Please Note that the free period for this program has expired.

Each title can now be rented individually.

Jordan Arseneault is a performer, writer, and artist who also works at the Coordinator of the Queer Media Database Canada-Québec (mediaqueer.ca) in Montreal. Arseneault has selected 7 films and videos from VUCAVU’s catalogue that relate to ideas about the queer experience and social justice. Below is  an essay he wrote about his choices and his curated program called “PERSEVERANCE: I AM HERE FOR THIS”.

 
Jordan Arseneault

Jordan Arseneault
Performer, Artist and Coordinator of Mediaqueer.ca

"PERSEVERANCE: I Am Here For This"
Film selection and essay by Jordan Arseneault

Jordan Arseneault (b. 1980) is a socially engaged artist, performer, writer and translator active in Montréal since 2008. His performances, workshops, and curation address issues of queerness, criminalization, stigma, mental health, HIV/AIDS, addiction, biculturalism, gender and community. The Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF) was the occasion for his first major curated moving image program “Still Not over It”, followed by “Matraques/Nightsticks I & II” in Montréal and “Vicini e Lontani” for  the MIX Milano Festival. He is currently the coordinator of the Queer Media Database Canada-Québec, where he has co-helmed curation since March 2013 under the aegis of Professor Thomas Waugh. He is honoured to be included as an #EyesOnVU guest Curator for VUCAVU to commemorate the 2017 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 17).

"PERSEVERANCE: I AM HERE FOR THIS"

Moving image artists and queer people have a lot in common. Both tend to use language that can be ambivalent to accessibility but are determined to make a memorable statement. We also tend to group together for survival, as many Canadian and Québec video artists have done since the wave of artist-run distribution centers were created in the 70s and 80s. VUCAVU’s queer and Québec repertoire is a prismatic reflection of these sister traditions: fiercely independent and stronger when we are organized, together.  
 

Why French?
 

While not exclusively a francophone selection, "PERSEVERANCE: I Am Here for This" is inspired by what we’ll call a non-hegemonic view that typifies much of Québec video and especially video art by Canadian queer people. As a performer, translator, drag artist, activist, and the coordinator of Montréal-based MediaQueer.ca - the online home of the Queer Media Database Canada-Québec, founded by Concordia University’s Thomas Waugh - I’ve had the privilege of seeing and showing this work in 5 countries and 6 provinces as a curator who espouses this lens. Our organization’s mission is to study, catalogue, and promote the exhibition potential of queer Canadian and Québécois moving image art at home and abroad. We have worked with over a dozen festivals and co-presenters to show little-known and canonical works by and about LGBTQ+ people because of a shared belief that there is something radically informative about the queer lens - both in its distortions and its representational precisions. Rather than give credence to the bemoaned “Two Solitudes” of English and French Canada, I would posit that these works function on another axis, that of the Two (queer) Attitudes: that our physical and artistic liberation are closely linked and are heightened by our linguistic heritages. Hence this selection embraces work made by a Montréal-based artist in collaboration with an Indigenous woman from Saskatchewan (Jessica MacCormack), and another without dialogue about two women finding love that transcends and embodies a cultural matrix outside of white heteropatriarchy (Michelle Mohabeer), and that’s not the half of it! 

... to show little-known and canonical works by and about LGBTQ+ people because of a shared belief that there is something radically informative about the queer lens - both in its distortions and its representational precisions.
Still image, "Two/Doh", Michelle Mohabeer, 1996, CFMDC

Still image, "Two/Doh", Michelle Mohabeer, 1996, CFMDC

Why now?

Camp, drama, performance-as-community, sex work, indigenous struggles, drag (kings!), internet romance, feminist politics (and affect history!) join romance and break-ups in this capsule of must-sees that I want to share with VUCAVUers for the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia and #EntreVU. Every May 17, organisations and communities around the world recognize this day as a moment time to highlight the ongoing struggles that queer people face in a world that seemed so hell-bent on our annihilation for so long. We are living an era of stark contrasts between expanded rights and freedoms for queer and trans people - in Canada, the EU, Nepal, and parts of Latin America - while massive setbacks have occurred in the countries that brought us Sergei Eistenstein (Russia criminalizes all public expressions of homosexuality under Putin, a set-back to Czarist times) and John Waters (in the USA, queer organizations are fighting tooth and nail against right-wing religious extremists who see a threat to their society in a trans person’s need to use the bathroom, or defend herself against racist assaults).

What works?

Aesthetically wedged between Eurocentric art traditions and the American commercial giant, Canadian queer filmmakers have had the benefit of now 48 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality and 60 years of federal arts funding (with the Canada Council for Arts, that phenomenal behemoth that contributes more to Canadian culture than our American cousins get from their now-endangered National Endowment for the Arts spread out to 10 times the population, just saying).


Two other great formal modes characterize the Canadian queer film wedgie: the lust to make a Commercially Successful Narrative Feature (Big Fictions) and the need to show our truth in experimental shorts where form and content can get married (Little Truths). Between Big Fictions (society, money, romance, utopia/sex) and Little Truths (subjectivity, precarity, loneliness, sex/dreams) lies that great Canuck tradition of the Documentary Feature, a mode where we have always and continue to excel. Sophie Deraspe’s "The Amina Profile" from Les Films du 3 mars (F3M) is at once the perfect iteration and brilliant détournement of this Third Way (lez call it Big Truths with Little Fictions inside) as she tells the incredible story of a lesbian Montrealer who fell in love with someone she thought was a Syrian lesbian blogger, only to be met with a maelstrom of post-modern disappointments that are stranger than any fiction, big or small. I wanna know what love is, I want you to show me, BUT love is a battlefield, and in the end we may all end up single ladies. 

Every May 17, organisations and communities around the world recognize this day as a moment time to highlight the ongoing struggles that queer people face in a world that seemed so hell-bent on our annihilation for so long.
Still image, "The Amina Profile", Sophie Déraspe

Still image, "The Amina Profile", Sophie Deraspe, 2015, F3M

Many queer Canadian and Québec artists, like many of our international counterparts, share a constant craving to show that our identities are both lies and truths: lies because society forces inauthentic categories on us, but truths in that we know, deep down, something about who we are in relation to whom we love, even if most us cannot articulate why. Some are born with identity, some achieve identity, and some have identity thrust upon them, one might say.

In Jess MacCormacks Where We Were Not Part I: Feeling Reserved, Alexus’s Story (GIV), Colleen Ayoup’s time capsule "kings" (GIV) and Michelle Mohabeer’s ravishing "Two/Doh" (CFMDC), the realities, politics, and affect of identities are articulated in sensitive and original ways. The only animation included in this selection, MacCormack’s "Alexus’s Story" is the result of interviews conducted with Saskatchewan-born indigenous trans woman Alexus Y., who recounts a harrowing story where her intersectional identity marked her for discrimination and violence. "Two/Doh" is a painterly collage of images recounting a South Asian woman’s first flush of romance with her Persian lover, intercut with 16mm footage of Toronto Pride marches and indelible still lives - it is no coincidence that MediaQueer has shown this work proudly on numerous occasions: living and loving in the identity you own is a beautiful, sexy thing, and the pleasure of its expression must be given equal weight to the harshness of its suppression that has characterized so much of our history. As a drag performer, I have to include Ayoup’s "kings" because it is a treasure of the GIV (Groupe Intervention Vidéo) collection that is rarely shown and expresses that uncanny power of “fooling” your public by imitating a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth. Drag artists may look like we’re just fooling around, but the real fools, I think, are the ones who think their gender is somehow innate or statically “natural.” "kings" also shows the crucial role of community itself as part of our perseverance as gender-variants, gender-outlaws, and genderful people whose art is armour against bigotry, violence, and silencing.

... shows the crucial role of community itself as part of our perseverance as gender-variants, gender-outlaws, and genderful people whose art is armour against bigotry, violence, and silencing.
Still image, "kings", Colleen Ayoup, 2001, GIV

Still image, "kings", Colleen Ayoup, 2001, GIV

I CAN HAZ PERSEVERANCE?
 

The filmmakers in PERSEVERANCE: I Am Here For This help us articulate the “why” of identity and its complex representations in moving images as in life. “Homeless bisxual drug-involved sex-worker” may sound salacious to some, distasteful to others, or like a byline on Grindr depending on who’s asking. And Rodrigue Jean is asking in his "Love in the Time of Civil War" ( "L'Amour dans le temps de la guerre civile", F3M ), a vérité Big Fiction milestone beautifully sculpted from the debris of Jean’s many years working on the Épopée project, a collective that brought us "Hommes à louer" (NFB, 2009) with a student-strike documentary tour-de-force in "Insurgence" (2013). As Canada’s Chantal Akerman with an unflinching indie aesthetic, Jean is the perfect antidote to the melodrama and glamour that is too often the crutch of many a gay white male director (désolé Xavier Dolan).


"Les Politiques du coeur" (GIV) is essential viewing from Toronto activist Nancy Nicol in collaboration with feminist historian Irène Dimczuk on the watershed topic of same-sex marriage and parenthood. Oft-bemoaned by leftist queers for the excessive airtime “gay marriage” received in the 2000s, Nicol’s documentary shows how this strategy for legal acceptance - attained in Canada in 2005 and shortly before in Québec’s civil unions - was seen as crucial for child custody and an important wedge issue in opposing the heteropatriarchy, even if nowadays many Canadians and Quebeckers might find it hokey or even counterrevolutionary because this legal designation creates a hierarchy of relationships and sustains heteronormative judgments of property and propriety. 
 

And what about you, dear viewer, watching this alone on your laptop on a Friday night having eschewed the millennial “Netflix and chill” in favour of some more intellectual fare? Are you single again? Did they/she/he/ze/we break your heart (again)? I am there with you. I am here for this. In watching Midi Onodera’s "The Basement Girl" (CFMDC), I hope you get the feeling I get at film festivals, campus screenings, loft screenings, white-bedsheet-on-a-clothesline screenings, that you are watching-with, and that these works get you to come to our window, to crawl inside, and wait by the light of the moon. 

I hope you get the feeling...that you are watching with us, and that these works get you to come to our window, to crawl inside, and wait by the light of the moon.