Michael Balser

Born 1952 in Fredericton , NB Canada
Died January, 2002, Toronto, ON Canada

Video maker, curator, producer, AIDS activist. New Brunswick-bred Michael Balser was part of the experimental video and Super 8 scene in Fredericton and Ottawa before finally putting down roots in Toronto in 1985. His early video Jerungdu (1986, 13) was already autobiographical, an expressionistic collage, but his diagnosis with HIV that same year suddenly provided him with a life crisis and a personal/political theme that would shape the rest of his prolific, restless and committed artistic career. Continuing in the postmodern collage vein with his two-channel piece Fear of Everything in the Universe (1987, 25), Balser met his life partner, Alberta-bred visual artist Andy Fabo (b. 1953), during production. Their fruitful artistic collaboration led to several of Balser’s best known works, including Pogo Stick Porno Romp (1987, 9), a playful essay on culture and nature, laid over with Fabo graphics and, among many other things, a sexually explicit celebration of the couple’s young relationship. Their Survival of the Delirious (1988, 14), while an equally inventive collage, had a more sombre register, using the personae of the native warrior huntsman and Windigo to narrativize the personal and community crisis around AIDS as well as come out as HIV+: Fabo is seen in dramatized conversation with his doctor discussing the new and controversial AZT therapy options, one element in the poetic mosaic about danger, fear and resolution.

Balser’s later works continue to reflect his AIDS activism, including Toronto Living with AIDS , the cable series he coordinated for cable starting in 1992, whose impact was thwarted by censorship; two compilations of AIDS Public Service Announcements (1993) for which Balser, in collaboration with the Banff Centre, enlisted the contributions of queer video artists from coast to coast; Positive Men (1995, 50) a mosaic of dramatic scenes about a gay male community affected and responding, together with documentary portraits of PWAs; and the autobiographical “cybertour” Treatments—Adventures in AIDS and Media (1996, 43). Late work sometimes returned to the absurdist vein of earlier years, as in two busy, wacky riffs on space travel, acting auditions and the infiltration of Canadian TV by robots, Rocket Science (2001, 11) and Popular Science (2002, 23). Otherwise, two DVD collaborations with Fabo veered towards an almost zen apprehension of the male body, mortality, aesthetics, and desire (Motion of Light on Water , 2001, 12; Imperfect Proportions , posthumous, 2002, 5). Balser continued his prolific output, combining activist documentary with experimental narrative and collage, up until his death in 2002. Dialogue said by an “AIDS Activist Action Figure” in Treatments might be thought of as his parting words: “...if I’m going to go, at least I’m going to go out fighting.”

Artist Code: 222



2003, 23:00 minutes, colour, English


2001, 10:30 minutes, colour, English

World Television Standard

2000, colour, English

Nocturnal Light

1999, 13:00 minutes, colour, English

Treatments - Adventures in AIDS and Media

1996, 42:42 minutes, colour, English

Positive Men

1995, 50:00 minutes, colour, English

Second Decade PSA's Festival Compilation

1993, 15:53 minutes, colour, English

Second Decade: PSA Compilation (Broadcast version)

1993, 17:24 minutes, colour, English

Beyond The Helms Of The Sensors

1992, 30:00 minutes, colour, English

The Plant Is Closing

1992, 09:00 minutes, colour, English

Voices of Positive Women

1992, 27:30 minutes, colour, English

An Evening With Richard Locke

1992, 09:00 minutes, colour, English

Blood Risk

1989, 22:00 minutes, colour, English

Survival of the Delirious

1988, 15:00 minutes, colour, English

Pogo Stick Porno Romp

1987, 09:00 minutes, colour, English


1987, 25:00 minutes, colour, English

One Big Change

1985, 11:00 minutes, colour, English

How Do They Make It Rain In Movies?

1984, 07:30 minutes, colour, English

Any Hard Surface Will Do

1984, 06:30 minutes, colour, English

Critical Writing

French steal the show at Inside Out: Gay and lesbian movie fest...
by Susan Walker. The Toronto Star, May 12, 2003.
by Michael Balser et al. Toronto: Art System and Vtape, 2001.
Sometimes Video Art Might Resemble Television
by Andrew James Paterson. Lola, Spring 2000, no. 6.
After AIDS: Michael Balser and Andy Fabo's "Stamina"
by Darien Taylor. Fuse, Apr. 1999, v. 23, no. 1.
Dreams of Bones and Wires
by Michael Balser. Fuse, Nov. 1 Fall, 1997, v. 20, no. 5.
Double Agents: Video Art Addressing Aids
by John Greyson. VIDEO re/VIEW: The (best) Source for Critical Writings on Canadian Artists' Video, 1996. Toronto: Art Metropole and Vtape, 1996.
Pornutopian Premises, Positive Practices: Michael Balser's Video...
by David McIntosh. Fuse, 1995, v. 18, no. 5.
Fabo, Balser to receive arts award for influence
by Val Ross. The Globe and Mail, Sept. 14, 1995.
Technique Serves Content in Trinity video Collection
by Cameron Bailey. Now, Jan. 13, 1994, v. 13, no. 20.
You're Beautiful Man, You're Beautiful: Beauties and Monstrosities
by Brent Cehan. Fuse, May 1994, v. 17, no. 4.
All in the Family: An Examination of Community Access Cable in Canada
by Dot Tuer. Fuse, Spring 1994, v. 17, no. 3.
Queer Quality: AIDS Public Service Announcements Reach TV
by Michael Balser. Parallelogramme, 1994, v. 19, no. 4.
Racy Sexy
by Henry Tsang. Parallelogramme, 1994, v. 20, no. 1.
Art and Aids: Artists join fight for awareness with public video...
by Nancy Tousley. Calgary Herald, Dec. 1, 1993.
Art's Birthday Video Screening: Trinity Square Video, Toronto, Ontario
by Unknown. Parallelogramme, 1993, v. 18, no. 4.
Cross-over communicator: Michael Balser makes video art that...
by Corneil Van der Spek. Xtra!, Dec. 25, 1992, no. 213.
The Wedding Album: Part 1 - The Ed Nasello Story
by Michael Balser. foreground, 1992.
Beyond the limit: citing scene in which two men kiss, rogers cable...
by Raymond Taavel. Xtra!, May 10, 1991, no. 172.
Images 90: citing scene in which two men kiss, rogers cable...
by Fran Gallagher-Shuebrook. C Magazine, 1991, no. 28.
Focus on Michael Balser
by Andrew J. Paterson. Canadian Art, Spring 1989, v. 6, no. 1.
Feminist Films Air Minority Concerns
by Randi Spires. The Toronto Star, Dec. 8, 1989.
Another World
by Colin Campbell. Fuse, Fall 1987, v. 11, no. 3.
The 1986 New Work Show
by Geoffery Shea. Cinema Canada, Nov. 1986.
by John Greyson. Video Guide, Dec. 1986, v. 8, no. 4.
Prime Time Video bears the look of acceptance
by Liam Lacey. The Globe and Mail, Sept. 17, 1982.