To the Distant Observer: On the Films of Barbara Sternberg


by George Clark



A swimmer stands at the end of a pool. She’s concentrated on the dive ahead, her head lowered towards the water, her knees bent slightly before her leap, preparing her body for the imminent dive. She glances to the room and waits, posed for a dive that doesn’t come.


This image appears at the beginning of Barbara Sternberg’s film A Trilogy, made in 1985, roughly ten years after her first film. But this image – the swimmer, tense, poised by the side of the pool – nevertheless marks a beginning, a pause at the point of entry, within which Sternberg’s films operate. Poised on the borders, her films explore perception, language and memory, inhabiting the pregnant moments between actions. With deceptive ease her films range from dense Imagist collages to lyrical studies of nature, filled with images pregnant with association, sequences that conjure distant memories, poised on the edge of the world looking in.


Sternberg began making films privately in the mid 1970s while working as a teacher. In a revealing anecdote, which we’ll return to later, she recalls how she first came to make films:


“The first film I made was with my father’s 16mm camera... My husband at the time didn’t have any home movies and barely any photographs from his growing-up, so I wanted to make him this home movie, to create a past for him. But I never thought of it as filmmaking or art or anything.” 1


Having studied filmmaking at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, it took a while before she had the confidence to make and show her own work. Although something of a dead-end – “I was a non-person there; no one ever looked at my stuff” – this experience didn’t stop her from continuing to work and make super-8 films “in a way I would later learn to call ‘experimental.’” 2 After parting from her husband she moved to Sackville, New Brunswick and began teaching at a community arts centre while continuing to “make little things in super-8 with the boats, the shapes of the waves, the rhythms of the water.” 3


As part of a project at the arts centre they visited the local foundry, one of the main employers in the area, to observe and learn about the day-to-day work there. Inspired, Sternberg formulated her own plan and returned to the factory to interview the men and film the rituals of their working day. The resultant film, Opus 40 (1979), is a rich and formally complex film exploring repetition as part of work and life. After completing Transitions (1982), a lyrical study of a female dreamer mixing superimposed imagery with a poetic narration, she was prompted to submit her films to the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre to get them seen, an idea that was new to her: “I never thought that I was making them to show others.” 4


The acceptance of these two works into distribution marked her tentative move into experimental filmmaking. Sternberg has gone on to make a body of work that spans three decades, including over 20 single-screen films. She has participated in many gallery exhibitions with mixed media installations, performances and videos and been active in championing experimental film in Canada through her writing and teaching to organizing screenings, exhibitions and conferences. She also worked at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and was one of the founding members of Pleasure Dome, an artists’ film and video exhibition group in Toronto. 5


Sternberg’s body of work can be seen as existing alongside fellow Canadian filmmakers, particularly Phil Hoffman and Mike Hoolboom, with whom she has collaborated in many ways. Working in a mode of ‘first-person filmmaking’, these filmmakers, despite their range of subjects, all share a subtle questioning of authorship and film form. Active since the 1980s, their work, and that of their contemporaries, can be seen as distinct from the work of the generation that preceded them in the 1960s and 1970s, exemplified by the films of Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland and David Rimmer, whose work explores the formal and material properties of film while tending to avoid the intimate or personal.


Sternberg describes the differences between this generation and her films: “I like Snow’s work. I like conceptualist, minimalist work. And yet my work is multi and messy and accumulates meaning through fragments which are layered and more personal.” 6


The specifics of any culture can barely be grasped at arm’s length and are coloured as much by the nature and politics of experimental film distribution and criticism as by the work that is actually made. The difficulty of understanding the context within which work is made and exhibited is compounded by the marginality of experimental film. Largely supported by communities of practitioners and enthusiasts (both amateur and professional, if that term can be used in this context), experimental film has a heightened sense both of locality and internationality as compared to industrial film production. The communities which support and help produce and distribute work are smaller and more closely linked.


This is demonstrated in part in Sternberg’s own career where as well as making work, she has helped to exhibit, distribute and write about the work of her peers. The range of work that is seen internationally and written about is equally small—a dominance which is especially true of works of the American avant-garde, from Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren to Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol.


Sternberg’s work, although well-versed in classical avant-garde is distinct and dependent on a range of more local factors. Populated and assisted by friends and fellow filmmakers, her work evokes an intimate sense of community which is both drawn from the material environment (from the industrial surroundings in Opus 40 to the rural in Praise) and also responding to the cultural context in which she is working (for example, the self-reflexive At Present). As I will argue, the strength of Sternberg’s work, while being highly articulate and informed, comes from its very specifics – the precision of its tone and references – rather than from generic signifiers of avant-garde film.


Sternberg’s work fluctuates between what we could regard as the ‘metropolitan’ and the ‘rural,’ from highly literal to the highly subjective. A similar dichotomy can be found in the work of Scottish pioneer Margaret Tait whose life and work from the 1950s to the 1990s was split between Edinburgh and the Orkney islands, between dense works of complex poetic montage and works of extreme modesty totally immersed in her surroundings. 7

In both filmmakers the relationship between the material of film and its reflection in natural phenomena has as a counterpoint a self-critical exploration of the role and function of art in life and society.

The title for this essay is taken from the ancient Japanese author and poet Ki no Tsurayuki [872-945] which in turn was taken for the title of Noel Burch’s pioneering study of Japanese Cinema To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema. The poem is as follows:


“To the distant observer

They are chatting of the blossoms

Yet in spite of appearances

Deep in their hearts

They are thinking very different thoughts” 8


Burch wrote his polemical study, first published in 1979, from the point of view of an outsider to Japanese cinema and culture. Despite his in-depth knowledge of his subject he was distancing himself from more ‘canonical’ or ‘definitive’ studies of Japanese film and culture published in the West, in order to reinstate Japanese cinema as a separate entity, with its own politics and aesthetics distinct from those of Western cinema and what Burch calls ‘dominant cinema’. The poem is a brilliant prompt or mantra, invoking the difficulty to view things for what they are, to avoid ‘chatting of the blossoms’ while ‘thinking very different thoughts’.


Any study of cinema should strive to take note of the specifics of the culture it approaches but also the perspective that is brought by the observer. It is with this spirit and distance in mind that I will approach Sternberg’s work and seek to expand and open up various trends and themes with this essay. Rather than fold Sternberg’s work into an internationalist avant-garde, it is my intention to define and explore her distinct model of aesthetics and production in order to unravel some of the particularities of her work.



*     *     *



Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose


Interviewer:  How do you handle the repetition?

Factory worker:   What do you mean? There’s certain jobs here that they need worse than the other. So I’ll make those jobs first, you know the ones that they really need. Then when I get time I’ll make the rest of them. […] I try to do the same amount every day.


Extract from the soundtrack of Opus 40 (Barbara Sternberg, 1979)


The Enterprise Foundry, where Sternberg made her film Opus 40, consisted of two parts, half modern making electrical cookers and half traditional employing processes dating back to 1837 to make cast iron parts for wood-burning stoves. The men who worked in the old factory “thought of themselves more as craftsmen than the assembly line workers in the modern plant.” The old foundry became the subject of the film, which took its name after the workers’ 40-hour weeks.


The film begins with voices heard over the credits: a woman asks a worker questions about his routine at the foundry. The interview is left open and the voice-over replaced by a quietly-read extract from Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans: The Hersland Family (1934). While the film formally documents the processes and actions of the workers, the camera focuses on the repeated gestures of the men. Made using a Fuji super-8 camera, Sternberg created in-camera double exposures, splitting the frame horizontally in order to present a parallel series of actions on the top and bottom of the image.


Invited to show the film at MayWorks, a festival which annually celebrates labour in art (which still takes place in various cities through Canada now), the formal, almost serial structure of the film was met with confusion by the audience. Largely expecting a cinema-verité or agit-prop exposé of poor working conditions, the audience rejected the film on this literal level, displaying their conservatism and also an inherent problem with documentary of the time. People’s belief that the film should condemn the conditions of the workers blinded them to the dedication and skill of the workers’ craft – who rejected the notion that their day was repetitive – and missed the rituals and near-extinct form of labour that the film subtly celebrates.


This emblematic film, a formal study of action and ritual, marks a crucial involvement with the American modernist writer Gertrude Stein (1874 –1946), whose theories of repetition and aesthetics are central to Sternberg’s filmmaking and many avant-garde filmmakers from Stan Brakhage to Marie Menken. A central element of Stein’s influence stems from her theory and use of repetition, as described by Stan Brakhage:


“[T]here is no such thing as repetition, in the sense that Gertrude Stein made clear in her book The Making of Americans. She demonstrates that when you ‘repeat’ a thing, you charge it with another level of energy; so that if you vary it, however slightly, it is dynamic. It is much more dramatic if you repeat an image and make slight variations.” 9


Stein’s most famous poem, rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, was written as part of the 1913 poem Sacred Emily. 10 Central now to an understanding of Stein, the poem, which is often understood as meaning ‘things are what they are’, brilliantly displays the ambiguity of language and its dependence on its context for its meaning. Stein argues that each reinstatement of rose is different due to its context. Shared with other modernist poets such as TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, Stein’s work can be seen in part as an attempt to rediscover what lies behind nouns. In this light, the attempt to reclaim words from their context, we can understand Stein’s statement that “in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years.” 11


“Repetition is a feature in all my films because it’s how we experience life. Each summer suggests summers past, all summers. The minute you dive into the water it’s like every time that’s ever happened.” 12


Sternberg’s work draws on literary references and construction, from modernists such as Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf to the Romantic poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Her film Tending Towards the Horizontal, made in 1988, nearly a decade after Opus 40, is constructed around the formal properties of building on the outskirts of Toronto and a complex literary narration. The title derives from Sternberg’s admission that in gathering footage for the film she was drawn to film streets and rows of houses for their formal properties in the same was that the rhythm and actions of the factory workers where filmed for Opus 40.


A woman’s voice is heard on the soundtrack reading letters discussing the film and what form the narration should take. This self-reflexive, leisurely film recounts a refracted series of metaphors that are created and dismantled through this process of discussion and revision. The narration, written by Acadian poet France Daigle, is spoken in English and French, and revolves around three central metaphors – a bird flapping its wings tirelessly, a figure who sits on a hay bale, and a woman in a library who reads only what others have left behind – and correspondences with Sternberg about the film. 13 Phrases and words are returned to and repeated and, as in Stein’s work, the meaning is shifted and re-configured against different imagery and our growing familiarity with them. The imagery of houses, their construction and destruction, is washed in autumnal light which at times fills the screen entirely with yellows or oranges.


For this film Sternberg wanted “[t]he image to be more incidental, to cast away the signifier. I wanted to communicate something else. I didn’t want someone to view the image as a series of identifications of words - house, person, car, building. I didn’t want someone to read the film, I wanted someone to see it. So I was collecting images I knew I had to have without quite knowing why.” 14


As it progresses, the film uproots itself both in space and time, the verbal metaphors take over from the imagery in order to construct a parallel habitat to the buildings we see; a parallel space conjured by language. This rich and enigmatic work shifts and questions the authority of its addresses – moving from the local to the national, from the intimate correspondences to the poetic text – all the time laterally shifting the focus from the city to the metaphors for flight, belonging and home. The film is akin to Chantel Ackerman’s News From Home (1976), in which formally-composed long static shots of New York are accompanied by the voice of the Belgian director reading letters between herself and her mother, commenting on their generational differences as well as the filmmaker’s own distance from her home country and language. As in that film, Tending Towards the Horizontal too describes an attempt to connect to our surroundings and environment, to find something solid, to find a site for the self.



*     *     *


This is a film about you, not about its maker 15


Sternberg’s story about the making of her first film, a home move for her husband, “to create a past for him,” reveals the importance and necessity with which she regards film. 16 Film is central to our understanding of time and memory, for recording our lives and for our sense of self, of our past, our sense of belonging. In seeking to make home movies for her husband, to make a film to reclaim an unrecoverable past, she articulates a broader ambition to marry the intimate with the universal. Home movies are documents of family but also aesthetic forms, talismans and are part of the artistic tradition of memento mori; works that remind us of our mortality and inspire reveries and remembrance.


Moving between intimate and universal forms, Sternberg’s work skillfully combines the specific with the poetic or metaphoric. The use of footage culled from a life of documentation harnesses the evocative power of film to summon our past and return us to our memories. The quotidian, for Sternberg, is a route to creating ambiguous and evocative documents of lives never lived. These works fulfil the paradoxical position of being false and truthful at the same time. The paradox of filmic identification, representation and authorship is brilliantly questioned and subverted in Owen Land’s film Remedial Reading Comprehension, made in 1970. This landmark film, a brilliant depiction of the alienated filmmaker adrift in a world of processed images, displays the line “This is a film about you, not about its maker” seen over an image of the filmmaker running, outlines the paradox at the heart of any form of expression. A similar paradox is outlined in R.D. Laing’s famous poem, quoted in Sternberg’s film At Present:


“They are playing a game.

They are playing at not playing a game.

If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me.

I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.” 17


The absurdity and paradox of personal expression is not lost on Sternberg, who uses home movies and the form of first-person film to weave her complex explorations of identity and memory in works ranging from A Trilogy (1985), with its three interlocking stories, both domestic and metaphorical; to the intimate observations and candid recollections that populate At Present (1990); and most recently in the haiku-like glimpses and fragments of a life past and present in the Time Being I – IV series (2007).


At Present returns us to Sternberg’s friends and fellow filmmakers who populate the work which she has described as “a news report on the state of love.” Seemingly a series of meetings with close friends reflecting on love, nothing is as it appears. The film subverts forms of intimacy and documentary to create a multi-layered comment on her surroundings and critiques self-involvement and the hypocrisies inherent in expressions of love. The series of portraits is accompanied by voiceovers, one recounting media clichés of love, the other a series of parables which play over images of people filmed in their homes. The film can be seen as a response to works of her contemporaries such as the aforementioned Mike Hoolboom (who appears in the film) and Phil Hoffman, among others. As she states, “I kept seeing all these male Toronto filmmakers making work about love. So my film is a response to these films.” 18


In borrowing the language and intimacy of home movies – relaxed voiceover, images of friends – the film moves to subvert and recontextualise these images and people, to reframe their vanity in a way that both reveals the self-involvement of the speakers and of language. The R.D. Laing quote read in the film brings us back to ritual, the unravelling of linguistic clichés and the documentary or diaristic form itself. The film starts and ends with seemingly unconnected images—the silent shout of an aboriginal man and a final smile, again silent, of an older man from the same community. Akin to the diver’s pause on the edge of the swimming pool in A Trilogy, the film is bracketed between two continuous actions and while reflecting a present moment, it also shows how everything is part of a historical continuum.


A Trilogy was Sternberg’s first funded film. It involves a complex triangulation of three experiences of the world – a man running down a road, a young couple having breakfast and a school boy playing on a hillside – with three interstices, namely a series of historical facts; a story of an initiation rite; and a list of questions. These elements are interlocked in a complex choreography of metaphors on motherhood and masculinity.


Central to the film is a young boy (the filmmaker’s son) filmed on holiday in England playing on Silbury Hill, a Neolithic mound and fertility symbol. A series of letters between the filmmaker and her son are read on the soundtrack, outlining the separation and maturity of their relationship. Mixed into the film’s rich metaphoric vocabulary, this intimate material is woven into a splintered and pointedly inconclusive study of motherhood and masculinity.

The enveloping of such quotidian material into the highly structured film of staged and invented scenes and anecdotes demonstrates Sternberg’s self-conscious attempt to embrace, yet move beyond the personal and entertain the paradox of being a film about and not about its maker.



*     *     *



Natural Phenomena


“But because truly being here is so much; because everything here

Apparently needs us, this fleeting world which in some strange way

Keeps calling to us. Us the most fleeting of all.


Once for each thing. Just once, no more. And we too,

Just once. And never again. But to have been

This once completely, even if only once,

To have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.” 19


This extract from the German late Romantic poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Ninth Elegy is read at the beginning of Sternberg’s short film Once (2007) over a black screen. The poem describes a present moment but also outlines an inseparable sense of belonging and connection to the world. Once the poem has been read, heightened by hand processing, the black screen gives way to a tactile, distant light, fighting to get through dense undergrowth. In silence the light blazes and fights to fill the screen, as if trying to reinstate a connection to the world through film.


A fascination with the elements permeates Sternberg’s work. Images of water and fire, in particular, reoccur in film after film, from the swimmer – a central motif from A Trilogy onwards – to the fire of the burning field in At Present, and most recently in Burning (2002),
which uses the texture and rhythm of flames to structure its montage. These elemental forces move alongside an interest in the natural world and its phenomena. As quoted earlier, Sternberg’s early fascination with filming “the shapes of the waves, the rhythms of the water” can similarly be extended to her fascination with the shapes of light falling on the earth and the rhythm of fire.


The long film Midst (1997) is probably Sternberg’s most fully abstract or pastoral work. As writer Gerald Saul commented, it is “a part of the environment rather than, as with many of Sternberg’s other films, an agitated outsider.” 20 The film consolidates many currents that have permeated her work – the rhythm and texture of the natural world and the elements; bursts of colour, light and movement – framed by the grain and processes of film. Completely silent, a choice that Sternberg states “came partly out of my appreciation as a viewer of Brakhage’s silent films, this beam of light connecting you directly and powerfully to the screen. Language activates a different part of the mind, distancing viewer and image. I can trust the images alone.” 21


Canada, the second largest country in the world also has one of the lowest population densities, its land extending the breadth of North America and up to the Arctic Ocean. With a country and landmass this vast it is not surprising that its artists and filmmakers have produced works of epic proportions—from Michael Snow’s film Le Region Central (1970-71) which runs to over three hours and was shot in a mountainous landscape roughly 100 miles to the north of Sept-Isles in Quebec to Joyce Wieland’s similarly epic La Raison Avant la Passion (1968-69), which travels Canada from coast to coast, to name just two. American filmmaker Hollis Frampton, who collaborated with Wieland on this and later films, described it as follows:


“This film is about the pain and joy of living in a very large-space: in fact, in a continent. It is painful, because ‘true patriot love’, a reasonable passion, can contain it after all. But what is remarkable for me, is that all its urgency is lucidly caught, bound as it were chemically, in the substance of film itself, requiring no exterior argument.” 22


Frampton’s comments could similarly be used to illuminate the scale and ambition of Sternberg’s long-form films such as midst, “the pain and joy of living in a very large space,” as well as her films of life, family and friends in Canada, such as the celebratory Praise, which depicts friends and women relaxing intercut with images of light through trees and reflecting off water and many earlier works.


What would appear as first-person or diaristic in other films is returned to in the nostalgic and elegiac film C’est La Vie (1997) which pushes the material investigation of film and the natural world, with old degraded photos and film, into a cosmic register. What appears to be stock footage, with signs of age or wear, of animals in their habitat – a swan taking off, bats flying at night – is edited alongside abstract images of the earth. As Sternberg states: “Increasingly, my films are made out of footage I already have. I have a bank of images at home, which for now at least are enough. I almost don’t need to shoot anymore, whenever I think of something I already have an image of it.” 23


Drawing on this library, the film is a dense montage of images and experiences which seems to be elaborating a grand theory of being, from the grain of film to the cosmos, but as Sternberg has stated “there’s no mystery to solve, it’s all right there in front of us.” 24

The wonder and fascination with natural phenomena, manifested in part through an interrogation of the material and quality of film, permeates Sternberg’s work and, married with her critical enquiry into aesthetics, led her to produce one of her most sophisticated works. The film Like A Dream That Vanishes (1999) unravels with images of pure colour, discarded shot-ends and flashes of imagery, from which the film and accompanying soundtrack by Rainer Wiens builds its symphonic structure around questions of ‘wonder’ and ‘doubt’. As William C Wees describes:


“It is philosophical, that is to say, calm, rational and imbued with a kind of intense equanimity, in its acceptance of the ephemerality of life (and film) and the doubtfulness of ever arriving at final answers or infallible truths.” 25


The film’s complex array of imagery is drawn from across Sternberg’s body of work, with recurrent images and motifs returned to and recontextualised in the films broader framework. Lightning, the movement of fire, rays reflecting on water and other natural phenomena are placed alongside intimate footage of the family, children playing and domestic life. The film is intercut with an interview with the retired philosopher, John Davis (partner of Rae Davis, Sternberg’s frequent collaborator), who introduces explicit philosophical themes drawn from David Hume on the nature or possibility of ‘miracles’, to the influential logician Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. The theories that are discussed run alongside the increasingly complex montage of imagery that grows in richness throughout the film. 26


The strength of the film and its philosophical enquiry lie in the interaction of language and image. As Sternberg’s work shows time and again, image and language operate on different planes and as with Stein, everything is dependent on its context and interaction with what is around it. The text is brilliantly couched in the film’s broader and rougher enquiries and explorations into phenomena, that of film and art, of time and memory, of light, colour and rhythm, of family and nature.


The Riddle of Lumen, a film made by Stan Brakhage in 1972, was an attempt to create a riddle in film:


“The classical riddle was meant to be heard, of course. Its answers are contained within its questions; and on the smallest piece of itself this possibility depends upon SOUND -- ‘utterly,’ like they say... the pun is its pivot. Therefore, my Riddle of Lumen depends upon qualities of LIGHT. All films do, of course. But with The Riddle of Lumen, ‘the hero’ of the film is light/itself. It is a film I’d long wanted to make - inspired by the sense, and specific formal possibilities, of the classical English language riddle… only one appropriate to film and, thus, as distinct from language as I could make it.” 27


Brakhage’s film, in its reliance on formal properties of light, focuses on the phenomena of film, art and life which form the riddle at the heart of the film. Sternberg shares a fascination with phenomena, and her work seems to suggest a similarly complex riddle to be unravelled. While she follows in the tradition and draws on a range of formal and structural techniques pioneered in part by Brakhage, her films mark their place in time, beyond the modernist ambition of these filmmakers. Sternberg’s work, deeply imbued as it is with the history of modernism, is so reflectively and critically, drawing on these traditions and movements while attempting to establish the parameters for film and art at the end of the millennium.


As one critic shrewdly noted, Sternberg’s film shows that “at the end...the dream that vanishes is the dream of Brakhage’s modernism, the dream that nature offers a miraculous coherence and beauty open to anyone who knows how to truly see.” 28


“The world isn’t a very tidy place. We think it is, but it isn’t. It’s a very messy place.” —John Davis


At the end we shall return to the pool where the diver was stood at the beginning. The concluding images of A Trilogy, though, come from below the water, looking up to the surface. Fingertips break the glacial plane and the woman’s body cuts into the water, surrounded by air bubbles rushing in the opposite direction to her descending body. The diver disappears from view only to re-enter the frame head first from the bottom. But prior to resurfacing for air the image freezes. The swimmer is suspended, poised yet again but this time on the other side of the threshold.




*     *     *


George Clark is a writer, curator and artist based in London. He studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, graduating in 2003. His curatorial projects include the retrospective The Cinema of Miklos Jancso (Riverside Studios, London 2003), Without Boundaries: European Artists’ Film and Video (Encounters Festival, Bristol, 2005; ICA, London; and Cambridge Film Festival, 2006); and The Unstable States of… (Lighthouse, Brighton, 2007). Between 2006 and 2008 he was the Artists’ Moving Image Development Officer at the Independent Cinema Office in London, where he managed a range of projects including Artists & Icons (UK touring 2006-2008) and Essentials: The Secret Masterpieces of Cinema (Tate Modern, London and touring 2008) and projects in collaboration with, LUX and Frieze Projects. His writing has been published in Art Monthly, Senses of Cinema and Vertigo Magazine.





This essay was commissioned for, and originally appeared in, the publication AURORA 2008: The Infinite Measure, published as a companion to the festival AURORA itself.









1   Mike Hoolboom, Transitions: Barbara in the Eighties: an Interview —at

2   ibid.

3   ibid.

4   ibid.

5   Pleasure Dome presents a year round programme of film and video screenings and exhibitions in and around Toronto since 1989. For further details visit

6   Mike Hoolboom, Transitions: Barbara in the Eighties: an Interview, as before

7   Margaret Tait was born in 1918 and died 1998 in Kirkwall on Orkney, Scotland. As writer Ali Smith states “A clear example of, and pioneer of, the poetic tradition, the experimental tradition, the democratic tradition, in the best of risk-taking Scottish cinema.” —from

8   Scolar Press, London, 1973. Revised and edited by Annette Michelson.

9   Stan Brakhage, Film at Wit’s End: Essays on American independent filmmakers, Polygon, Edinburgh, 1989, p.135

10 This poem was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem Sacred Emily, which appeared in the 1922 book Geography and Plays (Four Seas, Boston, 1922). The Making of Americans: The Hersland Family was written between 1906-1908 but not published until 1934.

11 Four in America, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1947.

12 Mike Hoolboom, Barbara Sternberg in the 90s —at www.

13   Acadiens are the descendants of the seventeenth-century French colonists who settled in Acadia (located in the Canadian Maritime provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island – and some in the American state of Maine). Although today most of the Acadians and Québécois are francophone Canadians, Acadia was founded in a geographically separate region from Quebec (‘Canada’ at this time) leading to their two distinct cultures.

14 Mike Hoolboom, Transitions: Barbara in the Eighties: an Interview, as before

15 This line is central to Remedial Reading Comprehension, a film by Owen Land (formerly George Landow), US, 1970. The line appears in the film as scrolling text across an image of the filmmaker running.

16 Mike Hoolboom, Transitions: Barbara in the Eighties: an Interview, as above

17 R.D. Laing, Knots. Penguin, London, 1970.

18 Mike Hoolboom, Transitions: Barbara in the Eighties: an Interview, as before

19   From Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. by Stephen Mitchell

20 Mike Hoolbom, ed., Like a Dream that Vanishes: the Films of Barbara Sternberg. Pub. by the Images Festival of Independent Film & Video and Pleasure Dome, Toronto, 2000.

21 Mike Hoolboom, Barbara Sternberg in the 90s, as before

22 Programme note from LUX Distribution catalogue at 

23 Mike Hoolboom, Barbara Sternberg in the 90s, as before

24 ibid.

25 William C. Wees, Everyday Wonders in Barbara Sternberg’s Like a Dream that Vanishes

26 Kurt Gödel (April 28, 1906, Brünn, Austria-Hungary (now Brno, Czech Republic) – January 14, 1978 Princeton, New Jersey) was an Austrian-American logician, mathematician and philosopher.

27 Programme notes from The Filmmakers Co-operative distribution catalogue, New York —at

28 Craig Fischer, Children, Nature, Fragmentation: An Idiosyncratic Review of the New York Film Festival’s ‘Views from the Avant-Garde’ — at