Weathering Architechture at Hatch or The Dispensation With Artifice

As I was watching Filiz Klassen's performance/lecture creation Weathering Architecture at Harbourfront Centre on Friday night, I found myself thinking less about the actual content of the piece and drifting into a meditation on what is happening with performance in Toronto right now. Not that the work wasn't enjoyable; it had a lot of elements I really like. What I was thinking about was how often I’ve been seeing these specific elements in performance lately.

There's a kind of work (dare I call it a genre?) that's emerging in Canada right now. I’m not sure yet what to call it, but it has a number of defining characteristics I’ve observed and will now attempt to list in a particularly dry and academic tone:

  • Performances are staged as lectures or discussions, rather than narrative works; text is address directly to the audience and the themes that the artists wish to discuss are presented in their pure form, rather than through a story or metaphor
  • Performers use their real names, rather than pretending to be other people
  • Performers use microphones when speaking, giving a conversational rather than theatrical tone to the work
  • Video is used in the performance specifically to show the audience things that need an up-close view, rather than exclusively as a design element
  • As the audience filters in, the performers are in the space, talking or setting up the equipment for the performance
  • No care is taken to hide the technical elements of the performance; all of the wires and cables are visible and function as a design element, and in some cases are actually used by the performers (i.e. tripping over or getting tangled in them)

If I were to try to sum up all of these characteristics into one thing it would be a Dispensation With Artifice; a sort of end to all the “pretending” that we as theatre artists have been doing for so long. In his 2004 piece Suicide Site Guide to the City Darren O’Donnell talks about his frustration as an actor, constantly having to pretend, when he actually just wants to talk to people about things that matter. Though that show was still performed in a fairly actorly manner, the drive behind it has really started to manifest itself in his later works, and I think we are starting to see it as well in this new kind of performance I’m talking about.

For those of you who attended theatre school, I’m sure you can all still remember that lecture you got in first year, about how theatre requires the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” on the part of the audience; in order for the show to work, we must put aside our rational conviction that what we are watching is actually just people walking around a space speaking words that were written by someone else. Essentially, we have to pretend that we are not watching people pretend.

I’ve been suffering from a “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” fatigue for while and if this type of work is any indication, other artists are as well. Since 9/11 the way we engage with media has changed dramatically and there is a sense in our culture of people wanting to see things that are “real” even if, like most Reality TV, they are actually quite contrived. So how has that played out in the world of performance? I don’t know if we fully understand yet, but if the way this genre (there’s that word again!) is evolving is any indication, it would suggest a similar movement towards a kind of work that feels “real” as well.

Oh shit! I’m supposed to be talking about Weathering Architecture. So, the performance had things that worked and things that didn’t. It could have used a slightly heavier dramaturgical hand, to cut down sections that were repetitive or just went on too long. I’m genuinely interested in the central issue of the show (the relationship between the citizens and the architecture of the city of Toronto), however I didn’t feel like it was really addressed in a new way. We already know that we have lots of ugly buildings, that the Gardiner Expressway sucks, and that biking in this city requires a pseudo-death wish, however considering the creator of the show is actually trained as an architect, I would have appreciated more solutions to the muck we’ve gotten ourselves into, rather than just pointing out that we’re in it.

Though the content of the show left me wanting more, the visual and sonic aesthetic was stunning. From the all-white blocks that composed Laird MacDonald’s set, to Dan Browne’s video images that were projected on them, to the immersive sound environment created by composer Dan Goldman, the show was a joy to look at and listen to. Chad Dembski brought his characteristic befuddled charm to the performance and was a perfect contrast to creator/performer Filiz Klassen’s serenity. The strongest moment of the piece was the video segment at the end in which the two engaged in a discussion of the ideas Klassen has about material innovations that could be made to the architecture in the city. Her ideas are both revolutionary and achievable and I wish that this had been the starting point for the discussion rather than its ultimate destination.

Though not yet a perfect piece (and the Hatch Series isn’t supposed to be about perfection anyway) Weathering Architecture certainly made for an enjoyable seventy-five minutes of my life. Though I didn’t feel its creators completely succeeded in putting across the message they were trying to, it was still an opportunity for me as an audience member to think about things in a new way. And whether it’s the relationship between architecture and human beings or the aesthetics of new performance, the fact that a show makes me think about something makes it worth seeing and writing about.

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On the subject of "The Future of Canadian Stage Company"...

Received the press release below this afternoon.


Natasha Mytnowych Appointed Associate Director of Artistic and Audience DevelopmentNatasha Mytnowych Appointed Associate Director of Artistic and Audience Development

Toronto, ON (March 27, 2008) – Martin Bragg, Artistic Producer of The Canadian Stage Company, today announced that Natasha Mytnowych has been appointed Associate Director of Artistic and Audience Development, a newly created position, effective April 1, 2008.

Working in conjunction with the Artistic Producer, the Artistic Director (to be appointed) and the Director of Marketing and Communications, Ms. Mytnowych will be responsible for the Company’s artistic development and audience development strategy, programs and activities. This will include: creating and executing a long-term strategy for the development of artists including managing existing programs and developing new ones; overseeing all play development activity including sourcing scripts, facilitating workshops and organizing public presentations in collaboration with the Artistic Director and Consulting Dramaturg; and developing and executing an audience outreach and education strategy with the support of the Community Relations Manager.

Martin Bragg states, “Natasha is part of the vanguard of a new generation of artists who will ensure that our art form grows and develops. We look forward to a dynamic new era of development for our community of artists and the audiences of the future.”

Ms. Mytnowych is the Founder and Program Director of two of The Canadian Stage Company’s successful artistic development initiatives – BASH! and THE GYMNASIUM.

An award-winning producer, director, playwright and designer, Ms. Mytnowych was awarded the inaugural Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist from the Toronto Arts Council Foundation in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments and potential as a director and arts leader. She was also nominated for the Ontario Arts Council’s John Hirsch Award for Emerging Directors and the Canada Council for the Arts’ John Hirsch Award for Emerging Directors.

Ms. Mytnowych has produced, directed and initiated numerous critically-acclaimed theatre and multi-disciplinary projects. She is currently Artistic Director for Company Theatre Crisis, dedicated to developing and producing contemporary works, and Artistic Director for Theatre Revolve, which empowers young women from diverse communities through the creation of live theatre, artistic training, mentorship and leadership development. For three years, she was the Artistic Producer of the Paprika Festival, a training program and festival of new works by artists under 21 at the Tarragon Theatre. She has been the Associate Producer for the AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival, Producer for the 26th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Artistic Associate for Nightwood Theatre, Associate Festival Director for Nightwood’s Groundswell Festival and Under-21 Associate Director for the Rhubarb! Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. She initiated and facilitated Nightwood’s Emerging Actor Program, was the Assistant Festival Director for the inaugural and second Hysteria: A Festival of Women for Nightwood Theatre/Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and co-produced and stage managed the Barbadian tour of Lisa Codrington’s Governor General’s Award-nominated play Cast Iron.

She has directed plays for numerous theatre companies in Toronto. Recent directing projects include: The Russian Play at Factory Theatre, a Dora Award-nominated play by Hannah Moscovitch; Gulag: Love Among the Russians/post-democracy/USSR; In Full Light; I Think of You Erendira; and Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Plays/365 Days (1st Constant). Upcoming projects include directing post-democracy by Hannah Moscovitch at the Banff Colony (a play recently presented at the Rhubarb! Festival), and assistant directing Mikel Rouse’s Dennis Cleveland for Luminato: Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity.
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The Future of The Canadian Stage Company

Unless you’ve been living in a media dead zone for the last few months, you’ve no doubt heard the big news from The Canadian Stage Company. Back in February, Artistic Producer Marty Bragg announced that the beleaguered company would lay-off eleven members of its staff, as part of a bid to save the company from financial ruin. Since they are currently running a deficit of $1 million on a $10.7 million annual budget, the company has had to cut some of the fat. Unfortunately “the fat” in this case, has been the bulk of their artistic staff and all of the plays from the Berkley stage next season.

When the company was founded in 1988 with the merger of Centre Stage and The Toronto Free Theatre, they had a mandate “to inspire and support senior Canadian playwrights and identify emerging Canadian voices”. If a copy of their season brochure has passed through your hands in the last few years, you’ll know that they’ve deviated from this mandate considerably, programming primarily British and American scripts.

To be fair, I don’t think producing works from abroad is bad thing at all. I remember vividly when I saw Angels in America at Berkley Street in 1996. For a budding homo and student of the theatre who felt deeply compelled to create work addressing specific issues in the world, seeing that show was a life changing experience. I'm glad that Canadian Stage brought that play to Toronto, because I wouldn't have seen it otherwise, and that experience was integral to my development as an artist.

They've also produced some great Canadian work including a few of Ronnie Burkett’s masterful puppetry creations, George F. Walker’s Heaven, and Brad Fraser’s Poor Superman. Their play development program, headed by the stellar Iris Turcott, has been a major stepping-stone for many writers, even when the company hasn’t ended up producing the scripts they’ve developed. Though they are co-producing three shows with smaller companies at Berkley Street next year (which likely means the financial support ends at giving them the space for free) they are not staging a single Canadian play at the Bluma Appel, which as we know is unfortunately nothing new. Both the media and the general public have been complaining for years about the lack of Canadian work being produced by this company. I myself have had more than a few late night drunken conversations about the irony of an organization calling itself “The Canadian Stage Company” hardly producing any Canadian works.

I’d be willing to let that slide if they were staging groundbreaking American and British plays, but the truth is that the work on that stage for the last several years has been lukewarm at best. I saw The Clean House at the Bluma a few weeks back and didn’t even bother to review it, because the whole exercise was so uninspired, it wasn’t even worth my time to trash it. Fortunately, my artistic soul was saved later the same evening when I caught Small Wooden Shoe’s It’s a Matter of Scale at the Rhubarb Festival. The stark contrast between the quality of experience these two shows provided really got me thinking. While I feel terrible for Iris Turcott, Patty Jarvis, Katherine Grainger, and the rest of the staff who’ve been axed as pawns in the giant chess game of keeping this organization afloat, I can’t say I’m at all sad about the prospect of the entire company going bust. Let me rephrase that; if the whole place burned to the ground tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear.

As BASH artist in residence at Canadian Stage during the 2006/07 season, I got a brief glimpse of the inner workings of the company; enough to know that neither would I want to take on the challenge of helming an organization like that, nor would I want to produce work there or at any company of similar magnitude. One of the things made clear to us was the astronomical cost associated with producing work on this scale. Paying out the IATSE staff, Front of House, and building costs for a four week run at the Bluma Appel is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250,000. And that’s before you've paid the artists. Sets, costumes, actors, designers, playwright royalties, and a director will double that, bringing the cost of an average show in that space to $500,000. Can you imagine what the independent arts community could do with that kind of money?

Part of what makes producing work at the Bluma so challenging is the sheer size of the venue, which weighs in at a massive 867 seats. In order to break even on a production, the company needs to sell around 50% of the house for each performance, which is a hell of a lot of tickets. During our BASH sessions the question came up of whether or not “867-Seat-Theatre-Plays” are being written anymore. Companies in Toronto who have a successful record of producing Canadian work are doing it on a much smaller scale, presenting to audiences of 200 or less per evening. So what to do with the gargantuan space that is the Bluma Appel? Keep trying desperately to fill it with mediocre international work year after year in the hopes of having "a hit" or ditch it in favour of the more exciting season that can be presented solely at the Berkley?

This question also came up during BASH and the response that Marty gave was that closing the Bluma would result in the company loosing such a large amount of funding that they would have to cut a substantial portion of their staff. When he said it then, he made it sound like that was something that he'd want to avoid, and yet here we are a year later, with a full season of mediocre work at Bluma and eleven pink slips forked out to devastated staff members. Was this the smartest decision under the circumstances? Though I don’t profess to have the business sense to run an organization of this size, from where I’m sitting it most certainly was not.

A lot of people, including journalists, artists, and members of the general public have been grumbling that this slump in the company’s history is a signal that Bragg should bring his tenure as Artistic Producer to an end and hand over the reins to someone more qualified to do the job. I’d love to think that the solution is a simple as that, but I fear it’s far more complex. Could any other person in his position have saved the company from the situation they are now in? Whether it’s theatre companies or entire countries, there will always be people who will look at a past leader’s legacy and trumpet that they could have done better. Maybe Bragg just somehow skipped over thirty great new Canadian plays that would have filled the seats at the Bluma and kept the company afloat. Maybe another Artistic Producer would have sniffed out a different palette of international works that would have been both critically and financially successful. Maybe if someone else had been running the whole thing, the company would be in great shape and I would have one less thing to write about. Maybe. Or maybe not. Theatre has changed a lot in the last fifteen years and it would be great to say that the mess that Canadian Stage is in is all Bragg’s fault, that he’s a giant fuck-up, and should be publicly lynched or at the very least, sent out to pasture at some summer repertory company. I’d love to be able to say that, but the truth is, I don’t think that things would be much better if it had been anyone else. I don’t think that anyone, Canadian or otherwise, is creating theatre that suits the scale of the Bluma Appel these days. Even the mega-musicals Lord of the Rings, Hairspray, and The Producers, have failed to make their mark on this city in the last few years. Is it possible that theatre like this just shouldn’t be made any more? I sure as hell hope so.

Rather than have Bragg throw in the towel and get someone a little more fresh faced and edgy to take the reins, I have a different proposition. Get rid of the whole fucking company, raze both buildings, throw up some condo towers in their place, and fork that $10.7 million over to artists across this country who are creating innovative, compelling, and relevant work that actually touches the lives of Canadians beyond giving them an opportunity snooze in their high-priced Hazelton Lanes wardrobes and to say they took in some “culture” over the water cooler the next day. The artistic community deserves a substantially higher quality of work from our so-called cultural leaders and our society as a whole has a right to better use of the public money that this organization has been bleeding. Read more!

Stitch at Lennox Contemporary

Waiting in the lobby for the start of Anna Chatterton and Juliet Palmer's piece Stitch on Saturday night, I couldn't stop thinking "Holy Shit! I don't know anybody here!" Usually when I'm attending performance events in this city, 80% of the audience is composed of friends, acquaintances, former lovers, and past collaborators. However the sold out crowd assembled at the Lennox Contemporary gallery contained exactly three people whom I'd crossed paths with in the past.

I have a feeling this is in large part due to a kick-ass review the piece got in the Toronto Star. Though it was likely to the production's benefit in terms of ticket sales, I have to say I'm a bit surprised that the Star sent John Terauds (who normally covers classical music) to review the piece as opposed to a theatre or performance critic. In his less stellar review of the show in The Globe and Mail, theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck says that calling your company an interdisciplinary collective can be confusing for newspaper editors, as they don't know whether to send theatre, dance, music, or art critics to review your work. If this is actually true, then these editors need to catch up on the last thirty years of performance in Canada. Interdisciplinary work has been around for a while now, and if we're going to have any sort of effective critical discourse about it, we need writers who actually understand and have followed the development of this art form through it's history.

Besides giving me an opportunity to note the obvious lack of my artistic contemporaries, waiting for the show to start was a great opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations of people in the lobby, who would normally get their culture at the Four Seasons Centre or Roy Thompson Hall. I often hear people berate "The Blue Rinse Set" who see work in less experimental venues as somehow unworthy of receiving or incapable of understanding our downtown- experimental-art snob creations, but I think these audiences are often underestimated. They may not always know immediately how to respond to a piece of work like this if they haven't seen anything like it before, but (especially with a set up like this, where the audience is constantly confronted by each other) it's fascinating to watch people as they process the experience of the performance.

Perhaps as a response to this audience, the creators of the project decided to employ the standard "House to Half, House Out, Blackout, Lights Up" cuing sequence that is almost always employed to signal the start in conventional theatre. After the lights come back up the three performers enter the space, and begin the show with a beautiful choral piece, accompanied by the sounds of cloth they are ripping as they sing.

Having worked in both stage management and Front of House, I'm convinced that this lighting sequence is employed, not because it somehow primes the audience to receive the artistic spectacle they are about to witness, but because it gets everybody to sit down and shut up at the start of the show, thereby making the jobs of SM/FOH's easier. I wouldn't normally make such an issue of the of lighting cues used to open a show, but in this case I felt a bit let down. I would have loved to have the piece begin more organically, with the performers simply entering at the appointed time, rather than using the technical elements to subdue us the audience, into being ready to receive the piece.

After the first number the performers move into the back space of the gallery and the audience (after a moment of confusion) follows them and sits in a single row of fifty chairs arranged in a circle. I have to give big props here to designers Sarah Armstrong and Kimberly Purtell (Set/Costumes and Lighting respectively) who have created such a gorgeous environment it could easily be viewed as an installation on its own without the performers. Armstrong dresses the three women in costumes from three different time periods and also uses sewing machines and chairs from the same time periods. I think the choice of having each woman seated at a different machine than the one corresponding to their time period (i.e. the woman in the most contemporary clothes is using the oldest, foot-powered machine) was likely intended to suggest that they are in similar positions then and now in their respective sweatshops of employment, however my experience was one of confusion about the choice, rather than giving me a greater understanding of the commonalities of their situations.

The three women sing and sew together, blending Palmer's beautifully crafted music with Chatterton's signature pun-heavy word play, as they give us glimpses of their individual threads. A few of the people I talked to who saw the piece complained about the lack of a cohesive story among the three, but this didn't bother me at all. Just being in the beautifully designed space letting the sound wash over me was enough. I do feel from a design perspective it was really a missed opportunity to have the women mime their work, rather than actually sewing real cloth. It would have been beautiful to watch reams of fabric pile up on the floor as the show progressed and if it’s ever performed again I hope they would consider adding this as an element.

Though I take issue with how they chose to open the piece, I have to give credit to the creative team including director Ruth Madoc-Jones for the ending. After their final song, the performers exit the space leaving us, the audience, to sit for what felt like several minutes before returning for the bow. Giving us this time, not just to digest what we’ve seen, but also to force us to actually look at each other as people who have just shared in an experience together was one of the best moments I’ve had in the theatre in a long time. Recognizing that even though I hardly knew anyone when I got there, that having shared this experience of performance together has forever connected us as human beings reminded me what theatre is really all about. Read more!

Istvan Kantor's Transmission Machine

If you've never heard of Annabel Chong before, you're just not up to date on your pornographic pop-culture. The famed wank-flick actress shot to stardom in 1995 when she set the world record for the largest gang bang ever recorded on film--having sex 251 times with 70 different men in the space of ten hours. She once said in an interview that sex was good enough it was worth dying for and Istvan Kantor starts his piece Transmission Machine which opened at The Theatre Centre on Thursday night, by quoting Chong, and equating sex with art; if sex is worth dying for then art is worth dying for.

I didn't really think much about sex when I was watching his piece. Instead, I kept thinking back to the panel on Digital Media at the Culture Congress. Not so much because Kantor uses video as a major part of his work, but because I think his piece answered some questions (albeit indirectly) that the panel didn't about how the presence of digital media in everyday life has prompted changes in the creation and dissemination of performance.

The biggest change I've observed in performance with the advent of digital media is that now artists need to have a website and DVD's of their work to send out to presenters. It's clear watching Kantor perform, that he's an artist who truly understands this. During the performance, I counted no less than three videographers and two photographers who spent the entire piece documenting everything he was doing. As I was watching him smash things, hang upside down, spray fake blood, and set shit on fire, I kept thinking "Wow! There are gonna be some great photos from this!" and in moments I felt like this was actually the ultimate objective of the performance.

Lest I be accused of slagging him, I should say I think Kantor is pretty fucking smart for doing this. Coming from the field of performance art, he understands something that theatre artists are just beginning to wrap their heads around; that an artist's work must exist digitally, if they want it to have a life outside that particular run. I have no doubt that when he publishes the photos on his website some of them will be quite arresting and will more than likely than to future performance opportunities for him.

Perhaps as a result of his extensive web-presence (just try Googling him) Kantor is one of those artists whose reputation truly precedes him. When my date for the evening found out what performance I was going to be taking him to he said "Istvan Kantor? I've heard about him. Fuck that! I'm gonna go see the puppet show instead." For someone who's never actually seen any of an artist's work to have that strong a reaction to it is telling. Both Kantor's politics and his aesthetic have the potential to rile people, though I feel like it's the people who are least likely to be riled (myself included) who were actual in attendance that evening.

As a starving artist searching for a new apartment, I certainly have an appreciation of how hard it can be to find affordable housing in this city. A quick glance around the audience told me I was surrounded by my contemporaries who no doubt have had similar experiences when trying to find accommodations. I understand what Kantor was trying to say by comparing the gentrification in parts of Toronto with the genocide perpetrated in Nazi Germany (though I don't necessarily agree) however I felt in the case of this performance he was truly (to invoke a perhaps, appropriately clichéd phrase) preaching to the converted. Though I understand the value in reiterating our politics to us, lest we forget the importance of our struggle, I also walked out of the performance believing nothing different than when I went in.

The highlight of the show was when he whipped out a child-sized pink keyboard to play us a song during a technical malfunction, while the crew got the DVD's in order. I really wish this had been planned (à la Marie Brassard in Jimmy) but according to my sources on the inside it was entirely unexpected. Being able to laugh at both himself and the occasional technical glitches in his work gave us a glimpse of the real human being that exists behind the mask we know as Istvan Kantor. For all the seriousness of the issues he was discussing, and even though he started the piece by telling us that art is worth dying for, his recognition, however unintentional, that ultimately art is just art was the piece's saving grace. Read more!

Digital Presence Discusssion at The Theatre Centre

I attended a panel discussion on Monday this week at The Theatre Centre called Digital Presence which was intended to be a discussion reflecting on how the presence of digitized media in everyday life and other artistic disciplines has prompted changes in theatre creation and the dissemination of performance. Ironically (depending on how you look at it) the panel ended up starting late as the presenters were having some problems with their technology, namely getting some of the video to play, as well as connecting with one of the panel speakers, who was coming to us live by phone from Scotland. As it turned out, this all worked out perfectly for me since my flight coming into town earlier in the day was delayed, and I got to the theatre an hour late.
The panel included Michelle Kasprzak, Stephen O'Connell, Kristen Marting, Rob Kershaw, Kate Magruder and Ian Mackenzie as moderator. Unfortunately, the format of the discussion was not ideal. Rather than engage in discussion with each other and the audience, the speakers essentially presented their resumes, along with some of their thoughts about the use of digital media in performance. There wasn't much conversation; just a lot of talking.

Things opened up a bit when the audience got involved in the discussion. When speaking about using video in performance, it often comes up that this type of work, frequently just doesn't "work". Jacob Zimmer, who was in the audience, referred to Wolfgang Schivelbusch's book Disenchanted Night where the author talks about the advent of gas lighting, and how it took a two centuries for theatre artists to effectively integrate artificial light into their work. Zimmer suggested that digital media may be the same way; essentially, we just haven't had it at our disposal long enough to actually use it effectively in our work.

The way that a lot of theatre artists are (unsuccessfully) using video in their work today, reminds me of how artists were trying to integrate "movement" into their work in the 90's. One of the things that differentiates true interdisciplinary work from theatre with dance and video crammed in, is an understanding of how the different elements work to communicate with the audience in different ways, as well as a knowledge of which way works best. When I was working with bluemouth inc. we would have this discussion all the time; if you have text, movement, and video, that are all saying the same thing at the same time, decide which one works to communicate best in that moment and then cut what's extraneous.

Part of the challenge is that, for the most part, theatre is still primarily a text driven medium. A project usually starts with a play that's been written, and then directors, actors, and designers interpret it. Usually the play itself (assuming it's worthy of being produced) has all the information the audience needs to understand it, so when the other artists involved start duplicating things the playwright has already said, whether it's by adding movement or design elements, it's overkill.

During the discussion, Stephen O'Connell of bluemouth inc. referenced Public Recording's project /Dance/Songs/, presented last year at the Theatre Centre, as an example of a piece which integrated video very successfully into performance. Choreographer Ame Henderson's approach to using video is almost nonchalant; video cameras and projectors are present in the space and are used when it would be beneficial to get a close up of a performer's face, the same way that lighting designers will use lights to draw our focus to a particular thing on stage.

The one issue I really wish had been addressed on the panel, that never came up, is the effect that living in a digital media/internet/YouTube saturated world actually has on our audiences, and how theatre artists may need to modify their work, to accommodate this. Perhaps a good starting point for future discussions?
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Letter To MP Olivia Chow Regarding Bill C-10

Below is a letter I sent to NDP MP Olivia Chow regarding the Bill C10, a series of changes to the Income Tax Act, that will allow the federal government to deny tax credits to film productions which they deem to be indecent, offensive, or contrary to public policy. This is yet another occasion when our current Conservative Minority government is attempting to legislate the morality of the nation.If this bill passes how long will it be before the conservatives sneak in similar legislation, for theatre artists, authors, visual artists, and musicians? I know these kind of things are a pain, but I encourage you to take the time to write your local MP to express your concern about this issue. You can use the link provided below to locate their email/contact information. You don't have to
send something as long or as detailed as what I sent. Simply giving your MP another letter to put on the stack of objections will help. If we can convince our government not to support the US led invasion of Iraq, we can stop them from doing this.

Our future as artists is riding on this decision.
Hello Olivia,

I am writing with severe concern about the pending Bill C10 which will allow the government to censor films which they deem to be offensive or indecent. As a gay Canadian Artist, I'm sure you can understand why I would be doubly concerned about this development, since the current government has on multiple occasions demonstrated an anti-gay bias in policy making (a vote against Same Sex Marriage shortly after taking power and the recent ban on organ donations from gay men, for example).

The Canadian Film industry is at a crucial moment in its history. In recent years, artists from this country have finally started to gain international renown for the their work. Artists such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Martin Gero, and others are making themselves known on an international level and contributing to the promotion of Canadian culture abroad. And it is artists like these who open the door elsewhere for independent and less well-known artists. When
international programmers or buyers see successful work coming out of our country, they are more likely to take a chance on other works by Canadian artists.

The current success of the film industry is, in large part, due to the tax credit provided. Without it, many artists could simply not afford to create their work. There is also a significant economic investment that film-making puts into our country. The countless technical personal, administrators, actors, and other artists, whose livelihood depends on films behind made in this country could have their financial situations severely jeopardized by this decision. This is
not just about a matter of taste. People's abilities to provide for their families could be severely impacted.

Below is a excerpt from an article published in the Globe and Mail on February 29, 2008 regarding this issue:

Conservative MP Dave Batters recently urged the new president of Telefilm Canada, Michel Roy, to block federal funding for objectionable films, listing Young People Fucking as a recent example.
"In my mind, sir, and in the minds of many of my colleagues and
many, many Canadians," said Mr. Batters during a Jan. 31 meeting of
the Canadian Heritage committee, "the purpose of Telefilm is to help
facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society - films
that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living
rooms across this great country."

First of all, many Canadians actually want to watch films in cinemas as opposed to waiting for it to be released on DVD and watching the at home. Secondly, this is yet another attempt on the part of the Conservative Party to define for Canadians what a "family" is. I would be happy to watch Canadian films such as Eastern Promises, Kissed, or Where The Truth Lies with my family, even though we may not look like Mr. Batters family.

I encourage you to vote against this discriminatory bill which is in its essence, nothing more than an opportunity for our lame-duck minority government to legislate the morality of our citizens, but will in fact be detrimental the promotion of Canadian culture abroad and financially disastrous for artists and their families in this country.


Chris Dupuis Read more!

Where I'm Starting From

My intention behind starting this blog is threefold. Firstly, I have found a distinct lack of critical voice in arts writing in Toronto, especially with regard to experimental work. We have lots of people (with debatable qualifications) who are happy to write quippy pieces about whether or not you should go to take in a particular piece of work. However there is virtually nothing written with the intention of being read as a companion to viewing art. I think this is wrong, and I'm aiming to change it. The second reason is that, like most people who go to the trouble of posting their thoughts online, I have a series of specific issues about the world that I feel need to be addressed. Queer issues, leftie politics, environmentalism, and others aspects of this oeuvre are of interest to me, and I'm therefore planning to cram this whole online experiment chock full of this stuff.

Finally, in combination with the first two points, I hope that this space can become a forum for dialogue. Whether it's art or politics (in my case it's hard to tell when one ends and the other begins) there simply can't be too much discussion. I hope that this can become a space where minds meet, opinions are spilled, and we all walk away better, even if that only means being more confident in our beliefs.

Wow! That all sounds heavy. I should also mention I'm pretty fucking funny too.

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