Power Ball 12: Art meets Coney Island
By Bill Clarke
Last Thursday, I, and several hundred other Torontonians, were served drinks by pandas, and were entertained by drag queens and musclemen. We drank our faces off (okay, well…I did) and puffed on cigars, and laughed, gossiped, debated and flirted under the stars. In other words, we attended the Power Ball, the annual fundraising party for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery down on Toronto’s harbour front.
Now in its 12th year, you’d think that the Power Ball might be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s not. It remains the hottest ticket on the spring party circuit, and you can always trust the Power Ball committee to come up with a fun theme for the evening. This year, the theme was ‘The Ball That Started it All’, which prompted the committee to invite some artists who developed installations or performances for previous balls to recreate them. There was also, as we’d heard previously, an ‘adult carnival’ theme peppered throughout the party. The aforementioned pandas were the doing of Katie Bethune-Leaman, while the drag queens and musclemen (as well as roller-derby girls dressed a clowns, and ‘the girl with the loudest scream’) were part of Keith Cole’s Circumcision Circus, which took place on-and-off throughout the evening in one of the gallery spaces. One of the circus ’attractions’ was a makeshift tribute (pictured) to Toronto artist Will Munro, who died, at age 35, about two weeks before the Power Ball. Munro was a deejay at past Power Balls so, even though a lot of people probably had no idea what it was about, those of us who did appreciated this gesture.
Artist Kelly Mark hired performers to wander, in couples, throughout the party and break out into spontaneous arguments lifted from movies. (I’m pretty sure I witnessed one of them while chatting with Art Metropole staffer/artist Myles Collier, but one can’t be sure!) Apparently, Mark had the arguments discreetly filmed, so perhaps the footage will show up in a future project. Luis Jacob’s ‘silent disco’ headphones were a nice way for partygoers to momentarily be alone in the crowd, while revellers seemed to get a retro kick out of sticking their heads into artists Daryl Vocat and Fiona Smyth’s ‘holes’ - wooden standees of figures with the faces cut out, Vocat’s being his immediately recognizable bloodied boy scouts and Smyth’s being scaly sea creatures.
The art, and definitely the food, at this year’s party felt more Coney Island than Cirque de Soleil, and there were no blowjobs caught on surveillance camera this year (that we know of), but does any of that matter? The Power Ball is really about the people who are there - a heady mix of artists, and art dealers and patrons, fashionistas and Bay Street types all rubbing elbows and having a blast. So, who was there? Spotted the venerable Michael Snow, as well as artists Micah Lexier, Dave Dyment, Roula Partheniou, Brendan Fernandes, Derek Sullivan, Brendan Flanagan and Sara Graham, as well as up-and-comers Anna Panchev and James Gauvreau. Art dealer Georgia Scherman, Nicholas Metivier Gallery’s Dionne McAfee and Laura Rovinescu of Diaz Contemporary all looked fabulous. Board of Directors’ Erin Stump was spotted getting down with Power Ball committee co-chair and Clark + Faria Director Daniel Faria on the dance floor at the end of the night. Fashion designer Jeremy Laing was also there, as was OCAD President Sara Diamond, Mercer Union Director York Lethbridge, and Red Bull Projects curator Nicholas Brown. And, did anyone else spot a fellow who looked A LOT like Rufus Wainwright milling about, or was I hallucinating?
So, another thumbs up to the Power Plant for throwing one of the best parties in the city once again. Next year marks lucky number 13 for this event. What the planning committee with do with that, I can’t wait to find out.