A vision of creativity and resilience in the North, from PA System and Cape Dorset youth
"What would it be like if the young people of the North started self organizing?"
Collective: PA System
Film: Darn Windy
Synopsis: High in the arctic, above the tree line, a blizzard blows and the young people hike through it head-first. This film will not be translated into English.
PA System is made up of two artists, Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson, who run a series of workshops and community art projects for youth in Canada's arctic. For The Collective, they teamed up with the youth of Cape Dorset, Nunavut, to create Darn Windy, a mysterious, evocative portrait of creativity, resilience and resistance out on the land.
Here's what PA System's Alexa Hatanaka had to say about the collective and their video:
The film provides a glimpse of the lives of young people, especially boys, in Cape Dorset. What do you hope viewers will take from watching it?
The film is certainly fictional; it's not real life. But I think it does give a glimpse into the creativity and a little bit of the spirit of young people in the North. We have been doing art workshops under the title Embassy of Imagination for a number of years, and for the past two years it's been in Cape Dorset. These youth who are in the film have participated in our art workshops. I think we certainly captured the talent that's there in the youth and the independent spirit of young people in the North that we recognize and appreciate — that's quite different from the youth as we would say, down south. But we intended to make a film that didn't give everything away or spell it out for viewers, so we certainly expect that people will take away different things from it, and we wanted to leave people intrigued and curious.
The synopsis of the video states "This film will not be translated into English." Why not?
We were following the story of the community of Clyde River and their struggle to block seismic testing in their nearby waters. It was on our mind, and we thought from the perspective of a kid, what would it be like if the young people of the North started self organizing? That was our jump-off point. Our thought was: a lot of power and decision-making happens far away from the North, things that affect the North, and those things would have to be translated into Inuktitut. For this kind of world that we created of youth that have banded together, viewers aren't meant to know. You get a glimpse and you get a sense that something is going on here, but we aren't privileged to know exactly what's going on.
Can you tell us about the youth who collaborated with PA System on the film? How long have you been working with them?
We've traveled to Cape Dorset for the past two years as the Embassy of Imagination project. This year we brought down five youth and one chaperone to Toronto, and they painted a massive, amazing mural downtown during the Pan Am Games, and they collaborated with some Toronto youth artists as well. The four guys that you see at the end of the film in sequence, closely cropped into their faces, are our mural crew. Leading up to that, we were in Cape Dorset each year for about two-and-a-half months, and did after-school workshops and often weekend workshops and trips out on the land.
A number of youth in the film are really, really talented artists. What's amazing about Cape Dorset is that as the capital of Inuit art, the main industry in town is art. So everyone would have artists in their family. When we brought down the youth in Cape Dorset [to Toronto] to paint the mural, they actually got to see their fathers', grandfathers' and great-grandmothers' work in the national gallery and the AGO — which was a really cool experience for them, because the artwork doesn't stay in town. It's not on display in town. It's always sold.
Just how important a part of life is art in Cape Dorset?
It's most people's jobs so in a practical sense it keeps everything moving and going in town. The arts in Cape Dorset have become a point of pride for the entire nation, and it's used all the time to show the greatness of Canada and the cultures and diversity that we have. It's an amazing thing to accomplish as a community, and to have it all happen in one hub, in such a small place, is extremely exciting. There aren't as many opportunities in the North for jobs for young people, and for art to be one of your most viable career paths is extremely unique.
Cape Dorset recently experienced a devastating fire at the local high school. Did the kids in this film go to the school?
Almost all of the youth in the film went to Peter Pitseolak High School, with the exception of two elementary school kids. It's difficult news to witness and, afterward, to see how it's affected the students' lives. [The school is] the place where community events would be held like dances, celebrations and games. There was a gym that hosted the sports teams, it had meals on Saturdays… it's so much more than just a school, so it's really hard. People are incredibly resilient and resourceful, and they'll certainly find a way, but for a while it'll be difficult to adjust because it was such a hub.
More about PA System
PA System is comprised of artists Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson. The duo works in textile, printmaking, painting, film and large-scale public art, internationally and in Canada's high arctic. PA System's work has been exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum's Institute for Contemporary Culture, The Trace Gallery in Zurich, Articulate Baboon Gallery in Cairo and the Institute for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona.
Actors (in order of appearance)
Isacie Jr Shaa
Peter Pitseolak School
West Baffin Eskimo Co-op