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Trans author Chase Joynt discusses his latest work
2016-05-14

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Toronto's Chase Joynt just published a new work titled You Only Live Twice.

In the book, while coming together over the films of Chris Marker, Joynt corresponds with HIV-positive Canadian filmmaker Mike Hoolboom. Since being diagnosed, Hoolboom has made dozens of films, two of which won Best Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Joynt is a multimedia artist and writer who explores gender and violence in the world. This has led to awards such as the Mellon Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the University of Chicago and multiple speaking engagements.

Windy City Times: Hi, Chase. First, talk about your writing background.

Chase Joynt: I approach writing from a variety of angles simultaneously: academic, activist, and creative. I see the boundaries between writing disciplines as productively and necessarily blurry; for example, activist writing can be creative, academic writing can be activist.

WCT: What inspired you to tackle this project in the first place?

CJ: In many ways, I think the project tackled us. Mike Hoolboom and I have long been in conversation about filmmaking and storytelling. It was only after amassing a large quantity of correspondence that we realized we could shape the shared connections between movies, HIV and gender into tangible, readable, public shapes.

WCT: Who is Chris Marker, in a nutshell?

CJ: Chris Marker was a prolific, elusive, French filmmaker best known for essay films and documentaries. Many of his works engage politics, the personal, and questions about the construction of truth. In the context of YOLT, Mike and I engage Marker as an initial point of connection and as a thematic launch pad from which to imagine possible futures.

WCT: What surprised you about Mike Hoolboom?

CJ: Mike is meticulous in his commitment to his work. He is generous and willing to explore unfamiliar territory in pursuit of new project potential. I am always surprised and amazed by Mike's ability to find beauty in the most intricate and often hidden places.

WCT: Explain the title You Only Live Twice.

CJ: For us, the title You Only Live Twice provides a useful frame to consider the impacts of living and therefore trying again.

Whether it be post-transition or post-near-death from AIDS, the frame of before, during, and after allows us to consider expectations and encounters from multiple sides. Of added import, for us, is the relationship between the second life and the work of Chris Marker, but one need not be a film fan to engage with the potentials of the work, as so many people live lives again, and to new ends.

WCT: It was made through letter-writing. Why not use phone-recorded conversations?

CJ: While Mike and I do have a relationship that exists off the page, the book is an organic reflection of years worth of letter-writing, albeit electronically. I've always been motivated and inspired by the call and response of conversation. I return often to James Baldwin and Audre Lorde's discussion Revolutionary Hope [as well as] Jose Munoz and Lisa Duggan's Hope and Hopelessness as insurgent examples of dialogue as conduit for personal and political exchange. The vulnerability and responsiveness demanded by conversation productively disrupts solo-authored authority, and invites new attention to multiplicity and shared experience.

WCT: What did you find you had in common with Mike?

CJ: We both remain inspired by the potentials of documentary film and writing as methods to explore potentially unanswerable questions.

WCT: Was a there a lot left on the cutting-room floor?

CJ: Rather than cutting, we both engaged in an exhaustive process of necessary revision. For example, as soon as we signed a publishing deal, I started deleting sections of stories that could not be rendered anonymous enough for public viewing. The project has never been about unnecessary exposure, but rather, it is an engagement with the limits and potentials of story and life-making through collaboration. It is remarkable how the promise of future publicness can clarify your priorities and related story-telling strategies.

WCT: Anything you wish had been left in the book?

CJ: Surprisingly, no—though I do wish I could have read it 1,000 more times. Having a book go to press is an incredible lesson in letting go.

WCT: What would you like readers to leave with?

CJ: I believe that a book is only as important and/or strong as its company. Who and what exists alongside and within any object of cultural production, and what kind of alliances can be made? I hope that our book contributes to dialogues being had in countless locations elsewhere, among people of color, trans people, positive people and activist communities working on the front lines of social justice and political change.

WCT: Is there a trans writer who inspires you?

CJ: There are many trans writers that I follow with great interest. Jen Richards has her finger on the pulse of many contemporary debates about trans representation in mainstream media. I am continually inspired by her ability to engage multiple audiences simultaneously, and learn much from her process of public engagement and related learning.

WCT: Where are you taking the book to in 2016?

CJ: I will be heading out on tour in the fall with multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya. We are currently booking schools and bookstores across Canada and the U.S.

I will also be launching You Only Live Twice at the University of Chicago on May 16. The event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

WCT: Have you been to Chicago before?

CJ: I was a Mellon Fellow in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago in 2013-14, and will be returning as a post-doctoral fellow from 2016-2018.

Visit ChaseJoynt.com for more information and to purchase Joynt's work.


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