Transmedia :29:59, the year-long programme of time-based art shown on a video billboard in Dundas Square in Toronto, is drawing to a close this month. It’s been a fascinating and somewhat turbulent year. The year of programming on the board started off really nicely with a terrific launch event, where myself and Pierluigi Vecchi (VJ Fluid) VJ’d live to the billboard, and DJ Cyan and naw provided the live sonic scapes. It was really empowering and also technically fascinating (to see what worked and didn’t work) sending images live to the board.

Curating for urban screens is a many-headed beast, though the inherent challenges only make the triumphs more sweet. Imagine asking artists to create very short pieces with no audio that must essentially be PG-rated and you can imagine how difficult it might be to both produce and find effective work for the board. And so, after the launch, the hard work began. Michael Alstad (the co-curator) and I are really proud of the choices we made, and strove to choose pieces for each month that connected, though they would never be presented one after another. What mattered to us was choosing videos from month to month that linked thematically or aesthetically, and that the overall programming on the board made sense.

As I mentioned earlier, the year wasn’t without its turbulent moments, and from time to time we had to make some difficult choices. Clear Channel owns and operates the board that we have been using over the course of the year. Their requirements for content control were somewhat more stringent than our own, and more than once we had content returned to us with a directive to either change or replace the content. We had a choice to either work within their more strict guidelines or protest, and, in all likelihood, prematurely dissolve the contract with Clear Channel.

Dissolving the contract would have been a cowardly move. As with any other public presentation of creative work, many negotiations take place, and sometimes compromises have to be made. There are no free zones. It is very easy to paint the corporation as the “bad guy” in this and other cases, when in fact, artists are well acquainted with compromise and negotiation when it comes to presentation of their work, and deal with many requests made by curators, dealers, collectors, et cetera. Our situation was no different, where first of all the work has to appeal to us, the curators, and then secondly, the work must not in any way contravene Clear Channel’s goals. It is that simple. Of course, sometimes Michael and I as curators try to push the envelope. The artists we have curated have handled requests for changes or new works with much intelligence, grace, and humour, which are all hallmarks of a truly creative spirit. In the end, we are offering a very unique venue to artists, we are proud of the programming we have shown, and we couldn’t have done it without Clear Channel’s generous assistance.

With all that said, and the year drawing to a close, I look forward to doing more curatorial work in this area and think that there is much to be discussed and learned from curating in this realm. For our final month, we’re presenting two works that I’m really excited about. On the 28th minute of every hour, Collin Zipp’s “Niverville, MB 08.04” is a gorgeous manipulated landscape. Collin physically defaces the videotape to produce unique effects that culminate in completely new landscapes. On the 59th minute of every hour, we present John Greyson’s “14.3 seconds”. During the 2003 war, U.S. planes bombed the Iraqi Film Archive. 14.3 seconds of celluloid were salvaged from the wreckage. If you slow them down by 23.8%, they last a minute. This poignant piece is not to be missed.

If you live in Toronto, check out the pieces in their natural habitat, on the pedestrian level billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square on the 29th and 59th minutes of the hour. If you don’t, check out the pieces on the Transmedia :29:59 website.

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