Electric reveries forged from the pulsating lights of the Canadian National Exhibition.
Midway is composed of five rolls of Kodachrome Super 8 stock purchased from the Kodak plant in Toronto during the final days before it closed permanently. The rolls were already expired upon their acquisition, but despite this I held onto them for several years, waiting for a subject that would warrant the expenditure of such rare material. I eventually settled on the midway of the Canadian National Exhibition, a three-week long fair held annually in Toronto at the end of summer, after having working there for two years as a sound technician. The mechanical spinning rides, most of which have never been updated since my visits as a child, formed a suitable dance partner to my camera as a pair of declining technologies that are both still able to impart kinetic thrills. Despite its distasteful elements – the assaults of crowds, consumerism, garishly loud pop music, and so on – the midway offers a wonderland for the rhythms of vision and this purity of light forms the subject of the film. I see this dichotomy as a metaphor for our age, which is simultaneously the most profane era in history to have ever existed, but is also in another sense perhaps the most spiritual. Through the distance of the lens, the landscape becomes an orchestra of luminescent forms that flicker like a sea of fairies, filled with shapes that echo microscopic and macroscopic bodies and reveal only the faintest trace of a human presence. The circulating and flickering machinery of the rides become extensions of the operations of the camera itself (a connection explored by the Surrealists in films such as Le Retour A La Raison, Ballet Mechanique, and Entr’acte). The subjects of Midway are light, form and rhythm as a primordial language, mediated only through the camera and its ability to record my reactions to the environment. In this sense, the film operates ‘midway’ between image as representation and as pure light, a dualism often crudely invoked to reflect the respective states of matter and spirit. In an attempt to maintain the dynamic integrity of these forms and in respect to the extinguished light of Kodachome (which was discontinued by Kodak the year after this film was made), Midway was shot entirely at 24fps and is composed entirely in camera. The footage was developed at Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas and was never publicly exhibited until a 5K digital transfer was created in 2016. (D.B.)