À Vancouver

May 6, 2017

Screening, Talk


Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front


7:00 p.m.


À Vancouver (2016) is an experimental video essay by Vincent Chevalier.

Of the work, Chevalier writes: 

À Vancouver is an experimental video essay based in autobiography and interviews with my father about our familial and individual sexual histories. Blending documentary and fiction, the video examines and expands on parallel events in both of our lives, wherein we each traveled across Canada to Vancouver  and had formative (homo)sexual experiences at separate moments in time: my father as an eighteen-year-old traveling in the mid ’60s and myself as a teen and then an adult in the mid ’90s and 2000s. This story is told in French and English voiceover with subtitles and live action re-enactment of fictionalized events.  

My father told me the story of his trip to Vancouver when, as a teenager, I came out to him. In 1964, he hitchhiked across the country with ‘nothing but forty dollars in his pocket.’ There he traded sex for sleep, contemplated suicide, and had profound thoughts on what his future would bring. Years later I travelled to Vancouver several times, living there first as a teen, and then spending several months there in my twenties grappling with addiction and my fears of no future. A shared narrative of isolation, trauma, non-belonging, and hope emerges from these experiences.

In the film our conversations take place over imagery of a cold and rainy Vancouver. This is both an intimate and touristic portrait of the city, etched from our shared memories and a portrait of a time and place that has shaped our two lives. Through this I’ve explored the binary meanings of the phrase 'À Vancouver.' One (French for 'to Vancouver') speaks to a destination. The second, a neologism (avancouver, or 'not/against Vancouver') to a place unfixed in space. It is both of the city but not the city. The story navigates two languages—English and French—generations, family, cities, and time. This father/son dialogue evokes a loss of culture and language—the impossibility of trading or changing the past.

The immutability of the past is nowhere more present than in our discussion of a singularly formative memory, my HIV diagnosis at nineteen. My father misremembers the timeline, asking 'is your AIDS thing related to Vancouver?' I lived in Vancouver at eleven, and the trauma of that period is revealed to be something much darker. AIDS, as a setting, locates and lingers over everything in a young queer man’s life. AIDS and its evocation of queerness, otherness, isolation stands as an immovable barrier to communication. In the end, how do you give of yourself when you can no longer be sure of what will have been?”

The Vancouver premiere of the work took place in the Grand Luxe Hall, and was followed by a talk with Chevalier. 

À Vancouver was created with support from the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Video documentation of this event is available upon request.

Western Front is a non-profit
artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.