18 February 2016 - EMPAC
On Screen/Sound No. 10

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This two-part screening presents two seminal films made 30 years apart that explore the act of vocalization—both embodied in an on-screen speaker and as sound and images disembodied from the actor.

Canadian artist-filmmaker Joyce Wieland’s Pierre Vallières frames the mouth of Québécois separatist (and leader of the Front de libération du Québec) Pierre Vallières while he presents three corresponding speeches on Mont-Laurier, Quebec History and Race, and Women’s Liberation respectively. Referred to by Wieland as a “mouthscape,” it’s an intense, structuralist film that uses an extreme close-up of Vallières’ mustachioed lips, teeth, and tongue to connect voice and language with colonialism and national struggle.

In contrast, Clio Barnard’s 2010 documentary The Arbor was filmed with actors who precisely lip-synched the words of British playwright Angela Dunbar’s family and friends to tell the story of her short life and her daughter’s corresponding spiral into addiction. Barnard is an artist-filmmaker who has specialized for many years in “verbatim theater” in which audio-recorded documentary testimony is lip-synched by performers. Creating an uneasy and at times dislocating effect, the technique enhances the slippery relationship between image and sound. This, in turn, unsettles the documentary reading of Dunbar’s story and gestures towards the blurring of fiction and reality inherent in dramatization.

Co-curated with Victoria Brooks


Pierre Vallières (1972)
Joyce Wieland

The Arbor (2010)
Clio Barnard