Edwin Janzen
Lost Islands
Four-channel video installation
2012

"Lost Islands" proposes a shadowy, cinematic environment constructed from footage appropriated from classic cinema—in particular. lost-island-style thrillers like "King Kong," "The Island of Dr. Moreau," "Lost Continent," and others. The sound, too, is organ music appropriated from old F. W. Murnau films—"Nosferatu," "The Haunted Castle," etc. The video loops play in a darkened space, accompanied by the unearthly, gentle cacophony of their overlapping organ-music soundtracks.

With "Lost Islands," I seek to show and exploit the influence of colonialism on Cold War cinema. The notion of the lost island—with its gigantic apes, its self-exiled mad scientists creating dystopian communities and its dinosaurs that somehow survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction—derives from European imperialist navigation and map-making practices during the so-called “age of discovery.” In those years, maps of the world showed vast stretches of “terra incognita” ornamented with speculative sketches of Indigenous inhabitants, fanciful flora and fauna, and intriguing landforms—a perceived “blank slate” suitable for the projection of colonialist fantasies of all kinds. But by the twentieth century, world maps had run out of terra incognita, so the lost island theme emerged to stand in its place: in the remotest ocean expanses, tiny cinematic laboratories devoted to keeping alive colonialist fantasies of otherness, exoticism, white supremacy, and so forth. My installation delineates a cinematic space in which these colonialist-inspired narratives are broken down and reconfigured as sensual or emotional experiences.

Because the channels are of different lengths and are not synchronized with one another—images and sounds are intended to occur and recur in new combinations—Lost Islands can be shown in different ways that work with the resources and limits of a given exhibition space. I have exhibited "Lost Islands" as a three-channel and a four-channel installation, sometimes using projection, sometimes monitors, sometimes both.

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