Mechanical Bride

Hot Docs is just around the corner and this year Subtle Technologies is excited to be co-presenting  one of the films in the festival.  Allison de Fren’s  Mechanical Bride ( an homage to Marshall Mcluhan’s book )  explores the cultural desire to design the perfect artificial woman. The film travels from the classic early science fiction images of the fembot to the present day reality of the love doll industry which is embracing the latest technologies in terms of robotics and material science . The film takes an intimate  look at both the customers and makers in this industry.

The documentary evolved out of the research Allison De Fren did for her dissertation. “The Exquisite Corps : Disarticulations of the Artificial Female” explored representations of artificial female bodies, from the Renaissance to the present. De Fren’s fascination with men who build artificial women was sparked when she worked as an interactive digital designer with mostly male roboticists at a Silicon Valley “think tank”

The film plays :
Sun, Apr 29 11:30 PM at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Mon, Apr 30 9:00 PM at the Cumberland 3 Cinema
Sun, May 6 9:00 PM at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Tickets for Mechanical Bride are available on the Hot Doc website here.

Norman White, A Canadian Legend of Electronic Art

Splish Splash 2

I’m  looking forward to the upcoming screenings of “Them F*ck!ng Robots”, a documentary film about the career of Norman White.  Norman has influenced many artists, including myself, through the courses he taught at OCAD University (formerly OCAD and before that OCA) and now at Ryerson.   In the early 1990’s I decided to take a leap of faith. I had been working as an engineer in Ottawa and started a company designing satellite communication devices. In the evening I took dance classes. I came to the realization that I wanted to find a way to combine these two sides of my life, art and engineering. After looking around at various options I settled on coming to Toronto and enrolling at OCA . Norman was co-teaching an advanced course on servo control mechanisms at the time.  It was then that I developed an immediate admiration for the work and generosity of Norman White. He played a leading role in re-arranging my brain cells and inspiring me to use my electronics skills as an artist.  Norm always has insightful words to say about every students work and is willing to share his vast knowledge of programming, mechanics and electronics. His sense of humor is as sharp as his sense of aesthetics. The title of the documentary,  “Them F*ck!n Robots” refers to a piece he did with artist Laura Kikauka. This along with other pieces like “The Helpless Robot”  allow us to look at our own behavior through the machines he programs.

Norman Helping "The Helpless Robot"

Having done a BA in biology before he went to art school, Norm and I share a desire to combine disciplines and knowledge systems. Norm presented at one of our first Subtle Technologies festivals.  We are  very lucky to have the filmmakers  of  “Them F*ck!n Robots” join us for the screenings. Ine Poppe and Sam Nemeth are both based in Amsterdam.   A Q and A with the filmmakers and White will be moderated by emerging curator Farah Yusuf. The film is being shown at Ryerson on Saturday March 24th at 8 pm and in Hamilton at Factory Media Arts on Monday March 26th at 7 pm. Thanks to the generous support of the Mondriaan Foundation for allowing the screening of this film across Canada.

Tickets for Toronto Screening

Tickets for Hamilton Screening

Technoscience Salon :: MILIEU

‘TechnoScience Salon’ featuring Hannah Landecker (UCLA), a leading scholar of the histories of legacies of cell science and technologies, and artists Jack Butler, Heidi McKenzie, Nadine Valcin, and Jennifer Willet.

VENUE: Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Ave, Room 120

DATE: Monday, March 19, 4pm – 6pm

SPONSORS: Technoscience Salon, USA Mission in Canada (Community Partnership Grant), Subtle Technologies

CURATOR: Zulfikar Hirji


Hannah Landecker

is an author and Associate Professor of Sociology at UCLA. Her research interests are the social and historical study of biotechnology and life science, from 1900 to the present, the intersections of biology and technology, with a particular focus on cells, and the in vitro conditions of life in research settings. Hannah Landecker was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University through 2007. She was a visiting scholar at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas’s Institute for Medical Humanities in 2004, where she worked on a project that examined the changing human relationship to living matter in an age of biotechnology. Through a history of the technical manipulation of living cells, she looked at how biological things, including those made with human tissues, have been turned into tools and commercial objects. She is also worked on developing new methods and curricula for teaching the history and social study of biotechnology to undergraduates. Dr. Landecker has degrees from the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT (PhD), and the University of British Columbia (BSc).

Jack Butler

JACK BUTLER currently lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario. His hybrid practice uses the means and methods of visual art to produce research in two domains – medical science and collaborations with Inuit artists (the current project, Art & Cold Cash). With degrees in visual art and philosophy, Butler exhibits internationally with work in public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada.

“I draw. Observing my art career over the last forty-five years of drawing, I have come to recognize that I am developing a core trajectory that focuses on sex and sexuality; the aesthetic, sensuous and even scientific experience of being sexual. My work ranges from my current interest in Somatechnics (theories and practices of alternative sex-gender embodiment) to early and on-going trans-disciplinary art/bio-medical research projects in genital embryogenesis (sexual differentiation in the human embryo) which art-based research is bringing me into collaborative work in trans-gender and intersex communities.”

Anima by Heidi McKenzie

HEIDI MCKENZIE is a Toronto-based ceramic artist completing her final year in Ceramics at Sheridan School of Craft and Design. Heidi has been a manager and creative producer with over twenty years’ experience in the not-for-profit arts sector. She has worked in the music industry, architecture, broadcasting, museum development, festival management, and radio and film production. In 2009, Heidi was the first in six generations to return to her father’s ancestral home of India, where she embarked on a three-month ceramic residency at the foothills of the Himalayas. In the spring of 2010, Heidi left behind her work in the cultural sector and committed to her new life path as an artist. Heidi is a the recipient of the 2011 Emerging Artist Award for the Toronto Artist Project juried art show and sale as well as the 2011 Metchosin International Summer School Bursary.

“My studio practice engages the relationship and responsibility of community in healing. This is explored through conceptual and material examination of ways in which clay, in its ceramic form, conveys “static motion.” Clay is inherently of the human body – the sediment of millennia. The medium reinforces the physicality of the implicit corporeal themes of ailment and recovery.”

Still from Nadine Valcin's 'Fire and Fury' (Credit: Fabrice Strippoli)

Born in Montreal and now based in Toronto, NADINE VALCIN fell in love with cinema after earning a degree in architecture. For the past decade, she has written, directed and produced television programs and magazines. Intrigued by cultural-identity and mixed-race issues, she took on her first film as an independent producer in 1996. Modulations, an experimental project, was followed by the documentary Black, Bold and Beautiful (1999) which picked up an honourable mention at the prestigious ‘Columbus International Film and Video Festival’ before it was adopted into university programs in Women’s Studies and African-American Studies. In A School Without Borders (2005) delves into Nadine Valcin’s questions about the education system and the process of integrating cultural minorities. More recently, she directed the short fiction film Fire that recounts the story of a slave accused of burning down half of Montreal in the 18th century. She is presently in the process of writing her first feature film dealing with a former child soldier seeking refugee status in Canada.

Jennifer Willet

DR JENNIFER WILLET is an internationally successful artist in the emerging field of bioart. From 2000-2007 Willet and Shawn Bailey collaborated on a project called BIOTEKNICA. She taught in the Studio Arts Department at Concordia University from 2000-2007, and completed her PhD in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at the same institution. She now works as an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Arts at The University of Windsor in Canada. In 2009 she opened a bioart research and teaching lab called INCUBATOR: Hybrid Laboratory at the Intersection of Art, Science, and Ecology at the University of Windsor.

Exhibitions include: the Arnolfini Museum, Bristol UK (2010), Exit Art Gallery, New York, NY (2009), Ars Electronica festival, Linz (2008), FOFA Gallery, Montreal (2007), ISEA San Jose, USA (2006), Biennial Electronic Arts Perth, Australia (2004), The European Media Arts Festival Osnabrück, Germany (2003), La Société des arts et technologiques (SAT) Montreal, Canada (2005), and The Forest City Gallery London, Canada (2004), amongst others.