“If you look about, you will see that only operations that are well established, high-turnover, standardized or heavily subsidized can afford, commonly, to carry the costs of new construction. Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighbourhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. Supermarkets and shoe stores often go into new buildings; good bookstores and antique dealers seldom do. Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. but the unformalized feeders of the arts – studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and arts supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions – these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighbourhoods and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.
As for really new ideas of any kind – no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be – there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”
Last year's Unconference was held at Canadian Stage. This year it's at Dancemakers. Photo by Amanda Lynne Ballard.
Last year Praxis covered how The Unconference Was Unbelievably Well Attended. Well it’s that un-time of year again, so dust off the part of your brain that lets you meet and communicate with new people and get down to Dancemakers this weekend.
Registration and coffee starts at 9:15 am. The event starts at 10am (being early is great!) Lunch will be around 12:30/1 and it will be done by 6 with social time after. Pre-registration is $10 and can be done by calling 416-367-1800 or emailing email@example.com
Two events of note this week where people will get together to talk about the confluence of the arts and the internet:
Thursday April 22, 12pm to 2pm.
Alterna Savings Boardroom, at Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue, 4th flr.
With Matt Blackett (Spacing Magazine) and Michael Wheeler (Praxis Theatre).
Deadline to register for this session is Tuesday April 20, 2010.
Yours truly and Matt Blackett, Editor of Spacing Magazine, will be speaking about blogs and blogging as part of the TAPA Trade Series presented in partnership with The Creative Trust. (First order of business: Lets start the gradual phase-out of the word “blog”.)
To register please contact Alexis Da Silva-Powell, TAPA’s Corporate Partnerships and Membership Associate at firstname.lastname@example.org OR Shana Hillman, Creative Trust’s Program Manager at email@example.com
Arts Journalism: Staying Critical in the Digital Age
Tuesday April 20, Presentation 6:30 p.m., Reception 8:00 p.m.
Innis Town Hall. 2 Sussex Ave. @ University of Toronto
Moderated by Bronwyn Drainie, Editor of the Literary Review of Canada. Featuring Kamal Al-Solaylee, Assistant Professor at Ryerson and former theatre critic at the Globe and Mail, Seamus O’Regan, co-host of CTV’s Canada AM and host of Arts & Minds and The O’Regan Files on Bravo!, and Globe and Mail columnist and feature writer Kate Taylor, currently on leave as the Atkinson Fellow for 2009-2010.
Presented by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, this forum looks at the cultural giants of the past to the celebrity culture of today and how arts criticism and literary journalism have changed. Mainstream media cutbacks and the proliferation of blogging means everyone is a critic. Can the web save arts journalism?
At 6:16:11 PM on April 15 Counsellor Minnan-Wong's motion to "torpedo" the Billboard Tax being connected to arts funding failed miserably.
by Michael Wheeler
If you’re sipping your morning coffee it’s time to spike it with something, and if it’s closer to lunch crack something bubbly – because folks – rarely is there such a clear cut victory as this:
Years of community-based consultations and organizing has resulted in exactly what Torontonians had called for by a 5-1 margin. The revenue from the new Billboard Tax will be dedicated to arts funding for the public sphere.
There’s nothing else to say really. Tip of the hat to Devon Ostrom and the entire Beautifulcity Alliance for their work, intelligence and sticktoitiveness. There were some dark moments there.
Next time someone tells you grassroots organizing doesn’t work – or the current generation of artists is politically apathetic – feel free to send them the link to this post.
I remember I was playing in my grandma’s backyard after some wedding or something. And um… I had this beautiful white dress and I was playing with some boys on the back lawn when I felt it. All hot all over my legs and I didn’t know what to do so I just lay down. I didn’t want none of them to see it you know so I just lay down like someone lays down when they’re reading a book or something with their head in the hands and all. Like I was just enjoying the day or something when really my guts are screaming and I think I’m dying I really did think this was it I was leaking all my insides out and I was just lying there in the grass smiling, feeling my blood pouring out from under me and mixing with the dirt. I felt my blood mixing with the dirt and I was just lying there getting my white dress all dirty underneath but none of the boys could see that. They just saw me lying in the grass and smiling like I was sunning myself or something and they said “Come on, let’s go to the park” and I didn’t move. And they called at me again and said “Come on Magpie, let’s go to the park” but I wasn’t getting up and showing them I was dying. I just kept lying there and they started getting mad at me and saying “Stop laying around like a cow” and they started calling me a cow because I told them I just wanted to lie there, maybe all day. (Pause) And then they got bored with me and left. And then… when I knew no one was watching… I went inside and made myself clean again. That’s what I did Cody. I made myself clean again.
BeautifulCity founder Devon Ostrom talks to Late Night in the Bedroom about the history of the billboard tax, the logic behind its implementation, and how some city councillors would like to hijack the revenue for other uses.
by Michael Wheeler
It’s all come down to the next week. As coveredover the pastfew monthson this website, it’s been a long haul for the BeautifulCity Alliance: after years of depositions, presentations, reports, and finally votes by City Council, we’ll have our answer when final approval is given to the city budget over April 15th and 16th.
Here’s some of what’s at stake:
Whether the visual pollution created by billboards will be counteracted by arts funding for the public sphere, or whether a billboard tax becomes like parking tickets and stripper licenses a new revenue stream for the city’s tax base.
Whether or not the original intent of the tax as presented to Council, recommended by City Staff, and supported by Torontonians by a 5-1 margin in a recent EKOS poll is actually reflected in the budget.
Whether or not the city meets its Lastman-era commitment to move per-capita arts spending from $18 to $25. Vancouver spends $19 per capita, Montreal spends $32 and New York spends $54.
Whether or not Toronto City Hall is a place where a grassroots, decade-long groundswell of dedicated engagement to provide a long-term sustainable approach to improved public space and arts funding is possible. Do vested interests have the ability to hijack community-based initiatives to in order to lower their tax rates? Where does the real power lie at City Hall?
Demonstrating support and momentum behind Budget Chief Shelly Carroll’s motion to dedicate the billboard revenue to the arts will determine the answer to these questions. Things are starting to heat up: The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and The National Post all recently ran pieces about this motion, and Mayoral candidates are showing a willingness to step into the fray. Councillor Carroll’s Facebook status indicates she will be relying on the Web 2.0 political class to demonstrate support for her stand:
What can you do?
Go to beautifulcity.ca and follow the simple to follow instructions to indicate to Councillors on the Executive Committee that they have your support to use the billboard tax for its intended purpose to enhance public spaces with art.
Props to these Councillors and/or Mayoral Candidates who have already indicated their support:
Councillor Shelley Carroll, Budget Chief
Councillor Joe Pantalone, Mayoral Candidate
George Smitherman, Mayoral Candidate
Councillor Joe Mihevc
Councillor Janet Davis
Councillor Howard Moscoe
Councillor Paula Fletcher
(Just because they’re listed here it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be contacted and congratulated for their principled stance.)
Fuse Magazine, XPACE and Images Festival 2010 invite you to the after party for the Fuse sponsored Images screening of Kevin Everson’s Erie and the launch of Fuse Magazine’s Spring issue Bikes, Boats and Big Ideas.
When: Thursday April 8, 2010. Doors Open: @ 8:30 pm — 1:00am
Where: XPACE Cultural Centre, 58 Ossington Ave (at Queen)
What else: Dance the night away to the beats of DJ DJ Tanner and DJ Triple-X Admission is free!
THE SPRING ISSUE OF FUSE PRESENTS:
Jesse McKee and the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective’s Steve Loft, Candice Hopkins and Leanne L’Hirondelle in conversation about changing the artistic landscape in Canada and internationally
Janna Graham on the labour politics behind big European art spectacles
Amy Zion on Art courtesy of the Olympic Games
Artist Project by Reena Katz
Reflections on our Parliamentary Democracy by Michael Wheeler
Reviews by Glen Lowry, Bart Gazzola, Debra Antoncic, Portia Priegert and Chris Gehman
IMAGES SCREENING OF KEVIN EVERSON’S ERIE:
The images Kevin Everson has recorded and compiled in Erie operate within the realm of the ready-made, with nearly the entire film composed of a series of unedited single- takes with sync sound, presented back to back. Forsaking montage for the most part, Everson refuses to insert an editorial presence through the tropes of narration or text, and instead favours a linkage which pivots upon the only direct dialogue in the film, spoken by three workers from an undisclosed General Motors factory. While their conversation centres upon the fate of the company, a united demand for leadership doesn’t stop at the corporate offices in Detroit, but instead radiates far beyond to all levels of government and the public who are now implicated in the crisis.
Melissa Hood looks over her notes during rehearsal. Photo by Hugh Probyn
by Aislinn Rose
In October 2009, Struts and Frets blogger Kris Joseph posted On theatre in society: porosity in response to Mike Daisey’s How Theater Failed America, about the current dysfunction of funding models for American theatre, as well as Chris Ashworth’s Toward a New Funding Model for Theater, in which he argues that “the process is the product”, and therein lies a new approach to funding. Joseph asserts in his post that he is, “now more convinced than ever that theatre can and must distinguish itself from film, TV, and new media by being completely porous to its audience.” He goes on to write that theatre artists must share their process by becoming integral parts of the communities where they work, and that the community should feel completely part of that work.
The post inspired an equally interesting conversation in its comments section, with Praxis Co-Artistic Director & Director of Section 98 Michael Wheeler commenting that the work we were doing with Section 98’s Open Source Theatre project was in part an attempt to make our process integral to our relationship with our audience, in preparation for our work-in-progress presentation for Harbourfront Centre’s HATCH season. We though the issues we were addressing would benefit from discussion and wanted to get our community involved as early in the process as possible.
Another commenter wrote to say that he normally runs screaming from the room when it comes to “art as process” work, with only a few exceptions. However, he was in complete agreement with a point made by Ashworth (in reference to sharing the development process with the audience) about editing out “the boring bits”. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Easier said than done I think.
It’s been a few weeks since our HATCH presentation and we’re still sorting through the feedback. In an effort to open ourselves up to our community, we recorded our process online and encouraged audience members to text us during the show with the texts posted live to our blog throughout the presentation, and we asked our audience members to continue sending us their feedback after they’d gone home and had a chance to reflect. Some chose to return to our blog with that feedback, and others emailed us or sent messages via Facebook.
Here’s our best attempt to provide an unbiased overview of the synthesis of this feedback under the major categories it addressed.
Assistant Director Laura Nordin operated the texting software during the performance and transferred the comments to the website. Photo by Hugh Probyn
A text received during the show:
An unsolicited Facebook message after the show:
Do I want to meet? Hell yes! I had to google “experience design” to find out it was an actual thing.
And in response to the texting:
And from a texter with a smart phone with access to our blog throughout the show:
And from a post-show blogger:
The Q&A at the end of the show yielded a number of comments on this topic, with many saying they found the texting to be distracting, or that they prefer to lose themselves in the theatre rather than participating in every day life activities like texting. Others really liked that they were able to communicate with us throughout the show, but they wanted to see it further integrated into what they actually see onstage. Lots to think about here!
Multiple Plot Lines:
Greta Papageorgiu presents “Section 98 for Dummies”. Photo by Hugh Probyn
Section 98 was investigating the history of Civil Rights in Canada, with a particular eye on the Communists of the 1930s, the FLQ and the War Measures Act in the 1970s, and Afghan Detainees in the modern era. Some audience members found the inclusion of so much information to be confusing, or questionable:
The audience at the Q&A seemed to divide neatly into two camps on this issue. On the one side there were people who felt that the multiple topics were too scattered and they were having trouble tying it all together. Another perspective suggested this was not the time to condense our story yet… that we should “keep blowing it up and making us make the connections ourselves (which I’m sure we’ll continue to do for several days)” as one participant commented. Or, as it was put another way, “I kind of like you throwing a bunch of shit up there… you’re giving us homework”.
Photo of the Three Generals from my iPhone during rehearsal.
As part of the presentation, we also included verbatim texts of the testimony given by General Rick Hillier, Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, and Major-General David Fraser after the explosive testimony of Richard Colvin, in which he alleged that Canadian Soldiers knowingly transferred Afghan detainees to torture in Afghan prisons. Here’s some of what we got during the show:
So we discovered that most people found this material to be deadly boring (including my mom). There were, however, a few people who found the transcripts to be interesting, while others suggested we could absolutely continue working with them… once we had sculpted it with our point of view. “There’s no such thing as neutral.” This is fascinating to me since we had been so concerned about taking the material out of context and were committed to presenting it exactly as we found it.
Image by Darren O’Donnell
Omar Khadr also caused some disagreement. I am, of course, not referring to the real Omar Khadr, the one who was captured at the age of 15 and lives in Guantanamo Bay. I’m referring to another of our Open Source Theatre commenters who went by the moniker of “Omar Khadr” in response to Open Source Entry # 4: Checking for a Pulse. Some of these comments were included in our show. Here are some of the responses this material generated, in the order in which they were received:
Some thought the sections to be “extraneous” or “questionable”, while another said, ““Omar” really turned out to be a lynchpin of the show.”
Fake Omar requested that we not take him out of context so we recorded his text using an imagined internet/robot voice. While people couldn’t agree on whether or not we should have included this material, most could agree that the robot voice should go.
Margaret Evans as “Jim” Eugenia Watts. Photo by Hugh Probyn
If there’s one thing that most people could agree on, it was Communist/Theatre Artist/Revolutionary Jim Watts… the kind of character I would have liked to encounter in Canadian History classes in public school. Here’s what people had to say about her:
More post-show feedback continued in this vein, with suggestions that Jim really is the anchor of our show. To me, this is one of the most successful aspects of this workshop because we were fascinated by Jim while developing Tim Buck 2 when this show started at the Fringe, but she really didn’t emerge as a centrepiece in that iteration of the project.
So, what do we do when half of our audience tells us they hate something about our show, while the other half says, “it was our favourite part”? One commenter may have addressed the challenge of conflicting advice best:
“If I start commenting on Linux, [an open source, collaboratively developed operating system] no one is going to listen, for very good reasons (I don’t know much about code.) So, how, in this world of aesthetic and political difference, can you tell […] who to listen to – who shares any values.”
This question of “who to listen to” is a great one, and will be on our minds as we dig deeper into all of the feedback. Which of the responses can we add to our “source code” to enhance our work, and which responses will “crash” it? As we continue in our efforts to be “porous” with our audience, please stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss our own responses to the feedback, and where Section 98 is headed.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”