This article was originally published in the Summer edition of the Current Society newsletter.
“A fulfilling and successful arts career isn’t so much about where you are; it’s about how you choose to relate to your surroundings and how your environment can expand your definition of success,” so writes Candice Irwin in her feature article “The Road Out,” published in our Summer 2021 issue. In it, Irwin looks at the record number of people who, since July 2019, have left Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver for more rural settings across the country and unpacks the myth that worthwhile art must take place in a big city.
Meanwhile, in Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, a pair of co-artistic directors are casually busting this myth with a festival that celebrates the cutting edge. FURIES will be running for its second year (postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19) in the village of Marsoui from July 29 to Aug. 1, with work from local and visiting artists as well as community-based workshops. The artistic-directing duo, Priscilla Guy and Sébastien Provencher, see the festival as a chance to showcase new experimental work outside of big-city arts hubs and to develop Quebec’s local touring circuit.
With no professional theatre venues in Marsoui, the landscape becomes the stage. Artists will present site-specific works around town, eroding the boundaries between performance and life. Imagine stumbling across an outdoor performance on your way home from the grocery store. Let the ice cream melt; you have a show to watch. It’s precisely from this kind of boundary-eroding that the directing duo believes a sense of community is built.
“Because it’s such a small place, you’ve got to think in terms of getting people together,” says Guy. “If you start to make too many categories … people get easily lost.”
Guy and Provencher encourage their audiences to let go of any expectations that might dictate what they should know about dance before participating. “You can have a two-year-old toddler dancing next to Grandma in a creative workshop at the community centre,” says Guy. During its first year, many of the professional artists joined in on the workshops “with the babies and the grandma,” replacing the distinction of artist and audience with camaraderie and commonality.
This proximity creates an intimacy that, Provencher argues, would be hard to achieve in a bigger city. “The artists are coming from really far, and they enjoy being in the region and staying [for the other events], which creates a beautiful vibe.” He compares it to sleep-away camp, being immersed in a different landscape with a big group of friends.
Of course, the village landscape presents its own set of challenges for the organizers. Not having access to professional venues and equipment means working creatively within limitations. It often means getting down to the essence of an artist’s work, a process that, Guy says, “can be a very rich experience, both for the artists and for the audience.”
This year, a selection of screendance will be available online starting Aug. 2. To find out more, and to book your festival tickets, visit mandolinehybride.com/en/furies/.