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Radical Orations for Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau

By Diane Bond on September 20, 2013

With only one day left until the National Capital’s biggest night-long art party, now would be a good time to get familiar with some of the artistic projects that are going to be happening on Saturday night (if you haven’t done so already).

The Nova Express Kiosk (Byward Market Zone, at George & William) will have a series of projects curated by Michael Davidge. Presented by the City of Ottawa’s Art Centres, the artists included are Guillermo Trejo (Ottawa), Dominique Sirois (Montreal), Allison Rowe (Toronto), Gerald and Maas (Ottawa), and the Think Tank that has yet to be named (USA).

Apt613 caught up with the members of the Think Tank over email this week to talk about the organization, their Radical Orations project and how Ottawa citizens can participate during Nuit Blanche.

Apt613: Who is The Think Tank that has yet to be named?

Katie Hargrave: The Think Tank that has yet to be named is Meredith Warner, Katie Hargrave, and Jeremy Beaudry. We’ve been working together since 2007, exploring what it means to be a person living in this world under these conditions. For us, that means thinking about art and politics, usually within local contexts.

Jeremy Beaudry: I would only add that, although our work often is presented in spaces of contemporary art, we actually draw from several different domains of practice: socially-engaged design, community organizing, activism, education, urban planning, and more — and our individual backgrounds speak to this cross-disciplinary positioning.

Meredith Warner: Since 2007 we have expanded and contracted but Meredith, Katie and Jeremy have always been involved. We periodically shifted our own organization and collaborative style. And we’ve never all lived in geographic proximity to one another.

Apt613: Can you describe the Radical Orations project?

KH: The project’s full title is “Radical Orations on the Structures of Support from Steinbeck, Washington, and Graeber.” The project is an invitation for the public to participate in the radical act of public street orators, which draws on histories as diverse as street corner soapboxes, acts of public resistance, and the invocations of self-taught religious leaders. Great orators exert a magnetic force with little more than the resonance of their voices and the gestures of their bodies. With this project, we invite you to perform an oration, adding to both the spectacle and contemplative moments of Nuit Blanche.

Radical Orations instructions

JB: The format we’ve chosen for this is an insert within a mass-produced newspaper created for the festival. This single page is meant to be transformed into a makeshift megaphone and includes the texts that we are inviting participants to read in public as well as instructions for how to participate.

Apt613: How did the initial concept for the project come about?

KH: When we were invited to participate in Nuit Blanche, we began the conversation by looking at the first project we did together, Radical Orations on Art, Activism, and Education. In that work, we took texts from activists and educators we were currently reading and recorded videos of us speaking them in our various locations. It was awesome to get the nerve to speak, and the incredibly well composed texts we lifted gave us the power needed to voice our current concerns. In Ottawa, we wanted to provide that possibility to every festival attendee, so we created a megaphone that can be easily made on the spot.

JB: This last point is significant. In taking advantage of a mass-produced publication format, we are distributing the potential for radical orations in Ottawa, thus amplifying this act manifold (we hope!) in terms of both volume of the spoken texts and the numbers of participants.

Apt613: What are some of the issues you will be addressing to citizens of Ottawa during Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau?

KH: For the past year we’ve been gathering information for a body of work we’re calling Structures of Support. The texts we’ve pulled, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery, and David Graeber’s recent essay on the possibility revolution, all explore aspects of support, community, education, and power. I think they need to be spoken, and they need to be spoken now.

JB: An implicit call to action lies at the heart of our project for Ottawa, which is to provoke discussion through the act of public oration on the nature of our individual and collective support structures. We are interested in how these discussions play out in different locales, cultures, and networks. Ultimately, our work on the structures of support is intended to inform how we might build more resilient and robust support structures in the future.

MW: Layering the orations project with structures of support seemed like a compelling choice. Notions of survival and getting by are resonant with people, especially during moments of global and national economic strife. But locally and micro-locally, structures of support are personal and reveal moments of both precarity and resilience.

Be sure to grab a copy of the Nova Express Newspaper, One-Night Only Edition, so you can make your own cone and participate in the Radical Orations project (available at the Nova Express Kiosk – Byward Zone, William & George Street). Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau starts at 6:21pm Saturday, September 21 and wraps up at 4:22am Sunday, September 22.