Inti­mate views: A Review of Midi Onodera’s Vidoo­dles at the Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty Media Gallery

Writ­ten by Ali­son Reiko Loader

Away from the bus­tle of down­town Mon­tre­al and tucked inside Concordia’s Loy­ola cam­pus Media Gallery, the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies presents a semes­ter of inti­mate cin­e­ma by film­mak­er Midi Onodera.  There her exper­i­men­tal short videos called Vidoo­dles, curat­ed by pro­fes­sors Matt Soar and Moni­ka Kin Gagnon, take two forms: 1) an inter­ac­tive touch screen fea­tur­ing fifty-three short films from Onodera’s 2009 Movie of the Week, and 2) Table­top View­ables offer­ing a nar­ra­tive trip­tych of video trios embed­ded in a tab­u­lar view­ing device. With this exhi­bi­tion, Onodera once again shifts and re-imag­ines the expe­ri­ence of cin­e­ma, con­tin­u­ing her project of inti­mate spec­ta­tor­ship but trans­port­ing us from the pri­va­cy of desk­top or mobile (cel­lu­lar phone, iPod, iPad or lap­top) views and into the pub­lic space of a gallery.

Midi Onodera's Vidoo­dles exhi­bi­tion at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

Movie of the Week, which can also be seen online, is re-pre­sent­ed on a large mon­i­tor as a play­ful and playable cat­a­logue of cir­cu­lar images that rearrange them­selves with each hap­tic invo­ca­tion of a new short. Screen­ing this col­lec­tion of 45-90 sec­ond works, one for every Mon­day of an entire year, is per­haps best accom­plished in mul­ti­ple vis­its and as such, is well-suit­ed to the almost three-month exhi­bi­tion.  Fun­ny, whim­si­cal and thought­ful, these ‘vidoo­dles’ pro­vide glimpses into Onodera’s appre­hen­sions of dai­ly life. To play (with) them is to leaf through an audio-visu­al diary, though lack­ing any sta­ble sequence, these mus­ings unceas­ing­ly con­nect and dis­con­nect with every tap of the screen.

Table­top View­ables, "P", Midi Onodera, 2011. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

Inter­ac­tion takes a dif­fer­ent and inno­v­a­tive shape in Table­top View­ables. As in Movie of the Week, pri­vate and per­son­al reflec­tions appear in cir­cu­lar form. Yet unlike touch­screen, desk­top or mobile view­ings, Onodera shapes the con­di­tions of encounter with an appa­ra­tus of her own design–embedding tiny video loops into a round table­top, mag­ni­fy­ing or dis­tort­ing each vision with its own cus­tom lens.  While rem­i­nis­cent of the Petri dish videos of human-bac­te­ria found in Israeli artist Michal Rovner’s Cul­ture Plates, instead of a stand­ing lab­o­ra­to­ry work­bench, Onodera offers us seats at a low but ele­gant­ly designed table.

Table­top View­ables, "H", Midi Onodera, 2011. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

Like guests at a child’s tea par­ty, we can scoot from seat to seat dis­cov­er­ing three tiny three-piece place-set­tings of sequences fea­tur­ing let­ter­forms that spell the voice­less “Phi” (Φ)– sym­bol of the gold­en ratio and the visu­al phe­nom­e­non that per­mits us to see move­ment from sequences of still imagery.  Each let­ter­set of videos–P, H, and I–offers a silent nar­ra­tive of mem­o­ry, iso­la­tion and “sub­merged lives” that speaks through mov­ing texts and imagery. P is for the peas that come in all types, being shelled by hands that seem to work just below the sur­face of the table beside minia­ture por­tals evok­ing child­hood anx­i­eties of dif­fer­ence, dis­place­ment and pos­si­bly guilt. H is for a habi­ta­tion or her­mitage expressed in the long­ing sur­veil­lance of the rou­tine cig­a­rette breaks of an office work­er across the way, and the par­tial and per­haps para­noid peep­hole view of an emp­ty and anony­mous hall­way. I is for the inte­ri­or­iza­tion of “the things that dri­ve me mad,” a med­i­ta­tion on the sup­pres­sion and sus­pen­sion, of thoughts and feel­ings, required to make it through the day.

A view from inside the Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty Media Gallery. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

Or at least that’s how I read the works.

Yet that is pre­cise­ly what makes Onodera’s Vidoo­dles spe­cial. They are not sim­ply glimpses into her or another’s sub­jec­tive points of view, but rather are invi­ta­tions to embody, expe­ri­ence and mix them with one’s own. Images, sound and text tug at thoughts buried just below the sur­face of dai­ly life, turn­ing per­spec­tive inward to yet anoth­er place of spec­ta­tor­ship.

Artist and MA can­di­date Jaimie Rob­son watch­ing Table­top View­ables. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

The where and what of cin­e­ma have pre­oc­cu­pied film­mak­ers and media artists for decades, with screen­ings in loca­tions oth­er than tra­di­tion­al movie the­atres, and diverse phys­i­cal forms such as mul­ti­screen, panoram­ic, inter­ac­tive, and mixed media pre­sen­ta­tions. Net­worked cul­ture, dig­i­tal imag­ing, con­sumer record­ing devices and portable dis­plays diver­si­fy the field into mul­ti­ple expres­sions. Onodera sub­verts the grand and immer­sive aspi­ra­tions of ‘Expand­ed Cin­e­ma’ by offer­ing per­son­al and inti­mate engage­ments. Her Table­top View­ables are espe­cial­ly inno­v­a­tive, bring­ing cin­e­ma into the gallery in a new mate­r­i­al form that per­haps sig­nals a new prac­tice for this vet­er­an film­mak­er.  For Mon­tre­al read­ers, Vidoo­dles is an exhi­bi­tion not to be missed with Table­top View­ables as an excit­ing and fresh take on mov­ing images, as an object and cin­e­mat­ic place unlike any oth­er screen for­mat. Media art afi­ciona­dos unable to see this show, hope that Vidoo­dles will be appear at a gallery near you.

Table­top View­ables, "I", Midi Onodera, 2011. Pho­to cred­it: Ali­son Reiko Loader, 2011.

Midi Onodera’s Vidoo­dles: Inti­mate Cin­e­ma, is co-curat­ed by Matt Soar and Moni­ka Kin Gagnon, Sep­tem­ber 15-Decem­ber 9, 2011, Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty Media Gallery

Works Cit­ed

Rovn­er, Michal. Cul­ture Plate #7. 2003. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.

Young­blood, Gene. Expand­ed Cin­e­ma. [1st ed.]. New York: Dut­ton, 1970. Print.

Film­mak­er, 3d ani­ma­tion spe­cial­ist, and media artist, Ali­son Reiko Loader has been mak­ing short films inde­pen­dent­ly and with the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da since com­plet­ing her award-win­ning first film Showa Shin­zan in 2002. More recent­ly she has expand­ed her prac­tice to include ani­mat­ed and manip­u­lat­ed mov­ing image instal­la­tions, and bio­log­i­cal arts. In 2010, she installed a mul­ti-pro­jec­tion stereo­scop­ic instal­la­tion about the Grey Nuns Chapel with the Pos­si­ble Move­ments lab, and per­formed mad sci­ence at the Visualeyez per­for­mance arts fes­ti­val with artist Kel­ly Andres. This sum­mer, she pre­sent­ed an anamor­phic video instal­la­tion about a nine­teenth cen­tu­ry mur­der at the for­mer Griffin­town police sta­tion, while her col­lab­o­ra­tion with ento­mol­o­gists from Concordia’s Biol­o­gy Depart­ment now has her imag­ing for­est tent cater­pil­lars and moths. A doc­tor­al can­di­date in the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty, Ali­son has also taught part time in the school’s Com­pu­ta­tion Arts and Film Ani­ma­tion pro­grams since 2001, and recent­ly joined Daw­son College’s new 3D Ani­ma­tion and CGI pro­gram. Her research inter­ests include the cre­ation of old/new media hybrids, fem­i­nist the­o­ry and sci­en­tif­ic visu­al cul­ture.