Richard Kerr

Richard Kerr, filmmaker, professor (b at St Catherines, Ont 3 Feb 1952).
Richard Kerr, filmmaker, professor (b at St Catherines, Ont 3 Feb 1952).

Kerr, Richard

Richard Kerr, filmmaker, professor (b at St Catherines, Ont 3 Feb 1952). Richard Kerr is the most artistically adventurous of a group of filmmakers who came out of Sheridan College (Oakville, Ont) in the 1970s and are sometimes referred to as the escarpment school (other members include Phil Hoffmann and Gary Popovich). Kerr left high school without having completed his program of studies and pursued a career in hockey until a long-standing interest in photography (an interest shared with other Canadian experimental filmmakers such as Michael SNOW, Joyce WIELAND and Jack CHAMBERS) prompted him to study filmmaking.

Kerr's films evidence the profound influence photography has played in his understanding of filmmaking. They document local realities and survey the American landscape as it has been portrayed in a tradition of American photography that descends from Walker Evans through Robert Frank to Larry Clark. At the same time, his films explore American culture, sometimes dealing with the Beat themes, for which Kerr evinces an enthusiasm shared with other members of the so-called escarpment school. The idea of nature is at the heart of many of Kerr's works, and he has explored this theme from many vantage-points, proposing, across his oeuvre, an opposition between pristine nature and nature as corrupted by civilization.

Kerr began his film The Willing Voyeur in 1992. A narrative feature which, in most respects, is out of keeping with his other works, the film finally appeared in 1996. Critical response to it was mixed. More interesting are Kerr's diaristic explorations with video; their method is to create variations based on a simple, everyday object or event which is transformed again and again in a process that uncovers its formal attributes. Kerr has also worked on what he terms "film weaving," taking pieces of film, weaving them together and mounting them over a light box.

Problems with the exhibition of experimental films have concerned Kerr since the early 1980s, when he worked at the Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Centre. He has organized programs for the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in 1983, 1984 and 1986; the Mackenzie Gallery in Regina in 1991; the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1992; and, in 1988, he presented a weekend of lectures and screenings of works by the colossus of avant-garde film, Stan Brakhage, and the Canadian experimental filmmaker R. Bruce ELDER. Issues concerning the public's reception of art also prompted him to accept the invitation of the government of Saskatchewan to participate in the Arts Strategy Task Force (1989-90), a committee appointed to review the province's policy on the arts and arts funding. In 1993, the Mackenzie Art Gallery mounted a retrospective of Kerr's films.

Richard Kerr's students from University of Regina have participated in the Saskatchewan Film Pool Co-operative, a film organization located in Regina that provides emerging filmmakers with access to film facilities.

Further Reading

  • Cindy Richmond, "Overlapping Entries" (with an essay by Bart Testa), catalogue for an exhibition of that name at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 1993.