Canadian art has a reputation for being White bland, and that might be because it’s controlled by government grants and the tastes of wealthy White patrons. This is a shame in a richly diverse country full of creative, ingenious, original artists. In 2013 I started an annual Montreal festival to feature queer and transgender artists of color, but stifling funding parameters have since forced me, and many of us, to quit.
The explain what I mean by “stifling”: in March the Canadian government announced that it is pouring millions of dollars into the arts post-COVID. The Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) will disburse $116.5 million, and Canadian Heritage $62.8 million. So far, groups that are “Indigenous, culturally diverse, deaf, disabled, or official language minorities,” will share only four percent of these CCA funds. In other words, we aren’t really who the country thinks of as “artists.” ...Read more here
We seem to be entering a weird golden age of ethnic fraud. Disgraced names started stacking up spectacularly last year as high-profile academics of color were exposed as white. Jessica Krug isn’t Black, Kelly Kean Sharp isn’t Mexican, BethAnn McLaughlin’s Twitter isn’t Hopi, Craig Chapman’s Twitter isn’t a woman of color, Andrea Smith isn’t Cherokee.
Is this a moment of reckoning, or a new normal? According to activists, callouts don’t seem to stem the tide. That might be because the incentives to fraud are growing.
Social media rewards marginalized actors—and their imposters—for capitalizing on disenfranchisement. This is true despite the fact that people who adopt marginalized identity as a political act are demonized on both sides: left-wing critics accuse them of “victimhood chic,” “victimhood culture” and the “Vampire Castle” to the delight of right-wing critics, like the typical Fox News assertion that “the goal of protests over George Floyd’s death: It’s about victimhood and power.”
But social media performativity isn't about power-hungry individuals. It's the design of a platform built to optimize every last thing for profit.... Read more here
In 2012, an artist I admire curated a highly anticipated exhibition of 101 Toronto artists, and 94 of them were white. I was so incensed that I wrote an MFA thesis about it. “Why,” ranted my thesis, “doesn’t Canadian art reflect national demographics? Whose art history is canonical? Who truly owns the gallery space?” Within just five years, my paper was outdated. In 2017 the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) unveiled Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood, a retrospective deliberately honouring Toronto artists who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour. The same year the gallery inaugurated the formal position of Indigenous curator, first appointed to Wanda Nanibush. She radically established Anishinaabemowin as a third language on most AGO wall texts, a groundbreaking precedent for a major Canadian cultural institution, and in 2018 the AGO’s JS McLean Centre for Canadian Art was renamed and reinstalled to include and integrate Indigenous art.
How did cultural priorities change so drastically in such a short time? It’s an unprecedented pace even to generations of local activists, and it wasn’t accelerated by belligerent MFA papers. A major enabling factor has been social media’s voracious pace. Online movements drive social change in what feels like dog years, and one activist month on Twitter is equal to one pre-internet activist year.... Read more here
I’ve been blessed with wonderful lovers who, after our breakups, have emerged into cherished friendships. But not always. A couple of my breakups will haunt me for life, and sometimes I still have nightmares about them. 7 Dreams About You is a graphic novel based on these, and this excerpt is the second chapter.
My hardest relationships started after I got famous on queer social media. Queer fame is a bolt of lightning that strikes and disappears as quickly as the turnover of each new gay generation. Queers of colour in particular, can’t lean on a formal institution or canonical lineage, so we spend a few seconds in the spotlight before a younger version of us claims to be the first to ever to exist.
My short gasp of fame was completely awesome. Hundreds of people liked my status updates. I went on international book tours, won film festival awards, and published my first graphic novel. Fame was a babe magnet, which was fantastic. I dated the sexiest androgenes I laid eyes on, charismatic, talented magical and wonderful. Twice I was part of a queer “power couple,” which was intoxicating.
Some famous power couples last, mine buckled in the social media spotlight. Each time we were passionate and lovestruck and gradually warped with jealousy and paranoia. I don’t blame my exes, I blame online platforms. Everything in our lives was ranked in order of popularity, in a landscape that trained us to think like brands instead of humans. I was battling my own lovers over our meagre fortune of social currency. My nightmares took the shape of instagram feeds. Now I obsess over the distorting power of social networks, it’s the subject of my PhD. Ultimately this book is about the corruption of identity politics that I call identity economics... Read more here