Galleries unite under in outdoor film festival

In collaboration with Gatineau gallery AXENÉO7, SAW Gallery hosted the opening of their Summer Nights cinema and music festival July 27.

Viewers gathered in SAW’s courtyard to watch Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez’s “Double Take” projected under a star-filled sky.

The film uses two narratives in unison featuring Alfred Hitchcock, director of the renowned thriller “Psycho,” and his professional doppelgänger Ron Burrage in a montage of clips. 

The result is confusion as to whether the character is truly Hitchcock or his double. Viewers were then exposed to clips of the Cold War’s Kitchen Debate in 1959, Hitchcock’s film “Birds,” and even scenes of Ron Burrage impersonating Hitchcock. 

The film appeared to have no order other than chaos, exemplified by the random infiltration of Folgers Coffee commercials.

There was, however, a clever purpose to the disorder.  That purpose was the suspense which remained intertwined with the appearance of the Folgers commercials. The minute the crowd seemed to comprehend the abstraction, a commercial would re-appear.

The viewer indulges in prolonged suspense unfounded in popular cinema today. The suspense relies on fragmented clips that hinder the viewer’s understanding of the narrative.

The audience is left with an impression rather than something concrete — that to have a double is a dangerous thing.

The multidisciplinary festival ran until Aug. 5 and combined cinema, performance art and music in a down-to-earth camping environment unlike any other.

“When we started thinking about it being in the summer then we decided to kind of build it around the summer camp experience,” SAW curator Jason St-Laurent said.

St-Laurent mentioned the stereotypical artist’s lack of a car as a contributing factor when deciding on a theme. “We can’t get out of the city so we decided to create an experience where urbanites can camp like everyone else.”

It was the camping experience that allowed the festival to take on an informal quality where participants could freely interact with the artists and their work.

“We wanted to create a dynamic where people would feel comfortable, where it’s very unpretentious, where people can connect with the artists and not feel trepidatious meeting artists,” St-Laurent said.

The environment lacked the aforementioned pretention, as volunteers served baked beans and chili as the core menu. “

It’s not your traditional gallery opening where someone’s playing the violin and people are eating canapés,” St-Laurent said. The festival took place at SAW Gallery but then shifted in venue to Gallery AXENÉO7

in Gatineau, where festival-goers had the opportunity to camp onsite. The desire to bridge the gap in the art world between Ottawa and Gatineau was one of the underlying reasons for the collaboration between the two galleries.

“There is Ottawa and there’s Gatineau and that river is actually quite a big divide when you think about it. We wanted to take away the divide between those two communities that function somewhat independently of each other, and to create something that would bring Québécois here and Ontarians over on that side,” St. Laurent said.

There was no binding theme for the works in the festival except a cutting-edge prerequisite. “We wanted to show a very innovative, groundbreaking film in video and that is what brings everything together. We really wanted to just show works that push the limits,” St-Laurent said.

LAL, a Toronto-based band known for their songs on social justice, performed after the film screening as the musical performance of the night. Lead singer Rosina Kazi expressed her enthusiasm with the festival’s opening. 

“As a band, this is where we are best. Outside, at night. So the fact that they’re having the festival outside is magical and I wish more people would do stuff like this,” Kazi said.

Festival-goer Chloé Ropp was also pleased with the cinematic evening under the stars. “I had a great time at Saw Gallery and during the opening.  I can’t wait to go to AXENÉO7 next weekend and to see what the end of the festival has to offer.”

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