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November 26, 2011

Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters 200 – A Trip to the Museum of Gender Archaeology

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Every year, Toronto participates in an all night festival of art known as Nuit Blanche, so named because it colloquilally means “all-nighter” in French,  but literally means “white night”. It’s a sunset to sunrise event on the first Saturday of October. There is so much to see all over the city, and it is by design impossible to see everything. The most popular events seem to be the ones that use lots of light shows and sound. For example, many exhibits feature projections against walls and buildings. One exhibit that was a hit was the tennis point played over and over all night long called The Tie-break. It was a re-enactment of the legendary fourth set tie-break from the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Finals between Björn Borg and John McEnroe. That would have been something to watch. But we limited ourselves to one area of only a few of many possible events that night.

First we dropped by the Museum of Gender Archaeology that eventually led us into the GendRPhone booths. I’ll admit, apart from the gender changer, commonly used for electronic connections, and the display of so-called ancient bathroom signs for male and female, most of the meaning of the items in the small collection were lost on me. And Ninja is all about exploring the nuances of gender. I get that it was meant to represent a future bygone world of gender dualilty and it was a great start, but it simply wasn’t enough for me. I love shock factor in art (I just revelled in the outrage caused by the kissing of the pope and the imam), and I wasn’t shocked, merely amused. If that is what the artist was after, then it that sense, it did succeed. The installation invites us however to re-imagine our gender. On the gendRphone, you can select the sex and gender of a potential lover and hear their words of love. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “When you are on the phone, you have no body”.  Just a disembodied voice. I love that concept. It’s full of possibility. Not sure that the installation piqued my imagination though. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

My favourite installation was the sound and poetry presented by a local group called New Adventures in Sound Art.  Go figure. I loved the beat and words that went with it. You’ll hear some of that. The last two installations we went to were light and sound shows. The first was called Night Light Travels and the second was another installation by the NAISA (New Adventures in Sound Art), called Sonic Spaces (The Kinetics of Sound). Both used feedback mechanisms and other triggers to change sound and in some cases light in real time. A Markov chain is a mathematical system that undergoes transitions from one state to another, between a finite or countable number of possible states. The next state depends only on the current state and not on the sequence of events that preceded it. This kind of “memorylessness” is called the Markov property. Markov chains have many applications as statistical models of real-world processes and Shawn Pinchbeck uses them to evolve the sound in Sonic Spaces. He also used Vocoder (Voice encoder) technology and theory to change what we hear in the installation.

Have a listen and see if any of this art is your cup of tea.

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August 5, 2011

Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters 196 – Pride 2011 – An Interview…or Two

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Dina Paige explains SIS (Photo by Ninja)

At 1:20am on the morning of Saturday June 28, 1969, police entered a Mafia run gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. It is still located at 51 and 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village New York. The police had raided the establishment countless times before to take their payoffs. It appears that the combination of delays getting patrol wagons to the site, police mis-communications, and undoubtedly, a growing sense of frustration with the constant raids, a riot broke out on the street, amid crys of “Gay Power”, against the police. Michael Fader, quoted by David Carter in the book Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, explained:

We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.   (source: Wikipedia)

This period in American history also coincided with other civil and social movements of the time, including the African-American civil rights movement, the counterculture of the 1960s and the anti-war movement. The riots lasted for the next six days. It stands as a marker and pivotal moment when the gay liberation movement in North America came of age. Since that year, the last weekend of June has been a weekend of choice for Gay Pride parades, the world over. During the 1970s, Toronto had over the years various events to mark gay pride, but in 1981, after the Toronto bathhouse raids by police where 306 men were arrested, Lesbian and Gay Pride day was incorporated and Toronto’s first official celebration occurred on Sunday June 28.

This year the parade – known simply in Toronto now as “Pride” or the “Pride Parade” was held on July 3 during the Canada Day and American July 4th long weekend. The first year since 1981 that Pride Day wasn’t held on the last Sunday of June was in 2010 when the G20 summit literally closed down the Toronto core during the last week of June. Now it seems that between the city and the Pride Committee, the decision stands to hold it on the long weekend in July, a move that barely conceals the money making, tourism, and commercial nature of the week long Pride festivities.

I am not alone in feeling this way among Toronto queers, but we all don’t feel that way either as CP tells me in today’s show recorded during the pride weekend this year. I should apologize to CP because she might actually wished I referred to her as SP. So…sorry about that SP. D’oh. In today’s show I also talk to Dina Paige, a woman who has created the S.I.S. or the Sexuality Identification System. Using different categories, I can chart my level of femaleness, maleness or gender ambiguity that show where on the gender spectrum I define myself. I spend a few minutes talking to her about that. Enjoy the show.
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HotFRM 196 (16mb)

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