Home for video art


Where would you go to view a collection of contemporary and historical video art? Your local DVD store wouldn’t make the cut. (Besides, is renting DVDs still a thing?) In the heart of downtown Toronto, a space called Vtape is a much better shot. Their collection of video art and media works is accessible to anyone and everyone, from cultured curators to the average person with an artistic curiosity.

Each year, Vtape hosts a slew of exhibitions ranging from performance-based works to social issue documentaries. One of their renowned programs is the Curatorial Incubator. Now in its 12th year, the Curatorial Incubator encourages curators to create a program around a certain theme. This year, three emerging curators were given the opportunity to create a program on the theme “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Brat”. The program is composed of three instalments, each of which relates to the central theme. The curators pored over pre-existing video art and developed a narrative around that central idea.

I had the chance to attend the screening of the second instalment, “Bad Timing”, curated by the Ottawa-based Adam Barbu. His instalment was a series of six videos, each of which embodied some aspect of self-doubt by looking at misbehaviour from the mundane and awkward. One of the videos resonated with me in a way I was not prepared for. It was a 2001 short video by Steven Eastwood entitled I Make Things Happen.

In it, the camera follows a young person through South London and films them as they “make things happen”. From the belief that if they touched their hair a certain way a stranger across the street would eat a sandwich to the belief that eating an apple in the train station would cause someone to fall, the spurious correlations reminded me of how the superstitious people inside us come out to play when we doubt ourselves. Listening to the irrational connections the young person made was a welcome reminder to be more aware of my own doubt when it creeps in.

The five other videos in the instalment were intriguing in their own right and raised poignant questions: What is the role of an artist in the state of tension between action and inaction? When is it appropriate to laugh at a joke made in bad taste? What is said about the self when you do laugh?

The third instalment, “In Perpetual Search for the Self”, is currently being screened. It was curated by recent OCADU graduate Shauna Jean Doherty. Her program analyzes performance for the camera, with a critical look at Rosalind Krauss’ 1976 text on video art and narcissism.

This year’s Curatorial Incubator runs until April 9 at Vtape on 401 Richmond St. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.