In February, the Toronto International Festival of Authors announced a new series of events called The New Embassy. Featuring spoken word, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, theatrical readings, music and dance performed by a roster of influential Canadian artists, the five digital events provide an incredible opportunity to watch an array of artists speak their truth and push the boundaries of storytelling.
To get insight into their work, we asked The New Embassy artists about how they challenge themselves and break the mould of what’s expected. Read what they had to say below.
“I challenge myself by trying to always deepen my own relationship to my artistic practice. The notion of risk and risk-taking, for me, is first and foremost a relationship to myself, a relationship I hold with my work, with my artistic voice, where I strive to go deeper into my research, into my inquiry and in the artistic forms that this inquiry can take. There lies the challenge for me.
I try not to think or focus on what is happening “in the field.” I turn to the field as a way of inspiring myself, to keep my ear to the ground, to be engaged with the work of my peers. But when it comes to challenging myself, it is always in relation to my own practice. It is about expanding my own mould, the one within which I am working, so I never get too comfortable.”
“I don’t necessarily think of challenging myself as an impetus, more so I am interested in sharing a truth about myself that deeply resonates with me, and literally feels like it’s moving me, by rattling my bones and setting my heart and spirit free.
Breaking the mould is not something I consider when creating work, but I am aware that the mould of what is expected of me is very narrow. So, in a sense existing in this world the way I do already breaks the mould. When I say I am nonbinary, people often think it is referring to gender only, but there are so many binaries (race, sexuality, body type, class), and boxes that cannot contain the truth of who I am, & I no longer wish to abide by them. When creating I think mostly of my unique truth and humanity, and let the boxes shatter where they may.”
“I believe I challenge myself as an artist by tackling topics that would generally be uncomfortable to discuss publicly, within my art. Expressing myself has always come with some difficulty, and art has been a way to move past that.
Generally, I don’t ever really consider it as breaking the mould of what’s expected. Rather my intention when touching on these topics is to let others within my communities know that they are not alone.”
“I’m continually challenging myself as a performer and writer by asking myself: am I telling a whole story, a story that includes contradictions and multiplicity, and makes space for grief, pain and joy and hope?
I am not interested in breaking the mould, that has nothing to do with me or my work and I can’t let myself get distracted by that.
I am interested in making my own singular and authentic contribution to culture and storytelling.”
“I challenge myself by learning things that are just too difficult for me to do. I am obssesed with form, absence, context and emptiness. The vastness of space and how to capture it in art. I challenge myself mostly by learning the works of great masters of the past, and they teach me various lessons about the creation of the sublime.
I think understanding the mould in great depth is a pre-condition for breaking it, and I do not presume such a depth of understanding. While it is amusing to thwart the expectations of the audience I am more concerned with verisimilitude and divinity. Many of the existing moulds and structures are very fine for creating sublime and uncanny effects, but in truth I do break rules where it is natural or within the logic of the work to do so. But I take no special pride in trailblazing, I view myself as a continuation of many other greater artists than myself and find my practice a humbling one.”
Learn more about The New Embassy digital series, running from February to April, 2022, here.