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InterAccess Turns 35: Toronto as a Hub for Electronic Arts

On April 28th, InterAccess celebrated its 35th Anniversary with a look back on the media artists, curators, and critics who first contributed to building Toronto’s electronic arts scene.

The event was called The Basement Tapes because, at the time, InterAcess occupied a basement space but recently moved to a ground-level location on Dupont.

The room was filled with a collection of people who had built this “media art ecosystem” from the ground-up. Most seemed to know one another or had worked with each other in some way over the years. It was a room full of memory and history.

Tanya Mars, a performance and video artist, talked about the Toronto "scene” in 1984 and her first ever video production that was done with the help of three other friends at the time. At the end of her presentation, Mars encouraged everyone who is under 70 years old to “get a space, get a friend, and make something”.

Presentations aside, there was one gallery room with two video sculptures: Bicycle TV (1989) and the Machine in The Garden (1993). Both are “immersive and interactive,” says InterAccess Programming Coordinator, Shauna Jean Doherty, in her essay “The Future Before: Nancy Paterson” that was handed out as a pamphlet during the event.

It’s true that while I rode Bicycle TV I felt immersed into the tranquil setting of Bracebridge, Ontario. But as I continued to pedal, I soon realized that I had gone around in a circle – I was back to where I started – realizing there was only so much I had control over, which made me aware of, as Doherty explains, “the confines of the world Paterson has created”.

Meanwhile, Machine in The Garden allows the viewer to access the artwork through a “portal” – the slot machine. And it “examines the effects of mass media – flattening the depth of human experience by bombarding the viewer”.

We spoke with Doherty at the end of the event about what The Basement Tapes meant to InterAccess:

“We were excited to put together the event because it brought a lot of folks who were involved in the early media arts in Toronto out of the wood work and it was a lot of people who hadn’t been to InterAccess in many years, which was interesting because these people who were presenting were so foundational to what we do now at the centre.”

She went on to say, “A lot of the artists who are presenting are people we learned about in art history classes, so it’s really cool to hear them speak to their work in human form rather than just reading about their artwork.”

These artists helped to create a landscape for new digital media artists to change the way we see and experience the world. The Basement Tapes was a reminder of the foundation on which this landscape was built, both a memorialization and celebration of the work that revolutionized the digital arts scene in Toronto.

InterAccess is holding two upcoming events in May by contemporary artists Nick-Fox Gieg and another by John Durno. The two are excited to meet each other since they’ve been collaborating remotely for a long time. Check out Inter-Access’ upcoming events here.

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