Joyce Wieland

Joyce Wieland, Rat Life and Diet in North America (film still), 1968. Image courtesy Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre

Joyce Wieland, Rat Life and Diet in North America (film still), 1968. Image courtesy Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre

Joyce Wieland (b. 1931, Toronto, Canada, d. 1998) began her career in Toronto as a painter and mixed-media artist. She then moved to New York, USA, where she lived from 1962–70, and during this time began to experiment with filmmaking alongside her painting practice. One of her most acclaimed films, Rat Life and Diet in America (1968), tells the story of a group of rats (played by gerbils) held as political prisoners in the United States, who go on to escape to Canada. The film subversively weaves political narrative to suggest an alternative path to dominant American ideologies. 

For Liverpool Biennial 2018, three of Joyce Wieland’s video works will be shown in digital format. Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968) will be shown on the fourth floor of Tate Liverpool. Solidarity (1973) a ten-minute film that documents a strike at the Dare Cookie factory in Kitchener, Ontario, will also be shown. A single shot depicts the 5,000 people who demonstrated in April 1973, walking through grass, picketing and marching. This movement is combined with the voice of a female striker talking over a loudspeaker about the issues at stake. Throughout the entirety of the film the word ‘Solidarity’ is superimposed over the image in capital letters. Sailboat (1967) is a short three-minute film that depicts sailing boats moving across the water intercut with the exaggerated sound of roaring waves and the word ‘sailboat’. The parade of endless and similar looking sailboats, as well as the horizontal division of the picture frame by the water, gives the film an innocent child-like quality, like a simple painting. The distant passing sailboats hint at themes of desire, loss and yearning for an ideal perfection that is always just out of reach.

Past exhibitions include Canadian Film Arts Centre, Hong Kong (1981); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (1973); Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (1972); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (1971); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario (1971); and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (1971).

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