I was honored to be a part of Shoutback! fest this year by taking part in their first visual arts show at Artbank gallery. Shoutback! is a lot of awesome things, such as diy, anti capitalist, anarcha-feminist, queer and all ages. Ultimately it is a “celebration in smashing patriarchy, showcasing artists who are under-represented.” Amongst a plethora of shows and workshops (on such topics as anti oppression and colonization, direct unionism, feminism and hip hop, fat panic!, skateboarding and bike fixing) this year they showcased art for the first time in a show curated by arts supporter and enthusiast ambitioustron extraordinaire, Selina Crammond. A rad zine was made by the fantastic Adrienne Labelle (both are of Movieland fame) with artists’ statements and manifestos, music was played to a jam packed venue, and even though people were very sweaty art was not, in the end, sweated upon. Times were good. I even took pictures.
Also, the manifesto of the show/ festival (written by Selina Crammond) was so inspiring to me I had to write it out here:
The name Shout Back! Festival was directly inspired by the title of Bell Hook’s 1988 book Talking Back: Thinking Feminist. Thinking Black. In the book, she outlines the transformative power of writing as a tool for addressing oppression and encouraging social change. For Shout Back the emphasis is on voice and sound as a tool for challenging the heteronormative structures that perpetuate inequality. This year we are going beyond music-making by including expanded workshops, a documentary screening and this art show as a way to offer (quieter) space to foster dialogue.
Be it through sound, writing or talking there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of sifting through such complex realities. The songs performed, the uber cool shout back t-shirts worn and even the art in this show are not the most important part of this festival. For me the power lies in the process of screen printing a t shirt and even the process of hanging art on the wall.
This art show, like the festival itself, is a celebration of process over product. Though all of the pieces in this show are wonderful, weird and thought provoking in their finality, the act of making them is what I’m most interested in. For it is the curl in Aili’s riot grrl manifesto, the pencil marks behind Roz’s watercolour, the tiny knots in Kristine’s tin foil jewelery, the pixellated splotches on Jill’s computer monitor, the rip in Vanessa’s paper canvass and the stitches in Caitlin’s banner where ideas become action.
Many feminist scholars have proclaimed the importance of working collectively through difference. But difference doesn’t exist without the normal. And I think, perhaps, the time + space that breathes between ideas + products are where difference + normal can collapse into an active togetherness that will set us free!
For if the duty of the feminist movement is, as Bell Hooks says, to work collectively to expand our awareness of how sex, race and class interlock to create oppressive narratives, then what better way to build a new narrative than by sharing the space where ideas become tangible? Let us always be talking, listening, laughing, reading, writing, drawing, editing, organizing and shouting together!