By: Lo Humeniuk
“There’s a queer politic that I think we’re espousing […], which is the temporality. We’re interested in being this potentially legendary thing that happened for a few years in the 2010s that went away and hopefully it makes space for other artists to fill that gap.” So said Jordan Tannahill, co-founder of the art space and performance hub known as Videofag. And so it was.
Videofag, inspired by the many ephemeral, radical queer spaces that came before it, burst onto the scene in 2012, at the hands of William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill. Functioning as a collaborative community space, the two opened up their home in Kensington Market to provide a work space for their artist friends. With a near “anything goes” philosophy, Videofag hosted plays, concerts, cabarets, birthday parties, screenings, art exhibits, and many other happenings over the course of it four-year tenure.
The ArQuives is the lucky repository of The Videofag Book (edited by Ellis and Tannahill), a fascinating look back at this brief but impactful moment in Toronto’s queer history. The book is a collage of texts written by performers and patrons of the space, including a poem by Aisha Sasha John as well as an intriguing play by Greg MacArthur (“A Man Vanished”), all of which bleeds this community into an acclaimed Japanese screenplay – The Videofag Book is well worth the read. Included in the collection is a detailed history written by Chandler Levack, who sat down for extensive interviews with the founders and friends, actors, and artistic directors of all things Videofag. Brendan Healy, renowned former artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times, describes Videofag as the “expression of a generation.”
If you’re not the literary type, we also have a plethora of artifacts from Videofag’s among our collections; photographs, play scripts, programs, posters, and an admirable collection of postcards and thank you notes from the community. BlogTO’s early review of the gallery walks the reader through and inside the space: https://www.blogto.com/gallery/videofag-toronto/. Curious about some of the performances that were mounted at Gallery? The Videofag Book contains an exhaustive index of the full programming, and notable play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, reviewed by Kelly Nestruck in the Globe and Mail https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/theatre-and-performance/nestruck-on-theatre/happy-days-are-frequently-delightful/article15078422/. These reviews capture the essence of the place/space/people of Videofag and their interaction with the community.
Interested in reading more about queer Toronto history and the queer spaces that have housed, sheltered, and built community over the years? Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer (2017) is an editorial compilation of historic moments, movements, and people who have moved through this city. Check out these texts and more at The ArQuives.