Intimate views: A Review of Midi Onodera’s Vidoodles at the Concordia University Media Gallery

Written by Alison Reiko Loader

Away from the bustle of downtown Montreal and tucked inside Concordia’s Loyola campus Media Gallery, the Department of Communication Studies presents a semester of intimate cinema by filmmaker Midi Onodera.  There her experimental short videos called Vidoodles, curated by professors Matt Soar and Monika Kin Gagnon, take two forms: 1) an interactive touch screen featuring fifty-three short films from Onodera’s 2009 Movie of the Week, and 2) Tabletop Viewables offering a narrative triptych of video trios embedded in a tabular viewing device. With this exhibition, Onodera once again shifts and re-imagines the experience of cinema, continuing her project of intimate spectatorship but transporting us from the privacy of desktop or mobile (cellular phone, iPod, iPad or laptop) views and into the public space of a gallery.

Midi Onodera's Vidoodles exhibition at Concordia University. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

Movie of the Week, which can also be seen online, is re-presented on a large monitor as a playful and playable catalogue of circular images that rearrange themselves with each haptic invocation of a new short. Screening this collection of 45-90 second works, one for every Monday of an entire year, is perhaps best accomplished in multiple visits and as such, is well-suited to the almost three-month exhibition.  Funny, whimsical and thoughtful, these ‘vidoodles’ provide glimpses into Onodera’s apprehensions of daily life. To play (with) them is to leaf through an audio-visual diary, though lacking any stable sequence, these musings unceasingly connect and disconnect with every tap of the screen.

Tabletop Viewables, "P", Midi Onodera, 2011. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

Interaction takes a different and innovative shape in Tabletop Viewables. As in Movie of the Week, private and personal reflections appear in circular form. Yet unlike touchscreen, desktop or mobile viewings, Onodera shapes the conditions of encounter with an apparatus of her own design–embedding tiny video loops into a round tabletop, magnifying or distorting each vision with its own custom lens.  While reminiscent of the Petri dish videos of human-bacteria found in Israeli artist Michal Rovner’s Culture Plates, instead of a standing laboratory workbench, Onodera offers us seats at a low but elegantly designed table.

Tabletop Viewables, "H", Midi Onodera, 2011. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

Like guests at a child’s tea party, we can scoot from seat to seat discovering three tiny three-piece place-settings of sequences featuring letterforms that spell the voiceless “Phi” (Φ)– symbol of the golden ratio and the visual phenomenon that permits us to see movement from sequences of still imagery.  Each letterset of videos–P, H, and I–offers a silent narrative of memory, isolation and “submerged lives” that speaks through moving texts and imagery. P is for the peas that come in all types, being shelled by hands that seem to work just below the surface of the table beside miniature portals evoking childhood anxieties of difference, displacement and possibly guilt. H is for a habitation or hermitage expressed in the longing surveillance of the routine cigarette breaks of an office worker across the way, and the partial and perhaps paranoid peephole view of an empty and anonymous hallway. I is for the interiorization of “the things that drive me mad,” a meditation on the suppression and suspension, of thoughts and feelings, required to make it through the day.

A view from inside the Concordia University Media Gallery. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

Or at least that’s how I read the works.

Yet that is precisely what makes Onodera’s Vidoodles special. They are not simply glimpses into her or another’s subjective points of view, but rather are invitations to embody, experience and mix them with one’s own. Images, sound and text tug at thoughts buried just below the surface of daily life, turning perspective inward to yet another place of spectatorship.

Artist and MA candidate Jaimie Robson watching Tabletop Viewables. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

The where and what of cinema have preoccupied filmmakers and media artists for decades, with screenings in locations other than traditional movie theatres, and diverse physical forms such as multiscreen, panoramic, interactive, and mixed media presentations. Networked culture, digital imaging, consumer recording devices and portable displays diversify the field into multiple expressions. Onodera subverts the grand and immersive aspirations of ‘Expanded Cinema’ by offering personal and intimate engagements. Her Tabletop Viewables are especially innovative, bringing cinema into the gallery in a new material form that perhaps signals a new practice for this veteran filmmaker.  For Montreal readers, Vidoodles is an exhibition not to be missed with Tabletop Viewables as an exciting and fresh take on moving images, as an object and cinematic place unlike any other screen format. Media art aficionados unable to see this show, hope that Vidoodles will be appear at a gallery near you.

Tabletop Viewables, "I", Midi Onodera, 2011. Photo credit: Alison Reiko Loader, 2011.

Midi Onodera’s Vidoodles: Intimate Cinema, is co-curated by Matt Soar and Monika Kin Gagnon, September 15-December 9, 2011, Concordia University Media Gallery

Works Cited

Rovner, Michal. Culture Plate #7. 2003. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. [1st ed.]. New York: Dutton, 1970. Print.

Filmmaker, 3d animation specialist, and media artist, Alison Reiko Loader has been making short films independently and with the National Film Board of Canada since completing her award-winning first film Showa Shinzan in 2002. More recently she has expanded her practice to include animated and manipulated moving image installations, and biological arts. In 2010, she installed a multi-projection stereoscopic installation about the Grey Nuns Chapel with the Possible Movements lab, and performed mad science at the Visualeyez performance arts festival with artist Kelly Andres. This summer, she presented an anamorphic video installation about a nineteenth century murder at the former Griffintown police station, while her collaboration with entomologists from Concordia’s Biology Department now has her imaging forest tent caterpillars and moths. A doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Alison has also taught part time in the school’s Computation Arts and Film Animation programs since 2001, and recently joined Dawson College’s new 3D Animation and CGI program. Her research interests include the creation of old/new media hybrids, feminist theory and scientific visual culture.