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Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak

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Video still from <b>Working the Double Shift</b> by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak

Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak, Working the Double Shift, (1984), 5:24 min. excerpt from the 18:30 min. original

Video still from <br><b>The Blood Records, written and annotated</b> by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak

Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak,
The Blood Records, written and annotated
, (1997), 5:20 min. excerpt from the 52:00 min. original

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About these works

Working the Double Shift (1984)
Distributed by Vtape.

With Working the Double Shift (or changing politics on the domestic front) the daily issues and shared responsibilities of domestic life are brought under scrutiny: kitchen, laundry, and home repairs, who will make morning coffee. Actual TV commercials are juxtaposed with scenes from the artists' own home, showing up the absurdities of advertising and the simplifications of the mass media. A driving techno soundtrack underscores the message. As independent curator Sue Ditta sums up, "The revolutionary moment occurs in a mock 'late breaking newscast,' in which the camera slowly pans a 'real' parliamentary vote, while a voice-over commentary explains that labour, environmental, women's, and, most importantly, artists' groups, have managed to bring about a revolutionary change, successfully demanding a decentralization of political power and cultural production. In the 'phantasy' section of the tape, commercials by auto workers and other community based groups take over the screen" (Ditta 19). Characteristic of Steele + Tomczak's earlier collaborations, Working the Double Shift relies on appropriated "media images, an embrace of the vernacular, juxtaposition, fragmentation, the reconfiguration of genres, and an engaging and unrepentant sense of humour" (Ditta 15). Fiction and documentary footage overlap and interact, doubly dynamic, as Steele + Tomczak criticise the mass media with irony and conviction.


The Blood Records, written and annotated
(1997)
Distributed by Vtape.

The Blood Records, written and annotated is a lush and nuanced meditation on imagination and perception, played out in the feverish musings of Marie, a young girl being treated for tuberculosis at Fort San in rural Saskatchewan in 1944. Marie's interior life, her fears, memories, and wistful dreams, are central to the narrative, as images shift forward and backward in time. Her reluctant body moves gradually towards health, while those around her whisper about treatments and desperate operations, the constant need for rest, for food. In The Blood Records, vintage photographs and film footage are layered digitally with re-enacted events in Fort San's original buildings. As independent filmmaker and writer Mike Hoolboom describes in the video's catalogue: "Each hour of the day is assigned a task and a place to perform it, so that the power to re-arrange the body could be inscribed directly onto time itself, organized now into profitable durations, and supervised with a total visibility. Here is Rousseau's old dream of the transparent society, where any hint of darkness has been banished, any zone of the unknown conquered, in order that its citizens may appear to one another with the irresistible force of consensus, the sanitarium a living ideal of the new democracy, and the new human being" (Hoolboom 34).

Against a wartime background of dramatic social and cultural change, 1944 saw the discovery of streptomycin, an antibiotic still used in treating TB, as well as the election of Canada's first socialist government under Tommy Douglas, which led in turn to the adoption of universal health care in Canada. While known of for hundreds of years, TB had become widespread by the nineteenth century, and by 1921 over half the children of Saskatchewan were infected with the potentially lethal disease, as were the mothers of both Steele and Tomczak.

Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak are "miners of the repressed, bringing to light questions which trouble the relation between bodies and the body politic, citizenship and flesh. [...] Like the patients themselves, this is a landscape of ghosts longing for remembrance. For mourning" (Hoolboom 30 and 36).

The Blood Records made its world premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and toured Canada from 1999 to 2003.

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