The Bi Arts Festival has an exciting lineup of artists, authors and performers for the second annual festival, September 18-23, 2018, Toronto.

Toronto’s second annual Bi Arts Festival is the world’s largest celebration of bisexual voices in art and culture and runs from September 18th to 23rd, 2018. The festival welcomes a diverse roster of artists to Toronto, including Vancouver playwright Katie Sly, Kingston’s former Poet Laureate Eric Folsom, Cleveland poet-performer Eris Eady, Ojibway multi-disciplinary artist, filmmaker and stand-up comic JL Whitecrow, textile artist Yahn Nemirovsky, and spoken word artist and author Mugabi Byenkya, amongst others.

“Not only does the festival exist to showcase work by bisexual, pansexual, and other fluid artists,” says festival founder Catherine Jones, “but we look for work that takes risks and that is challenging. Certainly, some of the work we present is playful but some of it is also deeply personal and at times quite uncomfortable.” She adds, “as a community we are starved for authentic representations of bisexuality, because although bisexuals make up the largest slice of the pie that is the LGBTQ+ community, our stories are often invisible. We exist in an in-between space and that makes people nervous. Bisexuals are not considered queer enough for LGBTQ+ spaces but in society at large, coming out as bisexual usually means reactions ranging from disbelief, to titillation, to a deep mistrust.”

The festival kicks off Tuesday, September 18th with the launch of Issue 2 of our zine CRUSH, and runs through Sunday, September 23rd with six days of vibrant and original programming. The festival presents visual art, craft, storytelling, performance, theatre, video, dance and film with over 90 participating artists and performers.

Some highlights:

In her one-woman show Womannish: Redefining Womanhood in a World that Won’t Make Room writer, poet, and advocate Eris Eady has an aggressively delicate conversation with herself about the complexities of showing up in this world as Black, bisexual and mostly cisgender.

We’re also joined by playwright, performer, and author Katie Sly who will share a special workshop presentation of their new work in development – How to Self-Suspend, an X-rated narrative developed in part during a two-day in-studio residency with the Bi Arts Festival. Part photo-essay, part rope bondage demonstration, this performance looks at Katie’s existence in three cities: their childhood being raised in instability and violence in Montréal, their ecstasy and injury in the Toronto BDSM community, and  their year living on the edge of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This solo performance explores the impact of long-endured trauma, and how that trauma shapes what feels normal, digs into internalized rage and enacts revenge fantasies. How To Self-Suspend candidly excavates the challenges of isolation and recklessness.

Visual artists Amanda Amour-LynxAlyssa PisciottoClaire DavisSamantha Jones,  Lynx Sainte-Marie CielJonathan Rollins, and Yahn Nemirovsky take over the Beaver Hall Gallery (29 McCaul Street) with work that explores themes of bi erasure, desire and embodiment, colonization, and the shifting borders between art, craft and zine culture. They are joined by another ten artists from the Bi Arts zine CRUSH at the Glory Hole Gallery (at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street).

On Friday, September 21st, collectors are invited to the postcard show “SWITCH” at Beaver Hall Gallery. For only $40 visitors can purchase an original postcard-sized work of art from an emerging or established artist – but they won’t know whose work they have selected until after their purchase as all items are displayed anonymously and signed only on the back. It’s the postcard show with a secret!

At Sunday night’s Cabaret (Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Avenue) Hamilton-based singer-songwriter Shanika Mariaperforms songs of identity, empowerment and expectation, alongside a comedy set from JL Whitecrow who explores the concept of “Indian-ness” as it seeps into her everyday experiences as a hip, ambitious, and highly creative artist that escaped the Rez for a better life. JL blends stand-up comedy, prose, and performance art for an intimate, yet uncomfortable look at living as a First Nations woman that is never Indian enough. Toronto- and Kampala-based spoken word artist Mugabi Byenkya shares a set of new work, and is joined by burlesque and drag sensations Bianca Boom Boom and Beauregard Deville.

And there’s so much more! In addition to the music and performances, a wide range of vendors will be present at our Handmade Market at Trinity St. Paul’s United Church, on Saturday, September 22nd, selling jewellery, art, zines, badges, candles, bags, and more.

The full calendar of events is available on the website by clicking here and a list of artists is available here.

FESTIVAL PROGRAM, BIOS and TICKETS  at www.biartsfestival.com.

The Bi Arts Festival is produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council. The festival also culminates on the 20th anniversary of International Bi-Visibility Day, September 23, 2018

The date highlights bisexuality and the challenges posed by biphobia and bisexual erasure, as well as celebrating the work of a growing number of local, national and international organisations around the world which champion bisexual visibility and equality. Last year there were more than 130 events marking the date, from exhibitions, talks and film screenings to picnics and socials in bi-friendly bars. A host of public buildings around the world flew the pink, purple and blue bisexual flag.

Jen Yockney MBE, who has run the international listings site BiVisibilityDay.com for nearly two decades, commented, “We saw events in at least 35 countries around the world in 2017 – a new record. I’ve been organizing events marking Bi Visibility Day since 1999 and the transformation in that time is huge. We are more talked about and more heard as bi people than ever before; yet also the challenges and particular needs of bisexuals have been thrown into sharper relief over that time. Back then, bi was often seen as a kind of ‘gay lite’ with bis experiencing less impact from social homophobia, but research increasingly shows bi people have greater mental and physical health challenges than gay or straight people. We’re more likely to experience domestic violence from our partners, too. Far from the ‘best of both worlds’ cliché, the challenge of either persistently reasserting your bisexuality or having part of your life erased proves wearing for many bi people. Where lesbians and gay men have one closet to escape, many bi people find that leaving the one closet leads to being put in another. Greater bisexual visibility is the best solution to that problem, helping more bis find a space where they are neither in the ‘straight closet’ nor the gay one.”

More information about Bi Visibility Day including events listings can be found here: www.bivisibilityday.com

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.