Apathy is Boring
Ilona Dougherty Promotes Activism Through Art
If the personal is political, what could be more political than art? Concordia Alumnus Ilona Dougherty is the co-Founder and Executive Director of Apathy Is Boring, a non-partisan group that promotes youth activism through art and media.
Dougherty graduated from Concordia with a Major in Dance and Policy Studies, a combination that solidified her love for political self expression.
JG: Did your interests in dance and activism develop simultaneously or did one lead to the other?
ID: My interest in dance and activism started early and were parallel. I started taking ballet classes when I was three and in that same year, my parents brought me to my first protest. They were involved in social justice issues – food banks, soup kitchens…. At Concordia, my double studies were an effort to search how I could exist in both worlds.
JG: Did you bring your interest in social justice to your dance studies?
ID: My experience in the dance program was intense. At that time, I was trying to find meaning in everything that I did. For me, my dance degree was a fight between the intellectual and the physical. I fought against the idea that dance was only physical, abstract and not political. It was a recurring theme throughout my dance career. After a while I found that for me, the art form had its limitations. Dance has power, of course, but the audience for contemporary dance is also relatively small.
JG: You talk of finding limitations in dance but you also choreographed for another four years and won awards for your dance works: Montreal Fringe Festival Award for Best Dance Work (2004), Montreal Mirror Noise Maker (2005), you even had potential for touring. What would you say was the impact of dance in your career?
ID: I find movement interesting. Things that are still do not interest me; things that move interest me. I thought in movement. To be able to express what I want to express, the medium had to move.
At Concordia, in the early 2000s, it was not hip to bring political work to the dance department. I felt like an outcast. They beat it out of me – they beat out the urge to have meaning in my work. I was forever told that my work was too intellectual. I was told to make it more abstract, less political.
JG: How did you move out of choreography and into the work at Apathy is Boring?
ID: While I was at Concordia, I attended two Hemispheric Institute conferences, held in Peru and Brazil. I loved it! This experience opened my eyes that there were people out there who thought like I did and that it was okay to make art and be political.
I realized that I was interested in reaching a broad audience. At Apathy Is Boring, we work with over 40 artists who speak to issues in their community and to young people. I am committed to making a difference through art, but personally, it doesn’t matter if I am creating or supporting.
JG: How do you feel now about moving out of the physical experience of dance?
ID: It’s okay, I know that I am making a difference. I still identify with the energy and movement, and feel like I manifest this physically in my life here at Apathy is Boring. I have not lost that sense of action, of seeing things happen.
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