Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan & Encarnacion: When a photo can and can’t say it all.


In 1984 I was twenty and living and (sometimes) studying in Toronto.

Through the week I tried to study for my undergrad majors in English Literature and Philosophy; and my minors in Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and Film: I know, but give me a break, I was twenty!

Weekends were an all together other thing. An awesome other thing that found me both in love for the first time and neck-deep in Toronto’s mid-eighties, experimental film community. Cold and heartless video had just emerged as the archenemy of all things 16mm and good, The Funnel Experimental Film Theater was in full form, and my pose was a small group of filmmakers from the Escarpment School who were loosely bound to each other and the Canadian Shield.

My twenty year old self had conversations with Michael Snow – ‘Donnalee, are you familiar with Jaco Pastorius’ Donna Lee?’ and Robert Frank (who then still had to travel to screen Cocksucker Blues) – ‘on a clear day, I can see P.E.I. from my backyard in Nova Scotia.’

It was a super, fucking awesome time to be twenty-something in and if I had it all to do again, this bit would not end up on the editing room floor.

Anyway, I was googling myself not too long ago – and don’t pretend you don’t do it yourself now and then – and came across this. It is my twenty-something self interviewing Phillip Hoffman of the Escarpment School about Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan & Encarnacion.

I am thinking about, Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan & Encarnacion today because Art in the Open is over; ‘full-body tired’ and ‘hopped up on art’ are nostalgia’ s perfect-storm; and I find myself looking at yesterday’s photos, and photos from yesterdays very long ago.

There are photos which can’t be taken – like the footage Phillip Hoffman couldn’t shoot in Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan & Encarnacion – images which would have nothing to say, and there are photos which, by chance, seem to say it all.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, for me, Jay Dort’s Conflagration, curated by this town is small was Art in the Open 2013’s ‘best in show’. I’ll have much more to say about this pedigree puppy, but for now will say this 1) A photo of the piece would not have been possible, and 2) if I ever engineer for a single viewer an experience approaching what Dort’s piece did for me, please have my headstone read, ‘happy camper,’ and stream to graveside visitors – via future technology -my two fleeting experiences with Conflagration on Saturday, August 24, 2013.

And I’m going to go out on a different limb of the same tree here – more about the tangled roots of these two pieces will have to wait for later as well if I have any chance of napping today – and say that, based on feedback I encountered, Monica Lacey’s Curiosity: a love letter to abandoned houses, curated by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, has to be a top candidate for ‘the viewer’s choice award’.

Last night, I heard Lacey’s Curiosity described as ‘beautiful’, ‘powerful’, ‘sad’, and in one instance, ‘profoundly difficult for me.’  But Curiosity didn’t make me one bit sad.

DSC02732Perhaps I’m not sad because I was there for this moment.  Perhaps I’m not sad because, once, when I was twenty, we made up a school of experimental film and now it is real and on the internet. Perhaps I’m not sad because all of this thinking and remembering and being brave about looking at photos from a remarkable past happened because of Art in the Open.

Or maybe I’m just bone-tired.


One thought on “Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan & Encarnacion: When a photo can and can’t say it all.

  1. Lovely piece about a special time and clearly still connected to art and art-makers/-talkers today. Thank Donnalee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s