Culture | Cutting edge feminism

The Edgy Women festival is organized by Studio 303, a Montreal resource centre aimed at stimulating artistic exchange between artists and the public through workshops, performance, and affordable studio space. Now in its 17th year, Edgy Women aims to explore the “complexity of contemporary feminism” and strike up a dialogue about the issue through art. Miriam Ginestier, the festival’s curator, spoke to The Daily via email.

The McGill Daily: How long have you been involved with Studio 303 and the Edgy Women festival?
Miriam Ginestier: A really, really, really, long time! Nearly 20 years at 303, and about 15 for Edgy, which started in 1995.

MD: What are the aims and goals of the Edgy Women festival this year? Are you hoping to achieve something new or different with this festival as opposed to previous editions?
MG: The goal is always the same, to show audiences intelligent and provocative work, and to create a sense of community. This year, I did try to program fewer artists in order to be able to offer them better presenting conditions. Some years, a theme does emerge, but this year, what stands out is that the two full-length works are English-language works from Toronto [the Scandelles and Jess Dobkin]. It’s rare for me to present text-based work, but these two artists are exceptional and quintessentially edgy, so I couldn’t say no.

MD: How important are politics in a festival like Edgy Women?
MG: Politics are important, but it’s not what drives the festival. I am looking for work that provokes and inspires through its creativity versus work that proselytizes. I don’t require that every artist self-define as feminist or for feminism to be explicit in their work. Edgy Women is a feminist event because it presents work which is transgressive in terms of its subject matter (sex work, motherhood, gender identity) or form (visceral physicality). While I value the need to support art that does not reflect dominant culture, it is very important to me that the spirit of this festival remain unbridled [as opposed to] politically correct. I hope that the programming helps dispel negative preconceptions some people have about feminism – that it’s stale, dated, not fun. At Edgy, I like to mix politics and frivolity, high and low art, emerging and established artists, pushing artists and audiences alike a little past their comfort zones.

MD: The Edgy Women festival is based in Montreal. How does the city influence the make-up and direction of the festival?
MG: Montreal has had a tremendous influence on the way I program. Because of language issues, perhaps, I do prioritize non-verbal or bilingual projects. And venues also affect the programming. There is a lot of freedom here.

MD: What Edgy Women events are you looking forward to this year?
MG: I am very, very excited about the whole festival of course but when artists are here for their third, fourth, or fifth Edgy festival, it means they are consistently interesting and that I really want to support the development of their work. Returning artists Nathalie Claude and Dayna McLeod are completely insanely creative, and their collaborative emceeing blows my mind – they are hosting the Edgy Challenge). Other returning artists are the Scandelles, Jess Dobkin, and Karen Sherman. I’m also really excited about Shannon Cochrane’s performance.

MD: Does Studio 303 hope to expand the Edgy Women festival in the coming years?
MG: There are no plans to expand per se. I like keeping it intimate. I’d like Edgy Women to be less anglo and white. That’s something I need to work on. And that’s a challenge. I really want to develop Edgy’s relationship with universities, have more student involvement, conferences, artist talks, networking opportunities, et cetera…. For 2011, I’m really excited about bringing in Japanese performance artist anti-cool with her amazing piece that references McDonald’s, and I’m planning to present Jess Dobkin’s “Lactation Station,” so there may be a bit of a food/nourishment theme.

—compiled by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

Festival highlights

Public Photo Booth – Apparently Perverse Pics March 20 at Mainline Theatre; 10 p.m.

On March 20, Montreal photographer Nikol Mikus will be presenting an interactive and innovative performance piece that invites audience members to create their own photo session, complete with costumes and accessories. Organized by Mikus and performance artist Alyson Wishnousky, the event is part of the Edgy Women festival’s Edgy Party, a night of interactive performances.

The installation encourages participants to set their “perversions, peculiarities, eccentricities, and weirdnesses loose” in a “Public Photo Booth” and is set to culminate in the projection of some of these photographs on the walls of the Mainline Theatre, which will be hosting the Edgy Party this Saturday. This second aspect of Mikus’s piece allows the subjects of the photographs to become active participants in the Edgy Party, bringing them closer to the festival and to the artists themselves. Public Photo Booth will take place alongside other performances and video projections, creating a visually stimulating backdrop for the Edgy Party’s festivities.

—Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

Edgy Challenge / Interdisciplinary Cabaret March 20 at Mainline; 8 p.m.

The Edgy Challenge, an “interdisciplinary cabaret,” gives seven performers the task of creating short pieces in a limited amount of time. The artists were given an audio track, a prop, and one month to come up with a piece. The seven artists involved in the challenge include Montrealer Sophie Castonguay, Toronto-based writer Mariko Tamaki, and Montreal musician Jackie Gallant.

The Edgy Challenge will be hosted by performers and MCs Dayna McLeod and Nathalie Claude. McLeod, a writer and performance artist whose work has been performed around the world, explores concepts like girl culture and anti-feminist backlash in her artistic and theoretical research. Claude, a Montreal-based performer, dancer, and writer, is an artistic coach at Cirque du Soleil who has worked in the Montreal arts community for over 20 years.

In combination with the multilayered and innovative performances by the talented Edgy Challenge artists, Claude and McLeod will undoubtedly bring a dynamic presence to the festivities.

—M.A-S.

Everything I’ve Got – Jess Dobkin March 24 at Tangente; 7:30 p.m

Toronto-based performance artist Jess Dobkin presents her newest piece, “Everything I’ve Got,” as part of Edgy Women’s second week of events at Tangente. The work, a “raw and intimate examination of creativity and mortality,” takes the viewer on a journey through Dobkin’s repertoire of artistic work and ideas. Dobkin employs humour and drama to illustrate her “vulnerability” and “urgency,” as she works through her relationship with time, space, and her own performance techniques. A veteran performance artist, Dobkin’s latest performance promises to be an enlightening and entertaining look into the way in which performers interact with their work.

Dobkin is also participating in the Edgy Women festival as a workshop facilitator, leading a series of workshops called “Performing Intimacy.” In these workshops, participants are invited to discuss “practical strategies and conceptual possibilities for working with narrative and use of the body” in performance. Dobkin often focuses on the use of the body in performance and artistic expression, and between her solo performance in “Everything I’ve Got” and “Performing Intimacy,” her multifaceted approach to artistic expression is sure to be both entertaining and educational.

—M.A-S.

The festival runs March 17-20 at Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) and March 24-28 at Tangente (840 Cherrier). For a full schedule, view edgywomen.ca.


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