Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Monday I spent much of the morning at the Western Front, looking through the video archive. I carried with me a list of what I knew to be there, but also the excitement of what I might find.

The archive, which dates back to 1974, is laid out in alphabetical order, beginning with a 1977 reading by Kathy Acker, a piece from her yet to be published The Adult Life of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1978). The Acker reading was on my list, as was a 1983 performance of Rose English’s Plato’s Chair, as well as two events which I happened to be at: William S. Burrough’s 1988 Ridge Theatre reading and a 1994 Tsunami Editions fundraiser, featuring writers associated with the Kootenay School of Writing.

Not on my list was a 15 minute Dufour/Morin video entitled Postcards from Victoria (1983), the “story” of an older English-born woman who works as a tour guide at a recreation Anne Hathaway cottage, somewhere in Victoria, BC. Because I had not heard of the work, I watched it the following day, and as ever was amazed at how these two artists are able to generate so much with so little.

Postcards opens with the tour guide, dressed as Hathaway, moving through the garden outside “her” cottage. CUT TO: the woman being interviewed for the job by a more-English-than-thou Victoria-born woman in her seventies. The woman asks the interviewee (who is seen throughout the video looking at postcards) if she has had high tea at the Empress Hotel, and the interviewee says she has not. CUT TO: “Anne” giving a tour of the cottage, where she admits to a disappointed tourist that the cottage is a recreation. CUT TO: “Anne” (out of costume) at the Empress, having high tea by herself, eventually asking for a “doggy bag”. During her walk home we watch as she moves past wealthy houses, eventually poorer ones. The video ends with her nibbling on a piece of cake from her doggy bag while the television news tells us of upcoming government cutbacks and how they will effect the life of John Ferris, a government employee.

Although I watched a great deal of video yesterday, Postcards stayed with me the hardest. As I mentioned, I was at both the Burroughs and Tsunami readings, but I was also a student at the University of Victoria when Postcards was shot. Much of what I saw rang true, both in detail and sensation.

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