Sunday, October 14, 2007

Words: Art of Engagement Conference, Sat Oct 13th

Missed the morning panel.
But lobby buzz was SO good!

(photo below: Bitter Melon Council co-founder Jeremy Liu in conversation with Cathy Stubington about veggies.)

Arrived for Panel #4 BREAKTHROUGHS moderated by Glenn Alteen.

Opening Presenter was Jeremy Liu of National Bitter MelonCouncil.
[Performances Oct 18 & 19 1:00 - 5:00 pm]
[Go to for details].

Darren O'Donnell (novelist/theatre artist/actor/performance artist) presented a talk about his self-named role as Social Impressario. He showed works about giving children a space to cut adults' hair, arranging random Home Tours, organizing children's art awards, filling dance floors with balls for adults to dance/play while children worked as DJ's, soliciting converstation in public spaces, orchestrating dinner converstations, etc.
When the panel ended, a conference member shared her soft/astute observations that she had thought Darren was as a man full of irony/sarcasm; but, after seeing documentation of his performance works (esp. with children in Parkdale, TO) she felt his work was special, transformative, & humane. Perhaps the children/new communties Darren helps to create in Parkdale actually DRAG/allow him to be a more tolerant/passionate and less ironic human being. And his creation of these scenarios feed him (and his community) and allow him (and them) to evolve and transform ??? Darren is an artist creating a-typical communities.

Valerie Salez is a site specific
performance/ installation artist.

To say she has a "snow shovelling practice" is trivializing. To name her this is an act that is in congress to our own worn-out-liberal-nomenclature and also an acceptance of media-labelling.

Valerie Salez is a serious visual artist.
She is a sculptor. She is a performance artist/social animator. Her work is beautiful.

Valerie opens up the inaccessible through art.

She does this in her home community in the Yukon
by inventing/supporting summer squatting communities
and also in urban communities
(ie. public park spaces in Montreal)
for homeless citizens by creating shelters & access routes that are actively denied them by city planners and police.

Kamala Todd (community planner/film maker) is an artist, citizen and bureaucrat working towards social change. She makes art and creates space for art to be made that re-inscribes indiginous culture into the land. She is engaged in re-telling accepted history(ies) and transforming perceptions of all citizens. Kamala uses public art, story-telling, and video to celebrate the truth that Vancouver is a native place and not just a chapter of a colonial narrative.

Iwan Wijono of Java studied law, engaged in the pro-democracy movement against the Suharto regime, and became a famous street performer and international performance artist.

At the conference, Iwan shared his experiences as an artist/activist in Jogjakarta after the earthquake of 2006. Tasks of building hospitals/schools from bamboo, organizing distribution of food/water/medicine were executed by locals and visitors. Iwan (and a group of international artists & vistors) engaged with the villagers in re-building and art-making. There were photos of villagers willing and happy to make art in the midst of such enormous transition and crisis. I have never seen a community with so little and yet so willing to make art.
... margaret dragu


Darren said...

Hey Dragu,

That woman didn't say that I ironic/sarcastic, she said "cynical about the world." She wasn't clear as to why, though. I think she may have misunderstood the two quotes I read as being cynical because, as first glance, they could be read that way. But they're not, they're hopeful.

But in your mishearing of the woman, you describe me accurately, I am ironic and sarcastic or, as German philospher, Sloderdijk, names it: kynical.

explained here:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Darren was it a question of tone? I think because irony and cynicism are so hip these days she assumed you were speaking in that tone, but that the photos gave us evidence that your intentions are earnest/whimsical?

Thanks for connecting us to the conference in Sask. The irony is that there were many artists from Sask. here and at least one artist from Vancouver over in Regina.

mdragu said...

Dear Darren,

Yes -- cynicism, irony & sarcasm are all very different.

My mis-hearing/mis-re-membering says (naturally) more about me than you.

I am curious why IRONY is so dominant in popular culture; and, why artists who are viewed as pranksters or employ humour-in-social-engagements-aktions
are often considered
"lesser than" artists who are "serious"
or why work by artists using humour are not given A More Rigorous Viewing.

Why does laughter so often disconnect the viewer from experience/opportunity for a deepening of thinking/feeling?

And (naturally) this thought is as much or more about moi moi moi
(as Miss Piggy says) than vous.

Have fun in NYC!