When Jordan Tannahill and William Christopher Ellis needed a moniker for their new space, Videofag seemed the obvious choice. The Toronto couple’s newly adopted Kensington Market home/exhibition space, which they envision as a hub for queer media art and performance, was christened over their post-lease-signing celebration dinner.
“We liked the idea of twisting around something that’s been used pejoratively and as a way to ghettoize,” Tannahill says. “A lot of people treat the idea of queerness with kid gloves, but we’re a lot less delicate about things. We like to think of it as celebrating marginalization and embracing the degenerate.”
The same could be said of the space itself. The derelict Augusta Avenue barbershop they’ve chosen as their new home has certainly seen better days. Since taking possession at the beginning of October, the couple’s every free moment has been spent scrubbing floors, painting and patching holes.
“There’s been a lot of shoddy carpentry, and we like to joke that not even the walls in here are straight,” Tannahill laughs. “We’re tearing out panelling, putting in flooring and plastering the ceilings. We have a vague idea of what we’re doing, but we’re mostly learning as we go.”
Despite their labours, maintaining some roughness is key. Videofag will focus on experimental programming and risk taking, rather than polished work. The space launches with Hidden Histories and Spectacular Misfits, a major retrospective of experimental art-rock collective Kids on TV. Including music videos, costumes, posters and recordings of their legendary live shows, the exhibition aims to capture the Kids’ nearly 10 years of apocalyptic gayness.
Hoping the space will also function as a community meeting point, the couple plans to lure people during daytime hours with pay-what-you-can coffee and free WiFi.
“Artists are always meeting in coffee shops and restaurants, so we wanted to create a place where people could hang out and talk without being forced to buy something,” Tannahill says. “We want our living space to be a creative hub that people pass through, so it’s important to keep it actively used throughout the day.”
In addition to hosting upcoming shows by Adam Garnet Jones, Vivek Shraya, Mark Pariselli and Nina Arsenault, Videofag will offer short-term residencies to artists and curators creating and showcasing new works. In keeping with the space’s informality, they’ve opted to have no formal application process.
“If people are interested in doing something at the space, they can just drop by and talk to us,” Tannahill says. “We want this to be a place to play that’s accessible for people who want to try things out. We don’t have any resources beyond the space and our own sense of innovation and ingenuity.
“The whole thing is a big adventure for us,” he adds. “We’re not expecting to make any money. In fact, we’ll probably lose some. But we wanted the challenge of this creative endeavour to be a part of the life we’re building together.”