The Infernal Grove Project – About

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The Infernal Grove is an unsystematic structural analysis of drug use, addiction and recovery (not necessarily in that order). It is anti-carceral, anti-prohibition and seeks to amplify the voices of radical harm-reductionists and their coalitions. It recognizes the value of the sacred while rejecting all forms of piety. It posits wonder and the land as spaces of enchantment, as not an antidote to but an extension of the space opened up by drugs.

It’s based on the artists’ lived experience of drug use and the consequent interventions of state and medical establishments, which included both involuntary hospitalization and outpatient rehabilitation.

It is a video installation presented this fall at The Blue Building Gallery, Atlantic Canada’s first independent, state-of-the-art facility for presenting contemporary art. An associated study group will be presented as part of Nocturne, an all-night art event in Halifax in October, and again at the Rendezvous with Madness festival in Toronto in November.

The film is based on interviews with members of Vancouver’s Drug Liberation Front, a radical harm-reduction group that gives out free, tested crack and fentanyl on the street; with Samona Marsh and Hugh Lampkin of VANDU, the first drug-users union in North America; with video art pioneers Paul Wong; with a white-rapper-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur from Oregon and Zaire Knight artist from rust-belt New York; with a “sober influencer” from Nova Scotia and the brother of a for-profit rehab chain; with drag artist Mikiki about his (entirely positive) experiences in the chemsex scene. The interviews are woven together with hypnotic time lapse video of the natural world.

The visual material has been collected over several years through a process both painstaking and wobbly. Much of it is timelapse and all of it is made to draw the viewer into the inside of beauty—to actually be in beauty for a while—because inside beauty there is a room, and in the room is enchantment or wonder.

You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born

33 minutes

You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born is a visually rich film that follows a woman through a life characterized by damage and loss, but in which she finds humor, love, and joy. With a score that follows the span of Lenore’s life, from her birth in the early 70s to her death in the 2040s, the film takes us from moments of harrowing loss to those of poignancy and dark humor.  Her life is told through voice over, narrated by performers who range in age from nine to sixty-nine, and is beautifully illustrated with images of animals (including humans), insects and landscapes.

Film theorist Eli Horwatt writes “You Were an Amazement… conveys how the human animal’s ineluctable death drive can be the source of both profound comedy and tragic cruelty. In the many stories relayed across this short but voluble film, viewers are invited into an intimate identification with the experiences of marginalized others.”

Featuring Becca Manley, who played Shelly in Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, Barbara Woodford in Shane Meadows’ This is England 86, 88 and 90 and Mary in the recent adaptation of PK Dick’s Electric Dreams for BBC Channel 4.

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, macro photography 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.

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

These are some images from our exhibition Always Popular, Never Cool, 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

Editor:  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