Storytelling/Artist on Fire | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Storytelling/Artist on Fire

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Two highly original and personal documentaries by Canadian feminist filmmaker Kay Armatage, both of which gracefully fuse traditional and experimental methods of art making to offer passionate views of creativity. Storytelling (1983) intercuts between the performances of several master storytellers, each representing a different style and tradition. Most of the storytellers are women--an old Irish woman tells a folktale, a middle-aged woman tells an Inuit folktale, a very young woman performs in a highly theatrical style, and Constance de Jong tells a postmodern story about stories and their effects--but the film also makes room for a male metis elder, an elderly black man who tells a story gospel style, and a 23-year-old male rap artist. Individually these stories proceed like serials; collectively they suggest an evolution from creation and birth to death and regeneration. Artist on Fire (1987) is subtitled The Work of Joyce Wieland, but "The World of Joyce Wieland" or "The Vision of Joyce Wieland" might be more apt because we learn a great deal about this remarkable Canadian artist's view of life while we only glimpse her paintings, sculpture, and films. A collage of many offscreen voices (including those of Michael Snow and Armatage herself) guides us through the multiple aspects of Wieland's remarkable work, which assimilates art from Tiepolo to Miro, from traditional quilts to Canada's Group of 7, while situating itself within a variety of activities and contexts. Part of the pleasure of both films comes from Armatage's love and respect for her life-enhancing subjects; part comes from the purely sensual values, textures of sound and image, that she celebrates through her mosaics. Armatage will be present at the screening to introduce and discuss her work. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, November 10, 8:00, 443-3737)

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