Prairie Tales breaks in a second decade with a strong collection of sixteen new Albertan works on film and video extensively reflecting the diverse, expanding and increasingly intermingling field now generally referred to as the media arts. Rather than describe the works in playing order, it somehow makes sense to introduce this year’s line-up grouped according to theme. Of course, each piece retains its own particular take on any general subject and is preoccupied with an assortment of ideas and concepts unique to itself - some or all of which may be far more important to it than any of the broad themes of renewal, communication and identity which I’ve managed to uncover.
On the notion of renewal, Ryan Tang’s Water Cycle begins in science class and ends with an emotional release that takes us back to its start with fresh understanding. Kimberley Anderson’s The Fall revisions a cherished creation myth, while Michael Peterson’s The Secret Lives of Robots warns us, tongue-in-cheek, that a revolution is nigh. Eva Colmers’ Luz describes a mysterious cycle we somehow understand is destined to repeat itself, and Hans Olson’s Baby Boots and Dave Morgan’s Prairie Torch Song are both about moving on from heartbreak.
A smaller but still significant clutch of works touch on communication and its breakdown. Deception, tongue-tied silence and honest sentiment feature in Adolfo Ruiz’s Kisses & Tears. Transient Bodies, by Ben Charlton and Jessica McCarrel, is an abstract portrait of the muddled tumult of voices on the Internet, while Paul F. Becker’s Video Game Players Union makes post-modern fun of technology, talk shows and the limited vocabulary that exists in video game culture. Finally, Corey Lee’s In Translation takes us step by step through the sometimes less than fine distinctions between text, subtext and body language.
When it comes to identity, you can’t get much more straight up than the title of Christopher Markowsky’s I Am, which proclaims an empowering aboriginal subject position, or for that matter, Carol Beecher and Kevin Kurytnik’s Intergalactic Who’s Who: The Vegetation of Zig 5, which offers a lesson in extraterrestrial botany. aAron munson’s Leaving Me turns the camera inward, probing the human mind’s delicate sense of self, while Lyle Pisio’s Visages explores facets of identity that are within our power to choose. The act of creating inevitably leads to self-discovery, and that act is the central subject of Scott Portingale’s Midnight Matinee. Similarly, and rounding out this third and final grouping, Trevor Anderson’s The Island is a queer creator’s response to homophobia.
Am I stretching things here to make them fit? Probably just a little. But, within reason, it’s a curator’s prerogative to take that liberty. Kevin Allen, Marsh Murphy and Jennifer Yates, the other curators who watched the over sixty submissions received this year by Prairie Tales, might well disagree with me. So might any viewer. To which I can only say, with acknowledgement to In Translation, “vive la difference”.
Prairie Tales 11