Friday, October 29, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Probably Toronto's biggest fetish event, by Northbound Leather, where fetish is mainstreamed or mainstreamers fetishised... you decide

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Zombie Walk!

Brave Torontonians defend their city against a ruthless zombie onslaught! Will we survive? This may indeed by my last post...

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nuit Blanche 2010

Toronto's Nuit Blanche.  An all night contemporary art event that takes place all over Toronto, with more than 130 exhibits, events, performances and the like being presented to the public, from sunset until sunrise, to experience the city under a whole new light.

Like last year, on October 1st we took to the streets along with some 1,000,000 Torontonians to see an interplay of technology, art, music...  And this time we planned our route much better so we could visit parts of the city we didn't last year.   We spent some 7-8 hours on the streets, until we could no more.   And since it was our second time experiencing it, we saw it under a new light.

First, the best thing about Nuit Blanche, and its taking place in Toronto in particular, is the simple fact that you get to live in another world for a few hours.  Suddenly, it's the wee hours when people are out, eating, having coffee, wandering, enjoying art and performances, even children are out late! it's like entering an alternate reality where life takes place after dark... and that in itself is quite remarkable and special.   Another noteworthy thing are Torontonians themselves:  where else could you have tens of thousands of youth on the streets late at night, not a few of them with a few drinks in their system or high on drugs, with dozens of performances having to do with music, lights and movement, and yet have a completely civilised, polite and calm night?   Say what you may, that's one of the things I love most about this city: its people.   Finally, the sheer size of the event is truely extraordinary: 130+ projects?  It took us 7-8 hours to see some 20 of them!  

We had an awesome time, we honestly did.  But we also noticed one thing that we didn't notice the first time because, well, we were blinded by its newness to us:  a dearth of deep, questioning, controversial or reflective projects.   I know many may disagree and I must certainly concede I only saw a fraction of the projects, but I think I can safely say that most, if not all of them, couldn't get their deeper conceptual intention across and remained just as very cool works of visual/aural contemporary art.   That may be a recurrent problem with contemporary art, for sure, but still...  It seemed much more a night for entertainment with very interesting projects that a night for revelation, inspiration or self-discovery.   Again, there's over 100 projects I didn't see, and there's a good chance the zones I didn't visit might seriously contradict what I'm saying, so i can only talk from what I saw.   Nevertheless, there were two things that completely blew me away and made my night and, had they been the only ones I had seen, I would have been thoroughly content:   PiETa and Endgame (Coulrophobia):

PiETa.  If you now me, you should need no explanation for why I loved this piece.  And it wasn't even a project for 2010, it was a part of a project for 2007's Nuit Blanche.  PiETa was even more poignant for me as I was recently and suddenly judged as "persona non grata" by a (now former) friend based on my critical stance on religion in general.  The fact that an artist had come up (and out) with a piece like this was comforting; plus, I really thought it was a darn good project.

Endgame (Coulrophobia).  I mean, look at it!  Absolutely shocking and enthralling, playing with our ambiguous relationship to clowns, with that most horrendous of beings: IT, and taking advantage of the time (night) and the place (the project is set over a narrow, dark, ominous alley).  I loved it for its sheer emotional weight.

All in all, Toronto's Nuit Blanche is one amazing event, where the people make the city theirs, where it is simply not possible to have a good time, where there are quite a few gems to be found and which is, most definitely, unique.  Looking forward to Nuit Blanche 2011 in, where else, Toronto!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toronto International Film Festival 2010

With countless films from around the world on a dozen or so categories, choosing what to see at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is no easy feat.  In fact, last year we bought a 6-film package of films chosen for us by the festival's programmers.  It was an exciting idea, plus we were somewhat late for buying tickets anyhow (we had arrived to Toronto barely a month before), so our best best was to let chance decide.  And it worked out well.

This year, though, we were prepared.  We were ready well in advance to buy tickets.  We bought a 10-film package and, as soon as it was made available, we flipped furiously through the booklet that contained all the festival movies, soon realising that choosing your own films amongst dozens you know nothing of is, well, a daunting task (it had been so easy last year, letting the programmers do the job for us!).  Fortunately, I undemocratically and unceremoniously dumped the job onto the hands of the film-savviest of the two:  my habib!    

These are the films we saw, along with the corresponding links to my my other blog, 帥の遊記 LITE (Shuainoyuuchi LITE), where I posted comments after watching each film:

"Little Sister" (妹妹).  China-United States. 
"L.A. Zombie".  Canada. 
"Bunraku".  United States.
"Poetry" (시).  Korea.  
"Cave of forgotten dreams".  United States. 
"Our day will come" (Notre jour viendra).  France.

I greatly enjoyed most films.  Yes, most, not all.  We shouldn't have seen L.A. Zombie.  I'm even ashamed to say I watched it, and I really cannot understand how such the TIFF actually allowed the screening of what we saw.  Deplorable in the extreme.   So bad it wasn't even kitsch- or cult-bad.  But the rest were quite something, and they fulfilled their mission: we got to watch films that, most probably, we wouldn't have the chance of watching otherwise (which is why we chose not to watch Biutiful, since it was going to be screened commercially anyhow).

If you can, do try to watch any of those.  Each of them is quite special, and whether you're after the almost unaware awakening of poetry in one's everyday life through the lenses of pain (Poetry), or an absolutely mad quest with redheads as protagonists (Our day will come), or a not so polite f*ck you to the Hollywood and anglophone worlds (Film Socialism), they offer windows to worlds were not used to watching, and that in and of itself is quite remarkable.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Buck Angel...

...or a long due, long post on "gender", "sex" and "nature"

We met Buck Angel on a Wednesday (in June) at a party during Pride Week Toronto called "Switch".    There he was, just standing and chatting with what seemed to be a friend of his.  He was going to perform later, but at the moment he was wearing just plain clothes.   Even though there was probably no one at the club who didn't know who he was, no one was approaching him, no one was having pictures taken with him, no one was asking for an autograph...   So, when his friend left him alone, and  since everybody else was being respectfully distant (I have no idea how to otherwise interpret the star performer of a party not disappearing under a mass of fans), and since my habib was fed up with my dying to approach and not doing it, he gave me a good shove - and that's how I finally got close enough to say hi.   And despite being a seriously good-looking artist, unique and the first in his niche, and having received a number of awards, he was as affable as you could possibly get.  After his sizzling performance and before we left I had him sign for me one of his Buck Angel T-shirts, we had another chat, and we promised we'd see his performance at Toronto Pride on Saturday.  WE HAD MET BUCK ANGEL.  BUCK.  ANGEL. !

But WHO is Buck Angel?  Well, saying who he is based on what he does is not that difficult: he's an adult-film star and producer.   And he also is an activist, among other things, for empowerment through self-acceptance and for thinking outside the box when it comes to sexuality.    And why would Buck talk about self-acceptance, empowerment and sexuality?   Buck is a female-to-male transsexual, hasn't undergone genital surgery, was and is attracted to women,  is married to a woman, identifies as a man ("with a pussy"; his wording, not mine) and is attracted to men as well.   That's one big mouthful, and though my original intention was to try and explain that sentence, I now realise explaining it is far, far from easy...

Buck was born a woman.   Well, at least, when he was born, the general consensus was that he was a female.  And that happens with most of us: a look at our genitals and the doctor and parents more or less quickly judge which of two sexes we are.  Mind you, almost none of us has had a chromosomal test to ascertain if our chromosomes, indeed, correspond to what our genitals seem to indicate.  And yet 1 in 20000 men who look like men are actually women with two "x" chromosomes.   Still, 1 in 20000 is not that high.  A much higher figure, 1 in 1000 people, are born with some sort of hermaphroditism (that is, with both female and male genitals).  Doctors are quick to decide which sex the intersexed babies should be and usually take "measures" (surgery) to ensure that the product (and nowhere does this word for "baby" seem more appropriate) approaches as best as possible the selected sex.  I was shocked when I read about this (see Sexing the Body, chapter 3 - Of Gender and Genitals, by Anne Fausto-Sterling), but then come to mind a few cases of Olympic athletes who have lived their whole lives as one sex, only to discover that their chromosomes say something different.  All in all, saying what sex you are, and defining sex as something that can only happen as one of two mutually exclusive and clearly discernible options is a bit trickier that our culture wants us to believe.

But then comes another layer.  Since Buck's external appearance was read as female, society treated him as what many assume is the logical consequence of being a female: a woman.  That is, the GENDER society tried to socialise Buck into because of his genitals, was that of a female.  When you see someone on the street and you decide whether it's a man or a woman, unless you're at the beach, or at a nudist club or a similar situation, you're basing your decision on appearances and performance, not genitals.  You look at the hair:  its length, style, colour.  The clothes.  Accessories or lack thereof.  The walk.  Use of make-up.  You evaluate all this and arrive at a conclusion.  In your everyday interactions with the vast majority of people you come across, your judgment of whether they're a woman or a man is based minimally, or not at all, on genitals and internal organs, and exclusively or almost exclusively on outer appearances and on actions.   What matters is how someone acts.  In fact, if someone told a girlfriend, for example, "Can't you be more feminine? more of a woman?" we'd understand they refer to ways of ACTING, not to genitalia.   And acting is, well, exactly that, ACTING.  Depending on the time and place we're born, we learn from our parents and culture what the proper guidelines are to act like a man or like a woman (and, in a few cultures, as other genders).  Long hair and skirts have been the hallmark of masculinity in some cultures; at some point pink was thought of as a good colour for baby boys, because it was a strong colour; blue was for girls, because it was softer.  Of course, when you've been acting a role all your life, it may seem to you it's something natural, even biological, but in the end, it's just a role you've learnt  and internalised from your culture.

And even then, even when everything around you may point you in the direction of one gender or another, we are all individuals, with unique brains connected to unique bodies, and we may perceive reality differently.   Some people, no mater what their genitals may look like or what society may have told them, identify as something else.  During an important part of Buck's life you could look at him and think "that's a woman"; if you had asked family or friends, they would have probably said the same.  And yet, he didn't self-identify as one and, with time, he came to identify as a man: he uses male pronouns, he refers to himself as a man, and his appearance is what anyone would consider very masculine.  But he hasn't undergone genital surgery.   And he is at ease with his body.  In fact, in one of his websites he calls himself "the man with a pussy".   And that's how he identifies.  It doesn't matter if you believe men don't have pussies, it doesn't matter if you believe females are women and that's that.  His identity is his, and your opinion can change that as much as his opinion about your sex, gender and identity can change yours.

Being a male or a female (that is, sex) is not that clear-cut.  Neither is being a man or a woman (that is, gender).    Neither is identifying with one or the other. And all three are different things; closely related, but not even inextricably so.  And then there's other fun stuff, like the question of attraction and desire.  Again, our love for binary dichotomies shines forth, and we tend to classify everybody as gay or straight, man or woman.  Which leaves out all bisexual people.  Or marginally bisexual people.  Or asexual people.  Or people attracted to their same sex, but the opposite gender.  Etc.  By now, I'm sure I've completely lost you: thousands of pages have been written on the subject, and yet I'm tackling the subject in just a post! But that's where Buck comes in.

So, back to the question, who is Buck Angel?  Buck is... Buck.  An individual.  With his own very personal, unique, interplay of sex, gender and identity.   With the very basic human right to define himself who he is or to even leave that undefined.  It's people like him who open our eyes and bring to light the artificiality of our definitions, the limitations of our concepts and, unfortunately, our intolerance and bigotry.   It's an almost unavoidable human trait to try and classify everybody into categories (and, usually, into categories that come in pairs); it's a shorthand that allows us to make quick judgments and assumptions.    But we must never forget that it's just a way to comfortably sort people out, it's NOT REALITY.  Even if the majority conforms to categories, it's people that make them up, not the other way around.   People, individuals, are the reality and, if they don't fit in some  mental category of ours, it's US who have to adjust, NOT THEM.  I'd dare say the nature of being human is, well, the capacity of having no nature, and the freedom of being as one need be.

Thanks to Buck and all the brave people who dare be who they are, unabashedly, unapologetically and authentically themselves.

Please note: this photo set includes a full nude at the end.  If you may be offended by nudity, or watching it is illegal where you are, do NOT click the "PLAY" button.  

P.S.  Buck Angel has an official Facebook page as well as a Youtube channel.  There's tons of reading on these topics, but you might find the following interesting:  Sexing the Body (by Anne Fausto-Shapiro), Gender in History (by Merry E. Wiesner), Gender Trouble (by Judith Buttler), and PoMoSexuals (a compilation of writings by various authors). 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Nuit Blanche 2010: outstanding projects

These two deserve their own, special place here. Simply wonderful (in very different ways, of course).

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Nuit Blanche 2010

If you haven't done so yet and are in Toronto, join some 1,000,000 people enjoying an aural, visual, multimedia carnival of some 130 projects and installations. Works of serious criticism or inviting to deep or lasting introspection seem somewhat absent, making the whole event a very immediate, bordering on superficial experience. And yet, definitely very well worth braving the cold for it.

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