Monday, June 23, 2014

Nuit Rose

As you may have realized now by my constant posting, WorldPride 2014 Toronto is huge.  There's something going on, somewhere, all the time.  And even things that had never ever happened before, like Nuit Rose, a "queer focused contemporary art event in celebration of World Pride 2014 in Toronto".  Since this was an event with some 65 art installations, exhibitions, performances and more, from Saturday 7:00pm to Sunday 3:00am, in two queer areas of the city, if you don't like lengthy posts - this is your cue to exit.

We started at Zone 1, Queen Street West, colloquially known as Queer St. West.   First stop, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) which, by the way, always features great murals by the entrance, like this one: Herero Women Walking, by Jim Naughten.  Not officially part of Nuit Rose but what, you're not going to diss a mural like this just because, right?

Anyhow, back to Nuit Rose.  Our first event, at the MOCCA: an astonishing exhibition called "Over the Rainbow: Seduction and Identity", from the collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex.  You have no idea how many iconic queer icons there were here!  Mapplethorpe, Gretta Garbo, Keith Haring...  Loved it.

Second stop!  The Sex Offensive: Emancipating Gender, by The Cunning Linguists, at the Propeller Centre For The Visual Arts.  First of all - great exhibition with art about sex and gender  (oh how bizarre I'd like this, eh?).  I even spotted a number of things I'd love to buy as a very fitting memento of our stay in Toronto.  If I could afford it, of course.   But, second of all - guests read stories, poetry and texts about, what else, the politics of sex and gender, presented and read by equally gender-diverse people.  Just my kind of crowd in my kind of setting.

Should things ever get a bit too literary or political, there was always the option of an Awkward Glamour Party, by Mammalian Diving Reflex (awesome name!), at The Theatre Centre.   What a space to show off, walk a pretend runway, be silly, and party.  Because why not?  Period.

At that same place, the Theatre Centre, they had this beautiful installation called FeD, JOEL, OMAR and SEB, by Nigel Nolan (see? I credit all artists for their work, as we all should if we can).  At the place itself they gave the installation an alternative name, Argentina Boys for Sale, which gave you more of an idea about the installation's motif and development.   Anyhow, visually striking and conceptually special.

We kept walking westwards, towards the Gladstone Hotel.  On the way there, we stopped by the Powder Box Project, where artist Marlon Griffith decorated other people's necks with designs inspired by famous brands, using intricate stencils and talcum powder, as a social commentary on class divisions.

Getting closer to the Gladstone Hotel, there was this rainbow on the sidewalk - Rainbow 1.3 Kilometres, by Morris Fox & Brian Schirk, covering the same distance as that between Queen's Park to the 52nd Toronto Police Division.  Which was the route followed by the 1981 demonstration against Operation Soap, when the Toronto police raided four Toronto gay bathhouses.   It's a shame there wasn't some visible sign about this somewhere, so the vast majority of people (including us) missed its significance at first glance.

So, there's this radio show called Roynation.  About gay arts and politics.  And at Nuit Rose, people were offered the chance to participate, LIVE!   And you could get advice from the older gay guys, spinning a wheel (see photo) to try your luck with a subject.  I wanted to try this, but we were rushing to catch a bus to take us to Zone 2 of the festival, so...  Darn.

What does a Mad Queer Brain LOOK like?  Artists from the collective Workman Arts created this multimedia installation, wonderfully lit pink, as an interpretation of a mad queer brain.  The space itself was filled with paraphernalia and images, and deserved quite some time to look at, ponder and, why not, rest on the rug and pillows in the middle.  Actually, we visited this place after the Cunning Linguists event, but the installation looked even more pink the darker it got, so this pic is of the place on our way back, a while after we had got in.

Once we reached the Gladstone Hotel, we realized we were at the wrong side of it all.  You see, the organizers provided a shuttle between Zone 2, where we were, and Zone 1, the Church Wellesley Village, where we were headed, but there we realized the shuttle departed from the MOCCA side, not the Gladstone Hotel side!    So, we rushed back to where we had started and, on our way there, we came across the Light Parade, performing The Cocoon Project, by Joey Bruni.   The concept?  Simple:  a reminder of our link to nature, with cocoon-shaped lamps inspired by the diminishing numbers of Monarch butterflies due to human damage of their habitat.

So, the shuttle that was going to take us to Zone 1 departed from Artscape Youngplace, where we had a good 20 minutes to look at the installations and art over there, like Silence of the Femmes, by Ruben Llanillos, a compilation of femme themes and trash art, mixing items like makeup, quilts, pink vintage frames, condoms, cigarette butts and razors.  The artist - a trans femme queer person of colour.   Take that and think.

Obviously, no art installation in Toronto would be complete without interactive spaces, like Unlimited Edition, by Elizabeth Sweeney, where everybody and anybody was invited to create their own sculpture with materials provided there, create their own art, and even document and number it.   

At the same space, there was this - Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, by Rachelle Lee Smith.  So fitting for such a pink night, queer youth (14 to 24 year olds) writing their own thoughts and experiences on top of their photographs.  Thoughts about happiness, about coming out, about bisexuality...  

You may or may not be aware of location-based gay hook-up apps.  They're ubiquitous, they're used by tons of people, and artist Adam Moco decided to use them for, instead of hooking-up for sex, creating intimate portraits of the strangers he met, in his project Tryst Pic.

Finally, it was time to get on the "Bus of Perpetual Joy" (the shuttle I mentioned before taking people between Zone 1 and 2) where the Toronto Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – from the Abbey of the Divine Wood - made the ride a lewdly musical and joyous one, led by delightful Sister Penny Tration.    By the way, in case you've never heard about the Sisters, they're not a religious group (but they welcome people of all beliefs).  They have abbeys and missions in a number of cities and countries in North America, Europe and South America, where they do fundraising, visit hospices, educate people about safe sex, and have a fabulous time.  And just so you know, sisters can be gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, cisgender (look that up), white, black, Asian...  so basically the one common trait is that they all have a very serious community service vocation, and that they look fabulous!  Oh, and we got a Carnal Bliss Kit!  Which included a condom, a candy, and instructions!  

After a nice half-hour ride of singing, joking and talking (I must stress what a delightful person Sister Penny Tration is), we arrived at Zone 1:   the Church Wellesley Village, where even if you didn't want to see any installations or events you could just wander the streets with the crowds celebrating Pride on the pedestrianized Church St.  But since we'll have the rest of the week to go up and down the street as often as we want, we went for the rest of  Nuit Rose, heading to the 519 Church St. Community Centre.

There, at the 519, I took this photo of I Love Toronto, by Link Tong.  This piece and others by him (part of a collection made for this night called "La Nuit en Rose") were made of hundreds of handmade paper roses.  I can't imagine the work and time that must have taken! 

As at Zone 2, there was our chance to behave silly, too.  Inside the Balloon Room, by Sly Maria, a bisexual artist, photographer and burlesque performer based in Toronto.  I entered a sheer fabric covered structure filled with countless latex balloons, some of which were blown up by participants themselves.  Adults playing with balloons filled with the breath of others inside a mesh structure conceived by a burlesque performer.  Neat, eh?

Last, and most definitely not least, we enjoyed a concert by the Counterpoint Community Orchestra, Toronto’s LGBTQ orchestra.   It has a 30 year history.  Can you imagine?  An LGBTQ orchestra THIRTY years ago?  Now that's commitment to creating a positive space for queer people!  Oh, AND, for this night, they had a special guest - a bandura player!   The bandura is this gorgeous Ukrainian instrument, a combination of a lute and a zither, with 68 strings.  It looked beautiful, and it sounded as beautiful as it looked. 

As you can see, we missed quite a number of art installations and performances.   But I was happy, and tired, and excited about all this effort to celebrate and to create spaces for queer artists and performers.  I must definitely agree with Link Tong, I love Toronto.

By the way, this is my 1,000th post!   Yay!  So glad it was about such a special night!

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