My Way of Seeing

One of my favourite places on campus is the Image Centre (RIC). Without fail there is always a new exhibit I want to see and since it’s right on campus and free I have no reason not to. There are currently five exhibitions at the RIC all of different sizes and all providing a unique story and experience. Among them is the current rotation of From the Collection which is a rotating display highlighting works from the RIC’s permanent collection. The current display is photographs by Elaine Ling from her latest book Talking Stones: A Photographic Sojourn. Ling is a Toronto-based photographer who on her many far and wide travels has documented ancient stone formations, fragmented statuary figures, giant historic trees, abandoned architectural structures, and indigenous families and groups.

Half Man Stone #56 by Elaine Ling

Ling aims to capture the persistent dialogue between the past and present through her camera lens. Traveling through the deserts of Asia and Africa Ling encounters the remnants of forgotten cultures and the flourishing new beginnings of others. This display was of extreme interest to me as it shows the lives that came before us. My love of history takes over sometimes and distracts me from my studies for hours. Ling’s photographs show what ancient cultures built out of their environment; how they marked their existence and preserved their history which to us is a mystery. We can study ancient cultures and read what they left behind but we will never really understand or know them. I think that is what I find so fascinating about history. When do people change, how do we “forget” where we came from? History is like a giant puzzle that keeps getting new pieces added to it and one that we will never finish putting together. Ling’s photographs give us a look into the lives of ancient people, a couple of puzzle pieces we can admire and wonder about and allow ourselves to be mesmerized by. I believe that history talks to us, it unravels its yarn for those who give it a pull. The subjects of Ling’s photographs are telling us a story, their story, if only we could hear it. That’s the fun part of history, wondering what all those stories are, sweeping the sand away from a buried life to reveal its mystery.

Angkor Stones #8 by Elaine Ling

Another mystery that is perhaps even less tangible than history but just as distracting to humans is the sky. What lurks in the dark corners of our universe and beyond? The New Media Wall at the RIC explores our skies with a newly commissioned video by Canadian filmmaker Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof. The Relics of Lumen is a collection of images taken of our night skies by NASA and from Ryerson’s Black Star Collection weaved together with images of people in transit. Pruska-Oldenhof creates an immersive environment of mosaics and composite collages that explore the displacement of people to celestial passages through space. It is interesting to think about how something that surrounds us, that provides us with life, and controls everything in our environment is so far away and enigmatic. I wonder how our lives would be different if we had a total understanding of what’s beyond the clouds. Would it change us as humans to understand one of the biggest mysteries in our world?

Untitled by Unknown photographer, NASA Agency

Continuing with this exploration into the unknown is Canadian artist Spring Hurlbut’s Airborne. This is a video that examines mortality and the physical presence of death. This silent film captures the slow motion release of cremated remains entrusted to Hurlbut by the relatives of six deceased individuals, including Hurlbut’s father. This was an experience I have never had before and one that touched me in such a way that I had to return to the exhibit on a different day to watch it again. Sitting in a dark room watching the remains of different people who I have never met swirl and snake around the black backdrop as they disperse and diffuse into the air, returning to the dust we all come from, was very powerful. The hypnotic dance that each case of ashes presents allows you to reflect on what is left of us after death, what our existence consists of when our physical presence is just a pile of ashes. This piece explores the ideas of mourning, loss, the essence of being, and the relationship between the animate and inanimate. Airborne also offers a space for us to contemplate ourselves, the soft smoky loops and coils of the ashes mimic the twists and turns we take throughout life. We do not know where our dust will fall as we float through the air, immersing and dispersing into others and ourselves, being carried off by the wind. Each unique path the remains take as they drift into the atmosphere mirrors the inimitable paths our own lives take. We do not know where our paths will lead us or where we go once our physical existence is merely ashes in the wind but that’s the best part of life, the unknown.

Marie Baratte by Wendy Snyder Macneil

Moving to the largest exhibit currently at the RIC, The Light Inside, showcases the work of Wendy Snyder Macneil whose archive from as early as the 1970s is housed at the RIC. Macneil’s photographs and films spanning throughout her career from her beginnings with the Boston Haymarket to her transition from photography to film is the subject of this exhibit. Of particular interest is Macneil’s Hands series. Macneil captures the hands of individuals as portraits. Shifting away from conventional portraiture Macneil uses hands to reveal the lives, identities, and “face” of her subjects. Our hands are very intriguing, they reveal a lot about us and even show familial similarities. We can trace our life on our hands and watch growth and deterioration. Take a look at your hands, what do you see?

Andrew Ruvido and Robyn Wessner by Wendy Snyder Macneil

The final exhibit currently at the RIC is Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection which chronicles the evolution of the RIC from its beginnings as a slide library to an internationally respected exhibition and research facility. Curated by second year masters students in the Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management Program at Ryerson this exhibit showcases objects in their acquisition order to exemplify how the RIC photography collection has grown and by extension how photography has evolved over the last 50 years. This exhibit digs into the past of photography and the vast array of subjects and styles that are exploited by one form of art. Though this is a small exhibit it can take quite long to walk through as there several striking images that grab you and don’t want to let go. This exhibit also provides a bit of a treat as the RIC’s collection of slides are available for taking. The massive slide collection has become obsolete so the RIC is giving them away, I scooped up a Cézanne and Monet and now I just need to find a slide projector.

Untitled by Stephen Livick

Leopard, Usti, Czechoslovakia by Volker Seding

Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection

Untitled by Frantisek Drtikol

After spending two afternoons exploring the RIC and contemplating all the different art and life I was being exposed to I came to a conclusion I don’t think I have ever really considered before. It’s terrifying to be in the dark, not understanding or knowing your surroundings and having to guess your every move with a bit of fear in your step. However, if you give your eyes time to adjust your vision will return and you can make your way. Life really depends on our way of seeing. How we see ourselves, others, or the world. Our way of seeing influences what we see. How do you see?

I’m still in the dark but I’ve left the theatre…

I must start out by saying that I am neither a film student nor a film critic, I do enjoy films though (that counts, right?). I recently attended the premier of the film When the Ice Goes Out at Ryerson’s School of Image Arts. This is a film by Jeremy Leach and Wendy Snyder MacNeil, both accomplished artists in their fields in the United States. Leach is a freelance filmmaker and a directory of photography and has worked on several award winning television programs and documentaries. Leach is also the founder of the production company Lost City Pictures which produced this film and several other independent films and educational media. MacNeil began her career as a photographer before switching to film-making for which she has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. MacNeil’s photos and films are also currently showing until April 10 as The Light Inside exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre in association with When the Ice Goes Out. The film stars Gore Abrams as the main character Jakob and Jazimina MacNeil as his childhood friend Cedar. Now to the film itself.

The premise of the film is of a young man’s journey alone back to his childhood imaginary sanctuary. His life has fallen away, he has no apparent relationships or interests, and all that remains is a desire for what he had as a child. We know nothing of Jeremy’s world, we know that he and Cedar live in the same rooming house and that she refuses to see him so he must watch her from a far and live with the pain of a life in alienation. The film documents Jakob’s trip back to where he came from and his search for a world that never existed. Jeremy must travel through harsh nature and face his ghosts to make it back to where he, at one time, was happy. There is no dialogue so the film relies on natural sounds and imagery to tell the story and move the plot, this is also where the name comes from. The thawing of ice makes a deep rumbling and crackling sound which permeates the film. Now what did I think?

I am not a lover of independent films or much of a viewer I must admit. However, as part of an initiative to include more arts and culture into my diet I chose to go to this film screening. Unfortunately, I cannot say that this film piqued my interest in independent films, in fact it may have killed it. I enjoy the use of symbolism and imagery to tell parts of a story but it is very difficult to sit through 80 minutes of dry and slow filming with no dialogue and no idea of any story. I felt the viewer was kept out of the story, kept out of Jakob’s life. We are not allowed to enter Jakob’s journey, we are only allowed to view it from a far. We have no idea where he is going, what he is thinking, what he is doing, or why he is doing it. This leaves us not knowing what to feel because we don’t know Jakob or understand his actions, he is not relatable; I felt nothing but pity for Jakob, perhaps that’s all I was supposed to feel. The film was stripped bare so we are left with sound and imagery and no real story, merely a peak into something that cannot be made sense of until the artist explains it. Leach stated that originally there was a lot of dialogue and a story was developed but it was taken out on purpose. Leach did not give much of an explanation as to why but I feel that perhaps this was done to reinforce the loneliness and isolation of Jakob, he’s even alienated by us. This is an issue I have with the film, why I am left to explain and create the story? This film was a collection of symbols that were strung together with no connectors but a vague framework that was so flimsy it could be knocked over with a feather. This film could have been about anything, we only know it was about a journey to return to childhood because we are told so by the director. The film cannot stand on its own, it needs the support of its creators to give it life and a reason for existence, to make sense of it.

I cannot say for sure why this film was created or what it was intended to do, it is also not my place to answer those questions. Perhaps there is no reason for the film. Art doesn’t need a reason to exist. I can say that it left me confused, disappointed, and wanting. I can also say the only entertainment I derived from watching this film was trying to figure out what was happening and why, which can be pretty fun when you are trapped in the dark both actually and figuratively. If I was forced to watch this film again I would probably fall asleep like the man down the aisle did and jump out of my seat and out the door during the credits as another viewer did. However, I won’t let this film stop me from seeing the Light Inside exhibit as MacNeil’s photographic talents and prowess are put to fantastic use in this film.

Murder on Campus

W1siZiIsIjIwODc4MSJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDE0NDB4MTQ0MFx1MDAzRSJdXQA word of warning, if you don’t enjoy viewing photographs of gruesome murders then I suggest that you don’t poke your head into the new Weegee exhibition at the Image Centre. However, if you can stomach it I sincerely recommended a visit before December 13. Weegee, or Usher Felig (1899-1968) was the self-proclaimed photographer of murder in New York City between 1935 and 1946 and given what’s on exhibition he certainly paints a foreboding portrait of New York at night. Weegee made a living photographing murders for tabloids and giving New Yorkers the untainted eye of murder that went on every night in their city. With a click and a flash Weegee illuminated the blood and flesh that stained the streets of New York and he is recognized for changing the landscape of photojournalism and capturing emotion that still comes through his photos today.

W1siZiIsIjE3NjAiXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXJlc2l6ZSAxNDQweDE0NDBcdTAwM0UiXV0 W1siZiIsIjIxMTg5NCJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDUxMng1MTJcdTAwM0UiXV0Weegee immigrated to American from Austria in 1909 and was the son of a peddler. He, like many immigrants at that time, took strides to fashion himself into “someone” and to do so taught himself to be a photographer. Weegee had many jobs around photography, but in 1936 he became a freelance photographer and gained quick recognition for his crime scene photography. Weegee was profiled in many magazines and upon success began to expand his work outside of crime. Weegee photographed urban life and desired to show the chaos of cities. Beyond that, Weegee shot celebrities and became a celebrity in his own right, as it seems he had been yearning to be. Even Weegee’s signature presented this lust for fame, literally – Weegee the Famous was on the back of every photograph he took.

W1siZiIsIjIxMDI2OCJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDE0NDB4MTQ0MFx1MDAzRSJdXQWeegee’s work developed from what was considered the lowest form of journalism, tabloids, into art. While not considered high art, Weegee’s work does deserve the title of art. Weegee used photos for their mass communication purposes but he also made them into serious art pieces. Weegee’s work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the 1940’s, he published two books containing his photos, one of which, Naked City (1945), was a critical and financial success and is viewable at the Image Centre as part of the current exhibition. Weegee took the city at nighttime and captured it on film in such a way as to expose the raw subjects for who they were and what was really going on in the city. Weegee also worked during the day; there is a series of photos depicting Coney Island in summer in which he contrasts the harsh realities of Depression era New York and the utopia that is the beach in summer. In addition, Weegee experimented with photography by using trick lenses to distort and manipulate the images as well as infrared and flash. He used these tools in his celebrity photography to expose or exaggerate the imperfections of the subjects that were always presented as perfect.

138298_2501646Weegee’s photographs can make you cringe and they can make you cry. Seeing pain even through a photograph from over 70 years ago hurts. However, I believe we need to see these things; they give perspective and disillusionment, which is important in life. Life isn’t an ongoing bake sale, not for everyone anyway, and being able to understand that helps people grow. Beyond that, generating those feelings is what I feel transforms Weegee’s work into art. Photos on a basic level can communicate something to the viewer. Photos tell the story of whatever the subject is; our eyes consume the story and our brain fills in the blanks. A photo of a dead body can tell you the story of the victim but it can also illicit feelings of pain and grief that may not come depending on the photographer’s eye. Weegee used his eye to tell the story of New York City, whether it was murder, sex work, parties, poverty, fame, and everything that goes bump in the night. He also brought these themes to life, they weren’t just photographs, they were emotion and they were life. Weegee achieved his fame and in doing so exposed us all to a city at night, full of secretes and desires that are forever captured through the click of his shutter and exposed in the harsh artificial light of his flash.

From Ottawa with Love

I do hope everyone is enjoying their summer thus far!  I know I have been.  While I do miss the great city of Toronto, I am also really happen to be home in Ottawa.  It’s not just seeing my family and friends that I love about Ottawa.  The city as a whole has a very different feel to it.  Very very different feel.

While you enjoy this post from wherever you’re reading it, allow me to share a little bit of my city with you.  This is what Ottawa looks like to me.

Enjoy!

My Treasures from Toronto

I’m pretty well known for being something of a packrat.  Why would I even consider throwing something away when I can keep it forever?  Believe me, sometimes the things I end up keeping are a little bit strange.

This school year was no different.  With the year over, I was wondering what exactly I could do to wrap it all up in a blog post.  What exactly could I write about to sum up the year that I had?  Words can’t really do it justice, so rather than explain how the year went, I’ll explain the things I brought home with me.

 

Limitless Shakers

Limitless 2011 Shakers: Introduction Week (Frosh Week), the first full week of living in residence, seems like a very long time ago.  While I didn’t participate in everything (I had more fun exploring downtown Toronto than I would have had in a water gun fight), I did participate the attempt to break the world record for the number of shakers being shaken at the same time.  A record, by the way, which we broke.  That was probably the biggest event I participated in that week, and I managed to snag and keep some of the shakers for myself.  It was the time to get to know people and to get comfortable with each other.  It was this week that I found my “Residence Kids”, and allowed them to get used to me.  From this week onward I just called them my Kids and took them on many adventures over the course of the year.

Ryerson Mugs

Ryerson Mugs: For Christmas, I got my parents a pair of Ryerson mugs.  I know, you probably think that sounds a little bit lame.  Well, it’s not!  Both of my parents were big tea drinkers, so more mugs were always welcome.  Not to mention that for Christmas, we generally like to give smaller, more meaningful items.  For me, going to Ryerson was pretty meaningful.  For them, having a son at Ryerson was pretty meaningful.  I purposely chose two of the mugs to match the school colours, and come Christmas morning they were unwrapped, and used for coffee during that morning’s breakfast.  These mugs are the last Christmas gift I will ever give to my Dad, and that alone makes them special to me.

Plasticine Fish

Plasticine Fish: Whenever a child gives me something, I always take it home.  Some do eventually get tossed out (even I throw some stuff out on occasion), but I’ve kept a lot.  This one, I know I will keep for a good long while.  It was given to me by one of the children at the hospital during my placement this past semester.  We’d made it together with a craft kit given out that morning, and she wanted me to keep the fish.  How could I say no?  It wasn’t too long after that craft that she and her family were discharged from the hospital.  I had worked with her and her family a lot, and I rather liked the family.

Star Trek Birthday Card

Star Trek Birthday Card: Birthdays are not terribly important to me.  With my Dad passing away the day after my birthday, I was very emotional once I got back to Ryerson.  The day before I’d gone home, two friends stayed up all night making this card for me.  I brought it home with me the next day when I was summed to Ottawa, and brought it back with me again when I came back to Toronto.  When I got back to Toronto, I even found out that the two of them had a little cake waiting for me!  I can’t really express how much it meant to me.  Despite all that was happening, these two took the time to put this together for me.  I’m always going to cherish this card, and not just because I’m the Captain.

Ukulele

Ukulele: Anyone who lived on my floor this year probably heard me learning to play the ukulele.  I can only imagine how terrible it must have been to hear at first.  This instrument, though, was a godsend.  Whenever I felt overwhelmed, upset, stressed out, or just needed a break from reality I would strum away and work on a song.  I probably played this ukulele more than I focused on assignments for the second half of the year.  I play it every single day, and plan to keep it up.  For those of you who are curious, it’s a tenor ukulele, meaning it’s large than the little ones you probably imagine, and has a much richer and brighter tone to it.  You’ll most likely find me in the Fall playing it out on the  Kerr Hall quad (or in the ECE lounge, were I annoy some of the girls with it).

Crown Royal

Crown Royal Bottle: Before this bottle, I’d never had whisky before.  In all honesty, I thought it tasted terrible and it burned on the way down.  Still, I helped my two ECE buddies finish it off.  It was the afternoon after our final exam, and the pair of them showed up at my door with a bottle of Crown Royal and a pizza.  Since I didn’t write my exam at the MTCC with them, I wasn’t too sure if I would be seeing them afterwards or not.  It was the last time we got together before I moved home for the summer.  We ate the pizza, we drank the whisky, and we played some video games.  It was a nice ending to a terrible semester.  The evening ended with hugs by the elevator as they left my building and excitement over seeing each other again next year.  Because I am so thankful for those guys, and attribute part of my being able to make it through this semester to them, I decided to keep the bottle (much to the dismay of my Mom).

So there you have it.  Some of the objects I’ve picked up this year, and their emotional significance to me.  Some very small slices of the year in review.  How long these items will last in my house is up for debate, but for now these are my treasures from Toronto, come with me to Ottawa for the summer.

Scenes of Winter – Part 2

It’s almost time to go back to school, to go back to work, to go back to real life.  In the not too distant future I will find myself on a plane heading back to Toronto and getting ready for the next semester of learning, assignments, and stress.

It’s almost time, but not just yet.

Here is the second and last instalment of images from the past several years.  You’ll find the same mixture as the last post.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these images, and I hope during this time you’ve gone out and collected some images of your own!  Start 2012 off with a picture, and see how things change when 2013 rolls around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes of Winter – Part 1

Hello there!  I do hope everyone is enjoying the mid year break!

I know I am.  I’m resting and relaxing at home, enjoying home cooked foods and my own comfortable bed.  When I’m not eating and sleeping, though, I am out with friends and family.  Winter isn’t always the nicest time of year, but you have to admit it is fairly pretty.  The white snow (even if we don’t have any yet), the coloured lights, the outdoor fun to be had!  Sure is a nice time to have some time off!

This week I present you with some pictures from the past couple of years.  You’ll find a mixture of Christmas pictures, New Years pictures, the great outdoors, wildlife, Ottawa, Toronto, and colourful lights.

Hope you enjoy these, there will be some more next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only Tourists Look Up

My blog post today will be a little bit different than usual.  Where I normally talk about something for far too long, today I shall be far too short.

One of the biggest attractions for my coming to Ryerson was the fact that it is right in downtown Toronto.  It’s a campus like I’ve never seen before.  I’ve been to Trent University, and at night it is a cold, dark, and hard campus.  The University of Ottawa is also right downtown, but the lights of Ottawa don’t sparkle like they do here.  Algonquin College is in a part of the city being developed, so the scenery was usually that of construction.

I was once told that you could tell who was a tourist in a city because those who live in cities never look up.  I will be the first to admit that wherever I go, I am a tourist.  There’s too much to see not to look up.

I will do you all a favour.  So that you will not look like a tourist, myself and my cohorts, Alicia and Nicholas, went around Toronto and looked up for you.  Below these expertly crafted words you will find some pictures.  I hope you enjoy them.  If you want to see more images like this some time, please look up.  If you do, and if you take some pictures yourself, please share them with me.

Enjoy!