photo: Darrol Hofmeister
A New Wave film filter shows a constipated city
by Gregory Beatty
UNTIL JANUARY 9
French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard turned 80 on Dec. 3. That same night in Regina, an opening reception was held for this exhibition by Jeannie Mah and Jack Anderson that was guest-curated for the Dunlop by University of Regina professor Sheila Petty. The date chosen for the reception was no coincidence, as Cinema<=>Life<=>Cinema is the concluding event in a months-long celebration of Godard’s genius that began with a symposium at the university in mid-September.
You don’t have to be an expert on Godard’s work to appreciate this show, but a bit of background helps. Godard was a leading proponent of French New Wave cinema. He shunned the narrative tradition of Hollywood movies and instead used film as a vehicle for exploring complex social and political issues as part of the counter-culture movement that energized Paris in the 1960s. Symbolism, language, imagination and quotation, are all mainstays of Godard’s films.
Inspired by their love of Godard’s work, Mah and Anderson set out to explore their hometown of Regina through what Petty refers to as a “Godardian lens.” They drew particular inspiration from Godard’s 1965 futuristic drama Alphaville.
Alphaville stars American actor Eddie Constantine as a secret agent named Lemmy Caution who infiltrates a technocratic dictatorship controlled by a sentient supercomputer. Love, poetry, emotion, free thought, individuality — all are outlawed by Alpha 60. As the film unfolds, Caution tracks down Alpha 60’s inventor, Professor von Braun, falls for his daughter Natacha, kills the professor, and eventually destroys the computer.
In his installation, Anderson presents four large-scale black-and-white photographs of sterile and impersonal locales in Regina (one building depicted is a defunct burger joint in northeast Regina) that exude an Alphaville vibe and highlight the dehumanizing character of post-industrial, capitalist society.
Several ornate chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling, offering a decorative counterpoint to the banal photos. Beneath the chandeliers sits a large mirrored ball which produces distorted reflections of both the photos and nearby gallery patrons — implicating us in our own society’s slide toward authoritarianism.
Signs and logos figure prominently in Mah’s installation. Like Godard, she treats them as a form of language that conveys meaning, both literal and symbolic. High on one wall she’s hung a small version of the red and orangish-yellow “Pool” logo that used to denote the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool before it became the publicly traded corporation Viterra.
On the floor opposite sits a chunk of an old Revenue Canada sign from a building in Regina that reads “reve”. In French, “reve” means dream or ideal. Read in relationship to the “Pool” sign, it functions as a lament by Mah that the co-operative spirit that propelled the Wheat Pool’s formation has been supplanted by a corporate ethos.
Images (one a light box, the other a video) of people swimming in Wascana Pool are installed on the remaining two gallery walls. In relation to the Pool logo, they function as a visual pun. In relation to the “reve” sign, they serve as a poignant comment on the declining support for civic amenities like swimming pools, libraries and art galleries.
That’s what you get in a privatized, profit-driven world.