NON GRATA | SMASHING!!! Hard Hitting Fists!!!
Photo credit: Dean Goodwin

SMASHING!!!! was a two part event created by Toronto based media and performance artist Istvan Kantor who brought the internationally renowned group Non Grata from Estonia via New York to Canada to perform in Toronto (they performed in Montréal in 2006).

Istvan Kantor aka Monty Cantsin Amen, a member of the Non Grata nomad-network group, collaborated in leading the car smash that took place at 3pm in the empty lot beside Kantor’s studio on Sterling Road. Dirt and sand in small tornadoes flew around the car as people arrived. Improvised audio was beaten out against the chilling desert atmosphere by Istvan. The audience came ready to participate in the final killing of the bright red vehicule condemned to be smashed.

Taje, Non Grata’s founder member with Al Paldrok, started on the roof in bare legs, bare feet, a burning torch and fire starter. She was the anarchist statue of liberty, a symbol for a generation of artists living in an era of global warming, in a city where cyclists are run down by vehicles regularly, in a part of the world where artists have been confronting the car in their work for the past two decades. The car is a highly charged symbol to attack. It was sprayed and smashed with axes, sledge hammers, sticks, flipped over and punctured. I took an axe and chopped away at the trunk. Throwing the axe to the ground for the next person to pick up, I stumbled away feeling that I had just jumped out of a cold lake.

Later in Istvan’s studio I said to Paldrok “That was fun.” “Fun has nothing to do with it!” he demanded, smiling behind his grizzly adam’s beard “It’s all about scratching the surface as strong and as deep as possible!”. I agreed with him, “that’s right, fun has nothing to do with it.”

The Theatre Centre Pop Up space starts to fill around 8pm. A different audience arrived with an expectation for a performance that stretches beyond the parameters of what is safe. The Non Grata performance group has a reputation for making such experiences and the participating Toronto artists responded to this anticipation with high energy.

Two very intense and confronting short videos by Istvan Kantor were followed by Jessica Patricia Kichoncho Karuhanga’s solo piece. Performing with three cd players, Jessica physically moved between three different songs playing simultaneously, spontaneously stopping to bang her head against the wall. The sound was received by a contact microphone, looped and amplified, creating genuine head banging audio.

253469 core members Wesley Rickert and Kathleen Reichelt performed for the first time as Burning Iceberg. A video made specific for the event was projected and the artists performed a 30 minute audio piece, an epic-sermon, based in concepts of performance art, poetry, raw noise and the inability to repeat any experience. Wesley’s hard core guitar beat-noise and Kathleen’s hits on the keyboard and on an accordeon characterized the duo’s skeleton-music style.

Non Grata delivered an intensely unnerving experience. The audience did not know how far the performers were going to go as the cast iron brand heated up in the fire at the centre of the audience. A Non Grata member, Amber Lee from Chicago, who traveled with Taja and Al from New York to Toronto for this occasion, was branded with an “S” shape and the smell of burning flesh filled the space. Marked with the moment of experience, recording the event on her body, the audience witnessed a mark of living permanence.

Istvan Kantor made a fist and smashed it for an intimate and unforgettable experience.

Photo credit: Dean Goodwin

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