Starting today and running through until Monday July 3rd Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, a leader in diverse programming that speaks to our times, is hosting Our Home on Native Land Festival. Indigenous artists will be performing all weekend long. Some of the featured artists include:
On the occasion of Canada Day, Our Home On Native Land aims to spark questions, conversations, and ultimately a rethinking of “what it means to be Canadian” by foregrounding, celebrating, and making space for the diverse voices and stories of belonging to this land that are often excluded from typical ideas and expressions of Canadianness.
By focusing on narratives of creative resistance, intersectional solidarity, social justice, and decolonization, Our Home On Native Land reveals the connective threads that exist between Indigenous and diverse, newcomer communities in their creative contributions to the artistic and cultural fabric of Canada, or Kanata.
This festival takes its title from a well-known act of resistance committed by Indigenous peoples across Canada, whereby they intentionally change the line “Our Home and Native Land” to “Our Home On Native Land” to re-ascribe Indigenous sovereignty over the lands now known as Canada.
This expansive thematic show that uses House music as both an allegory and an art form ends this weekend. It’s worth spending time moving back and forth through the rooms to hear, or rather feel, how the soundscape informs works that are deceptively benign but loaded with signifiers of oppression / liberation creating intersections where labour meets love.
Today, Saturday, October 29 Toronto talent Esie Mensah will be performing between 2 – 4 pm.
“Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates takes over the fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower with an immersive exhibition exploring the potential of the house museum—historically important landmarks that have been transformed into legacy sites. Gates proposes new ways of honouring and remembering Black experience and explores the potential of these spaces through music, dance, video, sculpture and painting.”
“Like Gravel’s previous works, Usually Beauty Fails was created in close collaboration with the dancers and musicians of Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup. In this surrealist and unbridled metaphor on our relation to beauty, Gravel creates an intensely physical exploration of everyday movement. The dancer’s combinations of physical restraint and furious motion collide with their charming sweetness and casual bravado to produce an invigorating work that challenges our perspectives on dance, beauty and society itself.”
Esmeralda Enrique will perform as part of Saturday’s Older & Reckless
Tomorrow night the Festival closes with Older & Reckless at the Arts Court Theatre.
“Making its Canada Dance Festival debut, Older & Reckless is an acclaimed dance series gaining notoriety for its celebration of mature dance artists and their tenacious life-long pursuit of physical expression. Appealing not only to a senior audience, but to all generations, Older & Reckless shines a light on those Canadian dance artists who have dared to approach mastery in their art form.”
World Premiere of REsolve by Circadia Indigena’s Jerry Longboat and Byron Chief-Moon this Sunday at the NAC.
The Canada Dance Festival begins this weekend at the NAC. “CDF 2016 will set the Nation’s Capital alight with challenging new ideas showcased through powerful movement and beautiful movers – all telling uniquely Canadian stories through dance.”
Sunday’s performance includes the world premiere of REsolve a collaborative work produced by Ottawa-based choreographer Jerry Longboat (www.circadia-indigena.com) and Bryon Chief-Moon. The work is a companion piece to an earlier collaboration Greed “a themed based examination of today’s exploitative stock market system and the effects of crippling corporate and personal greed. This work is a juxtaposition of Traditional Knowledge and values that maintain a living harmony with the natural environment and provides dynamic balance through “taking only what is needed”. The actions and intentions of greed carry over and compound biospheric destruction affecting the living balance of the planet. This work layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency that strips the resources from our territories and poisons the environment around us.”
REsolve “layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency as it addresses issues of de-colonization of self and homeland. Through an awakening of the individual confronting an authoritarian system set on keeping us in a increasingly dependant matrix. Resolve is taking control of your own destiny by exposing the hollow lies from leaders and officials, and challenging our present economic slavery and physiological poisoning. These are transcendent moments of realization and awakening, where one has no choice but to stand up for freedom, and mobilize the ability to act and (self)determine.”
More important and inspiring programming by the NAC
This winter, as part of the National Arts Centre’s programming for Art and Reconciliation, I Lost My Talk premiered. This incredible and poignant performance included the beautiful choreography of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre‘s Santee Smith and stunning visual design by Montreal’s Normal. Tomorrow evening I Lost My Talk will be part of three other orchestral works premiering as part of Life Reflected. The National Art Centre Orchestra’s Director Alexander Shelley “brought together four remarkable Canadian composers to collaborate with Donna Feore to create an immersive symphonic experience celebrating youth, promise and courage, revealed in the compelling and diverse portraits of four women.”
Tomorrow’s performance will include:
ALICE MUNRO – Dear Life with music composed by Zosha Di Castri “Dear Life” by Alice Munro, is a reflection on memory, childhood and the formative stages of life. The NAC Orchestra’s Dear Life was composed by Zosha Di Castri.”
AMANDA TODD – My Name is Amanda Todd with music composed by Jocelyn Morlock My Name is Amanda Todd tells the story of a vibrant 15-year-old who, after suffering for years from cyber abuse, spoke out against harassment and bullying on YouTube. Music composed for the NAC Orchestra by Jocelyn Morlock.
ROBERTA BONDAR – Bondarsphere with music composed by Nicole Lizée Dr. Roberta Bondar’s remarkable expertise as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, and photographer have been interpreted in Bondarsphere by Nicole Lizée for the NAC Orchestra through soundtrack and video.
RITA JOE – I Lost My Talk with music composed by John Estacio “I Lost My Talk” – by Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. expresses her experience at Residential School. The NAC Orchestra’s I Lost My Talk was composed by John Estacio.
TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson moderates a panel of cultural provocateurs speaking on Art & Reconciliation.
“It’s time for the rest of Canada to do the heavy lifting” ~ I Lost My Talk composer John Estacio
On Thursday, January 14 the National Arts Centre hosted a panel discussion on ART & RECONCILIATION prior to the opening night of I Lost My Talk, a performance inspired by the poetry of Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe. The response to this event was tremendous. Hundreds of people swelled up the stairs from the lobby where the 100 Years of Loss exhibit on the impact of Residential Schools is installed until the end of this week. The event also drew political support. In attendance was the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Joe Clark. I Lost My Talk was a commission by Clark’s family for his 75th birthday. A moving and lovely gift that we all got a chance to participate in and benefit from.
Canadian writer Joseph Boyden speaks on his commission to write the libretto for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star.
It’s encouraging to see a National cultural institution take such a leadership role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It’s also poignantly symbolic to have a National cultural institution recognize, in the present moment, a fact that history has tried to obscure. Both the panel and the performance of I Lost My Talk opened with the National Arts Centre acknowledging that “we are on UNCEDED Algonquin territory.”
On the panel, along with Canadian writer Joseph Boyden and John Estacio, the composer for the musical score of I Lost My Talk, was Rachel Maza, “acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown.” I had the opportunity to attend this incredible play that delved into the impact of assimilation policies on Indigenous people in Australia. Over the course of 75 minutes Jack charmed us with his beautiful way of presenting his biography – a life full of identity confusion and much loss but also an amazing amount of grace due to Jack’s own incredible resilience. I left with many mixed emotions. Find out more about the play…
Jack Charles receives a standing ovation at the closing of his performance of Jack Charles V The Crown at the NAC.
Going Home Star opens this week in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.
“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation is the brilliant result of a star-studded collaboration between the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, acclaimed choreographer Mark Godden, and renowned Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was ten years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary Aboriginal young people coming to terms with a souldestroying past. Hatzis’s multi-layered score incorporates music by Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize), Steve Wood, and the Northern Cree Singers.” Read more…
The creative team and performers of Going Home Star speak at the NAC about the ballet during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in May/June 2015
Also, this weekend at the NAC is Innu author, composer and singer Florent Vollant performing on Saturday, January 30.
“born in Labrador in 1959 and grew up on a reserve named Maliotenam, east of Sept-Îles. He began his musical career in the middle of the 80s and helped to create the Festival Innu Nikamu, which, since its founding, has brought together many musicians and singers from various Amerindian nations.”read more…
Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues.
As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.
Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.
“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”
This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallerywith Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.
“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”
Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.
The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassiesinitiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”
In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.
The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.
Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.
I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.
You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!
Factory Theatre on Bathurst hosts Next Stage Theatre Festival Toronto
Running until this coming Sunday, Toronto Choreographer Jasmyn Fyffe’s “Pulse” is a crowd pleaser. And don’t expect to stay in your seats! This performance is interactive at just the right moments – when the music makes you want to move the most.
“Inspired by the sounds of Motown, this contemporary dance work takes us back to an era where music was felt deep down in the soul. It explores our affinity for human interaction as the dancers ride an emotional landscape of conflicting needs and desires. A mix of high-energy sequences and intimate moments, Pulse is a show that will have you on your feet dancing and then humming the tunes long after the show is over.”
Pulse performance times:
Fri Jan 16 – 5:00pm
Sat Jan 17 – 9:30pm
Sun Jan 18 – 4:15pm
Past history and present tense invoked with installations at Fort York, Toronto.
Today we know of Fort York as the (barely visible) small patch of green space that buffers the expansive condo development that now grinds against the north and south sides of the Gardiner and barricades us from a view of the sky.
In 1793 the plan for a garrison was put into place by John Graves Simcoe. At the time, Niagara was the capital of the province but Simcoe felt that Toronto was a more suitable place for a naval base that would protect the area from the possibility of an American attack. Soon after, it was decided to move the base again – to Kingston – but a community had already developed around the area and by 1800 there was a residence built for the lieutenant-governor on the site.
In the spring of 1813 the Fort was attacked by the Americans. Both the Indigenous nations of the Mississaugas and the Ojibwa assisted Canadian and British forces to keep the Americans at bay but in the years the followed Fort York was continually attacked and occupied by American Forces. Eventually, due to the victory of the British in the War of 1812, Fort York became a more stabilized community that grew to become the settlement that was renamed Toronto in 1934, from the Kanienke’haka (Mohawk) word Tkaronto meaning “the place in the water where trees are standing.”
Two centuries of peace have passed but the site still remains to commemorate the battles and lives lost.
It has also become a great place to showcase dramatic and large scale art and performance.
Luminato does Fort York.
In 2012, as part of the commemoration of the 200 years since the war of 1812, Luminato staged a massive art install at the Fort called “The Encampment.”
“Marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, The Encampment is both a luminous large-scale art installation and a kind of metaphoric archaeological dig—one that unearths not physical artefacts but long-buried shards and strands of human experience. Conceived as a “temporal village,” the installation comprises 200 A-frame tents pitched on the grounds of Fort York, which fell to U.S. forces during the war. Each tent contains an installation by one of 200 artistic collaborators, selected via an open call for contributors. Each creates a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history, gleaned from research into real-life stories of family, love, loss, survival, patriotism, collaboration and betrayal. Visible at a distance from several downtown locations, the massive assemblage of tents presents a wondrously glowing sculptural landscape. Explored at close quarters and through social activations, it offers poignant insights into the lives of ordinary people swept up in the epic drama of history.” More info…
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre participates in remembering and honouring the lost lives.
“Body of War reflects on how man becomes a soldier through the relentless repetition of acts of violence. What happens to the psyche as it learns to transgress social principles and integrates the willingness to kill? Set in the geography of the Normandy Landings and punctuated by testimonies of retired and serving soldiers, a mis-en-scene of visceral hand-to-hand combat is gradually deconstructed. The viewer is invited to engage in the relationship between human intimacy and the brutality of war choreography.
CHIC POINT by Sharif Waked (Nazareth, Palestine / Israel) Video Installation
“Chic Point ponders, imagines, and interrogates “fashion for Israeli Checkpoints.”
Male models expose body parts – lower backs, chests, abdomens – peek through holes, materials and standard clothes are transformed into pieces that follow normative fashion standards while calling them into question. Chic Point bares the loaded politics of the gaze as it documents the thousands of moments in which Palestinians are forced to undress in the face of interrogation, as they attempt to move through the intricate and constantly expanding network of Israeli checkpoints.”More info…
“The work is an attempt to explore world orders that defy geo-political definition. A red carpet-flag allows the audience to experience the glamour of walking down the catwalk, while unexpectedly being confronted with different political ideas regarding the fall of a totalitarian system.”More info…
MELTING POINT, 2014 by LeuWebb Projects (Toronto), Jeff Lee (Toronto), & Omar Khan (Toronto) Light Installation
“Located on the original shore of Lake Ontario, Fort York was built for defense. Over time, the Fort has stood its ground against enemy advances, expressways and condos as the lake’s edge has pushed further away. Situated in this context of protection and resistance is Melting Point, a sound and light based installation. Melting Point stocks a pair of cannons with an artillery of glowing good feelings, in the form of sparkling tributaries of light pouring from the mouths of the old weapons. Accompanied by a chorus of rolling waves and trilling harps, the work lays a defense agsinst the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light and creating a safe space for Art.”More info…
“Mismatched chairs are gathered from households for re-creation of the moment of a family function. Initiated by the audience, the movement of these objects creates the sounds of a family shuffling their chairs into position at the table.
The mirrored floor captures the physical reflections of the audience and the chairs, imbued with personal nostalgia, thus becoming the medium that retains and reflects private experience and memory.” More info…
BRIGHT BUNDLE 2014
“Bright Bundle is a light sculpture ablaze with pulsating light and sound representing the past and present of growth, prosperity, culture and the future. Set in the centre of Fort York, this 1000 metre ribbon of LED lights will glow and pulsate in a golden-white colour seen from a distance and beckon audiences from surrounding pathways towards it to bath in the glow of its pulsating lights and sound.”More info…
Wishing everyone a safe (and dry) night!
NOTE:Ascendant Line & Melting Point will continue to be on display until October 13.
“Before Day Break contemplates a sensitive artistic practice. Evoking the complexity of life itself, artists from diverse regions will offer singular perspectives in an attempt to cover different angles of reality. Through these practices they enable the audience to turn the ordinary into extraordinary artistic memory. Like the pixels in a photograph, human relationships, religion, socio-political and cultural behaviour are among the themes used to present a deeper message that speaks to the universality of the human experience. Motivated to challenge and surprise the viewer’s expectations, this vibrant environment will invite reflection on contemporary history, while juxtaposing it to Canada’s quest for inclusion and plurality. All of this leads to satisfaction of the eye and the intellect.Before Day Break defends and trusts the restorative power of art.” More info…
All images above by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.
Manifesto Festival 8th Annual Art Show features Visual Artists from around the GTA.
I met these two beautiful women, Esie Mensah and Sara Golish, at the Opening Night art exhibit at Manifesto two years ago. Esie was proudly standing in front of the stunning portrait Sara had painted of her. I noted both these women had serious style. But more than that, they had spirit. I have a knack for picking out the good souls in a crowd. They were both vibrant and gracious, two qualities this world needs more of.