Infringing this summer

So what’s the Montreal infringement festival going to be like this year?  Good question!

While the infringement may have been mentioned several times on this blog already and anyone who knows OTL has heard of the festival, we have never really discussed it in any detail in this space.  The sixth consecutive edition of the Montreal infringement will run from June 18th through 28th 2009 and is now accepting artist applications (and still looking for volunteer organizers and helpers), so what better time to try and answer the question of what may be in store.

In 2004, the infringement was created to offer a new way of doing things.  It was a bridge between the worlds of activism and the arts and its very first edition saw over 25 acts jump on board in just a few months, including Montreal playwright David Fennario, award-winning transgendered performer and writer S. Bear Bergman performing in a real bathroom and Car Stories, the interactive theatre piece that had sparked the creation of the festival after being kicked out of the corporate St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival.  It was clear that a festival rooted in resistance to oppression and offering a place for artists and activists with something to say to speak out was both needed and welcome in Montreal and later the same summer in Toronto.

original infringement logo

original infringement logo

2005 proved that it was also a welcome and needed change south of the border in Buffalo, where a festival was established which is currently the biggest one in the circuit (it’s going into it’s fifth edition this summer) and in New York City, which hosted a one time event in Manhattan (and this year will play host to the first-ever Brooklyn infringement).  In Montréal the same year music came to the festival full-force.  There was one music show the last night in 2004 and by 05, music made up more than half of what was being offered.

In 2006, the theatre section of the Montreal festival featured Gary Corbin’s …four one-legged men, a show about four different characters, each with only one leg.  Corbin is himself disabled and had experienced many difficulties breaking onto the theatre scene until he eventually put together his own show and staged it at the Buffalo infringement the previous year.  This was also the first year that the festival built its own black box theatre space, with lights, sound and curtains.  The music section grew in Montreal and the festival spread to Ottawa and Regina and returned to Toronto.

Gary Corbin's ...four one-legged men!

Gary Corbin

The francophone side of the Montreal infringement grew significantly in 2007 thanks to Landriault and his Chansons a Double Dose series (which later became Le Maître Chanteur).  The same year, the first infringement on European shores happened in Bordeaux, France.  Over the years, the festival had always tried to challenge corporate intrusions on the Main during street festivals that ran at the same time and this year, the Reclaim the Main campaign was fully integrated into its culture-jamming framework in the form of the fake ad company PubPartout.

The francophone side grew again in 2008 when, for its fifth anniversary, the festival ran almost the whole month of June.  This year, the pre-season saw several infringement Socials in sections of the city where the fest had never operated before such as Griffintown and St-Henri.  The festival also drew international culture-jammers Kinetic Aesthetic from the UK who aided Reclaim the Main and performed their own piece Sleep Sitting Up, to highlight the plight of the city’s homeless.

Kinetic Aesthetic

Kinetic Aesthetic

If one thing is clear, it’s that while the fundamentals of being a critical alternative to corporate mainstream arts festivals remain, the specifics of the infringement change from year to year.  This is inevitable because the festival is a composite of its parts and those parts are brought by whoever is taking part that year.  Participants are encouraged to bring what they would hope to find.

So what’s the Montreal infringement festival going to be like this year? Why don’t you get involved and tell us.

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