Between the dates of October 12th, 2017 and October 16th, 2017 I travelled from Montréal, Québec to Banff, Alberta to present a paper at the Universities Art Association of Canada’s annual symposium. This trip was made possible thanks to the generous funding of Media@McGill.
This year’s UAAC symposium was held at the world-renowned Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The three-day conference featured eight sessions with either eight or nine panels per session, corresponding to over one hundred and fifty papers. Speakers addressed a wide variety of subjects in art history and visual culture. Particularly notable was visual artist, curator, and art critic Prof. David Garneau’s keynote lecture, “Indian Agents: Indigenous Artists as Non-State Actors”, which assessed the current landscape of Indigenous art, while comparing and critically analyzing the terms “Indian”, “native”, and “Indigenous”.
I presented a paper on a panel entitled “A Duet with Camera: Dance and the Moving Image” chaired by former AHCS MA students Sophie Lynch and Isabelle Lynch. Our panel included: Prof. Erin Silver (a former AHCS PhD student who is now on faculty at the University of British Columbia), Prof. Sarah Hollenberg (University of Utah), Laura Taler (independent dance artist), and myself. In the words of panel chairs Isabelle and Sophie Lynch the panel aimed to “investigate the ways in which artists, dancers, and filmmakers invite us to re-conceptualize the camera not as a recording device but as a stage which permits new articulations of the relationships between bodies in motion and technologies of representation through the use of various filmic and editing techniques.”
In my paper, “The Spectator’s Cut: Kris Verdonck’s Dancing Sculptures”, I narrated my experience dancing in ISOS, a 3D film installation directed by Belgian director Kris Verdonck, who works at the intersection of theatre, dance, visual art, architecture, and cinema. Inspired by the post-apocalyptic science fiction of J.G. Ballard, ISOS consists of nine rectangular boxes that are evenly spaced in a gallery or theatre space. Inside of each is a 3D screen projecting an image or “moving sculpture” inspired by Ballard’s dystopic scenes. Filmed from a bird’s eye perspective, these uncanny images break down the subject/object divide through the objectification of human characters and the attribution of human-like characteristics to machines. By choosing the chronology of what they view, ISOS’s spectators are invited to edit their own short film. Maneuvering in this audio-visual installation, they become conscious of the fact that perception is an embodied, phenomenological experience. Filmed at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre in New York with the most cutting-edge stereoscopic technology, yet reminiscent of the early experiments of Georges Méliès, the work simultaneously evokes the history and future of cinema. Shot in 3D, the images give the illusion of the live presence of the performer; however, the real they evoke is a hyper-real, and the bodies, posthuman.
All in all, my trip to UAAC was an inspiring one that allowed me to disseminate my research, to connect with my peers, and to keep abreast with scholarly debates in my field. I am extremely grateful to Media@McGill for this support.