Anthology of Critical Texts

RESONANCE: EMMEDIA Anthology of Critical Texts 2011/2012

Edited by: Diana Sherlock & Rachel Zolf

Featuring essays by: Joel Farris, Wednesday Lupypciw, Sigrid Mahr, Jessica McCarrel, Shelley Ouellet, Mairead Pratschke, and Sandra Vida
Featuring works by: Zac Slams, Bogdan Cheta, Lon Parker, Patricia Piccinini, Wednesday Lupypciw, Kyle Whithead, Pauline Cummins, and Andrea Mann
Cover art by: Derek Beaulieu

Available for purchase at EMMEDIA for $10 +GST. For deliveries, please inquire at 403.263.2833 or for shipping and handling charges.

Resonance: EMMEDIA Anthology of Critical Texts 2011/2012 is the third EMMEDIA anthology of writing about media arts in Calgary. This collection of essays was produced in conjunction with Every Word Counts, an EMMEDIA workshop about critical writing in the visual and media arts held in October 2012. The anthology’s title echoes EMMEDIA’s 2011/2012 thematic program, Resonance, and its contents sound out and magnify Calgary’s local media arts story to contribute to a much larger history. The project furthers EMMEDIA’s mandate to produce, disseminate and develop critical discourse about media arts in Calgary through mentorship and practice. It creates an opportunity for writers to develop their critical voice and to engage in prolonged, critical reflection about media art practices.

The writers worked diligently with us during the collaborative workshop and throughout the subsequent editorial process to develop these texts. The texts in this anthology cover a diverse range of media art works—video, installations and performances about sexuality and gender, subjectivity, technology and the environment—that have been produced, shown or supported by EMMEDIA. Together, these texts reflect a community of interests and share some similarities in character—a DIY ethos, feminist and queer politics and a concern for the other—that reveal some things that lie just below the surface of Calgary’s media art scene.”

- Diana Sherlock & Rachel Zolf

GRAIN: EMMEDIA Anthology of Critical Texts 2010/2011

Edited by: Jennifer McVeigh

Featuring essays by:
Kay Burns, Vicki Chau, Bodgan Cheta, Shawn Dicey, Tomas Jonsson, Simone Keiran, Vanessa McLachlan, Mohammad Rezaei, and Lia Rogers.

Available for purchase at EMMEDIA for $5 +GST. For deliveries, please inquire at 403.263.2833 or for shipping and handling charges.

[View the online version of GRAIN]

EMMEDIA proudly presents “GRAIN”, an anthology of essays that explored the GRAIN theme in the 2010/2011 programming year. Writers went through a critical writing workshop facilitated by Chris Frey, which the texts were later developed and edited by Jennifer McVeigh.


Following the rich chaos and confusion of EMMEDIA Gallery and Production Society’s Crash! programming year in 2009/2010, a more detailed and deliberate perspective was fixed for 2010/2011. Grain was the thematic catalyst for myriad creative activities with a focus on generation and growth, including fine-grain, critical examination of our urban environment. The United Nations designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity and EMMEDIA interpreted this declaration through a broad lens, incorporating notions of sustainability and diversity as it pertains to community, city and identity, as well as ecology.

One of the goals of EMMEDIA’s publishing program is to push the boundaries of media arts discourse by helping to nurture a community of writers in Calgary. To this end, the society presents a free annual workshop, taught by an experienced author and dedicated to developing critical writing skills. Students from this workshop are encouraged to submit proposals for EMMEDIA publications, at which point they develop their texts with the guidance of an editor/mentor.

The 2011 workshop, Whole Lotta Love: Critical-Creative Writing in Media Arts, was facilitated by writer, researcher and Alberta College of Art and Design Liberal Studies instructor Christopher Frey, and took place on the last warm, sunny weekend of the fall. Despite the outdoor temptations, thirteen students gathered in EMMEDIA’s windowless screening room for lively discussions and exercises on voice, form, imagery and making the intangible, tangible. In the following weeks, several first-time and emerging writers, including Simone Keiran, Vicki Chau, Lia Rogers, Mohammad Rezaei and Bogdan Cheta, embarked on a journey of successive drafts exchanged with me, writing and rewriting as the grain of their subjects came into sharper focus. Their patience and hard work is admirable.

The texts collected in this anthology are germinated from the seeds of the Grain thematic, but grow in rhizomatic, unpredictable patterns. The essays investigate artworks and events presented at EMMEDIA and elsewhere, and also explore wider ideas important to our members and supporters, such as the growth and preservation of communities that nourish artists.

Grain began at EMMEDIA with the presentation of Vera Frenkel’s Once Near Water, a video that documents the selective erasure of a city’s relationship, through development, to the body of water that once sustained it. The project probes the fine grain of the city depicted in the video, as well as Calgary, tracing the construction scaffolding that writer Tomas Jonsson describes as a transitory placeholder; “a reminder of something that once was, and a possibility still open.”

In his text, Mohammad Rezaei traces the history of another set of temporary structures scattered throughout Calgary and other cities – DIY and pop-up art galleries. Building on a strong history, these spaces continue to provide valuable exhibition opportunities for emerging artists, in addition to intimate and informal community building.

Rezaei and Bogdan Cheta both explore the germination process of arts communities and audiences in Calgary. How are they seeded and how do they grow? Cheta invites the reader on a fascinating allegorical search for signs of life after leaving the hothouse confines of art school.

The goal of Sans façon, the collaborative duo behind Limelight, an installation scheduled to be presented in downtown Calgary the evening of the launch of this publication, is to affect the outlook and behaviour of urban communities with their interventions. Tracing the multiple international presentations of the project, writer Kay Burns explains, “It provides a gift of freedom to engage with public space in a different way, to think about where they live in a different way.”

Through her review of the collaborative, simultaneous screening Red Rover, Lia Rogers examines the difficulty of cross-pollination when it comes to artistic communities. If distance serves to limit our knowledge of practices happening in other cities, how can we, as artists and as creative communities, work to overcome these obstacles?

Germination and pollination are also at the heart of Vanessa McLachlan’s feature about one of the projects presented at the 2011 Art’s Birthday Party at EMMEDIA. According to legend, art was born when a dry sponge was dropped into a bucket of water, and since 1963, efforts have been made to celebrate the event by connecting artists around the world through the mail, the radio and now the internet. McLachlan’s review investigates the connective success of just one of the artworks resulting from this process; BBBS/ABCC by Carl Spencer, Ian Birse and Laura Kavanaugh.

BIN 15 was one of the most visible and audible incarnations of EMMEDIA’s Grain theme. A corrugated metal sentinel of the prairie landscape repurposed by artist Mark Lowe, it was installed in several public locations where it became a lively gathering point for sound and noise artists, musicians and curious passers-by. Writer and musician Shawn Dicey describes his experience of its unique sonic qualities during a sudden summer downpour.

Grain bins were not the only iconic prairie structures to inspire EMMEDIA artists in 2010/2011. Simone Keiran tackles the anthropomorphic qualities and dark implications of the pumpjack featured in Lia Rogers eponymous video, along with the surprising life of canola oil in Vicki Chau’s Synthetic Rhythm. While both videos were produced as part of the short but intense annual Compression Camp workshop, they have a resonance well beyond their five-minute length. As Keiran puts it, they are “meditations on actors, unseen forces, the nature of sentience and the processes that lie beneath the surface of the everyday.”

Vicki Chau writes that the repercussions of anthropomorphization are also vital to Rita McKeough’s installation The Lion’s Share. Presented at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, in the heart of Alberta’s agricultural region, the exhibition takes a humorous but pointed look at the absurdity of our contemporary relationship to food.

The word anthology derives from the Greek anthologia, meaning flower-gathering; a garland or bouquet of short texts collected into a single volume . The Grain anthology cannot be summarized quite so tidily. The texts herein trace the first green tendrils of community sprouting in schools, homes, garages and under the streetlights of the city, and coming up through cracks in the sidewalks of urban regeneration; the deep and tangled roots of the food and fuel that sustain us; and the virtual trailing vines of artists reaching out to each other over high-speed internet lines. Living structures this complex cannot be neatly cut and tied together with a ribbon. However, this collection is a wholehearted attempt to capture a glimpse of the complex, interdependent and robust ecology of practices and communities connected to media arts in Calgary today.

- Jennifer McVeigh
December 12, 2011

IMPACT STATEMENTS: CRASH! Anthology of Critical Texts

Edited by: David Garneau

Featuring essays by:
Patti Dawkins, Jennifer Johnson, Tomas Jonsson, Yasmin Karim, Jennifer McVeigh, Karilynn Ming Ho, Grant Poier, Ohmyasin, Lia Rogers, and Kristopher Weinmann

Available for purchase at EMMEDIA for $5 +GST. For deliveries, please inquire at 403.263.2833 or for shipping and handling charges.

[View the online version of IMPACT STATEMENTS]

Contributors are invited to submit podcasts of -or relating to- the texts included in this publication:

[Click here to listen to Yasmin Karim's podcast]

EMMEDIA proudly presents “Impact Statements”, an anthology of essays that explored the CRASH! theme in the 2009/2010 programming year. Texts were developed through a critical writing workshop facilitated by celebrated artist, writer and curator David Garneau.


This slim volume represents hundreds of hours that might have been spent watching television, walking in the park, dining with friends, holidaying or making art. Instead, the authors choose to hole up in sweltering apartments or musty basement offices, and kept the partner, children or creditors at bay as they stole time to sweat over the best way to describe falling through a storm cloud, worry a citation or consider whether they need to use the first person pronoun so much—and what does it mean about them if they decide that they do? Worse still, each knew that they would have to submit their writing to an editor who had the luxury of a late deadline to wrestle every turn of phrase with them.

Impact Statements is a collection of essays by participants of an EMMEDIA workshop, A Thousand Words, Exactly: Writing about Art Film and Video for Publication, organized by Tomas Jonsson. The first session was in November 27 – 28, 2009, followed by an intense second meeting on June 5, 2010. With the publication coming out in September, 2010, you could say that these texts were nearly ten months in the making. The authors have varying degrees of experience but none are professional writers. These are labours of love and conscience. Most of the essays are reviews of videos screened at EMMEDIA. All are inspired by EM’s CRASH! program theme and were written with a desire to improve personal skills and advance public critical reception of video art in Calgary.

I have conducted A Thousand Words, Exactly workshops across the Prairies and in Ontario, but this is only the second ‘full’ version—with a two day workshop, a follow-up session, months of one-on-one editing by email and a publication. It has been a great pleasure to do this right, to help writers hone their texts without a great rush to a short deadline. A few essays were polished in three or four drafts. Most were circulated back and forth by email more than a dozen times. I was thrilled by the commitment and patience of every writer. Each had a strong sense of the personal and social value of their work and was open to the editorial process to the point of masochism.

Works of art are not limited to objects. An art tape cannot be seen without a player and monitor—they are part of the work. So is the venue that shows the video, the artist, curator and, of course, the viewers. Works of art are special things within a network of relationships. The final aspect of a mature work of art is critical consideration. Without such a discourse a work and community is without an art history and does not signify beyond the community of makers. The maturity of an art community is determined by the quality of its critical discourse. Criticality is not just the expression of taste and evaluation, it is the sharing of deep reading and considered, articulated affect. Many of the texts in this volume are particularly moving because they are written by observant and sensitive artists not used to submitting their thoughts and feeling as public text. I am particularly honoured that these authors trusted me and that they were willing to share their insights.

In addition to thanking Tomas Jonsson, the EM team and funders for making the workshops and this collection possible, and the writers for their texts, I would also like to thank the other workshop participants for their interest. I am looking forward to reading their contributions in the future.

- David Garneau
August 25, 2010