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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A companion piece - included as a bonus on the Life Classes DVD - in which MacGillivray uses documentary to address the same essential theme: hyper-modern artistic practice in its alienated social context. Here we have a wide-ranging history of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, on or about the 20th anniversary of its transformation from classicist parochialism to cutting-edge internationalist scenesterama. Less revelatory in form and overall impact, it still sneaks up on you something fierce, coming at its theme from all sides as it ranges from superstars like Joseph Beuys and Robert Frank to more obscure (to me) fellow-travelers like Martha Wilson and June Leaf and Dara Birnbaum. The overall impression one gets as things progress is of an uncommonly free-spirited institution - with gratifying and uncommon opportunities for overlap of theoretical and practical content - which is, nonetheless, isolated from its Haligonian social context. ("How did local audiences react to this?" "Well, I only showed it to a couple people - but it was quite successful in New York!") While the final camera-shooting-monitor loop shot would seem to support Ian Murray's description of "machines talking to machines about the problem of machines", its finality is offset by the preceding sequence, where visiting Canadian superstar Michael Snow relates a friendly interaction with a non-scenester before lauding "the excitement of an involvement with ambiguity" - an excitement this film is, finally, just ambiguous enough to evoke.
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