THIS WEEK IN TORONTO: Reel Artist Film Fest, The State of Blackness, The Artist Project & Building Black

Drawing of a black woman's torso and heart like a anatomical drawing superimposed on itStill We Rise by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

The body, the face, a space – artists’ ability to mirror who we are & who we can be.

This week in Toronto incredible talent will be gathering to celebrate but also critique.

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacket
The Introduction #8 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Black outline of the backside of a woman lying down filled in with geometric patternsAfro-priation by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

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REEL ARTIST FILM FESTIVAL

Logo for Reel Artist Film Festival Tonight Canadian Art’s amazing documentary film fest, RAFF (Reel Artist Film Fest) launches. Under the direction of the former Executive Director of Canadian Art, Ann Webb, RAFF became the sweet spot in the year for incredible inspiration. The Opening Night has become a big art star event with this year’s guest of honour Kehinde Wiley in attendance. Known for his vibrant portraits of black men that reference the portraiture work of Renaissance painters, Kehinde has (with some trepidation)  moved on to paint women. An Economy of Grace is the documentary that follows Kehinde as he searches for the women who will become his new muses.

RAFF will also be screening two of Art21’s New York Close Up shorts this year. The first is by LaToya Ruby Frazier, one of the artists short-listed for last year’s AIMIA AGO Photography Prize.

“Her work interrogates how the toxic postindustrial geography of Braddock, Pennsylvania has shaped multiple generations of her family, acting as a mirror for the complex social problems that beset America today.” Read more…

The second short is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.

“In this film, Rashid Johnson discusses the fluid nature of black identity in America and its escapist tendencies, from the Afrocentric politics of Marcus Garvey to the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra.” Read more…

Portrait of a mirror image of a black man with dreads and suit jacket
Portrait of Rashid Johnson from RAFF website.

Painting of young white girl lying down and tracing the lines of a damask pattern
Vivid Blue by Eric Robitaille, The Artist Project Toronto.

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THE ARTIST PROJECT TORONTO

The Artist Project Toronto LogoAnother great art party happens Thursday night with the Opening Soirée for The Artist Project Toronto. Running until Sunday The Artist Project offers three full days to experience beautiful work.

Eric Robitaille’s pieces show his talent as a graphic designer with stories emerging from the many colour washes and textural layers of his work. “During the last few years, the development of several new techniques has allowed for a more spontaneous and raw style, balanced throughout with meticulous detail.” Read more…

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacketThe Introduction #5 & #11 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Artist Samara Shuter paints crayola coloured canvases of men in suits because the suit “has represented something for decades; power, productivity, strength, economic prosperity, and hard work.” Read more…

upclose photograph of towers like city skyscrapers made of colourful lego
Lego City Tower on Hill Elevation by Laird Kay, The Artist Project Toronto.

Laird Kay has studied planning and design so it’s not surprising his photography reaches back to the concepts of city planning via the playful medium of lego as the building blocks.

“Lego City Elevation, Is it Dubai? Is it Hong Kong? New York? Singapore? Toronto? Vancouver? Or all of the above? Cities used to be the result of collective will and a desire to shape – to control – our environments. They were expressions of the things that happened in them. Now they’re about branding and image. Like plastic, like LEGO City, they’re no longer built to last – they can be pulled down when fashions change. LEGO City expresses the modern absence of community in city-shaping. Although stylized, these photographs of LEGO City show us how the line between plastic and uninhabited has become virtually indistinguishable from the “real thing”.” See more…

Image of 3 white styrofoam cups on white background
Tears in the Ice Box by Noah Gano, The Artist Project Toronto.

The technicolour spectrum contained in Laird’s work on how places start to eclipse our human essence with their artificiality is in sharp contrast to the minimalist whiteness of Noah Gano who also makes use of materials the are divorced from the natural. “Navigating through themes of experience and identity, he works conceptually in photography, sculpture, and collage.” See more…

There is much to see at The Artist Project and much to buy with all artists exhibiting work that is for sale and ready to find a new home. Plan on making a purchase!

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Logo for The State of Blackness ConferenceAlso on Thursday The State of Blackness Conference begins.

“This conference consists of both closed working sessions and public events. The conference opens with one and a half days of closed working sessions designed to provide opportunities for artists, educators, curators, scholars, and cultural workers to engage in intensive and critical collaborative discussions about the current state of blackness and the challenges and strategies employed to increase visibility. Emphasis will be placed on developing networks of engagement and knowledge exchange while developing methodologies and practices that inform the future of black Canadian artistic production and teaching.”

Labeeb by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

One of the panelists is Abdi Osman a “Somali-Canadian photographer whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities.”

Also included on the public panel at Harbourfront Centre (Saturday 2 pm), are the artists Rema Tavares (work seen above), Olivia McGilchrist (work seen below) and Erika DeFreitas.


Discover Me…Series 1 & 2 by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

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Heidi McKenzie, Curator of ‘Face Value’ from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

Logo for Face Value Show

“What you see isn’t necessarily who you are”

Corresponding with the conference is the exhibit Face Value by curator / artist Heidi McKenzie.

“The way people look, and the way they are looked at, has a profound effect on the person being seen. For the bi-racial or mixed-race person, the simple act of being seen by others can be fraught with tension and ambiguity. The familiar unconscious act of identifying and categorizing a person’s race based on their face value slips beyond the concrete into the murkiness of the grey zone.”

Olivia McGilchrist Artist Statement from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

(whitey) Discovery Bay by Olivia McGilchrist, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference 


Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

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Building Black at Daniels Spectrum

Another artist using Lego in his work is Ekow Nimako who uses the toy blocks to produce pieces that are about the less-than-playful issues around identity and racial narratives.

For the month of February his work in the show Building Black is part of Daniels Spectrum’s programming around Black History Month. On the main floor of the Arts Centre, Ekow’s work greets you at the side entrance and lines the hallway outside the theatre spaces. His masks reflect the cultural legacy Ekow inherited from his parents who immigrated to Canada from Ghana. They are each infused with their own personality and speak of the strength and tenacity of culture.

His other figures have darker stories which Ekow, also a writer, provides. Mounted on the walls is the poetry he has written for each piece. A golliwog sits less than comfortably, performing a stiff smile that would make Paula Deen feel nostalgic. The life sized figure of a child dressed like a flower girl is exhausting in its detail but also in the back story. Ekow was researching slave narratives and considering the lost girls who would never be granted the innocence of childhood dreams.

Flower Girl Requiem

Forever innocent they say,
Free from taint or world decay,
Pretty basket filled with blooms
Plucked from the earth none too soon.

Love she for all her hope and youth,
Her pretty gown, the purest truth
Her basket and the whites within,
The blooms of cotton, soft and grim.

The world can never seem so stark,
So bright, so safe, so cold and dark
As when gazed upon through childhood’s eyes,
For which my precious dare not oblige.

Alas, her aisle will not be strewn,
For she who’s ever loved is gone
The child of flowers, picked and praised
Forever innocent, they say.

Recent spread in Grid Magazine on Ekow installing his show.

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As part of the Building Black show Ekow will be giving an artist talk Talking Black this Sunday 3 – 6 pm at Daniels Spectrum, Regent Park.

More details and schedules for the events can be found on the websites listed below:

Reel Artist Film Festival (Wednesday – Sunday, Opening Party Tonight)

The Artist Project Toronto (Thursday – Sunday, Opening Party Thursday Night @ Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place)

The State of Blackness Conference (Open to the Public on Saturday @ the Harbourfront Centre)

Face Value (Thursday – March 2nd, Opening Reception Thursday Night @ Gallery 1313)

Daniels Spectrum Black History Month Shows (on now for the remainder of the month)

WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES: The Good Men of Toronto Take to the Streets

“Because gender based violence is not just a woman’s issue.”

Around the world we are seeing men step it up with initiatives that bring awareness to violence against women. Recently, in Bangalore, India, men took to wearing skirts to open up dialogue around sexual assault.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/bangalore-men-skirts-protest-rape-india_n_2481990.html#slide=1989118“Why does wearing a skirt make a difference? It’s a satirical take on the issue to draw attention to the absurd idea that what a woman wears invites sexual assault. Wear that skirt as a symbol of your support to a woman’s right to wear what she wants, be who she is, exercise her rights, and be safe in her city. Nothing shows more solidarity with women than breaking barriers and boundaries of “his” and hers”. More info…

Close up image of men's feet while wearing high heels with business suits

In Toronto we have the White Ribbon Campaign and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes where Toronto men get out to walk a block in heels.

This year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes takes place on Thursday, September 26 from 12 – 2 pm starting at Dundas Square on Yonge Street. Thanks to all the fabulous men of Toronto who participated last year. WE LOVE YOU!!!! And thanks to all the fabulous men of Toronto participating this year as your efforts help create change and safe spaces for all people no matter their sexual orientation and gender identification.

Men in suits walking in the middle of street with heels on

There is an old saying…

“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” That’s why we’re asking you to put on a pair of high heels and join the White Ribbon Campaign to Walk A Mile in Her Shoes®. On Thursday September 26th, 2013 we’re all going to help end violence against women and girls, one man-sized step at a time.”

Register here

Donate Here

See you there!
Street map of Toronto around Dundas Square, Yonge Street.
Men in high heel shoes holding banner saying Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: Remembering 600+ Aboriginal Women Missing & Murdered in Canada / US

Barefeet of woman walking on carpet alongside the beaded tops of moccasins

Walking With Our Sisters Commemorative Art Installation

For the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples MIXED BAG MAG recommends participating in this project that moves nations towards healing.

“Over 600+ native women in Canada have been reported missing or have been murdered in the last 20 years. Many vanished without a trace with inadequate inquiry into their disappearance or murders paid by the media, the general public, politicians and even law enforcement. This is a travesty of justice.

Walking With Our Sisters is by all accounts a massive commemorative art installation comprised of 1,600+ moccasin vamps (tops) created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to this injustice. The large collaborative art piece will be made available to the public through selected galleries and locations. The work exists as a floor installation made up of beaded vamps arranged in a winding path formation on fabric and includes cedar boughs. Viewers remove their shoes to walk on a path of cloth alongside the vamps.

Each pair of vamps (or “uppers” as they are also called) represents one missing or murdered Indigenous woman.  The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short. Together the installation represents all these women; paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. They have been cared for, they have been loved, they are missing and they are not forgotten.”

HOW TO PARTICIPATE -You can join  the Walking With Our Sisters Facebook Group

HOW TO DONATE – By joining WWOS’ auxiliary Facebook Group “Auction for Action” you can take part in the 20 day auction to raise money to fund the costs of this project. Many talented artists have donated their work in an effort to help raise money.

Or make a direct donation the following ways:

EMAIL TRANSFERS
Are to be made payable to:
Walking With Our Sisters
wwos@live.ca

DIRECT DEPOSIT
Accepted at any TD Canada Trust branch to the community account:
Walking With Our Sisters
Branch #2406 Account #5208603

CHEQUE OR MONEY ORDER
Made payable to Walking With Our Sisters and mailed to:
c/o Christi Belcourt
133 Barber St., P.O. Box 5191
Espanola, ON
P5E 1A0

PayPal
Walking With Our Sisters Link

The tops of moccassins with beaded image of woman with long hair on either side, flowers aroud the bottom Vamps by Dolly Assinewe. View more on Walk With Our Sisters’ website.

WORTH CAMPAIGNING FOR: Sexuality, Gender-Bending, the Freedom to Be Who You Are…

Two female dancers dressed up in front of old garage in back alley

& The Freedom to WAACK wherever you want! Check WAACK REVOLT’s Indiegogo Campaign!

It was a late night tweet from one of Toronto’s finest MP Kristyn Wong Tam that put MIXED BAG MAG onto this exuberant project – WAACK REVOLT A Dance Film.

Watching the video I was sold on the fact that this team has tons of talent.

Female Dancer posing in front of garage door

Female dancer posing in front of garage door
Waack Revolt’s Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (above) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale (left).

Already familiar with dancer Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (MIXED BAG MAG almost had her as part of the MASHUP STYLE shoot – next time Diana 😉 ) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale from the incredible Toronto dance troupe Kaha:wi (check out MIXED BAG MAG’s post on Kaha:wi’s The Honouring) it seemed an easy decision to get on board to help spread the word!

MIXED BAG MAG’s interview with WAACK’s Director / Writer Sonia Hong was in a word ‘soulful’. At a time where there is ubiquitous imagery representing a too-cool-for-school vibe we often mask our deeper human qualities like vulnerability and the yearning we all have for connectedness behind that chill exterior. I appreciated that Sonia was an open book and ready to share her history as to how she became a film artist who focuses on LGBTQ issues.

Bullied for not fitting in, somewhere along the way and at a young age, Sonia reached in to that spiritual place that we all have inside to find her source. From hiding her light to shining bright, Sonia had done such a remarkable turnaround with her confidence that a teacher who noticed shared this with her then asked her to be the valedictorian at her Grade 8 Graduation.

She built on that confidence and started to attend theatre summer schools where she said improv helped her try on new characters, play around with identity, and continue to grow more comfortable in her skin.

She also spent time working at Legal Aid alongside her mother. “If I hadn’t of gone to film school I would have gone to school for social work.” A keen sense of social justice, she takes her role as an artist seriously developing projects that can help kids struggling with their identity and place in the world.

Two young females sitting at a desk look at each otherWriter / Director Sonia Hong (right) with Producer Allia McLeod (left).

“Community building and creating an inclusive community is what I have always been really passionate about. I want to help young people feel empowered and to know from an early age that it’s ok to be yourself.”

Somewhere in the interview we got to speaking about girl culture – for me coming of age with Madonna and Sonia coming of age with the Spice Girls. Whether we agree with it or not, pop culture is what meets kids where they are at. As a female, Madonna taught me that my sexuality was for me alone to own and to be aware of it and my decisions around it but not without having fun – Express Yourself!; for Sonia the Spice Girls belted out the message that  she understood to mean be yourself in the most bombastic way you dare – Zig A Zig Ah!

Our musical tastes have matured (I think?!) but for both of us the concern is that in today’s hyper-sexualized Britney-Miley-Nicki world sexuality now is only about an act of ‘performance’ for another’s gaze (mostly young girls for the validation of males) and something is getting lost in the delivery along with the chance for youth to develop a strong sense of self.

WAACK REVOLT takes all that on and promises to be sexy short with a definite message regarding understanding, owning and standing up for your sexuality. Commissioned by the Reel Asian International Film Festival as a collaboration between dancers and filmmakers, WAACK REVOLT will be premiering at this year’s festival.

Two female dancers posing in front of old garage doors in alley.

This cheeky love story, WAACK REVOLT. A DANCE FILM, sets the stage for a playful journey that opens during an audition in 1940s Hollywood. It is here that our two lovers first meet and begin their love affair with one another – which centers around their shared passion for “Waacking”. Outraged by their “Waacking” dance style, a visual metaphor for their unconventional love and identity, the public exclaim that they aren’t permitted to “Waack” in public, and must keep it behind closed doors.

In response, the couple escapes to different iconic time periods, sliding and interchanging between genders, ultimately blurring the lines entirely as they “Waack” their way to a full, vivid expression of themselves and their love.”

Female dancer posing in front of garage door

Female dancer posing in front of garage doorUsing dance to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.

The artistic medium of dance has given Sonia the perfect vehicle to investigate gender as it refers to sexuality.

Sonia goes deep into the exploration of how gestures sub-consciously communicate the assertion of power or an act of oppression and she explains that when they are thinking about the choreography they don’t want the dancer playing the male role to come across as a predator or the dancer embodying the female character as not without movements that communicate empowerment.

“I am really exiting about gender-bending with the actual choreography as music and dance are very gendered.”

Waack itself is a form of dance that evolved during the disco era and much like Voguing was embraced and developed by communities on the fringe of the mainstream as a way to own power around race, class and sexual orientation.

“To me, as a 12 yr old girl, the Spice Girls’ “Zig A Zig Ah” could mean anything you wanted it to much like this style of dance.  You should be able to be yourself anywhere and you should be able to WAACK wherever you want.”

Support WAACK REVOLT by donating to their campaign to raise the money to cover production and post production costs here.

Follow along on Twitter @WaackRevolt and Facebook.

WAACK ON INDIEGOGO!

Two female dancers posing in back alley lanewayAll above images provided by Sonia Hong of Waack Revolt A Dance Film.

DANCERS
Emily Law aka Em Fatale

Professional dancer and founding member of the Toronto house dance crew Warehouse Jacks. Emily has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Gemini for her work with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di
Multi-disciplinary artist, who has appeared on several progams including MuchMusic’s “RapCity”, and CBC Music’s “How to Dance to Classical Music”.  Diana is a member of b current’s prestigious rAiz’n ensemble – home to some of Canada’s most successful performing artists, playwrights and producers.

MUSIC
Maylee Todd

A dynamic and multi-faceted artist, based in Toronto, Maylee’s music combines organic and electronic forms, including elements of boogie, bossa, space funk, psychedelia and soul. She’s shared the stage with the likes of Janelle Monae, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Little Dragon, and The Budos Band. SOCAN has recently nominated her for the coveted songwriting prize. Get into the ‘Waack Revolt. A Dance Film.” groove with some of her funky tunes. www.mayleetodd.com

CREW
Sonia Hong (Director / Writer)
Allia McLeod (Producer)
Glyde Barbey (Associate Producer)
Celeste Diamos (Editor)