Noam Gonick

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Noam Gonick (born in Winnipeg, Manitoba) is a Canadian filmmaker and artist. His films include Hey, Happy!, Stryker, and Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight. His work frequently deals with themes of homosexuality, social exclusion, dystopia and utopia.

Background[edit]

Gonick was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to a Jewish family. His father, Cy Gonick, is a reputed Marxist economist and former member of the Manitoba Legislature. As a youth, Noam showed a strong interest in theatre. While in elementary school, he started a small theatre company composed of other children from his neighborhood. At 16, he lived briefly in Berlin, Germany, where he worked as an actor in an experimental theatre troupe. After returning to Canada, he met and began working with filmmaker Guy Maddin, who would have a seminal influence upon his early work.

Gonick attended and graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto, earning a BFA with a major in Film. He edited Ride, Queer, Ride (1997) a collection of writings on and by filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, who would prove to be another important influence on Gonick's filmmaking. In 2007, he was made the youngest inductee to the Royal Academy of Arts.[1] He is currently President of the Board of Directors at the Plug-In Institute of the Contemporary Arts.

Film and Television[edit]

Gonick's first film was the 1997 short 1919, a historically revisionist depiction of the Winnipeg General Strike, as seen through the window of a gay oriental barbershop and bathhouse. MoMA selected the film as one of the best gay and lesbian films from the last fifteen years. His next film was the documentary Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight, narrated by Tom Waits and featuring Shelley Duvall. The film captures Maddin as he begins production on Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997). The documentary received acclaim on the festival circuit and went on to a successful life on television. Gonick would follow up with the experimental short Tinkertown in 1999, while also writing and developing his first feature, Hey Happy! (2001). The cult-styled film, set in the Winnipeg rave scene on the eve of an apocalyptic flood, was distributed in North America and Europe, and was listed in Artforum’s selection of best movies of the year.

In the early 2000s, Gonick directed a number of episodes of Canadian documentary television series KinK, before returning to film with Stryker (2004), a feature he co-wrote with David McIntosh. Stryker strikes a comic-tragic tone in its colourful depiction of the bleak realities of Aboriginal youth and working-class transsexuals. The film was photographed by Ed Lachman, and featured a cast of mostly amateur actors. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival.

In 2007, Gonick wrote and directed Retail, a comedy TV pilot. Gonick's early interest in theatre was given renewed outlet in his creation of two short documentaries about important Canadian theatre figures: Hirsch (2010), on Hungarian-Canadian director and co-founder of the Manitoba Theatre Centre John Hirsch, and What If? (2011), on Leslee Silverman, celebrated artistic director of Manitoba Theatre for Young People. Some of Gonick's recent installation art has included elements of live performance.

Installation[edit]

Gonick's work in installation art began in 2006 with a collaboration with Rebecca Belmore that was shown at the Venice Biennale. Since that time, he produced several installation works incorporating film and video elements.

Wildflowers of Manitoba (2007) is a performance piece and film installation created in collaboration with Luis Jacob. Housed in a geodesic dome furnished as a teenaged bedroom, the frame swells with projected images of homoeroticism in the Canadian Shield, evoking a "romantic vision of bliss, sensuality and sexual return to the land." [2] It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and has been exhibited worldwide.

Precious Blood (2007), commissioned by the Ontario College of Art and Design, consists of a scale model of the Provincial Remand Centre, a Winnipeg detention centre. Video of interviews with girlfriends and friends of inmates is displayed on the façade of the model, as these young men and women harbour outside the centre in hopes of catching glimpses of their incarcerated loved ones inside. The piece's title derives from the name of the modernist church designed by Etienne Gaboury, who was also architect of the Remand Centre.

Commerce Court (2008) is a satirical commentary on the corruption and greed of the financial industry. Projected originally onto a six-story building in Commerce Court, the world headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, it features Roman Danylo in the role a banker on the verge of nervous breakdown. The installation premiered at Toronto's Nuit Blanche on October 2, the eve of the passing of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the first bailout of the U.S. financial system.

No Safe Words (2009) is a multi-channel video installation that uses sports broadcast recaps and scorecards as a point of departure for examining athletic stadiums as sites of violence, from varsity hazing to political torture, while exploring the possible homoerotic undertones of such violence. The piece, broadcast originally on JumboTron screen during Toronto’s 2008 Pride March, has also been interpreted as a commentary on the deradicalization of the gay pride movement.[3]

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