Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MIXEDFIT artist t-shirts for sale!

Artist designed T-shirts by four Canadian and international artists - part of the Koffler Gallery Off-Site project MIXEDFIT - are still available to purchase for only $30 each. Get your own wearable work of art today! They make great holiday gifts too....

Click here for full details

Men's - sizes Small, Medium, Large
Women's - sizes Small, Medium, Large
$30 each + shipping/handling if applicable

To purchase, contact Roseanne Mason at 416.638.1881 x4333 | 

T-shirts below from top: Millie Chen, wallpaper; Emelie Chhangur, To Emily Murphy with love from Emelie Chhangur; Hannah Claus, wounded; Dan Perjovschi, immigrant.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Art Battle

I had a really interesting conversation with the owner of the Aroma Espresso Bar on Bloor the other day. Suspecting I had an interest in the arts, he told me about something really cool he had just experienced. It's called an Art Battle and the name describes it perfectly. Basically, Art Battles are live painting competitions that make art exciting in a way most of us have never experienced before.

There are two choices when attending an art battle. One can enter their name in a draw and potentially be chosen to compete, or one can buy out of the draw for a $15 patron fee. Those who compete have to work within the time and paint restrictions given, while the patrons are given a ballot to cast a vote for their favourite painting. The winning painter gets a prize of $500 and the rest of the paintings are either auctioned off or destroyed - the patrons decide.

This fascinating event combines a static art form with live-performance (something I spoke more in depth about here), and opens up the normally intimate process of painting. Artists often respond in surprising ways to the pressure and constraints of the situation and only democracy gets to decides who will be successful.

Their website doesn't say when the next one will be, but I can't wait to experience it for myself!

Casandra Campbell

Monday, November 22, 2010

Music That Survived

On November 7, in conjunction with Holocaust Education Week, the Koffler Chamber Orchestra performed a concert featuring music that survived persecution during World War II. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear music from composers whose careers were interrupted or cut short as a result of the Holocaust. Some of the composers are well known and their music is often performed while others have never really come to be celebrated. All of them have fascinating stories. Below is a brief bio on each of the composers featured in the concert that explains how the Holocaust affected their career.

Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), a prominent German composer, was a reputable musician well before the 1933 election that brought the Nazi Party to power, and had already composed Five Pieces for String Orchestra. Hindemith was viewed as a talented composer and performer—having played both the vioin and viola—and was widely respected within the German music community. Although Hindemith was not Jewish himself, many of his close colleagues were (including his father-in-law Franz Schreker), and his music was not left untouched by the Nazi Party. His opera Mathis de Maler whose central character is an artist living in a repressive society, mirrored Hindemith’s own experience under the Nazi Party and led them to attack him in the press. As opportunities for Hindemith in Germany began to dwindle, he started finding more and more work outside of Germany, mainly in Turkey and Switzerland. Eventually a ban was placed on any performances of his works, and fearing a threat to his and his Jewish wife’s lives, they fled Germany and eventually settled in the United States. There, Hindemith obtained employment at Yale University where he continued to compose.

Pavel Haas
Pavel Haas (1899-1944), a Jewish Czech composer, likely never reached the height of his potential as a musician. During the German occupation, like many Jewish composers, performances of his works were banned. Haas was imprisoned in Terezín and later died in Auschwitz. However, while in Terezín, Haas composed some of his best-known works, including the Study for String Orchestra, which was featured in a Nazi propaganda movie intended to demonstrate the purported good living conditions for Jews in Terezín. After being shown conducting in the film, Haas was sent to Auschwitz only days later. Study for String Orchestra, remains one of his most performed pieces to date.

Mark Kopytman
Mark Kopytman (1929-), whose Kaddish for Cello and String Orchestra was only composed in 1992, is a living example of “We Who Survived.” Born in 1929, in the former Soviet Union, Kopytman was only ten years old when World War II broke out. Kopytman received training in piano and music theory from a young age, but did not begin his musical career until several years after graduating medical school and practicing medicine. In 1972, he moved to Israel where his career continues to flourish. Like many Jewish composers before him, Kopytman’s concern for political issues is often expressed through his compositions.

Erwin Schulhoff
Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942), a Czech composer of German-Jewish descent, began his career in music as a highly successful pianist. As a composer, Schulhoff’s style underwent several transformations largely influenced by the politics of his time. After experiencing persecution as a Jew in Germany, before Hitler came into power, Schulhoff turned to socialism as a solution. Many of his later works were written in favour of the Soviet model of socialism, initially embraced by many artists and intellectuals of the time. In 1939, after the German occupation, Schulhoff was no longer able to support himself and attempted to emigrate to the West; however, before all the arrangements could be made, he was arrested and imprisoned in Prague, and later deported to the concentration camp in Wülzburg, Bavaria. There, he died of laryngeal and pulmonary tuberculosis eight months later. Schulhoff’s wide range of compositions continues to live on and tell his story.

Gideon Klein
Gideon Klein (1919-1945), a Moravian-Jewish composer, had barely started his career in music before it was thwarted by the Holocaust, and much of his music was only rediscovered in 1990. Klein became a star pupil at the Prague Conservatory but was expelled in 1940 because of his Jewish status. For a short time, Klein worked under the pseudonym Karel Vránek in small theatres around Prague. In late 1941, Klein was deported to Terezín where he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, and encouraged other composers, including Pavel Haas, to continue composing as well. In 1944, along with Haas, Klein was transported to Auschwitz, but because he was young, he was sent to work in a coal mine. His career came to an end in 1945, when it is presumed he was murdered in the coal mine. Though Klein’s musical contribution was small, his youthful enthusiasm, which encouraged many composers to continue creating art—even in the worst of conditions—is invaluable.

Casandra Campbell

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Severe Clear - TDT at the Fleck Dance Theatre

Saw a fantastic dance performance last night - Toronto Dance Theatre's Severe Clear at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre. Beautifully choreographed by the always amazing Christopher House - Artistic Director of TDT - and with simple yet really effective sets, lighting and costumes, Severe Clear features 12 dancers (6 men and 6 women) and was inspired by House's trip to the Yukon ten years ago. Ice, water, bears, fish, birds, fire, wilderness, the Northern Lights, nomads, a wandering snowshoer, animals and humans morphing and moving - the performance beautifully and very effectively captures the essence of the north. Great use of sound too - recorded bits of outdoor sounds, people's voices, animals, music and water, really well integrated into the performance.

Severe Clear was first performed ten years ago (see some clips on YouTube here) and is only running for a few days, until November 20. Go!!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Avishai Cohen

I just bought Avishai Cohen's new CD Aurora. If you even kind of like jazz, world music, or just want to support and Israeli artist, I suggest you do the same.

The man is a composer, arranger, singer - in many different languages - and he plays a mean bass. He's also the artistic director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat. In addition, Avishai is backed by a fabulous team of musicians, each as engaging as he is.

If you need further persuasion, just look at this photo from his concert in Toronto on October 19.

That's right. He had the entire (sold out) audience on their feet and dancing. How many seated concerts have you been to where that has happened? I've been to hundreds of concerts and this was a first for me.

Buy the CD, it's worth a listen.

Casandra Campbell
(Photo: ZK Photography)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stars of the 21st Century: A Koffler Centre of the Arts Gala

Attending the Stars of the 21st Century Gala reminded me of the rush I always get from live performance. It doesn’t matter if I’m performing or if I'm in the audience—I’ve done enough of both to know—just the idea of live performance gets me excited. I was particularly excited in anticipation of the Koffler’s Stars of the 21st Century Gala. Described as the most prestigious ballet gala in the world, it was to bring together principal dancers from eight world-renowned ballet companies for one night only. As with all live performance, it was to have the two key elements that make this kind of performance unique: the live anything-can-happen element, and performers responsible for transporting the art.

The entire evening was outstanding, and with a diverse mix of music, costumes, styles, there was truly something for everyone. The show was full of traditional ballet that audiences have come to expect as Bridgett Zehr, and Zdenek Konvaline from the National Ballet of Canada started the night off with a beautiful pas de deux to an excerpt from Delibes Coppelia, yet it was infused with modern ideas. Danii Simkin, with the American Ballet Theatre, performed solo to Les Bourgeoise, a twentieth-century French jazz piece by Jacques Brel, with a style and choreography that was modern and nothing less than exhilarating. Later, infusing ideas old and new, Elisa Carillo Cabrera, and Michail Kaniskin with the Berlin Opera Ballet performed their pas de deux, titled Le Grand, to music by classical composer Rossini, while taking a satirical approach to the style of classical ballet. Their on-stage tension and awkward interplay—including one loud scream by Cabrera—had the audience laughing as they fought eachother for stage time and occasionally broke out into dance moves better associated with jazz or hip hop.

The thing is, though I expected the Gala to be great, and in fact it was, no one could have promised this ahead of time. Regardless of how talented, experienced and prepared performers are, and regardless of how many times a performer has outperformed your expectations in the past, you just can’t know if you’re going to see a big hit or a big flop. I’ve seen performers who have put in months of focused and intelligent preparation completely blow it when the time came to show off their hard work. On that particular night they just couldn’t find their focus. I’ve also attended performances being sure I was going leave with a self-gratifying list of things I could have done better, because I knew the performer was not prepared. Instead, I've found myself shocked at how well they pulled it together and blew the competition out of the water. There are so many things that can go wrong or right in a live performance. You just never know.

It’s this pliancy—really, an inherent part of any live performance—which makes live performance truly valuable. It’s so human. Unlike so many other art forms there is an added element of vulnerability in live performance, a partial lack of control. Because live performance is ephemeral and each moment is fleeting, there is no opportunity to erase, paint over, or reshoot the scene. Whatever happens onstage becomes part of the scene, the song, the dance, and there is no way to change that. Each and every performance you see is unique and temporal.

The other element that is so unique to live performance is the performers themselves. Like any artist, they bring their own perspective and experiences into their performances, but unlike many other mediums of arts, the art cannot travel without the performer. At the MIXEDFIT exhibition opening and fashion show in September many of us here at the Koffler were able to experience art as we viewed and tried on four unique t-shirt designs, without any of the designers themselves being present. With the Toronto Jewish Book Fair last week, many of us were be able to read works by a variety of authors, even if we were not able to attend their talks. However, without fifteen different ballet dancers, from many different cultures and backgrounds, collaborating in Toronto for one performance, we could not have experience the ballet. The music had been written, and the choreography could have been learned, but without the performers we could not have experienced it.

Live performance can be preserved, transported, and made permanent through video or audio recording, but it loses the live element—the vulnerability, the flexibility, and the uncertainty integral to live performance—and it loses some of the rush, too. Each and every performance is different and can only be created once. If you miss it, it’s gone.

Casandra Campbell
(All photos: Hudson Taylor Photography)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MIXEDFIT - Koffler Gallery Off-Site at Balisi

The opening party and fashion show for MIXEDFIT, our first event of the season, featured four thought-provoking, yet stylish t-shirts designed by four distinct artists.

The artists—Millie Chen, based in Ridgeway, Ontario; Emelie Chhangur, based in Toronto; Hannah Claus based in Montreal; and Dan Perjovschi, based in Bucharest, Romania—come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Each design explores notions of displacement between cultures and identities through the perspectives and experiences of the artist. If you haven’t picked one up yet, these inspiring t-shirts are still available at four Balisi locations throughout Toronto!

Balisi | 711 Queen Street West
Hours: Sunday 11 am – 6 pm | Monday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm | Friday and Saturday 10 am – 9 pm

Balisi | 668 College Street
Hours: Sunday 11 am – 6 pm | Monday – Saturday 10 am – 9 pm

Balisi | 439 Danforth Avenue
Hours: Sunday 11 am – 6 pm | Monday – Saturday 10 am – 9 pm

Balisi | 2507 Yonge Street
Hours: Sunday 11 am – 6 pm | Monday – Thursday 10 am – 8 pm | Friday and Saturday 10 am – 9 pm

What those of you who were unable to attend the fashion show missed, however, was the chance to meet several other artists who were on hand showing their support. Most of our models were drawn from the pool of local talent available here in Toronto. Our t-shirt models included: Sarah Angelucci, a photo and video artist; Suzy Lake, also a photo and video artist; Flavio Trevisan, a visual artist and designer; Georgiana Uhlyarik a curator for the Art Gallery of Ontario who recently put together an exhibit called At Work: Hesse, Goodwin, Martin; and Koffler pottery student Julian Seth-Wong—a young artist in the making. Our emcee for the evening, Bill Clarke, is a writer for Magenta’s online art magazine,

If you have a minute, check out the t-shirts and see what all of these fabulous artists are up to, and why we were so lucky to have them be a part of this project!

Casandra Campbell
(Photo: ZK Photography)