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Magnetic North: Canadian Experimental Video

Magnetic North showcases the recent explosion of compelling independent video from Canada in a six-part series produced by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Video Pool and Plug In, Winnipeg. Occasionally shocking, often funny, and above all, genuinely experimental, this body of work asserts beyond a doubt that video is alive and well, and that Canadians have produced some of the most energetic work in the international arena. Comprised of forty tapes by forty-seven artists from the last thirty years and organized by thematic concerns, each program establishes relationships between diverse works. From innovative documentary to conceptual art, experimental narrative to performance video, the programs create associations across history, regions, languages, and genres. The featured videos travel a full spectrum of story and style: from John Greyson’s explicit mixing of a gay cruising bust and a 1940s film adaptation of Kipling in The Jungle Boy to the storytelling via CB radio of an Inuit women’s collective in Piujuq and Angutautug to the humorous portrait of two Québecois women’s obsession with Formula One racing in Le Beau Jacques to photographer Donigan Cumming’s subversive and powerful video eulogy for his elderly model in A Prayer for Nettie. As curator Jenny Lion writes in her introduction to the book Magnetic North, "Many of the videomakers in Magnetic North take risks—they risk offending, self-revelation or self-assertion, political commitment, resisting censorship . . . or entertaining in the face of catastrophe. At stake is the act of invention."

Magnetic North is made possible by generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Consulate General, Minneapolis, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, the Donner Canadian Foundation, and the Millennium Arts Fund.

March 9 (Friday) 8 pm

Program 1: Seen on the Body

These intimate and complex works explore the frailties and conditions of the corporeal. Individual history and unexpected events imprint the body, gesture and activity make visible the realities of the physical, and imagined bodies provide a rich field for social critique and play. Here, experience and the passage of time are written on the skin, where desire, contradiction, repulsion, pleasure, incoherence, and irony all reside. Program length 87 minutes.


What Food Did

Directed by Toni-Lynn Frederick
British Columbia 1996, 10 min.

The Better Me

Directed by Cathy Sisler
Québec 1995, 20 min.

60 Unit; Bruise

Directed by Kenneth Fletcher and Paul Wong
British Columbia 1976, 5 min.

The Hundred Videos (excerpts)

Directed by Steve Reinke
Ontario 1990–1996, 42 min.

Birthday Suit--With Scars and Defects

Directed by Lisa Steele
Ontario 1974, 12 min.


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March 13 (Tuesday) 8 pm

Program 2: Performing a Self

This collection of works displays a variety of approaches to identity, self, and cultural translation. Performance in many guises—the acting of character, confessional self-revelation, historical reenactment, gestural or conceptual activity—is foregrounded, and the process of generating an often mutable self is made visible as an ongoing and performative undertaking. Program length 86 minutes.


Nunavut (Our Land), episode 8: Avamuktalik (Fish Swimming Back and Forth)

Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
Nunavut 1995, 29 min.

Le Voleur Vit en Enfer (The thief lives in hell)

Directed by Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour Québec 1984, 20 min.

Hollywood and Vine

Directed by Colin Campbell
US/Ontario 1976, 18 min.


Directed by Thirza Cuthand
Saskatchewan 1998, 4 min.

Interrupted Attempt

Directed by Grant Poier
Alberta 1986, 4 min.

Emporium (excerpts)

Directed by Natalie Bujold
Québec 1999, 3 min.

Maigre Dog

Directed by Donna James
Nova Scotia 1990, 8 min.

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March 14 (Wednesday) 8 pm

Program 3: In the Flesh

Contrary to the notion that the body mirrors an internal self, these works reflect the body as inscribed largely by culture, by the external constructions and conditions one inhabits and encounters—ethnic conflict, suburbia, old movies, disease, age. The program provides unflinching witness to the often poignant, occasionally humorous, or absurd conflicts that are acted out on, and by, the feeling, physicalized body. Program length 89 minutes.



Directed by Mike Hoolboom
Ontario 1997, 10 min.


Directed by Jana Sterbak and Ana Torfs
Belgium/Québec 1995, 7 min.

Continuous le Combat (Don't Give up the Fight)

Directed by Pierre Falardeau
Québec 1971, 30 min.

In My End is My Beginning, Part Two: Lucy Brown

Directed by Norman Cohn
Prince Edward Island 1983, 38 min.

Awakening of Desire

Directed by Simon Hughes
Manitoba 1997, 4 min.

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March 23 (Friday) 8 pm

Program 4: Subject/Object

These works interrogate the complex and delicate issues surrounding representation and imaging, exploring self-disclosure, surveillance, objectification, subjectivity, and individual agency. Ranging from subversive documentary to explicit performance, they explore the possibilities and limits of representing both the self and the other, often overtly implicating both maker and viewer in the act of imaging. Program length 96 minutes.


Die Dyer

Directed by Alain Pelletier
Québec 1999, 23 min.

Object/Subject of Desire

Directed by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan
Manitoba 1993, 5 min.

Somalia Yellow

Directed by Allan Harding MacKay
Somalia/Alberta 1993, 19 min.

99 Men

Directed by Ho Tam
US/British Columbia 1998, 3 min.

A Prayer for Nettie

Directed by Donigan Cumming
Québec 1995, 33 min.

Delicate Issue

Directed by Kate Craig
British Columbia 1979, 12 min.




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March 27 (Tuesday) 8 pm

Program 5: Making Strange, Making Familiar

In these works the videomakers reframe everyday objects, activities, and situations, by turns rendering the real surreal, reversing the seductions of climactic and cinematic spectacle, and elevating the seemingly mundane. Included are experiments with daily language, explorations—both sobering and hilarious—of routine rituals, and performative reenactments of daily life. Program length 86 minutes.


98.3 KHz: Bridge at Electrical Storm

Directed by Al Razutis
British Columbia 1973, 11 min.


Directed by David Hoffos
Alberta 2000, 4 min.

Le Beau Jacques

Directed by Stéphane Thibault
Québec 1998, 17 min.

Good Afternoon Royal Tower

Directed by Leon Johnson
Manitoba 1986, 26 min.


Directed by Arnait Ikajurtigiit
Nunavut 1992, 10 min.


Directed by David Askevold
Nova Scotia 1986, 9 min.

1/4 Moon

Directed by David Askevold
Nova Scotia 1986, 9 min.


Directed by Rae Staseson
Alberta 1994, 5 min.

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March 28 (Wednesday) 8 pm

Program 6: The Medium Is...

The diverse natures and conditions of the video medium—from activist intervention to feedback loops to broadcast TV—are explored in this program. Mass media (broadcast, cinematic, pornographic) is dealt with as spectacle, tool, adversary, comedy of errors, opportunity, or condition. In some works, access to even the most basic technology provides ample possibility for communication, while other works inventively reveal the complex visual, material, and technical possibilities of the video apparatus itself. Program length 88 minutes.



Directed by Alain Pelletier
Québec 1999, 23 min.

Television Spots (excerpts)

Directed by Stan Douglas
British Columbia 1987–1988, 2 min.

Piujuq and Angutautuq (excerpt)

Directed by Arnait Ikajurtigiit
Nunavut 1994, 11 min.

Danny Kaye's Eyes

Directed by Dana Claxton
British Columbia 1997, 10 min.

Buffalo Bone China

Directed by Ho Tam
US/British Columbia 1998, 3 min.

The Jungle Boy

Directed by John Greyson
Ontario 1986, 16 min.

En deça du réel (On this side of the real)

Directed by Manon Labrecque
Québec 1997, 12 min.

In Response to the Dumbest Question of the 20th Century

Directed by Marcel Fayant
Alberta 1999, 4 min.

Réaction 26

Directed by Charles Binamé
Québec 1971, 4 min.

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