Invisible Histories

Video Installation, 3D animation, HD, 2012
Geo-locative smart phone app, 2015

Video: http://vimeo.com/51470664

“Invisible Histories” began when I came across the astonishing fact that 270,000 radioactive mice are buried near Niagara Falls NY as a result of research for atomic weaponry. Like the Underground Railroad, these mice operate as a secret and hidden history of the area, now manifested through this 3D animation. The video is installed at floor height, rear projected, so a nearly life size green glowing mouse runs along the gallery floor. This work exists as a type of monument, or anti-monument that engages in the missing spectacle in the Niagara Falls landscape—a landscape of otherwise extravagant sites. New media becomes an avenue for marking, memorializing and re-activating history. As activist art, it nods to critical animal studies, and questions the ways in which we engage, abuse and memorialize the animal other. It invites the viewer to visualize other historical outcomes, and hopefully by extension, to imagine other presents, and other futures.

Geo-locative Smart Phone App                                                                                                                                                                                                             *Free in the iTunes App Store*

app_store_imageThis interactive phone app gives the user feedback about the proximity and direction of the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS), a nuclear waste facility that houses the remains of 270,000 radioactive mice. When the viewer launches the app it starts a video of a 3D animated green glowing mouse that runs across the screen. Using the phone’s GPS and compass functions, the direction of the mouse indicates the compass direction of the storage site; the mouse runs across the screen with increasing frequency as one nears the storage site. The app will be distributed free with the premiere exhibition (2015).

Exhibitions: Video Installation
2013   Toronto Underground Film Festival (TUFF) , Sept 6-16
2013   In the Soil, St. Catharines, April 26-28
2012   Whispers and Rages, a Can-Am Exhibition, 164 Allen Street, Buffalo NY, Oct 5 (First Friday Event)

Reviews                                                                                                                                                                Steve Nadon. “Let the mice guide you: “Invisible Histories”  Brock Press, January 14, 2014 http://www.brockpress.com/2015/01/let-mice-guide-invisible-histories/

Holly Mohr. “Brock visual arts prof creates app to uncover historic nuclear testing” Brock News, December 19, 2014    http://brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=31340&wpmp_switcher=desktop

Keri Cronin. ”Animal Histories in Contemporary Media” 2013





Interactive video installation, HD, 2014

Video: https://vimeo.com/81287395

To create this work I videotaped a dervish dancer wearing a traditional costume. The video camera was positioned at the height of a theatre lighting grid so that the dancer was videotaped from overhead. The spotlight has been enhanced to appear as if it is the surface of the moon. This work is interactive: The video is projected onto a weather balloon which is installed high above the audience. Microphones embedded or hung above the viewers collect data about the volume of the crowd. This is fed into custom software that affects the playback of the video. Audible changes in the volume of the audience control the play back speed of the video, so that the dervish dances faster for a more boisterous crowd. Sponsored by a faculty Research Seed Grant from Brock University.
I have chosen to work with the image of a dancing dervish as it exemplifies the ancient Turkish roots embedded in my Mongolian-Hungarian culture. The correlation between the Mongolian Shamanism of the Hungarian steppes and the dervish dancer is clearly intertwined, where the worldview is centered around the movement of the heavens, and the dervish dance gestures originate in the universe itself. The dervish “spiritually listens” and translates what it hears into the circular movements of the planets.

2014   Premiere: ISEA Dubai, UAE , Oct 30- Nov 8


and all watched over by machines of loving grace

Interactive video installation, 2012

Video of interactivity:  http://vimeo.com/36306074

collaboration by Donna Szoke and Ricarda McDonald

Our interactive installation “and all watched over by machines of loving grace” has two channels. Interactive video installation using a computer, software large monitors and a Kinect sensor: Two large monitors display an eye. As the viewer walks past the monitor, the eyes follow their motion. The screens “watch” the viewer, and track their motions. In an adjacent area, a video loop plays of an extreme close up of an eye that blinks in slow motion. This non-interactive second channel shows an extreme close up of an eye that blinks in slow motion. This aspect of the installation emphasizes the human element of surveillance—a blink—that implies an inherent failure if compared to machine surveillance. The title comes from a 1967 Richard Brautigan poem, and suggests a loving, caring gaze that watches over humanity, as opposed to the current state of surveillance that is concerned with property crime and consumerism.

The work has been installed with just the interactive channel, or with both channels, and can be configures to site specific opportunities.

See also the interactive channel: vimeo.com/36306074


2013   Centre 3, Hamilton, ON, Sept 6 – October 19
2013   European Media Art Festival, Osnabruek, Germany, April 24 – May 26
2013   Art Souterrain / Nuit Blanche Montreal, Victoria Station, Montreal, March 2-17
2012   CRAM Gallery, St. Catharines ON, April 27 – May 22
2012   Plug In ICA, Winnipeg, MB, Jan 28 – March 25, (Version 2: Kinect Sensor, infrared lighting, HD)
2004   SWARM Art Festival, Video In Studios, Vancouver, Sept 9, (Version 1: Firewire sensor, incandescent light, SD)


Winnipeg Free Press, by Alison Gilmor:

Globe & Mail, by RM Vaughn:

SEE ALSO: International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

50th Anniv logo colour

Thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support!!


Alfred waits

Site-specific animation, HDV, 2012.

 Video: https://vimeo.com/48884586

This work began as a site-specific QR video, and has now transformed into a video about the present day atrocities currently enacted upon horses in Canada. This work was commissioned by HERE 2012.

During my research of the War of 1812 I learned General Brock rode his horse Alfred into battle, and while Brock was killed, Alfred fled the scene alive. Another soldier then mounted Alfred, rode into battle, and Alfred was killed. I have videotaped a horse, and then animated this footage in post-production. These frames are individually hand drawn, in simple line drawing, recreating Alfred as both historical fact, and as an artist’s rendering. The atrocities enacted upon animals in the course of warfare are rarely mentioned in most historic accounts. I think of Franz Marc and his visionary paintings of screaming horses created on the eve of WW1.

As a Mongolian-Hungarian Canadian, I’m the first generation to not know horse-handling techniques that have been handed down for centuries. 
In the process of researching this project I found disturbing facts about the current situation of many horses. American horses are shipped to Canada for slaughter, but there are no laws governing the state in which these horses are shipped, many of whom experience long painful journeys on broken limbs. According to HSI, 90,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada in 2011. The original model for this project, Floyd, is the first inhabitant of “The Last Chance Horse and Pony Rescue” in Lake Erie, ON. Please support Bill C-322. This work was created for ‘Here 2012,’ a site-specific public art project using QR codes on view in the Niagara Region of Ontario from 2012 – 2015.


2013   Toronto Underground Film Festival (TUFF) , Sept 6-16
2012   HERE commission, Niagara Cultural Capital Fund, locative media project, 2012-2015
2012   Whispers and Rages, a Can-Am Exhibition, 164 Allen Street, Buffalo NY, Oct 5 (First Friday Event)

Last Chance Horse and Pony Rescue:  http://lchpr.org/


Project Mist

“Niagara Falls in garbage”, Digital photo, 2012

PROJECT MIST: was a 2012 collaboration between Principal Investigator: Lynne M. Koscielniak, Co-Principle Investigators: Dyan Burlingame, Chantal Calato, & Donna Szoke. Includes team members from University of Buffalo and Brock Unversity’s undergraduate Theatre and Visual Arts Departments, plus guests. The project included two design charrette weekends, a conference and a final exhibition of the projects generated individually and collectively.

Living Museum Can-Am Forum: Rendering Niagara’s History through Ephemeral Art & Emerging Technology, Project Mist Charrette #1

Sponsored by the University at Buffalo Canadian-American Studies Program Principal Investigator: Lynne M. Koscielniak Co-PIs: Dyan Burlingame, Chantal Calato & Donna Szoke

April 28-29, 2012 at the University of Buffalo. Project MIST will expose and celebrate moments of darkness and light from Niagara’s rich history. Inspired by the original Niagara Falls Museum, Project MIST will make up a curiosity cabinet of international voices that are deep rooted in the Niagara Falls regions of both Canada and the U.S.  In this first collaborative step we create a dialogue between the Canadian and American voices. Over the charrette weekend we explore the visual storytelling language of both groups and investigate how these come together through presentations, hands on projects, and critiques.

Living Museum Can-Am Forum: Rendering Niagara’s History through Ephemeral Art & Emerging Technology, Project Mist Charrette #2

October 6, 2012 at the University at Buffalo. Sponsored by the University at Buffalo Canadian-American Studies Program Principal Investigator: Lynne M. Koscielniak Co-PIs: Dyan Burlingame, Chantal Calato & Donna Szoke

 Histrionics for Cultural Preservation Conference, October 6, 2012, University of Buffalo

Sponsored by the University at Buffalo Cultures & Texts Initiative

The Histrionics for Cultural Preservation Conference addresses questions generated by Project MIST. Project MIST intends to use Niagara Falls itself as a 360 degree theatre while demonstrating the ability of landscape to engender innovation in the arts and sciences while standing preserved for future generations. At the conference, Project MIST collaborators are joined by artists and scholars who have pushed their practice in order to realize site-specific events that provide inquiry into the human condition.  Session # 1 – Social Scenography;  Session #2 – Site Specific: Cultures Explored Through Ephemeral Art and Emerging Technology;  Session # 3 – History on Thin Air.

Whispers and Rages, an International Exhibit: Art & Technology Reviving Landscape

Oct. 5, 2012; 7pm-10pm 164 Allen St., Buffalo, NY

In an evening of projected image, augmented reality, and light, history is revealed through an ephemeral presentation that questions Niagara’s fate. Using the Falls itself as a 360 degree theatre, Project MIST demonstrates the ability of landscape to engender innovation in the arts and sciences while standing preserved for future generations. The Whispers and Rages Exhibit offers a glimpse into this dream for Niagara. NY artists are joined by those from Canada and the UK in an art exhibit that demonstrates the potential for art to preserve culture and revitalize landscape. The MIST Collective presents work alongside artists who have produced work at Silo City.


Light of Day

Single channel, HDV, 2012

Video: http://vimeo.com/45471159

The Light of Day
“To return to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception I met the musician/composer Oliver Schroer at a friend’s afternoon birthday party, and I thought how great it would be to collaborate with him. Then one thing led to another, and I moved across Canada, began to teach, traveled to Europe and across Canada again for some collaborations. I finally tried to contact Oliver to collaborate only to find out he had passed just two days earlier. I approached his estate, and was kindly given permission to use his song, “The Light of Day” from the album Camino for this new video work. This work is a site-specific video commission for a community health centre, coordinated by the Niagara Artists’ Centre, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Media Arts Commissioning Program. As we began meeting with the commissioned artists, commissioning body and health staff, I was struck by one particularly eloquent and poignant observation of a health centre worker:

“…society needs to earn forgiveness from these people (the clients)…for many of them it started in childhood and the system has failed them over and over and over again. I see [us] as a peacemaker between the clients, society, and the community that has repeatedly let them down. And speaking for the team I think it is one of our strong suits, that we work hard to get people back into society…we try to make peace and bridge the gap…we can be a catalyst for that healing and for them to be able to trust…”

This observation drove me to Oliver’s hauntingly gorgeous song. In it I hear that music, that art, is a gift. It invites me to marvel at how truly beautiful a simple sound can be, at how sparsely fleeting yet profoundly moving a single experience can be, at how truly lucky I am to be alive at all, and that here I am, this wave of mud temporarily suspended in an electrical form, this web of senses, impressions, this interpersonal bendable self touching down lightly for a brief spin through time. Music, moving images, the passing light of day, is this gift we share. It is all I have to give because it is not mine at all. It is everything.


2011   (Canada Council, Media Arts Project Commission for Niagara Artist Centre, The Back Issues, Fall; Music Rights: Oliver Schroer “The Light of Day” RT: 3m 58s Camino [2006] Big Dog Music.)
2013   Quest Health Centre, CC Media Arts Project Commission for Niagara Artist Centre, March 19 launch

Soundtrack: Oliver Schroer “The Light of Day.” from the album Camino, Big Dog Music, 2010.   http://www.oliverschroer.com/music/

Thank you to the Estate of Oliver Schroer for the kind permission to use his music in this project.

Social Media

Social Media Drawings

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53492973@N02/sets/72157627610103706/

These drawings are sourced from social media: Facebook, email and the rest of daily disposable digital culture. These images circulate as mere nothingness, a split second in the endless twitter. I draw the images of friends that strike me, that declare a rich inner world amidst the nothingness of digital chatter. Then, I give the drawing to the original source, and insert a moment of gift culture into that of the commodity form, and reinforce the haptic nature of lived experience.


2011   Medium Massage 2.0: an infinite inventory. Contact Gallery, Toronto Nov 5 – Dec 3

YZO gratefully acknowledges the support of the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support of Medium Massage 2.0




Single channel, RT 2m, HDV 2011.

Video: http://vimeo.com/24922303

Commissioned by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program, this two-minute animation was created by digitally redrawing 1800 frames. Situated at the end of False Creek, this work is a site-specific public artwork near the Georgia Street Viaduct. Georgia Street was named in 1886 after its namesake, the Georgia Strait. This work marks the entrance to, and historic transportation on, the Salish Sea, via False Creek. The name Salish Sea is now officially recognized in both the United States (2009) and Canada (2010). Its major bodies of water are the Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. This work aims to connect the contemporary flow of urban traffic to the larger rural water based traffic of both historic and contemporary times. July 11, to October 2, 2011.


2012   Gimli Film Festival, Manitoba, July 25-29
2012   CoreVision Screens, Robson and Granville, Vancouver, outdoor public art installation, Aug – Sept
2012   Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, April 12-22
2011   (City of Vancouver Public Art Program, “Platforms125” Video Commission)
2011   Special Screening for Alumni Event, Sept 17
2011   CBC Georgia Street Video Billboard, Vancouver, Site-specific outdoor public art installation, July 11 – Oct 2



2010 (Site-specific outdoor installation, Ontario Arts Council, Exhibition Assistance, Fall)

Video: http://vimeo.com/23483484

The HD video is one continuous shot of a prairie landscape. The image has been sutured and tampered with, so that the wind in the clouds and the wind in the grass blow in opposite directions. The overhead cumulus clouds blow backwards 300% faster than the field of wild grass that blows in the opposite direction, in real time. The work is intended as a subtle joke, testing the viewer’s ability to detect this flaw in the moving image. It also provides a warm inviting vista to look out upon, especially when presented during the dreary winter, months or the beginning of spring. Since most of the population of Canada lives in large urban centres how do we consider landscape in a contemporary world? In a media saturated urban environment, what does it mean to watch a video of a landscape ‘perform’? Off-site creates a subtle unhinging of the ‘naturalness’ of nature.

Premiere: Large projection, (7000 lumen projection with long lens for large image) outdoor corner of James and St. Paul Street, St. Catharines ON, sunset to sunrise, March 28 – April 3, 2011


2011   St. Paul and James Street corner, St. Single channel, RT 2m, HDV 2011. Catharines ON, March 28 – April 2



Single channel, RT 50m, HDV, 2008.

 Video: http://vimeo.com/26110845

PARADIS/Paradise is a cross-continental dance project between Canada and France led by Vancouver choreographer-dancer Alvin Erasga Tolentino in collaboration with French musician-composer Emmanuel de St Aubin and Vancouver media artist Donna Szoke. In exploring the relationship and breath of dance through live music and visual images, PARADIS streams within the moments of synchronicity between three art forms.

Choreography and performance by Alvin Erasga Tolentino, Co. ERASGA
Music by Emmanuel de St Aubin
Mixed media by Donna Szoke
Lighting by James Proudfoot
PARADIS/Paradise is dedicated to Larisa Fayad (1976-2007)

Length: 55 minutes


2008   (Tolentino Dance Co. Commission: video for dance [Alvin Tolentino] and live noise music [E. St. Aubin])
2008   Premiere Vancouver International Dance Festival March 25
2008   1/26-2/12 Blérancourt France, Residency (Paradis Collaboration), Open studio process with performance/discussion