! Toronto: A Non-linear and Generative Exploration of Toronto on Film

Dave Kemp
20 min Presentation + 20 min Discussion
Annett Busch
Olavshallen: Cinemateket
This paper presents and explores the development of a multi-screen, video-wall installation titled “!Toronto,” which acts as a collaborative extension of a documentary film project initiated by filmmaker Alexandra Anderson. For the documentary film, an extensive database was constructed of films shot in Toronto from early twentieth century to the present day. Drawing on this vast collection of fictional film clips, Anderson’s documentary maps, in a linear fashion, key landmarks and more quotidian settings that are often used to depict Toronto as “somewhere else,” and most commonly as American cities such as New York or Chicago. The documentary explores what this means within the discourse of Canadian national cinema and Canadian identity. The title of the documentary “Toronto Hides Itself” references the 2003 film “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” directed by Thom Andersen, which served as a source of inspiration. “!Toronto” makes use of custom software and Geographic Information System (GIS) map data to produce an emergent and generative journey through this same database of clips, making use of various keywords that have been applied to the clips (such as “Yonge Street,” “CN Tower,” “TTC Streetcar,” etc.). By combining over 1700 clips from narrative cinema, with locative map data, interviews with various filmmakers (Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, and Bruce McDonald to name but a few), as well as original footage showing the locations as they actually appear outside of fictional film, the project works present a new way of visualizing and understanding the depiction of Toronto on film. The title “!Toronto” stems from commonly used coding syntax where the “!” denotes a negation or a logical “not.” A trailer for “!Toronto,” along with additional content related to the project, can be found here.

Dave Kemp

Dr. Dave Kemp is a visual artist whose practice looks at the intersections and interactions between art, science and technology: particularly at how these fields shape our perception and understanding of the world. Dave obtained his PhD in Art and Visual Culture from Western University and is a graduate from the Master of Visual Studies program at the University of Toronto. Prior to this, he earned an Image Arts BFA from Ryerson University and his BScE in Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University. He currently works as an Associate Professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University.