Janey's Arcadia

Rachel Zolf

2014, 10:55 minutes, B&W / Colour, English

TAPECODE 1069.00

Janey’s Arcadia is a video translation of three poems from Rachel Zolf’s fifth book, Janey’s Arcadia (Coach House, 2014) – a conversive, aversive reckoning with the ongoing errors of Canadian settler-colonialism. Constructed from preview-quality National Film Board of Canada (NFB) stock footage, Janey’s Arcadia draws to the surface the NFB’s governmental role in “civilizing” Indigenous peoples and settler immigrants, drawing viewers into a charged encounter with the images and ideologies that have formed them.

Janey Settler-Invader is the foul-mouthed cyborg progeny of first-wave feminist Emily Murphy’s pioneer heroine, Janey Canuck, and punk pirate Kathy Acker’s guerrilla icon, Janey Smith. Slouching towards the Red River Colony, “Britain’s One Utopia” (now known as Winnipeg), Janey encounters Christian missionaries, real estate agents, Zolf’s grandfather and other settlers, whose voices she absorbs into a carnivalesque cacophony of accented speech, weather, violence, foliage and carnality.

Pocked with digital glitches and glitched subjectivities, Janey’s Arcadia restages the ongoing appropriations and flawed disavowals of colonization in Canada. As the burnt-in NFB logo foregrounds who owns the gaze, the running timecodes continuously jump, enacting Walter Benjamin’s notion of “now-time” – unarchived, effaced remembrances flashing up, interrupting and reorienting the present. Unsettling the Arcadian promise of a new pure home via images deemed too impure for broadcast, Janey’s Arcadia squalls across time, flashing pornographic signs that the colonial catastrophe continues with each brutal scrubbing of Indigenous knowledges and settler responsibility.

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