Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Dykes, the French, the Madness

When a city needs to celebrate Pride for an entire week (not a Saturday, not a weekend, A WEEK), you know you're in for A LOT.

In a single Saturday we saw thousands of lesbians, bisexual women, and their allies (straight women, transgendered people, gay men, everyone!) marching down Yonge Street, on their motorbikes, on their bicicles, half-naked, very aged, very young, very femme, very butch, kinky, syndicated... you get the picture: of all sorts and colours.   This, along with the Trans March, is one of the two that still identify themselves as marches and not as parades, as still carrying a political message (as very well befits the politically active oriented Toronto lesbians).  And flooding the streets with unabashedly proud dykes (mind you, the official name of the march was the Dyke March) was indeed quite the message. 

Later on, the francophones of Toronto did their part to maintain a presence in this very un-French city, even managing to make it a super fun presence with a drag queen from Montreal: Barbada!   I'm assuming you've all had the chance to see a good drag queen.  But if you haven't, it's a must.  And this one was absolument fantastique!   And with a whole troupe to boot!   And singing and joking en française, mes chers.  C'était fun fun fun.  Maybe somewhat banal, but fun.

And, as if that had not been enough, you know what else there was to do?  Just walking around the EIGHT BLOCKS that have been pedestrianized just for this celebration, ogling gorgeous people, dancing at or by the numerous open air stages with live music, DJ's and performances, and simply partaking in what can only be called madness (a politely Canadian version, fortunately, but madness nonetheless!).

Happy next-to-last day of Pride!  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

there is no TRANSformation without rEVOLUTION

Toronto Pride 2013 started on June 21st and today, June 28th, one of the marches I enjoy the most took place: the Trans March.  It's electrifying, it's about change, it's about diversity, it's about rights, it's about identity.  It is a celebration, but it's also a questioning, a questioning of the policing of gender at work, at borders, at birth.  

This is one of the more striking, moving marches.  A march for the right to be yourself, whoever that self may be.  The right to construct yourself, however you might construct that self.  The right to discover yourself, whichever self you may unearth.  In safety.  In legality.  In ways that make the majority uncomfortable.  In ways that sometimes bring out disgust, fear, and anger in others.  

This is one of those marches that not only celebrates, but that says that we're not there yet.   That brings us closer to our civilized, embracing, diverse, compassionate selves, while at the same time makes us face our fearful, conformity-loving, intolerant selves.  

And this is a march that finally got to march down Yonge Street, taking its rightful place among the other Pride marches.  A march bigger, louder and more diverse than ever.  I had an absolute blast.  Happy Pride!

"Love is love is love"
"End violence against trans folk"
"I love and support my trans friends"

"There is a richness to our experience"
"I love my trans grrrlfriend"

"Trans rights are human rights!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Klô Pelgag à la Franco-Fête!

Yes, Toronto is quite an enjoyable Anglo North American city.  But it's also quite removed from Canada's French culture.  Which is why this concert we went to on this last incredibly sunny Sunday was super refreshing:  Klô Pelgag and her group, all from the French province of Québec, played for the few Francophiles at Dundas Square braving the heat for a full hour.

Klô's voice and music had a certain poetically playful quality, she was completely in charge and at ease, and her deep Québec accent and relaxed way of relating to us made it even more enjoyable.  In short: on l'a aimé (we loved her).

I was going to post a few clips I recorded of the concert.  But they don't do her justice!  So I encourage you to visit her website and listen to her music.  Vous ne le regretterez pas!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Super moon by the CN Tower

Supposedly this year's biggest full moon.   Frankly, my untrained eyes can't tell the difference.  But also, who cares?  What a wonderful excuse to go outside and look at that enthralling massive rock circling above our heads.  

As for the second photo, I don't know, I kind of liked the idea of all that black space around it... sort of as a reminder of it's being suspended right there in space... 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lost in the Memory Palace, at the AGO

It was one of those Sundays where we were not really sure what to do, and we decided to head to the Art Gallery of Ontario (the AGO) just because it was nearby, there's always something on, and a friend had mentioned something about very cool installation there.

That was one GREAT decision.

First, on our way to the second floor, where the first part of the installation was, we stumbled upon some sculptures by Sorel Etrog, a Romanian artist.   I was fascinated.  Actually, his exhibition had other stuff than sculptures, but these interlocking needle-like pieces really captured my imagination, like some organic-mechanic being sprouting up from a single spot on the ground, I kept going around them, exploring their interconnecting parts, their curves, their angles...  The photo at the top is of one of his pieces that caught my attention the most.

And then, it was time to enjoy "Lost in the Memory Palace", by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller...

First, The Forty Part Motet (a reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis, 1573).  Eight choirs, each composed of five voices, each voice singing through an individual speaker, all forty speakers arranged so one can sit in the middle and be completely immersed in the choir's singing.  A moment to meditate, to do nothing but surrender oneself to the sounds...

On the 4th floor there were more installations.  Though all were interesting, three of them were superb, according to my uninformed, ignorant and biased opinion:

Dark Pool

You open the doorway to a dimly lit room filled with numerous random objects: old books, "wish machines", an old radio, the remains of a grandfather clock, and countless odd pieces of furniture, mechanical objects, dishes, and phonographs... As you walk around and look at objects or approach them, fragments of sound activate, you hear half conversations, chimes, radio broadcasts...   It's quite fascinating as, when the room is half empty, it remains almost silent but, as more people walk in and around, the room comes alive with sound, some audible to everybody, some only to those who'll put their ears to a gramophone...  

This was such an intimate and interactive experience I didn't dare take a video or photo, regrettably.

Experiment in F# Minor

This incredibly ingenuous and enthralling installation consisted of a table on which numerous round speakers were laid, of all sizes.  In the middle, the speaker of a gramophone.   Also somewhat dimly lit, with some directed lights so visitors cast shadows.  As long as nobody approaches the table, there is just a simple sound, a lone cello (or similar instrument, I don't know), coming from the centre speaker...  But then, as you start walking around and you cast shadows over the speakers, different instruments get activated, increasing in complexity the more speakers are affected by your shadows!  Percussions, guitars, a voice...  We spent quite a long time in that room, playing, letting the music dim down, rousing it again, focusing on certain speakers, observing how other visitors discovered how to interact with it...   I absolutely loved it.

The Killing Machine  

But this one, this was by far the best.  This big contraption, the size of a small room, with an electric dental chair in the middle, and a big red button just outside the machine.  Once you hit the button, the machine comes to life, an eerie and beautiful music that taps some primal fear begins, two robotic arms dance around and above the chair elegantly, like two cold blooded murderers proceeding to torture and kill their subject in a superbly elegant, intellectual way.   That machine does come to life, activated by us, who command it to kill  with the detached ease of pushing a button.  Chilling.  Mesmerizing.

The Lost in the Memory Palace is on until August 18th so, if you're in Toronto, don't miss it.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Century of Chinese Cinema: Mainland / Hong Kong / Taiwan

The TIFF Bell Lightbox is showing, from June until August, a staggering 80 Chinese films from the last hundred years.  Including special presentations.  Us, who no matter how loud we may have complained about certain annoyances of living in the Middle Kingdom, still hold China and Chinese culture close to our hearts, couldn't miss this!

While I'm certainly not going to watch 80 films, we're off to a very good start with the first four we've seen:

First, Wednesday, "Comrades: Almost a love story" (甜蜜蜜).  Besides being a movie that got its fair share of awards, there is something about its portrayal of yuanfen (fate, 緣份) that was moving even for me.  Besides, if you've ever lived in China, the song 甜蜜蜜 ("Very sweet") is completely inescapable, and watching the movie that had it as title was, in a way, an old debt I had waiting to be paid.  Christopher Doyle, who acts in the movie and has his own important place in Chinese cinema, was there to offer us insights into the making of the movie, and to offer some unexpected amusement at his arrival and at the end of the presentation, as it was obvious he had had more than a couple of drinks before, LOL. 

Next, Thursday we saw "Farewell My Concubine" (霸王別姬).  You've probably seen it.  Another Chinese gem. And after all my years in China, I enjoyed watching it again and catching so many more details about the objects, the story, the history, the character's accents...  Totally worth the rewatch.  Plus, Chen Kaige (陳凱歌) was there!  He told us how the actor that played the "concubine", Leslie Cheung (張國榮) was completely ready to start working on the film, how he was devoted and showed up every single day even if he himself wasn't shooting a scene, how he spent six months in Beijing learning about his role, and we all remembered how he died 10 years ago...

Finally, Saturday we sat for two hours of Chinese silent cinema!  "Laborer's Love" (勞工之愛情) and "Romance of the Western Chamber" (西廂記).  With a panel of experts explaining to us the many different situations that led to many of them being destroyed or lost, like being recycled for the silver in them, their high flammability, their destruction by people who saw them as cultural garbage, or simply there being too many small studios who would have just a single copy of the films and who would close after producing that one single film.   Accompanied by accomplished pianist Laura Silberberg.  That was another world alright, another world... 

I'll probably be catching plenty more of these films.  Can't fight some nostalgia, hey?  And if they're throwing in some directors and actors for good measure, the better!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film Festival 2013

Originally, I wasn't too crazy about this festival.  I had even ventured to say that the films that didn't make it to the Toronto International Film Festival were the ones that made it here, a more convoluted way of saying that these films were just "not good enough".   After seeing my first screening, under the name "Gay Shorts: I want you to want me", and haughtily deciding that only one or two of the shorts had been good, I felt justified in thinking that way.

Until... until I paid attention to one of the promos for the festival.  And I heard people praising it as an important forum for them to hear their own voices, to see themselves represented in film, to have their ideas brought forth.  And that's when I realized I had been judging the festival and the films/shorts wrong.   Straight people can turn to any genre, any sort of film, of any quality, in any language, and see heterosexual characters represented.  The offer is, basically, limitless.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer people can't say the same.   Of course, quality is something to aim for, always, but when there are so few stories talking about you, about what you want, what you fear, what you find funny, or simply about other stuff but with people like you as main characters, then quantity acquires special importance.  And in that sense this festival plays a role I now admire, as a space for all non-straight people to see themselves, and quite frankly also an opportunity for straight people to take a peek into a world that intersects theirs in different visibilities.

And, on top of that, there were actually quite a few films and shorts that I did enjoy a lot and that I am glad to to have seen:  

Mr. Angel (USA)
About one of the most famous female-to-male transsexuals around: Buck Angel.

Boygame (Sweden)
About two young men in Sweden, at the border of sexual discovery and exploration.  

Dont brejk maj turbofolk hart (Serbia, Germany)
About chauvinism, ethnic and nationalistic tensions, with a lesbian background.

For Dorian (Canada, Australia) 
A moving short about a father and his son, who has Down Syndrome, about growing up, and letting be.

Undress me / Ta av mig (Sweden)
A both cold and intense short about the role of others' perceptions of ourselves in the making of our gendered personas. 

Silver Stiletto (Australia)
A very well done violent comedy with a vengeful drag queen as lead.

Ink Deep (Canada)
A sensitive and artistic portrayal of 5 months of hormone therapy, with tattoos as background and as storytellers.

Walks like a... (Canada)
Another sensitive and "life is what it is and we are who we are, period" short.

All in all, a good experience.   And even somewhat transformative for me.  Will look forward to next year's.