Where is She Now?


Alex Juhasz, event programmer at Pitzer College
February 25, 2016

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
I was in my early 30s, and I don’t actually remember how I heard about it. But I brought Miranda to Pitzer to show the series and talk about it.

What interested you about the project?
As an AIDS video activist and scholar at the time, I was making and thinking about artistic/activist/personal uses of video too. J-4-J’s idea for a distribution platform for women and girl’s work was connected to ideas and actions we were taking as AIDS activists/queers/feminists who were also committed to empowering people/movements through low-end people-made video production and distribution. J-4-J was a kindred project.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
Yes. I made AIDS activists videos and had also produced a very low budget black queer feature film, The Watermelon Woman. Longer, bigger, but in the same heart-head-community-space of the work collected by J-4-J.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
At the time I thought it was inspiring, smart, useful, and beautiful. Since then, I’ve written about it in relation to my scholarly/activist writing about YouTube: how many of the realizations of YouTube (that regular people or women/girls now have access to production/distribution of media). In that writing, I think J-4-J does some things better than YouTube!

“While at first look these VHS chain letters seem to be a dead or dying form “given the ease, access, and cost of sharing video on the Internet,” I realized that what they will always have over YouTube is the actual, small community that can only be created by the painstaking and careful act of choosing to attach your work to an object that already has a community built onto and within it. The VHS chain letter permits the safety of the slow through the space of the movable box.

I’ve been a fan and supporter of Miranda for a long time, but I hadn’t looked at those tapes from the late 1990s for quite a while. What seemed most critical was how they anticipated YouTube (in particular the vlog): lonely rural girls using video to speak to each other straight from their rooms about oppression they face in their home and hometown.

What I didn’t think about so much at the time was how many of these isolated grrls being empowered by video were actually making their tapes (about rural isolation) while attending the progressive colleges in bigger towns or cities that supported the lo-fi, autobiographical project of Miranda July. Take my student Erica Anderson, whose tape Lucas showed and who made her amazing, minimal, camcorder video about rural life in North Dakota while living in Southern California and taking video art classes at Pitzer College.

While the private stories of the girls are undoubtedly true, Joanie 4 Jackie highlights that a shared, messy, homemade aesthetic that lives across the work in the tapes, even for college coeds who could make “better,” speaks volumes as a carefully constructed formal choice. This is at once another version of the retrofuturism that I’ve written about in relation, for instance, to Be Kind Rewind, while also being an example of why people (women) (like me) choose bad video as a suitable formal register for their process and place. In all cases, a fond feeling about a manufactured authenticity and wistful ethics of community registered within VHS is at play.”

If you attended a screening, can you tell us where and when it was and anything else you remember about it?
Eclectic nature of the connected tapes.
Miranda’s exuberance and intelligence.
The fun of it all.
How serious it was.
It turned my students on, for sure. Spoke to them.

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
Professor of Media Studies. Filmmaker.