Queer performance in Regina

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Aquila, 2009, mixed media

Aquila, 2009, mixed media

Performatorium rings in the New Year

Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor

For three years, queer artists have come together under the title “Performatorium” to perform live pieces of art in this unique festival hosted in Regina.

“It’s the only queer performance festival in Canada,” says Gary Varro, the man responsible for the celebration of queer performance. From Jan. 15-18, people can come to a variety of locations to see an array of performances put on by queer artists from around the world.

This year, Varro gathered up such artists as Kira O’Reilly (London), Arianna Ferrari (Milan), and Lucien Durey, an artist from Regina currently living in Vancouver. When speaking with Durey, he says he is excited be a part of the festival for the first time and to meet the fellow artists.

“Everyone I talk to about this queer performance festival is so surprised that something like this happens in what people consider to be a conservative, small, prairie place.”

He says the perception of Saskatchewan not having a lot of queer voices is changing because of this festival, proving there is an audience for such work.

“My experience going back [to Regina] is so different from what I felt about my community while I was living there. It feels pretty powerful.”

At the festival, Durey will be performing only on Jan. 16. It will involve live music and a video. Durey recorded a video in Crayton, Saskatchewan during his artist residency, to which he will be singing along to before an audience.

The theme for Performatorium changes every year, and for 2014, Varro decided on a theme of “spirituality, persona, transformation, transcendence, ritual, and ecstasy.”

Durey’s piece is only one segment of the three-day festival. Varro describes the festival as a regular gallery, where you can come in, view a piece, leave, then come back and watch it again. Jan. 16, Varro says, is a more “conventional” set-up where there is a performer-audience relationship. The following day holds an interesting performance involving 32 volunteers. Varro says they are still looking for anyone who can attend from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 17 at the 5th Parallel Gallery at the University of Regina.

“[The performance is] relating to the idea about the body, spirits, and rituals. The piece is about mortality and how, perhaps in this day and age, we become numb to death…we are so tuned in to what’s going on in the world through media that another disaster is just another killing or shooting.”

All the performances during the festival are meant to take the viewer into places where they may not always be sure what’s going on, but they get a sense of something quite intense happening. Varro says the performance festival was started because of the change in dynamic between watching a film and live performance.

“In 1996 when the first queer film festival happened, before there was a full on relationship with social media and electronic communication, films and videos at a theatre were really the only way for the community to see themselves and content that was LGBTQ.”

Now with such reliance on technology, that need has changed. Instead of having one festival with films and live performance combined as they did up until 2000-2002, Varro has the two separated. Although the numbers have dropped, the need is still there to have both a queer film festival and a performance festival.

“[The festival] has contributed somehow to an awareness of different types of sexualities and identities, both in terms of social awareness and creative awareness. A lot of what is shown is challenging and may be outside the so-called box,” says Varro.

But, is it actually necessary to have this festival? Varro has been asked this question many times and he says just when he thinks it may not be, something happens in the world that proves him wrong. A more recent example would be Russia’s stance on the LGBTQ community.

“The world still needs to be reminded that there’s still problems/issues that, maybe, will never go away or will come in waves. There’s dips and peaks.”

Whether it’s a dip or a peak, Varro will keep putting on Performatorium until he runs out of artists or until he can no longer keep it up, whichever happens first. For more information on the festival, visit www.queercitycinema.ca/performance2014.

Image: Lucien Durey

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