By Michelle Song
The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) starts off the new year by showcasing five exhibitions of contemporary filmography and photography done by women.
In their opening reception on Jan. 20, the RIC featured experimental films, video installations and photography done by Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Spring Hurlbut, Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof and Elaine Ling. Also featured was the exhibition Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection, which consists of archived photographs put together by a group of Ryerson’s film and photography preservation and collections management graduate students.
Gaëlle Morel, one of the curators of the exhibit said that through the exhibits, they are hoping to provide a space for female artists to showcase their work.
“We try to celebrate artists that have less visibility in the art world,” said Morel. “First, when you are an experimentalist it’s a bit more difficult, but when you’re a women, it’s even more difficult.”
MacNeil’s exhibit, The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films is a compilation catalogue of her portrait-style photographs. She also premiered her new experimental film When the Ice Goes Out, which is about a young man travelling to a magical place that was invented by him and his friends during their childhood.
The RIC preserved MacNeil’s archive within its collection as one of their first archives and Don Snyder, a professor at Ryerson’s School of Image Arts, her brother, curated the exhibit.
Ling, a Toronto-based photographer, also had her works featured in the RIC’s collection. Her exhibit From the Collection featuring her photos of architecture, portraits and landscapes was on a rotating display.
Hurlbut’s also presented her video Airborne, which is a documentation of the Canadian artist releasing the ashes of her relatives, causing viewers to reflect on mortality. Airborne shows Hurlbut opening up the six urns of her family members and the ashes being released in slow motion.
Also presented that evening was the film The Relics of Lumen made by assistant professor and experimental filmmaker Pruska-Oldenhof. She utilized a combination of images of people in transit throughout the 20th Century from the RIC’s Black Star collection, as well as astronomical images and videos from NASA. Pruska-Oldenhof created mosaics and collages with the photos which played one after the other in a flickering motion.
“I combined all of them together as a way to comment on the nature of photography and on photographic archives as well as the ‘night sky,’” said Pruska-Oldenhof.
Pruska Oldenhof used the software AndreaMosaic to edit her piece. She hopes that the students of Ryerson to look at her piece and come to the realization that “it doesn’t really take sophisticated technology in order to produce work that can engage people in a discussion that can comment on society and that can also push the boundaries of the media.”
Among the displays of the accomplished female artists, the student-led exhibition, Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection, features stereographs from the 19th Century and works by a number of Canadian photographers, all of which are from the RIC collection. According to one of the students from the exhibition committee, the students chose the images with the theme of “the second bests” in mind.
The theme derived from the idea that an original print cannot always be obtained, sometimes you need to get a duplicate.
“A print of that image may not be the best, but it’s still a specific tool that you can use forever,” said Gray. “It made sense to collect images of whichever you could find because in a sense your students are going to be learning something, whether they’re looking at a good photograph or a bad photograph.”
Further, the exhibit also has a slide table which features Ryerson’s teaching collection that is going to be discarded. The students involved with the exhibition wanted to continue to acknowledge these teaching tools by “giving them a new life,” said Gray.
“By having a slide table in the exhibit, [it] gives people the opportunity to examine the slides and [witness] the diversity [of the] collection,” said Gray. “[They also have the] opportunity to take one home and start their own collection if they desire so.”
Morel hopes that the new exhibitions will engage the students and give them the opportunity to admire “good work produced by very talented artists.”
The Light Inside, Airborne, and the Relics of Lumen will be exhibited at Ryerson until April 10. Ways of Seeing and From the Collection’s last day at the RIC will be Feb. 28.