Tim Dallett, Re:Surfacing
In Sternberg's films, sequences of images are given life and reality
through specific strategies of motion, layering, montage, and repetition.
Images never crystallize into static, precious compositions, but rather
change and overlap in response to an intensely physical sense of rhythm.
Sternberg's work is typically 'Canadian' - diffident,
hesitant, restrained. It reworks familiar themes of Canadian culture
- landscape, visual perception (particularly in relation to the film
apparatus), memory, and identity with a restrained and diligent ethical
intelligence that gathers authority as the film builds.
The work emerges from a rigorous understanding of the potential and
authenticity of film as a medium, but its ultimate significance seems
to me to lie in its proposition of visual 'truth' as something indirect,
provisional, and subject to revision - yet also urgent, necessary, and
Gayle Young, FILMTIME
Musicworks 45, 1990
Sternberg uses rhythm, repetition and layering to organize her films,
resulting in a simultaneity similar in many ways to complex polyphonic
Living the Everyday as History
Barbara Sternberg makes films that set in place many complex networks,
films that touch, that move, working to change perceptions, to reorder
Barbara Sternberg has pursued a self-reflexive
exploration of the filmic medium, of the properties of light and movement,
in tandem with a meditation on the quotidien in both its evanescence,
scarcely graspable, and its repetitiveness.
Through this investigation of repetition, Sternberg
engages in an extended meditation on temporality… with embodied
time, time as it is lived and felt in bodies, both those of actors and
spectators, as rhythm.
BODY AND TIME:
THE FILMS OF BARBARA STERNBERG by Vivian Darroch-Lozowski
Barbara Sternberg describes her films as being about time. And I have
found them to be about time, time depicted as a fluid mass---that which
is shifting, imposing and everywhere around us. But Sternberg's films
are also about body, body as the only place in which time can be lived.
Her work's significance bears on the quest of how our bodies may have
an ethical relationship with time.
Mike Zryd, Recent
Work from the Canadian Avant-Garde
We can perhaps best approach her films by understanding them as sites
and occasions for contemplation, often shot through with anxiety, but
laced with moments of tenuous beauty.
Rae Davis, Panorama:
4 films by Barbara Sternberg
Sternberg constructs her films in a deeply intuitive way, and the viewer
is left to roam around in them until areas of interest and overlapping
themes emerge. Like all works of art of enduring interest, a Sternberg
film presents fields of force and energy, of multiple possibilities.
It's a question of sinking into it, absorbing it viscerally, soaking
it up intellectually and emotionally. A whole body/brain response. Nothing
"...a question of resettling, of continually relooking, of jogging
yourself out of a comfortable view...and this continual glancing and
reglancing seems at the very heart of Sternberg's seeing camera practice.”
Praise for Films
Repetition in Opus 40 is not a mechanical function of the film
apparatus…rather, it is subject to the varied and ineffable rhythms
of human work in Sternberg's optical printing and editing. What becomes
interesting is how much surprise and refinement of vision arises out
of a meditation on the regularity and predictability of repetition.
Mike Zryd, Recent Work from the Canadian Avant-Garde
In Opus40 (1979),
Sternberg multiplies ideas of repetition of several levels involving
both a cycle of quotations on the sound-track and split-screen imagery.
Bart Testa, Spirit in the Landscape, Art Gallery of Ontario
Stan Brakhage has called the main formal trope of Transitions
"eidetic¬-beseeming superimpositions." Expanded upon,
this phrase summarizes some of the complexities of Barbara Sternberg's
film oeuvre. …We are removed from the simple linearity of clock
time and set in the far more complex and enigmatic realm of experience
that founds the life of the imagination. Mike Zryd, Recent Work
from the Canadian Avant-Garde
If the foundry workers' bodies [in Opus 40] were shaped by
the labour of their backs as their backs and ears lived in very direct
contact with time, the woman's body in Transitions is shaped
by the labour of her heart and her whispering mouth as she lives in
direct contact with that "time can change"---disappear---the
past is no longer. Remembrance is born…. This film creates a duration
of lived anxiety---anxiety different from activity, anxiety more like
If in Opus 40 time and bodies are conditioned, in Transitions
time and bodies are temporally and psychically bound. In Opus 40 time,
the matter of the world is recognized for what it is. In the time of
Transitions, the world is largely interpreted.
BODY AND TIME: THE FILMS OF BARBARA STERNBERG by Vivian Darroch-Lozowski
A Trilogy is grounded in the effort of surviving through time.
While watching it, it calls me to attain for my body a reconciliation
with time. As the film proceeds I am also being called to search for
a way in which I/my body may become more intimate with time (all of
history and all of futurity)…
BODY AND TIME: THE FILMS OF BARBARA STERNBERG by Vivian Darroch-Lozowski
[In A Trilogy]…two
movements - one always moving inward toward some unity of expression,
an offering from filmmaker to viewer; the other a visual and oral representation
of the coming apart ... the recognition of hole in whole; the parting
of mother and son. Gary Popovich, Practices in Isolation
In A Trilogy,...the
landscape is not silent and other. It is symbolized as primal and natural
by association with the sea and the mother’s body. In what is
Sternberg’s major trope in the film, landscape serves a classic,
indeed even archaic, function of signifying the unity and truth of being
before separation and historical consciousness.
Sternberg seeks to resurrect storytelling in a feminized mode by orchestrating
a poetic fold between the self and the landscape
Bart Testa, Spirit in the Landscape
The first movement of Barbara Sternberg's At Present is preoccupied
with interiors, both physical and psychic, and with the minute details
of the present moment. Responding to films made by men on the subject
of love, Sternberg aims to strike a different chord within a gendered
discourse. Parables read over the solitudes of the four domestics suggest
a new truth to be found about love or the application of a moral remedy.
Yet the parable's paradox is that the specificity of its meaning lies
in the universality of its embrace. Love, although house bound, resists
Karyn Sandlos, I can see your history in the way you move
This supremely lyrical Beating makes some brutal connections.
Beating comes down hard.
Toronto Star, April 6, 1995, Peter Goddard
impelled by an obsessive devotion to bodies shimmering in the light
of a history too terrible to remember. Or forget…
Kika Thorne, Pleasure Dome programme notes
as one of Sternberg’s finest films to date and a testament to
her constant re-examination of the self and its relationship to the
history it is caught in.
Alex MacKenzie, Blinding Light programme notes
is never far from the beauty and colour of its sensuous imagery, it
is also never far from its scratches, its black and white negative photography,
and finally the specter of Nazism and the danger of forgetting the Patriarchal
seeds which bred it.
Jeffrey Lambert, San Francisco, program notes
differs in tone and degree of intensity from Sternberg’s earlier
work, marked more by doubt and interiority. A film that veers to the
negative – negatives are refilmed in hicon film to heighten the
blackness of the image – it interrogates history’s oppressions
and erasures from the personal perspective of a woman born in Canada
Barbara Godard, BEATING, Matriart mag.
In midst, Barbara Sternberg has made a lyrical film about at¬tachment,
integration, belonging. Many of the familiar elements of Sternberg's
work are here: speed, pulsing rhythms, explosions of colour, light and
shape, images of nature and the built en¬vironment.
Sternberg has never been one to be intimidated by large themes. Her
tendency has been to take them on frontally, representing the fullness
and density of experience rather than mirroring the whole through protracted
concentration on the single small part. In midst, she works
on a level where the grand scope of her enterprise is in perfect poise
with her creative abilities as a filmmaker and, as an artist, a deep
and compulsive 'need to know', a yearning for connection.
It creates a searchingly visual experience that reaches for balance,
where everything in the landscape (or reality) is moving, but is at
the same time still, held in an abstract composi¬tion. This paradox
of 'the still point of the turning world', like a held breath, like
the almost magical nature of film itself where the light through a series
of frames nails the single moving image to the screen, is the resonant
heart of the film.
Being here: Barbara Sternberg's midst by Rae Davis
LIKE A DREAM THAT VANISHES
Like a Dream that Vanishes shows an artist in complete command
of her medium; thematically, it reveals a bemused but sympathetic, analytical
but humane observer of everyday life.
Like a Dream that Vanishes is not only Sternberg's most artistically
accomplished film, it is her most philosophical work to date.
… a dynamic relationship -a dialectic, if you will -between the
dark, dense, inert matter of unexposed emulsion and the animating energy
of light… repetition and variation in Like a Dream that Vanishes,
reminding us that living is, by and large, a matter of repeating things
we have done many times before… Sternberg is among the artists
who make dailiness deeply interesting without glamourizing or glorifying
…thematic richness and formal complexity of her latest and, in
my view, best work to date. Everyday Wonders in Barbara Sternberg's
Like a Dream that Vanishes By William C. Wees
In Burning there’s "...a question of resettling,
of continually re-looking, of jogging yourself out of a comfortable
view...and this continual glancing and re-glancing seems at the very
heart of Sternberg's seeing camera practice.”
Mike Hoolboom, email to B.Sternberg
Surfacing is"...a beautiful film. A new way with colour.
But more and more epiphanic."
Barbara Godard, email to Sternberg