Something Wonderment

An exhibition at Argos Center for Art and Media Jan-April 2018.

At Argos the exhibition combines two new monumental groups of works. In the video Something Wonderment, made in collaboration with Vashon Watson, the artists explore the notion of wonder, asking questions about the relationship between the visceral sensations we associate with that concept. These include awe, disgust, and the powerful but oft-disparaged feelings derived from the cute and the cliché.

They interrogate the relationship between wonder and religion, asking if the former is a function of the latter or if the latter is a way to contain the former. Using animation, song, macrophotography and micoscropy, the work invites the viewer into a world of magic and science, of empathy and revulsion, of humor and heartbreak.

The eponymous new interactive multimedia installation rounds out the exhibition. On a table there are two microscopes that enable the viewer to investigate various objects and organisms – bones, mosses, crystals, bacteria. The devices are connected to projectors that show the objects greatly enlarged.

In relation to this there are six sculptures: dioramas composed of geological crystals, minerals, and small animal remains such as whiskers, bones or feathers. As they have done with earlier works, in the exhibition, the artists draw reflexive parallels between human society and the animal kingdom.

Something Wonderment, video still, 2018

Dear Lorde

27 minutes

“Bone collector Maxine Rose, a 14 year old teenage girl, is looking for validation from her heroes, amongst them the primatologist Jane Goodall, bishop Desmond Tutu and the New Zealand teen pop Star Lorde. Offering them a gift of language, Maxine Rose stands for the desire to be visible and understood, not unlike the desire of an artist. We are particularly impressed by the multilayered story telling structure, the freshness of the characterization, and the honest exploration of an artists` vulnerability."

--Excerpt from the jury’s comment on awarding Dear Lorde the EMAF award. European Media Art Festival

Always Popular, Never Cool (#rapeculture)

These are some images from our exhibition Always Popular, Never Cool (#rapeculture), which was on display this fall at the Markham Museum, a twenty-five-acre pioneer village housing thirty centuries-old structures.  Our piece was part of a huge project called “Land/Slide: Possible Futures“, curated by the astonishingly smart and generous Janine Marchessault, who previously co-curated The Leona Drive Project, as well as Museum for the End of the World at last year’s Nuit Blanche.  Janine also teaches at York University.

Our project is a diorama depicting a sexual assault at a middle-schoolers’ house party, which is interrupted by a kind of feral-child superhero called Ardath, who bursts upon the scene clad in animal skins and riding a coyote.  It has been written about here:

Tee watching with YOLO hatNils watching Nils amd Tee with ipadDorie passed out Artdath and Seth w bed in backgroundardath facing boys ardath and connor with phone

The Beauty is Relentless

The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby

The Beauty is Relentless

A new book edited by Mike Hoolboom.

Featuring essays by: Jason McBrideClaudia DeySholem KristalkaKyo MaclearTerence DickAndrea SlovakovaTom ShermanSteve ReinkeSarah HollenbergMonique MoumblowAkira Mizuta Lippit.


“[Here] exists a kind of nakedness, a peeling away of propriety, a questioning of behavioral and social systems—and yet I find their work refreshingly playful and deeply generous.”—Deborah StratmanUniversity of Illinois at Chicago.

The literary post-punk short movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been tearing up the festival/gallery circuit for the past fifteen years with their blend of bedroom pop, perverse animations, and hopes for fame. In this collection of award-winning scripts, creative writings, and critical missives, scholars, video legends, and animal experts—including Steve Reinke, Sarah Hollenberg, Akira Lippit, and Tom Sherman—weigh in on why these movies matter.

Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been collaborating since 1994. Their work has won the top prize at festivals in Ann Arbor and Chicago, and awards in Zurich, and Hamburg. They teach at Syracuse University.

Mike Hoolboom is an internationally renowned experimental moviemaker and critic.

Made possible by: Pleasure Domemocca, and The Canada Council for the Arts.

Available from Coach House Books and

Lesser Apes

Lesser Apes - Meema-film Lesser Apes - Farrah

Lesser Apes (2011 13 min) tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah and a female bonobo ape, Meema.  Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual.  A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.


Lesser Apes tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.

Beauty Plus Pity

Beauty Plus Pity-installation shot2 Beauty Plus Pity-spirit guides

Beauty Plus Pity (2009 15min)

The contemporary fables of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby propose that existence is abject, farcical, and messy. In their richly textured videos, Duke and Battersby employ live action footage, scavenged images, and simple animations to create episodic structures that evince a simultaneously utopian and dystopian world view.

‘Beauty Plus Pity’ sets a colourful single-channel video within a lush viewing environment populated by costumed taxidermic animals. Presented in seven parts, the video considers the potential for goodness amidst the troubled relations between God, humanity, animals, parents and children. While an animated cast of animal “spirit guides” quote Philip Larkin’s poem, This Be the Verse, and implore us to “get out as early as you can” from life and our parents’ grasp, a hunter dreams of a zoo where he might lie next to tranquilized animals calmed of their savagery. A senile and unstable God stumbles, forgets to take his medication, and turns frost into diamonds. ‘Beauty Plus Pity’ contemplates the shame and beauty of existence; it is part apologia, part call to arms.

Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure

Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure-dumpstergirl Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure-cat

Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure (2006, 14min) marks our return to the episodic structure of our earlier works Rapt and Happy, Being Fucked Up and Bad Ideas for Paradise. As with earlier works, Songs of Praise takes on difficult, often painful subject matter.  Themes of addiction, violence, the destruction of the natural world and the agonies of adolescence are woven through the work.

“anything but depressing… [it is founded in] a sense of wonder at the endearing weirdness of life and all the vulnerable, furry little creatures immersed in it (especially us).” Sarah Milroy The Globe and Mail

“a moving yet relentless experience of contemporary life (human and biological) in the face of moral, physical and environmental degradation” Emily Jones, Catalogue Essay, Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 2007

“…a series of pagan hymns that unearth slight but potent saving graces amid seemingly inescapable pain and anguish.”   Jon Davies, Canadian Art, Fall 2006

Bad Ideas for Paradise

Bad Ideas for Paradise-soccer Bad Ideas for Paradise-song

Bad Ideas for Paradise (2001, 20 min)

Steve Reinke on Bad Ideas for Paradise: “There is no such thing as self-esteem. Self-esteem as a construct is illogical and contradictory, so its frequent deployment as the lynch-pin of New Age discourse seems to me satisfyingly appropriate. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have frequent bouts of self-loathing. There is something truly monstrous about the self-righteous. Eating a well-balanced diet is a horrible act of aggression. Whenever I hear the word “culture” I think of bacteria mutating under an ultraviolet light and I’m happy again for a while. Within the petri dish: unfettered egoless desire, the proliferation of new possibilities ideas made flesh, uncaring and finally airborne. Empathy is a tool for making the cruelty more precise. Beauty is independent of taste; the sublime only works for suckers. Whenever I laugh I feel guilty.”

Bad Ideas for Paradise is a 20-minute episodic videotape. Funny, touching and ambitious in scope, Bad Ideas continues to deal with many of the themes addressed in Duke and Battersby’s earlier works: addiction, spirituality, identity, relationship dynamics and the ongoing quest for joy.