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August 2018

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Witnessing the monumental

 

Rebecca Belmore Facing the Monumental is an exhibition hosted at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and curated by Wanda Nanibush, Curator for Indigenous Art. Torontonians have until October 21, 2018 to check it out and browse over 20 pieces, among them sculptures, installations, photographs, and performance-based works: a window for works exhibited in the past as well as new ones by the artist.

Rebecca Belmore is recognized as one of the most remarkable contemporary Canadian artists. Her recurring themes are women’s lives, violence against Indigenous people, remembering the forgotten, speaking the truth, water, land rights, and homelessness. As a contemporary artist, she has positioned herself as a custodian of a truth to be narrated, never to be forgotten or silenced. Rebecca states, “For decades I have been working as the artist amongst my people calling to the past witnessing the present standing forward facing the monumental.”

Rebecca, a member of the Anishinaabe, has reached international recognition through multidisciplinary artistic expression: sculpture, installation, photography, and video.  An artist rooted within the Indigenous communities and established within the Canadian artistic landscape, Belmore’s use of natural materials, clay, wood, fabrics, nails, and mundane objects like shopping carts, men’s suit jackets, chairs, draws attention to not only Indigenous issues but pressing and timeless issues such as homelessness and migration.

One of the works in the exhibition, “The Fountain”, consists in a video footage projected onto a screen of real falling water. The artist is seen in a lake struggling in the waves while trying to fill up a bucket. When she finally fills it up, she walks to the shore and throws the content of the bucket (red liquid supposedly blood) toward the viewers. The effect created by the real waterfall in the room including its sound enhances the corresponding image and sound of water in the video. What’s more, as a viewer I felt taken aback by this provocative action.

Belmore came to performance art in the late 80s. She says, “Physical labour has a way of clearing the mind and turning trees into lumber was very much a part of my immediate families’ livelihood back then.” In this spirit, in 2014 in a 12-hour durational performance in Toronto she hammered 1181 nails into a log. This was the number indigenous women the RCMP reported as missing or murdered up to that year. With each nail hammered into the stump, a piece of her red dress was hammered too, disappearing from her body and becoming part of the artwork. Visitors can see a video footage of this powerful performance at the exhibition.

Another highlight of the exhibition, “Tower,” is a 15-feet tall sculpture made of clay and shopping carts, and created on site at the AGO. As the artist explains herself, the idea for the artwork came after staring at the construction of a new condominium. On one hand condo development is business as usual, on the other, homelessness is a fact and demographics show that many people cannot afford to own a home. “I understood the severity of land as real estate – everything owned, everywhere for sale, and how, in our so-called great cities, the reality of owning anything is out of reach for most of us, with no solution in sight.”

In 2005, Belmore was Canada’s official representative at the Venice Biennale and in 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Gershon Iskowitz Prize by the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Award-winning producer Kat Baulu shares her passion and new project

Meet Kat Baulu, a producer with Quebec/Atlantic Studio at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, a public producer, and distributor. In an email interview, Baulu talked about her career and the call for proposals for short films on Reimagining My Quebec.

Reimagining My Quebec is a new initiative for anglophone, allophone, and Indigenous filmmakers from Quebec and Nunavik that will give emerging and established directors a chance to create artful short documentaries with the NFB.

When it comes to what Baulu enjoys most about her work, she said she enjoys those with a clear purpose to their work. “I admire people who lead their lives with mission and purpose. One person who inspires me is legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin,” she said. “With an astonishing career spanning over five decades at National Film Board of Canada, she’s made over 50 films that focus on issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. Alanis embodies what it means to make art for social impact. It’s humbling to witness one person who truly makes a difference every day.”

Baulu’s work as a producer raises social impact, even from her previous documentary work on Gun Runners. Baulu’s role is responsible for supporting creators to tell relevant and meaningful stories about Canada to Canadians and people around the world.

“The best part of my job is accompanying filmmakers in their creative process: from idea to finished film through to impact with audiences,” she said. “I love creating conditions for filmmakers to thrive artistically and express their point of view. I root for their success.”

“Collaborating with artists in the public space is such a privilege. At the NFB, our values are driven by relevance. Every day we ask ourselves, are we raising under-represented voices? Is what we are creating valuable and meaningful?” she added. “I am thrilled to work with filmmakers on their creative interpretation of reimagining their Quebec because I believe we have a chance to surface issues of identity, class, and status for further discussion and raise consciousness about the positive change we dream about for our society, and our world.”

Baulu is excited about the current project – Reimagining My Quebec, which is an opportunity to make a short English documentary in Quebec with the NFB.

“Reimagining My Quebec is the brainchild of my executive producer Annette Clarke. She is a true champion for filmmakers and storytellers of all stripes. She is a Newfoundlander and believes that great stories often emanate from a deep sense of place,” Baulu said. “We hope this call will draw out unique and intimate stories from across Quebec, which surprise and transform us.”

The type of story she’s looking for revolves around something Scottish documentary filmmaker Scott Grierson calls, “creative interpretations of actuality,” which focusses on the human condition through point-of-view documentary storytelling. “If you have a story that you are uniquely positioned to tell, that you have a personal connection with, that you have unique access, this call for proposals is for you. We are excited about powerful, emotional and important social issue-driven stories,” Baulu said. “For us, the process is as important as the outcome. What is your relationship to your participants? How will you treat them at the beginning and the end of the process of making your film? We are enthusiastic when filmmakers are considering their ethics as well as the art and impact.”

The deadline for submissions is August 8.

Paris street harassment just one case of many

A woman named Marie Laguerre was walking down the streets of Paris last week when some idiot thought it would be appropriate to harass her on the street. After she shut told him to shut up, he walked up to her and struck her in the face before taking off like a coward.

The only thing more rage-inducing than these animals who can’t take a hint is that there are still people who believe this is an isolated incident.

It obviously isn’t just me who undergoes harassment on the street or on the bus. But, I’ve gone through my fair share of cat-calling, wolf whistling, and being stared down on the subway. One incident that particularly comes to mind is when I was on the way home with my mother on the subway. This older man sat across from me and my mom and kept staring at me, looking down at my chest, then back at me, smiling the whole time. I glared right back at him, but he only turned away when he sensed that my mother would punch a hole in his chest if he didn’t stop looking at me. It didn’t end there, though. He whipped out his phone and then went to some porn site in the middle of a crowded car. He refrained from touching himself, but he drew the disgusted glances of women entering the car as they saw a pair of large, wet breasts bouncing up and down on his screen. I was mortified.

Sure, you can rip into these guys. But at what cost? You have no idea how they’re going to react and this Paris incident is only one of thousands. I don’t want to deal with someone following me down the street. I don’t want to deal with someone trying to harass me or attack me just because he’s too weak to handle being told off. It’s blood-boiling to know that these street harassers can’t take no for an answer and the only way they can assert their feigned sense of dominance is to attack someone for shutting them down. Yeah, you’re real tough.

Plenty of women I know were called crude names after telling off catcallers. What was “Hey, mama” a second ago soon becomes “Whatever, you ugly bitch.” Sometimes you have them exit their cars and walk up to you and start an altercation because nothing screams “Look at me, I deserve the attention of women” like harassing whoever doesn’t respond to piggish advances.

There are also the typical “Why didn’t you tell him off?” comments. This video is why. The countless other incidents just like it is why. Look at the woman who bumped into that guy on the Westminster SkyTrain station and then was pushed on the ground, close to the tracks. He also threw his coffee all over her before knocking her down. She didn’t even say anything to the guy. How can you honestly ask why women don’t confront street harassers or cat callers when unprovoked attacks are just as likely to happen?

The good news is that with the Paris case, the majority of people are rallying behind her in support of not only catching this guy but also in understanding that this type of behaviour has no place in society.

However, it would be incorrect to say that there aren’t people placing blame on the woman. Without naming names, Facebook comments on various news posts have ranged from “we must get both sides of the story before we judge,” “Question…..Why did the woman not go directly into the restaurant and call the police but only came back to argue with this idiot….Then she walks away…Not stay around, call the police, and get witnesses…..something fishy!!!!,” “KARMA……..” and one man who simply commented “Nice.”

The comments on the woman being pushed on the ground weren’t much better. Dozens of people were commenting on how she got what she deserved, how him pushing her wasn’t unprovoked, and how the woman was no victim.

These types of incidents are everywhere. Ask just about any woman you know and you’ll be introduced to just how many times this has happened and in what capacity. More awareness needs to be raised about these issues without welcoming comments from trolls or conspiracy theorists. This type of behaviour needs to end and the more awareness people raise and the more everyone talks about it, the more educated people become.

The only good thing that came out of all this was that people everywhere are talking about ways to end street harassment. People are seeing first-hand what kind of things women go through on a daily basis.

It’s not right for a woman to fear standing up for herself, just like it isn’t right to have women harassed on a daily basis. But, a woman’s hands are tied because the majority of the time she either endures harassment and goes on her way or tells the guy off and risks being physically assaulted.

What kind of world is that to live in?

Benefit concert to take place at Danforth Music Hall for victims of shooting

Billy Talent and a collection of other musicians are banding together to perform a concert at the Danforth Music Hall on August 11 in support of the #TorontoStrong fund following the Danforth shooting.

A benefit concert called Toronto Together will feature musicians such as Billy Talent, Pup, City and Colour, and other currently unannounced artists to raise money for the #TorontoStrong fund. The fund was started by the city of Toronto and Toronto Foundation to raise money for those affected by the April 23rd van attack and the July 22nd Danforth shooting.

The concert will also be taking place during Taste of the Danforth festival.

“What has happened in Toronto this summer and what happened on the Danforth a few blocks from our studio, has not only hit close to home, this has hit home,” Billy Talent said in a statement. “All we know is that we can’t just sit here. We don’t know what we want but we want to do something. We want to throw a concert to show the world and more importantly our community that Toronto is a place of love, of community, of kindness and compassion. The violence that has happened here this summer does not represent the majority.”

The Danforth Music Hall is only metres away from where the deadly July 22 shooting took place. 29-year-old gunman Faisal Hussain approached civilians in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood and open-fired, taking the lives of 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and 18-year-old Reese Fallon.

The Toronto Foundation wrote about how Mayor John Tory and the city of Toronto partnered with their foundation to establish the #TorontoStrong fund, which has gained over $3.5 million in donations for those affected by the van and Danforth attacks. “Serving as the Fund’s pro bono Fund Administrator, former Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall is working to disburse the entirety of funds to the victims in a timely fashion. Contributions will continue to be received up to August 31 with final disbursements made by September 30, 2018,” they wrote.

After the funds are distributed to the victims, the volunteer steering committee of the Toronto Foundation will generate further ideas to prevent future violence in the city and “long-term strategies related to city-wide impacts of mass acts of violence.”

Ving Rhames held at gunpoint in own home

Actor Ving Rhames was held at gunpoint in his own home after a neighbour called the police to report “a large black man” breaking in.

Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible, Don King: Only in America) has come out and told the public that he was held at gunpoint in his own home. The incident happened after a neighbour of his called the police to report “a large black man” breaking and entering.

The Santa Monica Police Department released a Facebook statement on the incident on July 28. “On July 29, 2016 at about 1:52 p.m., Santa Monica Public Safety Dispatch received several calls from residents of a possible residential burglary in the 800 block of 23rd Street in Santa Monica. The reporting parties indicated a black male was seen entering a residence and did not live there,” the statement read. “Officers from the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) responded to the area with the information available to them. Within minutes, officers arrived at the residence. As officers were assessing the residence, they encountered the resident at the front door. Officers recognized the resident and the situation was quickly de-escalated with no use of force occurring. The resident was identified as Ving Rhames.”

Rhames went on the Clay Cane Show to discuss the racism that he’s dealt with in his life and recount the incident that took place. He explained how he was in his Santa Monica residence at approximately 2:15 p.m., clad in basketball shorts, and with his two puppies when he heard a knock at the door. “So, I get up, and I’m just in my basketball shorts, I open the door and there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9mm,” he said. “And they say, ‘Put up your hands.’ Now, I just walked up and opened the door. And then they said, ‘Open the front gate.’”

He further explained that three policemen and a police dog held him outside before one of the policeman recognized him. They apologized and ended the altercation. He was informed that a woman called the police and said a large black man was breaking in but when he asked her about the phone call, she denied it.

“I said to them, ‘What if It was my son and he had a video game remote or something and you thought it was a gun?’ Trayvon had a bag of Skittles.” Cane and Rhames then mentioned Sean Bell, a black man living in New York at the time when he was shot 50 times in 2006 by undercover policemen the day before his wedding.

The Santa Monica Police Department added in their statement plans to introduce a new program called “Meet Your Neighbors” so incidents like this can be avoided in the future.