Two cultural events from the World Pride festival in review

Toronto hosted this year’s World Pride festival — nine days of celebration of and advocacy for queer rights. Besides being one giant dance party, the festival was far-reaching in both its scale and its event offerings including a major human rights conference, thought-provoking art exhibits and installations, and live music. Two Varsity writers look back on a couple of the week’s events.

What it Means to Be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility

What it Means to be Seen was one of Pride’s featured photography exhibits, guest curated by the associate curator of Photography at the AGO, Sophie Hackett. The pieces questioned what it means to be seen in an inequitable society. Housed in a large white-walled room at the Ryerson Image Arts Centre, the gallery was divided into two sections, “Private Worlds” and “Public Faces.” The exhibit began with a brief explanation of how queerness has always been tied to photography, as it was a medium that provided communities with a method of both self-identification and activism.

The first section, “Private Worlds,” explored the ecstasy of private queer communities between the 1940’s up until the late 1990’s. These moments were captured in Technicolor beauty, such as in Tom Bianchi’s Polaroid series, “Fire Island Pines,” or in nostalgic sepia tones, such as the “Casa Susanna” series. As viewers peered into the smiling faces and tender kisses caught on film, it’s impossible not to imagine the people and their lives beyond the images.

The second section, “Public Faces,” provided a glimpse into the public activities of these same queer communities — hiding, or protesting. The photos showed significant moments in queer civil rights, such as LIFE Magazine headlines chronicling how “Homosexuals Build a Society of Their Own” and photographs of people cowering from the camera, trying not to be seen. The tone of the photos shifted with images of burning cars and silhouetted bodies frozen in the foreground, and protests full of contorted, shouting faces. Every series of photographs was accompanied by a tiny paragraph explaining why the moment captured was crucial to the history of queer rights.

Overall, the exhibit was a beautiful crash-course in queer civil rights. The placement of images forced deep introspection into what power is brought with the privilege of visibility in our society, as the viewer is initially introduced to fragile, private queer communities, humanized by their smiling faces in Polaroids and prints, and then thrust into the public sphere of visibility, power struggles, revolt, and a beautifully documented civil rights movement.

— Emily Scherzinger

 

Around the World Revue

“Glitter, divas, cute boys, hot girls and song and dance from around the world” — that was the premise of Daily Xtra columnist Ryan G. Hinds’ Saturday night show. Hinds, backed up by a four-person team of dancers, graced the stage to sing Styx’s “Come Sail Away” at the intersection of Church St. and Wellesley St. After smoothly chatting up the audience, he introduced the first act, which was meant to represent Asia, the first location on his musical world circumnavigation.

The first act consisted of a trio of Asian breakdancers. The three young men loosened up the audience dancing to the beat of a series of 30-second song clips — popping, locking, spinning, and jumping — much to the audience’s delight.

Hinds began his second number by paying tribute to all queer women who have, and continue to help advance gay rights around the world. He then belted out “Fever,” a song made popular by Jazz star Peggy Lee, while female dancers twirled and stretched seductively around and over each other.

Nari, a queer Egpytian-Canadian rapper, whose name translates from Arabic to mean “my fire,” followed Hinds’ hot number. She brought the audience’s energy level and voices up as she rhymed vigorously to her backing instrumental. Her lyrics covered everything from pride to why she loves women.

Hinds returned again to chat with the audience and to perform a number.  His choice this time was to impersonate an “old school diva,” someone in the same cohort as Liza Minnelli and Bette Midler, with Shirley Bassey’s 1997 hit “History Repeating.”

Hinds’ last musical guest for the night was Québecois burlesque dancer, Velma Candyass. Candyass took the stage in costume fit for a Marie Antoinette stunt double; complete with powdered wig and ribbon-tied corset, stripping down rhythmically to a furry thong and glittered pasties.

The rest of the show featured Hinds and his very attractive, and, in his opinion, regrettably straight, dancers finishing off the show with a Caribbean-inspired samba and a reprise of their opening “Come Sail Away.” Although the entire performance translated into a multiethnic talent show instead of a look at a smattering of cultures through the lens of queerness, it still fit the World Pride criteria with plenty of diversity, unity, and love.

—  Salena Barry

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