Borders go up, borders go down, borders go up again. Borders become security barriers, security barriers to keep people out, to protect what’s in, barriers that define cultural beliefs and misbeliefs. Fear builds the ugliest of things. Greed tears down the most magnificent. The hands that build barrier walls are the same that clearfell our forests, and the hands that coerce the need for refugee camps are the same that empty our hives, the same that poison our water, same that tear down temples, pull triggers.
MAI’s 18th season is formed by incomparable artists with significant ideas about what ails our globe and how perhaps it can be mended. We need to lend them our ear for they are the ones wrestling away power from the hands that hold most of it, the ones critical to the reconstruction of power systems that so successfully resist change. Listen, learn and be complicit.
2016 / 2017 also pays homage to both the 150th anniversary of confederation, and the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montréal, a country rich with possibilities for all who call it home, and a world city where one in two was born abroad or has a parent born abroad. We are truly blessed by our address. Any commemoration must however be tempered by the acknowledgement that Montréal is located in the heart of Ganiengeh, unceded Mohawk territory, and that Canada has yet to recognize indigenous peoples as founders of the nation in a formal, legal way. Let any celebration therefore be mindful, reconciliatory, respectful of history and affirmative.
It is however the 50th anniversary of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, better known as Expo 67, from which MAI drew inspiration, and which is most liable for structuring the season anew. Sixty-two countries participated in what was considered a Category One World’s Fair and in what was a definitive highlight of Canada’s Centennial celebrations. The theme, Man and his World, was optimistic – an exploration of man and his drive to discover, understand and produce; of how he assimilates, organizes and uses his knowledge to improve his lot… and how, as a social being, he has sought and still seeks to live in peace and harmony with his fellow man.
And so, MAI counters, some 50 years later, by presenting an alternatively altruistic version of a world gathering, one in which the historically underrepresented take their rightful seat at the table, one in which the concept of our is free of privilege, exclusion, advantage, arbitrary power and conferred dominance. In this version, drawn by the programmed artists, one need not assimilate to belong. One simply belongs and can belong differently. In this version, differences along lines of gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, caste, age, language or other such sectarian axes of identity are the norm, change is achievable. In this version, we talk not just about the lack of or the need for diversity but about the root causes, about economic inequality, systemic racism, and about equity being the new religion.
Thank you to the curatorial team of Lara Kramer (ECLECTIK 2017) and James Goddard (music) for their soft-spoken but bellowing visions. Thank you also to Emily Wad, Vanessa Jane Kimmons, Kate Nankervis and to Gary Varro for guiding me towards new discoveries.
We are going to take you to the mountain. See you at the summit.