Daniel Barrow, Winnipeg Babysitter
Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show. Circa 1989. Image courtesy Daniel Barrow.

My Winnipeg | Daniel Barrow: Winnipeg Babysitter

September 22, 2012 – 8pm to 9:30pm

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art presents a live presentation of Daniel Barrow’s Winnipeg Babysitter with the artist/curator’s live annotations on Saturday, September 22 at 8 pm. This presentation, part of the My Winnipeg Project, is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Donations are gratefully accepted to help support the artists. Seating is limited and available on a rush seating basis. Doors open at 7 pm.

Daniel Barrow has been researching, compiling and archiving a history of independently produced television in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In the late ‘70s and throughout the 80s, Winnipeg experienced a “golden age” of public access television. Anyone with a creative dream, concept or politic would be endowed with airtime and professional pro­duction services. A precedent was set in the late ‘70s when the infamous Winnipeg performance artist Glen Meadmore sat in front of a television camera and silently picked at his acne for 30 minutes each week in a program called The Goofers (later The Glen Meadmore Show).

Winnipeg Babysitter traces this and other unique vignettes from a brief synapse in broadcasting history when Winnipeg cable companies were mandated to provide public access as a condition of their broadcasting license. The local public access archives were destroyed when larger cable com­panies gradually bought the smaller ones, and consequently the pro­grams could only be found in the VHS collections of the original produc­ers. In cases when these producers did not save their own work, Barrow had to rely on television collectors, fans and enthusiasts. In this regard, Winnipeg Babysitter is an archival project that restores a previously lost history.

The work from this program can be located in an under-recognized zone outside the mainstream of art and video circulation. While some of the art­ists from the program have since established tremendous critical success (notably Guy Maddin, Kyle McCulloch, and the members of the Royal Art Lodge), it should be noted that every producer included in this program was driven entirely by creativity and enthusiasm without any commercial participation in either the art world or any television industry. The artists of Winnipeg Babysitter are unified by the idea of presenting work voluntarily in a public realm.

This program provides a critical framework for work that has been often misunderstood by the general public and overlooked by the art world. Winnipeg Babysitter addresses histories of open airwaves, grass-roots and D.I.Y. culture, 1980s queer politics, and the Winnipeg “prairie gothic” sensibility. Many of the featured programs were designed to provoke and were, as a consequence, maligned or censored in the 1980s for their experimental or transgressive content.

Stella’s Cafe will provide a cash bar service and light meals with a fixed menu which can be enjoyed during the presentation (while quantities last).

Plug In ICA gratefully acknowledges Project Sponsor Michael F.B. Nesbitt, and Exhibition Sponsor Cambrian Credit Union.