White Light 3 - 7:30 PM
Love My Way
Curated by Anne Golden
"Love my way, It's a new road
I follow where my mind goes..."
The Psychedelic Furs. They weren't the best known or most loved eighties British new wave band, but I liked them. Their music was a bit more hard edged than most of the wacky haircut bands coming out of the UK. Their singer had a raspy, melancholy voice. And Love My Way seems just right for a brief look at independent Canadian video and film productions.
Official timelines for decades give markers of dates and events that are useful to jog memories. These grids situate a mass of information. I searched such timelines in order to pepper these notes with proper references. During my research, an alternative timeline began to emerge. It is a personal one and it is in the form of recollections. The eighties have been tagged the Decade of Greed. But, many people remember those ten years very differently.
It was a most terrifying decade, one in which new and shifting terminologies such as gay cancer, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), and finally AIDS were coined. "Gay cancer" was the most damning term. It equated two feared concepts and assigned the Śnew' disease to the gay population. GRID was no better, though it had the advantage of sounding scientific. Gay Related Immune Deficiency again linked the disease to homosexuality. With Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the disease was given its final, Śtrue' name and did not implicate homosexuals. During the early eighties, there was talk of a "gay plague".
The eighties offered Immacolata e Concetta (1980), a film that ends with one woman whacking another, her lover, on the head with a shovel. The action is brutal, to be sure, but not surprising when considering how gay and lesbian characters have been treated and/or dispatched throughout film history. Cruising (1980) is picketed while it is in production and after its release. The decade also gives us cult films, among them Times Square (1980) and The Hunger (1983). Independent feature films about AIDS/HIV include Buddies and Parting Glances. There are mainstream portrayals of gays and lesbians that are reviled and become guilty pleasures for increasingly savvy queer audiences. And there are those made by queers.
Not listed on eighties timelines are all the independent films and videos that begin to play at film festivals around the world. This is where we find ourselves. My very own eighties includes lots of exposure to video art and independent film, meetings and marches, actions and the beginning of a long association with Image et nation gaie et lesbienne, Montreal's film festival. I am smitten with images produced by gay and lesbian artists. I realize much later that I was waiting for them. They make a fan out of me. They teach me. They amaze me. I believe they helped make me. From 1980 to 1989, I see all the works in this program, but probably not all in the year each was made. And, in the past little while, I have experienced memories of what these works represented/represent for me.
Paul Wong, 1981, video, 20:00 min.
About style, technology and sexuality. Delivered in an unpolitical and distanced view, not unlike a commercial, we see life as an endless stream of sensuality. Complete with state-of-the-art accessories, beautiful young adults work out, make out, frolic in the sun, and dance until dawn.
Prime Cuts is an anti-advertisement by one of the great pioneers of video art. Everything looks good. Too good. The surface beauty starts to become oppressive. This 'commercial' lasts for twenty minutes. And, somehow, while remaining beautiful and 'distanced', Prime Cuts makes you think about coming undone, homoeroticism and the imperfection of perfection. Wong is a tireless maker and promoter of independent media.
Survival of the Delirious
Michael Balser & Andy Fabo, 1988, video, 15:00 min.
This collaboration between Fabo, a painter and Balser, a video artist, is a look at the delirium of the AIDS epidemic. The artists make reference to the Cree myth, Windigo, in a discussion of the hysteria created by AIDS media narratives.
In memory of Michael Balser.
Butch Femme in Paradise
Lorna Boschman, 1988, video, 5:00 min.
This sexy lesbian fantasy film follows the moves of a sullen butch as she chases an elusive sex goddess.
Butch Femme in Paradise was my introduction to the work of Lorna Boschman, who has been a tireless and important maker of videos since the eighties. This was the first time I saw fat girls on screen who were sexual, not comical. Not an easy thing to portray when most images of big girls were/are negative and de-sexualized.
Richard Fung, 1986, video, 20:30 min.
Chinese Characters examines the ambiguous relationship between gay Asian men and white gay porn. Through fantasy voice overs, staged interviews and humourous re-enactments of scenes from Joe Gage porn classics, the tape forces viewers to question their own narrow definitions of what constitutes gay desire.
Richard Fung made Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians in 1985, a seminal video that offers interviews with 14 lesbians and gay men. Chinese Characters is a complex work that references porn within an ideological framework. His output continues to this day with beautiful work like Sea In The Blood ( ).
A Woman In My Platoon
Marilyn Burgess, 1989, video, colour and b&w, 20:00 min, english version
A young lesbian joins the army in search of others like her. But there is no room for homosexuals in the Canadian Armed Forces. An allegory in three parts, this tape examines metaphorically the power of desire in the face of considerable constrains imposed on its expression within the military.
Burgess makes beautiful use of archival footage of women in the military culled from various sources. After the screening in Montreal at the Image et Nation Festival, women in the audience thank her for making the video.
The Ads Epidemic
John Greyson, 1987, video, 4:00 min.
A parody of Death in Venice. In fact, "This is not a Death in Venice...". Aschenbach succumbs to an attack of ADS (Acquired Dread of Sex) while Tadzio learns that Safe Sex is Fun. Greyson has made a musical look at the media-induced paranoia about AIDS.
It is 1987. During a screening of Greyson's mini-musical, I listened as members of an audience in Montreal sang along with the video. It was a funny, stirring and sad moment. Greyson takes a humourous/educational tack and in a brief four minutes makes a plea for practicing Safe Sex. A timely pitch, then as now.
Total running time: 84:30 min