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Sara Diamond

(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Sara Diamond was born in 1954 in New York City and later moved to Canada with her family. She received a degree in communications and history from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and since then has been active as a video curator, cultural critic, television-video producer, and instructor in video production and theory at art centres and colleges throughout North America.

Diamond has taught at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, the California Institute for the Arts and the new Technical University of British Columbia. At the beginning of 2000, she was a visiting professor at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Diamond has also published articles and reviews for Canadian and international art, culture and labour publications including FUSE Magazine, Vanguard, C Magazine, Video Guide, Parallelogram, Popular Studies Journal, and B.C. Heritage. She sits on a 15-member committee that advises Sheila Copps, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, on developing new-media policy for Canada. She is also active on several other advisory boards dealing with new media.

Diamond's video art and broadcast works have been exhibited and screened in Europe, England, Mexico, the Pacific Rim, the United States and Canada. They have been honoured at numerous video and film festivals around the world. Her videos and installations can be found in collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Canada Council Art Bank and the California Institute of the Arts.

Sara Diamond grew up in a political family that moved to Canada to escape the oppression of the McCarthy Era in the United States. After completing her university studies in the early eighties, she began to publish actively in various Canadian art and social history journals. In 1985, Diamond published several articles on cultural politics and feminist ideology in which she investigated the class position of artists and women and its link to the production of culture. (1)

"Whose Vision Will Rule the Future? Women, Technology and Art," an article also published in 1985, deals with technology, gender bias, class position and art. A video artist herself, Diamond traces the history of the production of video art by women. She explores their future in relation to the political and social implications of technological monopolies, asking questions such as who controls technology. This issue would come up time and again in Diamond's work with new media and is evident today in her commitment to inform Aboriginal communities about new communication technologies and their potential for activism.

Sara Diamond has been producing videotapes with a political focus since 1979 (3). Her first widely shown tape, The Influences of My Mother (1980), attempts to posit her mother photographically in relationship to the political struggles she lived.

Heroics: A Quest (1984-1985), a video and installation piece frequently exhibited in Canada, consists of a montage of still photographs and visuals interspersed with excerpts from about 30 interviews with different women on personal power and endurance. (4) The installation component includes three spaces set up as a kitchen, a living room and a performance space in which the videos are played. These are the same sets used in the interviews with the women, who could choose in which set to be represented during the recording of their personal stories. In the catalogue from the National Gallery of Canada's solo show of Diamond's work, Jean Gagnon notes that :

Diamond's installations represent an even more significant process of decentring: between tradition as it is told and as it is received in the historical present; between distancing induced by time and distancing induced by the work; between familiarization and defamiliarization which act upon the work and the viewer/listener in turn; and finally, the decentring of television as a domestic object. (5)

This decentralization propounded by Diamond is linked closely to her political sensibilities as well as her desire to have participants question their uses of technologies and their position in private and public spaces. This rethinking of the gender constructs in domestic spaces and of the performative power of women working with video and television foreshadows Diamond's commitment to empowering communities via technology and her use of new technologies for political and artistic purposes.

Diamond continued her video production with works such as Keeping the Home Fires Burning (1987), The Lull Before the Storm (1990-1991) and On to Ottawa (1992). Patternity (1991-1992), one of few installations by Diamond, premiered as a solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in early January 1991. Diamond's work was shown in a retrospective in 1992 titled Memories Revisited, History Retold and organized by the National Gallery of Canada.

That same year, Diamond began directing the Television and Video Program, Banff Centre for the Arts, in Banff, Alberta. In 1994, she became the artistic director of media and visual arts and the executive producer for television and new media at the Banff Centre and has since been curating, organizing strategic-planning events for new media, and coordinating residency programs in new media at the centre.

From this position, Diamond has organized several new-media think-tanks for Aboriginal artists, producers, directors and critics at the Banff Centre. She has already established a reputation for encouraging dialogue within these communities in Canada and from the United States to the Pacific Rim. Recently, Diamond coordinated a series of Aboriginal streaming workshops that examined the local radio and television practices of First Nations in Canada and Aboriginal peoples throughout the world, and the impact and potential of streamed media for these communities. The workshops considered creative processes and explored new technologies and the World Wide Web itself as a vehicle for producing and disseminating First Nations and Aboriginal Art. Furthermore, the workshops provided participants with practical seminars.

As executive producer for television and new media at the Banff Centre, Diamond is responsible for new-media co-productions. Recent projects include the Canadian Cultural Innovation Initiative. This project, which she put together with the Canada Council, Stentor and the Banff Centre, features new works by Vera Frenkel, Elizabeth Vander Zaag, Gretchen Schiller and Susan Kozel. Other new-media works that Diamond has co-produced through the Banff Centre include Reversal of Memory by Mongrel (Britain), Subtract the Sky by Mark Bartlett and Sharon Daniel, and Noodle software by RealWorld (Britain).

Every year, Diamond curates one or two major exhibitions, revolving around interactive media and the thematic residency, for the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre. In addition, she is responsible for one-fourth of programming at the prestigious Banff Television Festival including related events before and after the festival.

Sara Diamond is now working on Code Zebra, a performance, event and Web-art investigation into art's fascination with science and science's fascination with art over the years. Diamond, the lead investigator, will explore research and development strategies in collaboration with scientists and artists in Canada, Latin America, Mexico and the United States. Veins to be investigated are chat, debate, erotic engagement, humour, and face-to-face dialogue. On one component of the project, Diamond will work with Joshua Portway, the well-known software developer whose video games, installations and animation work have been acclaimed internationally.

Angela Plohman © 2000 FDL

(1) Sara Diamond, "Art, Gender and Class: Creativity and Social Constraints," Parallelogramme Vol. 10, no. 4 (April - May 1985): 51-55 and 76.

(2) Sara Diamond, "Whose Vision Will Rule the Future? Women, Technology and Art," Artists Talk About Technology = Interface: artistes/techniques, (Toronto: ANNPAC/RACA, 1985): 16-22.

(3) Her very first series of tapes were the Amelia Production Series (1980-1982). This series is made up of 14 documentary and docudrama videos produced between 1979 and 1981, including This Line Is Not in Service, One Hundred Concerned Aboriginal Women, Mothers' Rights Are Union Rights, and Great Expectations.

(4) Heroics has been shown in exhibitions at A Space (Toronto), Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), among others.

(5) Jean Gagnon, "The Installations of Sara Diamond = Les installations de Sara Diamond" in Jean Gagnon and Karen Knights, Mémoires ravivées, histoire narrée = Memories Revisited, History Retold: Sara Diamond Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada/Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, 1992 : 59-61.