How Will I Know I am Here is a 16 mm color and black and white film with a running time of 45 minutes.
Excerpts from catalog for Solo Show at The Ottawa Art Gallery. Written by Jean-Francois Renaud, Curator.
“…we see, among other recurring images, nuns wading through a swamp or diving from a lofty springboard into a swimming pool below; a woman crouching in the mud, suddenly flinging her arms skyward; a stag trapped inside a house, and whose lifeless body is first carried on their backs by a older man and woman wandering in a forest, then dragged towards the sea by a man with a rope; images of water and waves, of sprays of water gushing from various parts of the body; images of seashells and sand, of masks and other symbolic constructions.
We hear a tale which is at once mythic and detached – told by an omniscient narrator whose voice is not the “I” of personal recollection but the “you” and the “they” of collective archetype – which sets out the visual framework of the film and its narrative premise: that there will come a time in the near future when the practical magic of living will wither to the point where people no longer remember how their fingers connect to the moon. To which the narrator adds, and it takes all the courage they have to say, “I love you.” In the wanderings which characterize the metaphysical condition of the “moonless people,” the meeting in the forest of the blind who have been exiled (banished because the power of their sense of touch—a touch which can uncover, which is emblematic of sensual contact with others-is too threatening) frees the wanderers by allowing them to relate and reveal the true intimate stories of our lives….
The five narrative episodes sharing the common theme of a return to childhood signify here not only a return to the source, but the search for that instant of liberation associated with the rediscovery of innocence….
The multiple disjunctions and the associative connotations of How Will I Know I’m Here all tend towards an epiphany, a breach in the world of our inner projections through which the object is perceived as pure presence, enigmatic and sensual, beyond representation. We reach this liberation, this avenue which opens on the world so that at last our fingers once again connect to the moon through an act of seeing, only when we have exhausted our deliberations and disclosed our wounds: hence the predominance here of pain, the inexorable decline of the human body, illness, and death.
Toby MacLennan’s How Will I Know I’m Here not only illustrates a specific episode of mourning, but mourns our collective alienation; similarly, more than merely relating instances of deliverance, the film itself becomes for the viewer a cathartic and liberating experience.
This turning point takes place during the film’s sixth and final episode, in which a woman painfully describes her mother’s slow and agonizing decline and tells of the morning near the end when her mother awoke as if transformed and lay gazing at the blue wall of her room-as if it were a completely new blue, never before seen – slowly trying to match the hugeness of this magnificent new blue she was seeing with bits and pieces of some old blue she could remember from her old self. We hear the story, we see the image of a mouth spitting out various objects: a tiny house, a telephone, a Bible, a seashell, a teapot, a chair. The word becomes the object: representation fades and metaphor is blurred. The viewer is left to gaze with rejuvenated sight at these luminous images, as if at that blue wall.”
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
New York University, New York
Euro Underground Film Festival – Krakow, Poland
Euro Underground Film Festival – Sofia, Bulgaria
Euro Underground Film Festival – Wroclaw, Poland
Knitting Factory, New York
Concordia University, Montreal
New York Expo of Short Films and Video – New School, New York
International Film and Video Festival, Brussels, Belgium
Channel 13 WNET, New York City
New York Expo Short Film and Video – Special Merit
Athens International Film and Video Festival, Ohio – Experimental Video
Brussels International Film and Video Festival – Best Director
Louisville Film and Video Festival – Best Experimental Film
DeWitt Wallace Library, Manchester College, Minnesota
Florida International University