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September-October 2016

On the importance of collaboration

There is power in the shared pursuit of beauty

Chase Joynt@chasejoynt

ThisMagazine50_coverLores-minFor our special 50th anniversary issue, Canada’s brightest, boldest, and most rebellious thinkers, doers, and creators share their best big ideas. Through ideas macro and micro, radical and everyday, we present 50 essays, think pieces, and calls to action. Picture: plans for sustainable food systems, radical legislation, revolutionary health care, a greener planet, Indigenous self-government, vibrant cities, safe spaces, peaceful collaboration, and more—we encouraged our writers to dream big, to hope, and to courageously share their ideas and wish lists for our collective better future. Here’s to another 50 years!


The first time I met Mike Hoolboom was through his video work, wherein I witnessed him struggle to collaborate with a dead person. Mike’s long-time friend and editor Mark Karbusicky killed himself in 2007, and the film I was watching, Mark, offered a brutally tender portrait of a now forever-gone person. Mike and Mark had lived many lives together through the making of their movies, and now Mike was alone, asking his ghost collaborator to solve his own mysteries.

Almost a decade later, I would write a book with Mike and learn again—or perhaps anew—of the ways in which collaboration productively, and indefinitely, disrupts the fiction of solo-authored authority. Strategic alliance and commitment of this kind offers unparalleled opportunity to trouble any notion of a stable self by routing experiences both by and through another person. Our book, You Only Live Twice, is a public thinking-through of unlikely experiential affinities: Mike’s near death from AIDS in the 1990s and my transition from female to male in the mid-2000s. Lives once lived alone were now being processed together, albeit momentarily.

Where Mike and Mark shared space in editing suites, Mike and I spent our time writing, often across great distances. Our epistolary inquiries resulted in the production of an object that now lives and breathes on its own. Collaboration, for us, resulted in a project that no longer needs our attention, perhaps so that we might pay attention to other people.

I am reminded of Mark often, and of Mike’s and my mutual longing for company. There is incredible power in the shared pursuit of beauty, and in the vulnerability required to ask questions alongside another person. My hope for the next 50 years is an influential embrace of collaboration as a powerful creative and political tool. Collaboration affords a method by which we can envision a world collectively, one full of recovered pieces, aesthetic traces, and hopeful possibilities for a revolutionary future.

Chase Joynt is a Toronto-based filmmaker and writer. His first book You Only Live Twice, co-authored with Mike Hoolboom, was published by Coach House Books in May 2016.

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