Arts News, Arts Review
Pages UnBound Festival
A festival of the arts and literature
It’s rare that I get personal in my reviews on Classical 96.3’s wonderful website but I am going to do it now. I’m the artistic director of an arts and literature festival called Pages UnBound and I want to tell you why this has come about.
For three decades, I ran a bookshop on Queen Street West called Pages and it was, hands down, the finest working experience in my life. At Pages, I got to order the books I wanted to read: the best in innovative literary fiction; books on cinema, photography, design and architecture; hard hitting political texts; graphic novels (once they started being published); cultural theory; prescient books on the environment; beautiful children’s literature; belles lettres; and more. It was a cornucopia of delights.
At Pages, I was a kid in candy shop. I assembled an entertaining, hard working staff, who loved books and the shop. We found unique titles and authors and actively touted them. And the public loved it. It seemed that the more obscure and particular we got, the more Pages’ readership responded. We had art windows; put on great events outside of the shop and acted as community builders, putting up posters and selling tickets for any art or political event in town that asked us to do so.
Then, it stopped. The rent went sky high, just when Amazon started truly undercutting the prices on books—a good thing for customers but the kiss of death for all but the most inventive or hardheaded or well-financed independent bookstore. Pages closed—with dignity, paying its bills and still making a bit of money—and all I heard was how much people missed it.
I missed the shop, of course, but, even more, the community of artists and students and teachers and quirky individuals and intellectuals and politicos who had gathered in Pages over the years. Where would they go? Amazon could provide books but not the warmth and interaction that one can encounter in a bookshop.
A couple of staff members and I continued to produce innovative book launches and, on many occasions, they replicated a bit of that camaraderie for a few hours. Eventually, with much encouragement from family and friends, the literary launch programme turned into the Pages UnBound festival—with a fall and winter series as well. (Why sleep?)
At first, the festival explored innovations in the literary world, particularly the interfacing of digital technology with publishing. While that is still an important subject, the festival has become more and more interested in the creative process: why people write books or make films or music. It became clear that many writers also worked in other art forms and that many artists were obsessed with literature. A new theme emerged: to break down the silos between the arts and help to foster a growing community of artists and audience members who want to see the best in crossovers between literature and other art forms—film, photography, music, theatre, and so many more.
So, here I am, six years after Pages closed, touting the third year of Pages UnBound. And I’m proud of the new baby. Over this weekend, we’ll be presenting Barbara Williams—actor, musician, brilliant memoirist—in conversation with another multitalented individual, Mary Walsh. Amnon Buchbinder, a filmmaker and writer will present an amazing documentary website he’s created—all about narrative—called The Biology of Story. Two of the most outstanding voices in theatre, Jordan Tannahill and Jacob Wren will talk about all of the “bad ideas” they considered and discarded while writing plays, essays and novels.
Senior artists Vera Frenkel—the mischievous and sophisticated video artist—and Michael Snow—filmmaker, holographer, musician, painter, sculptor and writer—will engage in a first-time-ever public conversation about visual language with Border Crossing’s editor Robert Enright. Three new voices in Canadian literature—Sara Peters, Rebecca Rosenblum and Andrew F. Sullivan—will be introduced by a trio of young literary editors: Emily Keeler, Alison Lang and Suzanne Alyssa Andrew.
The contemporary photo book will be celebrated and critiqued by photographers Ed Burtynsky and Donald Weber and curators Sophie Hackett and Eva Eicker. New novelists Daniel Perry, Joni Murphy and Malcolm Sutton and the performance art trio Tough Guy Mountain will dramatically discuss the joys and sorrows of work. Movement artist Aisha Sasha John, poet Kaie Kellough accompanied by musician Jason Sharpe and typewriter connoisseur Gustave Morin will invigorate the world of poetry with their radical performances.
It’s a weekend designed to shake things up. Combining art with literature, Pages UnBound intends to recreate that sense of community, which has gone missing in recent times. This is not a review—you all realise that. I’m asking you to come and join us at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall (and for photo event, the Gladstone Hotel) for an intoxicating cocktail of multidisciplinary events. You won’t regret it.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Good Day GTA.