THE PIRATE FLAG
Istvan Kantor (aka Monty Cantsin)
After San Francisco and New York City, the Acker Award moved to Toronto and the foundations of a network web are therefore built up. That’s how ideas spread around the world and so things get change. Independent networks were always the most innovative, subversive, exciting and revolutionary bases of art. Holding up the pirate flag of Kathy Acker is not only a sign of being part of an international community but also a sign that creativity is still alive despite all. Yes, the institutional takeover, control through banks, the After San Francisco and New York City, the Acker Award moved up to Toronto and the foundations of a network web Rentagon and government agencies didn’t completely demolish our conceptual warehouses of playful, exploratory activities, and the movement for a non-authoritarian, visionary society is still alive.
The Acker Awards Toronto intends to increase the spirit of artists actively taking part in the everyday struggle for the survival of artistic freedom. Measuring the value of art and the creative forces of artists simply by sold and unsold works of art is not what we are about. We would like to honour those who accomplished a long journey, a creative passage through time and space to search for new, exceptional ideas. We are celebrating those who consistently explored different artistic forms and concepts even under the most difficult financial conditions and without getting much recognition for their hard work.
I was very honoured in 2016 when I received the Acker Award in New York City, where I lived throughout the eighties. Being part of an underground artistic community in the Lower East Side, the Rivington School, holding the banner of “Make Shit Happen!” was one of the most important achievements in my life. After my move to Toronto, in 1991, I got involved with the arts community here and ever since I tried my best to give my blood, ideas and energy to the local scene while fighting gentrification with more or less success. The Acker Award is a recent participatory project in this community and I hope that our initial idea will take off and will bring new strength, high spirit and insurrectionary enjoyment to everyone.
THE SENSELESS EMPIRE
Being in my ‘troisième âge’ and facing its battle, if not its massacre, to paraphrase Phillip Roth, one comes to realize that we all have a story, not to tell but to be, to permit, to take care of and manifest. Some are filled with magnificent failures, empty accomplishments, realizations, defeats, affairs, physical and mental transformations never had nor wanted, divorces, dysfunctional families, accepting the panopticon, awards, blaming everyone but yourself, inanities, beliefs that everyone is an artist (at that point why even bother), etc. – if you catch my drift. Artists, or at least the ones I like, always seem to be maladjusted human beings. So, how do we at the margins of society communicate our personal fictions? - "therein lies the rub."
The creative lives by the nineteen recipients selected for the 2018 Acker Awards Toronto represent a certain generosity of timelessness, yes fleeting, and to the populists forgettable, but to us here tonight, necessary, if not critical, to recall and celebrate. These are not emerging artists on their way to an existential crisis, but rather artists who like those before them were committed to building the avant-garde foundation of this city in a tarpit of squirming dinosaurs. They represent the necessary creativity to give balance to our times, community and the momentum to move forward and away from the inexhaustible prurience of a colonial history.
Our meaning is not found alone but through our relations with others. Our context within those relational energies is where we find community and freedom to conceive art without agenda or judgment. To become visible, we must work together and avoid adopting behaviour that made us invisible to each other in the first place. The great art movements were not fabricated by art schools, bureaucrats and sponsorship, but arose from those who transcended their hubris, aesthetics and techniques to challenge the manufactured destiny they were being paid off to accept and call original.
Life in art is not about expectations but rather the value of one’s openness to confront and impact ‘the senseless empire’ we live in by working together to believe in a community. This is the most important thing we have.
For me, the recipients tonight are remarkable people (in the Gurdjieffian sense), who are their story and ours. People, like you and me, who can inhabit space and situations by relentlessly challenging themselves and the forces of production around them. In the end, you have two choices; to be or not to be part of the agenda, and once you decide, well, you do the things to become that choice through a very, very difficult negotiation of mind and body.
But in the end, as Kathy Acker says in Empire of the Senseless; “We’re still human. Human because we keep on battling against all these horrors, the horrors caused and not caused by us. We battle not to stay alive, that would be too materialistic, for we are body and spirit, but to love each other.”
So welcome. And enjoy the show.