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This article was published 3/11/2010 (2788 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In their serious business suits, the two young women look like office workers who have popped down to Winnipeg Square to grab some lunch.
But their jacket linings are wildly colourful. And when they burst into a dance duet that travels from the "dead space" of the underground concourse through normally dreary skywalks to the Millennium Library, they hope to catch the imaginations of passing Winnipeggers.
"I really want to spice up the space and potentially offer (passersby) a spark of expression," says local contemporary choreographer Natasha Torres-Garner, who has created the half-hour Transient Exposition, danced by Ali Robson and herself, as one of five arts ambassadors appointed by the Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 program.
"I want to give people's regular landscape a little more creativity," says Torres-Garner, 30. "I would love to think that my art form could be something shared on a day-to-day basis with anyone. It's not just an elite interaction."
The duo is performing Transient Exposition Friday and Saturday at 12:45 p.m. as part of My City's Still Breathing, an international symposium exploring the relationship between the arts, artists and the city, on today through Sunday at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Fort Garry Hotel. (The dance piece will also have a lunch-hour run in December.)
The ambitious symposium, put on by the Winnipeg Arts Council under the $4-million budget for the Cultural Capital program, features 75 speakers, panelists and performers, with cultural experts coming from across Canada and as far away as Australia, England, New York, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.
Canadian keynote speakers include Vancouver urban planner Larry Beasley and Toronto philosopher Mark Kingwell.
John Waters, the Baltimore cult director of movies such as Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, gives the opening address tonight at 7 p.m. at the Garrick Centre (the $25 tickets are nearly sold out, but there may be a few at the door). The evening also features a musical performance by John K. Samson of the Weakerthans.
About 150 delegates, 40 per cent of them from out of town, have registered for the event, which organizers believe is the largest arts symposium ever held here. Registrations are still being accepted (full price for the four days is $350) and half-day, one-day and student rates are available.
A "legacy publication" documenting the symposium will be distributed in the spring issue of Canadian Art magazine and will eventually be posted on the Cultural Capital website (www.artsforall.ca).
The event's title comes from the song Left and Leaving by the Weakerthans: "My city's still breathing (but barely it's true) through buildings gone missing like teeth." The lyric points to the relationship between the cultural life/identity of a city and the urban environment, and that's one of the weekend's themes.
Mary Reid, curator of contemporary art at the WAG and co-ordinator of the symposium, says conferences on art and the city usually emphasize either the social and esthetic benefits of art, or an urban-planning perspective on culture. My City's Still Breathing attempts to incorporate both. Panelists and speakers include architects, urban planners, economists and cultural policy experts as well as artists from virtually all disciplines.
"This conference is about investigating the role of arts within the city (through) critical discussion, dialogue and exchange," Reid says.
Presentations range from British artist Nils Norman discussing playgrounds and playscapes around the world to Montreal academic Will Straw on reimagining the nighttime life of cities.
Performances like Torres-Garner's site-specific dance relate to panel topics such as City as Generator, Performing the City, Uncovering the City and Art in Discounted Spaces. Symposium delegates have other opportunities to engage with local artists: they can take a bus tour of modernist architecture led by Serena Keshajvee, experience a remount of the fringe-fest walkabout performance Gingers' Walk, have a card reading by the Winnipeg Tarot Company, and attend a "slow city and slow life" workshop with artist Dominique Rey.
For a full symposium schedule and registration details, see www.artsforall.ca or call 943-7668.
HERE are some of the symposium's high-profile speakers:
Acclaimed New York-based painter Eric Fischl (left), whose early work explored undercurrents in suburbia, is now doing work influenced by the events of 9/11. His conversation about The Artist in the Postmodern World is at 10 a.m. Sunday at the WAG. It's open to the public for $10.
Australian Jon Hawkes, a former circus strongman and underground press editor who authored the influential The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture's Essential Role in Public Planning, speaks today at 1 p.m. at the WAG.
Simon Evans (right) from England, founder of Creative Clusters Ltd., is an entrepreneur, consultant and advocate for cultural business. He speaks today at 3:15 p.m. at the WAG.