Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature: Pedlar Press' Beth Follett Speaks with Author and Filmmaker Anne Golden

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Anne Golden (Photo Credit: Shari Hatt)

Anne Golden is a writer, filmmaker, teacher and independent curator. Her upcoming book, From the Archives of Vidéo Populaire (Pedlar Press), is a fictional oral history that showcases the experiences of the four founders of a video production centre. The book is a continuation of, and companion to, a video of the same name Anne made as part of her Master's degree.

Today, Open Book is pleased to host a conversation between Anne and Pedlar Press director Beth Follett, who speaks to Anne about the journey from film to book, looking for images that come from another time and hoping to never fully understand a certain character.

This interview was conducted via email in February 2016 for Open Book.

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Beth Follett:

Please give the backstory of From The Archives of Vidéo Populaire, from inspiration to film to book.

Anne Golden:

I went back to school after having worked at Groupe Interventin Vidéo (GIV), an artist-run distribution, production and exhibition centre in Montreal. I was in the process of doing my Master’s degree. I had the choice to do a project or to write a longer research paper. I chose the project option and made a video. My original project was to research and create a video on the four humours: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholic. In my proposal, I wrote that I intended to use the four humours as a framework to look at interrelated issues bordering the body, video history and creation. I began by reading everything I could find on medical usages associated with the humours. I also began to watch film and video works as part of my research. I wanted to study specific artists in cinema and video history. Among the artists whose work I screened were Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, George Franju, Marcel Duchamp, Viking Eggeling and Maya Deren. In video, I watched works by Lisa Steele, Doris Chase, Paul Wong, Kate Craig, Jean-Pierre Boyer, Chantal duPont, Pierre Falardeau, Diane Poitras, among many others. During this intensive research phase, I began to associate the humours to specific aethetics. It dawned on me that I wanted to focus on archives and to look at video history. In a way, the finished project is, in its essence, about four humours/epochs. The video is called From the Archives of Vidéo Populaire and features four founding members, Terence O’Meara, Lydia Cartright, Maurice Aubert and Carl-Yves Dubé.

When I was looking into the four humours, I was thinking about the fact that each humour is associated with an element. In some ways, the four founding members represent the humours to a certain degree. Terence is sanguine (optimistic and social), Carl-Yves is choleric (short tempered, irritable), Maurice is melancholic (analytic and quiet) and Lydia is phlegmatic (peaceful, relaxed).

When I finished my studies and had my degree, I found myself returning to the characters. I don’t know why. I had written a template for the video production, with sporadic scripted dialogue. I opened the document in my computer and began writing. It was very sporadic. At first, the dialogue was only for the four main characters. Slowly, I added other people. I don’t think the characters were done with me or me with them.

BF:

How did you go about writing From The Archives?

AG:

It was a fairly long process. I work full-time as a teacher. I would write some evenings, weekends and on breaks from teaching in December and during the summer months. I think I spent at least some of the writing process asking ‘what am I doing'? I was thinking up situations for characters to describe and comment on but I was not fully aware that I was writing a novel for part of the process. For a time, I thought I was working on ideas for another video or videos.

BF:

Please say a few words about the making of your film From The Archives. Who are the actors in your film? Is everyone a friend, or did you choose the performers for their acting abilities first and foremost?

AG:

Everyone is a friend. I chose the actors because I knew I could count on them to adlib and be spontaneous. I wrote some lines of dialogue, but told them to stick to the spirit of the text so that they did not need to learn their words by heart.

I gave them situations such as the founding of the Vidéo Populaire centre. Nelson Henricks plays Terence. He is a prolific video artist. Pierre Beaudoin is a performance artists who is also an arts administrator and curator. Dayna McLeod is a video and performance artist. Gabriel Chagnon is a translator with an interest/background in theatre.

In the first three months I worked on my project I focused on reading, viewing and going through my own video archives: Video 8, Hi-8, Super 8 and MiniDV. I was looking for younger versions of myself. I was also looking for images that came from another time.

The shooting and editing process took several months. Once I had shot all of my material, I spent four or five months working on the first rough edits.

When I was ready, I set about telling a story, and doing fine editing. I worked at making videos for each period depicted. In the video, an unnamed archivist finds nine boxes of material labeled ‘Vidéo Populaire.’ The centre no longer exists. In the book, Vidéo Populaire lives on.

BF:

Some of the secondary characters in your novel From The Archives are round while others are generally functional. How did you make these choices?

AG:

I wanted to give a small sense that the place influenced many people, for good or bad. There are definitely characters that appear occasionally to confirm or question stories or to move things along.

I tried to make those choices organically. I would name a secondary character and write dialogue for them. I would think about who they were and where they came from. Then, I would leave them alone for a while to see if they fit in with the others. Sometimes they didn’t. There are probably six or seven characters that I took out because they were simply too functional. I tried to be conscious of not adding too many voices to comment on a situation or topic.

BF:

At what point did you feel you’d found an entry into the internal life of Maurice? He is such a marvellous, unique character.

AG:

Maurice remains mysterious. I respect him. I hope I never fully understand him.

If Maurice were here, would we be friends? Would he appreciate the fact that I also love obsolete technology and video history(ies)? Would he offer me a popcorn sandwhich? We have a few things in common so I ‘found’ him in / from some of my own experiences. We both have anxiety disorders. We both have one Anglophone and one Francophone parent. He is not me, but I see a few familiar traits. Maurice is a character that would once have been called ‘eccentric.’

In a way, Maurice came into focus the more Carl-Yves, another founding member, did. Carl-Yves is flinty and, in my mind, moves very quickly and makes snap decisions. Maurice is the opposite, but it is more complicated than that. The two of them had a symbiotic relationship for the early years of Vidéo Populaire, one that Maurice still feels even though he has not seen Carl for a very long time.

In my curatorial practice as a video programmer, I am often interested in the idea of transmission and osmosis. The creation of Maurice came about because I wanted a character to engage with those ideas. His videos may or may not transmit something mysterious to viewers. The four humours are also associated with excess or lack of body fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. The ‘cure’ was to balance these fluids. I was taken with the alchemical nature of treatises about the humours and developed corresponding ideas into the creation of Maurice.

BF:

Thank you, Anne. I wish you all success with your exquisite novel.

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Anne Golden is an independent curator and writer whose programs have been presented at Musée National du Québec, Edges Festival and Queer City Cinema, among others. She has participated in panels on curatorial practices, independent distribution and, more recently, horror films. Golden is Artistic Director of Groupe Intervention Vidéo (GIV). She teaches in Media Arts Department of John Abbott College. Golden has made twenty videos including FAT CHANCE (1994), BIG GIRL TOWN (1998), FROM THE ARCHIVES OF VIDÉO POPULAIRE (2007) and THE SHACK (2013).

Beth Follett directs the Canadian literary publishing house, Pedlar Press. She lives in St. John's NL with Stan Dragland and their lovely cat, Lew.

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