Fish Plane, Heart Clock (3 minute excerpt)
Fish Plane, Heart Clock is a film by Arvo Leo that celebrates and responds to the work of the Inuit hunter-turned-artist Pudlo Pudlat (1916–1992). For many years Pudlo lived a traditional semi-nomadic life on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Eventually, in his forties, after a hunting injury, he moved to the settlement of Kinngait (Cape Dorset) where he began making drawings with materials provided by the newly established Kinngait Studios, the first Inuit printmaking program. Over the next thirty years Pudlo would produce over 4000 drawings and paintings with graphite, felt markers, coloured pencils, and acrylics; many of which have never been exhibited.
Pudlo was part of the generation of Inuit in the late 1950s who were given pencils and paper and encouraged to ‘draw their thoughts’. What is exemplary about Pudlo is that he was one of the first artists to move away from making only images of traditional life - images that were often preferred by the art market further South. Upon the white page hunters, igloos, seals and walruses are often found mingling in the company of such modern conveniences like airplanes, telephone poles, automobiles and clocks; things that were swiftly becoming commonplace in the North. Pudlo, with his imaginative and playful touch, would sometimes even morph these subjects into each other, creating intriguing and surreal hybrids that embodied the radical cultural transformations occurring around him.
Twenty-two years after Pudlo’s death, Arvo Leo travelled to Kinngait to spend the spring living where Pudlo made his work. In Fish Plane, Heart Clock many images of Pudlo’s drawings and paintings are collaged with imagery that Arvo created during his time there. Arvo portrays the daily life of a small town in seasonal transition while also subtly evoking the surreal and enigmatic energy that was intrinsic to Pudlo’s art.
Fish Plane, Heart Clock is foremost a lyrical celebration of Pudlo’s work but it is also a realistic and magical realistic document of contemporary life in Kinngait. What is shown to us is not entirely real, nor is it entirely fictional. It is not an artist documentary, nor is it an ethnographic film, nor is it a structuralist film; it exists somewhere in between these genres, subverting and collaging some of their respective tropes and methods in the process. Fish Plane, Heart Clock is an exquisite corpse whose body parts were discovered from research, fieldwork and improvisation and sewn together with montage.
Circulating within the blood of this cobbled together being are little cartoon blood cells with quiet voices who do not want to speak directly about, but would rather speak nearby, who want to bloodshot and hallucinate the ethnographic eye, who compel and caution this corpse in attempting to speak-for and re-present the reality of others, who question appropriation and intention when addressing another artist’s work, who circulate in order to value indigeneity, who question the borders of the moving image and the still image, and who appreciate the human/animal relationship of a hunter who retired his harpoon for a pencil.
A film by Arvo Leo
Filmed during the spring of 2014
Made with the financial support of: Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève and British Columbia Arts Council
Images of works by Pudlo Pudlat used in the film generously provided by:
Dorset Fine Arts
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
National Gallery of Canada
West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative
All images © Dorset Fine Arts
Throat singing performed by Louisa Parr Pootoogook & Wakta Pootoogook
Accordion and singing performed by Udjualuk Etidloie
Accordion and guitar performed by Udjualuk Etidloie & Etulu Etidloie
Additional music by Alison Yip, Julian Hou
Assistance with sound design and mixing: Julian Hou
Filming in the grocery store by Latch Akesuk
Painting the Fish: Piita Jaw & Melanie Pootoogoo
Snow Arms scene made with: Parr Etidloie, Harry Josephee,Lymekie Toonoo Jr, Latch Akesuk, Joseph Daniel Pinguartuk, Grace Main
Photo of Pudlo with the accordion by William Ritchie
Photos of Pudlo at the painting studio by Tessa Macintosh
Additional photos courtesy of Kinngait Studios
Translation by Letia Etidloie and Helena Ashevak
Thank you: Mike Perry, Alison Yip, Julian Hou, Jimmy Manning, William Ritchie, Kanayuk Bell, Enoo Bell, Udjualuk Etidloie, Etulu Etidloie, Louisa Parr Pootoogook, Wakta Pootoogook, Ashevak Adla, Niviaqsi Quvianaqtuliaq, Victoria Dickenson, Janine Butler, Kristin Rothschild, Cyndie Campbell, David Hannan, Pat Feheley, Susan Gustavison, Norman Vorano, Patrick Thompson, Alexa Hatanaka, Grace Main, Julia Burns, Kinngait Studios, Peter Pitseolak High School, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, National Gallery of Canada, Dorset Fine Arts, Feheley Fine Arts, Nunavut Film Board, Western Front, Letia Etidloie, Helena Ashevak.