The Cabaret Commons
The Cabaret Commons is a work-in-progress gathering place for trans- feminist and queer artists, activists, audiences and researchers.
Here we bring together work being made using what we see as cross-platform cabaret methods—variety, risk, fabulosity, especially in the face of a flop, glamour, gutter, glitter, refraction, incompletion, sharing fame and resources, explosive literality, experimentation, subtle charm, kindness, bitchiness, amateurism, vulnerability, trust, mutual support, practice, improvization, genius, flare, ritual and urgency on stages, in the streets and online.
We are most interested in the work made using these and other cabaret methods by artists within the shifting constellations that make up trans- feminist and queer (TFQ) lives and worlds, cultural, sexual, and political scenes. For those who are in these scenes, this might seem like a rather obvious framing: by “trans- feminist” we mean an intersectional, assemblaged, and entangled feminist agenda that centers – is oriented by, towards, and not away from – transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, non-binary, gender-non-conforming people, politics, and theory. Trans- scenes that are also queer and feminist. Queer scenes that are shaped primarily by commitments to trans- feminist people and politics, aesthetics, theory. Queer scenes that center women and trans people. You know what we’re talking about: the queer scenes with an analysis of gender, race and class (and other power formations)…and without money.
The Cabaret Commons has two linked pods:
- The Cabaret Commons Critical Practice (CCCP) is a place for publishing in multimedia formats, reviews, responses, rants, on everything to do with translocal grassroots cabaret.
- The Cabaret Commons Exhibition Place (CCXP) is a place for digital exhibitions of works created and curated by translocal grassroots cabaret artists.
In addition to being a gathering place for grassroots cabaret artists, activists, and audiences, we are also a university-based research project. There are long histories of researchers mining cultural communities (their own as well as really not theirs) for intellectual resources…without giving much back. This is part of a normalized “exposure economy” in which artists are asked to collaborate in research projects for free, with exposure (in research publications or websites) (de)posited as ‘payment.’ Research economies have come to depend on the normalization of artist and activist labour as free. We are trying to shift this economy and are working to secure funding in order to pay Cabaret Commons contributing editors, artists and curators. This also means that we prioritize payment, critical engagement, context and consent over mass-production of content. We hope that the Cabaret Commons will be a platform through which cabaret worlds might circulate our materials to each other and, selectively perhaps, to new audiences.
Cabaret scenes are usually small and cabaret artists often make work within the context of a scene, not necessarily intended for a world-wide internet audience. For this reason, some work that appears here may be accessible only by permission of the author(s) or artists. Not everything produced within trans- feminist and queer worlds is looking for exposure, for a bigger audience. For some, the Cabaret Commons may be a repository for the purposes of digital preservation and selective circulation. We stand behind the need for unopen access and a small audience venue for our cultural heritage materials.
The Cabaret Commons is an experiment! In the 2018-2019 year we hope to publish (again, only what we can pay for) regularly on the CCCP and to play with online exhibitions of cabaret materials on the CCXP, prioritizing methods that are consensual and reciprocal. If you are interested in what we are doing, have any questions or an idea you want to pitch, please be in touch via our contact page.
The Trans-Feminist Queer Digital Praxis Workshop (TFQ DPW) is both a collective of, and a space for, trans- feminist queer activists, artists, audiences, writers, and researchers, working from the University of Toronto and beyond. Anchored in trans- feminist Indigenous queer of color and critical disability ethics and praxes of reciprocity and responsibility, TFQ DPW works on digital phenomena as forms and spaces of potential (and potential problems) for multi-scalar multi-disciplinary works-in-progress through collaboration and community.
Our two current projects are the Digital Research Ethics Collaboratory (DREC) and Cabaret Commons. DREC is a research community and space committed to building reciprocal, accountable, non-extractive, non-dispossessive research norms and values, online and offline within transnational frames. The Cabaret Commons is a gathering space for queer artists, activists, audiences, and scholars to think, co-create, play, and share their work in multiple forms and formats.
A note about the current look of the Cabaret Commons: this is an in-process look as we undergo site redesign.