Three Generations & Forty-One Years

A Member’s Tribute

Forty-one years! Truth is, I can’t recall life without Charles Street Video. So much to celebrate!

But first, even while remembering the pleasures of achievement and the times of joy, it’s important, before looking back, to acknowledge a recent challenge; the unfair and ill-considered eviction of TMAC (Toronto Media Arts Cluster), of which CSV was a part, by City of Toronto functionaries. This was a heartbreaking instance in Toronto’s long history of artists being forced out of their workspaces. Our cherished community centre for media production was hurt by unwise political manoeuverings and a city that ignored the treasure trove of resources and experience hosted in TMAC’s Lisgar Street premises, casting an unexpected shadow over CSV’s long, eventful history.

The eviction was not only a cruel blow to a highly respected artist-run organisation, in the process a large number of artists, including me, were deprived of the chance to complete our current projects. Fortunately, considering what we’ve overcome, art will prevail, and there are many ground-breaking productions that CSV has made possible, working effectively and modestly to help create the Niagara of media artworks that earned Toronto UNESCO’s 2017 Creative City of Media Arts title (

Thinking about our shared history, whether sitting in front of a bank of monitors timing a dissolve, installing a massive green screen, creating and receiving a “paper edit” by phone during the pandemic lockdown, or preparing a rough edit for a grant application, the works that continue to emerge owe their shape and impact to CSV’s immensely skilled and empathetic production and administration staff. The kind of cumulative goodwill that Charles Street Video has gathered over the decades can’t be reconstituted overnight.

Remembering the remarkable range of work that CSV and its skilled editors have created, what I appreciated most was the wonderful camaraderie of working with colleagues who, in addition to mastering the equipment, knew what I was trying to achieve almost before I did.

When lists of credits from four decades of my productions were retrieved, each was like discovering a different autobiographical map, evoking the working process involved, rediscovering a previous self, and providing a lens on the video community as well as my life at the time. So many colleagues helped create these works, some no longer with us and deeply missed. What emerges from reading these names and many more, is the sense of collaborative good will that permeated these productions a willingness to pitch in with time, expertise, courageous performance, and heartfelt encouragement.

It is this supportive spirit that distinguishes CSV from other production facilities; the direct experience of working shoulder-to-shoulder with an editor who has insight into one’s work and is master of the technology. I imagine them saying, “What you want is a slow dissolve,” or ”Let me intensify the saturation,” or “These two passages can be interwoven,” and I loved hearing them describe in techno-speak what I’d dreamt of doing but didn’t know how.

CSV has risen to the challenges imposed by foolish City decisions and is setting a standard of what a supportive production centre can make happen. Qualities of patience, humour, deep awareness of artworld frontiers and engineering initiatives characterise the CSV staff, each a poet in their own way, whose insights and skills have shaped forty-one years and three generations of significant media art production.

So much to celebrate!!!

-Vera Frenkel

Photo Captions:

Top Image: Master editors Konrad Skreta, completing Gladstone Ballroom presentation of the Body Missing salt mine video installation, 2017 (, and Dennis Day, tweaking key passages for ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive, 2008

Bottom Image: Vera Frenkel with artist and key protagonist Tim Whiten and CSV production team, on completion of The Secret Life of Cornelia Lumsden: A Remarkable Story, Part 11: And, Now, the Truth, 1979

CSV 12 September 2022

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