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Voices in Longitude and Latitude works through narratives of girlhood 

Voices of youth from across Canada are woven into a “video sculpture” at Mount Saint Vincent

click to enlarge Marnina and Noam Gonick, Voices in Longitude and Latitude, installation view 2014. - STEVE FARMER
  • Marnina and Noam Gonick, Voices in Longitude and Latitude, installation view 2014.
  • Steve Farmer

"I mean, anytime your sister offers to collaborate with you on a project you should say yes." This is sage advice coming from filmmaker Noam Gonick. His sister Marnina is the Canada Research Chair in Gender at Mount Saint Vincent University and their collaboration is a project called Voices in Longitude and Latitude, currently on display at the MSVU Gallery.

Voices is a multi-screen video art piece depicting the experiences of teenage girls in various communities across Canada. The project is an extension of research work that Marnina has focused her career on. "My main focus was to work within and against some of the narratives about girls and girlhood that are out there," she says. "In some of my previous research I characterized these narratives as being one of these two polar opposites, either about, you know, girl power, supepower girls got it made and then the opposite pole around vulnerability. So, the idea behind the piece was to try and expand these narratives and the kinds of stories we can tell about girls and girlhood."

Marnina and Noam travelled across Canada spending time with girls in Kugluktuk, Halifax, Toronto and Winnipeg. Marnina asked the questions and Noam held the camera. In each location the girls they encountered were negotiating different experiences---being trans, Jewish, Inuit or having immigrated from Sudan. These varied voices were then mixed into a rich audio tapestry by Andy Rudolph. This was combined with imagery of these girls and the landscapes of their lives, edited into a video piece projected on four separate screens in the gallery. Noam describes it as a "video sculpture."

"I've worked with multi-screen installation before," he says. "I just find that it really helps to transport an audience into a different space, a mental space too. When it's not just about seeing one screen, but having stuff going on in that panoramic 360-degree way, the imagery becomes more sculptural. You create the experience by being where you are."

The pair gained inspiration from Glen Gould's CBC radio documentary The Idea of North in which the voices of interviewees are played off each other as counterpoints. Marnina explains the interactive design of their piece is also in line with the way she practices her academic research.

"It's kind of a commentary from the feminist perspective," she says, "which is the kind of work I do on how knowledge is produced, what kind of positionality you have and how it's kind of impossible to get the full story at any time. So the kind of experience we want viewers to have is that sense of, 'wow, there's so much going on all at the same time.' Which is really pretty much what the world does right?"

Ingrid Jenkner is the director at MSVU Gallery and the curator of this show. She is inspired by this kind of alternative presentation of academic research and believes others will be as well.

"We've had a lot of classes come through," she says. "So clearly the professors feel that their students should be exposed to this alternative form of disseminating and conducting research. The comments I've heard have been mostly from faculty members who are really fascinated by this method, that perhaps some of them are going to try in the future for disseminating their research."

Yet, as Marnina humbly notes, "Not everyone has a brother who's a filmmaker."

Voices in Longitude and Latitude

To May 11 Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 166 Bedford Highway



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