Vincent Chevalier’s À Vancouver and Andre Reeder’s Aan niets overleden re-frame non-Anglophone artists’ moving image and documentary moving image within the histories and geographies of HIV and AIDS in a globalised world of migration, mass migration, capitalism and renewed coloniality of recent decades, and beyond.
À Vancouver/ In Vancouver is a video essay that merges the overlapping autobiographies of Vincent Chevalier and his Quebecois father through interviews on their respective journeys to Vancouver, Canada’s West Coast city, decades apart. Combining documentary narrative elements including narration, interview, re-enactment, dubbing, captured online video, news reports and verité to reflect on common or shared experiences of family life, migration, male homosocial intimacy, formative sexual experience, sex work, drug use, mental illness and for Chevalier fils navigating fact and fiction and being HIV positive in contemporary life.
Aan niets overleden/ Cause of death: nothing is a documentary that confronts the denial, stigma and taboo of the experience of living with and dying from HIV and AIDS in the Surinamese community of the Netherlands, told through the testimony of Surinamese people living with HIV and AIDS; their friends, families and community. Andre Reeder’s 1996 film made for the Amsterdam Public Health Authority and MTV, combines personal testimony with traditional song that counters stigma and taboo with affirmative and affecting images of care and community care. This conveys the enduring pride and resilience of the Surinamese people and Surinamese language and culture that in turn places migration activism and HIV community efforts in continuity with the decolonialisation of previous decades and centuries.
Indeed, both works motion towards critical de-sublimation strategies continuous with the legacies of decoloniality and social, sexual and geographic inequalities by using video and video spectatorship as a tool for collective and embodied resistance.
Accompanied Reading: An interview with Andre Reeder on Aan niets overladen (1996), the Surinamese and Dutch Caribbean experience of Dutch colonialism and coloniality and Surinamese writer/political activist Anton De Kom.
Courtesy of the artists and V Tape, Toronto.