Walking into the opening night of Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic I was overwhelmed by ecstatic displays from the attendees. There’s a playfulness in Will’s art that comes through his impulse to rework, transform, and bring together. A display case of flyers for Vazaleen (Will’s famed queer dance parties) conjured an outpouring of collective memory for those who remember them, and for those of us who were too young or simply couldn’t be there, invoked a simultaneous sense of discovery and of loss. Either way, Will’s work had conjured nostalgia in us all.
Listen to Philip Monk
briefly introduce the exhibition, Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic. 38 sec. 2012/02/25
Winding through the exhibition I found myself in the Lezbro room, a bright womb like semi-enclosure that was knit, crocheted and conceived of by Allyson Mitchell, co-founder of the Feminist Art Gallery. It was there, propped against cushions and afghans that I met Emma Hedditch, member of the Cinenova Working Group, a UK based women’s film and video distributor. She had been invited to Toronto to install two works and launch All Hands on the Archive, a collaborative experiment in broadening institutional practices and engaging the Toronto community in open dialogue around specific works from the Cinenova Collection. Four institutions: AGYU, Powerplant, Cinenova and FAG engaged in an experiment, unclear of the outcome but committed to a process. We didn’t know exactly what would follow, but we all sensed something important was in place—that scholars/activists/artists had been mobilized, that films & videos were requested, and that important conversations were imminent.
Listen to Emma Hedditch
explain the beginnings of the Cinenova Collective. 7 minutes, 4 seconds. 2012/01/12
Listen to Emelie and Deirdre
speak to institutional practices. 1 minute, 36 seconds. 2012/02/04
Listen to Allyson
introduce, Cinenova: All Hands on the Archive, through Will’s film collection. 1 minute, 9 seconds. 2012/01/25
Every Saturday in February, we met on the floor of the Feminist Art Gallery: a versatile social space created by Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell. In a converted garage behind their house we snacked on cheezies on the matching orange shag rug surrounded by plush pillows and wooly textured doodads with the relative coziness of the Lezbro room. FAG transformed into a micro-cinema and social space for the screening series, An Audience of Enablers Cannot Fail, the curated selection of films from the Cinenova collection by local activists, artists, and scholars cum enablers.
Listen to Allyson and Deirdre
explain the invocation and origins of the term “enabler.” 24 seconds. 2012/02/04
Over the course of the screening series Alexis Mitchell and myself recorded audio for each session. From behind headphones the room sounded far away, the conversations already transforming into something for posterity. What follows is a tour of sorts, a meandering account of events through audio recordings, letters, and other bits of ephemera that held us in place while we looked back.
Moving through the series of events at FAG cannot be chronological, they are fragmentary, incongruent, a crumpled heap that can be rearranged and examined in endless configurations. The categories below are points of entry, Born in Flames looks at radical beginnings and bold statements linking FAG and Cinenova through feminist strategies of resistance. The selection processes of the enablers for All Hands on the Archive are as important as the outcomes of the sessions they facilitated. An audience of enablers cannot fail because they dismantle presenter/audience paradigms and set up dynamic interchange. These weren’t presentations, they were enabled conversations that were allowed to breath and move into entirely new directions, exposing peripheries, margins, and contradictions that could be entered and negotiated. Conversations of radical returns vs. nostalgia were a necessary bridge participants crossed. This radical return is about synthesizing the past with our present. It’s about asking new questions that acknowledge past strategies and struggles in order to find resonance with our contemporary moment while nostalgia is a sentiment that is examined and questioned. Many objects and records emerged from the enabler sessions, which produced tools that I hope will extend beyond the context they were used in. This Agit-ephemera isn’t merely a record of what happened at FAG, but a well of ideas and possibilities to drawn on for future art + activism. Ephemera, despite its close etymological relationship to “the ephemeral,” here means artifacts that have the potential to transform through multiple iterations as they are exchanged and re-circulated, finding new life through their enablement.