Until the iconic Khyber Building on Barrington Street was closed in 2014, the Khyber Centre for the Arts served as headquarters for the OBEY Convention. Visual artists would create installations for the festival, like prismatic ceiling pyramids in the ballroom, or Mitchell Wiebe’s black-light paintings in the attic or poetry readings, poster sales and waffle breakfasts in the Khyber’s bar.
Now that it’s located at 1880 Hollis Street as a white-box gallery, the Khyber runs Art in Fest, an arts performance series that’s separate but connected to OBEY. In its third year, Art in Fest gives the opportunity for local artists and visiting musicians to perform in conjunction with NSCAD’s newly opened Art Bar (1873 Granville Street).
“This year, Art In Fest was organized by a co-curatorial team, to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. There is an esoteric quality to the work,” says Khyber director Hannah Guinan. With program assistants and fine artists Brandon Brookbank and Kyle Alden Martens, “we set out to present a wide array of work by contemporary artists from all over to showcase a variety of approaches using the performance art medium. Additionally, we will be continually crafting and adding to the looks and feels of the venues. Think synthetic strawberries and floral scents.”
With its own artinfest.org website, and offering a full schedule running from Thursday to Sunday, Art In Fest includes musical and other performances at Art Bar, a lecture about aesthetics by NSCAD prof David Clark and an event for children from newborns to age 10, accompanied by their guardians, called OBABY Workshop: Gonzago & Friends on Saturday from noon to 2pm. The free drop-in art and music workshop is organized by graduates of The Gonzago Institute.
“Gonzago is a free, three-month certificate program offered by the Khyber and founded by artist and NSCAD professor Craig Leonard,” Guinan explains. “The curriculum is based in three core areas: theory, practice and community.” It’s a chance to introduce kids to the local arts community. A few musicians performing at OBEY will also engage in Art In Fest.
“The inclusion of visuals and performance with Art In Fest is a necessary layer to all the strangeness offered by OBEY,” says Anni Spadafora, guitarist and vocalist of Toronto nu-rock band New Fries. Spadafora will present “Felt in the Belly, Known to Be Real,” a two-hour performance of 19 hertz sound frequency played and taped live.
“Sound is commonly audible at 20 hertz,” explains Spadafora, whose late grandfather was a practicing psychic medium and who inspired the project. “Just below this frequency, 19 hertz is consumed in the body uniquely. It’s routinely ‘mistaken’ as ghost sightings or encounters with the paranormal and so this frequency is nicknamed ‘the sound of fear.’ I’m offering a pure dose because I’m forever curious about bodily ways of knowing.”