Spellbound (expanded)


The Spellbound project was originally commissioned by The Toronto Animated Image Society as a short film program in 2019 and has been expanded for The Witch Institute in 2021. Spellbound (expanded) revisits themes revolving around regenerative and healing-based rituals found in spiritual practices outside of Christian dogmatism. These sacred spaces have the potency to be a catalyst for social change by generating an embodied consciousness that extends beyond patriarchal and colonial modes of being. The emerging reclamation of oppressed spiritual knowledge is now sustainably rooted through caregiving work, ancestral reconnections, and community building. We are all spellbound.

The short film program will include works by Yen-Chao Lin, Alisi Telengut, lwrds duniam, Fallon Simard, Gabrielle Tesfaye, Lou Pipa, Esther Az, Barbara Carnielli, and Emily Pelstring. Kiko Pace (https://kikosounds.com) will be tailoring an opening and closing sound bath ceremony for the screening.

The screening will also be accompanied by a multimedia Collective Spell Package. The multimedia Collective Spell Package is a mailed offering that includes: postcards, stickers, notes on medicinal plant knowledge, and divination and meditation guides to co-create a better future. Each component is envisioned as a practiced manifestation of the themes explored in the screening Spellbound (expanded). Those who attend the screening will automatically be entered into a raffle to win this package.

This project is sponsored by the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund at Queen's University.


somnium lapidum - emily pelstring

This stop-motion 16mm film offers an audiovisual meditation on the material animation of stones. The concept is inspired by Camillo Leonardi's "Speculum Lapidum", published in 1533, which describes the magical healing virtues of a variety of stones, categorized by colour. The character-based animated vignettes are inspired by the woodcuts in “De Hortus Sanitatis”, a natural history encyclopedia published in 1485, which details various methods of harnessing the power of gems. It was believed at the time that a given gem's powers could be absorbed through focused viewing. Proposing an analogy between this belief and attraction to cinema, this film offers audiences an opportunity to absorb the depicted stones’ energies by viewing their images. The title, Somnium Lapidum, or Dream Stones, is a reference to the imaginative content of the “Speculum Lapidum” and the dreamlike experience of cinematic viewership.

Sounds by Katherine Kline.

Emily Pelstring is an artist and filmmaker, and is faculty in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Her creative work has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. Her work uses surreal and idiosyncratic storytelling to explore links among technology, spirituality, and magic. She incorporates available materials, a variety of animation techniques, and visual tricks such as holography, stereography, and Pepper’s Ghost. In addition to her solo work, Emily is engaged in two long-term, ongoing artistic collaborations: Inflatable Deities, a duo with Jessica Mensch, and The Powers, a trio with Jessica Mensch and Katherine Kline. Since 2018, The Powers have been working on Sistership TV, a web-based variety show that gathers numerous collaborators and guests to explore questions across ecology, media studies, materialist theory, and feminist theory. Emily is a co-organizer of The Witch Institute.

The Fourfold - Alisi Telengut

Based on the ancient animistic beliefs and shamanic rituals in Mongolia and Siberia, an exploration of the indigenous worldview and wisdom. Against the backdrop of the modern existential crisis and the human-induced rapid environmental change, there is a necessity to reclaim the ideas of animism for planetary health and non-human materialities.

Alisi Telengut is a Canadian artist of Mongolian origin. She creates animation frame by frame under the camera, with painting as the medium, to generate movement and explore hand-made and painterly visuals for her films. Her works received multiple international awards and nominations, including the Best Short Film at Stockholm Film Festival (Sweden), Best Animated Film at Mammoth Lakes Film Festival (USA) and the Jury Award at the Aspen Shortsfest (USA). They have been exhibited internationally at galleries and festivals, such as at Sundance (USA), TIFF (Canada) and the Canadian Cultural Centre at the Embassy of Canada (France). They have not only been presented as animation and moving image artworks with the unique visual style, but have also contributed to ethnographic and ethnocultural research. Her recent work has been added to the permanent collection of Art Science Exhibits Berlin (Germany) that represents the leading-edge of art making with dedication to positive action for Earth's recovery. Alisi is based in Berlin, Germany and Tiohtià:ke/ Montréal, Canada.

Prayers for Dreamy Boys - Fallon Simard

Fallon interrogates the relationship between state violence and mental health in so far as it is perpetuated on to Indigenous bodies. Prayer for Dreamy Boys applies visual motifs derived from traditional Indigenous medicine and ecological knowledge to renderings of trans masculine bodies in order to dream and manifest alternate masculinities.

Fallon Simard is an Anishinaabe-Metis artist, educator and policy writer. Through, memes, workshops and videos, he layers text and images, transposing popular and informal methods of public address to carry pointed political critique. His artwork and pedagogical practices captures how racism and colonialism intercede to form the bases of capitalism’s devastating attempts at cultural erasure and genocide, but also reveals its ultimate failure to control the terms of indigeneity, which remains present and lived. Thirza Cuthand in a review in Canadian Art describes Simard’s work “as firmly situated within a strong history in Canada of experimental Indigenous video art. Their experimental, politically charged work gets to the heart of issues of Indigenous sovereignty and struggle.” Simard graduated from OCAD University through the interdisciplinary Masters of Art, Media and Design program. He has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Peterborough, curated for the Queer Art Festival in Toronto, written policy for the Yellowhead Institute at Ryerson University and participated in Plug In ICA’s Summer Institute.

the spirit keepers of the makuta'ay - yen-chao lin

Shot on location in the traditional Amis territory, The Spirit Keepers of Makuta’ay travels through villages on the east coast of Taiwan, where nature, colonization and population migration merge to create a unique spiritual landscape. The hand processed super 8 unravels mixed faith expressions from Daoist ritual possession to Presbyterian funeral, from personal prayers to collective resistance, all the while attempting to trace the memories of past Amis sorcerers.

Stories & narration by Rara Dongi

Co-produced & sound design by Oliver Lewis

Yen-Chao Lin 林延昭 is a Taipei-born Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist. A self-described postmodern archivist and natural history enthusiast, her work explores divination arts, occult sciences, oral history, religion, power and social permaculture through means of intuitive play, craft techniques, collaboration, scavenging and collecting. Her current research is focused on dowsing, psychic mapping and Feng Shui.

Yen-Chao has been invited to give public presentations at Artexte (Montreal), Centre A (Vancouver), GAX Asian Indigenous Relations in Contemporary Art (Montreal), PHI Foundation (Montreal), among others. Her works have been shown at  Art Metropole (Toronto), Berlinale (Berlin), Edinburgh International Film Festival (Edinburgh), Hong-gah Museum (Taipei), OBORO (Montreal), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, SAVVY Contemporary (Berlin), SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art (Montreal), among others. Yen-Chao currently serves on the Board of articule (Montreal)

i know the feeling too (make it stop) - lwrds duniam

“i know the feeling too (make it stop)” is an intimation of idiosyncratic art-rituals for self-healing, a documentation of the process of conjuring moments of presence amid the haunting echoes of embodied trauma. A stop-motion scanography accompanied by a spectral soundscape of suspended temporality, this non-linear, emotive narrative offers a glimpse into the experience of living with chronic illness. “i know the feeling too (make it stop)” is a reclamation of space for wounded selves, a intentional moment in the life-long journey of coming into your own power.

lwrds (pronounced ‘lords’) is an interdisciplinary artist developing critically-engaged work that celebrates and centers the liberation of 2-Spirit, non-binary, queer, trans, intersex, Black, Indigenous, racialized, and invisibilized peoples everywhere. lwrds’ work responds to their personal journey of healing sexual trauma at the intersections of gender variance, Blackness and Indigeneity (complicated by an imposed latinidad they reject due to its colonial underpinnings), and disability for reasons of neurodivergence and chronic illness. A born storyteller with a deep commitment to healing personal and collective traumas, their material approach is an intuitive process of learning with other non-human beings, valuing energetic exchanges with all that exists.

Mãe d'Água - Lou Pipa, Esther Az, and Barbara Carnielli

Mãe D´Água means Mother from Water. This is a video music performance that evokes Iara, a mermaid from Brazilian indigenous folklore who lives in the rivers, calling her healing cure by voice. It was made as a collective creation by three women artists, during an art residency at Zen Monastery “Morro da Vargen“, in Ibiraçu, Espirito Santo, Brazil.

Lorena Pazzanese, 1989. Graduated in Image and Sound Design at University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. From São Paulo, moved to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she studied at Villa Lobos School of Music, Angel Vianna Dance School and was a fellow artist at Formation Program in Parque Lage School of Visual Arts and at Amplified Sonic Art Program by Oi Futuro and British Council. Her research is based on the intersection of performance with other languages, such as photography, video, painting, sound and installation. Using body as support combined with the use of technologies, she questions the notion of representation as a projection of the being. Her artwork seeks to push the limits of the image, generating sensory relations beyond the visual impulse. She presented her work in different cities in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Switzerland, in festivals, shows and exhibitions.

Bárbara Carnielli is a Capixaba artist (from Espírito Santo, Brazil) that works with floral poetry. Her work navigates within the artistic field in order to strengthen the relationship with nature and our sensitive contemplative field. Currently she dedicates herself to the expression and deepening of subjective studies. To her artistic process, she explores sensorial poetics as the breath of life, intending to exame herself and the space where she is in. In addition to contemplating the power of observing everyday natural phenomena, she also addresses time, and the practice of a connection and immersion with ethereal study. Concepts of mutability and ephemerality are present in its process with elements of natural potency. These elements are present in almost all of her creative manifestations, and it adds a subtle mysticism to her research.

Esther az, visual artist, Brazilian from the city of Contagem, lives and works in Belo Horizonte.

It is through drawing, painting, objects, videos, embroidery and writing that I express my understanding of my greatest faith: we are alive. I move images to enlarge words; I feed words to embody images. Most of the time, I investigate my face, in the wake of the mixed-race history that forms me. Tolstoy who said "sing your village and you will sing the world". This phrase accompanies me, it is a finding that recurs and fermentes the meaning of what I do. I investigate my atoms to say about galaxies. I get close to what I feel, and what I understand may be public policy: exchange. I make the affable my molotov.

The Water Will Carry Us Home - Gabrielle Tesfaye

Through living ritual and stop motion animation, The Water Will Carry Us Home reveals the story of stolen Africans being thrown off the slave ship whilst sailing through the Middle Passage. Upon crashing in the waves, the unimaginable happens when mermaids dwelling in the waters save these spirits.

Gabrielle Tesfaye is an interdisciplinary artist versed in painting, animation, film, puppetry and interactive installation. Her work is rooted in the African diaspora, ancient art traditions and cultural storytelling from her Jamaican and Ethiopian background. Outside of exhibiting painting works, she uses her art in the animation studio, creating personal and cultural narrative films. Tesfaye’s background in film started at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and continued at Mahidol University International College in Bangkok, Thailand. Tesfaye obtained her Bachelor of Fine Art from the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tesfaye has been recognized in publications such as Vogue, AFROPUNK, and Majestic Disorder Magazine (print, UK), and has screened and exhibited internationally including London, New York, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar, India and Sweden. She is the recipient of a series of scholarships and awards, including the Milwaukee Film Brico Forward Fund, and Mary Nohl Suitcase Export Fund. She directed the highly acclaimed film, The Water Will Carry Us Home, was an official selection of Black Star Film Festival, and won best experimental film at Reel Sisters of the Diaspora (NYC). Tesfaye is currently expanding with her art through creating new projects, traveling, and guest speaking at various universities and organizations.

Kiko Pace (sound bath facilitator)

Kiko is a multi-disciplinary artist who shares deep listening experiences. Her offerings weave together modalities of meditation, sound, mysticism, poetry, and plant medicine. The intention of these practices is to access channels of sensory awareness, inner listening, and a reverence for what is present. Through exploring the subtle practices of tuning in, there is a continual opportunity to cultivate a relationship with our heart intuition, to remember our belonging, to honour our commitment to nature and to celebrate the interconnectedness of it all.

Geneviève Wallen (Curator)

Geneviève Wallen is a Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal and Tkaronto/Toronto based independent curator and writer. Wallen's practice is informed by diasporic narratives, intersectional feminism, intergenerational dialogues, BIPOC alternative futures and healing platforms. Her ongoing research focuses on the notion of longevity as a methodology of ongoing resistance and care work in the arts.

Her most recent curatorial projects include: Made of Honey, Gold, and Marigold (2020), on view at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa and, Little Musings (2020) an online collective correspondence in partnership with MICE Magazine and co-facilitated with artist Eve Tagny. Wallen contributed essays for C magazine; the anthology Other Places: Reflections on Media Arts in Canada, edited by Deanna Bowen; and “Souped Up: Slow Building of Support Networks Through Commensality” in The Politics of Spatial Transgressions in the Arts, eds. Gregory Blair & Noa Bronstein (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

She is an Exhibition Coordinator at FOFA Gallery, a member of  YTB (Younger than Beyoncé), is the co-initiator (with Marsya Maharani) of Souped Up a thematic dinner series conceived to carve spaces for care and support building among BIPOC curators and cultural workers, a member of the Black Curators Forum, and an advisory member for the BLACK PORTRAITURE[S]: Toronto, Absent/ed Presence conference (BPTO).

A dark rock like shape with a window hole in it
Yen-Chao Lin, The Spirit Keepers of Makuta'ay, video still