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Interview: Daniel Kurland of The Raisin Gang

Posted by art On June - 16 - 2011

Daniel Kurland

By Meagan Snyder

The Raisin Gang’s members are active in Toronto’s sketch comedy community, translating their fast-paced and often absurd sketches into innovative live shows as well as high-quality short films. They will compete in TO Sketchfest’s Sketch Com-Ageddon during Round F, Thursday at 9:30 at Comedy Bar. Raisin Gang member Daniel Kurland was kind enough to answer a few questions for MONDO.

MONDO: Tell me how The Raisin Gang came to be.

DK: We had all worked together previously in various capacities prior to The Raisin Gang, the biggest one being Ryerson’s sketch troupe, RIOT. That would have been our “Groundlings,” I suppose. We started there, and then after getting out of university, no one seemed to think that education was the ingredient that held us all together, so we kept at it. We all have known each other for a gross amount of time.

MONDO: You perform live but also produce many videos. What do you get out of these different formats? Does one motivate you more than the other? Does your work in each format compensate the limitations of the other?

DK: They’re both great formats to play in, and I’m very happy that we do both, but it’s almost like they’re different vehicles entirely. With videos, you can tell stories that you couldn’t on stage. It’s that simple, and that always has me thinking videos are the greatest, because you can pretty much write anything, and more or less make it happen. Not only that, but you can get humour out of filming, by having jokes in the editing, or the effects, or the continuity. There was a solid stretch of time when everyone’s favorite sketches on SNL were the Digital Shorts, and it’s because of things like this. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Ross Bonfanti

Posted by art On March - 6 - 2011

This weekend, we talked with Ross Bonfanti, one of the artists taking part in The Artist Project Toronto (March 3-6) at the Queen Elizabeth Building on the Exhibition grounds.

What draws you to toy parts? They’re often used as a medium for your pieces.

Toys symbolize innocence, youth and generally in some way prepare us for some aspect of adulthood. The use of doll heads in particular is a way of representing the universal anybody.  The way I distort them symbolizes people’s own particular perception of reality.

You also use concrete. Why?

Not only do I like concrete for its aesthetic qualities, I like to use it as a symbol of an urban existence. It is heavy, cold, and in its liquid form can be manipulated into a multitude of things. Read the rest of this entry »

Ruth Kaplan, Brazilian Pentecostal Church, Toronto, 2009

By Kerry Freek

Have you ever wondered what draws people to faith? As a teenager, I was once asked to attend a Pentecostal service with some friends from school. More out of curiosity than any kind of desire to “give my heart to Jesus,” I decided to go. What followed was exposure a different world Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Profile: Steven Laurie

Posted by art On June - 26 - 2009
Mud Flap Project: Herman Kruis's Truck - Highland Transport

Mud Flap Project: Herman Kruis's Truck - Highland Transport

By Carolyn Tripp

“A friend of mine and I were sitting on the sidewalk one day,” artist Steven Laurie explains, “and wondering out loud what it would take for people who didn’t typically talk about art to be compelled to come into a gallery or be interested in a contemporary art show.”

The possibilities often seem stunted by the fairly insular environments that many art communities tend to foster. This is equally perpetuated by design or lack of funds, and a conundrum that many artists choose, understandably, not to address when creating work, especially when it pertains to those exhibiting in galleries. Typically one would choose to have art appear in spaces that specifically appeal to those of the local “known” and “cultured” audience (who are assumed to want to attend a show), versus those who never typically show interest, but might if they felt compelled (those we assume may never attend). Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Morris Lum

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2009
Plaza at the Intersection of Highway 7 and West Beaver Creek Road.

Plaza at the Intersection of Highway 7 and West Beaver Creek Road.

The commercial areas of Toronto’s suburbs are weird and wonderful experiments in postcolonialism. In many ways, they’re blank slates, plazas filled in gradually with a combination of big-box stores and shops and restaurants that are representative of the area’s predominant cultures and ethnicities. Morris Lum calls them ethnoscapes. Here, he says, “you may encounter a Chinese restaurant beside a Caribbean roti house and a Tim Horton’s.”

But as day turns to night, these car-centric areas of commerce grow quiet and lonely. It’s in this still, brightly-lit period, in these “monumental signifiers of North America,” that Lum documented New Cultural Topographics, a commentary on his self-proclaimed hybrid heritage.

Lum is part of the first-ever DOC/now, Ryerson University’s MFA Thesis Festival. Organized by its students, the festival celebrates work by the first graduating class of Ryerson’s new documentary media program. The festival opened on Thursday, June 11 and runs until June 23. MONDO had a quick conversation with Morris about his series.

By Kerry Freek

MONDO: Tell us a bit about your project.

Morris Lum: Well, my initial proposal for the program talked about trying to make sense of my hybrid heritage. My upbringing essentially culminates three different countries: I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, but moved to Canada when I was five. My dad was also born in Trinidad and Tobago and my mother was born in Macau, China.

Essentially, I had wanted to—through photography—make sense of this hybrid heritage. It took me a year-and-a-half to figure out a mode of image making that would best represent my heritage.

MONDO: The busy bright lights contrast with the late-night, abandoned suburban locations in your images. How do these images represent your hybrid heritage?

ML: They represent my Chinese heritage and my suburban Mississauga upbringing. The spaces metaphorically represent the wave of Chinese immigrants that have moved to Canada’s suburbs and have adapted to western culture.

Shooting these spaces at night represents how I see myself in relation to my Chinese heritage. I’m not necessarily inside of the culture, but I’m not necessarily outside of it, either.

MONDO: Is it okay to be half-in and half-out? How do you feel about this particular convergence of cultures?

ML: I think there are advantages and disadvantages. I can love the culture, and at the same time I can critique it.

Growing up it was very difficult. After moving to Canada, my mother wanted me to learn Cantonese, but I hated it. I went to Chinese school and felt like I didn’t fit in because for the first five years of my life I lived on an island, speaking English slang and drinking coconut water.

So, it was difficult not being able to fully understanding one culture. But I would rather think about it as growing up in a great position. Now I know many cultures.

I guess that’s why I’m still making work about my heritage. I’m still trying to figure things out.

MONDO: Do you think you’ll ever figure it out?

ML: No. But it’ll be a freaking great ride trying to figure it out.

MONDO: What would you like to explore in future work?

ML: I think I’ll being taking vacations away from my heritage. I’d like to live in a place foreign to me and explore how I see that space in relation to what I know.

MONDO: Where would you go?

ML: Japan, specifically Okinawa. I would revisit it from time to time, documenting its evolutions.

You can see Morris’ images, represented on a giant panoramic scale, at Toronto Image Works (80 Spadina Avenue, Suite 207) until June 27.

Plaza on the Intersection of Highway 7 and Commerce Valley.

Plaza on the Intersection of Highway 7 and Commerce Valley.

Remember Who’s Emma: Punk, Politics, and Place

Posted by art On June - 12 - 2009

By Julia Baird

Lyndall Musselman is on a quest to show that “Who’s Emma” is not just a rhetorical question without proper punctuation.  As a part of the DOC/now festival (presenting work by the first graduating class in Ryerson University’s MFA in Documentary Media program), Lyndall’s project,  Remember Who’s Emma, is an interdisciplinary documentary portraying a time, community, and place in the history of Toronto’s grassroots culture.

Prior to studying at Ryerson, Lyndall Musselman majored in Contemporary Studies and History, and attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design for interdisciplinary art, focusing mainly on photo and video.  Stemming from a conceptual art background, Lyndall notes that it has been a shift for her to move from the art world to a more traditional documentary approach — especially because matters are complicated slightly by having to grapple with documentary concerns like impartiality and historical accuracy. That being said, Lyndall has found that exploring the issues and shortcomings that surround representation has been a common thread throughout her artistic practice.  Fittingly, she sites Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula as influences, noting that they are also “really into social justice issues, really kind of grounding their art practice in real life concerns.”

So what was Who’s Emma anyway?  And who was Emma, while we’re at it?  Who’s Emma was a store that was located on Nassau Street in Kensington Market in Toronto from 1996 to 2000.  Frustrated by a lack of venues and stores supporting DIY culture and independent punk and hardcore music, Who’s Emma was opened by a collective of people, and was staffed and run entirely by volunteers on a consensus basis through monthly meetings.  On top of being a store, Who’s Emma hosted shows, workshops, and provided a space for community, activism, and collaboration.  And the Emma in question is Emma Goldman, an anarchist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who lived out the end of her life in Kensington Market after being deported from the United States for her political views.

Lyndall remembers her first exposure to Who’s Emma: “When I was 15, I had a friend whose father lived in Kensington Market and I came to visit her in Toronto.  We were walking around the Market and came across Who’s Emma and I was totally blown away by it.”  Here were people about her age staffing a store offering zines, books, and music that would have been basically impossible for her to find in her hometown of Collingwood. And that’s not to mention the community that walked in and out of its doors: “It was a hub of being able to run into people from everywhere.”

Lyndall makes it clear that she wasn’t aware about how the store was organized and operated until later on, but she explains that “Who’s Emma stayed close to me. When I was living in Halifax, if I met someone from Toronto, I’d usually ask them if they knew what they were up to at the store.  I didn’t live in Toronto when it was happening, but I knew it was happening and I thought it was amazing.”

“Working on the project has helped me to integrate into a community in Toronto,” says Lyndall, “A lot of people connected to Who’s Emma have become friends, which has made it a challenge to stay objective.”  In keeping with the consensus approach of the social phenomenon she was working to document, she chose to include everyone involved via posting the rough cuts on the internet and collecting feedback. Lyndall adds that the tricky decisions involved in editing were sometimes painful, but overall, her open-book approach to editing was a positive experience.

For Lyndall, the hardest obstacle to overcome along the way was “realizing that the project wanted to be a film.  Initially, I wanted it to be a collection of video fragments that people could navigate in a gallery setting through an interface, but there was such a strong narrative to it that I eventually had to give in to the story that was there. Accepting the shift in vision took a lot of time and it continues to be difficult to balance the film with the exhibition and installation aspects of the project.”

As a whole, the documentary project embraces a multifaceted mindset. On top of being a film, Remember Who’s Emma is also an archival art installation and a variety of events that chronicle and celebrate Who’s Emma.  Project 165 on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market will act as the home base for the bulk of it, which was no accident. Lyndall explains: “It was important to situate the project in Kensington Market.  I wanted to base it in that physical place, because that is what Who’s Emma was.” A friend recommended she check out Project 165, because it was similar in size and dimension to the store and it was close where Who’s Emma was located.  Serendipitously, it also turned out that Project 165 was run by Methinks Presents, a network of artists who share some similar ideals with the Who’s Emma collective.

So it does seem suitable that, from June 10-20th, Project 165 will play host to an installation inspired by physical traces from Who’s Emma, including financial papers, meeting minutes, and posters and flyers from shows, workshops, and events.  Creating the installation was a balancing act for Lyndall.  On the one hand, she felt the archival impulse to save and preserve the artifacts, and contemplated whether or not to use photocopies and other reproductions instead of the originals.  “If there are 50 kids in the space (at the all-ages punk show), posters will be ripped.”   Pulling from the other end is what Lyndall calls the punk, anarchist influence: “Things weren’t meant to last, they were supposed to disintegrate. People used scrap paper, sharpies and newsprint.  They weren’t thinking about posterity, they were thinking about getting things done now.”

Remember Who’s Emma:

Thursday, June 11th
Exhibition Opening: 5 – 7pm
Screening:  7pm
Project 165 (165 Augusta Ave.)

Later that night, there’ll be a punk dance party (DJed by people involved with Who’s Emma) at Teranga, 159 Augusta Ave.

The exhibition will run from June 10 – 20th.  Project 165 is open on Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 4pm.

Tuesday, June 16th
Punk Walking Tour of Kensington Market, lead by Stephe Perry of Equalizing Distort (a longtime punk/hardcore radio show on CIUT)

Thursday, June 18th
All-ages punk show, presented by Cognate
Place Hands, Tomcat Combat, A History Of & Ancestors
Project 165 (165 Augusta Ave.)

Saturday, June 20th
Panel Discussion “Whose Who’s Emma?” + Artist Talk
Project 165 (165 Augusta Ave.)

Tuesday, June 23rd
Screening of Remember Who’s Emma
John Spotton Theatre
National Film Board
150 John Street

Up-to-date details can be found on the Remember Who’s Emma blog:

Toronto’s Project 165 Made a Deal with the Devil

Posted by art On June - 9 - 2009

project-165By Julia Baird

Project 165, hub of the artist collaboration Methinks Presents, is buzzing with activity.  Several people, including Ryan Ringer, the main instigator of Methinks, work on arranging sale items in the front gallery for a fundraiser that’s four days away.  People mill in and out of the artist studios. When I have trouble finding my pen, Ryan hands me one filled with pink ink and explains that he enjoys the invigoration of writing in colours other than blue and black.

Pinpointing the essence of Methinks Presents is a tricky task, but the collective has something to do with all of the following words: surprise, inclusion, action, spontaneity, performance, disruption, sharing, and support.  Ryan explains, “Methinks is about collective action and collaboration. There’s been a lot of play, make-believe, and ongoing narratives.”

Methinks began in 2003 at the Ontario College of Art and Design with Ryan and Kevin Mayo. Eventually Kevin left for his own ventures and Methinks developed into a more collaborative character.  And the name?  As students at OCAD, their schooling was largely “about ideas, conceptually rigorous.  We were always told to be thinking, thinking, thinking about ideas.”  Taking on Methinks (meaning “it seems to me…”) as their brand to the world encompasses both that conceptual focus and the cheeky attitude that resonates throughout the collective.

A poster for a road trip to New York

A poster for a road trip to New York

Reoccurring performances include Free Psychic Reading Series, where “psychics” share their extrasensory wisdom with the public, and Bark News, a “guerilla journalism faction” that enacts playful news-style video documentation of Toronto cultural events.  There are cardboard-box vehicles of various persuasions: a lemonade truck serving lemonade and conversation to Brooklyn residents, a HypeMobile hurling propaganda at passersby through a megaphone and construction vehicles used to create a monument reminiscent of Will Aslop’s “crayons and dice” addition to OCAD.  Recently, a group of Methinks devotees constructed Video Camera mascot heads, in hopes that a crowd of camera-headed people would be able to rush a Google Street View Car as it documented the streets of Toronto.

Soon after its inception, Methinks’ scope spread to other major cities through organizing a series of Roadtrips from Toronto to New York and Montreal.  “The Roadtrips evolved through building community through adventure.”  They encompass a vacation, parties and events, travelling exhibitions, ongoing performance art, networking and cultural exchanges, and a chance for artists from Toronto and the host city to collaborate on art inspired by the trip.

For most of Methinks Presents’ existence, the collective was spurned on by the fertile conditions at OCAD.  The collaborators were immersed in an environment conducive to connecting with like-minded people and the school building supplied the artists with a place to meet and collaborate as a group.  “Once I was out of school, it was difficult.  We had no base,” says Ryan, “In order to go to the next level, there had to be a hub.  There needed to be a physical space.”

This seed at the back of his mind led to a day when Ryan spotted a “For Rent” sign in the window of a storefront space in Kensington Market.  He decided to give the number a call and two weeks later, he found himself agreeing to rent the space at 165 Augusta Avenue.  Project 165 opened in September 2008, featuring a storefront gallery, artist studios and a common area featuring a blossoming library.  “The fact that we have nine studios is a great addition, so it is more than just a place to have shows.  The arena expands and it’s more tangible.”

Aside from the usual goings-on at Project 165, Methinks Presents is also in the midst of planning an ambitious touring art bonanza called “We Made a Deal with the Devil.”  Taking place during the month of August and happening at locales from Toronto to Halifax, the tour will take six Methinks collaborators (who’ve been dubbed “Collective Action Expedition 09″) on the road to connect and collaborate with the do-it-yourself community across Central and Eastern Canada.  “Deal with the Devil” will have a broad scope, incorporating a traveling exhibit of drawings, a zine exchange, guest performance artists, creative events, cultural reciprocation, a tour blog, and documentary, as well as personal ongoing art projects by the six travelers.


That lemonade truck serving lemonade that was mentioned earlier.

The theme “We Made a Deal with the Devil” stems from a chance encounter with Maudite beer.  The illustration on the label depicts ‘La chasse-galerie’ (The Flying Canoe), a Quebecois folktale about a group of voyageurs who make a deal with the devil so that they can travel back home on a flying canoe to visit their loved ones on New Year’s Eve.

The Collective Action Six saw a thematic link between the tale and their predicament of putting on such an ambitious project.  “We’ll be six people in a van, camping together for a month.  We’ll also be relying on and working with people we don’t know. It’s a big risk and it’ll be expensive to do, but we decided that we were passionate enough about what we were doing.  We want to find out what other people are doing in other parts of Canada.  So we decided to just do it and the money will follow.  But we felt a bit like we were making a deal with the devil to make the tour happen.”

There are several ways to get involved with We Made a Deal with the Devil (you’ll find full details under ‘Latest News’):

  1. The Collective Action Expedition crew are interested in meeting creative people, so if you have a venue or a friend you’d like to recommend along the route, please let them know.
  2. If you’re going to be near one of the tour stops and you’d like to submit a performance proposal, the deadline for submissions is June 15.
  3. Reserve a spot in the drawing exhibition by email by June 15 (drawings inspired by ‘La chasse-galerie’ are due by July 15).
  4. Donations of zines to take on the tour will be accepted until July 25.
  5. Project 165 will be hosting a garage sale each Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday (the last Sunday of the month) to fundraise for the tour.  If you have items you’d like to donate to the cause, visit them at 165 Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12 – 4:00 pm.

And those interested in keeping tabs on upcoming events and projects are welcome to join facebook groups for both Methinks Presents and Project 165.

Fashion Profile: n.s. designs

Posted by art On May - 26 - 2009

ns-designs-desolateBy Helen Fylactou

Fashion designer Natalie Simms, with her perpetual smile and her bright red hair, is a breath of fresh air in the fashion industry.  She first exploded onto the scene in 2006 with her own design company.  Based out of Toronto, n.s designs draws inspirations from music and nature.

Simms’ street fashion designs can be worn right off the runway. The Hot White Night collection encompasses designs for men and women. Using light linens, and with a hint of bold colour, the garments are natural. The slim pants are tailoring with perfect line making the cut incredibly flattering. Simms has mastered the art of screen printing: n.s. designs makes its mark by customizing all the designs with graphic prints. Simms explains her dedication and love for the process of design as “satisfying and liberating” — her designs a therapeutic expression of art.

In addition to the Hot White Night collection, Simms’ 2007 Swing Tanzen Verboten collection makes you see and feel the connection between self and landscape. These designs are filled with earth tones and warm colours. Always remembering the body’s silhouette, the garments have a crisp lightness and daring prints. Simms’ design motto: “keep it very wearable but with funky details and a hint of sophistication that can be a bit unexpected, but still work.”

My personal favourite collection from n.s. designs is the Desolate collection. The collection was created for an avant-garde fashion show. The dresses range from the “little black dress” with a boat-cut neck line to hooded dresses with an open front (for the more adventurous woman).

Beyond giving the world something more than skinny jeans and leggings, n.s. designs is creating versatile collections for the everyday man and woman. With collections varying from cotton skirts to fluid-shaped dresses to silk blouses, this up-and-coming designer’s appealing and flattering apparel is gaining the attention of industry professionals. Such intrigue has allowed Simms to break into a competitive industry and to showcase her signature style.ns-designs-whitens-designs-swing

Natalie Simms and n.s. designs will be at The Creators‘ Marketplace Show & Sale, taking place on May 31 from 10am-6pm at the Thornhill Community Centre Hall (7755 Bayview Avenue). This one-day event will showcase original and handmade work from artists and craftspeople of all types, such as comic art, fine art, jewellery, food, clothing, photography, toys and more. One dollar from every admission fee, plus proceeds from a silent auction, will be donated to the Hospital for Sick Children’s Foundation.

Interview: Daniela Vlaskalic

Posted by art On May - 20 - 2009
Daniela Vlaskalic as Sister James. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Daniela Vlaskalic as Sister James. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

By Matt McGeachy

Last week, I sat down with Daniela Vlaskalic, who plays Sister James, a young, idealistic nun, in CanStage’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. Vlaskalic is a newly minted Stratford veteran, a playwright, and a graduate of the University of Alberta. We talked about politics, religion, guilty pleasures, innocence, and, of course, Doubt.

MONDO: In the director’s notes for Doubt, Marti Maraden wrote that a good portion of play’s allure comes from the fact that it’s unresolved, and maybe can’t be resolved. Was it important for you to come to a resolution for this play?  If so, what was it?

Daniela Vlaskalic
: I think that Sister James really goes back and forth in the play. I really believe that after the scene with Father Flynn, she does believe that he’s innocent. But once again, Sister Aloysius puts doubt back into her mind —  she can’t be certain.  She’s left like the audience.  Sister James tracks what the audience is going through a lot of the time.  She is constantly pulled back and forth between these two strong forces.  Someone described her as the child of divorced parents, and has great love and respect for both, and so she also is left with doubt.  Her certainty is taken away.

MONDO: Is there any one character for whom you have the most sympathy?

DV: I think I have the most sympathy for Sister James, not only because I am playing her, but also because it is sad that we can’t live seeing only the good in people. I don’t think you can really live in the world that way, and it’s sad to watch someone have their innocence taken away. It does happen to Sister Aloysius as well but not really to the same degree.

MONDO: The loss of innocence is such an important character arc for Sister James. When you were working through this in rehearsals, and in your own mind, was there a tipping point for the character, where she realizes that the world is not what she thought it was?

DV: There’s such a constant pull back and forth. I think it starts to happen for me when she begins to question what she sees, and it all topples from there. I think what she ultimately wants is to say to Sister Aloysius, “I saw this thing with this boy,” and Sister Aloysius to say, “You’re overreacting, it’s nothing.”

She wants simplicity, but instead this scene sets in motion the loss of innocence. From there forward, everything she thought was supposed to be crumbles. With Sister Aloysius, she really tries to teach Sister James, and James almost goes against her for it. It becomes clear that she really cannot have certainty at all.

MONDO: It is a parable, but there are a lot of people who might say that this is a very accurate portrayal of the Catholic Church, especially with the gender dynamic. Was this something that you were able to use as motivation as a female actor?

DV: Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t know which, I have never felt like I’ve come up against that in my life. Maybe that’s naïve of me, but I feel fortunate that I haven’t encountered that as much. In this business, there are obviously a lot more male roles and a lot of men who run companies, but I have worked with a lot of female artists. I’ve worked with Marti [Maraden] several times, and I really feel like the male dominance is changing, slowly, but changing. So I don’t know if that really motivated me as much as other things.

I did a lot more research in the time period, and the Church. It’s really intelligent for John Patrick Shanley [the playwright] to set the play in 1964, because in many ways it feels like that was America’s last “innocent” year: the death of John Kennedy the year before meant that Americans could no longer live behind this veneer of innocence — the world had changed. This helped me a lot more, by helping me to get into the mindset of someone who is innocent and loses that.

MONDO: Did the role require a lot of emotional vulnerability because of that?

DV: Yes, I think so. It did, and also a lot of energy caring about the other characters in the play. That’s where it comes from, a real concern for the kids. Although the kids are not in the play, they are a very important part of it. I felt like I could really latch onto that: having a great love for these kids and for the people that I’m working with. Then when everyone is not getting along and Sister James is stuck in the middle, it gets very emotional.

MONDO: You are also a playwright. Does this provide you with greater insight for your acting?

DV: It’s an incredible thing — when you actually start to put a play together and you realize how much work and thought has to go into it. I think it has informed my acting. You start to look at it from different places: not just from your character’s perspective, which is where you begin, but also from the other characters’ perspectives, and the audience’s, too. I really find it helpful and I enjoy writing as well.

This play is so well written; it’s fun to figure out Shanley’s thinking. He was inspired to write this play by news on the Iraq war. He didn’t write a huge political play, though this is a political play, but he wrote something that was more personal to him. He really loved these nuns from his childhood, and Sister James is the only real character in the play.

MONDO: Does writing your own work make you more critical when playing a role?

DV: Yes! This is such a well-written play that it’s hard to find fault. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been much more critical! But even in this play, we all wondered about things like punctuation. When you’re a playwright it’s so difficult to make people understand the little things: how do the lines look on the page? This is an indication of the tempo. We were all interpreting what he [Shanley] wanted us to do.

MONDO: So much of the play is written in rapid-fire dialogue between Sister James and Sister Aloysius. How did you and Seana McKenna develop this rhythm?

DV: That just came over time, really. Sometimes you come in and you’re already off book. With this play, we didn’t really do that. You really need the other person’s rhythm. We didn’t just come in and fire back and forth. We took it all apart and then put it back together to find the pace.

MONDO: Religion is one of the things you’re never supposed to talk about at parties, yet this play takes the business of the Catholic Church at this time head on. Do people have a strong reaction to the religious aspects of the play?

DV: No, the religious people I’ve talked to really like to come and see it. It’s not anti-Church or anti-religion, it’s more about an issue within the Church. Shanley’s beautiful forward to the play talks about his admiration for the nuns and a priest he liked; he really had a good relationship with them. I think that a lot of people in the Church have enjoyed seeing this play.

MONDO: How did the costume and habit affect your character and physicality on stage?

DV: Well, quite a bit. We had our bonnets early on, and they’re a stage version of the real thing, which are quite deep and wouldn’t work on stage with the lighting. We had those right from the beginning, and now it would be weird not to wear them. There is a real style, very humble; our hands are always hidden, really. It does inform how much movement you have, and it’s kind of oppressive. There is no skin, and even your hands are meant to be hidden. It informs the whole feeling and makes you feel different.

MONDO: Was it a lot of fun building this play?

: Yes, it was! It’s a wonderful cast, and everyone is really generous. We had a great time, really figuring it out. It appears deceptively simple: when you read it you realize how complex it is. There are so many years of experience between them, and it was great to work with more experienced, generous actors [David Storch and Seana McKenna]. They were great about helping to grow, and gave a lot of time and energy in rehearsals and on stage.

MONDO: Finally, do you have any theatrical guilty pleasures, and if so, what are they?

DV: Oh gosh — I guess it’s that I like to see plays by myself. I see a lot of theatre; some actors don’t like seeing plays, but I try to see everything. I don’t know if that’s a guilty pleasure of not, but there is something very liberating about it. I can think about it, spend some time with it, and form my own opinions.

This is the final article in a series about this year’s [FAT], Toronto’s Alternative Arts and Fashion Week.

Photo by Arline Malakian

Photo by Arline Malakian

By Helen Fylactou

“Let your inner light shine. We can’t help being beautiful. Beauty is contagious” – Arline Malakian

Arline Malakian has made an indelible impact on the face of photography. While breaking conventions, Malakian creates relationships with her audiences and moves past aesthetics to provokes ideas and feeling. In addition to her photography, Malakian has become a presence in mainstream fashion. She’s looking for a way to empower people by having them explore their inner core.

Appearing on the third day of Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week, Malakian’s Black and Black photo series, inspired by Lucian Matis’ Black Collection, was a “test in photographic technique.” Malakian shot black dresses on black models against a black background; a touch of red appears in each photo, creating tension.  A visually stunning series of photographs, Black on Black shows Malakian’s love for the photographic arts. In Malakian’s words, the series offers “a delicate balance between the darkness, lightness, the silhouette and the garments.”  Malakian’s success in shooting black on black on black in chromatic repetition demonstrates her brilliance.

Duality is an apparent theme that is explored throughout Malakian’s work. She told me, “Our life here is not everything; it’s not the whole story. There is a bigger picture.”  A belief that we must learn to live in a world that is filled with dualities.  A world that can not be described with one word, Malakian adds: “It is the profane and the spiritual, the male and female, the generous and the insecure.”  A striking impression was left by the series, emphasizing the pleasure of photography in addition to fashion.

In both her editorial and commercial photos, Malakian juxtaposes feminine fragility with inner strength.  Creating images that transcend identity, Malakian educates her audiences on looking past the surface.  The models are often captured with a  serene, soft facial expression, but styles in either haute couture hats or larger-than-life dresses contrast the soft with the hard. Malakian wishes for us to “co-create, [so] that the audience would ask about it. That way the art does not stay as art, it becomes an emotion.”  While viewing her collection, I felt both swayed by the emotion and inspired to reflect on the personal meanings that I brought to the viewing.  After seeing her work, I now understand how Malakian’s photos reiterate her personal philosophy that “if we do not respect who we are at the core than we are not really seeing our souls.”

The Toronto-based photographer has captured the hearts and minds of many.  The W Network recently produced a Beauty Quest documentary involving Malakian in the Dove, Real Beauty photo exhibit. Photography and a personal journal helped Malakian transition from photographer to author for her book Be a Woman, a collaboration with Kim MacGregor. The work focuses on Malakian’s personal philosophy of respecting your inner core and allows for beauty to exist in everything.

[FAT] Interview: DJ Daniel Wilson

Posted by art On April - 28 - 2009
DJ Daniel Wilson in action.

DJ Daniel Wilson in action.

Interview and photos by Helen Fylactou

Performing both on the second and the third nights of [FAT], DJ Daniel Wilson kept the mood of the room vibrant and sexy. The perfect soundtrack at a fashion show propels the audience from feeling good about the show, to feeling fabulous about the show. DJ Daniel Wilson is that perfect soundtrack. Prior to the big nights, MONDO had a chance to interview him about life, music and fashion.

MONDO: How would your describe your sound?

DJ Daniel Wilson: A little all over the board, but a lot of electro. For [FAT] I will be changing it to suit the theme of the night, so Planet will be a little more ethereal house and vocal-based electro, while Gutter will be more glitchy with some punk and rock — I’ll be able to let loose a bit more.

MONDO: What DJs/musicians have inspired you?

DJ: Oh gosh, a lot. Everything from Princess Superstar to PJ Harvey. Little Boots, Nick Cave, Fritz Helder and the Phantoms, Kids on TV, Tiga, Ladytron, Barbi & Syntonics, Leonard Cohen, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Robyn, Sigur Ros… really all over the map.

MONDO: How do you read the mood of the room? Is there a special trick to it?

DJ: I just try to see how people are reacting and what makes them move, but I still play what I like. DJs get hired for their taste in music, so it’s a balance of responding to the crowd but not listening to that one drunk person that makes terrible requests.

MONDO: Do you find it difficult finding a balance between having your music heard and not having your music overpower the room at a fashion show?

DJ: During the fashion show, the clothes have to be the focus. That’s the reason people are there. The music complements the mood of the fashion and gives the models a beat.

MONDO: You’re a stylist yourself. Are there any designers you’re are excited about seeing at [FAT] this year?

DJ: Walk Tall, which I was blown away by at Mass Exodus (the Ryerson fashion program’s graduating show), Christabel Couture always does amazing, jaw-dropping stuff. The Deadly Nightshades are going to totally kick ass, and I’m curious to see Youth.InAsia. Caitlin Cronenberg is also such a brilliant photographer, I’m looking forward to seeing her work.

MONDO: If you could choose a song title to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?

DJ: I very often finish my sets with The Jesus And Mary Chain’s “Cracking Up.” Enough said.

MONDO: Last question. Right Said Fred’s “I’m too Sexy”: a prophetic critique of the world of fashion  or a just a damn good song for practicing your runway walk?

DJ: A little bit of both!  Fashion likes to be taken dead serious, but also likes to make fun of itself.

Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week ran April 21-24, 2009 in the Distillery District.

Midence Oliu in Interview: Fierce, Personified

Posted by art On April - 21 - 2009

photo-2By Helen Fylactou

This is the first in a series of articles that will follow Toronto’s 2009 [FAT] Alternative Fashion Week.

With uncompromising style, Midence Oliu designs haute couture hats that are unique, fierce and exquisitely crafted. This radical designer’s pieces can easily be compared to sculptures.  Weaving between Victorian to 1930s to post-modern designs, Oliu has capture the imagination and the interest of both the editorial and commercial world.

MONDO:  How did you get into fashion?

Midence Oliu:  It was a natural progression. I have been drawing the second I was able to pick up a crayon. My first memory of fashion was watching an haute couture show on Fashion Television and not understanding it at all. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. It wasn’t until recently, about a year ago, that I started to really appreciate high fashion and started to follow it. What drew me in was the glamour, excess, and the drama of it all.

MONDO: How did you get into designing hats?

MO:  I was fortunate to have taken a materials class in the program I was in at George Brown college.  This was the turning point in my professional life.  [Designing] was something I wanted to do for a while. I asked myself, how can I get into a Paris fashion show? I don’t know how to make clothes, so I thought perhaps I could make a hat. At the time it made  sense, but as time passed I found out that it was a difficult process because of the proportions of materials. The reaction to my first hat exhibited at the Paramnesia Mass Exodus show (Ryerson) was amazing. I made it into fab magazine. At that point, I thought I might be onto something.

photo-3MONDO: Does the city inspire you? If yes, how?

MO: Toronto is very young in terms of design and fashion. You can make a name for yourself here, and I’ve found there’s a lot of support in this city. However, it’s still very conservative. I want to push the envelope of fashion here in Toronto. Late legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said it best: “Give them what they didn’t know they wanted.”

MONDO: How will your style help differentiate you from other designers?

MO: Oh trust me, you know when I have had my hands in a design. People say, “Oh, that’s definitely an Oliu.” I’m known for lots of drama, people know I like big and things that make them go “Oooooooooo,” while maintaining a sense of elegance and class. Plus, I’m “fierce” personified, honey. I’ll probably be living on the streets, but at least I’ll be known for the most ferocious hats around!

MONDO: What’s next for you?

MO: It’s time to put my designs to the test. I’ll be starting to sell less theatrical pieces, and get some recognition for myself. Through word of mouth I was recommended to a fabulous Toronto-based milliner — David Dunkley — and he has given me an opportunity of a lifetime: to collaborate on some projects. My dream would be to have my own boutique here in Toronto, and design hats for the runways of New York and Paris.



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