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January 27, 2013

If you ever have the chance to see artist Daniel Barrow's Winnipeg Babysitter, get ready for the strangest and funniest two hours of your life.

From the 1970s to 1990s Winnipeg's Public Access Television offered a platform and a voice to almost anyone who wanted to put themselves onscreen. When the cable company was bought out, the public access shows were canned and the archive destroyed. Daniel Barrow tracked down the original content producers, many of whom had kept copies of their material. And for our pleasure, he put together a series of clips ranging from a minute to twenty minutes of some of the most memorable shows.

There are puppets doing heavy metal songs, there are puppets singing about drugs (just say no to glue!), there are extended conversations about all of the freeze-dried foods one might take to a bomb shelter (that one was a farce but some viewers took it seriously). Many of these shows were cult hits in Winnipeg, watched by those who knew they were seeing something unique. And a number of people involved went on to figure in the Winnipeg arts scene in later years.

I hardly know how to describe the Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show, the final program featured, and the pièce de résistance. The Pollock siblings were sort of like outsider artists on TV doing things that would be better understood in a performance art context. But they obviously liked the accessibility of television and invited just about anyone to come on their show even if it was to laugh and mumble for two minutes. They danced, they dressed up, they acted super weird. It is brilliant and mind-bending.

This is more than just a clips shows, though. Barrow provides context and commentary, and the way he has framed the material addresses issues like DIY culture, politics and the arts, and freedom of expression.

The program played for only one evening at Club PuSh but plays somewhat regularly around Canada. Keep a lookout.

by

January 27, 2013

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