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Special Commissions

Atom Egoyan's 8 ½ Screens

Atom Egoyan’s discomfort and fascination with the relationship of viewer and viewed finds a perfect match in the famous projection room sequence in Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Egoyan reverses the relationship between projector, audience and screen in this bravado deconstruction of our Cinema 4 theatre space. A projector stands on stage, boldly spewing out light. On screens spread throughout the venue, Fellini’s various audiences—some angry, some in love, some bored, plus a freaked-out director—occupy their own spaces, their own screens. The audience is left to work out their own place in this upside-down world. Gradually we feel their interconnectedness and reconstruct the act of viewing films through Fellini’s eyes. This composite, non-linear experience also gently critiques the Essential 100 list itself by making clear the powerful subjectivity of the film-viewing experience and consequent unreliability as judges of the work

-Noah Cowan

A virgin cinema is a tempting place for an installation. A room dedicated to the viewing of films is full of promise and anticipation. In this room—Cinema 4—there will be myriad private experiences formed between future filmgoers and artists. This work is about watching. The original idea was to compile a selection of classic images of characters viewing films; a mosaic of screens from such diverse sources as Taxi Driver (watching porn), A Clockwork Orange (watching horror), Cinema Paradiso (watching old movies), Sunset Boulevard (watching oneself)... The list is long and full of possibilities. When I came across the screening room scene near the end of Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2, the original concept shifted. Here was possibly the single densest sequence of collective watching ever staged. The complexity of therelationships between the viewers (a director, his frustrated producer, his luminescent muse, his alienated wife, her bemused friend...) and the screen auditions they were viewing (for the part of an alienated wife, a frustrated mistress, an idealized prostitute...) was overwhelming. Rather than a compilation of clips from various sources, the installation became a deconstruction of a key scene from one of the greatest films about filmmaking (and film watching) ever made. By the end of this scene, as the director’s wife Luisa leaves the theatre, the marriage is effectively over. Marcello is metaphorically hung out to dry, and so the billowing sheets—a recurring motif in Fellini’s cinema—became an essential part of the installation. 8 1/2 Screens is a fantasy fuelled by one of the greatest imaginations of cinema’s golden age. I offer it with deep respect, more than a little nostalgia, and tremendous excitement about the opening of this magnificent new home for a cherished institution.

-Atom Egoyan

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