You thought your eyes detected rain, or were those flurries? After all, the skies certainly have been threatening lately. But there are no traces of your event. It you stare at an image too long, it inevitably moves. You’re dead certain the earth moved. There was nothing on the six o’clock news but your neighbour also felt the tremor. Does your neighbour share your subjectivity? Well, of course not. But the pair of you, as well as several other mutual acquaintances, witnessed the red and white maple leaf flag decomposing after exhausting the colour spectrum.
Is it day, or nighttime? The sky and the grass are both changing colours, but randomly and not according to any calendar. Do the drugs work? Well, yes and no. AIDS and somewhat similar afflictions are in the mind as well as the body, but that doesn’t mean everything’s mental. Wasn’t that tower here this morning and not there? Wasn’t it northeast of that familiar personal landmark but now somewhere else? What is the exact relationship between The Big Bear logo and the Russian Internationale? Can national anthems seriously define their landscapes? Do simplistic binary referendums necessarily provoke serious abstraction?
Interior Exteriors follows a route from east to west across Canada, albeit with some serious detours. Valerie LeBlanc’s Summerquote transfers Gershwin’s easy-living standard onto an idyllic landscape, but that site is ecologically and politically contested. Leslie Peters’ Seed has been planted in both manageable and unmanageable fields. Her prairie gothic is definitely in the mind, but the tall blades of grass actually do move in mysterious ways. Zachery Longboy’s Water Into Fire posits that traditionally incompatible elements must co-exist in order for physical and spiritual survival. Longboy outs himself as a first-nations fag living with HIV-his performative work positions his body in the context of opposing definitions of ‘community’, landscape, and medical science.
Interior Exteriors tele-portages to London, England, and post-structuralist filmmaker John Smith presents The Black Tower, which appears and disappears in contradictory locations. The narrator and the film itself experiences not only blackouts and brownouts but even green-outs. It’s all in your mind, darling is simply not an adequate response let alone any basis for treatment. Then Nick Fox Geig’s Elegy presents a seemingly static image of another tall landmark. But the Big Bear signage mutates according to not only the weather but also the music. How do natural and cultural elements affect one another, and then why?
One of the true wonders of the world is situated precisely on the Canadian/American border. That eternal cum-shot Niagara Falls welcomes willing players to what American nativist and fundamentalist Pat Buchanan has called Canada: Sperm Bank of Satan. Graham Hollings’ gently pornographic road movie gleefully accepts this indictment and revels in the barely contained homoeroticism of essentially Canadian condiments. Since maple syrup tastes good, therefore it must be very sexy indeed. John Price’s Wreck Canada, by contrast, concerns itself with the fragility and ultimate absurdity of recognizable commonplaces or images. The railway lines, those same tracks that literally bond the Canadian nation, are juxtaposed with stock footage of fervent crowds from the October 1995 Quebec Referendum. The futility of literally representing concepts of diversity or pluralism, indeed the limitations of these well-intentioned terms, parallels the abandonment of the two-coloured Canadian Maple Leaf flag and its decomposition into a gorgeous spectrum of alternative colours. Either/or resolutions have never been compatible with any variety of experimentalism.
At the eve of the twenty-first century, the late Colin Campbell made Disheveled Destiny, a revisionist sequel to his seminal performative tape Sackville, I’m Yours. Campbell’s palindrome alter-persona—Art Star—revisits that provincial college-town with its ponds and tall grass and its illustrious history of faculty and students who did and did not adapt well to the locale. Sackville, New Brunswick also hosts the Tantramar Marsh, known colloquially as The Tantrum. Campbell uniquely comments upon aging processes of both landscape and individuals—paying a loving tribute to Sackville that glorious dump while also positioning himself and his alter ego as sophisticated dandies who would inevitably wear out their welcome. And the earth does indeed move—Y2K and The Tantrum are certainly in cahoots and there is nothing that any humans can do about it. So perhaps the conspiracy wing-nuts and the paranoiac software industry were right after all? Art Star revisiting Art Star’s return to the site of his possibly scandalous legacy just might be what triggers these inexplicable events.
These eight films and tapes concern themselves with the already uneasy interactions between nature and culture, and then dance on top of any traditional definitions of these concepts. They accept and then subvert that eternal truism that states of mind and states of bodies are more often than not deliriously symbiotic.