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2004 Program Guide Essay
More Progress. Less Process.
By Andrew James Paterson


Yes Mary, Super-8 is portable and practical and accessible and very low budget. Also, my dear, you can do some serious walking with those cameras.

Well, guess what? Mini-DV has all of the same conclusive adjectives. Like the double bass, it's also easy to walk. And it's not that much more expensive.

Also, it's digital while Super-8 is the analogue of analogues. Okay? I work in both formats. I certainly don't see any serious binarism here. I get the attraction to low budget and hands-on and feet-first. Super 8, Regular 8, camcorders and even Hi 8- they've all been useful for people who like to sit delicately on that very thin fence between performance and documentary (not necessarily omitting all that melodrama, folks).

But once upon a time, speaking of narrative, when I was already too old to be a teenager let alone a punk, Super 8 folks and Video Artisans didn't intermingle all that much. Wasn't the legendary Funnel Film Experimental Theatre doing it right on the wrong side of Queen? The Funnel was way out there on King East, around the corner from what is now generalized as The Distillery District. There's a lot of history there and somebody involved back then should get themselves a publishing contract.

The people I knew in the late seventies and early eighties working with the lowest gauge format were folks like My Favourite Postman John Porter. Then there was those queerer-than-queer Juvenile Delinquent or JD members - G.B. Jones and the ubiquitous Ecurb Al Ecurb, and all of their too-punk-for-the-gay-ghetto cronies. None of these brats or curmudgeons made calling cards. Match edits were verboten. If there was synchronized sound in any of these movies, it was only the band playing too loud.

The JDs and the gang persevered and persevered. I remember JDs night at the old Purple Institute (that neo-anarchist gallery who eschewed state funding and became fetishized by neo-con art writers against state funding). This was in May 1990. It was presented by the still-fresh Pleasure Dome and billed as an evening of neo-punk films. And all the films including her own starred Suzy Richter nee Sinatra. Is it just me who sometimes thinks time has stood still?

It hasn't. Super-8 has always looked grainy, which means grungy, which means that not only MTV and CITY-TV but even the CBC has co-opted the surface. Let's not even consider commercials imitating music videos utilizing Super-8 with its Aura of Authenticity but actually plagiarizing commercials. In the early nineties it was impossible to watch MTV or Much Music and avoid 'alternative bands' using those grainy surfaces. It took too long for MTV to find their inner anti- Duran Duran, but when they did they really over-compensated. And meanwhile there was a funding coordinator at Trinity Square Video, who read an essay by Dot Tuer (a writer and historian far smarter than Yours Truly) in TSV's collection catalogue accurately stating that video art's innovations (parallel to those of experimental film) had been absorbed by the music video industry. Well, duh. And this employee of an artist-run cooperative believed that artists who didn't switch to music videos were die-hard modernists. Double-duh!

So Super 8, experimental film, video art (what about performance art?) have of course been co-opted by the music video and its host medium ( advertising). Well, don't let the ship go down just because the cat can only catch a few of the stowaway rats. It may be strenuously argued that Super 8 is further distanced from any host mediums, even the highly portable Mini-DV. Super-8 may be used by behemoths like Oliver Stone, but it's not like the format is haunted by his ghost. Super 8 barely, if at all, references those persistent host mediums like production-model film and television. Photography is the ghost of Super 8. Get a camera and make moving pictures.

But it wasn't until the late nineties that I became attracted to the material or the medium or format or process. I had watched enough films and tapes that really cranked my noggin by not using synch-sound and by problematizing the relationship between image and sound rather than catering to Obvious Narrative Strategies. Su Friedrich, Chris Marker , Gary Kibbins, Steve Reinke and more than a few others tweaked my realization that Literalness really was a hollow cube. I discovered my inner documentarian, and decided that walking the camera was the way to go. I accepted an invitation from the unjinxed sophomore Splice This Festival to make a short film about being flawed, one of those perennial thematic call for submissions. Of course I'm flawed, according to an anti-materialist friend who thinks anybody who talks about money is by definition a capitalist. I always talk about money because I usually don't have very much of the green stuff. Anyway, my Super-8 pelvic affiliate Jim MacSwain was coming to town so he could stay with me on condition that he brought his camera. I walked that camera as The Walking Philosopher and many other inverts made their obvious inversion and remembered their own adventures on Philosopher's Walk. That reading is accurate but hardly definitive and now at lot of my work is shot edited and even shown on Super 8. This still too frequently dismissed gauge sees and records but it also walks -just like my feet, in fact my entire body. Super 8 walks that walk and talks that talk. I even made one in colour recently.

Are these Super-8 movies certifiable art-objects? Yes and no. And should it really matter? Super 8 films of such relative brevity are slices of life and they're briefly intense sexual encounters and they can also be part of a collage, even a narrative or a time-line. They are instant performances and they are valuable records. Events in their own right as well as being part of Some Serious Larger Zeitgeist.

But enough process and more progress. Splice this film or don't splice it. To quote one of my favourite walking philosophers - the esteemed Robert Lee - Fuck Us!