Toronto Arts Awards Speech (1999)

Toronto arts award acceptance speech (Fall 1999)

It’s a great honour and a great puzzle for me to stand here tonight. An honour because I’m in such distinguished company and the award and its recognition and a puzzle not because like Groucho Marx I could never join any club that would accept people like me but because most of my efforts, most of the work of my friends and community are invisible. And as strange as it is to say: this invisibility is something which brings us happiness.

The terrific thing about being an artist who works in film is that for everyone movies are important, they are the stories we are telling each other or the stories we ourselves are living. In our best moments and our worst, they are the way we imagine ourselves.

The worst thing about being an artist who works in film is that for everyone movies are important. For most of us: I know what I like means I like what I know. But alongside the great march of television and movies that most of us are on, there are those who have decided to go down the road not taken.

They are, we are, the minor literature of cinema, the poetry, the fringe, the underground. We are every dream a company will never have, every longing which does not lead to success. We are everything without a bar code or a corporate sponsor. The work is too long, too short, too disgusting, too beautiful, too boring and self indulgent to fit in. To belong. To be a part of it all. Unlike its mainstream cousin, no two fringe films are alike. There are no series, no reruns, and no commercial breaks. Each is unique, as individual and eccentric as one of your friends.

So I’d like to thank the jury for making their unusual, even perverse choice. Karen, I think you had something to do with this. When Mark Kingwell called me up with the news he said that Robert Lantos won the award last year, and just about the only thing Mr. Lantos and I have in common is a pulse, and now of course a Toronto Arts Award. I’d like to thank my parents who have come here tonight, things might have been easier if I’d become a high jumper or syncro swimmer, but they have remained always unflagging in their support, and showed me, taught me encouragement and acceptance.

I’d like to thank the arts councils in Toronto, Ontario and the Canada Council for watering small dreams, while others are searching for a national culture they are busy funding it. I’d like to thank Wrik Mead for making the film and showing that a little perversity can go a long way, to Tom Taylor at Pleasure Dome, Steve Reinke for raising the bar of video art, Kim and Lisa for keeping the shop running, to Karen Hanson for being herself, and to Cameron Bailey for showing me that it is possible to say no with something like grace. Thank you.