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SUBJECT: SWGC: Jack Chambers film series at the Grenfell Gallery
DATE: Jan. 10, 2006

Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Art Gallery hosts a screening series of experimental films by Jack Chambers (1931- 1978) Canadian director, producer, screenwriter, film editor, cinematographer and visual artist.

Jack Chambers was a renowned realist artist whose notion of perception as a synthetic experience was formally expressed in a distinctive collage style of filmmaking. Through this style, he influenced the development of the diary and landscape film. In 1969 his aesthetic manifesto, Perceptual Realism, affirmed his belief in art as an intuitive but mediated response to the unity underlying all things. It also confirmed his preference for the photograph as a memory-aid because it preserved the original image without distortion.

Chambers’ reputation as a film artist is based on the five works he completed between 1966 and 1970: Mosaic (1964—1966), Hybrid (1967), R34 (1967), Circle (1968—1969) and The Hart of London (1968—1970). A mixture of newsreel footage, home movies and photographs, these films reject the notion of linear time, characteristic of popular cinema, because Chambers thought the narrative illusions that resulted misrepresented the true character of human perception.

Using various montage strategies – semantic and formal – his films invest the viewing experience with a sense of “presence” so that individuals undergo the same process of self-awareness as Chambers (confrontation of the fragility of domestic happiness, the brutality of human nature, the challenges of artistic ambition, the inevitability of death).

Mosaicundercuts the exuberance of new motherhood (and artistic rebirth) by positioning the family in a cemetery; Hybrid juxtaposes the U.S. bombing of Vietnam with the seemingly benign procedures of agricultural hybridization; R34 employs the collage principles of the film’s subject, Greg Curnoe, to highlight the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary, which underpins the creative act; Circle is a year-long meditation on Chambers’ backyard in which nature’s cyclical rituals, unaffected by human presence, elicit both terror and awe. The Hart of London is a sprawling work that conjoins the public and the personal, history and memory, man and nature, self and other, in an epic-like form that suggests Chambers’ reconciliation with the contradictions of professional and domestic life. The film’s ambitious subject matter and its sophisticated use of printing and montage constructions led critics to refer to it as his masterwork.

The core of the film revolves around newsreel footage of a hart (male deer) that wandered into Londonin 1954. This rather quaint encounter quickly turns ugly as we watch the animal’s capture and eventual slaughter in graphic detail. Chambers’ insistent pairing of opposi­tional elements creates an experience rich in ambiguity. It is perhaps the most complete and profound summation of Cham­bers' approach to art and percep­tion: a moving evocation of place and the circularity of life and death.

The Hart of Londonwill be presented on Thursday, January 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the ArtGallery.Circle, Mosaic and Hybrid will be presented on Monday, January 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the ArtGallery. The film series is part of the Grenfell Gallery’s continuing Festival of Contemporary Film and Video.

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