TRUST THE UNKNOWN: EDWARD FOLGER (1941 - 2013)
Filmmaker, nomad, pioneer, mentor, father, friend
“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Ed Folger’s experimentations with technology were always tempered and shaped by a soul steeped in poetry, philosophy and music. He was a technologically inquisitive and philosophically inquiring artist, traits perhaps best exemplified in his 2006 video The River of Life. Utilizing footage Ed shot in the 1970s on ½” videotape with a camera borrowed from his local library, the video travels dreamily up a tidal river in a Thoreau-esque trance, meditatively passing through a black-and-white landscape of marsh grasses, river and sky.
A story recounted in The River of Life captures the essence of Ed’s lifelong relationship with technology. One day, Ed returned to the local library to borrow the ½” video camera again for another day of shooting, when the devout Christian librarian in charge refused his loan, telling him that the camera had captured the Holy Spirit and was now considered sacred. Attributing her sighting of the Holy Spirit to an ordinary lens flare, Ed continued work with his still camera. In the final video pieced together 28 years later, Ed included images from both recording devices, and taken together they powerfully evoke the same ineffable spirit of time and place.
Ed Folger was born in New York City on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II. His long career was that of a polymath: starting out as a student of physics, he switched to literature at Columbia University, and then became a playwright and poet while also experimenting with still photography. In the 1960s, he became involved in feature film production in New York and Los Angeles, apprenticing with Milos Forman and Alain Resnais and working on films by Michelangelo Antonioni, James Ivory, George Lucas, John Cassavetes and Brian de Palma, among others.
In 1977, Ed directed Nanook Taxi for PBS, the first dramatic feature made in Northern Canada. Filmed in English and Inuktitut, and featuring an Inuk cast led by the late actor Joanasie Salomonie, Nanook Taxi is a seminal piece of Canadian film history that richly portrays life in the North during the 1970s. Following the film’s production, Ed made the North his home for ten years, where, from 1980-85, he taught and worked at the Nunatsiakmiut Film Society, training a generation of Inuit filmmakers including Zacharias Kunuk and Paul Apak, who went on to found Igoolik Isuma Productions. Ed then put filmmaking on hiatus for nearly twenty years, raising his family and working as a computer programmer, before returning to creative work in the mid-2000s.
I met Ed soon after his arrival in Ottawa in 2005. His legendary reputation already preceded him thanks to his credit as Associate Producer on George Lucas’s THX 1138. When he walked through the doors of SAW Video for the first time, I encountered an engaging elder artist intent on connecting with a new artistic community. And connect he did. Ed joined SAW Video’s board of directors in 2005, where he played an active role for eight years. As a member of SAW Video’s equipment committee, Ed was a fierce advocate for PC editing platforms, providing a counterargument to the centre’s shift towards Apple hardware. No stranger to guiding younger artists, he mentored the class of SAW Video’s final Youth Program from 2005-06, and instructed the artists in our 2011 commissioning project Jog + Shuttle on how to create video using analog tools and ¾” tape.
Ed was also at his most personally creative during his time at SAW Video, authoring more than a dozen videos, including The River of Life
(2006), the short drama The Soul of Wit
(2007), the experimental meditation No Happy Endings (2008), the documentary Light And Chaos: Art
By Juan Geuer
(2009), and the artistic animation Lessons in Democracy
(2010). Always technologically fearless, Ed’s inquisitive nature led him in his final years to explore new ways of engaging with video and connecting with yet another community, this time in Second Life. Between 2010 and 2013, Ed used Second Life to collaborate with artists from around the world, creating a series of “Machinima,” animated works that are performed and recorded within the program’s computer-generated environment. Ed’s final Machinima poem, Meetings with Remarkable Avatars
, was completed in 2013.
During his intense seven-year period of creativity in Ottawa, Ed’s explorations were in many ways just beginning. His sudden and premature passing in November 2013 left several projects undone and a hole in the fabric of our community.
In words reminiscent of The River of Life, Ed wrote on his Vimeo page:
When I die, I would like to become part of the great Salt Marsh. Return me to the grasses and to the tide levels, where there is no death, only the cycles of life. Make my marker a lush stand of cord grass. Watch it wave in the breeze, see how it catches the light, and think of me. (Rachel Carson)
Edward Folger – Trust the Unknown
Text by Penny McCann
EDWARD FOLGER - Selected Filmography:
Meetings with Remarkable Avatars (2013, 20 min.)
The River Of Life, Or, The Case Against Certainty (2012, 80 min.)
The Melancholy of Resistance (2012, 10 min.)
The Marine Corps Does Not Want Robots (2011, 5 min.)
Peyote, It Was Sweet (2011, 5 min.)
Memento Mori (2011, 6 min.)
Lessons in Democracy (2010, 5 min.)
Water, Light and Chaos: Art by Juan Geuer (2009, 20 min.)
No Happy Endings (2008, 10 min.)
Never SAW It (with Mosha Folger, 2008, 20 min.)
The Soul of Wit (also On the Correlation between Modalities of Schizophrenia and the Techniques of Cinematograph Performance) (2007, 10 min.)
The River of Life (2006, 25 min.)
Nanook Taxi (1977, 70 min.)
The Upturned Face (short drama/1973)
The Explanation (short drama/1970)
Washington 10/21/67 (documentary/1967)