A Message from Our Sponsor - the once-banned film by Al Razutis 1980 - was featured at the PAARC Conference, Vancouver, Oct. 12, 2012 at 'Institutions by Artists' screening and discussion, with filmmaker Al Razutis and curator Jennifer Cane discussing censorship and politics in art and culture.
The event in seven paragraphs: The presentation took place in Vancouver at the 'Wold Art Centre' Simon Fraser University, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on Friday Oct. 12 10 a.m. No kidding, it is now called 'Goldcorp' Centre for the Arts. We started with the film screened from DVD. Then, with periodic Q's from Jennifer Cane, I presented an overview and stories of the battle to bring down the Ontario Censor Board and censorship in Canada in the 1980's, with added criticism of film artists, groups, and institutions that sought 'special exemption' from censorship (thereby re-affirming the authority of censorship) based on their 'fine art' or 'international reputation' value.
We deviated from our script immediately, and in the more free-form direct address to audience, I talked about 'underground' films and the 60's-70's when censorship in the US and Canada picked off film-makers, distributors, exhibitors individually, to the remarkable early 80's when the National Gallery film package containing 'A Message from Our Sponsor' was censored, when curators were threatened with arrest (all of which made it a national issue), and how we at Peterborough (Canadian Images Festival), joined by Universities, lawyers and film artists, activists, brought their whole house down with the Supreme Court ruling against the Board.
These subjects are as important to me now as way back then, and it was remarkable for me to reconnect with people in their 20's - 30's at the start of their careers (and those older, at their ends) for whom these issues are as compelling. Yes, in this post-Moore/Chomsky/Po-Mo deconstruction era of art and social nets 'looking for answers' the questions are as compelling as they were to us in the 60's-70's. And I mean this internationally.
In between sessions I met people the Warhol foundation (one of the sponsors), Vancouver university profs, foreign and local students, teachers, artists and activists, crossing generations, professions, and locales of practice. This was an international conference, and was a very cool mix of people, and I was there to learn their language not simply repeat mine.
In our verbal presentation (following the film screening) I extemporaneously talked about the 'now' and the web, and smart dumb phones on the way to how 'any insult' to any group brings on the censors and the thought police or lynch mobs after prayer in dysfunctional societies run by psychopaths that rely on bogey-men and 'divine' or metaphysical authority. Yes, capitalism is full of those too, and so is academia, and the arts, as the conference would reveal. And Occupy Wall Street did not change Wall Street. Not yet.
My other subjects included avant-garde film as analytical and political film, and hey, I was a faculty member too in the 70's-80's who wrote a 35 page semiotic analysis of the film ('faculty research' - conference paper), anarchism, and the necessity to view art institutions as only 'transitional' and 'temporary' forms of organization and activity. Life in life and in death - change and renew or calcify. I am not naive: the museum will always outlive its avant-gardes, and biological life strives to 'overcome death' and 'live forever' by engaging in the creation of family, group, institution, and endless posts, friendships, blogs into the 'forever' of the internet (which of course can never be forever, since that would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics). In the context of the questions posed by Jennifer Cane, I explained my roles in creating film institutions (Cineworks, Canadian Film-makers West, Intermedia film co-op, Simon Fraser University film program, and publications) as consistent with anarchist practice of never getting hooked on authority or self-importance, and creating group and institution only as a short-lived phenomenon, like to deal with the absence of means of survival, or means of production - distribution - exhibition. And of course, none of this can be censored.
The slide projected after the film screening and during our discussions was of a avant-garde performance event by me in 1986 at the Pacific Cine Centre and an event called 'avant-garde film panel'(a real panel of artist-filmmakers) where my 'direct action' was performed for the institution that had 'invited the avant-garde' to participate. The film documenting/interpreting this avant-gardism is titled 'On the Problem of the Autonomy of Art or...Splice' (see http://www.alchemists.com/visual_alchemy/filmvideo_archive.html#splice )
Streamed video of (SESSION ONE) FILM screening and J. CANE - A. RAZUTIS discussion with audience Q & A archived at: http://www.livestream.com/institutionsbyartists/video?clipId=pla_4070d7f5-cc7f-4cbf-a0ae-9422ef6bba0e
-- Session One stream: J. Cane intro and FILM begins at 48 min., A. Razutis and J. Cane speaking at 58 min, audience Q & A at 78 min. and end at 1 hr 25 - continuing to next sessions in this two and a half hour stream of SESSION ONE Friday Oct. 12th 10:30 AM at Worlds Art Centre, Vancouver.