Joyce Wieland began her career in Toronto as a painter and mixed-media artist. She then moved to New York, USA, where she lived from 1962–70, and during this time began to experiment with filmmaking alongside her painting practice.

Stemming from the artist’s anxiety about the survival of Canada as a nation faced with its American neighbour to the south, Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968) is a political film by Joyce Wieland. The work, which was presented at Tate Liverpool, tells the story of a group of political prisoners, imagined as gerbils, who are held in the United States. Escaping their oppressors, a role taken on by cats, the gerbils cross the border into Canada where they will live in peace growing organic foods.

Sailboat (1967), which showed at St George’s Hall, is a short film that depicts yachts moving across the water intercut with the exaggerated sound of roaring waves and the word ‘sailboat’. The parade of endless similar looking boats, as well as the horizontal division of the picture frame by the water, gives the film an innocent child-like quality, like a simple painting. The distant passing sailboats hint at themes of desire, loss and yearning for an ideal of perfection that is always just out of reach.

Past exhibitions include Canadian Film Arts Centre, Hong Kong (1981); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (1973); Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (1972); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (1971); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario (1971); and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (1971).

Joyce Wieland at Liverpool Biennial 2018

Rat Life and Diet in North America, 1968
16mm film (digital), 14 min
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Sailboat, 1967
16mm film (converted to digital), 3 min
Exhibited at St George’s Hall