The Transgressive Space

2015 marks thirty-six years of the Rhubarb Festival. Right now there are artists across the country hard at work, at play, creating, rehearsing, finalizing, experimenting, altering. All in preparation for this wild thing called Rhubarb.

Our tagline for this year’s festival is “Transgressions in Performance”. I have spent a lot of time mulling over what that means, or can mean, and how it relates to the pieces in our lineup. What I have come to is this: I believe that transgression is the key to the creation of something new. Transgression propels us forward, while drawing experience from our past. It positions us with one foot in that which is known, that which is old, that which is dominant, and one foot in that which unfamiliar, new, and dangerous. It is in this precarious position from which one transgresses.

This year, in addition to the main site at Buddies, we have three off-site venues: The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Oasis Aqualounge, and Videofag.

I consider all of these spaces transgressive; they hold a spirit of rebellion. In the case of the CLGA, it houses artifacts of a queer history in Toronto. Videofag carries rebellious reappropriation proudly in its name. Oasis Aqualounge is an upscale sex-club situated within the façade of a Heritage Mansion. Buddies in Bad Times itself is a space that mutates art, community, queer night life, and theatre all in one government funded building. Each space takes that unsettled position, that juxtaposition between known and unknown, past and future, which is necessary to transgress.

Rhubarb suits these spaces. They feed its performances, further provoking the delightfully unsettled moment between audience and artist, the moment where transgression can thrive. This is how artists become leaders and audience members can truly engage with their work. They ask questions, investigate reactions, and explore the space between what is known and what is unknown.

Right now, across the country, artists are preparing to transgress, to take up this unique position, to walk into unknown spaces, live in these moments. The amount of energy about to descend upon this city is palpable for me, a pulse that strengthens with each day.

Can you feel it?

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The Rhubarb Festival is on Wednesday to Sunday, February 11-22.
Check out the Rhubarb page for details on individual shows & events.

Mel Hague

Mel is the Residency Program Director at Buddies.

“18 years old, first week at York University, got free tickets to see Here Lies Henry. I remember at the time thinking I couldn’t figure out which way was up in the black box space, and for years every show I saw in the Chamber I felt like I came in a different entrance—Buddies is such a fun maze, and I still find new doors years into working here.”

Read all posts by Mel Hague

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