Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crystal Precious - Performance Video at Wiggle 20

Just to mix it up.. a lil sumfin sumfin showin' ya my stage game these days....
Courtesy of ONOSHI DIDNT... thank gah she did! Taped at Wiggle 20, June 2014.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Positive Thinking vs. Turning A Blind Eye

Ummmkkay. So I was joking around this week with my current fabulous and handsome man Carnie, who is a Maritime transplant, about how my transition from Winnipeg to Vancouver involved the slow but sure addition of quinoa to my diet, yoga to my schedule and hiking to my weekends. I do like to note hat I've always been a very spiritually aware person, however, as has he, so that component of West Coast culture isn't new for either of us... that being said, we both agree that spiritual practice is preferable when authentic and unsullied by trendiness or false motivations. To be honest that DOES seem a little more rampant over here. Considering that we both run with festival crowds and other hippies fairly constantly, albeit those who wear lipstick and wield ninja swords, we have both encountered our fair share of the latter type of "enlightened" mindset ...or marketing campaign. ;)

Me n' Carnie Bear 
I generally tend to accept that type of thing in the hopes that its part of a larger process towards overall radness and consciousness in society. One thing, tho, that Carnie observed and pointed out really rang true to me... and that is about how more and more, he is noticing a distinctive intolerance for discussing anything perceived to be "negative" or "drama".  Even things that are important, and that need to be addressed. This got me thinking about how much I too had participated in turning on my blinders, and whether I was doing that under the guise of achieving a more "positive" mindset, when really what I was doing was avoiding inconvenience. Hrrrrrrmmmm.

To be fair, I do understand why some people shut off and put up boundaries here and there when their feelings become debilitating and therefore impede any action towards making things better. Some are super sensitive and require certain preparations to receive information like that.  I also understand why people choose to avoid hearing about things they feel disempowered around, like say bigger global issues, because it will only "upset them" with little to no result. My take on it is that there is always SOMETHING that can be done, even if its small, even if its just in our own backyard... and that if you are sensitive, you can always draw a boundary that involves revisiting the issue when you are better equipped to do so. I do understand those frames of mind. What I worry about is when people just straight-up don't want to acknowledge negativity because its inconvenient or unpleasant to them and it interrupts their day... because that to me is very dangerous.

I really think there is an important difference between the very awesome practice of maintaining a positive outlook on life, and the un-awesome practice of people becoming deliberately ignorant of very real negative issues happening that need attention in order to be resolved. (That last one I'm not into, by the way, in case you haven't guessed.) I feel like there are everyday systems in our current world breeding that last tendency, and I wanna take a sec to take a look at that, because negativity in that context, in my opinion, can be a super important catalyst for change. Straight up, its like a red flag that something is wrong. And while I do believe that people can be indulgent and defeatist in their negative attitudes about what can be done, which is never any fun, I do believe that there is an inherent value in remembering that just because something has negativity attached to it doesn't mean it should be ignored.

This meme, which despite using very aggressive and irritatingly generalizing language, still manages somewhat to sum up the mis-conception I'm talking about here. To me, this sort of outlines the confusion between "negative thoughts" and the negative emotions or reactions that come from our experience of reality.

Now. Let me say right out of the gate that I am a proponent of many belief systems that could be considered "New Age".. but I strongly dislike that term and its uselessness as far as giving merit or specificity to the intent behind adopting such beliefs. I much prefer the term "conscious", because it does not infer ignoring anything, negative or not, yet for me still includes the concept of awareness around some of the more metaphysical laws of the universe.

Next. For me there are two levels of acknowledging and dealing with negativity... 1) honest assessment and emotional reaction to negative situations, and 2) choosing to be either positive or negative about what comes next. In regards to the first, which is what I perceive to be getting locked out: how the fuck are you going to know what needs to be changed or acted upon if you never let anything unpleasant or inconvenient penetrate your mind-frame?  In my opinion, fully acknowledging the emotions that arise in the face of tragic or upsetting reality is the key to change. And yes, the proper assessment of any issue, and one's position on it, involves fully delving in and admitting to feeling angry or shitty about it. I certainly have witnessed the power that emotions can have over duty or logic in the drive to act. How are you going to be motivated to make those changes, or help to make them, unless you allow yourself to have an unpleasant emotional reaction around that? I like to think that most of the people I know actually want to improve some of the shittiness in the world, including the mind-frames and broken hearts of friends who are experiencing tragedy and loss.

Here's where I think the lines get blurry... once those situations are processed and assessed as to how they truly make you feel -- negativity be damned --  its what you do with that information next that I think can be directed in either in an empowered / positive way, or in a defeatist / negative way. THAT is where the choice to be negative or positive comes in, and THAT I think is what many "New Agers" talk about when they talk about "being negative". Please note that THAT is much different than avoiding all negative situations. And yet the confusion persists... and I want to examine why.

There's a lot of people who subscribe to the idea that constantly having negativity in their digital window is going to turn people off or make them more "unpopular" with their "friends". Honestly, I think that's a pretty fair assessment. But I think that has less to do though with people not caring and more to do with the way Facebook is set up. I realize that Facebook can be used as a (less and less) effective tool to get important messages out or share our work and thoughts, but for the most part, people use it as entertainment, or to keep up on light "surface" type aspects of their friends' lives. So they aren't always in a mind-frame to receive information about how their friends are sick, or heartbroken because their mom died, or, say, how Stephen Harper is ruining our country, when it pops up amidst pictures of sister's vacation or singing cats. You weren't mentally prepared for that. Its inconvenient and unpleasant and it sticks out. And you know that other people are probably feeling that too, so you don't whine or say anything "negative" or "dramatic" on your wall. Everyone suddenly becomes their own censor of anything but "everything is awesome" - ummm, cough cough quote from recent KIDS movie about evil dictatorship -- and this is ESPECIALLY true if you want to keep showing up in people's feeds... because now, people can simply "unfollow" you. And in fact, they are encouraged too. Slowly but surely, all traces of "negativity" are disappearing in our online interactions - and I believe our tolerance for the pains of in real life, our empathy, and our willingness to confront issues is being trained to lessen as well. Add the constant bombardment of a capitalist culture constantly attempting to dictate our desires around luxury, pleasure and convenience...  well fuck. "Don't worry about the negativity of this global issue... just let us deal with it!! Go on, enjoy your champagne and cat memes and take a selfie." Rrrrright. Hmm.

meanwhile, while everyone's "avoiding negativity"....
I do think that Facebook CAN be used as a tool for organizing people, discussions and spreading information (although as I mentioned earlier that seems to be more and more difficult). I don't think the solution is to start uncensoring ourselves on it or just to stop using it altogether... I'm not sure that will even work at this point. I think the solution is to KEEP CONSCIOUS of the fact that a sugar coated digital funhouse mirror of real life is just that -- slanted. And that "negativity" is a very real part of life, but that doesn't mean you don't have to dwell on it in a non-solution based manner. You don't have to indulge in the futile-ness of it all and suck people into a black hole of yuck. But I think its healthy -- and necessary -- to have a minute to think, hey, this sucks. It really, really sucks. Something needs to change. Then you can move on to the part where you start figuring out what change looks like and how you can be involved.

PS: Stephen Harper is an ASSHOLE, and its time to do something. This China thing? WHAT THE FAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK. Gonna look into it and get back to you on what action is going to look like for me.... Cuz seriously. Time to impeach a bitch.   OVER IT.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward this weekend to mulling that over while I dance raucously to all the freshy-fresh newness in the electronic music world at New Forms Festival. I'm not even gonna pretend I know who any of the artists are, but honestly, that's kinda the point. I do know who Max Ulis, Michael Red & Malcolm Levy are (some of the curators) and my faith in them over the years has just SLIGHTLY resulted in the discovery of some of my favourite music and people on the planet. So ya know. Not the biggest gamble ever exactly. Plus, it's at Science World. How much of a better location can you get? PUHLAAAAAAAAAYSE.

Thank goodness for art. Thank goodness for beautiful men. Thank goodness for cookies.

Thank goodness for amazing cocktail lounges where I can take my clothes off and sing about pie, as I will tonight and every Thursday. Because the way some people used to act towards me for being a super sexual being was kind of negative.  Now its better. :)

kisses n' kinkz

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Burning Man & Bass Coast - Why Festivals? THIS IS WHY.

Oh haiiii, I'm back from Burning Man!!! Super rewarding year for me. I decided to leap out of my comfort zone and head down early to meet a team of people I'd never met --- well, 2 of them I'd barely met, but everyone else was brand new -- to help build a sculpture for the outer ring of the Man. That means its kinda designed for the vast open part of the desert for exploration and play. Something told me it was the absolute right thing to do, and I'm so glad. Not only did I manage to meet some totally refreshing badass people who were entirely out of my circle, I also got to see some undercurrents of the festival from more of an inside perspective, which was super cool. Our team was working at The Generator, aka the giant building warehouse in Reno where most of the large-scale Burning Man projects are built before being taken out to playa. Technicians, sculptors, painters, mechanics, engineers and teams of random people from all over the world were assembling and loading out huge projects and different infrastructure for theme camps. Paying attention to the team dynamics and particularly in seeing the way the real-world prep goes into desert-world execution was of immeasurable value to me as both producer, DIY enthusiast and overall lover of magic.

Our interactive sculpture, called Eye Trip, featured a rotating eyeball chair.

As far as Burning Man goes: I love it, I believe in it. I think its an important cornerstone to ideas I'd love to see more out in the world. Mind-blowing artwork, conscious and kind people, fun and adventures all heavily laced with concentrated occurrences of synchronicity and high-vibing sass levels. I'm a huge fan of Burning Man's Ten Principles ALL the time, like, in daily life, particularly Radical Inclusion, Radical Self Reliance and Immediacy. I find the rituals and symbolism of the Man & Temple burns to be immeasurably cathartic. Plus, um, jumping on trampolines in tutus is like, super duper fun. Duh. Last but not least, I'm really into the fact that its all protected by the elemental lock and key of thick powdery dust and a definitive willingness to get there. You can't really be casual about the decision to go to Burning Man... you gotta brace yourself, work to make it happen, and prepare for extremes. Its a different world and the elements boil you down to the core. Your shit will come up. I love it. Its where things both real and fantasy come together. Here's an Emmy-award winning vid I found that features a lot of the art from 2011, the first year I went.

HOWEVS. I know there are also some pretty solid arguments in knockin' Burning Man, the first one being that the festival is a blatant, indulgent display of disposable income most people don't have the luxury of throwing away. Well, yah kinda. But um.. so is most of the Western World. Spent any time on Robson lately? How much does some American retail chain spend on rent every year there ya think so they can sell cheap crap? Hmm. Yah. Vegas anyone? THEY DON'T HAVE RECYCLING THERE. For serious. And can you guess how much food gets thrown away every day after even just ONE meal at ONE buffet in ONE all-inclusive resort??? My point is, that shit is happening constantly, everywhere, all day long. You might not be able to necessarily SEE it all in one glimpse all the time, but people spend a lot of money on things a LOT less “noble” than art projects with hippies ummkay. If anything I think that staring all that indulgence in the face is a much more effective way to become aware of our privilege and the reality / senselessness of capitalism's manipulation. In the meantime, if you want to knock mis-spending, how about spending all that complaining energy knockin' at our government's door. I bet the teachers would appreciate that right about now*BC is currently in the midst of a province-wide teacher's strike.

David Best's astounding 2014 Temple.
The other objection I hear often about Burning Man is that amazing, talented people spend too much of their time and effort on art projects for the Burn and not for their own community. WELL. While its true that many hours and many dollars go into desert-destined projects designed to explode my head into a thousand smithereens, its also true that the extent and nature in which I carry those moments into my personal every day life are relevant a way that I can barely verbalize. I literally see myself a a big sponge getting all juiced up there and then promptly coming back to squeeze out all the sass that made its way into my heart while my jaw was filling with dust. To me it represents an epicentre of what is possible, and that is so so SO empowering to me. I'm a witness to MANY off-shoots that propel Burner-type behaviour and projects in the real world – they absolutely do exist. The same is true of Bass Coast! It may only be once a year that we all gather together, but the idea is that those ripples cover the rest of the year, and hopefully reach out even further through all the people who are there to bear witness.

Speaking of Bass Coast - one of the ways this year's “Mutiny” theme resonated in me is around the rebellion against the limiting ideas we've been faced with about what's involved in making art a focus in your life. Like, for example, the myth that you either “make it” as an artist and achieve fortune and fame... but that if that doesn't happen, you can expect a life of poverty. Why so black and white? Maybe in a pre-internet world when the mass-media held locks and keys to the masses... but that's not the way the world is anymore. What about the idea that “fortune” comes in many forms? What about the idea that “fame” is relative? When you deconstruct “fame” or “celebrity” and remember that its only recently in history that its been highlighted and revered and played-up in and of itself ... in the meantime, being revered for your work is just as useful on a smaller scale as it is on a larger one. What about all the beautiful places in-between? I think having opportunities like Bass Coast makes it possible to share in real time with your community. Between the internet and small festivals or events, you no longer have you to appeal to the mass-capitalist gatekeepers to build a momentum. You can figure out how to make it a part of how you earn your living, or don't.. whatever works for your life. But for the love of sass, don't subscribe to the idea that it's all or nothing. That's just not true anymore.

I think that a lot of the struggles artists go through have less to do with being an artist and a lot more to do with simply being a human going through the process of figuring out how to manifest what they need or want in life. I think a LOT of people struggle with that, myself and a lot of my friends included, but, uh... so do a lot of people who DON'T self-identify as artists. I would argue that a regular creative practice might even actually alleviate the struggle of that somewhat as people who don't may in fact feel even less fulfilled because they don't have some form of creative practice as part of their lives. I believe that events like Bass Coast are the portal for showing people opportunities for self-expression that are plausible, accessible and relatable. You can interact and be inspired. You can witness the growth and shifts. Suddenly valuable pathways to opportunity and community OUTSIDE of the festival appear. As Andrea Graham & I once said after a New Year's party last year, the most important parts of an event are what happens afterwards. It what's created afterwards, the connections and the work and the ripples and hopefully bringing more of what the events bring out in people – joy.

One of the reasons Deck3 came together as an alliance for dance and performance enthusiasts is because we kept noticing all these people attracted to festival dance-floors who looked like they LOVED DANCING A LOT. Like, a lot a lot. It seemed that they had or could have a much deeper connection to dance than a casual party here and there could honour. Upon further investigation, we discovered that a lot of these people had passionately loved dance or gymnastic practice as children and teens, but then had just ... stopped. Why? A common experience was that at early adulthood, most were given a choice to go for a full-time career, or to leave their practice behind all together. Whyyyyy? Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why not incorporate that element back into your life, and not necessarily just on a dance floor at a party?

bass coast mutiny mainstage, designed by liz thompson
photo: metamorphograph
liz & i, post-burn
I've always loved the burlesque movement because it gives people the opportunity to explore performance and its associated arts without having to give up the rest of their LIVES, for eff's sake. I mean, as in all art forms, there are obviously people who want to take it to that level (with Sweet Soul, for example, we strive to set a high professional standard), but that doesn't mean there isn't room for everyone at some level, where-ever they are at. The movement is equally about inviting every day people into new world self-exploration and expression as it is about re-programming ideas around sexuality. I really love seeing the first school of thought there carry over. Seeing it in some of the new NON striptease dance-crews that are popping up like Subscura & the Light Twerkerz... I really value working with these groups who are self-organizing and spending their energy and focus on something they love. Their passion is very renewing and inspiring to those of us who have been working at it for awhile.

me as "captain hooker" - bass coast mutiny performance
photo: alliecat photography

final bow for sweet soul's show at bass coast w/ subscura, tawni krystal, leiah luz & rori satya
photo: glenn mclelland

When I was onstage at Bass Coast, I said that it was time for the entertainment industry to change, especially when it comes to women working together.... and I didn't mean working together in isolation or separately from men. What I meant is that its time to see more women working together IN GENERAL because it helps eliminate the following belief systems: 1) that opportunities for women in our industry are scarce; 2) that we have compete with each other in to get said opportunities because they are so scarce; and 3) that we all have to agree 100% of the time about everything in order to co-operate or collaborate creatively. NOPE. Those limitations exists only so long as we believe they do. The more we tap into the power of DIY, and the more we empower one another to be creative, create our own opportunities, cooperate, share our work and take advantage of our various strengths and differences, the less we play into those unhelpful belief systems, and the less they continue to exist.

To this effect: I will say personally I'm not a huge fan of projects that highlight the idea that opportunities for women in our industry are still scarce. While I do very much appreciate the intention behind some of those projects, I personally believe that at this point the most effective way to affect further change is to move forward as tho things are already the way we'd like them to be. To me, this is not denial, nor lack of consciousness. It's action, and progress. 

Regardless. Whether you identify as male, female or anything in between, I think what a good festival experience humbly suggests is: RECONNECT. Go back to a class. Buy some paint; make something. Clear our your living room once and awhile and dance to your favourite new mix. Make a costume. Try this, try that. Get a dance-crew together, or join one, if you want. Do it for the fest, and then incorporate it into your daily life. You don't HAVE to be a full-time dancer, painter, sculpter --- or a teenager -- to delve in deeper and enjoy the benefits of self-expression, physical exercise, community or just straight up fun this offers. You can make your relationship with it your own, and delve in just as deeply as is comfortable for you.  

Here's some fun dance related links.. but I guarantee that no matter what you're looking for, dance or not, there's a crew of rad peeps doing it. Or start something up dammit. 

UMMKAYYY. I'mma now go get ready to do what I do best, aka rap topless to some ish while the bestest stripteasers ever make jabs at the status quo and show off their wonderful backsides. Keefer Bar, tonight, 135 Keefer in Vancouver. It's a thing. 

Still glowy from the burn.. golden rays. :) 
All my love..