“Regional Support Network.” In Un-Dependently Yours: Imagining A World Beyond The Red Carpet, eds. Bryan Konefsky, River Quane, & David Camarena (Albuquerque: Experiments in Cinema, 2015), 46-51. [Co-written with Leslie Supnet.]
Regional Support Network is a nomadic screening series started in Toronto, Ontario out of a desire to show experimental moving images from other cities unmediated by a Toronto curatorial lens.1 Explicitly, the work is not curated by RSN as we invite curators from other areas to present work from their community. The only condition is that the curator must be an active member of their community and that they must present their own work in the program. Through RSN, we are attempting to challenge a culture of moving image curation in Toronto, a place that we feel is in need of a paradigm shift away from old routines. The oppressive conservatism we struggle with politically in our day-to-day lives, we see in our community of experimental moving images and must be challenged with at least another voice to speak alongside the dominant ways of working. In addition, we are hoping to challenge Toronto moving-image aesthetics by allowing work to show that may offend our sensibilities, both in terms of content and form. What we desire is evolution.
By regionalism, RSN is simply referring to work made in different geographic regions or communities. With that in mind we argue for a critical and fluid form of relational regionalism and argue that there are often distinctive local characteristics to be found in the work from one region since the work is implicitly informed by the artists’ perception of and identification with their sense of place. Of course, we are not implying an aesthetic consistency to the work, however, we do believe that one’s own community, dialogues within the community and physical landscape inevitably, at the very least subconsciously, inform one’s artistic practice.
Amber Christensen, programmer of UNSCENE: Film and Video from Saskatchewan,2 poses the following concern in her programming statement:
So what do we make of regionally based curatorial projects? Regionalism has become, somewhat, of a dirty word in terms of curatorial agendas with an understandable concern that surveys of regional art will be reduced to a set of tropes (wheat fields and decaying barns in the case of Saskatchewan), or a scene being determined by the most prominent makers.3
In particular, Christensen is referencing an observation made by Alison Cooley in a Canadian Art article titled “They Made A Day Be A Day Here.” She states,
Despite the valuable place of the regional survey as a catalogue of the current aesthetic preoccupations of any art centre, there is always an element of curatorial risk in them-namely, that the survey might act as a system of classification, only delineating an art scene’s most prominent makers, and then characterizing their practices as exemplary, thereby reducing the identity of a given art scene down to a few particular practices, or worse, to a set of regional tropes.4
Christensen directly addresses some of these concerns in her programming statement for UNSCENE:
Some would argue that regionalism is no longer relevant, people are no longer constrained by geographical limitations. So why even talk regionalism? The refreshing lack of coherence in the films and videos in UNSCENE, is the antidote to the glossy images constructed by provincial tourism associations; regionalism is about the varying personal voices of a place along with the push and pull between the local and the rest of world. It’s hard to deny that when you inhabit a particular place that it doesn’t seep into your work.5
In other words, Christensen acknowledges the role of space in influencing artistic production, in addition to commenting on the lack of aesthetic consistency.
RSN attempts to reduce some of the risks involved in programming regional work by allowing artists to curate from their own communities, in essence, eliminating programs of simply the regions’ most prominent artists. We are also quick to acknowledge that these types of programs are simply a survey of the work being produced in a particular region and may not necessarily be the best representatives of that region. That is, these programs aren’t intended to be a greatest hits compilation, they are intended to present a cross-section of the work currently being produced from the perspective of artists that are engaging with their community.
If you are an engaged member of your experimental film community and you are interested in showing work from your region, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to set-up a screening with you in Toronto.
- The idea for series was the result of a conversation with scholar and curator Eli Horwatt. We would like to thank all of the many people who have helped make these screenings possible, in particular, all of the moving image artists, curators and projectionists who have worked with us, VideoFag, Analog Preservation Network, LIFT, PAVED Arts, Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative and Images Festival.
- UNSCENE was presented by Regional Support Network in collaboration with VideoFag, PAVED Arts and Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooporative on June 28, 2014 at VideoFag in Toronto, Ontario.
- Amber Christensen, “UNSCENE: Films and Videos From Saskatchewan Programmed by Amber Christensen” (2014).
- Alison Cooley, “They Made a Day Be Day Here: Prairie Positive,” Canadian Art (January 16, 2013).
- Christensen, “UNSCENE.”