Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Toronto's KillJoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House is a “creep lez” labour of art love.

by Eroca Nicols

Allyson Mitchell, of FAG (feminist art gallery (1)) fame has instigated the queer answer to evangelical North America’s hate driven, scare tactic based hell houses. Instead of demonizing the sins of fornication, abortion, suicide, occultism, and— of course—same-sex relationships, as in traditional hell houses, KillJoy's Kastle engages these icons of deviance to highlight fear that surrounds queerness and feminism.

The welcome mat image to the work is a giant half rainbow glory hole sprouting "vagina dentata" complete with dripping bloody fangs. It bears the sign, LESBIAN RULE, in giant fuchsia letters, leaking gold. A self proclaimed "demented women's studies professor" acts as tour guide through the installation, which is the remains of the previous nights performance. She advises “Careful! Don’t slip on the pussy juice!” as she amusingly embodies the stereotype of the fun murdering feminist kill joy.

The tour winds through monster truck sized voluptuous vagina sculptures, a lavender corridor of "two adult lesbians in love," remnants of riot ghouls and truck nut ball busting butches. After living through the emasculator and many encounters of the latch hooked and heavily hand crafted kind we end up being offered a piece of vegan, gluten free chocolate cake after processing the experience with a real live feminist killjoy.

Wielding craft like an inviting, recklessly cozy, distinctly feminist fuck you! to hetero art world cleanliness, this Lesbian haunted house is a pussy palace of radical inclusion and anti oppression while at the same time staying relevant, fun, uncompromising and un-whiney. This is neither an easy nor an unconsidered plan of action. 
“Designed to pervert not convert"
It is important to acknowledge that as much fun and mystical magic all of this madame oriented mayhem is, the dark underbelly is that there is one lez ruled castle and multitudes of Christian Right run hell houses. That shit is real scary. Allyson Mitchell and the crowd sourced crew of queer badasses she has brought together to make Killjoys Kastle get it. Tongues are firmly in cheeks and pussies but radical organizing and art and support for queer artists is not just a laughing matter, though laughing is also encouraged. These humans are carving out an outsider existence within the current framework being set out for artists by making work in ways that are doggedly defiant to demands for competitivity from the capitalist art market and dude worshipping hetero favoritism.

A hefty combination of dispute and dialogue rages even now after the installation has closed (mainly on FB) about whether/how the house was white-centric, cisnormative and exclusive. This brings to light yet another dark underbelly- that of feminism in general as mainly engaging with the interests, abilities, and concerns of white, cis, able bodied, middle class women. I agree with Alison Cooley's sentiment that this work, "successfully manages at once to satirize those evangelical scare-tactics and homophobic stereotypes, and to provide a sense of the systems of exclusion which operate within radical communities."(2) The continued conversations online suggest Kill Joys Kastle walks a complicated line of showing that underbelly and also perhaps celebrating it at the expense of more marginalized groups within the queer community.

To approach this work in term of success or failure seems to me to be missing the point. Is it possible to work in ways that are anti-oppressive and inclusive while at the same time acknowledging that fuck-ups are imminent? Can makers be discerning and self aware but still embrace a biting (insert werwolf, vampire) sense of trangrassion, satire and humor? Can the queer community assume its' intelligent beastly criticality while resisting co-option? Is there potential to acknowledge myriad faults and address these concerns from within the community and with the community with dignity and care? These questions are the real monsters. And Killjoys Kastle, in all its fake blood and blunder, takes a stab at both asking them and addressing them. The work serves as a call to other art makers and producers that claim radicality to step up and deal with the skeletons in their own closets. Spooky, scary.

The dominant arts communities in Toronto would do well to acknowledge and learn from the badassery (and openness to dealing directly with criticism, see the FB page (3)) of FAG’s and Allyson Mitchell’s commitment to a radically open queer spaces of art. Many artists and arts organizations in Toronto (including the Love-In) flirt with flying radical flags but Killjoys Kastle and FAG are all in. FAG puts their money, their home, their art and their vagina dentata where their mouth is. For this, I say hells yes to LESBIAN RULE.

1.Since FAG’s inception in 2011, Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue have been dedicating their home (the gallery is in their home,) their opportunities (they gave their commission at the Tate Modern over to local emerging queer artists of color,) and their place of privilege in the art world (university professor and development director respectively,) to making a space for feminist and queer makers in Toronto and beyond.

Eroca Nicols aka Lady Janitor is Toronto based, nomadic performance and body nerd and co-founder of the Toronto Dance Community Love-In.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


This piece has already begun.

Sometimes when you watch a dance performance, you can have a sense of not knowing when the performers begin to move. They seem to sneak into motion in such a way that you never perceive stillness as the opposite of motion; movement and rest appear as dynamically entangled in one another. In b side's careful simplicity, this is the story we get. Movement gathers force effortlessly, as if beginning always already from the middle.

Is it possible to be in more than one place at once?

Bee says she is hot. That she created this piece in the fall and there was air conditioning. There is no air conditioning in the corner-oriented Sterling space. My hair sucks at the sweat dripping from the base of my skull: I remember when my hair was short. But we are close to her, and she leans into the microphone to speak with us.

I have been thinking about what's underneath us, what's under the surface of the skin?

When Bee presses play, the analog tape recorder make a delicious scrunching sound. Chestnut shells on pavement. The texture of the sound radiates satisfaction when I see her push down on the buttons. Her voice lilts on the recording and I am caught up in it. Glad to hear the questions a second time, I am struck by the possibility of unfolding without a future or a past, into a kind of forgetting (her words, not mine). It seems to me that movement is always, and never, this kind of forgetting. Each footstep orients us to the here-now present of our current bodily situation, but it seems to me that it could only do so out of each preceding footfall, as the momentum of time or memory carried in the body, leans us toward the next. Is that what it means to be all places at once? It seems like the space our body moves through must be held or caught up in this forgetting.

Are forgetting and remembering diametrically opposed to each other? Or, like motion and rest, do they belong to each other intrinsically as counterpart to one another?

More thoughts on this tomorrow.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

postscripts to ps ( week 1 )

Whenever I write a novel I’m reminded of the essential hubris of criticism. When I write criticism I’m in such a protected position: here are my arguments, here are my blessed opinions, here is my textual evidence, here my rhetorical flourish. One feels very pleased with oneself. Fiction has none of these defences. You are just a fool with a keyboard. It’s much harder. More frightening.
- Zadie Smith 
dance : ephemeral      forever
dance : response
dance : Listen
dance : being               ( Open )
dance : bodies    ( yours, mine )   new heights; breaking down
dance : strength      ( fragility )
dance : code
dance : sight  

I don't mind criticism a bit — the critics are always wrong … but they are always right in the sense that they make one re-examine one’s artistic conscience.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald 
is it rare

to find 

a dancer 

willing to lie ?

Authenticity           & all that
so essential to the dancing body.



is a precipice

                                 an impossible         position

between the climb
& the chasm

between Work
& sublime fear

with what 


have you 

to unfurl

here    insert.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I had promised to not write a review

They sat us in a line by Andréa de Keijzer/Je suis Julio. Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh.
The second night of ps: We Are All Here passed last night. I continue to find the festival refreshing, just so, and it's burrowing a little spot I think inside (me) where it will maintain a good home. 

What makes it so enchanting?

This is the first edition of a cool, young thing. It's almost a secret. A dance speakeasy.
You have to find the space. I mean you really have to go look for it. Sterling Road, you know. Artistic hotbed. The only sensible way to get there is to bike. When you've found or created a parking spot, you walk three-quarters of the way around an ugly squat building (kitty-corner to the mysterious draped sand dunes) to suddenly stroll into an obscure, blessedly friendly-looking triangular patch of lithe, smiling people, the occasional baby, dog or kitten slinking between bare summer legs. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Eroca Nichols & Francesca Pedullà - More than one way to skin a cat

(s)he mops the floor with a dead animal

sparrow has crazy great buttocks
a mole on the left cheek

the woman with the mic
her shoes don't fit    ( not Cinderella & not Dorothy ) 

the shrouded janitor skates
with a hawaiian red cap  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

She looked me in the eye / & smiled.

    You/Me/Us (prologue) by Amanda Acorn. Photo by Joffrey Saintrapt
She looked me in the eye / & smiled. 

the evening begins with amanda

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Perfect Dance Critic : Miguel Gutierrez

The Perfect Dance Critic

The perfect dance critic does not exist.

The perfect dance critic works for the perfect arts editor, who does not exist. The perfect dance critic writes in the perfect arts publication, which also does not exist. The perfect dance critic doesn’t secretly wish that everything was the way it used to be. The perfect dance critic doesn’t secretly love ballet more than anything else and feel like she’s just slumming when she sees “downtown” work.

The perfect dance critic can talk about individual pieces in relationship to the pieces that the choreographer has made before, and can write about how the piece fits in terms of the evolution of the work. The perfect dance critic understands that “technique” is a vast term that applies to the ways in which dancers can access effectively and intelligently the numerous expressive possibilities that are available to them in their bodies. The perfect dance critic understands that “virtuosity” can apply to the most idiosyncratic of weight shifts.

The perfect dance critic has an awareness of what the postmodern movement in dance expressed, achieved, and how it lives in our consciousness today.

The perfect dance critic does not live in a time warp that shuttles him between now at City Center and 1950 when he irreversibly decided what dance was, is, and can only be. 
The perfect dance critic can describe movement vocabulary, and speculate as to what the choices of movement vocabulary mean in relationship to or how they help to shape the larger vision that the dance artist offers.

The perfect dance critic knows that the choreographer’s choices are integrally related to the selection of dancers that she has working with her.

The perfect dance critic understands that the dancer is an artist and not merely a tool of the choreographer’s or director’s work.

The perfect dance critic can articulate the qualities of individual dancer’s energetic presence in the work.

The perfect dance critic understands that beyond movement vocabulary, dance work is a total aesthetic experience and can therefore elaborate on the contributions or selections of music, set design, costumes and lighting in more than one-sentence toss-offs. The perfect dance critic can write about these aspects of performance with ease and intelligence because the perfect dance critic is well-informed has a comprehensive interest in all aspects of performance.

The perfect dance critic can make references to artists and ideas from other forms of performing and visual arts when trying to contextualize work.

The perfect dance critic discusses the implications of the different cultural representations of gender, race, sexual orientation or class in the work. The perfect dance critic acknowledges his own cultural position when addressing these issues, and how that cultural position may shape his feelings or responses.

The perfect dance critic gets excited when she sees something that’s different, unusual, challenging, or thought provoking, rocks her world, and writes about it with accompanying vigor.

The perfect dance critic writes in a way that is contemporaneous with the time we are living in.

The perfect dance critic knows when it’s time to quit, change careers or retire.

Published in the Movement Research Journal #25 Dance Writing, Fall 2002