Saturday, April 27, 2024

Hinterlands of Memory


Here's an interesting book - a specifically Canadian perspective on hauntology, exploring the nexus of  nationality, landscape and memory in the 1970s. 

As you can imagine the National Film Board and Glenn Gould's radiodoc The Idea of North come up,  but most of what's discussed by Andrew Burke in Hinterland Remixed: Media, Memory, and the Canadian 1970s is new to me. 

Including this extraordinary experimental film by Michael Snow, La Région Centrale

Release rationale: 

Like the flute melody from Hinterland Who's Who, the 1970s haunt Canadian cultural memory. Though the decade often feels lost to history, Hinterland Remixed focuses on boldly innovative works as well as popular film, television, and music to show that Canada never fully left the 1970s behind.

Andrew Burke reveals how contemporary artists and filmmakers have revisited the era's cinematic and televisual residues to uncover what has been lost over the years. Investigating how the traces of an analogue past circulate in a digital age, Burke digs through the remnants of 1970s Canadiana and examines key audiovisual works from this overlooked decade, uncovering the period's aspirations, desires, fears, and anxieties. He then looks to contemporary projects that remix, remediate, and reanimate the period. Exploring an idiosyncratic selection of works - from Michael Snow's experimental landscape film La Région Centrale, to SCTV's satirical skewering of network television, to L'Atelier national du Manitoba's video lament for the Winnipeg Jets - this book asks key questions about nation, nostalgia, media, and memory.

A timely intervention, Hinterland Remixed demands we recognize the ways in which the unrealized cultural ambitions and unresolved anxieties of a previous decade continue to resonate in our current lives. 

Buy it here

Here's Andrew Burke discussing Hinterland Who's Who, the NFB film series about wildlife that inspired the title of his book.

"The first series was in 1963 — the Silent Spring, Rachel Carson era. The glimmerings of a modern environmental movement are relatively simultaneous to the development of the Hinterlands ... By the time you get to the 1970s, the decade is fraught with environmental anxieties and even deep fears of ecological catastrophe. There's a strange way in which the Hinterland shorts are in deep dialogue with those fears and anxieties that people had about pollution, the degradation of the environment, the loss of natural habitat and even the extinction of species. That comes out at least a little bit in the melancholic, elegiac tone that the Hinterland shorts have.... 

"Harnessing the power of television as a kind of educational medium for the nation... completely mesmerizing in their slow, deliberateness of the delivery of information about these animals... they were a bit unusual and unsettling, even though they had a positive political message behind them...  There was still a kind of menace behind them, an anxiety that we might not be able to do this. It might already be too late.... So it had this combination of educational programming with a hint of the atmosphere of '70s sci-fi."

Wow, I would have loved this series when I was 9, 10...  for a while there, my ambition was to be a naturalist and I was obsessed with Canada. It seemed like the ultimate expanse of unspoiled Nature, densely forested and full of cool critters (teeming in particular with my favorite mammal, the marten).  At the peak of my interest in wildlife, I bought a thick textbook-style guide to Canadian mammals, with lots of incredibly detailed hand-drawn illustrations. I found it at Dillons, the academic book store in London. But this was a step too far. I didn't derive much use or pleasure from this bulky tome (I can still picture the dour green covers). It was designed for serious zoologists, which - I realised suddenly - I wasn't ever going to be. Plus it had zero practical use, given that I was thousands of miles from the forests of British Columbia and not likely to be spotting flying squirrels  or fishers any time soon.


turk dietrich said...

Do they discuss Boards of Canada in the book?


I think they come up but more incidentally than as something delved into much - the subject is really Canadian television and 1970s culture and the nexus of that with memory and 'cultural ghosts'.

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