Monthly Archives: March 2014

FAC Off

On Saturday, I dropped off my husband and daughter at the AGO for some family fun time and stopped in on the Feminist Art Conference at OCADU. Only in its second year, the conference has enjoyed two fully sold-out events (with 350 attenders this year) and was endorsed by participants such as acclaimed photo artist Suzy Lake, and artist/activist d’bi young anitafrika.

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Suzy Lake

Talking to conference founder Ilene Sova, the story of the development of FAC is one that makes it hard to disbelieve in synchronicity.  Due to the highly charged nature of her Missing Women Project, then set to be shown at the Creative Blueprint Gallery last year, She sent out a call for submissions to set up a kind of discussion forum around the work. After a somewhat surprising and sometimes international response to a call for submissions, She decided to plan an entire conference, which was held at the Foundry for its inaugural year. FAC moved spaces after an OCADU student suggested it might be a better venue. Upon speaking with the student union, it turned out that OCADU’s students had expressed strong interest in feminist courses becoming a part of the OCADU curriculum. By the youthful gloss on the faces of most attendees, it seems we are no longer in any sort of “feminist backlash.”

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Performance artist Adriana Disman

The conference took place on the weekend of International Women’s day this year, March 7th and 8th and consisted of a show of visual art work at OCADU’s Beaver hall, artist and community panel discussions, and performances in dance, performance art and spoken word.

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Joan Lilian Wilson

The show at Beaver hall underlined a core philosophy behind the conference with art by newly emerging artists was shown alongside works by more established artists.  The artists were then invited to speak about their work as it related to a series of topics such as: well-being and patriarchy; body politics and language; division of labour; and others. She is quite passionate that the show and panel discussions being an opportunity for some of the younger artists to have a chance to participate in the kind of event that would normally be reserved for much more established artists.

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The vein of feminism supported by this conference seems to be a healthy one.  There are strong underlying values of mentorship, community, and health behind the larger idea of promoting and guiding various feminist art forms.  This overall theme was nicely summarized in the keynote address by d’bi. Unignorably passionate, it seemed at first to be an all-too-familiar rant designed to stir up a bit of frenzy, until she challenged the audience to commit their lives to their own self-care rather than “fighting a revolution” at the expense of themselves. It was a refreshingly realistic and achievable overall message that cuts into the core of challenges faced by many average women.

In my opinion it is this kind of wise simplicity, devoid of Mary Richardson style anger, that will make this conference productive and accessible to all.

Header image by Nikki White

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C2-MTL: Toujours Plus Haut!

Have you ever been sitting at home watching TED talks on Netflix and started secretly fantasizing about how cool it would be to actually be there?  Or are you just thinking, “Wow Trish, it’s time for you to get out of the house!”  Conveniently, I have a response to both of these possible courses of thought. Last Wednesday I was privileged to attend a C2-MTL pop-up conference held at Toronto’s home to ambitious creative socialites- The Spoke Club. The pop-up is one in a series of events hosted by the club to celebrate their decade anniversary.

I commenced my evening off the couch by mingling with the Spoke’s creative types. It evolved into my more introverted fantasy of listening to a selection of innovative speakers. The talks happened live on the third floor of the club, and were projected onto screens on the fourth floor for those who decided to remain closer to the risotto samplings. C2-MTL is the brainchild of the internationally renowned creative team, Sid Lee.

If you’re not familiar with them, Sid Lee is a multi-disciplinary creative team which defines their strategy of developing products and brands as “Commercial Creativity,” hence the “ C2” in this Montreal based 3 day conference. Like TED talks, the conference brings influential and esteemed speakers to regale and inspire its attendees. It also hosts a series of workshops and networking sessions to promote the organization’s mantra of creative collaboration. The collective spirit is furthered by multiple social media driven opportunities for participation in the evolution of conference themes and installations.

The creative stimulation of the talks was easily the highlight of the evening. Mouna Andraos, one of the founders of Montreal’s Daily Tous Les Joursdiscussed some of her organization’s various projects geared at changing spaces and bringing people together. Daily Tous Les Jours’ website describes the company as leading “multi-disciplinary projects at the intersection of participation, design and technology.” One intriguing intervention was their 21 Balancoires (21 swings) project, in which a series of 21 musical swings were installed into existing unused structures to create community convergence in a relatively idle area within Montreal’s city centre. When used, each swing would create a series of sounds along an octave in response to how high and fast the participant swings.

Mouna Andraos speaking at the Spoke Club

Mouna Andraos speaking at the Spoke Club

In another project by DTLJ, Giant Sing Along, originally commissioned for the Minnesota State Fair, participants are invited into a field of microphones to sing along to a juke-box-like selection of pre-requested songs. By encouraging random public participation, the team’s projects turn potentially mundane settings into environments of creative engagement and community interaction.  Likely considered the realm of urban design, many of the projects could arguably be deemed conceptual art pieces.

Karen Ward spoke next, with her playful chat on curiosity- enticingly labeled “Curiosity is to Creativity as Sex is to Procreation.”  Though maybe not the speaker I would have initially envisioned to address this provocatively monikered topic, Ward’s vaguely flirtatious style of delivery combined with her research infused content left me truly wishing I was signed up to attend the conference scheduled for  the end of May.  Particularly compelling was Ward’s ability to simultaneously highlight the relevance of her talk to multiple audiences- and also to the multiple facets of each individual within an audience.

Karen Ward speaking at the Spoke Club

Karen Ward speaking at the Spoke Club

Were you aware that curiosity is an arousal response? In a lab, rats that fail to demonstrate novelty seeking behavior are considered mentally or physically ill. This provocative introduction to her discussion on our society’s disturbing devaluation of the trait led listeners past examples of our acceptable disregard of curiosity into solutions for fostering it in daily life and business. Some of her more instantly gratifiying tips on fostering this sexy skill included: allowing the mind to wander on Pinterest; using Evernote to record daily inspirations; stepping outside of your media consumption comfort zone; and making a “curiosity date”a part of shaking up your regular routine, such as traveling or even just going on a walk in an unfamiliar neighbourhood- an idea inspired by Julia Cameron’s classic text on creative inspiration. Try visiting her company’s website http://www.curiosityinc.com in a few weeks for more inquisitiveness encouragement.

As engaging as much of the content and delivery of this event is, the somewhat dizzying $3,600 price tag is sure to scare off most orthodox members of the creative class. If you’re desperate to attend but don’t think you can pony up the cash, consider applying to volunteer for the event- applications for various opportunities are due March 21 of this year.

Header image: Daily Tous Les Jours’ Giant Sing Along