Three teenagers from Vancouver suburbs have launched an art collective to showcase the work of young, queer, non-binary femme artists, citing an “imbalance of opportunities” as their inspiration.
“Not living in Vancouver and coming from a suburban city, not having the same funding for your art, you do feel left out like you don’t belong in the scene,” says Nazlie Najafi, a 15-year-old filmmaker and photographer. She says most of her art focuses on mental health and her experiences as a first-generation immigrant and person of colour.
Filmmaker and artist Nazlie Najafi says young queer artists often feel less than welcome in local art shows. (Layla Cameron/Daily Xtra)
The Elastic Collective held an official launch party on June 11, 2016, which co-organizer Rhi Blossom says was hugely successful. Blossom is a 19-year-old musician and visual artist, inspired by “gross stuff” and identity crises.
The launch party, which was originally going to be held in Najafi’s basement, moved to a downtown venue when the event’s Facebook page started to receive more attention. The event line-up included dance, spoken word and musical performances, DJ sets, a film screening, a “craft chill session” and a workshop titled “Fuck You: Why My Obscenity Matters.”
“It was all 100 percent DIY. We’re teenagers and we don’t have the same resources that big club promoters or older people do, so we made some money and we’re going to use that to hold another event,” says Blossom, who uses the pronoun they.
Rhi Blossom is a musician and visual artist inspired by “gross stuff” and identity crises. (Layla Cameron/Daily Xtra)
The Collective will facilitate workshops, networking and mentorship opportunities, as well as attempt to redistribute resources such as time, space and money, to young artists who identify as girls, queer, or non-binary femme people.
Proposed workshops include activities ranging from making collages, to how to make a band, to learning how to DJ. The Collective also plans to host panels about topics such as gender identity and sexuality, Blossom says.
The Collective supports femme and non-binary queer youth because they feel this demographic receives less recognition than cis-het men, says Hannah Turner, also a co-organizer of the Collective. Turner is a 16-year-old multimedia artist and one half of the band Scum Laude.
Hannah Turner is a multimedia artist and one half of the band Scum Laude. (Layla Cameron/Daily Xtra)
As for why the Collective uses identifying language such as non-binary, femme, and cis-het (short for cisgendered-heterosexual), Turner says “it covers a general term for non-conforming genders, which is so important for people who are misrepresented or excluded. . . We try to avoid using the word female because it’s often used in trans-exclusive ways.”
Najafi says creative youth are often discouraged from participating in school art programs, and will instead seek out local art shows in an effort to find and build community. However, she says that upon arriving at these shows, queer youth are often “othered.”
“People think Vancouver is so diverse, there’s so much representation, but you realize it’s not like that,” Najafi says. “They put a little thing in the bio of the event like they’re inclusive, no transphobia, sexism or bigotry, but in reality they don’t have proper security, proper people running the show. On Facebook they share the most disgusting things and it creates a toxic environment.”
“Certain groups have predatory behaviour,” Blossom says.
Blossom says they feel both cis-het and queer local party promoters are often disrespectful and misogynistic.
“I personally have never been to a show and felt really comfortable,” they say. “Gay men especially feel like they for some reason are more so allowed to touch you or invade your space because they’re gay, because I pass as a girl they’re not going to fuck me so they can touch me and grind with me.”
Turner says there were cis-het folks at the Collective’s launch party, and that these guests were respectful attendees. For future events organized by the Elastic Collective, Turner says cis-het allies are “totally welcome if there’s enough room.”
The Elastic Collective is hosting an all-ages Pride event as part of the Alternative Pride Festival at Fortune Nightclub on July 29.
Friday, July 29, 2016, 2–9 pm
Fortune Sound Club, 147 East Pender St, Vancouver
Editor’s note, July 26, 2016: This article was amended to correctly reflect Nazlie Najafi’s perspective on some youth feeling discouraged from participating in school art programs.