Centipede crawls with queerly macabre experimental animation

With multimedia installations, 3D projections, and more, the pop-up exhibition delves into the complexity of queerness

BY GAIL JOHNSON, STIR VANCOUVER

SUM gallery and the Flavourcel Animation Collective present Centipede at the Sun Wah Centre April 7 to 9 from 12 to 6 pm. A closing reception takes place April 9 from 3 to 5 pm. 

QUICK: THINK OF A centipede. What’s your gut reaction? Are you freaked out by the thought of a super-long creepy crawlie? Or are you fascinated by how so many sections of a single organism can move independently yet together? For local artists Benjamin Siegl and Harlo Martens, the “hundred-legger”, as it’s sometimes called, is more than a mere arthropod, whether it gives you the heebie-jeebies or not. It is, for one, a metaphor for the collective journey queer people go on when finding their place this world, one step at a time; the centipede is also a metaphor for the animated image, as it unfolds frame by frame. It’s also the name of a new multisensory, experimental pop-up exhibition where people are invited to crawl down into the dark depths of the Sun Wah Centre basement to experience “queerly macabre experimental animation”. 

Centipede is a collaboration between SUM gallery, one of the only permanent spaces on the planet dedicated to the presentation of queer art, and the Flavourcel Animation Collective,  a group of 10 artists who work collaboratively on everything from GIFs to music videos to print-media projects. Curated by Siegl, Queer Arts Festival’s assistant curator, the exhibition incorporates multimedia installation, 3D projection, soundscapes, and more, all to explore what it means to be queer today.

“We know that animation lends itself well to many things; however it does so particularly well to themes of the grotesque since we are in the business of creating illusions, which are inherently optically uncanny,” explains Martens, a Flavourcel member. “In this way, we might think of animation as a queer medium: It has the ability to take up several elemental aspects at once including light, time, space, sound, and interactiveness, especially within an environment like Sun Wah Building, where there is quite a lot of projection capacity and a rich queer history embedded into the space.

“There is a kind of natural delightfulness that is very complimentary to the macabre in animation,” Martens adds. “I find this contradiction between tones and feelings really interesting in our work, because it puts into perspective that our lives as queer and trans animators is complicated—our joy and our pain will always go hand-in-hand.” “There is quite a broad spectrum of haunting that comes with being queer.”

There will be a range of experimental animation techniques and installations found throughout the space. As participants walk around, they will shift between different pieces of sound, light, and movement. 

“What can the audience expect? A fun, immersive experience in a dark damp space with weird sounds and lights—I mean, generally,” Siegl says with a laugh. “Creepy visuals, a distinctly retro-vibe, and spaces for reflection…. The exhibit really challenges conventional ideas of what animation can be or look like. 

“From my perspective, and I would think the collective would agree, ‘experimental animation’ is way cool, a totally underappreciated medium,” Siegl adds, “and deserves much more representation and recognition than it currently receives, as do artists and animators who are struggling to find their place within the animation industry.”

Spooky and enchanting, Centipede explores the way queer movement was, for so long, relegated to life’s dark corners, whether in urban spaces or people’s own minds. And while queerness is slowly stepping closer to the light, its painful history is ever present.

“Because animation is so flexible, the result can often come painfully close to our real feelings,” Martens says. “There is quite a broad spectrum of haunting that comes with being queer. We can really feel trauma in our bodies, whether directly personal or as a trickle down of our historical queer necropolitical experiences. Our fears can be deeply caustic, sore, and dissociative. Our fears can be tied to specific events, or they can occur without notice and without reason. Our fears can be connected very closely to our love, to our anger, to our loss and to our power. A lot of us are also especially drawn to the idea of queer mourning/death and how we are perceived.

Siegl adds that queerness is complex: “Our joy and our pain will always go hand-in-hand. I wonder how we define this pain, where it comes from, and how to carry it into the future we aspire for ourselves. Contemporary queerness is entrenched in the past, and every queer person knows what it’s like to confront that ghost—how do we honour it, make peace with it, understand it? How do we protect ourselves and our future from it? It’s hard.”

Maybe the centipede metaphor is apt here, too. As Martens puts it: “When you are looking at Centipede, you are seeing the beauty of our singular work while also seeing how we work together and move forward together through our own obstacles.”

For more information, see https://sumgallery.ca.  

Spring Arts Preview: with restrictions lifted, music thrives in Vancouver

by Steve Newton, Georgia Straight on February 24th, 2022

Live music is back big-time in Vancouver this spring with a wide range of in-person performances presented by companies like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver, Music on Main, the UBC School of Music, the Friends of Chamber Music, and the Vancouver Recital Society.

Queering the Air: Mignon at the SUM Gallery, February 25. Mignon, a non-binary icon of German Romanticism, is brought to life through the music of Zelter, Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf, performed by soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch and pianist Tina Chang.

VSO/Chooi Plays Mendelssohn at the Orpheum Theatre, February 25 and 26. Music director Otto Tausk leads the VSO and violinist Nikki Chooi in a program of works by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto, Op. 64, E Minor), Linda Catlin Smith (Tableau, VSO Commission 2021), and Robert Schumann (Symphony No. 2, Op 61, C Major).

VSO/Chooi Plays Mendelssohn at the Orpheum Theatre, February 25 and 26. Music director Otto Tausk leads the VSO and violinist Nikki Chooi in a program of works by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto, Op. 64, E Minor), Linda Catlin Smith (Tableau, VSO Commission 2021), and Robert Schumann (Symphony No. 2, Op 61, C Major).https://76951f3258f2dc75494e70c1bffe8c47.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Rhapsody and the Blues at the Kay Meek Arts Centre, February 26. Vancouver premiere of a new arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Jazz Big Band, plus music of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Nat King Cole.

Safia Nolin at Studio 16, February 26. As part of the Nouvelle Scène concert series, Le Centre culturel francophone de Vancouver presents Québecoise indie-folk singer-songwriter.

Inhale/Exhale at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, February 26 and 27. The Turning Point Ensemble presents major new works by composers Taylor Brook and Nova Pon, plus music by Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry.

Rufus Lin at Lulu Island Winery, February 27. International jazz concert pianist Rufus Lin performs as part of the Live Jazz at the Winery recital series.

Sisters in Jazz Day at the VSO School of Music, February 27. Jazz workshops and jam sessions with Jodi Proznick, Amanda Tosoff, Laura Anglade, and Virginia Frigault-MacDonald.

Cellobration! at the Anvil Centre, February 27. The Vancouver Chamber Music Society presents Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled performing with pianist Noreen Polera.

Kits Classics + Worlds Beyond at Mel Lehan Hall at St. James, February 27. Clarinetist Johanna Hauser, cellist Olivia Blander, and pianist Anna Levy perform works by Brahms, Sumera, and Bloch.

Castalian String Quartet at the Vancouver Playhouse, February 27. The Vancouver Recital Society presents London-based quartet in a program of works by Haydn (String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 “Fifths”), Fanny Mendelssohn (String Quartet in E-flat major), and Schubert (String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887).

VAMSO: Brahms Symphony No. 3 at the Orpheum Theatre, February 27. The Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra presents performances of Wagner’s symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, conducted by Ian Parker.

Benewitz Quartet at the Vancouver Playhouse, March 1. The Friends of Chamber Music present a program of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (String Quartet No. 4 in C major, KV157), Felix Mendelssohn (Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Opus 13), and Antonín Dvořák (String Quartet No.13 in G major, Opus 106).

VSO/Peer Gynt at the Orpheum Theatre, March 3. Conductor Anna Rakitina and host Christopher Gaze join the Vancouver Symphony in Edvard Grieg’s charming suite from the Ibsen play.

Aljoša Jurinić at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, March 2. Croatian classical pianist performs works by Ludwig van Beethoven (Sonata No. 21 in C major “Waldstein”) and Frédéric Chopin (Ballade in F major, Op. 38; Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27, No. 2; and Ballade in G minor, Op. 23).

Read the full article here.

Futurosity in the Midst of History

A Queer Black Art Share

Sat Feb 26, 3 – 6pm

Throughout the month of February, we’ve been showcasing Queer Black Art and Artists on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds — all co-curated by Valérie d. Walker and April Sumter-Freitag. Join them via Zoom on Sat, Feb 26 for Futurosity in the Midst of History, an online Art Share with special guests Christopher Hunte (aka Symone Says), Lili Robinson, and Addena Sumter-Freitag. The panel will share their collectively diverse body of work — from fibre art, to playwriting, to drag—and discuss the joys and challenges of their craft. This event concludes with a specially curated online music set with the one and only DJ O Show! 

Stir Q&A: Mi’gmaq photographer and mask-maker Duane Isaac explores Indigenous relationship between land and body

BY GAIL JOHNSON, STIR VANCOUVER

MI’GMAQ ARTIST DUANE Isaac fuses photography with contemporary fantastical masks, his work informed by Indigenous knowledge and the queer gaze.

SUM gallery opens its 2022 season with Sovereignty, the Listuguj, Quebec-based photographer and mask-maker’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. Featuring a series of portraits documenting the Indigenous body in nature, the show speaks to Indigenous and environmental health and survival.

Curated by SUM gallery founding artistic director emeritus SD Holman, Sovereignty is part of the 2022 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program.

Stir connected with Isaac to hear more.

Speaking generally, what is it about masks that attracts you and motivated you to incorporate this form into your photography?

People often connect through eye contact, even through a photo the eyes are often inviting. Obscuring this connection forces the mind to look for other things to connect to. I think it’s also a matter of fantasy, that the person behind the mask is a stranger. While the photos are intimate, you really don’t know who’s behind the mask.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind them?

I’ve developed my process over the years. Lots of trial and error. First thing I do is create a basic shape. Every mask begins the same way. Then I decide on outer features that extrude from the mask itself. Ears, horns, random geometric shapes? There’s no limitation but imagination. My materials are either made by me via molds, or items I’ve amassed through various means—yard sales, art-supply stores, etc.

As far as details go, I love baroque design elements. You’ll find my work adorned with cherubs, skulls, insects, roses, and pearls. I love monsters, the occult and anime/cartoonish villain of the week creatures. I like the idea of a beautiful monster or beautiful villain.

So many horror movies use masks for the main character, making them especially terrifying. Do you draw from the genre? 

I am definitely a horror fan. I remember growing up with Ghostface, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, to name a few. All the greats had a mask. Those elements are definitely an inspiration. Again I’d refer back to my point about obscured faces. You can’t connect to the “human” of a masked villain. There is reason to fear that. I also feel like masks can also bring out the things we wouldn’t normally do without the anonymity they provide. 

In Sovereignty, the figure’s mask is said to represent dualism, Indigenous identity as inseparable from and equal to the Land. Can you tell us more? 

Historically, Indigenous people have been the stewards of this land. We take care of the land and it takes care of us. It has always been that way. We need it in more ways than it needs us. We need food, water, and medicines. All provided by the land. If the land is sick, we are sick. One prime example would be the many reservations under boil-advisory orders.

The exhibition speaks to sovereignty under threat. Can you expand on this? 

So much of the unceded territory in Canada is subjected to devastation from things like chemical waste runoff or rampant expansion of resource extraction. Reserve lands are often in proximity to sites used for pipelines, natural gas exploration, and factories. Often these projects involve “man camps”, which have a troubling link to MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls]. 

How do your Indigenous ancestry and queerness inform your work?

For years I’ve had this self imposed ostracism from my culture. I felt unaccepted by it because of the anxiety surrounding my sexual orientation. It’s definitely not the typical idea when you think of “Indigenous, or Mi’gmaq, art”. Whenever there’s a call for Indigenous artists, it’s always almost a fetishist expectation of beads, feathers and leather. That’s not to say these aspects aren’t important, they are. I envy those who have these beautiful talents. Sometimes I feel like a fraud compared to them. I appreciate and celebrate every artist who works to preserve, promote and progress traditional craft. My work is definitely through an Indigenous lens though. I am Mi’gmaq, I have spent my entire life surrounded by my culture, in proximity to ceremony, and listening to the language. This will always come through my work.

With the Indigenous lens, there is also a queer lens. It’s again brought through lived experience. I feel this comes through in the fantasy aspects and celebration of the male physique.

For more information, see SUM gallery.

BLACK QUEER or ALLIED COMMUNITY RESOURCES

SoulTribe Collective 

We are a creators collective! Joining together musical talent, visual art, movement and so much more. Founded in Vancouver British Columbia, expanding out world wide. We offer amazing discounts, exclusive content, social media support and featured shout out through all platforms. We are here to empower artists. Our website is integrated to sell artist merchandise with profit toward them. 

Battered Women’s Support Services

Battered Women’s Support Services provides support and advocacy for women, trans women and gender minorities who have experienced abuse. Programs include support groups, counselling, Women’s Safety and Outreach Program, career exploration, legal advocacy, YOUth Ending Violence; and Violence, Media Representations and Families media literacy program

1-855-687-1868

PACE Society

PACE provides critical frontline supports to Sex Workers, including violence prevention education, one-to-one support, advocacy & referrals, peer outreach, and drop-in services.

604-872-7651

Rainbow Refugee

Rainbow Refugee supports and assists LGBTQ and/or HIV+ asylum seekers, refugee claimants and refugees in Canada . They also hold information drop-ins where lesbian gay bi trans queer /HIV+ people considering or making a claim can learn about the application process and community resources.

info@rainbowrefugee.ca

WISH Drop-In Centre Society

WISH works to improve the health, safety and well-being of women who are involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade.

 info@wishdropincentre.org 

WISH Shelter:

340 Alexander Street (entrance in alley)

Vancouver, BC, Canada V6A 1C3

604-558-4031

JQT Vancouver 

An arts, cultural and educational non-profit dedicated to creating connections and seeking space to celebrate our intersectional identities as Jews of all ages, diverse sexual orientations, as well as gender and sex identities, by queering Jewish space and ‘Jewifying’ queer space. 

The Black Arts Centre (BLAC)

The Black Arts Centre (BLAC) is a Black youth owned and operated gallery and community site based in Surrey, BC that is dedicated to supporting multidisciplinary art created by Black youth. 

theblackartscentre@gmail.com

Love Intersections

Love Intersections is a media arts collective made up of queer artists of colour dedicated to using collaborative art making and relational storytelling to address systemic racism in our communities. We produce intersectional and intergenerational stories from underrepresented communities of colour – centering the invisible, the spiritual, the metaphysical and the imaginary. We believe in deep and meaningful relationships, that intersectionality is a verb and a call to action, that we must cultivate social trust through collective care and community responsibility. Our desire is to provoke (he)artful social change through a lens of love.

Kiwassa Neighbourhood House

Kiwassa Neighbourhood House is a gathering place where people of all ages, cultures and walks of life can make friends, participate in programs, find resources, share ideas, and contribute to community life. Offers free meals, counselling and children’s programs primarily geared towards low-income families. Located in the heart of the east Vancouver/Commercial Drive area where a large population of trans/gender variant and queer people reside.

604-254-5401

Mosaic

Mosaic delivers services from 32 client-accessible sites; services include settlement assistance; English language training; employment programs; interpretation and translation; counselling services; and community outreach for families and individuals, including children, youth and seniors.  MOSAIC also offers services for the LGBTQ and temporary foreign worker communities.

604-254-9626

Saige Community Food Bank – Trans/Gender Variant Safe Space

The food bank provides a safe space for transgender and gender non-conforming or queer individuals to access healthy food, as well as support from their LGBT peers.

Dragonstone Counselling – lower-cost counselling

Core values of offering respectful and informed holistic care to people who have experienced marginalization. Lower-cost counselling for $60 or less. They do not turn people away due to lack of funds. Prioritizes lower cost counselling for the following groups of people:

  • people with disabilities and chronic health conditions
  • newcomers to Canada
  • including undocumented newcomers
  • LGBTQ people
  • Black, Indigenous and People of Colour
  • and single parents

604-738-7557

info@dragonstonecounselling.ca

The Masc and Femme We Wear—A night of readings from QTBIPOC writers

Virtual event: Sat, Mar 26, 3 – 5pm

Queer BIPOC writers and poets convene for The Masc and Femme We Wear: The Queer Bodypolitic of Ethnicity, taking place via Zoom on Mar 26 at 3pm PST. Participating writers will perform written works centred around the intersections of queerness, ethnicity, gender representation and body image for a night of readings and performance curated by award-winning writer and activist Berend McKenzie. Join our performers as their work explores and begs the following questions: What are the costs of masking or revealing one’s inner self under the glaring stage lights of colonialist supremacy? How do the expectations of a salacious white gaze fit, chafe, bind, or even unravel the BIPOC queer body and spirit? How is the BIPOC queer body eroticized and fetishized?

ABOUT BEREND MCKENZIE

Berend McKenzie (he/she/they interchangeably) is an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, screenwriter, and published author living on Treaty 6 land otherwise known as Edmonton, Alberta. Berend is best known for his ground-breaking, Jessie Richardson Award nominated one-person show NGGRFG. He has worked with Oscar-winning actresses Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie. Berend is currently writing his first auto-fiction novel, Adopted. In October 2021, Berend’s short story Hockey Night in Canada was published in the anthology Between Certain Death and A Possible Future: Queer Writing in Growing up with the AIDS Crisis (Arsenal Pulp Press) and has just completed writing their first TV pilot under option with Warner Media.

+ readings from artists C.E.  Gatchalian, Tia Kushniruk, Serena Bhandar, Lili Robinson, Kyle Shaughnessy!

Gender Pirates

gender
1: a construct
pirate
1: one who robs on the high seas
also: one who commits acts resembling robbery

Virtual Event: Mar 31 at 7pm

We’re celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility with Gender Pirates: an online evening of trans-centred events curated by Bobbi Kozinuk. Who are Gender Pirates, you ask? Gender Pirates are folks who defy society’s preconceptions of gender performance and expression; they are people who have fought (and continue to fight) to create their own space; and they’re individuals who make their own rules and inspire others to live their truths. Join us for an evening that shines a spotlight on extraordinary trans lives, with a special performance of Kozinuk’s Vertigo, a reading by artist and activist Yoseñio V. Lewis, and a soundscape performance by sound artist and DJ, Brady Marks. And keep an eye on our social media that week for special Instagram takeovers and media shares!

Queering the Air—A Quintessentially Queer Concert Series presented by SUM gallery

Feb 11 – Mar 11, 2022

SUM gallery is proud to present our first Queering the Air concert series: music that presents the many sides of queerness, from darkest introspection to the most radiant joy. We launch this series with renowned Two-Spirit baritone Jonathon Adams in a special concert at the Bill Reid Gallery; The McGregor-Verdejo Duo takes us back to SUM gallery with music inspired by isolation, love, and loss; Sarah Jo Kirsch introduces us to the Romantic non-binary muse, Mignon; and concluding our series, Sex Lives of Vegetables: Music of Leslie Uyeda, an evening of dazzling vocal music by the composer who gave us the world’s first lesbian opera. 

Concert schedule:

Feb 11, 7:30pm | In Darkness: Lute Songs of John Dowland Celebrated baritone Jonathon Adams and lutenist Lucas Harris give a special performance at the Bill Reid Gallery, co-presented with Müzewest Concerts. Hosted by Bill Reid Gallery, 639 Hornby St., Vancouver SOLD OUT

Feb 18, 7:30pm | McGregor-Verdejo Duo The Vancouver flute & guitar duo present a program of queer longing and isolation with music by Matthew-John Knights, Rodney Sharman, Hiroki Tsurumoto, and Gabriella Yorke. Hosted by SUM gallery, #425 – 268 Keefer St., Vancouver

Feb 25, 7:30pm | Mignon Mignon, a non-binary icon of German Romanticism, is brought to life through the music of Zelter, Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf, performed by soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch and pianist Tina Chang. Hosted by SUM gallery, #425 – 268 Keefer St., Vancouver

Mar 11, 7:30pm | Sex Lives of Vegetables: Music of Leslie Uyeda The scandalous, gorgeous, and profound vocal music of Leslie Uyeda, featuring soprano Heather Pawsey, clarinetist AK Coope, and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa.Hosted by SUM gallery, #425 – 268 Keefer St., Vancouver


These concerts are being presented in adherence to current provincial guidelines regarding health and safety. In-person attendance will be limited and socially distanced. Mask wearing and presentation of vaccine passports will be mandatory.

Read the press release for Queering the Air.

Promotional artwork: When Trees Are Alone by Holly Steele

Sovereignty—Duane Isaac

Feb 17 – May 14, 2022

This exhibition is open to view during our regular gallery hours: Tue-Sat, 12 to 6pm

Curator
SD Holman

Sovereignty is Mi’gmaq photographer and mask-maker Duane Isaac’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. The mixed-media photographic installation explores an Indigenous body in nature outfitted with a fantastical mask—one side overgrown with fledgling greenery while the other half conjures a ghost of the human face beneath. The figure is overtaken by flames, mask first. Motivated by the health and survival of Indigenous bodies and Indigenous Lands, Isaac casts his model as a vessel of sovereignty under threat; “Sovereignty explores the questions of autonomy and health of both body and Land. The health of the Land will reflect the health of the body and the health of the body will reflect the health of the Land. One cannot survive without the other.” The figure’s mask embodies this nonduality, representing Indigenous identity as equal to and inseparable from the Land. In this installation, four masks gaze out from the centre of the gallery, standing sentinel to the four directions.

Isaac’s artistic practice traces the ephemeral, hand-crafting surreal and otherworldly masks solely for his portraiture, then heightening their narrative presence through lighting and digital manipulation. Ranging from darkly demure to expressively gaudy, his masks are opulent, clever, twisted, unsettling, sexy, and unquestionably queer. His lens seeks a balanced relationship between body and mind, where masks externalize a rich internal world populated by grotesque and seductive creatures, guided by Indigenous ways of knowing, the queer gaze, environmental angst, and an apocalyptic perspective on the past and future.

Balance is less easily found in Sovereignty—the final tableau, a portrait of absence where the figure’s red garment lies amongst the undergrowth, poses many-layered questions. Has the garment been shed by the Body, or donned by the Land? Where does the one end and the other begin? Sovereignty is so hot! Are we witness to immolation or ignition?

This exhibition is part of the 2022 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program.

Duane Isaac is a First Nation Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, QC. He is a contemporary artist who uses the photography medium in combination with his mask making. His work has been featured in multiple online publications, most recently Canadian Art Magazine. He currently resides in Listuguj, QC.

Watch our Sovereignty artist talk with Duane Isaac and curator SD Holman, originally screened as part of our Sovereignty cinq à sept on Apr 9. This talk is presented as part of the 2022 Capture Photography Festival Special Exhibition Program.

Read the press release for Sovereignty.