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Luminato Festival 2015: The Visual-Art Edit

In past iterations, the Luminato Festival has been fairly spectacle-heavy. With a screening of Matthew Barney’s Rivers of Fundament in 2014 and a preview of Marina Abramović’s eponymous institute in 2013, the festival tends to attract art stars, who occasionally come to town with their vanity projects in tow. But this year looks understated in comparison; there are no blockbuster, international names in the visual-art lineup. Instead, the programming is devoted to local and national figures: Geoffrey Farmer, Shary Boyle and David Cronenberg among them.

Here are the visual-art offerings at this year’s festival.

Geoffrey Farmer’s Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell

The long-winded title for Geoffrey Farmer’s long-running 2013 projection piece comes from Proust. The work contains the clipped romanticism and interior proto-Modernism of this reference, consisting of hundreds of images that have been algorithmically organized and synchronized to a minimalist score. It’s quite hypnotic—an art-historical head film with a musique-concrete beat.

Joey Arias’s A Centennial Tribute to Billie Holiday

Joey Arias is a fixture of the New York performance-art scene. In the 1970s and ’80s, he collaborated with Klaus Nomi (the two danced in the display windows at Fiorucci), Ann Magnuson and many others. He is now an established and respected cabaret singer, with one of his specialties being the repertoire of Billie Holiday. At Luminato, Arias sings a “centennial tribute” to Lady Day. The style is imitative (sometimes uncannily so) but the sincerity is unmistakable.

David Byrne’s Contemporary Colour

Though the classically defined visual-arts programming at this year’s festival is understated, David Byrne’s Contemporary Colour (which technically falls under the umbrella of music programming) more than balances it out. Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, has combined 10 high-school colour guards with 10 musicians and personalities (including Devonté Hynes, Nico Muhly and Ira Glass) and touted it the “biggest glitter cannon show of your life.” Unadulterated spectacle is the most acceptable form of spectacle.

Regina Silveira’s Glossary

After returning from Italy last week, a friend noted that this year’s Venice Biennale could easily double as an architectural biennial. It seemed a fair appraisal, and one that could likely apply to Brazilian artist Regina Silveira‘s installation Glossary, which turns Luminato’s hub at David Pecaut Square into a sea of coloured, translucent marquees awash in light and text. Hailing from Brazil, Silveira has consistently used silkscreens and appliqués to transform gallery walls into optical illusions, an effect that Luminato visitors can hope for.

Shary Boyle and Christine Fellows’s Spell to Bring Lost Creatures Home

A series of sumptuous, shadowy vignettes make up this live storytelling performance, one of several collaborations between Boyle and Fellows since 2005. Originally commissioned to tour through grade schools across the Canadian North, the project brings to mind visions of small-town folklore. However, judging by its freckling of sold-out shows across the country and reviews that seem to snuff any suspicion of regionalism or too-cuteness, this interdisciplinary presentation looks promising regardless of age or art know-how.

David Cronenberg’s Copycat Academy and Running Commentary

Last year’s release of David Cronenberg’s first novel, Consumed, catalyzed a wave of programming around the Toronto-born filmmaker, with exhibitions at TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Luminato has made him the subject of the second edition of their Copycat Academy, a project that “takes the biography of an artist as a model for its curriculum,” inviting artists to partake in a week of dedicated lectures. Some lectures are public. Beyond the academy, a program called Running Commentary, whose subject is Cronenberg, sounds like a screening that encourages viewers to vocalize while watching, a daring exercise in facilitation.

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