NMP 20: Witness

Welcome to the Witness issue.

Witness as in:

To observe.
To attest.
To testify.

One who has personal knowledge of something.
One who can give a firsthand account.
One who gives evidence.
One who is called on to testify before a court.

A character witness, blind witness, Witness Lee, paranormal witness, auricular witness, adverse witness, hostile witness, compellable witness, Jehovah’s witness, prosecuting witness, zealous witness…

In this issue…

NMP redesign: new site launch

January 1, 2012 saw the launch of the new NMP site, this time in WordPress. I managed to learn and adapt the WPShower Imbalance to our needs which attests to  the good design of WordPress’s backend and frontend alike.

I’ve left the old site up for now until I figure out how to archive it properly. Any ideas? Email me.

NMP 18: Amour

no. 18 – Amour
nov– dec 2011

Online and print-on-demand journal of art, politics and culture 

Magazine en ligne d’art, de politique et de culture, imprimé sur demande



Transforming Landscapes: An Interview with Isabelle Hayeur
Indu Vashist on Queer India and Co-Existing Diasporic Identities

Performing Love #01: I am loving you.
Antonia Hernández

Le jeu du pendu

Fuck Love
Yasmin Nair

Art is a Healer: Talking with Vivek Shraya

Accounting for Change with Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Looking for Love in all the Right Places: Deirdre Logue
Tracy Tidgwell

No One is Sovereign in Love: A Conversation Between Lauren Berlant and 
Michael Hardt
Heather Davis

Grey All The Way
Barbara Crow, Ana Rita Morais & Allyson Mitchell

Andrea Zeffiro


Multi-modal publishing @ U of Oregon

Gender, New Media and Technology Symposium

Feminist Publishing in the Digital Age

I’m planning to talk about nomorepotlucks, a Canadian online and print-on-demand queer/feminist publication. My plan is to focus on some of the practicalities of launching, maintaining and updating a free online/pod journal, do a kind of show&tell, and cover some of the following points:
•   open source content management systems – pros and cons of drupal vs. other cms
•   print layout – print on demand (lulu)
•   epublications – where the tech is at (and what’s missing)
•   communication and collaboration tools (free) (dropbox, highrise, google docs, etc)
•   promo tools – twitter, facebook, email
•   fundraising – offline and online
•   free labour – is it unfeminist?
•   funding – at what cost?
•   communities and networks – the powers of
•   stats – who, how many, what’s of interest and what it means

Some threads online about the project:
•   http://nomorepotlucks.org/media-events/nmps-we-demand-paper-download-it-here
•   https://melhogan.com/website/ica-in-boston-lines-of-dialogue/



Schedule and Sessions

Draft Schedule

Friday 3:00-5:00 PM

Session 1/Plenary: Peer Review as Feminist Practice – Carol Stabile, Kim Sawchuk of Concordia University, and Radhika Gajjala of Bowling Green State University (Phoebe Bronstein, chair)

Saturday 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Session 2: Multi-modal publishing – Karen Estlund, Staci Tucker, and Mél Hogan of Concordia University and No More Potlucks (Karen Estlund, chair)

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Lunch

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Session 3: Feminist pedagogy and teaching with new media – Bryce Peake, Alisa Freedman, and Jacquie Wallace (of Concordia University)

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Session 4: Developing an Online Presence & Portfolio – Kelli Matthews, Mara Williams, and TBA


  • Branding
  • Social / Professional Networks (e.g. academia.edu, linkedin.com)
  • Strategies for suing online communication tools in professional settings (e.g. Skype for job interview)
  • How to make your digital portfolio/website effective
  • Tips on using bibliometrics and citation analysis

Taking the Archive Down with Us

Intro (Mél)

Part 1:

As stated by jake moore of the feminist new media project Matricules, “archive” is both noun and verb. As a noun, the archive is a physical repository, where materials are stored for preservation and for perusal—and reference point, where records are consulted. As a verb, the archive functions as a social history-building project, and facilitates storytelling. The feminist archive, as imagined by jake moore, ceases to exist without being in process: acquiring documents, being accessed and utilized, articulated and critiqued. In essence, the archive ceases to be when it is no longer engaged in creating, contesting, and remixing stories. Online, this seems to be made all the more possible by the largely participatory culture of the web, and the wide array of tools and applications made freely available. The online archive relies on users to participate in its ongoing development: as programmers, curators, fans, hackers, editors, writers, organisers, commenters, designers, contributors, readers, etc., but also for the preservation of the projects themselves. Participation in a project online often means sustaining it: by generating copies, conversations, and activating a culture and community around a shared reference point, from which a project can be both grounded and expanded.

However, it needs to be said that much of what constitutes the online archive is also a challenge to established archival modalities: fixity, provenance, scarcity, and authenticity, for example, are largely undone, as are conceptions of time and place as markers of identity. Thinking of archiving in an increasingly digital and networked environment has therefor meant considering the impact of easy duplication and wide-scale distribution, but also the inherently ephemeral and volatile nature of memory. As such, the tension between the archive’s promise and its threat largely shapes the discourses of preservation and access online, but its politics remain determined in no small part by the participants and communities from which specific online initiatives emerge.

Using the example of nomorepotlucks.org (NMP), our intention is to explore how the politics of a social movement—queer, GLBT, feminist—are reflected in a movement’s archival strategies online, though by no means always advertently. With this in mind, we attempt to address how NMP positions itself politically through its strategies for sustenance—not so much to come up with a definitive stance about who and what NMP is, or how it can or will be read historically, but rather to demonstrate the correlation between self-preservation and politics, or, in better words, to identify the link between NMP and the activist potential of the online archive. 

The title of this presentation Taking the Archives Down With Us is an homage to a statement made in 1979, by Pat Leslie, founder of the Canadian Women’s Movement Archive or CWMA. In response to the threat of not being able to sustain the archive, Leslie pleads: QUOTE

Specifically lesbian Herstory will be forever buried. What little exists now consists of hopeful conjuncture. It is the fear of oppression and the shyness of self-expression which makes that invisible veil so heavy. If need be, the Women’s Movement Archives would go underground, file by file, to protect records of the growing movement. Access to everything donated by lesbians is strictly limited. ENDQUOTE

The CWMA did not go underground, however, it was transferred to the Morisset Library at the University of Ottawa, deemed by the group to be the most secure, stable and politically aligned repository, where it has resided since 1992. However, this transition to a university, a process which is significantly under-documented, leaves much to ponder considering the founder’s plea to keep the archives within the community of women activists. In 1979, Leslie also wrote: QUOTE

To ask the patriarchy to preserve our lives for us is a suicidal act. We do not need to be researched by patriarchal/academic institutions; we do not need to be financially supported by governments, capitalist or otherwise. [What] we do need is a link to future generations of feminists and lesbians who will have access to our lives. ENDQUOTE

Researching lesbian history, therefore, means tracking the history of the archive itself. Lesbian-feminist critiques of the archive ask us to consider not only the relationship of women to the archive, as repository and process, but also the problematic nature of defining and delimiting the lesbian community. Who counts as a historian, archivist, and subject of history, and how is history created. How do citizenship, nationality, race and ethnicity further complicate the lesbian/queer archive. In outlining a Canadian context for NMP, we attempt to delimit the current boundaries of the lesbian archive and propose that a perspective positioned within queer (as verb, rather than noun) and feminist theory is of great value when situating the practices of web culture within a larger archival discourse. The question of where lesbian or queer histories belongs, as we explore in this short presentation, is revisited in and through queer community new media appropriation, and their preservation.

About NMP (M-C)

Before addressing some of the points that Mél just raised with examples of NMP’s organization and process, let me first tell you a bit about NMP.

Launched on January 1, 2009, www.nomorepotlucks.org (NMP) is the first and only independent web-based and print-on-demand journal of arts and politics in Canada. Since its inception, the strong feminist underpinnings and visibly queer ethics of the journal have been made evident; however with no explicit mandate, NMP becomes an interesting site of inquiry into perceived ideas and ideals of feminist-queer media today.

NMP initially emerged in part from our longstanding friendship but also from our volunteer experience with the Dykes on Mykes (DoMs) Radio show at CKUT in Montreal and our collaboration with the show’s host Dayna McLeod.

Now let’s consider some of the ways that the politics of the GLBT/queer and feminist movement are reflected in, and influence our strategies for sustenance and preservation. The first point I’ll touch on is the participation of the GLBT/queer/feminist community in the creation and development of NMP. For the sake of brevity, I will provide most these examples in point form but please feel free to ask for clarity in the following Q&A.

1. Participation of the queer/GLBT community in NMP

  • NMP relies on the participation of these community for our development in the most basic way by accepting text (interviews, articles & stories), audio files, videos, photos and illustrations to make up the content of the journal
  • While there is a small group of us that make most of the decisions regarding design and content, we have a number of researchers and informants that offer ongoing suggestions and ideas.
  • We have contributing programmers that help us design, maintain, update and back up the database.
  • We design and layout and format the print issues and website.
  • We invite readers to comment and discuss the submissions in NMP and often “comments” result in lengthy discussions both on and off the site.
  • We invite one guest editor per year to pick a theme and curate an issue
  • We maintain a media page and calendar of events across Canada. Readers can create their own media account and update this page independently of us and the calendar (on the media page) was created and is maintained by a former contributor.
  • We have a group of incredibly committed copy editors, fact checkers, and translators.
  • We have regular subscribers, people who provide donations, and who purchase the print issues.
  • And of course, we also have our readers.

The community and network that we have been able to develop through DoMs and NMP began locally in Montreal and has since expanded to include the queer/LGBT and feminist community across Canada. A great example of our involvement in these communities is this conference – there are roughly a dozen people here who have been on DoMs, another dozen who have contributed to NMP, and countless others that we have been in touch with about future contributions. (We also have postcards you can fill out to indicate what you’d like to contribute).

Like most feminist/queer projects we follow a “by and for” approach – we don’t ever attempt to speak on behalf of anyone or for everyone. With so much participation from volunteers, we try to reflect the community and we let the community’s ideas drive us and push our development.

2. The second point I want to consider is: Funding

When it comes to issues of sustenance and preservation funding is of course an important issue. In our introduction, Mél quoted Leslie’s reference to the DIY and independent nature of feminist and queer communities, she stated: “we do not need to be financially supported by governments, capitalist or otherwise.” While we do not necessarily subscribe to this, we have found that having no funding is hugely tied to independence—the kind of independence we want as a journal:

  • NMP functions with very little funding and we generate a few pennies per print-on-demand issue. Some of you may know Montreal’s Miriam Genestier and her famous Meow Mix parties. Each year she hosts one of these as a fundraiser for NMP and from this event we generate our annual budget of roughly $1000.
  • We have received very generous (generous in spirit, no amounts) donations from organizations and individuals in the past but all of these have been given and received with a “no-strings-attached” understanding. Because NMP is committed to the changing with the ideas and ideals of our community we do not want any funding to sway our content or political direction—lucky for us, our supporters feel the same way.
  • What Leslie does not address in her quote (above) is the fact that we may not need to be supported by governments, but we do need to support each other. The primary reason we debate applying for funding is so that we can pay our contributors and volunteers for their work. But we also know that money will change the entire structure of our journal.
  • The subject of funding is of course an ongoing conversation between us because while it can open a number of doors for a project like ours, it can also become very restrictive. For now, we are very happy to exist without any funding and rather than think about all of the things that we are unable to do without money, we continue to look at all that we are capable of without it.

As Mél said in our introduction, much of what constitutes the online archive is also a challenge to established archival modalities, including: fixity, provenance, scarcity, and authenticity. In stark contrast to Leslie’s idea of “going underground”, NMP – as an example of an online feminist archive – is doing quite the opposite.

Rather than fixity and provenance our choice of technology allows for unlimited revisions to both the web and print issues of NMP – thereby challenging the idea of an “original copy”. And instead of scarcity and authenticity, we prioritize accessibility and wide distribution.

3. The third point I’ll consider here is Accessibility by means of Technology

  • We started out requiring a paid subscription to access back issues, however with the launch of our current “Motive” issue (July/Aug 2011), we reconsidered our own motivations and scrapped this model in favour of free and open access.
  • Print-on-demand, unlike traditional journals that require tremendous capital to finance print runs, is a system that allows readers to order any number of print copies directly from the printer, online.
  • We make a PDF available for only $4 to allow people access to a version of the print issue at a lower cost.
  • NMP’s website is created using the free and open source software Drupal, which is a highly flexible content management system.
  • NMP also uses DropBox alongside many other free and/or cheap online tools (including social media) to meet our file sharing, communication, promotional, and administrative needs.
  • NMP podcasts each episodes of DOM, through the NMP website and also through iTunes etc. for easy access

I’ll stop here, but this should give you an idea of how NMP functions, and how it demands a revisiting of the lesbian archive as something coveted and protected.

Conclusion (Mél)

Our title harkens back to feminist lesbian pleas of the late 1970s, when freestanding archives of the women’s movement and lesbian community were first imagined. While this lesson has informed much of the lesbian media activism in which Nomorepotlucks situates itself, print-on-demand, open source content management systems, podcasting and emergent technologies of display and dissemination, in conjunction with the mainstreaming and increased tolerance of queers (in certain places or contexts anyway), have also challenged the possessive nature of lesbian history, as emoted by Leslie.

We lesbians could no longer take our archival collections underground, file by file, as Leslie’s 1979 plea proposed. Lesbian culture belongs to and is now housed in our personal collections, on our media players, hard drives, in email and cloud storage, and on our servers. Because the web, print on demand and podcasting allows for easy access to information, both in their creation and consumption, lesbian culture has been able to expand and redefine itself in the digital age; lesbians and their archives can be seen and heard, not just represented and talked about. Lesbian culture online maintains the urgency and necessity of a distinctive lesbian culture, often in conjunction with, but sometimes in opposition to, queer, LGBT, as well as various feminist political stances. New means of communication have thus afforded otherwise invisible and marginalized lesbian communities the means with which to re-represent community, challenge dominant representations, highlight the importance of minority representation itself, and archive the results of their activity and activism.

OutCrowd: the Interview that never was

Questions for Mél Hogan, by OutCrowd (05/2011)

When you think of someone reading “No More Potlucks,” who do you instinctually imagine as the reader?

I first imagine the readers to be the people featured in the journal. And then I imagine that their friends, their communities, their families, and their online social networks become readers. And then some readers become contributors, and the cycle repeats itself, and grows.

Your most recent issue, titled “animal,” explored our recent fascinations with animals and our more primal side as humans. Where do you find the ideas for your themes?

Ah. Good question. It’s actually a lengthy process and an important one. M-C MacPhee (content curator) and I make long lists year after year of words that we think might make good themes. What makes a good word? Well, usually we like a loaded word, and by that I mean a word that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways and that is rich in meaning on all those fronts. Trespassing. Fixate. Ego. Anonyme. Words that have multiple meanings are great because they help us to imagine different types of contributors. So that’s what we do next; we associate words with artists, activists and academics whose work we feel strongly about and when we have a good match, we make it a theme.  My dream would be to have words that are bilingual (like Animal, Rage, Rural, Chance, etc., for each issue, but since that doesn’t always work out, we have one or two in French each year—the two languages of NMP also add layers of meaning for themes, as you can probably imagine.

Do you fear for the future of the ‘magazine’?

Not at all. Why? What is there to fear in the future?  Based on what has developed in the last five years in terms of open source content management systems and print-on-demand, I can only imagine what another ten, fifteen, years will bring…Drupal, DropBox, Lulu, etc are all web-based services NMP relies and that make doing what we do not only possible but possible with so little money. We have no funds, except for a party each year (thank you Miriam Ginestier!) and a few generous donors who give us money, with no strings attached. But basically everyone in NMP—editors and contributors alike—is volunteering their talent, energy, and time because they believe in the project, and presumably gain and generate value in other ways.

So I don’t fear for the future of the journal in terms of sustainability. What we can do now we could never have done even a few years ago. The sustainability of the journal depends a lot on the efforts and the drive of people – technology and money are second to that.

I definitely could not keep NMP going without M-C MacPhee, who has been my best friend for more than a decade. It might sound corny, but at the heart of any good project is a good relationship. NMP actually has a great team of people helping out in different ways, to different capacities and with varying time commitments. Info on our team is found here: http://nomorepotlucks.org/credits

Of course if someone wanted to give us a lot of money so that NMP could become a full time job for 2 or 3 of us, that would be the most amazing thing ever. But so far, I’d say that I’m quite reluctant to think that money would necessarily make NMP better. I’d love to pay contributors and editors, etc, of course, but I’d want for that to be substantial, otherwise managing money just becomes another task to take on…and we’re pretty full on as it is!

For now the momentum is SO great—we are booking issues one year ahead of time (!!)—so we feel energized and inspired by this. We also get invited to speak about NMP a lot, at art festivals and academic conferences, so we’re fueled by the support we are getting.

What worries me though is the state of the internet more generally—will there be usage based billing, will throttling continue, will copyright become (more) of a hassle, will the web turn into (more of) a giant shopping mall… the bigger picture worries me a little because right now I feel really free doing what I do with NMP, though I am aware that the web could be transformed considerably by regulations/policy in the next few years. I’m hoping the strong counter current to these commercial forces will maintain the balance, keep everyone in check, if not tilt the web in favour of continued experimentation and creative freedom.

Where do you imagine a line of censorship for such a free-thinking magazine? What falls to the cutting room floor?

The only time I considered the issue of censorship was in an early issue where we had a ‘porn’ video and I worried that our ISP or host might flag it. Pretty sure we agreed not to host “adult” material when we bought our server space. But nothing like that ever happened, but it does make us cognizant of the fact that ownership of content online, and control over it, is murky. So yea, I do worry of the general policing of the internet… In that way we have very little control over NMP. But I personally accept that as a risk of doing stuff online, along with server crashes, sites getting hacked and spammed, and so on.

What falls to the cutting room floor isn’t really about pieces that go too far or are explicit in ways we aren’t willing to stand by – in fact we encourage people to push the boundaries of acceptability (acceptable to who?) in NMP. This is true both in terms of experimental writing and multimedia presentation of work, and in terms of content. What doesn’t make it in—though it has happened that we’ve turned pieces down—are just pieces that aren’t quite ready for the deadline, that we normally rework for a later issue. NMP is 90% by invitation, so when we ask people it’s because we are already familiar with their previous work. More and more we are getting outside proposals though, so we’ll see if that changes the process. We encourage proposals and are open to change.

How do you communicate your style to contributing artists—is there a way that you expect them to think?

We usually refer artists and other contributors to previous issues for them to get a sense of what the journal is about. Whatever they ‘get’ from NMP, that’s usually enough to guide their submission.

We don’t have a mandate but we somehow, I think, have a very strong editorial voice. We really encourage people to publish stuff they can’t see being published anywhere else. For academics in particular this can mean work that isn’t accepted by more traditional peer-reviewed journals that normally have a very long turnaround, and works that are presented as video, audio, or any combination of these things.

For artists, NMP is a great place to not only showcase their work but to have it reviewed and written about, either by being matched to a curator or an NMP editor. McLeod’s video series is a really good example of this—each issue has a featured video that is documented and reviewed by a curator. It’s very important to write about art and to get interviews with artists to be posted alongside the work itself. For activists, we think NMP is a place to be heard—it’s definitely an alternative to a newspaper or a blog, in part because it’s within the context of an arts and culture journal.

I’m always happy when people write and tell us NMP is THE place they want their work published, and not because it doesn’t fit in other contexts but because NMP is the best one for whatever they are producing. This has happened and I love hearing how and why NMP works for them, and I feel like that’s because of the amazing content and how they relate to it.

For me its important to balance the artist-academic-activist content in each issue, but as far as what people contribute, we’re very open and often publish things that push our own boundaries as editors, or that we don’t fully agree with, or that we’re not sure we fully understand. We try to balance that with being accountable and responsible for the overall publication seeing as one contribution belongs to an issue and influences the overall content of NMP.

What do you hope for a reader to think after closing the magazine and moving on to the rest of the day?

It’s funny because sometimes I’m so busy working on the details of getting the publication together online and in print, that I don’t take time to think of the important questions, like this one.

Off the top of my head, what I hope readers get is a sense that there is a lot going on in Canada in terms of art, theory and politics. And I hope that reading about it, or watching/listening/reading about it inspires readers to make things; either start their own journal, make art, make noise in their communities, or pitch an idea to NMP!

How do you your design in No More Potlucks express the relationship between images and writing?

This is an interesting question because part of it is about my limitations as a web designer for the online version, and the way we need to have certain features automated for the sake of consistency …but also to have a stable workflow. So that means that things, like the article thumbnail, might crop and scale to frame something differently than if I could do it all manually, but the trade off means I can take this on and stay sane by maximizing the potential of the content management system. Over time, I imagine, I will make these things even better. When we initially designed NMP we never imagined it would take off the way it has, so to go back in time I would revise the back end and front end design a lot. This would mean that, to answer your question with a specific example, we could insert images through our back end interface within the text, rather than just at the top of the piece. When we do insert images in the body of the text, as some pieces require it, we do it through FTP. Maybe that’s too technical or specific, but anyway, it’s just to say that for the online version, these things are simultaneously flexible and restraining.

For laying out the print version (which has become so much ore enjoyable since working with Momoko Allard) we have a pretty standard template, which we improve each year. I love our look now, in print. We decided to have a lot of white space and let the images and texts breath. We design the issue from a grid; two columns for most texts, and a (double) one column for fiction pieces. We are a hybrid, in terms of layout, between an art catalogue and a journal, so we design each piece to be relatively the same, and each issue to resemble the one before.

All the issues are available from Lulu, via print-on-demand (http://stores.lulu.com/nomorepotlucks).

Choosing the cover image is pretty intense, sometimes. A great image isn’t necessarily a great cover. And as we have learned a cover speaks loudly about who people think we are and what people assume we represent. So I chose very carefully… Over time, the covers a s a collection of images takes on its own meaning, and I think represents well the general idea of NMP. But I leave it up to you to say what that is…what the connections are between themes, images, etc.

What is ugly to you?

Injustice. Insecurities. Taking things too seriously. Inequality. These things are ugly.

In terms of design aesthetics, I’m probably quite conservative. I like clean lines, minimalist and simple grid layouts, and the choice of one good font for body text and one slightly more illustrative for titles. I think good design is about knowing why you are putting things where you are putting them. Everything has a place and until you really know that, you don’t mess with the rules, you follow them! I do still feel quite limited in my CSS skills to get NMP to look exactly how I want it to in Drupal, but it’s OK for now – the design works.

In print, the design is where I want it to be. 

Many of the articles in your magazine cover diverse transnational subjects. How have you navigated the magazine’s multicultural, multi-lingual perspective in a way that inspires universal interest?

We strive to showcase a lot of Canadian content, at least 75% of any issue. That said, who and what counts as Canadian is open and we don’t have a firm take on that. But we are quite strict on maintaining a certain Canadian-ness in whatever shape and form it takes on given that it would be so easy to fill the pages with American content—there is so much being produced south of the border that resonates with NMP.

Which issue would you recommend for a first-time reader?

Pretty soon all the issues will be free online—we are ditching the subscription model—so I would recommend that someone just playfully navigate the site and read it diagonally… whatever draws them in, randomly or thematically, for research or leisure.

What is a magazine without its design?


Of course if you ask the designer they’re going to tell you it’s really important… but seriously, I think design is funny in the sense that if you do it well, the work and craft of it disappear, and so it is not really recognized (except by other designers, usually). I think NMP could use a slight upgrade – a slight freshener. As the art director I try to balance those changes with the consistency of what has become NMP and what people expect when they visit the site.

I think design is communication. Design says as much (more?) than content. Design speaks to us on another level though many of us haven’t developed the affective vocabulary for it nor a shared sense of how colour, shape and form appeal or repel. We feel it, but we don’t understand it necessarily. And so the layout of the website, and print journal, means we read the content differently whether or not we are aware of the design.

How do you judge a really successful issue?

I’m not sure. For me, there have been a few little dances-of-joy and virtual high5s when I get someone whose work I really admire to be in NMP… like Ann Cvetkovich, Laura Murray or Jane Anderson… or Mary Bryson, Kim Sawchuk, Anne Golden, Line Chamberland, Jane Siberry… all these amazing thinkers and doers… the list is quite long now. To me this is a great measure of success.  The mix of academic, activist and artist content is a measure of success too. As is diversity by all definitions.

There have also been pieces that have had an insane amount of hits: I’m thinking here of Sarah Maple’s work, the piece on the late Will Munro, and pretty much anything Yasmin Nair writes. I can see from our stats, and more recently through a visible counter at the bottom of each page, which submissions get the most attention. This is also a measure of success.

So far though, I think each issue has been successful by virtue of being up on time, out in print, and full of amazing content… and this for 15 issues now. 

NMP: Une promenade avec Sophie Bellissent

Une promenade avec Sophie Bellissent

Read on

Mél Hogan: Pourquoi prends tu des photo ?

Sophie Bellissent: C’est un phénomène évolutif : le pourquoi se transforme, et « moi en train de prendre des photos » ne faisait même pas partie de l’équation à l’origine de cette évolution.

En revenant sur les étapes dissemblables de cette évolution de presque 30 ans, je reconnais un fil conducteur dans Dubois et Arbus (inquiétudes et angoisse en moins) : pourquoi est-ce que je prends des photos ? C’est une question de pulsions et d’écarts.

« [… ] on pourrait rapporter de très nombreuses déclarations de photographes pour qui la coupure, la distanciation dans le processus, se révèle en fait source d’émerveillement, de fascination ou d’angoisse – quelque chose qui, pour eux, fonde toujours, d’une manière ou d’une autre, leur pulsion photographique. » [… ] propos de Diane Arbus :
« Rien n’est jamais donné comme on a dit que c’était. C’est ce que je n’ai jamais vu avant que je reconnais. »

NMP: Jane Siberry, Thoughts on Creating a Monster

I am supposed to meet Issa for an interview in 15 minutes. My phone rings. It’s Issa. She tells me she is still at the hair salon. She is running late. Could I do her a favour and get her a salad—something with protein, something vegetarian—and meet her at the Green Room at 7 instead. I’ll pay you back, she says.

It’s November in Montreal and it is pouring rain and dark. But because I’m about to interview the woman who sang the best song on my favorite mix tape from my first big love in high school, a little salad-fetching in the dark of the winter night seems totally reasonable. And, as I would later understand, Issa’s straightforwardness is just part of her agenda-free, free-thinking experiment. She lives her politics—and having sold all her belongings, including her house in Toronto—she lives everywhere. The night we spoke she made Montreal her home and I was determined to make it a place she would want to return to often.

I arrive at the Green Room, where she was to perform later that night. She is sitting at the piano, writing up her guest list. She wonders if perhaps there would be a venue better suited for her, somewhere else. The thought passes and we sit down to talk. She is at once intense and soothing, passionate, and present. She tells me she’s recently changed her name (back from Issa) to Jane Siberry.

A bit nervously, I dive right into the idea of ‘improvisation’ without much preparatory small talk. It seems to me improvisation is a core concept of self-determination, of adapting, and of what I would later understand from Jane as freethinking.

MH: Improvisation is certainly not something that is new for you, but would you say you have more creative freedom now that you are free from a major label?

JS: There was a certain point with Warner Brothers when I couldn’t do interesting side projects like when I did Maria, which was not a commercial record. I said no problem. I’ll do it the way I like it, but I will give you a companion EP of the most commercial versions of these songs you could ever want. I will do remixes for you. But they didn’t have a system that could handle that kind of thing. I said we could use the commercial versions for the videos, too.

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