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FEATURED ARTIST SERIES – Todd Fraser
The F4A (Film for Artists) Collective’s Site + Cycle Residency in San Isidro Mazatepec, Mexico. 2020.
The Toronto-based F4A collective facilitates the Site + Cycle project, a residency that combines analogue filmmaking instruction with teachings about site specificity at Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands and at Anima Casa Rural in Mexico. Participants have produced films that explore the regions’ histories, topographies, and vegetation, and shared knowledge of organic plant- based film processes.
Feb13. A man at the airport asked me what I do for a living and I said nothing. He repeated “the big nothing” to himself – sort of like Seinfeld.
Feb14. Arrived in Mexico late. We drove about an hour from Guadalajara to San Isidro Mazatepec. I was awake for 24 hours. I could faintly make out palm trees and the rest of the property in the dark.
Feb15. Introductions amongst the group and a small tour of Anima Casa Rural. The weather is warm, but the people that live here are wearing sweaters. Beautiful place, lots of animals, good studio space.
Feb16. We ate around the fire pit in the evening. Apparently they slaughtered a goat the day before I arrived. One of the participants is making a film about it.
I did a few camera and processing tests. My first super 8 roll was messed up but kind of interesting, and my K3 doesn’t seem to be working properly. There is some image though, I will try again with:
Feb17. We went into the local market and I
bought a few supplies: picture frames for the
glass, vinegar, coffee, and bleach – all for
processing and contact printing. Ate birria at a
local restaurant. I had been practicing basic
Spanish for weeks but every time I tried to
think of what to say, French came to the tip of
my tongue [which I also don’t know how to
Feb18. The glass improved contact printing results and the K3 is working. I appreciate having no other distractions and dedicating myself full-time – even more so being in conversation with texts and peers that share extremely esoteric avant-garde filmmaking ideals.
Feb20. I’m enjoying the readings. Interesting
context and history for the kinds of
processes we’re going through – making
developers from local plants, fixing with salt,
burying film, etc. Discussion of technological
obsolescence has me thinking about the
project I’m working on as some kind of
exploration of a broken camera’s perspective
– that’s the jumping point at least.
Feb22. Great workshop on phytograms. Dawn George initially introduced this to me after learning about it at the Film Farm from an artist named Karel Doing. It’s sort of a chemigram-y, photogram-y process with plants. Spending a lot of time in the darkroom or leaning over an optical printer can be tiresome, so engaging with processes where you can be out in the sun is great.
Feb23. We visited Los
an hour or two south of
San Isidro Mazatepec
and had a picnic. It’s an
archaeological site of the
Teuchitlán tradition that
pyramid structures. I
shot a roll of film and
the site for 15 seconds
and then shot the rest
while riding in the back
of the pick-up truck on
the way there. Typical.
Feb25. Three sheets to the wind drinking tequila and editing last night. I taped the whole film to
the wall in strips.
Feb27. Full day in
Guadalajara. Took the
bus/rail across the city
and checked out
cantinas. Was walking
around with 500
pesos literally hanging
out of my pocket for
an hour. We had the
screening at estudio
teorema. The space
was amazing and
there was a modest
crowd. Committing to
finishing a project on
such a short timeline
Feb29. At LAX a lot of people had masks and gloves and sanitizer and divided feelings of fear
and skepticism. Surprisingly I was able to watch Kaneshsatake: 270 Years of Resistance on the
plane. At the Toronto airport I was asked several accusatory questions and then warmly
Todd Fraser knits, makes films, previously worked as a catholic altar server and in an artist-run
centre, and his grandfather learned to dance in a dream. His work has screened across the
country, from Victoria to Antigonish. He lives in Sackville, New Brunswick.