EastVan ‘John’
Paul Wong, 2008
38 min., stereo, colour, English

Dennis + Barb McDonald are empty nesters from the suburbs. On this day they get legal possession of their new house. They have privately purchased the burned out house directly from its owner.

The wood frame structure is a typical working class family home built 90 years ago. John Jeffery (age 60) grew up in this house, his mother died on the premises two years previously. John has been camping out/living in/on the property since the fire destroyed the house a year ago.

John is the last of the old families with deep roots still on the street. He is now surrounded by recent neighbours who are more interested in retrofitting character homes than the people who live in them. Gentrification/displacement.

John is overwhelmed by his own history, ties to the old neigbourhood and finding himself at this crossroad of change. Once considered a brilliant man and still very smart -perhaps too smart for his own good. John is a retired social worker and parole officer. His life has been a spiral of loss, amplified by addictions to alcohol and drugs, most recently crack cocaine.

“Social (and psychological) activism has always played a part in Wong’s videos, photo-collages and performances, and EastVan ‘John’ is among his most important works to date. However, what struck me most about this video was not the sociological commentary but Wong’s camera work, his ability to create gorgeous tableaux, both pictorial and abstract, always with an awareness of where the light is and how it can be employed – or ignored — to effect. In EastVan ‘John’, Wong follows the irrational path of an intelligent and insightful man, one that takes the artist through his subject’s former home during a series of impossibly long takes, each one a continuous line drawing (the camera is rarely turned off). Wong is expert at anticipating his subject’s movements, and in doing so proves that, as much as he is influencing those movements, he is also in tune with those beyond his control.”*

*Excerpt from EastVan John (2008), Michael Turner

Premiered at Vtape, 2008. Screenings: BC Scene, Saw Gallery in conucion with National Arts Center, 2009. How Soon Is Now, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2009. Cinema – ATSA | État d’urgence 2009, Montreal.

Artist’s Talk with Paul Wong and John Greyson (Vtape, Toronto, October 25, 2008)

Portrait: John Jeffery
Lucky Couple:  Barbara and Dennis McDonald
Camera and Editor: Paul Wong
Post production: Brian Gotro
Sound Mix: Paddy Ryan, Big P Productions
Transcript: Kara Whitlock
Photography: Brian Howell

Assisted by BC Arts Council and Canada Council

Distributor: Vtape, Video Out