HTMlles Kicks off 12th Edition this Week

Intermedia Art Festival Explores Feminism and Online Privacy

  • Montreal-based artist, Ambivalently Yours, represents responses she has received through social media platforms in the medium of sketch. Her work will be on display at Articule from November 4 to December 5. Photo courtesy of Ambivalently Yours

The intersection between online privacy, security, academic, artistic expression, and activism is a difficult roundabout to navigate.

The 2016 edition of HTMlles, a Montreal-based intermedia art festival running from Nov. 3 to 6, will attempt to do so, nonetheless. The festival merges the works of both local and international artists, scholars and activists alike.

The brainchild of Studio XX—a feminist art centre in Montreal—HTMlles was created only one year after the centre’s opening in 1996. Now it runs bi-annually, making this year’s edition its 12th run.

The program committee chooses a new theme for each rendition of the festival, trying to draw off of current events and the available technologies that are being used by artists, explained Martine Frossard, the communications director of the festival. This year, the theme is “Terms of Privacy.”

HTMlles’ programming lends itself beyond the ordinary artist showcase. On top of traditional expos at the handful of independent galleries involved, the festival incorporates a combination of performance-based shows, workshops and conferences to tackle its broad theme.

“We are simultaneously addressing not only artists, but university students and researchers,” Frossard said in an interview in French. We want to make them a part of the round-table discussion to go further into the subjects.”

The festival reaches artists far and wide,showcasing the works from talent as local as Montreal, to creators from faraway places such as Italy or Ecuador.
“We have artists from almost all of the continents and from a lot of different countries,” pointed out Frossard.

Two of the Montreal-based artists, who also happen to be Concordia alumni, spoke about the significance of being involved in the “Future Memories” showcase. It is the result of a collaborative effort between Studio XX, the independent gallery space, Articule, and two other artists. The exhibition runs from Nov. 5 to Dec. 4, placing a unique focus on the space for narratives within the online art universe. It’s one of the main exhibitions of the citywide art festival. The vernissage will take place on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m.

A photo from last year’s opening party at Studio XX. Photo courtesy Võ Thiên Việt.

Sophia Borowska, a Concordia fibre arts graduate, said her involvement in smaller, low-key art communities such as Concordia’s Fibre Students Association and Articule’s development committee motivated her to submit during the artist call-out. Her work, entitled “Data Excess,” is a practice-led research project that falls slightly outside of her larger body of sculptural, installation and site-specific work, Borowska explained.

Her project uses weaving through digitally assisted means, resulting in intricate textiles featuring precise font-work woven through the patterns. “It showcases my interest in weaving as a digital medium that predates computer technology by a millennia,” she detailed. “Weaving is a constant source of amazement for me.”

“Weaving is a constant source of amazement for me.”— Sophia Borowska, artist

She added that the project gave her the opportunity to delve deeper into a theoretical context addressing the possibilities for expressing embodiment and sensuality—two themes at the core of her work.

For another past Concordia student, who creates under the anonymous pseudonym Ambivalently Yours, her approach to the festival’s theme has been more direct, focusing on the behind-the-scenes aspect of her online practice. Her piece will incorporate her physical art with the transcribed messages she has received through her online following on Instagram and Tumblr.

How her art translates into the digital realm, she said, is that her work became what it is because of the Internet. “I always used to draw stuff before,” said Ambivalently Yours. “But it really expanded online because I just started writing about ambivalence and posting and drawing stuff for Tumblr.”

After people started to reach out to the artist, sharing personal stories and perspectives, she began responding to them with drawings that were just as personal.

Through the Internet, Ambivalently Yours explained that she found a community here in Montreal. Her work, including prints, buttons and stickers, can often be
found at the Soft Markets that take place throughout the year.

Ambivalently Yours detailed that those within her feminist educational circles criticized her for her love of pink, claiming that she had been “duped by the patriarchy” for enjoying the magical hue. Photo courtesy Ambivalently Yours.

Today, the artist has a massive following of 58,000 on the micro-blogging platform. Her website, ambivalentlyyours.tumblr.com, grew out of a need for an outlet after experiencing a range of criticisms from peers in the colliding worlds of fashion and feminism. “There’s just a lot of assumptions that go on about these two kind of worlds from people on the outside of it,” she said. “Some people have very strong mental idea about what a girl who works in fashion is like, while other people have a very strong mental idea about someone who is a feminist is like.”

Her mixed feelings about the whole thing are what inspired the pseudonym and artistic angle.

Ambivalently Yours walks the fine line of digital privacy. The artist’s blog entails deeply personal aspects of her life, but on the other hand, operating under an anonymous persona has given her an opportunity to monitor and control her online character. “My work plays upon those ideas and fits into the festival like that.”

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