The case for curationism

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

Published: Apr 13 2015, 01:01:am

Monday, April 13, 2015

     Our language is a living thing, and I love the way it regularly produces new blossoms of meaning. Friday afternoon (April 10), CBC broadcaster Stephen Quinn had as a guest on his On the Coast show the Winnipeg-born David Balzer, who was promoting his recent book Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else (Coach House; 2014).

    Apparently, "curate" has become trendy. Quinn mentioned the results of his Google search. Intrigued, I tried my own, and immediately came up with a New York Times 2009 Fashion & Style-section feature that told me that curate "has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting. In more print-centric times, the term of art was 'edit' . . ."

    Balzer, who appears to have coined the word "curationism," considered the phenomenon worth a book-length study. "When you curate something, you give value to it," he told Quinn. "You also perform that value."

    Well, hey. Isn't that what Reeling Back is all about? I launched this website with the idea that restoring my old film reviews had value, in that they said something about the movies in their historic context. The Introductions and Afterwords are designed to add perspective, situating that value in the here and now.

    Does that make me the curator of the Reeling Back archive? I believe it does.

    So thank you, David Balzer, for introducing me to a fascinating new idea.

    I'm a curator.

    The only downside is that now I have that blasted 1966 Monkees tune I'm a Believer stuck in my head. Maybe if I recite the titles of the ten most recent additions to the website:

THE TERRY FOX STORY — Based on the story of the one-legged runner whose "Marathon of Hope" touched the nation, this 1990 tribute feature turned his extraordinary achievement into a standard screen tearjerker. (Posted April 12)

TREMORS — Working with a fine cast and a well-crafted script, director Ron Underwood delivered unpretentious, old-fashioned thrills and laughter in this 1990 homage to the low-budget sci-fi classics of the 1950s. (Posted April 10)

THE FOG — Before having the title Lady Haden-Guest conferred upon her, actress Jamie Lee Curtis was already a Hollywood princess. Early films, such as this 1980 John Carpenter ghost story, earned her prominence as a scream queen. (Posted April 8)

OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 10 — In Part 10 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues its restoration of the 1997 Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with notes on the 12 features in a program called Local Heroes. (Posted April 7)

WATERSHIP DOWN — Definitely not Easter bunnies, the rabbits in director Martin Rosen's 1979 animated feature encounter a host of real-world obstacles as they attempt the journey to their own lapine promised land. (Posted April 5)

HOUSEKEEPING — After establishing a reputation for making off-centre film hits, Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsyth made B.C. the unexpected choice for his first "American" film. Christine Lahti starred in his 1987 tale of domestic possibilities. (Posted April 4)

LITTLE DORRIT — With a cast of some 300 players (including Derek Jacobi and Alec Guinness) and a running time of six hours, writer/director Christine Edzard's 1988 adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel offers a rich, intricate portrait of an age not so very different from our own. (Posted April 2)

BELLADONNA — A product of the pioneering Japanese anime studio Mushi Production, director Eiichi Yamamoto's 1973 feature, inspired by iconoclastic French historian Jules Michelet's Satanism and Witchcraft, is a beautifully realized example of genuine adult animation. (Posted March 31)

KNIGHT MOVES — Shot in Vancouver, this 1992 Euro-thriller brought Christopher Lambert to town to star in a monumentally dumb tale of a chess grandmaster who just might be a serial killer. (Posted March 29)

PULP FICTION — John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman play characters who are fascinatingly vile and utterly irresistible in director Quentin Tarantino's non-linear noir comedy from 1994, the movie that marked the emergence of the "video store generation" of filmmakers. (Posted March 27)