Video documentarist, teacher. A prolific pioneer of feminist video documentary in Canada, Toronto-based Nicol began her career in the late seventies but first impressed with her momentous 163-minute five-part marathon on the history of the reproductive rights struggle in Canada, Struggle for Choice (1986). Excelling at documenting grass roots organizing and resistance, Nicol assembles her materials into epic vistas of historical processes, interpreting struggles over gender and sexuality through the lens of materialist class politics.
Her first major queer-themed work Gay Pride and Prejudice (1994) situated the 1994 Ontario battle for same-sex benefits and equal families in the shadow of 19th century “queer” historical figures Austen and Wilde. Gary Kinsman, reviewing the one-hour two-channel tape in Fuse (1995), concluded:
I was not in Toronto during the final debates over the defeat of Bill 167, so I was delighted that this video allowed me to ‘live’ some of this through the TV screen. Gay Pride and Prejudice ends with the vote result and the resulting protest in the House. Security guards wearing latex gloves are shown throwing lesbians and gay men and supporters out of the Queen’s Park gallery with chants of ‘Shame, shame!’ in the lobby as Queer activists regroup. I at first could not believe that large numbers of people chanted ‘Burn down the house!’ at the angry assembly at Queen’s Park that night, but here it is recorded as part of our Queer histories. The video closes with Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down the House.’ The spirit of Stonewall lives!
Nicol’s Stand Together (2002) is an even more ambitious historical overview of the struggle for queer equality in Ontario from the 1960s up to 1987, the aftermath of Ontario’s acceptance of sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code. More than thirty-seven hours of oral histories went into the completed two-hour video, alongside historical archival material. Nancy Irwin described the tape as:
an inspiring tale of the struggles and victories of the Ontario gay and lesbian movement. Nicol has been able to capture the urgency and drama of key events by integrating the stories of individual artists with captivating re-enactments and archival media (2002).
Trained at Concordia and York, Nicol teaches new media at York.