Jorge Lozano: The whole thing started in Colombia when I saw for the first time works by Norman McLaren. I had never seen any experimental work. The works I saw from him were made with city lights, he moved the camera creating all these life drawings. I was really excited by that. I came out of that screening in Cali, Colombia thinking: it’s great, I can do this. I don’t need to get actors. I don’t have to say anything. There’s no narrative, nothing. I can do it. So I got really excited about it and came out with a feeling that I wanted to do it one day.
When I got to Canada the first thing I did was to buy a super 8 camera and go to Yonge Street where Sam the Record Man is and I did the same thing. That was my first super 8 film. I’ve used little bits of it in other films.
The visual training I had here dealt with experimental works that I saw. There were many people working at A Space Gallery. A lot of independent young, artists, the last of the hippies. I started going to A Space events when it used to be close to Yonge Street. A Space was really exciting. There was an incredible connection with the most prolific and risk-taking artists of the time. Mostly they were from the US and Canada. I saw a lot of performance. I saw the Art Ensemble of Chicago. I think that William Burroughs came. I saw lots of experimental video made at the time and I began investigating that.
There’s a difference in the work that I do that I also see in other countries in Europe and Russia that don’t have our traditions of experimental filmmaking. The techniques, the exploration of experimentality is in their work but their work has political content.
Here the history is more formalist. There’s an investigation of the formal aspect of filmmaking. Very strong, very important. But we’re still doing it. There’s a very puristic approach. My approach is totally different. I identify with people who don’t have that tradition but know it.
I use everything I’ve seen in my work. From scratching film, developing film, putting chemicals on film. In video using mistakes, errors. Every way to create a different way to do something.
It all comes from seeing so many works and developing my own language. It’s been a process of learning and creating my own language which boils down to being an immigrant and trying to have my own voice. That’s been the search. I haven’t really achieved it. I will never get to that point of saying I have a voice.
So I will continue doing works. Every work is an entrance into a more complex exit. You go through the work to come out in a more complex exit. It’s always going into the unknown. The works are like little tunnels to go into more complicated things. They’re daily responses with the camera or when I’m doing the sound.
It’s very poetic. I always wanted to be a poet. I began dealing more with images. I used to write poetry before I got into film. I think I try to do it with images. I don’t have much respect for images with a traditional sense of meaning. I use images in my own way, try to extract other things, I don’t even know what they are. I don’t follow rules when I put things together. A lot of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I begin realizing when I see the assemblage. It’s assembling patterns. I bring them to a certain point some are finished or they’re not finished. Then I put on the credits and go on to the next. That video brings me to something else. It’s like meetings, encounters. Stepping in unknown territories most of the time.
And that is something that you as an immigrant… I think everyone does it but I talk about my experience as an immigrant. Being in a country where you’re not from you are every day exposed to different things. Reacting differently. You have to move very carefully and evaluate who you are constantly because people are always telling you that you’re not from here. In one way or another when they ask you: where are you from?
I get asked where are you from by people who have been here 17 years and I’ve been here more than 30 years. I have this friend from Quebec, she was mixed race, black and Quebecois. She went for the first time to Cuba. She came back so happy. She said, “In Cuba everyone asked me if I was Cuban.” But when I come back here people ask me where I’m from. I felt so sorry for her. Can you imagine being born in a country where people ask you where you’re from?
In some ways that’s my situation but not as extreme because I’m from Colombia. But going back to Colombia is difficult because I’ve changed a lot and reject or criticize the idea of the state. Decolonialism. Bad nationalism. I am slightly different. People tell me: you’re not from here.
At the end everyone is racist. That’s something we have to acknowledge that we have been taught by stereotypes and internalized racism. Diversity should bring us closer, not separate us.
credits: William Burroughs, Johanna Householder, Mike Hoolboom, Christine Kirouac, Jorge Lozano, Marshall McLuhan, Tanya Mars, Marie Menken, Clive Robertson, Sam Sniderman, Michael Snow, Reva Stone