STRUTT: Balancing with Tracy Duru

Tracy Duru has been modelling and performing at STRUTT for 4 years and always brings a beautiful sense of her surrounding and a head filled with balance.  She maintains a sense of calm, despite the insanity of fittings, rehearsals, and general STRUTT madness. Could this serene disposition be a result of being the Owner/Director/Teacher of St. Catharines’ Moksha Yoga? It’s very possible. I guess it’s true what the yogis say; thousands of hours of hot yoga are best for the soul.

JY: What’s your earliest STRUTT memory? What keeps bringing you back to this wonderful event?

TD: My very first fitting at the WS Tyler. I had never been to STRUTT and was thrilled to be behind the scenes from the beginning. I was so surprised by the incredible art made to wear! The energy around the event from the beginning is fun to be around. Then walking into the full set up just before show time – WOW! It’s an impressive night.

STRUTT’s an event like no other in St. Catharines and I love being involved with NAC and Suitcase in Point. I love to work along other artists and performers, we have a great time putting on the show.

I’ve always heard STRUTT described as a fashion show that borders on the absurd – how would you describe it in 7 words or less?

Art, brought to life on a runway

Let us in on a secret for this year’s STRUTT.

I’m pretty sure Beyonce and Jay-Z already got the best seats in the house.

Describe in your mind, an ideal party. What are you wearing?

Dance party, with lots of room to dance, in my dancing shoes.

Shake Hands with Edwin Conroy Jr.

Shake Hands with Edwin Conroy Jr.

Edwin Conroy Jr. is an multi-dimensional gentleman. He’s a hilarious comedian, talented actor and founding member of Suitcase in Point Theatre. A heart-on-your-sleeve singer-songwriter and a fearless model. Conroy’s been tarred and feathered and has got the closest I’ve seen to full-frontal male nudity on stage.

In the years when I walked the catwalk (and tried not to fall off), I looked to him for inspiration and advice. He’s been modelling with STRUTT for close to 10 years and has never duplicated an expression. Nobody has ever whispered to their significant other while Conroy has been mid-pose and said “Ugh, that look, I remember that look from 2004. Grab your drink honey, we’re going!”

DeerHunterThe Deer Hunter by Ernest Harris Jr., photograph by Brian Yungblut

Conroy was kind enough to answer a handful questions that you may or may not get familiar with as the countdown to #STRUTT2014 gets closer to zero.

JY: What’s your earliest STRUTT memory? What keeps bringing you back to this wonderful event?

EC: My earliest STRUTT memory was at the Folk Arts Centre. I wore an amazingly heavy and uncomfortable wicker warrior piece. It was a much shorter runway. So short you could fall off the end if you’re not careful. That was about 10 years ago. I keep coming back not only because it’s fun and you get to act like a model, but also because it’s a great way to contribute to a wonderful event. NAC has been a big part of our community for a long time and I feel good to help out the best way I know how – to act like a diva.

I’ve always heard STRUTT described as a fashion show that borders on the absurd – how would you describe it in 7 words or less?

STRUTT is an art show in motion.

Let us in on a secret for this year’s STRUTT.

Big secret for STRUTT. Old man Conroy is limiting his involvement. Need a break so he can go full boar for next year.

Describe in your mind, an ideal party. What are you wearing?

My ideal party would be a summery outdoor party. A pool filled with vanilla pudding. A tuba, violin and accordion player trying their best to play together. Drinks are on the house. And there’s a pillow room for cuddles. I’d wear a suit jacket, a tie, and a bathing suit. No shoes.

Wearable Art Contextualized: Miss General Idea

Wearable Art Contextualized: Miss General Idea

For this Halloween edition of Wearable Art Contextualized, I thought it fitting to talk about prolific Canadian art collective, General Idea, known for their critique and subversion of media culture through the creation of fictitious characters. Some of these made-up personas were performed by themselves and documented through videos and performances, but their most famous creation was Miss General Idea, a beauty queen the threesome invented as their artistic muse in 1968.

Formed that same year by artists, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson, GI’s multidisciplinary, conceptual art practice shaped the landscape of contemporary Canadian art and resulted in an innovative body of work including FILE Magazine (a riff on “LIFE” Magazine), videos, television shows, sculpture, photography, paintings, ephemera–and the Miss General Idea pageant.

In speaking of the group’s pageant muse in a 2011 article for The Toronto Standard, Derek McCormack writes, “Miss General Idea was a figure as real as any beauty queen-that is, not real at all. Through her, the artists in General Idea were able to plunge themselves into an aspect of stardom that they loved and loathed: glamour. They designed dresses for her, and a boudoir. They drew up plans for a pavilion that would be built in her honour. They staged pageants in which men and women would win her title, at least for a time.”

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AA Bronson as MC with the three finalists of the 1971 Miss General Idea pageant at The Art Gallery of Ontario. Image courtesy of e-flux.com

The group staged the first Miss General Idea pageant at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1971. Sixteen pre-selected artists across Canada were sent “Entry Kits” and among the contents of each was a brown, retro dress from the 1940s, called The Miss General Idea Gown. Contestants were to take a series of eight photographs of themselves modelling the gown and then send their entries back in the box provided. Of these entries, one photograph from each artist was blown up and hung in an exhibition at A Space the week prior to the pageant. Judges were invited to see the photographs and select three finalists, the winner to be announced at the pageant. In what was a highly choreographed, highly glamorized performance at the AGO on October 1, 1971, complete with a red carpet, search lights, flashbulbs, limousines, and musical performances, Marcel Dot was given the title of Miss General Idea for his submission.

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Marcel Dot’s winning submission for the 1971 Miss General Idea Pageant. Photo by Vincent Trasov. Image courtesy of e-flux.com

In 1975 “construction” started on the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion–a 1984-seat pavilion to be “built” in honour of its namesake with the purpose of holding future Miss General Idea pageants. The pavilion was, of course, never actually built but rather existed through ephemera including proposals, depictions of logos, and even detailed descriptions of the construction workers at the building site. There were also architectural components like the jigsaw puzzle hoarding that surrounded the fictitious site, and the “massing models” made of Venetian blinds fashioned into pyramid shapes that did double duty as gowns. In his essay on a 2009 exhibition of the ephemera surrounding the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion that took place at York University, Jon Davies writes, “these architectural evening dresses allowed GI to reflect on the experience of “being an object”: “walking, talking, living, breathing ideas with legs,” with the shoes acting as pedestals, naturellement.”

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Installation shot of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion. 15 September – 6 December 2009, Art Gallery of York University. Image courtesy of AGYU

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Felix Partz wears V.B. Gown #3 at City Hall, Toronto, 1975. Image courtesy of canadianart.ca

The group continued using Miss General Idea as an artistic muse until about 1984 when their work began to focus almost exclusively on AIDS, which would sadly claim the lives of both Felix and Jorge ten years later.

As I was researching Miss General Idea more closely, what struck me was how GI’s elaborate performances (in particular the 1971 pageant), have so much in common with STRUTT–the zaniness, the performative aspect, the colourful local community coming together. A passage on the AGO’s website about Haute Culture (a retrospective exhibition of the work of GI that toured to the AGO in 2011), offers this perspective on the persistence of the collective’s work in the Canadian cultural landscape: “The group’s keen understanding of how wit and irony can be used to create powerful cultural critique ensures their work remains relevant today.” Interestingly, NAC built its reputation on the same artistic device starting in 1969, and after a lull in membership in the late nineties, it was only when the qualities of humour and irony were restored to the centre’s programming via community-based group shows like STRUTT in 2001, that NAC continued to enjoy success as a regional artist-run-centre. (Read more about that here). While STRUTT is indeed a showcase for the talent of local artists, McCormack could easily be describing NAC’s art-come-fashion spectacular in his following observation of General Idea: “General Idea produced glamour in order to parody it; the artists inhabited the world of fashion in order to fuck with fashion.”

A Look back at STRUTT 2010

A Look Back at the 2010 STRUTT

A Look Back at the 2010 STRUTT

Before looking forward to this year’s 15th annual STRUTT, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look back to the 11th STRUTT, held at Brock University’s Market in 2010. This was a memorable event that was pulled off in record time. NAC and it’s volunteers didn’t have full access to the space until the day of the event and in order to get everything set in time, a handful of organizers must have set land speed records. Or perhaps, someone finally figured out teleportation (I always knew it would be an artist).

This 11th edition of STRUTT introduced three new categories for the event, Electronika, Fantastika and Structurika. “Fantastika is kind of a literary thing — Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien–type stuff; Structurika is there for the architecturally inclined; and Electronika covers the stuff that’s powered up with lights or technology of some kind,” explained Natasha Pedros to Pulse Niagara, some four years ago.

This event continued to celebrate the absurd, despite the traditional-food court-meets-study hall setting. This was the closest NAC has ever been to holding the event in Thorold. A year before, STRUTT was held at the former Skyway Bingo Hall at 150 Bunting Rd.

The photos in this set are from a PULSE (R.I.P.) cover shoot with Edwin Conroy Jr., Cole Lewis and Deanna Jones.

 

— Jordy Yack

STRUTT > We’re ba-ack

Inflation by Spencer Johnston & Kasia Smuga / Photography by Brian Yungblut, STRUTT 2013

 

 

We’re Ba-ack

The event of the year looms large on the horizon and I’m pretty happy about being back here to delve a little deeper into how STRUTT relates to the bigger picture–especially on the occasion of the runway spectacle’s 15th anniversary. Look for posts by both myself and Jordy Yack as we blog, Tweet, and ‘gram ’til the bitter end to give you the 360 degree view of STRUTT that you’re craving.

Make sure to follow Niagara Artists Centre on Twitter (@NiagaraArtists), “like” NAC’s Facebook page, and subscribe to NAC’s Instagram feed (@niagaraartistscentre), for the full STRUTT preamble. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #STRUTT2014.

The 2014 runway extravaganza goes down at the W.S. Tyler building (225 Ontario St.), on November 22. Runway at 9pm.

You might remember my initial post from last year , where I talked about the imbalance between fashion-as-art object and art object-as-fashion, the former far outweighing the latter as evidenced by a glut of exhibitions at major art galleries over the past decade, celebrating various designers and their oeuvre. Exhibitions in the reverse however, are far and few between, STRUTT being one of them. This phenomenon is no doubt a symptom of a larger problem having to do with arts funding (or the lack thereof), owing to the fact that these designer-focused exhibitions are often funded–at least in part–by the designers/houses themselves. Either way, it’s disappointing and I’d rather pay to see the “embodied” work of Clarina Bezzola, Lucy McRae or Bart Hess any day. And in fairness to fashion (I’m a die-hard fashionphile after all), shoes are most interesting when they’re the icing on the cake of a great outfit.

 

Read more here