Joyce Wieland (Canada) is regarded as one of Canada’s foremost artists. A self-described cultural activist, she is legendary for her contribution to the development of contemporary visual art producing work in a variety of media from drawing and painting to radical quilting and filmmaking. Wieland’s career spanned more than 40 years. She had her first solo exhibition in 1960. Many of her most celebrated projects, which include the incorporation of nationalist, feminist, and ecological ideas, were formulated while living in New York (1962–1971), where she partook in the lively underground film scene orbiting around the New York Filmmakers’ Cooperative with contemporaries such as Hollis Frampton, Shirley Clarke, Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas, and Ken and Flo Jacobs. She was married to artist Michael Snow at the time. Her films Sailboat (1967), Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968), Reason Over Passion/La Raison Avant la Passion (1969), and Solidarity (1973) are considered seminal works in the North American avant garde film canon. With True Patriot Love she was the first living Canadian female artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada (1971) and also the first female artist to have a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (1988). Her films continue to screen at museums and festivals globally, and are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Yale and Princeton art galleries, Philadelphia Art Museum, The National Gallery of Art (Ottawa), and the Royal Ontario Museum. Weiland succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in Toronto in 1998.
Joyce Wieland © Michael Torosian, 1988
Rat Life and Diet in North America , 16 min, 1968
I can tell you that Wieland’s film holds. It may be about the best (or richest) political movie around. It’s all about rebels (enacted by real rats) and police (enacted by real cats). After long suffering under the cats, the rats break out of prison and escape to Canada. There they take up organic gardening, with no DDT in the grass. It is a parable, a satire, an adventure movie, or you can call it pop art or any art you want—I find it one of the most original films made recently. – Jonas Mekas
Solidarity, 11 min, 1973
A film on the Dare strike of the early 1970s. Hundreds of feet and legs, milling, marching and picketing with the word “solidarity” superimposed on the screen. The soundtrack is an organizer’s speech on the labour situation. Like her films Rat Life and Diet in North America, Pierre Vallieres, and Reason Over Passion, Solidarity combines a political awareness, an aesthetic viewpoint and a sense of humour unique in Wieland’s work.
When Anthology Films came into existence in New York, which was a place to collect classics of the New Cinema as well as world cinema, the founders of it were the same men who judged which films were classics and which weren’t. Naturally they got a selection of the male Structuralists and didn’t choose any films made by women. Since their policy was never to give out reasons of choice or rejection, I never had a clue, and had to surmise that none of my works were classics. […] The whole thing I am talking about made me very strong because I left it behind. It is no different than what has happened to many other women. It is really a wonder that any women filmmakers have managed to survive. – Joyce Wieland
When she came to the US from Toronto in the early 1960s, Joyce Wieland was already known in Canada as a painter who explored themes of female existence in ways that were often controversially explicit, but once in New York she also began working in Super-8 and 16mm. Along with Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, and her husband Michael Snow, Wieland became one of the circle of artists who defined the first generation of structural film (she held the distinction of being the only woman mentioned in P. Adams Sitney’s seminal essay which described that sensibility). Though as equally attuned as her peers to an advanced, expanded notion of how space and time might function in cinema, Wieland’s work also evinces a sharp wit and inventive narrative sense that foreshadows the small-gauge filmmaking of the 1980s and ’90s. – Every Ocean Hughes
Screening co-presented with the Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Centre. Curated by Oona Mosna