Equity & Diversity — Winnipeg 2019

On March 2, 2019, CNMN part­nered with Clus­ter Fes­ti­val to offer a knowl­edge-shar­ing event around ques­tions of Equi­ty & Diver­si­ty in the new music com­mu­ni­ty. We were host­ed by the won­der­ful and wel­com­ing spaces of Cre­ative Man­i­to­ba, right in the heart of the Clus­ter Fes­ti­val activity. 

We began the day with a pre­sen­ta­tion by Erin Gee, whose pro­pos­al was to speak of the encouragement/discouragement of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary cre­ative prac­tices in insti­tu­tion­al envi­ron­ments. Erin described her edu­ca­tion and the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties that she encoun­tered all through the lens of voic­es and bod­ies, both human and machine. Her prac­tice cre­at­ing AI has giv­en her a unique per­spec­tive on human inter­ac­tions, on the work of col­lec­tives and on how machines are speak­ing to us. 

Dur­ing our cof­fee break, Jeff Mor­ton intro­duced us to a lis­ten­ing game/piece that we could all par­tic­i­pate in and that would help him present lat­er in the day. It involved record­ing sounds of rel­a­tive silence and our pres­ence in them and thus med­i­tat­ing on our agency in spaces. 

Melody McK­iv­er sen­si­tized the group towards some of the Indige­nous real­i­ties in Win­nipeg and in their home area of Sioux Look­out before dis­cussing their recent meet­ings at the Banff Cen­tre of a col­lec­tive of Indige­nous clas­si­cal musi­cians to pre­pare doc­u­ment on best prac­tices for col­lab­o­ra­tions with the wider clas­si­cal music com­mu­ni­ty. They shared this doc­u­ment with us and under­lined its main mes­sage: Noth­ing about us with­out us. They also shared recent expe­ri­ences of work­ing with youth in Sioux Look­out and sur­round­ing reserves, which gen­er­at­ed a lot of feed­back and discussion.

After lunch, Jeff Mor­ton facil­i­tat­ed a dis­cus­sion of equi­ty and diver­si­ty with Erin Gee, Melody McK­iv­er, Remy Siu and Vic­ki Young. Vic­ki pre­sent­ed the work that Man­i­to­ba Cham­ber Orches­tra has been doing and the IDEA man­i­festo that Orches­tras Cana­da has pre­sent­ed, which aims to define Equi­ty, Diver­si­ty and Access and to exhort orches­tras to take a lead in pro­mot­ing these. The con­ver­sa­tion often touched upon the ways in which many of these struc­tures are in them­selves inher­ent­ly Euro-cen­tric and how that plays out in cur­rent move­ment towards cul­tur­al inclu­sion. The ques­tion of aes­thet­ic diver­si­ty also came up, as well as issues of tokenism, the time­line for real rather than super­fi­cial changes, and the future audi­ences for our practice.

To light­en the atmos­phere, Jeff Mor­ton offered a win­dow onto his prac­tice and work with the arts col­lec­tive Holophon by hav­ing us lis­ten to the results of the morn­ing’s record­ing. He encour­aged us to find or give up agency in our lis­ten­ing and engaging.

Remy Siu con­tin­ued the cri­tique of euro-cen­tric music infra­struc­ture and from his bi-con­ti­nen­tal mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tive. He chal­lenged us with the ques­tion of what we are will­ing to “give up” in new music in order to achieve diver­si­ty or equi­ty, and sug­gest­ed a few ways to add plu­ral­ism to the process­es and gate­keep­ers. He used his per­son­al expe­ri­ences as a back­ground for these calls to action.

The con­ver­sa­tions con­tin­ued beyond the clos­ing of the day in small groups and then into the bar and the sub­se­quent fan­tas­tic Clus­ter Fes­ti­val concert.

Many peo­ple joined us also through the livestream on Face­book, which stayed active for a week after the event. An edit­ed ver­sion will soon be avail­able on CNM­N’s YouTube chan­nel.

This event was made pos­si­ble thanks to the sup­port of FACTOR.