Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

Me and my Chainletter

Jon Davies, P&S Forever
March 23, 2013

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
I was in my late teens and I had been very invested in Riot Grrrl music and culture from the time I was around 15. Back then I was really hating high school – a big public school in the suburbs of Montreal, Canada – and wanted to drop out, so I started reading a ‘zine called Drop Out, which had a lot of articles and a series of “ads” for pen pals who were interested in youth liberation, anarchism, unschooling, etc. (This is in the mid-nineties before the Internet took over.) I became pen pals and eventually very dear friends with Jade Crown, a girl in Olympia, WA, and with some of her friends, and I visited them when I finished high school and was volunteering at an anarchist bookstore and going to an alternative college “downtown.” Olympia cemented my love for Riot Grrrl. I think I first became aware of Miranda July’s performance records on Kill Rock Stars, and then saw the Big Miss Moviola Chainletter tapes for sale at the record store in Olympia, and thought that they it was a fantastic project (I was into film).

What interested you about the project?
I think all the obvious things that weren’t so obvious back then before YouTube and social media. The fact that you could put your heart and soul into a movie, send it away, go crazy waiting and waiting, and then eventually receive this amazing VHS tape that embedded you and your film within a group of sympathetic others who were also looking for a feeling of community, beyond geographic or other limitations, linked instead by a shared politic, subculture or belief in cooperation and DIY self-expression.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
I was very interested in film: movies like “I Shot Andy Warhol” and “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” which came out around the time I turned 16 were really decisive for me, as were the incredible films/videos by Toronto artist/activist John Greyson (who went on to become a friend) like “Urinal” and “Lilies.” When I made something for a chainletter tape, I was experimenting with making short films and videos, very casually. I actually shot my film on Super-8 and edited it in camera – I was amazed it even turned out. I never thought of myself as a filmmaker, I think I was more focused on my queer identity and my involvement in a lot of activism.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with the project?
I wanted to shoot a roll of Super-8 film and create a simple narrative with the stuff around me, based around this persona I had imagined for myself of a girl named Penny. The “P&S Forever” of the title refers to Penny and Spiderman; a life-size inflatable Spiderman was one of my most prized possessions (I have gone on to collect a lot of toys/tchotchkes to the point that I’m considering changing my drag name to “Dusty Knick-knacks”). I believe the “narrative” – if you could call it that – involved me catching my sweetheart, Spiderman, in an embrace with another woman (played by my co-director, Lise Kuhn), and then I cry about it on my bed while wearing a tiara. (I still have the tiara and the bedsheets.) Lise and I shot it in the home of a friend. I’m sure it didn’t take us very long because we only shot 3 minutes of film.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
I was born male and thought I was trans (or something) in my late teens and early twenties. After leaving my (queerphobic) high school, I cross-dressed in a crazy suburban mall punk-goth-raver mashup style for a few years and was a young genderfucker. I was trying to figure out how to perform my gender in a way that subverted masculinity as much as possible; I was very young and boyish-looking but could not imagine becoming a man. I thought my ideal would be that people would see me and treat me as a “girl,” though I didn’t want to change my body. I really wanted to be part of the Big Miss Moviola project so I engaged my good friend Lise to be my co-director in case it would be verboten for a girl-identified boy to submit a film. I was shocked last week to re-read that I boldly described myself as a “trans girl” in the synopsis I submitted of the film, I didn’t realize I had ever used that word for myself because I was super-sensitive about claiming an identity I wasn’t. I’ve learned over the past ten years that I am not MTF but I identify strongly with the term “genderqueer” and generally have what one could call a post-gender view of identity that is steadfastly opposed to any kind of essentialism/biological determinism around sex and gender. Or actually one way I figured out to describe myself at one point, which has endured, is “a girl who doesn’t mind being trapped in a fag’s body.”

What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
Too many to name, but let me try: Jade Crown, Brinn and Rita Moore, and Andrea Kormandy in Olympia, WA; Miranda July, Bikini Kill/Julie Ruin/Kathleen Hanna, Sleater-Kinney, Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, Mukilteo Fairies, Huggy Bear, Team Dresch, Tori Amos, Björk, PJ Harvey, Ani DiFranco; Dale Altrows and other friends from the Libriarie Alternative in Montreal; Drop Out, Teen Fag, Outpunk and many other zines; prison justice, sex work, queer, and animal rights activism; The Teenage Liberation Handbook…

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I went on to make a few short videos as a film studies/interdisciplinary studies in sexuality BFA student in Montreal, and then after I moved to Toronto to pursue an MA. Midway through my MA, I realized I was better suited for writing (and eventually curating and programming) film and video – mostly experimental work, or “artists’ film and video” – rather than making movies myself. After my MA I curated a number of screenings with an experimental film/video group called Pleasure Dome, and then eventually began working my first real, year-round, full-time job, at a big contemporary art gallery in Toronto, where I started off curating and coordinating event-based programs and then gradually began organizing contemporary art exhibitions (which include everything, not just moving images). This is what I do now.