The Buzz

Toronto artists get subtle boost from NYT

Categories: Art & Design, Music, Social Media

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

I love it when truly independent artists get major exposure in the mainstream media, especially when the boost is kinda-sorta accidental. Such is the case with the enchanting music-and-video collaboration between Toronto visual artist Margaux Williamson and anarchist alt-folk-pop-rock act Tomboyfriend.

Williamson made a marvelous montage for the Tomboyfriend tune end of poverty, a hypnotic collection of spliced-together grainy YouTube clips of amateur dancers busting moves in random places, kinda like a guerilla version of Spike Jonze's video for Fatboy Slim's Praise You.

Thanks to the marvel of Facebook word-of-mouth (word-of-screen?), the piece got a major shout-out in last week's New York Times Magazine, where acclaimed writer Heather O'Neill (last year's Canada Reads winner, for Lullabies For Little Criminals) picked it as her favourite onscreen "Moment That Mattered" of 2008.

As T.O. critic and writer Carl Wilson pointed out in his Zoilus blog, the mention didn't give proper credit to Williamson, though I suspect it was an honest oversight on O'Neill's part. What's really neat about this video is the fact that it illustrates the beauty of true collaboration -- though the Tomboyfriend tune was written and recorded long before Williamson made her montage, the combination of the two is brilliant.

You develop a much deeper appreciation of the jangly, singalong song while watching these exuberant dancers strut their stuff, and Williamson's deft editing and sequencing of these found clips is underscored by their graceful syncing with the music. That she crafted this piece through publicly posted footage is even better: As Tomboyfriend singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryan Kamstra (who's also a noted local poet) has emphasized, the band's music is intended to challenge conventional power structures and processes -- Williamson's democratic approach seems right in keeping with the spirit of Kamstra and co.'s music.

--Sarah Liss

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