Joseph Clement at Film, Media, and Toronto’s Built Environment

Our coverage of "Film, Media, and Toronto's Built Environment" continues with a presentation from filmmaker and architect Joseph Clement.
[Ed. note: This piece is part of our broader coverage of the March 2018 “Film, Media, and Toronto’s Built Environment” event, presented at the University of Toronto during this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference and organized by Mediapolis‘s own Stanley Corkin. Kate Lawrie Van de Ven covered the event for us, and previously in this series we’ve published her recap. In the coming weeks we’ll be publishing audio from the event, part of a new initiative here at the journal that we’re calling “Mediapolis Live.” We’ve asked Kate to introduce each of the speakers, and we’re publishing audio and – where possible – illustrations to accompany each of their presentations.]

The most utopian presentation of the night was from the second panellist, filmmaker and landscape architect Joseph Clement, who directed the 2016 documentary Integral Man, about Integral House and its original owner, James Stewart. Clement’s approach to the evening was to share a collection of his own personal photographs, a quietly stunning series of views taken amid his daily life in the city that showed it under the influence of plays of light, shadows and reflections. Several offered visions of the city’s pervasive concrete – a legacy particularly of development from the 1950s through 1970s – touched by fleeting ephemeral transformations. 1Toronto’s legacy of concrete architecture of the second half of the 1900s is often decried as brutalism, but on closer inspection reveals a complex and sophisticated architectural lineage. Michael McClelland and Graeme Stewart’s 2007 anthology Concrete Toronto: A Guidebook to Concrete Architecture from Fifties to the Seventies attests to this. A sidewalk encased in construction scaffolding is marvellously changed by shadows created by its zigzag fencing. A watery reflection from opposite windows creates a patch of seeming transparency on the imposing and impenetrable limestone fin walls of the city’s courthouse. And in perhaps the most utopian of the collection, a photo taken of Toronto from beyond one of its harbour islands gives the impression that the city’s waterfront boasts a thick greenbelt and a natural sand beach. Clement’s poetic documentation of these imaginary realities amid the city’s built form inspired both a dreaminess about other possibilities and new appreciation for the latent merits of what already exists. – Kate Lawrie Van de Ven


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