Photo by Kyle West

Every so often, students walking through the McMaster University Student Centre are met with faces of The Beatles, large maps of the world and even prints of Banksy’s most popular works.  

The Imaginus poster sale, which has been touring Canadian university and college campuses since 1975, is a staple of the university experience. It is not uncommon to see their posters plastered over the walls of dorms and off-campus housing.

The Imaginus poster sale is happening right now in MUSC!

Make sure to check it out before they leave tomorrow 🙂#McSU pic.twitter.com/FfDqEesAgc

— MSU Campus Events (@msucampusevents) January 31, 2019

At first glance, the poster sales seem innocent enough. For under $10, you can get away with two good-sized posters of your favourite band or quote — what could be wrong with that?

A lot, actually. The Imaginus poster sale has been critiqued in the past for selling posters that promote cultural appropriation, and poster sales in general have been scrutinized for the ethics of selling reproduced and borderline copyright-infringement artwork. This can especially raise eyebrows as it is rare that the collected profits ever reach the original artists.  

But beyond the possible problematic nature of the content of their posters, the Imaginus poster sales take away opportunities from student artists. As it stands, McMaster University students cannot sell their artwork on campus for a profit.

According to the Policy on Student Groups, student groups on campus “may not engage in activities that are essentially commercial in nature.”

This policy is what caused the shutdown of an art sale by McMaster’s Starving Artists Society last year. The club is made up of student artists and creatives that are looking to expand their portfolio and reach a wider audience.

The event that was shut down was meant to be an opportunity for student artists to market their artwork to their peers and even profit off of their hard work. Many of Mac’s student artist community are involved with SAS and were negatively affected by the university’s decision to shut the event down.

Essentially, the university has allowed Imaginus to have an unfair monopoly on selling art on campus. For a university that already arguably disvalues the arts, to dissuade student artists from profiting from their work is a serious matter.

This brings to light a larger issue at hand. Why should any students be disallowed to sell their products on campus — especially when outside companies are given space in our student centre to sell their products?  

This situation unfortunately reflects the situation of many non-student local artists within the community. In our corporate world, it is extremely difficult to establish a reliable clientele and profit off of one’s work. Mass commercialized products inherently cost less and as a result, this drives away sales from local artists.

As the university makes a profit from the poster sales, and in general from any vendors on campus, it is unlikely that this issue will be addressed anytime soon.

Until it is, you can support local and student artists through sharing their work, reaching out to them and contributing towards their sales. The SAS also runs art crawls and other events where students can get in contact with student artists!

Everyone has a Friends poster in their house. When you buy local and student, not only are you supporting your peers, but you’re likely acquiring higher quality and truly unique works of art.

 

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Photos C/O Peggy Baker Dance Projects

It has been said that life is a dance. No one knows that better than celebrated Canadian dance artist Peggy Baker whose dance installation Move captures the duality of caregiving. The free installation will be performed on Feb. 2 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton as part of McMaster University’s Socrates Project.

The dance installation takes place in a 28 by 28-foot square surrounded by a frame.  It is 70-minutes long and is organized into four cycles. The cyclic nature of the piece and the fact that it rotates throughout means audience members can take it in from multiple angles.

 

The performers are not necessarily dancers by trade but members of the community who love dance. There are 16 of them dancing in pairs that reverse roles with each cycle. They were selected in November 2018 during a two-hour workshop and audition.

The story of Move began 10 years ago when Baker first presented the dance as part of Toronto contemporary art event Nuit Blanche. At that time, the dance was 20 minutes long and done on the hour every hour for 12 hours with 12 pairs of professional dancers. When Baker put on Move for the second time at the Art Gallery of Ontario a couple years later, she decided to extend the length of the piece and do it with fewer dancers.  

It was while doing the dance at the Art Gallery of Ontario that Baker thought about using community members as the dancers. She has since put on several performances of Move with non-professional dancers, staging the entire performance in five three-hour rehearsals.

 

Baker’s own experience with caregiving formed a part of the inspiration for the installation. She was the primary caregiver to her late husband, who had primary progressive multiple sclerosis. She found that caregiving involves a beautiful rapport between the one receiving and the one giving care.

Baker was also inspired by art and dance itself. While teaching in Philadelphia, she was struck by the beauty of partnership when she had dancers pair up and help another during some difficult movement sequences. Also while in Philadelphia, she saw an exhibition of paintings by American painter George Tooker and was inspired by the images of people embracing one another.

The dancers changing roles throughout the piece represents the inevitability of being on both sides of caregiving. The choreography for the piece overall is formal and highly organized, mimicking the ritualized elements of human lives. The choice to have four cycles mimics the cyclic structure of the seasons and the fact that there are four cardinal directions.

“[I]t’s something universal. We all receive that kind of intimate physical care and physical nurturing as infants and children. We may all find ourselves in a position where we where we are called upon to give care to a parent or a partner or a child. And we may all eventually need to receive care,” explained Baker.

KITCHENER, Ont. (09/04/18) - Victoria Park

 

The electro-acoustic soundtrack, composed by musician and composer Debashis Sinha, is also organized into four cycles. It is subtle and atmospheric, not quite music but a sonic landscape for the audience and dancers to reside in.

Baker encourages audience members to walk around the square performance space, close their eyes or turn their back to view the art in the gallery. The space allows viewers to feel comfortable arriving after it begins or even leaving before it ends.

I like it to be in a public place. I like it to be in a place that already is claimed by the community as being a place in their town or city like this is… an art gallery, a foyer of a theater, a market… [I]t needs to locate itself in the heart of the community… [I]t's about community building basically,” Baker said.

At the end of the piece, the dancers pour water for one another and drink it. One of the dancers in the group, a ceramic artist, suggested that the group each makes the vessel that they drink out of. At the end of one of their rehearsals, she guided her fellow dancers through making their own bowl.

The creativity and passion brought on by these community dancers give this installation of Move a unique tint. However, the beauty of Move is the universality of the theme and the way in which it can move anyone.

 

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Cartoons have been on the rise lately. Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall have gained substantial followings in the past year, and this audience doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere any time soon. Sailor Moon got a reboot in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, and Digimon got a direct sequel. Tumblr has also witnessed the return of older cartoons, and bloggers are revisiting shows like Scooby-Doo, Danny Phantom and Totally Spies!. The curious thing, however, is that majority of the participants in this Cartoon Revolution are older than the target audience.

I’d thought of it as a byproduct of the Tumblr-hype. People on my dashboard like to reblog pretty gif sets, cartoons get pretty gif sets, so therefore these people reblog these gif sets. There was nothing wrong with being an adult and still liking “kid shows” — they have short episodes, and their entertainment value is its own category. Sometimes, it’s a casual attachment that you’ve retained from childhood. Sometimes, it’s just really good, as is the case with me and Avatar: The Last Airbender. That’s all.

My weekend at ComiCon begged me to mull this over once more.

I’ve barely gotten off the GO Bus last Saturday when I spot a pair of cosplayers huddled on one side of the terminal, fixing each other’s masks. Having gotten sucked into the hype of the show and found myself a fan three trial episodes later, I recognize the characters from Miraculous Ladybug. The show is primarily broadcast in French which made the vast contingent of its fans at this year’s ComicCon a surprise. Even more surprising to me was that these people, clearly avid fans, didn’t seem to be much younger than me, if at all.

Then again, I have been religiously watching the show every week since getting into it. The encounter with the cosplayers brings into mind a text conversation I’ve had with a friend weeks back, having just gotten into Miraculous Ladybug and confused over what we actually like about it. “Kids shows are so much nicer than ‘adult’ shows,” my friend had said. “Instead of saying that there is no good in anyone, it focuses on proving that there is. If that makes sense. The messages are always so much nicer.”

We concluded that the appeal, then, must be purely escapist.

This doesn’t explain the emotional attachment I witnessed at ComiCon. My first panel of the day belonged to the cast of Sailor Moon, and not having been attached to the show as a child, I was in there as an objective spectator. Many of my peers, however, some dressed up and others just looking excited to be there, are not. There was a crowd — groups of excited girls, whispering about favourite characters and talking fondly about their memories of the show’s original run. It wasn’t something I understood, perhaps because I had none of these memories to speak of, but they hadn’t been the only group to do this.

I stopped by as many merchandise booths as I can, and for each one, I experience almost repeats of the conversation between those Sailor Moon fans. A girl in the poster booth would excitedly point out having watched Digimon as a child, and gush about how much it meant to her. A boy at the T-shirt booth waves his newly bought Adventure Time shirt, talking about how the show makes him feel a child again. Most significantly, clustered around the food court were a number of families — parents indulging their kid’s interests, or parents sharing their own childhood interests with their children.

It was an odd sight, seeing adults happily telling their kids about the first comics that they read and the first shows they’ve ever watched. Somehow, though, it made me feel guilty for having been so quick to make assumptions on people’s interest in what we categorize as children’s shows.

What I learned from ComiCon is this: we never really forget the things we love as children. These superheroes are our first role models, and these fantasy worlds are often our first encounters with the beauty of fiction. There will always be emotional attachment to something, even if we deny it, because at one point we’ve wanted to be Spiderman or, like those girls, have been inspired by the kind of female character Sailor Jupiter is. We’re shaped by our childhood experiences, and that includes the things we watch. It’s a well-grounded emotional attachment, and that’s why, when shows like Digimon and Sailor Moon get reboots and sequels, people are more than happy to gob it all up.

Is it an escapist appeal? Sure. I like Miraculous Ladybug because its superhero world was something I’ve become attached to. That said, we need to stop equating escapism with inferiority to ‘more serious’ shows. Just because she’s watching a show about Parisian superheroes and he’s rewatching the older Justice League episodes doesn’t mean they’re any less than loyal Tarantino fans. At the end of the day, a lot of us are into media and pop culture for the entertainment and distraction factors, and if that means watching singing crystal gems to forget about life’s woes for ten minutes, then so be it.

The most important thing, however, is that today’s shows are sporting what we never really got in cartoons of the previous generation: diversity in characters, prominent strong female characters, and, like my friend pointed out, more positive messages.

If the future of the next generation can be built on this foundation, if these kids can grow up with these characters as their role models, then by all means, I’ll be more than happy to see Cartoon Revolution flourish.

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