The founders of queer art space Videofag have gone mobile for this year’s Rhubarb Festival. Through anonymous suggestions and audience participation, Vigil(ance) tours unsafe, or “cold,” areas in the city and strives to reclaim the spaces with candlelight vigils. We asked the creators to walk us through their collaboration.
The Locations (in orange)
Participants will travel by foot through an area that extends, roughly, from Ossington to Broadview. However, if someone suggests a location outside the downtown core, a trip on the TTC is possible.
Cold Zones (in blue)
“We all have our personal maps of cold zones—places we feel unwelcome in or where we experience a heightened sense of danger,” Tannahill says. “Different groups will have different maps.”
A lantern—a battery-operated tealight in a coloured Mason jar—will be left at each vigil site as a sign of the group’s passage and a symbol of reclamation.
Participants—roughly 20 people each night—will gather at 7 p.m. during the run of the intervention. After a discussion led by artists Jordan Tannahill and William Christopher Ellis, the group will settle on three spaces—anything from bars to bus shelters—between Videofag and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to hold a vigil.
2. Christie Pits
Tannahill and Ellis were struck by how on edge the city became following a string of sexual assaults in the west end this past summer and fall. “A lot of people no longer felt as if they had freedom in their own neighbourhood,” says Tannahill. Part of Videofag’s mandate is to be aware of space: who has access to it, who feels enfranchised by it, and how to talk about it.
3. Outside Delta Sports Bar
“Three years ago, I was by myself at this intersection and a carload of guys heckled me with homophobic jeers,” says Tannahill. “A year and a half later, a guy taunted Will and me as we were walking with a friend to The Lakeview. I never felt physically threatened, but those instances definitely marked that site as a cold space in the city for me.”
4. Streetcar stop at Carlton and Ontario
“The first time that [local writer] Johnnie Walker and I met,” says Tannahill, “I was waiting for the streetcar. A group of guys came up to us and started calling us ‘batty boys’ and using other derogatory language.”
5. Scadding Court outdoor pool
After soliciting submissions from the public, the artists were surprised by the variety of stories and spaces that were offered up, including this family-friendly pool; their fear that locations stereotypically associated with violence would represent the bulk of problem areas didn’t hold true.
6. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
The only commonality from night to night: The group must arrive at Buddies by 10:30 p.m. Tannahill says of the experience, “We really want to avoid tragedy tourism. This is less about us being voyeurs and more about being neighbours and citizens of our city. It’s about reimagining or re-examining spaces that we already know.”
Areas identified by contributors as “cold zones”
7. Robarts Library stairwell
8. Union Station, GO stop bus shelter
9. The Queensway overpass at Parkside Drive
10. Westmoreland Parkette
11. The women’s washroom in Pauper’s Pub
13. Evergreen Brick Works parking lot
Vigil(ance) begins at 7 p.m. each night from Feb. 27 to March 3 at Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave. For more information about this and any other Rhubarb show, see buddiesinbadtimes.com.