Luminato Toronto 2014

The top 12 shows to see at Luminato 2014

Luminato 2014 continues in its graceful reputation as the adventurous older brother of Toronto's many cultural festivals. While this year's installment doesn't have quite the same big-name international draws as it has in the past, the festival still wields impressive creative power. And, hey, who can argue against a huge cardboard beach set up at David Pecaut Square? You know that will drum up some serious curiosity, particularly insofar as there's food and drink (yes, it's license) on offer as well.

Luminato has always been a bit quirkier than Toronto's other art festivals, and this iconoclastic strain is on display once again this year. Under the watchful eye of artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt, this year's Luminato will offer up a wide range of thought-provoking events over the coming weeks, especially for those bored with the city's usual SFW art exhibitions.

Here are my top 12 picks for this year's festival.

Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle
In association with TIFF, Luminato 2014 artist of note Matthew Barney will show all five parts of his autobiographical, manic diatribe, the Cremaster Cycle. Clocking in at seven hours long, and taking seven years to complete, the ambitious film series examines themes of contemporary physicality and gender issues in today's age of technological pervasiveness. It could be misconstrued as a lewd and freakish series, but is mostly seen as a pinnacle of contemporary international avant-garde cinema. In fact, why not let the artist himself describe the work to you when he introduces it at TIFF on June 7? He's very handsome. June 7, 4pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. West), $12.50.

TV on the Radio
While this Brooklyn band hasn't put out a record since 2011's Nine Types of Light, their brand of energetic, experimental rock is well-revered in indie circles and is a must-see for musicians (it's technically impressive stuff!), newbies (it's beautiful stuff!), and frankly, all fans of guitar-driven music (it's beautiful stuff!). Plus, seeing them surrounded by all of those skyscrapers promises to be a uniquely "Toronto" experience. June 13, 9pm. Festival Hub at David Pecault Square (55 John St.), $35.

Sleeping In The Devil's Bed: The Music of Daniel Lanois
Luminato is well-known for its annual celebration of a member of the Canadian music canon, and this year's festival honours the unparalleled work of musician/producer Daniel Lanois. Having made (or reinvented) the careers of countless famed musicians, from Neil Young to Emmylou Harris to U2, Lanois will be celebrated with appearances by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, Martha Wainwright, The Handsome Family, Harris herself, and more. June 10, 7:30pm, Massey Hall (178 Victoria St.), $45-$150

Isabella Rosselini's Green Porno: Live On Stage
If you haven't seen the videos created by the model/actress for The Sundance Channel, presenting the plethora of weird and funny ways that the world's creatures copulate, get thee to YouTube now. Then, go watch Rosselini perform the shorts live, where the long-time animal enthusiast will don many, many costumes to help you learn more about the sex rituals of everything from ducks to dolphins. Very important. Very educational. Dare I say: sexy? June 6-8, Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge St.), $45-$85.

Pina Bausch's The Complaint of an Empress
While the late dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch recently found mainstream recognition outside of dance circles when her documentary, Pina, premiered in 2011, little is known about the other facets of her creative career. This year, Luminato + TIFF bring us her rare 1990 film, the only one she ever wrote and directed, which takes its viewers on a bizarre dance foray through the four seasons. June 10, 1pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. West), $12.50.

Terence Koh's tomorrow's snow and a way to the light
Reflecting the artist's recent interest in absolving himself of his previous persona, asianpunkboy, so that he can focus on "living immaterially," Terrence Koh returns for the first time as a solo artist to his native country since his school years at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, with two works at Kleinberg's McMichael Collection. The first, inspired by Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, is an ephemeral performance that involves coating the grounds in tapioca "snow" while two children make snow angels - a conversion of summer to winter. The other, in the gallery's Artists Cemetery, is a tribute to Emily Carr. How the heck do you get to Kleinberg? Don't worry: there's a shuttle bus that will cart you from 200 Wellington St. all the way up to the gallery every evening. June 6-13, 9:30pm, McMichael Canadian Art Collection (10365 Islington Ave., Kleinberg), $10 (for shuttle bus).

Buffy Sainte-Marie & Tanya Tagaq
Presented as a free (yes, free) double bill entitled "Northern Lights & Music," this musical showcase presents two of Canada's brightest Aboriginal talents performing their well-known brands of sonic endowment. Sainte-Marie is one of the country's great folk artists and social activists, with a brilliant investment in First Nations and Inuit issues. Tagaq is a prominent, young Inuk throat singer, who is known for having developed her own brand of non-traditional solo singing, adapting the classical form for contemporary consumption, which was famously featured on Bjork's 2004 album Medulla. June 10, 8pm, Festival Hub at David Pecault Square (55 John St.), free.

Jason Collett's Basement Revue
A returning festival treat, Jason Collett's nightly curated musical show is the official festival after-party and is known for attracting unexpected and exciting guests and performances (from Marina Abramovic to Rufus Wainwright). No one knows who or what's planned for the night until they walk onstage. June 6-15, 11pm, Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen St. East, #200), $20.

All The Sex I've Ever Had
Youth is wasted on the young, especially when it comes to dialogues about sex. Toronto-based research-art atelier Mammalian Diving Reflex present All The Sex I've Ever Had, a performance/discussion with a group of older members of society, where they will provocatively regale their audience with stories about their sexual adventures and misadventures. Having been performed internationally, Toronto will be the seventh stop for the show, bringing in a roster of international players, speaking German, English, Czech, and Mandarin (with English subtitles). June 12-15, Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St. West), $35.

TimesTalks Luminato: David Byrne
Just go to this talk, 'cause it's frickin' DAVID BYRNE (current cultural Renaissance man, of Talking Heads fame). He'll be talking to a pop music critic from the New York Times, as part of a series of talks presented by the newspaper. June 15, 6pm, MaRS Discovery District (101 College St.), $25.

The Copycat Academy
The Copycat Academy is a new educational effort by the festival. Created by Berlin's Hannah Hurtzig, the academy features well-known local and international "faculty members" looking to take part in a dialogue on this year's theme: hijacking as an art concept, with a specific emphasis on the work of General Idea. While the lab is most meaningful to the 20 international participants who were chosen to attend and work alongside their facilitator liaisons, the lunch-time and evening lectures from curator Philip Monk, South African conceptual artist Kendell Geers, Swedish dancer/performance artist Marten Spagenberg, and others, are open to the public. June 10-14, free.

TSO's Music Mob
The second iteration of the now-annual event will, again, allow one and all - amateurs and veterans alike - to play alongside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with conduction from TSO director Peter Oundjian. This year's music is Maurice Ravel's exuberant Bolero, so bring your favourite instrument and come toot along. Spectators are welcome (but you may want to bring some ear plugs). June 8, 2pm. Air Canada Centre (40 Bay St.), free.

Writing by Jess Carroll

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