Greater Toronto Art 2024, March 22–July 28.

Megan Rooney

Tilia Americana

April 4, 2020
–April 17, 2020

Megan Rooney, Tilia Americana, 2014.

For Tilia Americana (2014), artist Megan Rooney created a set of five sequential, multi-framed videos with an accompanying narrated text. The videos incorporate elements of drawing, sculpture and performance, portraying women obscured by water-coloured pillow cases in different suburban situations. The audio track accompanying the videos is a voiceover of the artist reading a fractured and dreamlike prose poem.

Recommended Age: Grade 10 and up

Note: Film contains some sexually explicit audio content.

Watch Tilia Americana with a friend (in person or over video chat) and use the guiding questions below to start a discussion about the piece:

  • Tilia Americana is the scientific name for a Basswood tree, which is common in Southern Ontario. Why do you think Megan chose this title for the film?
  • The film has three layers of content – two video frames playing simultaneously, as well as a voiceover of the artist reading a poem-like narrative.
    • What do you see in the background?
    • How does it contrast from what you see in the foreground?
    • Where does your eye go?
    • How does the combination of all three elements add meaning for the viewer?
    • Do you find that the voiceover pairs better with the scenes of the masked women, or the scenes of suburbia in the background?
  • Why are the women wearing pillowcase masks and why did Rooney choose to paint exaggerated faces as opposed to more realistic ones?
  • Rooney’s work often contains references to suburban life.
    • What is a suburb?
    • How does geography affect the way we live?
    • What do you think of when you think of “suburbia?”
    • Do you have any strong feelings or connotations, either positive or negative?
  • At the start of the film, one masked woman is shown alone in bed. Throughout the film she is joined by a second masked woman in a car, then a hot tub, a patio, and finally on a picnic blanket on the grass. As they go progressively into more “public” spaces, they also get physically closer. They are shown not touching in the car, hot tub, or patio, but as they lie on the picnic blanket, their hands inch closer together. The final frames show them embracing one another. What do you think this could represent? Could this suggest yet another layer of narrative?
  • If you could ask the artist a question about the piece, what would you like to know?

Past Shift Key Programmes

A still from Cecilia Vicuña "Paracas" (1983)
Cecilia Vicuña
A Still from Cauleen Smith "Pilgrim" (2017)
Cauleen Smith
Mona Hatoum
Aura Satz
Preemptive Listening (Part 1: The Fork in the Road)