Sara Diamond

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Video still from <b>Ten Dollars or Nothing</b> by Sara Diamond

Sara Diamond, Ten Dollars or Nothing, (1989), 5:17 min. excerpt from the 12:00 min. original

Video still from <b>Fit to be Tied</b> by Sara Diamond

Sara Diamond, Fit to be Tied, (1995), 4:53 min. excerpt from the 24:25 min. original

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About these works

Ten Dollars or Nothing (1989)
Distributed by Vtape.

Ten Dollars or Nothing is the first part of Daughters Have Courage, Mothers Take Heart, a series of tapes about the 1930s in British Columbia. An experimental work, it centres on the voice of Josephine Charlie, a First Nations woman who worked for more than half a century in the coastal canneries of British Columbia. The voice of the narrator, speaking of the challenges and pleasures of coastal life, is contrasted with fragments of documents from the archives of industrial, anthropological, and government films. In Ten Dollars or Nothing, Diamond uses double layers of editing effects to suggest that there is more to memory than meets the eye: memory here is sensory, complex, and physical as well as ideological.

Ten Dollars or Nothing was broadcast on Vision TV (1992) and was included in Video Art Vidéo, a series of ten programs broadcast on La Chaîne/TV Ontario and on SCN (Saskatchewan's public broadcasting network) in 1993 and 1994.

Fit to be Tied (1995)
Distributed by Vtape.

This work explores rural and urban home life during the Depression, from the perspectives of housewives and domestic workers. In the piece, traces of past social movements, beliefs, and memories, have disappeared in the shifting architecture of daily life and the changing values of the present. The video uses dramatic suggestions, layered sound, audio and video interviews, radio clips, and a rich range of historical footage to evoke feelings of constraint and movement. Fit to be Tied demonstrates how women survived great hardship, finding ways to heal themselves and their communities through social activism, faith, and interdependence.

The video and film works of Sara Diamond blend narrative techniques-re-enactment, recollection, and direct statements from the public record-with a strong sense of political and social justice. Her commitment to bringing out background facts illuminating the often-untold stories of women from different periods of the twentieth century is coupled with the happy results of her intensive research into the pictorial record to make these stories come alive and resonate for us today. Always incisive, her stories resonate with historical truth, using quotation and the spoken word to great dramatic effect. Her proactive narratives reveal much about the underpinnings of contemporary society, and its potential-need-for ongoing change.

Fit to be Tied was co-produced with the Women's Television Network and the Canadian Independent Film Fund.

About Sara Diamond

Artist, critic, curator, researcher, and educator Sara Diamond has also worked extensively as a television and new media producer and director. Social issues have been at the core of her work, along with family relationships, labour struggles, and modern day working conditions - especially for women. Diamond's dramatic re-enactments of stories from World War II and the Great Depression of the 1930's are highlights of her earlier production, and her effective use of archival footage and photographs informs all of her video. Her installations and video works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and many museums, universities, and colleges internationally. In 1991 the Vancouver Art Gallery mounted Diamond's Patternity, a technically complex computer-driven work exploring memory, cultural difference, and the paternal figure, which subsequently toured nationally and was included in the Biennale of Sydney (Australia) in 1993. Diamond was awarded the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 1995; she has also received the Woman of Vision Award from Women in Film and Television and Wired Women Society (2002), and was voted Educator of the Year at the 2002 Canadian New Media Awards. In 2003 her CodeZebra won a Canadian Digital Innovation Award. Retrospectives of her work have been mounted at Toronto's Images Festival (1990), the National Gallery of Canada (Memories Revisited, Histories Retold, 1992), and the University of Surrey, UK (2001).

After having been based for several years in Vancouver, Sara Diamond was appointed artistic director of media and visual arts at The Banff Centre (Alberta) in 1994. She went on to found the Banff New Media Institute (BNMI) in 1996, where she was artistic director then director of research. While at Banff, she was active in creating national and international networks of new media practitioners, including the organisation of several think-tanks for First Nations artists, producers, directors, and critics. Her role in advancing artists' and designers' work in new technologies has been widely recognized. In 2005 she moved east to become president of the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.

Born in New York City, Sara Diamond has been a long-time resident of Canada. She holds an honours BA in Communications (1986) and an honours BA in History (1990) from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and while living in Toronto she is currently completing her PhD at the University of Arts London, UK, SMARTlab Centre, with research on online environments as creative collaboration spaces. She has taught at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design as well as at Capilano College in Vancouver, the California Institute for the Arts, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where she continues to hold an adjunct professor appointment in the Design/Media program. Her roles both past and ongoing as consultant and editor, advisor and board member, are exceptional.

Citing her long track record as a new-media artist and the strong presence of design in her BNMI program, "I do position myself between the two fields," she says. "The participatory, iterative process of design-the rigour of the design process-I find that very attractive." (Milroy R5)

One of her recent projects, Habituation Cages, documented on her CodeZebra Website, is a series of experiments conducted at the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF) in Rotterdam, 2003. For the experiments, artists and scientists were isolated together for 24 hours, each pair with a problem to solve; "They were asked to invent things together," says Diamond, who commented, "It was intellectual reality TV." (Milroy R5) As part of this project, video artist Paul Wong of Vancouver was linked with ethnographer and mobile technologies expert Nina Wakeford of London, connected to the outside world by streaming audio, video, and text. CodeZebra continues as a Web-based visual chat to be used in conferences, and as part of cross-disciplinary performances, with presentations to date in Brazil, Hungary, Netherlands, Senegal, UK, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Diamond has spoken regularly at symposia and conferences, and at universities, colleges, and think-tanks internationally, most particularly on intermedia (an inter-disciplinary approach to using multiple forms of media) and developments in digital technology; issues of collaborative practice in new media; notions of history, memory, and the body; feminist critique; and gay/lesbian identities. Her current list of papers and research in progress is extensive. Counted among her long list of publications are: "Daring Documents: The Practical Aesthetics of Early Vancouver Video" in Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics of Art, ed. Stan Douglas (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991), "Video and its Nets: an overview of convergence" in Video Rules (Edmonton Art Gallery symposium, 1999), "Silicon to Carbon: Thought Chips" in Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices, ed. Melanie Townsend (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2003). Among her video works, Fit To Be Tied, Ten Dollars or Nothing, On to Ottawa and Lull Before the Storm were broadcast regularly throughout the 1990s on CBC, Channel Four (UK), the Knowledge Network (British Columbia's Public Educational Broadcaster), PBS, SCN (Saskatchewan), Vision TV, and the Women's Television Network among others.

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