November 21, 2018

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Bodies (still) in Trouble

November 21, 2018

 

 

1990. The "Oka Crisis" in Kahnesetake: Canadian military called in to protect a 9-hole golf course that wanted  to expand onto Mohawk land. Madonna's "Vogue" was top of the charts. Mulroney was Prime Minister, and was busily defunding every feminist organization in the country that promoted lesbian identity or abortion rights - which is to say, pretty much all of them.

 

2018: Ontario Premier Doug Ford defunds a successful basic income project; an LGBT legal clinic; freezes minimum wage; increases police funding by $25 million; gerrymanders voting boundaries in Toronto; eliminates the provincial ministry on The Status of Women. South of the border, Trump has criminalized transgendered folks, refugees, Muslims, the press - anything that is not white or corporate, really.

 

I'm sitting in a darkened cinema in Montréal, heart beating wildly. "Bodies in Trouble", video I created 28 years ago, in the analogue era, is being projected onto a screen at a documentary festival. Made to be shown on video monitors in obscure art galleries, it it is not really a documentary, nor has it ever been projected before. It looks like it was shot through cheesecloth. It sounds muffled. It is also eerily relevant for these times.

 

It's part of a program called "Fine Local Product", curated by Jordan Arsenault of Media Queer, a Montréal-based organization . There are several other films, all of them made in 1990. Maureen Bradley's :We're Here We're Queer We're Fabulous", a wonderfully messy document of a hot summer of queer protest against police violence in Montréal. Michelle Mohabeer's "Exposure", a documentary short that details the sensual pleasures of being a lesbian of colour. Every single work has sex - the word, or the act, or both - in it. 

 

I write and teach about the second wave feminist media archive. But it's a shock to be archive rather than archivist, figure rather than field. Over two screenings in one weekend - the other at Ottawa's Inside Out Festival - it takes some time for me to make sense of my video's place in the history of second wave feminism - a history I had imagined without my work as part of it. 

 

Suddenly, it's time for q&a, and I have to figure out how to stand behind the work and its wild, unbounded intersectionality. The tone of the video, its script and mise-en-scene are all emblematic of a moment when cinema and even video art had little room for a radical dyke and her Cassandra-like warnings of doom, whose truths are now evident. So we had to use whatever small space was afforded us to say...everything. 

 

Intergenerational affect: the contagion of feeling (fear; defiance; desire) that can seep across the years. The cinema is a contact zone. For a short moment in time, a portal opens, and we are able to pass information through barricades of difference, across the years.

 

 

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