Utopias Performance Art Festival hit Kingston this year with the aim of sparking conversation about social justice issues through performance art.
The Turbines Curatorial Collective organized the festival, which occurred from March 13-15. Turbines, which was founded this year, is a non-profit collective that facilitates production of social-and politically-themed performance art in Kingston.
It aims to unite local and international emerging artists in collaborative performances and mentorship.
It was spread around various locations in Kingston, including Modern Fuel, The Grad Club, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) and The Renaissance Room.
The festival was created this year with feminist, queer, trans* and anti-racist perspectives and themes running through the events.
Pansee Atta, co-founder and member of Turbines Collective, said that the festival was meant to be inclusive of everyone involved in and encompassing these themes.
“Outside of the performances themselves, we tried to ensure that the spaces within which the performances took place were accessible,” Atta told the Journal via e-mail.
“This means physical
accessibility, but also accessibility that’s enabled through the use of trigger warnings where appropriate, the facilitation of discussion spaces that take into consideration participant safety and the prioritization of often-silenced voices.”
It would be more difficult to broach the subjects at hand if these considerations weren’t taken into account, the co-founder added.
The members of Turbines also said some of the performances dealt with these identities explicitly. Other performances prompted ideas that pertained to various political ideologies, but left it up to audience members to take those ideas in any direction of their choosing.
For instance, one of the performances by Avery Everhart, MA ’16, called Making Space: On Performance, Art and Activism at Modern Fuel was based on their experiences as a trans-femme person.
Everhart’s performance involved audience members finding hidden objects on their body, which they then offered back to Everhart. After that, the artist would recite a poem version of a memory of a sexual experience.
Everhart said that trans-feminine people are often fetishized in gross ways, and they navigated through that in their performance. Aesthetics of using bondage were helpful for bringing up how Everhart’s identity and body were wrapped up in their sexual experiences.
The first event, which seemed unconventional at first glance, was called Run For It, and featured performer Andrew Rabyniuk running a 10 km race on a circular track on University Ave.
According to a founding member of the collective, Gabriel Cheung, this simple act was a statement on the relationship between the act of running and the use of space in the city.
“On one level, the piece was an absurd action,” Cheung told the Journal via email. “On quite another, it invited a consideration of running as a gesture of spatial definition — how running as an individual activity, and increasingly as a socially organized and institutionally sanctioned activity, altered spaces.”
The co-founder added that running-centered events often make evident the politics behind the use of space in the city, in terms of inclusivity and exclusivity.
The final, headlining event was an artist talk and show by genderqueer performing artist, writer and curator Vaginal Davis, called Tea and Sympathy: A Lesbian Separatist Tea Party that took place at The Renaissance Room on March 15.
It was a story about a young man exhibiting what are called “feminine” traits, who takes part in feminized activities.
The performance involved headliner Ms. Davis. Audience members were led down a hallway through a whimsical tea party, where they would sit down and converse freely with Ms. Davis for exactly five minutes.
This interactive performance created a personal atmosphere between the audience and Ms. Davis.
“Ms. Davis is very well-known for her integral role in the ‘homocore’ movement, her effervescent and eccentric personality and her outrageous live music and queer performances,” said Turbines co-founder and member Robin Alex McDonald via email.
The festival, which boasted around 30 people at each event, garnered positive feedback.
“As our very first event as a collective, there are a few things we didn’t anticipate or expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything went,” McDonald said. “We received positive feedback from our artist and attendees.
“A lot of people expressed gratitude for the work that we — the artist, volunteers and everyone else in
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