7 things to do, see at the 7A*11d performance art festival

7a11d torontoYesterday marked the official start of 7A*11d, Toronto’s annual (and unpronounceable) performance art festival. With events running all weekend, the festival is great opportunity for the uninitiated to get a crash-course in the strange world of performance art.

Begun in January of 1997, the festival is now housed primarily at Mercer Union, the Toronto Free Gallery, and OCAD University, and features a full lineup of talks, tours, and performances. This year’s focus is on globalization, and how the transient art form of performance can be circulated across borders. With twenty-five artists from over a dozen countries, including Burma, Iceland, and Argentina, 7A*11d both unites the local performance art community, and celebrates its global presence.

Admission for all programming is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested $10 starting donation for evening programming.

Yoga with Margaret Dragu. Thursday-Sunday 10am, Toronto Free Gallery.
Performance art can be a little intimidating. Ease into things with a little morning yoga taught by the prolific Margaret Dragu, a Governor General’s Award winner in Visual and Media Arts. Dragu has a strong background in modern dance, and integrates a method of “chance-choreography” promoted by minimalist composer John Cage into her performative works. I’m not too sure what kind yoga this will result in, but hands down it’ll be more interesting than your weekly Bikram. Free yoga mats provided.

Sylvie Cotton: INTERDEPENDANCE. Friday 4-8pm, Toronto Free Gallery
In her project LIFE IS NOW, Montreal-based artist Sylvie Cotton fosters one-on-one encounters with groups of strangers in an attempt to explore private interpersonal exchange in a public context. Describing her work as creating “an ethics of cordiality that results in the aesthetics of union,” Cotton hopes to provide an opportunity for self-awareness and self-awakening, simply through the presence of another person.

Christof Migune: Hit Parade. Saturday 6pm, Butterfield Park (OCAD)
Migune’s Hit Parade has already terrified passersby New York, Montreal, Porto, Quebec, Seoul, and Winnpeg, and now it’s Toronto’s turn to share the experience. During the performance, participants lie face down on the ground and pound the pavement with a microphone one thousand times. Each performer chooses their own rhythm and intensity, and is mercifully allowed to take a pause at every hundredth pound.

Nopawan Sirivejkul: Vulnerable | life is like an egg. Friday 8pm, Mercer Union
Sirivejkul is a Thai writer, photographer and performance artist who is heavily involved in social movements in her home country. Her works always contain a mix of both life’s beauty and its horror, and often criticizes humanity’s violent and alienating impulses. Sirivejkul’s description of her 7A*11d piece does not reveal too much about its content, but does state rather mysteriously that “I would like to search human sense to create a state of intimacy and profound familiarity with emotion.”

Jeff Huckleberry: Attempt at not being a walking fucking joke. Saturday 8pm, Mercer Union
Much in the vein of Marina Abramović, Jeff Huckleberry’s performance art practice explores physicality, pain, and relationship between internal and external perceptions of self. With “Attempt at not being a walking fucking joke,” the artist will again put his body on the line, and attempt to hold a heavy object for as long physically possible.

Nobuo Kubota and David Sait: Untitled. Sunday 4pm, Mercer Union
An important figure in the Toronto experimental music scene since 1969, Nobuo Kubota also describes himself as a “sculptor, sound poet, architect, videographer, zen buddhist, performance artist and 2009 Governor General’s Award recipient.” For his untitled msucial performance at 7A*11d, the artist will partner with guzheng improviser David Sait. As Kubota prefers to perform with musicians without knowing what kind of music they play in advance, it’s sure to be an exciting, if not necessarily melodic, musical creation.

Performance Art Daily. 12pm daily, Toronto Free Gallery
Unsure of what to make of what you just witnessed? This year, 7A*11d is running a daily lunchtime “talk show” featuring discussions between the festival’s visiting artists, curators, and organiser as an opportunity for the public to enter into the performance art conversation. Themes include “The Language of Materials,” “The International Network,” and “Reflections on Praxis” All talks will be recorded live and archived online.

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