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Abramovic's MAI Prototype lands in Trinity Bellwoods

Posted by Keith Bennie / June 16, 2013

Luminato Trinity BellwoodsThe Luminato Festival has been successful at attracting international artists over its impressive seven years on the arts scene. But this year, there's a marked shift in programming with an eye towards attracting younger audiences, the variety that whiles away their weekends enjoying the splendors of Toronto park life.

Performers gracing the marquee in past years — Leonard Cohen, Randy Bachman, Robert Lepage — all carry a certain weight, albeit primarily with older, more affluent audiences. Performances like these have traditionally been set at familiar venues, from David Pecaut Square to the Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre.

But there's a change afoot in 2013 that embraces artists and sites that will appeal to younger audiences. Viktor&Rolf Dolls at the ROM, Gob Squad at the Festival Hub, and Future Tastes of Toronto: At the Kids Table in the Distillery all reflect a fresh energy this year.

No space downtown attracts as young and hip a crowd per square metre than Trinity Bellwoods. It's here where the urban, artistic pulse of the city can be felt.

This year, the park plays host to Marina Abramovic's MAI Prototype, the performance artist's legacy project modeled after the institute that will open in her name in Hudson, New York. It's no coincidence that Trinity Bellwoods has been chosen to host this internationally celebrated artist's new project.

Luminato Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt describes, "Marina wanted a place of retreat and Trinity Bellwoods seemed ideal as it is a place where people go to enjoy and sort of have this little escape into nature and [find] a serenity that pulls them out of the bustle of the city."

The park has long been a site for the city's festivals alongside tennis, slacklining, and drumming circles. But there are deeper ties between Abramovic and the milieu of Trinity Bellwoods.

While she may be the "grandmother of performance art," Abramovic has recently gained a cult following with a younger generation on the occasion of a major retrospective at MoMA. Young art enthusiasts slept overnight in round-the-block lineups for a chance to sit across the table from the revered star, spawning a documentary by Matthew Akers and the popular blog Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry.

Actor James Franco is among the familiar faces shown taking part. It's not a far stretch to consider Franco as a stand-in for the Trinity Bellwoods ilk, a hip crowd with an appreciation for art that's elevated by a contemporary sophistication and an awareness of what's going on in the city. The park has become grazing ground for this connected group of young people.

One of Abramovic's major tenents is that durational performance helps the public reconnect to reality. The MAI Prototype features a series of durational exercises that will encourage participants to rediscover the qualities of the material world, making the familiar unfamiliar. Akin to staring at a work of art in a gallery for an extended period, Abramovic challenges participants to peer deeper into our activities.

A weekend at Trinity Bellwoods is in itself an exercise in durational relaxation. The abundant greenery and conditions ripe for people watching render the space a vortex where time is fluid and technological devices lose jurisdiction. Park life here seems to exist outside of our traditional clock. The conditions encourage a more firm connection with organic architecture and the park's many inhabitants.

These qualities combine to make Trinity Bellwoods a performative space all its own — the agents and actions of the park a reflection of the city's collective, urban ambition. The jugglers, flower headbands, and musical interludes project a certain artistic necessity. It's a social performance that differs from the scene that unfolds on a Monday morning on Bay Street, for instance, but it's even distinct enough from the mood of Withrow or High Park.

Weisbrodt describes Trinity Bellwoods as a site bound by an "invisible border" where decompression serves as a "counterbalance to city life and its busy streets, high rises and traffics."

While it may appear to be a weekend haunt, a place where bohemian dreams become reality, Trinity Bellwoods is also a hotbed of performance. The Queen West locale, anchored by decades of a past avant-garde history, is the vibrant habitat of Toronto's youth. Luminato, in collaboration with Abramovic, hopes to showcase the park's performance potential for a younger generation of eager participants.

Photo by Canadian Art



Jer / June 16, 2013 at 08:53 am
Ou may have wanted to mention the ticket price and provided a link to the
luminato site to buy them. Just a heads up that you can it buy tickets on site because hey aren't allowed to sell tickets in the park. Also, you need to buy the tickets a day in advance online.
Jer replying to a comment from Jer / June 16, 2013 at 08:54 am
Stupid touch screen. That was suppose to say you Can NOT buy tickets at trinity bellwoods
Grant / June 16, 2013 at 10:21 am
So it's not just art in the park?
Stan Smith / June 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Why the hell did they have to put this shitbox in the middle of the path cutting through the park?
Not Stan / June 16, 2013 at 02:06 pm
scrolled to see if any negative comments. Stan delivers.
shelly t / June 16, 2013 at 03:24 pm
"Marina wanted a place of retreat... this little escape into nature and [find] a serenity..."... so, we plopped this industrial monstrosity right in the middle of the best part of the park, interrupting all flow, put industrial fencing and warnings around it and run a massive generator all day... oh, and it will cost you $25 to get in (if you can at all).
Luminato has got to be the most bourgeois, boring, self congratulatory "arts festival" on offer anywhere - Abramovic is perfect for it.
shelly t / June 16, 2013 at 03:25 pm
whoops, used industrial twice up there... I hate doing that(!).
John / June 16, 2013 at 05:03 pm
@Shelly: Get a life.
Shawn replying to a comment from John / June 16, 2013 at 06:43 pm
I have to say I agree with her...for many weeks that part of the park was fenced off and inaccessible to the public all for a $25/piece art event
Jer / June 17, 2013 at 12:12 am
And it is like $7 in fees and taxes n addition to that $25 price. Curious, anyone been? It is selling out.. Pretty much sold out until wednesday
not important / June 17, 2013 at 03:35 pm
i wish someone could tell me what exactly it is. i asked the staff what was going on in there and all anyone would say was that it's a marina abramovic exhibit and you have to wear headphones. if i'm plunking down 30+ dollars (i'm not) for this i'd like to know at least kind of what i'm getting into

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