Toronto
3 min

The tops in arts

A baker's dozen of cream-filled treats

BEST OF THE YEAR. DJ Zahra hosts FunkAsia. Credit: Xtra files

Queer artists have been faithfully serving up sweet and unsavoury pleasures all year. Here are a few of the highlights of 2002 culled from Xtra reviews and stories (and beyond). And while you may not agree with all of the choices – it would be very easy to double or treble the list – what’s plainly evident is that these artists deserve kudos for feeding our never-ending hunger for a shared understanding of ourselves in this crazy, fucked-up, wonderful world.



1) Live music

The Hidden Cameras. Joel Gibb and his band of merry makers have amassed quite a following outside their alterna-queer base. The gay, folk, church music outfit received the Rising Star Award at Canadian Music Week, have been championed by Radio Sonic’s Grant Lawrence (on CBC Radio Two) and were part of Exclaim’s cross-Canada concert series. Look for a new CD on Rough Trade (outside of Canada) coming out next year. Kumbaya my lord, indeed.



2) Recorded music

Gay: Obscene Underground compiled and mixed by Denise Benson. With selections from Matt C, Kaje Johnson and Nick Holder, house music never sounded so intriguing. Runner up: Barry Harris and Chris Cox Present Thunderpuss. Xtra’s Barnes wrote that the collection “is a fast and furious ride from track one with their galloping version of Madonna’s ‘Don’t Tell Me’ setting the pace and ending up with their dark and brooding (?!) version of Britney’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know.'”



3) Scene makers

Tie between Zahra Dhanani and Mykl Hall, aka DJ Zahra of Funk-Asia and DJ BlackCat of Manhattan’s Stylin’ Saturdays and numerous other parties. These two have led the charge to make Toronto’s party scene more colourful and varied. Not that we don’t love acres of white muscle boys bouncing at 130-plus BPM. On that front, see Daniel Paquette’s party break down, on page 28.



4) Dance

The Contract by The National Ballet Of Canada (in its 50th anniversary season), with choreography by James Kudelka, design by Michael Levine, sound design by John Oswald and music by Michael Torke. It’s one of the best works Kudelka and the National have ever done. As Eve, the Pied Piper character, dancer Martine Lamy delivered a bewitching marriage of spiritual charisma and physical passion.



5) Stage

In On It by Daniel MacIvor. Life and death dance again; somehow the Toronto-based playwright and actor manages to keep enticing audiences to investigate life’s big questions and petty deceits.



6) Books, fiction

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys. Xtra’s Maureen Phillips called it a haunting, “unsentimental exploration of the varieties of grief” with “a density, a fullnessÂ… that is very satisfying.”



7) Books, picture

Dear Friends: American Photographs Of Men Together, 1840-1918, compiled by Montreal-born David Deitcher. Xtra’s Jim Bartley wrote: “Dear Friends captures men in moments that are finally undefinable. These pictures transcend our sexual categories and our savvy itemized inclusiveness. Their greatest charm is their erotic mystery.”



8) Film

Far From Heaven. Xtra reviewer Nicholas Davies wrote that the film, “reaffirms Todd Haynes as the most fascinating filmmaker of contemporary American cinema.” We’ve included this only non-Canadian entry in recognition of Hollywood’s wholesale homo-philia, with strong queer offerings like Kissing Jessica Stein, LIE, Frida, The Hours, Chicago and (France’s) 8 Women all released this year.



9) Visual arts

Karen Azoulay’s recent Sprinkle, Sprinkle show at Paul Petro. “Sitting underneath her sparkling, curious, dendritic installation was like being buried at sea, but in an alien ocean,” writes RM Vaughan.



Runner up: Will Munro’s underwear art at Remington’s, Zsa Zsa and SPIN.



Special (straightish) mention: Fiona Smyth’s Bride Of Gene show at SPIN, her most audacious and assured work to date.



10) Administrator cum impresario

Wayne Baerwaldt, the new director of Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery. By beginning with a pervy Power Ball party this summer and bringing in as his inaugural show the internationally celebrated Paradise Institute, you can tell big and wonderful things are in the works from this unaffected upstart Winnipegger.



11) Opera

Yes, it gets its own category because we’re gay, it’s opera and opera in this town is booming. Young stars are succeeding on the international stage and queers are increasingly out at every level of production. Highlights this year: the Canadian Opera Company’s remounts of Salome and Oedipus Rex (which Tim Ashley of The Guardian called “one of the most shattering pieces of music theatre you will ever experience”), its new productions of Julius Caesar and the COC Ensemble Studio’s Turning Of The Screw and Opera Atelier’s Coronation Of Poppea.



12) TV moment

Ann-Marie MacDonald discussing her novel, Fall On Your Knees, on Oprah. Oprah cancelled her book club on the same episode. Coincidence? Runners up: Paul DeBoy being escorted off the premises by a hyperventilating management rep for peeing in the players’ bathroom of the Montreal Expos on PrideVision’s Locker Room; Ed Sahely caught in a karaoke loop on the Comedy Channel’s The Gavin Crawford Show; Canuck Eric McCormack winning his first Emmy for Will And Grace.



13) Overachievement

Evan Adams. The playwright, actor and former talk show host gave an amazing starring performance in the challenging feature film The Business Of Fancydancing (which played Inside Out this year, but hasn’t been released theatrically in Canada). All the while, he’s been going to medical school and is now doing residency at St Paul’s in Vancouver, the hospital he chose for its work in native health and AIDS/HIV. Runner up: filmmaker and editor Allyson Mitchell, a member of the fat-friendly performance troupe Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off and one half of Bucky And Fluff’s Craft Factory (the other half, Lex Vaughn, is no slouch either – she’s also a comic with the duo called Glyph).