moving ahead and perhaps hinting at where things can go into the future.

JENNY WESTERN

Jenny Western is an independent curator, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She holds an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Winnipeg and a Masters in Art History and Curatorial Practice from York University in Toronto. While completing her graduate studies, she accepted a position at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (AGSM) in Brandon where she held the position of Curator of Contemporary / Aboriginal Art and later became the AGSM’s Adjunct Curator. Western has curated exhibitions and programs across Canada and she makes up one-third of the Sobey Award nominated art collective The Ephemerals

Western is a member of the Brothertown Nation of Wisconsin and is of Oneida, Stockbridge-Musee, and European ancestry. 


 

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.

 

Video Pool Media Art's Showing Initiatives II program is brought to you in partnership with :