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nomorepotlucks » Will Munro Believes in Magic – Leila Pourtavaf

Will Munro Believes in Magic – Leila Pourtavaf





One of Toronto’s most prolific producers and promoter of queer culture, Will Munro has been a pivotal member of Toronto’s scene since the mid nineties. Whether it’s through rousing events such as the monthly queer rock Vazaleen party, which he organized from 2000 to 2007, or the hundreds of artist multiples and ephemera, such as the signature hand-stitched underwear pieces that he’s produced over the last decade and a half, or the thousands of iconic queer records he’s spun throughout the city and beyond, this boy imbues all things he touches with a sense of history, glamour and a punk rock edge.

More recently, Munro has harnessed his exuberance to fight a beastly two-year battle with brain cancer. Despite his struggle, he has still managed to produce a stunning body of work for his most recent solo exhibition, Inside The Solar Temple of the Cosmic Leather Daddy, which was on display at Paul Petro Gallery in Toronto from February 26th to March 27th. The show is both a continuation and a culmination of many of the themes that have run through his previous efforts. Reflecting on his more recent experience, Munro’s new body of work embraces the sense of communal loss and remembrance by linking his fight against cancer to a history of queer struggles against HIV/AIDS.

Will is also a close friend who has been a profound influence on me culturally, politically and personally. We sat down recently to talk about art, life, queer community and little bit of magic.

Leila Pourtavaf: Your work often brings together really disparate themes and images, and relates them to each other in ways that are uniquely marked by your style. This show in particular brings together Egyptian iconography with punk and queer imagery. Talk to me about some of the themes you’re working with in the show.

Will Munro: The show is really about gay culture and a kind of relationship between the past and now. The idea of death and the way it is viewed is something I am thinking about a lot right now. For us, as queers, the 80s was really awful. We lost so many amazing artists and so many amazing queers, and our community doesn’t really know how to deal with death and loss. I wanted to present a more positive and hopeful way of thinking about it. I revived some old liberation imagery of triangles and flags, and related them to ideas about how things live beyond death. It’s funny, at the opening, there were all these people standing around the spider sex sling installation, and there were little kids playing in it. People kept asking me if it was okay, but I loved it. It looked like some kind of weird worship zone and the little kids playing in it made it totally about life, and worshiping life.

LP: There’s a lot of Egyptian iconography in the show. It’s interesting because there’s the huge King Tut exhibit on at the AGO right now, so in a sense, your references are really contemporary, but you deploy the images in a really different way. What is your interest in Egyptian symbols?

WM: I am not really interested in Egyptology. I’ve never been to Egypt. I am white and really have no connection to the culture. But having a terminal illness has forced me to think about death. The ideas around eternal life and general ways that death was viewed in ancient Egypt made me connect my culture to this imagery. I am into the belief in eternal life after death and myths about people living their whole lives to die. I think about it in terms of remembering, in ways that mark death as not the end of your life, but a kind of beginning. I’ve also always been interested in magic. I’ve never been religious. My parents are part of the United Church, but I denounced that at a very early age. I think magic is the closest thing to faith I’ve had. I am really a believer and I look to it for power.

LP: You are working with queer history and your own personal story in really beautiful ways. There’s definitely a sense of other-worldliness and magic in the show, a kind of queer fairytale, but it’s also a very intimate space you’ve created. It might be because you made everything in your living room and I saw it there over the course of a few months, but I think there is a sense of intimacy that comes across in the show.

WM: The center-piece is a bum sex sling! You usually see that in a bathhouse, or sex club. You don’t see it in an art gallery or a living room. And you don’t see it with these bright and cheerful colors. I think the colors and the spider plants in macramé holders do create an intimate vibe, but then there’s the leather sling! I made those macramé plant holders myself, and all my friends really helped with the building of the sling and putting all the elements together. My friend Rick constructed the structure and his wife first thought I was making a macramé hammock. It’s not exactly a hammock, but you can lie in it!

LP: The macramé is incredible, as is the fact that you learned how to macramé in the past few months just for this piece. You’ve always been into both a DIY aesthetic and approach in your art-making. But also, your work references feminist practices of working with textiles. Why these commitments?

WM: Learning to do labor intensive, hand-made crafts has always been something I’ve been into. Even as a kid, I always wanted to help my mom with those kinds of things. I remember asking my mom to teach me to sew, but she never had the time because she was the bread-winner in my family. I mean, part of it is for sure that I am really inspired by feminist art, and part of it is I like making things and working with my hands. I also like to feel like I am producing my own work and learning new kinds of skills. When I was in art school, I always looked down on people who got other people to help them make their art. I always thought you should make your own art. You know, hand sewing things, making things from scratch, doing ridiculously crafty stuff, I thought that was the only way you should make art. The only reason I unlearnt some of that was because I was physically unable to do everything myself and had to get some help from friends since I’ve been sick. Initially, I had a really hard time with it. But honestly it made me a better person. I mean, I realized that my process before I got sick was always a bit ridiculous. I took on crazy things on my own and really thought no one else could do what I was doing and there was no way to share my skills.

LP: I like the bringing together of feminist practice with images of masculinity in your work. There’s the juxtaposition of gay leather culture and granny macramé aesthetic, but also your underwears do this. They are always men’s underwear, but they are hand stitched and many of them use materials that evoke effeminacy.

WM: I guess sewing and working with fibers is still thought of as being gendered. It’s weird because so many men sew, but you still see people flip out a bit about it. Or macramé. So many people were like “you’re gonna macramé???”. But yeah, I just bought some books at a second hand store for $3 and that’s how I learned. But also, I was a boy scout, so I have a background in tying knots. It’s not so weird!

LP: A lot of people who have been helping, both with this show, and also in general providing different kinds of support to you throughout your fight with cancer, are part of a tight-knit queer community, one that you’ve been a very central figure in. It’s a community you’ve helped build over the years. For me, being new to Toronto, it feels amazing seeing that.

WM: Well, it wasn’t just me. But yeah, I see what you’re saying. My whole situation has been all about community and family. I mean just getting ill and going to the hospital and there’s 40 people there with me! I’d never really spent time dealing with the medical system and it was daunting, but people really amazed me. To give just one example, I always worked independently and didn’t have full health coverage, but my boss from a gay youth line showed up when I was in the hospital with health coverage. I’ve worked with them in various capacities for years, but I was working there only a couple of days a week, so it was amazing that they came through for me that way.

LP: I think a lot of us have learned a lot from you about queer culture and having a politicized queer community. For me, Vazaleen was really about that. I learnt about so many different queer performers from those events, and it was also one of the first parties I went to where there was a real sense of belonging, but it was also super mixed and not just a fag or dyke scene. When you started Vazaleen, did you think about it having educational value and as part of building something, or were you just organizing things that you were really into and they ended up resonating with lots of other folks too?

WM: It’s a bit of both. All the people I’ve brought to Vazaleen were people I’ve been really into. And a lot of them were long-term goals, like I really wanted to bring people like Jayne County and her band, or the Toilet Boys, or Joey Arias because of his long history of doing amazing performance. Or more old riot grrrl acts from Portland and Olympia like The Need. That’s what I liked and that’s where I am from culturally. There was a world of that in Toronto before I was around, and by the time I came here in the 90s it had really died down, and I felt like the stuff that was happening was not very imaginative. I also came from a hard-core scene where there really wasn’t too many gay people. People were nice to me, but I was never going to have a sex life, or a fully fulfilled life within that community. I felt like I had to make my own scene. So part of it was, not vengeful, but a reaction to that and the desire to want to create or recreate a queer punk scene. And I really thought we could do it… set up a social network where people can meet each other, have a sense of community and feel like they can survive. And give a venue to performers who wouldn’t otherwise come to Toronto.

LP: There’s a lot of theorizing about gay culture as ephemeral and how it doesn’t get archived properly and this is even more true of alternative queer culture. How did you find out about stuff?

WM: I came out of punk and went to art school, so it was the stuff I was really looking for. I think once you actually start looking for it, you start to make your own connections. You read people who speak about other people, and there were books, records, zines… there were a lot of elements left behind. But also, people talk. The thing about queer culture is that it’s young, and a lot of people are still alive. Their stories are insane, and the fact that a lot of the stories don’t get documented is really too bad. So for me a lot of it was talking to people and finding out what they did, who their influences were… I think that’s mostly how I know my queer history.

LP: I was talking to Onya about how cancer is our generation’s AIDS, not that we aren’t dealing with AIDS still, but I guess it feels more like as a community, queers have more of a grip on that now, whereas we are unprepared for cancer. I guess some of this is what you are alluding to in the show?

WM: The show is about making these kinds of connections between the plagues that we live through. I mean, HIV is still huge. People still die from it. I use to go out with a guy who was positive for a really long time and it’s weird because now, he’s trying to take care of me. It’s role reversal because when we met, he was young and positive, and he was trying to come to grips with it all and carve out a social network. And I was young, but also trying to be a caregiver. I mean, I never would have said that then, but looking back at it, it’s what it was. Now the tides have switched and now I guess we have to take care of each other. I think I understand illness now a lot more. It’s not about HIV or cancer, but it’s about health, and the human body and how it works. And the ways that sex and sexuality intersect with illness. I mean, HIV is directly related to sex and so the links to sexuality and gay identity are a bit more direct. Cancer is not a gay or straight disease, but if you are gay and you have cancer, there’s a lot of weird isolation because you don’t necessarily know a lot of other gay people who have cancer. There’s all these ways that you feel isolated. To me, a lot of it is about coping, and how people come together as a community to cope. With HIV/AIDS, because its effects were so pronounced on the gay community, people mobilized around it. They came together and fought for each other’s lives.

LP: That’s happening with cancer in a sense in the mainstream. There’s a lot of cancer awareness campaigns, but in our community people don’t identify with the pink ribbons, so I think we are still trying to figure out how do we deal with it all.

WM: But I think we’ve come up with a pretty good thing. I am not complaining about my community and my community of friends! You guys have really hit it home for me in every way. I think we actually totally look out for each other.

LP: Yes. Of course, but it’s all these kind of makeshift unstable structures that we’re building from scratch.

WM: Yeah! It totally titter-totters!

LP: But with HIV/AIDS, people have been able to come up with more stable, long-lasting structures. And I think about how we can look back at that and learn from it.

WM: Yeah. Completely. Dealing with the medical system is totally crazy and there’s no mobilization of thousands of people where you could be like… give me good treatment and access or we’re gonna shut you down. That’s not happening. I mean, it’s not just me, this is going to happen to a lot of people and it already is happening to a lot of people. People need to figure out how to deal with it. There needs to be more organization and more organizing. I don’t know if it’s going to be me who does it! But we’re mostly a bunch of activists and socially aware people. We party, but we have brains and we know how to deal with life and that’s what we’re gonna have to do.

Leila Pourtavaf is a writer, independent curator, activist and a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. She was a founding member and Montreal Coordinator of the projet MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project, a traveling exhibition of artist books, zines and independent publications that toured North America between 2001 to 2005. She also served on the board of La Centrale Gallery Powerhouse and was a member of the programming committee from 2006 to 2009.

Will Munro is a Toronto-based artist and cultural activist, born in Mississauga, ON (1975) and a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design (2000). One of Toronto’s most active promoters of queer culture during the past decade, Munro’s practice, is both well known within the art world, and extends into his community-based activities.

Comments from old site:

Submitted by johny (not verified) on Mon, 05/02/2011 – 11:07.

I believe in magic…
I have seen magic show a couple of times…
Thanks for this wonderful article….
have a nice day…

Submitted by NMP (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:21.

William Grant Munro was born In Sydney, Australia, Feb 11, 1975 to HIs loving and adoring parents Margaret and Ian Munro. His family returned to Canada in late 1975 and settled outside Montreal only to move again in 1980 to Mississauga for which he spent most of his youth and teenage years. At the age of 12 will started down his path that would latter shape his vision of the world.

Picking up skateboarding, punk rock and hardcore, Will began to define the world that would shape him and in turn, he would shape. Attending OCA Will restarted a defunked Lesbian, Bi, Gay, Trans association holding regular night events biweekly (enter your own pun) as well as tacking up permanent volunteer residence at the Toronto Queer Youth Hotline as well as playing in multiple bands, making his artwork and traveling extensively.

Near the end of his time at OCA Will had made quite a name for himself amongst multiple diverse communities but there was always something that he felt was lacking …. a bridge that bound them together. After a run in with a right wing journalist at the National Post/ radio talk show host over the subversive nature of Will’s artwork he was catapulted on to the stage that would allow him to build the world he had started envisioning when he was in his early teen years. A world where Art, Music, Sexuality, Community was for everyone. It was not to be hidden, condemned or isolated to ‘safe places’ but to be brought forth into the world and celebrated. This was the world of Vazeline.

With the growth of Vazeline, Will was able to spread his wings and touch more people with new nights, new projects and new levels of compassion and humanity. Spreading an infectious fever of dance, love, and beauty through out Toronto and to every other city his feet touched ground in.

This was the magic that is Will Munro. This was his gift to a world that turns it’s back on the small, the meek and the disenfranchised. In the face of the bleak architecture of Toronto, Will planted a flower of life.

There is a lot we lost on May 21st, but there is so much more that we gained every other day that Will was amongst us. He touched people in ways that he could never imagine for he was never interested in being elevated over anyone else. This is Will… and this is just what he did.

To say he would be missed is a shallow representation of emotions. To say he will live on in every action of beauty, community, protest and dance beat is all he would ever want.

We love you Will!

William Grant Munro
Feb 11, 1975 – May 21, 2010

Will is survived by his boyfriend Peter Ho, His loving parents Margaret and Ian Munro, his brother David Munro and partner Laura Dwyer and nephew Maddox Munro.

Submitted by NMP (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:18.

Will Munro, RIP
February 11, 1975-May 21, 2010
By Benjamin Boles


Toronto queer icon Will Munro lost his long battle with brain cancer last week, leaving a huge hole in the local scene. I’ve spent the last year dreading this day, and mentally preparing to write this obituary, but when it’s someone who’s had such an important place in your life, you can never be ready. He was an artist, a DJ, a promoter, a bar owner, an activist and youth worker, but his impact on the city is much bigger than the sum of those parts.

I met Munro 14 years ago, when we were both studying at OCAD. We immediately bonded over a shared interest in the hidden queer underbelly of punk rock, and quickly became an unlikely couple. He was a defiantly gay, straight-edge, vegan hardcore kid, and I was a sexually ambiguous party guy with a rockabilly haircut, and while the relationship only lasted about eight months, I’d like to think we left a significant mark on each other’s future life.

At the time, right wing talk radio was having a field day attacking Munro’s art, for creating work with used underwear rescued from Goodwill, and for addressing youth sexuality. He recognized that the hate was a good thing, and proudly incorporated recordings of loudmouths lambasting him on his answering machine message. While Will might not have been the type to push buttons for no reason, he was always happy to piss people off for the right reasons.

He introduced me to the young community of Toronto indie musicians who would later end up becoming the hipster establishment, while I took him to raves and preached about DJ culture. Years later he would take the concept of the DJ party and turn it on its head with his legendary Vazaleen nights, which saw him playing queer punk and gender-bender rock tunes to an incredibly diverse crowd. These days it’s normal in Toronto for hip gay scenes to flourish outside of the queer ghetto and to attract a wide spectrum of genders and orientations, but that didn’t really happen until Vazaleen took off and became a veritable community for everyone who didn’t fit into the mainstream homo world. For too long it was too rare to see dykes, fags, trans people and breeders hanging out together, and Munro changed that.

Whether he was making art, throwing parties, running the Beaver or doing activist work, Munro always managed to find a way to put the marginalized at the front of the line. Many people long for a place where they feel they belong, but Will actually built those spaces – both for him, and for everyone else who needed them. Queer Queen West is a cliché now, but we wouldn’t have it without him.

He would say we’re overstating his impact, but that’s just him being humble. Without a doubt, he changed Toronto, and for the better.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:16.

Dear Will Munro

By Sasha

It has been a delight knowing you for the 12 years I have lived in Toronto. It has been lovely watching you grow, watching other people grow with and because of you, and following your chaotic yet serene career and life.

Thank you for being part of the nascent stages of my own creative life in this city when I first began doing burlesque. Thank you for providing the Scandelles’ first stage for Neon Nightz at Vazaleen, even though that stage was made of an old futon base and a broomstick. (And although I was outraged by this makeshift platform, I never imagined for a second that it would be anything but plunder you’d hauled out of a dumpster and dragged down the street behind your bike.)

I have been thinking a lot about your last two years, when you, so independent and self-sufficient, allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to accept what I could give you – love in the form of fanatically prepared food. Though we never spoke of it openly, I think we recognized in each other someone who had a hard time accepting help. So thank you for letting me hug you through quinoa stew. This gift you gave me, the knowledge that in order to affirm your humanity you must first allow yourself to be human, is a lesson I carried through a very rough time myself.

I would also like to thank the beautiful men in your life for standing up at your memorial and sharing their passionate stories of romance and love. To their parents, for openly calling you lovers and respecting that that’s what you were: men in love, full of depth and tenderness and desire.

Men are not unbreakable; they should not have to be. Breakable men are strong, enlightened men, men who speak of love as though it is the most important thing in the world, who find strength in holding one another. These are the men you have been with, and they will always be this way because of you. I was so touched by this, reminded of the stir of young love and how we must all strive to respect those who have loved our partners well.

To watch your lovers honour one another and their shared intimacy with you was remarkable. Remarkable in that not a touch of covetousness or apprehension defined their connections, only deep esteem. The intense admiration they showed for the coterie of queer women with whom you surrounded yourself spoke to yet another aspect of your exquisite nature. You were indeed a lesbro.

The guileless ferocity with which you embraced your deviance galvanized us all. You led by following in the footsteps of those who came before you, and to them you offered unmitigated respect by providing a stage, a space, a renewed voice. We will all do the same for you. Our will lives on through your name, you dazzling little shit disturber.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:15.

Will Munro: 1975-2010
PROUD LIFE / He gave us space to talk, drink, dance and fuck

Sholem Krishtalka
Tuesday, May 25, 2010


After a two-year struggle with brain cancer, Will Munro passed away early on Friday, May 21.

It seems strange and terrible to write those words. Will was physically omnipresent in this city normally, even in the early stages of his cancer, and he was ubiquitous when the progression of his illness meant he couldn’t be as active as he used to be. Even, perhaps especially, while he was in the hospital, he was always hovering in the air, in people’s thoughts and hearts.

And now he’s gone. His absence is too abrupt, too unfair.

He was a friend, although I was never close with him. Or rather, I was close with him in the way he was close with everyone. That was always one of the more astounding things about Will: even while manically setting up the DJ booth at the Beaver, shifting tables to and fro, picking through records, his greetings were always punctuated with a kiss and a wide smile. Even while flitting back and forth like a hummingbird from one event to another, from DJ gig to art opening to volunteering to whatever else he was organizing, he was still so accessible, so generous with his time and his attention. His perpetual superhuman busyness, far from distracting him from people, brought him closer to them; it sprung from a deep belief in the power of community. That was the engine that drove him, and that is why Toronto, not just queer Toronto, is unthinkable without him.

He gave us space: to talk, to drink, to dance, to fuck. The Vazaleen parties, even as they went from being a monthly night to a twice-a-year event, galvanized queer kids in this city like nothing else. Everyone has a Vazaleen story — drunken nights of furious dancing that lasted until the wee hours of the morning; first pick-ups; fucking on the dancefloor, or in the bathrooms; friends, boyfriends, girlfriends met in the crush of people at the El Mocambo, later at Lee’s Palace.

There was no gap between Will’s art and his life; it all orbited around the necessity of the queer community. Toronto, among other things, is a bastion of self-made culture. He drew inspiration and power from that. The work of General Idea, and the culture of queercore (with its streak of rebellious individualism and its networks of lost young fags and dykes finding each other through zines and mix tapes) were touchstones of his artistic practice.

A clear line can be drawn from his bespoke underwear to his massive screenprints of gay clone leather daddies in ancient Egyptian drag to his performances to his textile and craft work: it’s a glorious manifesto, a celebration of sex, music, dancing, historical lineage and public engagement as the inextricably linked sources of our power and our beauty.

And while we’ll never see the blur of his figure, in creepers and skinny black pants and a military cap, rushing down Queen St anymore, he’s still with us. He’ll never leave us. He’s left too indelible a mark, and not just through his formidable artwork.

I will always associate Lee’s Palace with him; he (and Lynn McNeill) turned the Beaver from just another Queen West café into a neighbourhood pub where his ethos of queer communal life is practised night after night, week after week. And how many other places did he DJ or volunteer at, fundraise for, or turn into a space where we could all get our freak on? Whether we knew it or not, whether we were close with him or not, whether we even knew him or not, he’s touched all of our lives in a profound way.

He was 35.

Submitted by NMP (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:14.

Will Munro
By Bruce LaBruce


The night before I heard Will Munro had passed on to that great rock’n’roll fag bar in the sky, I was sitting in Trinity Bellwoods Park smoking a joint with my good friend and his, Kevin Hegge, the cute young man who used to work at Rotate This to tell you what cool music to buy.

Earlier in the evening, Kevin and I had gone to see legendary Lydia Lunch at the Royal, whose eloquent spoken-word diatribe against this increasingly fascist world was still ringing in our ears. Long story short, a young cop emerged from a cherry top to inform us snidely that it was against the law for us to be there at 2:30 a.m., and that because there was a random empty beer bottle under our bench, he had the right to search our backpacks. The fact that he failed to find my secret cache of illicit substances, from poppers on up, was the only upside to this sobering encounter, which made me realize, finally, that we are pretty much on the verge of, if not already, living in a police state. (FYI, Toronto Bylaw Section 608-9 B states: “Unless authorized by permit, no person shall use, enter or gather in a park between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.” In other words, walking through any public park in Toronto after midnight is illegal and subject to a considerable fine.)
I bring up this incident now because it represents exactly the kind of Toronto—and world—that Will Munro always fought against.

Although Will himself didn’t smoke or drink or do drugs—he was always a straight-edge queen, and a vegan to boot—he never passed judgment on anyone who did, and in fact he was all about celebrating various sorts of nonconformist, rebellious, and anti-authoritarian behaviour. The loss of Will hits so many of us so hard because he was a warrior in that regard, someone who was offended by the very idea of being boring and conventional. In his own words, he always said he wanted to see “a lot of freak flags flying in Toronto.” And his, I say with the utmost admiration, was one of the freakiest.

Will was always an art fag par excellence, even in his OCAD days causing consternation with his choice of medium (found underwear, largely) and his defiant, open queerness. For many years, he volunteered at an LGBT youth crisis hotline, providing an empathetic ear for kids who found it difficult to cope in a homophobic world. Empathy, in fact, was one of the essential parts of Will’s character. He was a great listener, and he always made you feel good about yourself. He also rarely had a bad thing to say about anybody. These are exceedingly rare qualities.

Let there be no mistake, though: Sheena was a punk rocker. Will had a very distinct punk sensibility, both in musical taste and attitude, and he enjoyed walking on the wild side. He had a fondness for the macabre and the grotesque, occasionally dressing up in drag as a zombie hag from hell. His infamous guerilla birthday parties, wherein dozens of his friends and comrades would descend in costume on a particular subway car and party while literally hanging from the overhead handrails by their knees, creating general panic and a public nuisance, were just his style. No mindless vandalism, no hostility: just a fun reminder that it’s okay to act out in public, to break the rules, to challenge the status quo. It’s hard to imagine getting away with something like that in Toronto now. More’s the pity.
Will was a real Renaissance man—a successful artist (collaborating with a host of Toronto’s most creative characters, including Luis Jacob and Jeremy Laing), but also a respected DJ, promoter, activist, and restaurateur. He truly hit his stride with Vazaleen, a club night that allowed him to combine all his favourite obsessions: punk and no-wave rock’n’roll music, queers, dykes, trannies, pornography, performance art, go-go dancers, wild costumes, public indecency, strap-on dildos, what have you. He was the only promoter in town who consistently brought in the international royalty of queer and underground performers, everyone from Stink Mitt to Limp Wrist to Vaginal Crème Davis to Cherie Curie to Jayne County to Carol Pope to the Toilet Boys to Kembra Pfahler. (I took a particularly memorable road trip to Niagara Falls with Kembra and Will the day after she performed at Vazaleen, a memory I will always cherish.) He also provided an early platform for now more widely known musical forces such as Peaches, The Hidden Cameras, and The Gossip. Vazaleen, which started at the El Mocambo before moving to Lee’s Palace, was the first real homo club of note outside the gay ghetto, opening up queer culture to a broader audience of like-minded misfits of all genders and sexual persuasions. In Will’s own words: “When I started doing Vazaleen I was like finally there is a space where you can do fucking anything and no one is going to turn their nose up at you.” In a nutshell, that was Will’s credo.

Will insisted on being inclusive, but he also never betrayed his old school gay roots. Of all his club nights, one of my favourites was Moustache, which he held upstairs at Remingtons, Toronto’s only gay male strip bar. It was so much fun to see people of all sexes and ages participating in the amateur strip competition alongside the professional male strippers and the regular clientele. Only Will could pull off that kind of bizarre cultural fusion.

After Vazaleen, Will doggedly pursued his promise of creating life outside the ghetto by turning the Beaver Café (with Lyn McNeil) into the first real hothouse of queer activity on the west side. It was only after several successful years there that he discovered he had a brain tumour. It was a particularly aggressive from of cancer (one more often found in children), and it’s a testament to his heart and determination, his unwaveringly positive attitude about everything, and his sheer love of life that he valiantly fought the disease for two years. I think we all believed that if anyone could beat it, against all conceivable odds, Will could.

The last time I had a chance to speak at length with Will was at his art opening at the Paul Petro gallery a couple of months ago. (I’ve reviewed the show in the latest issue of C Magazine.) The cancer had already come back with a vengeance and he was a bit fragile, but what struck me was that he maintained the same commitment to his art, the same positive energy, the same consistency of attitude, and the same generosity of spirit that he’d always had. It was beyond humbling.

From all reports, Will was surrounded by an extremely loyal, loving, and supportive group of family and friends, including his boyfriend Peter, until the end. I know that many people are profoundly and painfully feeling the loss of this gentle, elegant soul, including yours truly. Toronto is already a much, much dimmer and less bearable place without him.

Bruce LaBruce is an underground filmmaker, writer, and photographer based out of Toronto. He has contributed words and photos to publications such as The National Post, Toronto Life, Vice, and the UK Guardian (among many others), and once held a regular column at both Eye Weekly and Exclaim!. He was also co-publisher of the popular queer zine J.D., and has released two books, The Reluctant Pornographer, his memoirs; and Ride, Queer, Ride.

Submitted by NMP (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2010 – 02:11.

Will Munro Remembered

Friends of the late artist/DJ — including designer Jeremy Laing, writer R.M. Vaughan and members of The Hidden Cameras, Kids on TV and Fucked Up — speak to his everlasting influence on Toronto

By Stuart Berman and David Balzer
May 25, 2010 15:05


Punk-rocker, disco DJ, queer activist, artist, underwear designer, social worker, restaurant cook — no matter which walk of life Will Munro chose to follow on any given day, he approached them all with the same mission: to inspire people to try something new, see their world differently and, most importantly, have a fabulous time while doing so. In the wake of his passing last Friday (May 21) after a two-year battle with brain cancer, we spoke to Will’s many friends and collaborators about how he changed their lives and, by extension, the culture of the city.

ALLYSON MITCHELL (ARTIST): One of my favorite memories of Will was that he attended the first Pretty Porky and Pissed Off direct action that happened at Queen and Soho in 1996. We were doing impromptu street theatre dressed in crazy outfits, handing out candy and information about body size acceptance, and asking people “Do you think I’m fat?” Will was one of the only guys. He taught me how important it is to show up and support each other. To act as allies. The power of critical mass. I can’t imagine Toronto without Will. One of our biggest debts to Will Munro is that he made us cool in all the best ways. As artists, activists and queers we are held up by his celebration of non-conformist music, craft and politics. I cherish every second I spent with him stitching, protesting and dancing.

MIKE HALIECHUK (FUCKED UP): I met Will in 1998 or 1999 at [defunct Kensington Market music/bookstore] Who’s Emma. He was a straight-edge punk who was also gay, which blew my mind. He carried with him such a grinning confidence that I didn’t have to wonder for even a second if being straight edge but also gay was something that made sense. He listened to hardcore music like me, but also dance and electro music, which is something I didn’t understand. Over the course a summer, I’d gone from someone who only wanted to listen and talk about punk bands to hanging out at like the first 10 Vaselines, Will’s gay dance parties. To me, Will was one of the people who most helped break down in my mind those internal divisions it’s so easy to give in to. I’ve always felt like Toronto was the perfect place for us to grow and develop as a band, because there is such a blurring of these lines, because of people like Will. RIP. (Excerpted with permission from http://lookingforgold.blogspot.com/)

DAN BURKE (PROMOTER): Max [McCabe-Lokos] of The Deadly Snakes got a hold of me [in 1999] and said there was an artist named Will who needed a Friday-night booking for a new event he wanted to introduce: a “queer” rock night. A queer rock night!?!?,” I said. “That’ll never work — you’d have burn down Church Street to get them over to Spadina.” But Max insisted, I booked it [into the downstairs room of the El Mocambo] and, boy, was I wrong — there was this whole scene of young queer people into music other than Donna Summers disco. By about the fourth or fifth Vaseline, it was so big we had to move into the larger upstairs room.

And there was even people coming from Church Street, like those bearded, CFL-sized gay guys: the “bears.” They loved it so much they made sign for their section, “The Bear Den.” But some people didn’t like Vaseline: like the corporate multi-national that owns the product. A $300-an-hour lawyer from a major Bay Street firm contacted me and issued “cease and desist” papers on use of the brand-name Vaseline for the night. They didn’t know who Will was; just that the club The El Mocambo had a monthly night named after their trademarked product. I told the lawyer: “Man, you don’t wanna piss off the queers politically by bullying them on this.” The lawyer didn’t care. So we changed the name to “Vazaleen” — we fucked Bay Street phonetically!

Back in the early days, Will used to spend a fortune bringing in these wild feature acts like Vaginal Davis from L.A. or The Subsonics from Atlanta for the first Vaseline Halloween party. And he’d never make any money off the night because he wouldn’t raise the cover charge higher than $5.

The most ambitious of his bookings then was Jayne County. We put a band together to back her — Steve Saint from The Sinisters was on bass, I remember — and Will flew her in from New York early in the week to rehearse. Everything seemed fine until the day of the show: Jayne just up and left town. Apparently, the band hadn’t prepared very well and she got scared. But Will must have really been a Jayne fan because, despite that, he re-booked her later and she did play Vaseline. Solo, I think.

The last time I saw Will, I went to The Beaver to say “hi” and ordered a meal, which he cooked. He was a very good chef, too! Observing the place, I told him that it kinda reminded me of The Fiesta, a landmark bar/restaurant from the late 1970s punk-new wave/File magazine days, when General Idea put this city on the international map of contemporary art. Will’s face lit up when I said it.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here,” he said — and he pointed to a piece of wall art he had mounted: a flag with a trilogy of emblems on it. “That’s General Idea,” he said.

And that’s how I’m gonna remember him: a bright, visionary leader of our time, who bridged not only the sexual divides of the indie-rock pack but helped sustain the cosmopolitan quality of Toronto life initiated by his heroes. General Will Munro — five stars forever.

GENTLEMAN REG (MUSICIAN): Will introduced me to the queer world of Toronto. Literally, the first time I went to Vazaleen, I’d never been to anything like it previously. It was so unique, and since it’s stopped there hasn’t been anything to replace or equal it. He was always pushing me. Will has been trying to get me to do drag for years! When we had shifts together at The Beaver, we would brainstorm about what my drag name would be and how I should look. For whatever reason, I’ve still never done it. But the way he talked about stuff like that just made it seem like, “Why wouldn’t you do it?”

LUIS JACOB (ARTIST): I first met Will Munro in 1997 at the Nora Vaughan Gallery that used to be on King Street. I remember he was exhibiting a cloth wall made out of hundreds of white undies patch-worked together. He was staffing the gallery, and I stayed to talk to him for a very long time. Before I left, he gave me one of the invite cards to his show — a two-person show with Chandra Bulucon — that was also made of underwear fabric with a kind of peephole piercing through it.

This first experience got me acquainted with recurring qualities of Will’s work: an almost fanatical commitment to crafting as an artistic process; and a deep awareness that the message to a project — whether it was an art exhibition like this one, or, later, one of the many DJ events he organized — was first expressed by the fliers one made to publicize it. The fliers and posters he produced for events like Vazaleen, Peroxide, NO T.O. and Moustache were all hand-made, and were technically very ambitious. In this way, the posters conveyed some of the sense of love and passion that he held for these events, and this acted as impetus for others to wish to attend them. Seeing one of his gorgeous three- or four-colour silkscreen prints announcing the next Peroxide party, for example, wheat-pasted on a wall next to dozens of oversized glossy posters announcing the next circuit party or Hollywood movie certainly made the choice of weekend plans a very easy one! His posters were art for the streets.

Will was a culture junkie. He was a straight-edge kid, so he never touched alcohol or drugs. But underground culture — especially queer underground culture — was his addiction, his source of inspiration, the food with which he fueled his limitless energy. His subcultural knowledge of was encyclopedic, and his dance parties can be understood as a kind of living lesson on the roots of queer culture. He started Vazaleen at the El Mocambo in 2000, and continued it on a monthly basis at Lee’s Palace for the following seven years. Given how fickle club crowds can be, this was no small feat!

Through Vazaleen, Will brought to Toronto such legendary performers as Nina Hagen, The Gossip, Jayne County, Limp Wrist, Vaginal Creme Davis, Kembra Pfahler, Jackie Beat — the list goes on and on. It’s hard to overestimate the immense dedication required to do all this. Clearly, Will has transformed life in Toronto by creating social spaces brimming with talent and creativity connected to a vital network of queer, feminist and transgendered artists.

Five years ago, Will and I started Moustache at Remington’s. Month after month, staying up all night with him at the silkscreening studio to produce the Moustache posters, was among the happiest times of my life. We would talk about the history of disco and house music, the politics of gender, the function of art, the state of our communities, our vulnerabilities and passions, and the latest gossip as we worked, designing the layouts at Kinko’s, printing the posters at Punchclock Studio, and then heading out on our bikes to wheat-paste them on the streets. I will be forever grateful to him for those times.

The last dance event that he organized (along with Jamie Sin) was Love Saves the Day at the Beaver Cafe. He started this event already after he had been diagnosed with cancer. I like to think that this was his public declaration of hope, as well as a message for all of us to love one another. Will has touched hundreds and hundreds of people in this city. Who can count how many? His contribution to life in Toronto is immense. We love you, dear Willis!!

MIKEY APPLES (DJ, PROMOTER, FORMER MANAGER OF CRYSTAL CASTLES): Vazaleen was this really fun, dirty oasis that pulled together all of the best left-field shit — glam rock, punk, weird disco, and anything else that nobody was DJing out there — into a totally exciting, creatively inspiring party that I don’t think has been matched since. Anyone that was lucky enough to have partied at Vazaleen upstairs at the El Mo, or later, at [Munro’s electro party] Peroxide in the basement of Club 56 would know exactly what I’m talking about. It was totally unpretentious, amazing fun. Nobody was staring into their iPhones, or lining up for the washroom to do you-know-what all night. I remember lotsa dancing — yes, actual dancing. Everyone would be losing themselves together.

That left a giant impression on me: that Will could create an atmosphere where people in the crowd felt totally comfortable with each other, with strangers, with their lovers… whoever. That was pretty magical.

JAIME SIN: My first Will Munro experience was a Vaseline party, downstairs at the El Mocambo. The patrons were beautiful and friendly and fun. Even the most intimidating queen would stop to compliment your outfit. I felt no sense of exclusion, even though I was a straight girl who came with straight girlfriends and didn’t know anyone else in the room. People did ridiculous and hilarious things and the music was a mix of glam, punk, cheesy metal and rock and roll. You could leave your self-consciousness somewhere else and just have a good time.

Will wanted to break open the box, and his open arms were so far reaching that, as much as the spaces he created were an unabashed celebratory place for queers, they were also a place for this straight suburban girl who loved music, dancing and staring at cute boys all night. I could be sexy without necessarily worrying about being sexualized, I could hear music and see performers I would not get to hear and see elsewhere, I could lose myself and forget who I was supposed to be. People could just be who they were, or wanted to be. People could experiment with and learn about who they were, or wanted to be. What Will created was exciting and transgressive, and it was for anyone who wanted that.

When we started DJing together, it was a pleasure to play with him in places where people just came to DANCE, not evaluate or be soundtracked. I felt at home and happy. As a friend, he was a sweetie, supportive and generous, there to laugh away the fears, and bearing a belief in me that I didn’t always have in myself.

I think that this must be the experience that many had with Will Munro — this was his way. I’ll miss him, and what he created, badly. I’m so glad to have known his inspiration, his energy and his friendship, and I know those are things that I will think about every day.

JEREMY LAING (CLOTHING DESIGNER/ARTIST): Will made Toronto for me, and helped me find my place in the city. He showed me a big gay world right here at home. I remember early AM bike rides, after-hours swims in Christie Pits, climbing the Redpath silos the night of the 2003 blackout, and carting his records to Kom Jug for vegetarian Chinese food and Cokes after closing down Peroxide for the night. He inspired me to DJ and to start Big Primpin, and we would sometimes poster for our parties together — he for the infamous Vazaleen, which was a coming-out ball of sorts for me, and so many others.

I had been going to his parties for a while, but I first talked to Will while he was postering, something he later recounted to me as odd. Most people, he said, ignored him when he had a bucket and brush in hand, but he took great pride in plastering the city with his beautiful silk-screened posters himself. It was art to him. Sewing was also Will’s art, and that joint interest fostered several collaborative projects that stretched us both, like The Westside Stitches Couture Club, a correspondence quilt, and the Virginia Puff-Paint series of installations, performances and videos. Shortly after that project I started my line and he took over the Beaver, which quickly became the west-end nexus and where I found myself nearly every day, sometimes three times: for coffee, then lunch and then later for the party.

MATT THOMAS (ARTIST/WRITER FOR XTRA, FAB, TORONTOIST): Outside the city, whether I was in Portland or New York, the first thing people would ask me at exciting radical queer events when I told them I was from Toronto was, “Do you know Will Munro?” He was so tapped into queer art and culture underground across the whole world, he was truly a culture ambassador for the city of Toronto. People came from all over the world and found themselves at Vazaleen and knew it was something truly special and unique. Seeing Peaches hump her way across the stage wearing a pair of Will’s underwear with a big fabric dick sewn into them, watching Nina Hagen send a group of bears into sheer euphorics and being felt up by punk legend Jayne County are just some of the memories I will never forget and have Will to thank for making a reality and not a fever dream. You can trace all the interesting events, culture and people in Toronto to within six degrees of Will. He was the kind of guy where everything he did served to inspire people to do more and not ask permission to do it.

If it wasn’t for Will’s passion to get people together and expand the notion of what a queer space could be, I don’t think I would have really ever been able to feel like I fit into the queer community. All the bands and artists he brought to this city constantly blew my mind and inspired me to start a travelling queer music-video festival. I wouldn’t have known the queer roots of punk rock without Will’s passion to share, whether it was in conversation or through the music he played. He always had the time of day for anyone who has passion and wanted to chat. He used to crack the door open at the back of Lee’s Palace to let me into Vazaleen when I was 18 and first moved to the city. I’ve never in my life met someone so committed to a personal philosophy around art and community and I don’t think I ever will. I’d be impossible to find someone in Toronto who didn’t have them mind blown by something Will dreamed up and brought to life.

ROY MITCHELL (ARTIST/FILMMAKER): Dearest Will, all that you did and all that will continue to grow because of what you did, makes my heart swell with the hope that there are people like you in the world. You confirmed so much that is good. I remember swinging you around the dancefloor of a yet-to-be-renovated Gladstone Hotel’s Bronco Room at a Swamparella evening. Such fun holding you close and laughing. I will remember you always.

DON PYLE (PRODUCER/COMPOSER, FORMER MEMBER OF SHADOWY MEN ON A SHADOWY PLANET, KING COBB STEELIE AND PHONO COMB): To say that Will was anything less than a revolutionary would be an understatement. And while his revolution was inevitable, life and culture sometimes have a way of going into dormancy before some divine spark kicks it to life. Will was that flame.

It was hard to not notice him and, like everyone who met him, I was immediately drawn to his radiant aura, his curiousity and active process of connecting queer histories and events, places and people. He understood the profound but almost lost connections of Bowie to Genet, of Jayne County to self-determination and trans-activism, of punk to disco, of AIDS to a fantastic party, the pocket hankie to Leigh Bowery, of Paradise Garage to Vaseline. Even the name Vaseline — who uses vaseline to fuck any more? Will constantly investigated and connected the dots.

Significantly, he understood the potency of community and how a gathering of similarly open people could be transformative. [His parties] Vaseline, Moustache and Peroxide are the obvious examples but in other ways, he forged a utopia by doing, not just thinking and talking. His sewing circle, West Side Stitches, inspired boys and girls to take up needle and thread in an almost archaic act of socializing and skill-sharing, facilitating workshops and sewing art/performance events that brought out a brilliant display of style and absurd costume parties.

Even the notion of costume was turned on its head because it was also fashion at its most exciting, confusing and colourful. He made me laugh equally hard when I saw him in a chicken suit, with yellow feathers and Big Bird feet, and then dressed as the classic ‘70s leather daddy. My head spun as Will put the idea into my head that those outfits were really the same thing.

He was so sweet and kind, too. If you were his friend then you were automatically my friend and others clearly felt the same; he really did make people want to participate, to be part of this great utopian community project. He believed in the good of life, and threw a great party too. At Vaseline’s first Shame event, I got to experience his succinct hilariously bratty take on Pride and the gay “culture” he was reacting to. He climaxed his performance for the mantle of most Shameful person by pulling down his pants, squatting, then fishing around in his ass before pulling out — magician-style — a rainbow flag! You win, Will!

The signs of his influence are all around us. His collaborators and friends, too numerous to mention but equally important in Will’s story, evince what was a constant theme of Will’s life: doing it together to create an ideal world. He was a rare idealist in that I never heard him judge others and he worked tirelessly to help others with their visions and inspirations to create something better.

I ran into him on the street one night on his way home from a shift working the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line, something he’d been doing for years and years while working full-time in a restaurant job, running a nightclub, doing two major monthly events and producing a significant body of provocative visual art. Any one or two of those things would be enough for most people but that he continued to help youth in an almost invisible role was so inspiring and really made me feel like an underachiever. It is this act that stands out more for me than any of the other amazing things he’s done because it was truly done to benefit others in private, but the effect was no less profound than his creation of Vaseline or the vitality that he and Lynn McNeill brought to The Beaver.

The city has changed immeasurably since he arrived, in no small part because of his contributions. His absence leaves a gaping hole as the hub that brought so many people and sensibilities together. I loved how he looked back with respect but moved forward with a future-fantasy of tangible idealism. Supporting queer youth was essential to his vision and taking action in that area alone would honour his memory. Will, you really were incredible. Thank you.

R.M. VAUGHAN (AUTHOR/PLAYWRIGHT/ART CRITIC): After knowing Will for about five or six years, I realized I had never heard him say one bitchy word about another person — given how nasty the art world is, and the queer art world is double that, Will’s complete lack of trash talk was almost unnatural. I’m not saying Will was a saint, because he loved to hear gossip, just that his mind didn’t work that way. He was too busy, busy, busy, making and doing, to bother to think up unpleasant things to say about other people, to waste the time. To me, that’s a kind of state of grace.

RYAN G. HINDS (ARTIST): I collaborated with Will on an installation for Nuit Blanche 2007. He turned a huge gallery space at the AGO into a ‘70s-era rec room for Ina unt Ina and I to do a continuous 12-hour performance in. It was a magical night for all of us, and we hold the record for the AGO’s largest single night attendance: over 16,000. We joked that we felt like Madonna selling out Madison Square Garden. A visual memory from that night: nervous energy fills the room; Will and some friends are tacking up shag rugs, animal heads, and album covers, while I am sound-checking. As I’m singing “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls, a huge swath of silver mylar falls off the wall onto Will, and for a few seconds there are multiple Wills reflected everywhere, all laughing and trying to dance and while getting untangled.

PAUL PETRO (PAUL PETRO CONTEMPORARY ART): It was under the challenging conditions of the later stages of his two-year struggle with brain cancer that Will completed the work for his final exhibition [Inside the Solar Dream of the Cosmic Leather Daddy], fulfilling a dream that was months in the making. When I approached him with the offer of another show I knew that it would provide a focus for his energies and a final opportunity to give the best of himself to his community. We can look forward to an afterlife for this exhibition with a wide range of upcoming reviews and features in a variety of art publications. His work will be featured in a Pride group exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel next month and a large survey exhibition of his practice, with publication, is in the works.

As an artist, friend, activist and community builder, Will’s legacy is extensive. His impact on Toronto is wide-reaching. And his importance in the art world will be further understood over time. It’s important to appreciate that his work at the LGBT Youth Line and the many club nights he has organized be understood as an extension of his art practice. Through these many efforts he made Toronto a more accepting place to live and enabled people to be more accepting of themselves and therefore others.

JOHN CAFFREY (KIDS ON TV): I treasure the many times I danced while he played the music. I hold so dearly our time making art together with the West Side Stitches Couture Club, where he showed me how to sew. I still laugh at his hilarious one-liners that he continued to deliver while lying in his death bed. Will Munro was such a true friend and one of my greatest influences, his impact on my life is profound.

MAGGIE MACDONALD (THE HIDDEN CAMERAS): Will Munro was foremost a giver — but I should say he is a giver, as Will is alive in the art he made, and in the social world he helped to build. Vaseline, and later Peroxide and NO TO, gave a community a place to coalesce, and changed the Toronto music scene forever. Will is remembered by many as a tireless promoter, who infused events with the same layered symbolism and labor-intensive creative process that went into the creation of his art. But beyond Will’s work, what touches me most deeply about our dear friend and brother is his way of living. Will was a true egalitarian, who was always welcoming and generous to everyone he encountered, and even took the time to honor those he had never met — the artists, queers and musicians celebrated in his work.

Will was always participating in benefits, lending a hand by DJing his friends’ events and fundraisers, and giving bands a leg up by booking them, or, as with The Hidden Cameras, even playing mom out on the road for a weekend. When Will got sick, it was hard for the man who helped everyone else to be the one to receive care. Though I would give anything to have him back, I am thankful that many of us had a chance to finally give back to this giver, by helping to care for him over the last two years.

As part of the circle of caregivers organized by Lex Vaughn, I saw Will on Fridays. We eased into the routine of having a meal together, followed by Will crafting while I would write or read. It was easy to believe this was just a new normal, and that somehow it could go on forever, but Will knew that his time was limited. One Friday afternoon, he was upset about a hurdle to a project he was working on, and his phone started ringing off the hook as friends called to help and provide emotional support. I told him it was like he was the centre of a massive wolf pack, and the wolves were circling to protect him. “I know,” he said, “And the wolf pack isn’t letting go.” I take comfort knowing that Will felt the support, and love of his community during his greatest struggle.

It is up to all of us who are touched by his work, his spirit, and his way of living to carry the torch for Will, by living in a loving, and open way, to honor the example he set for us.

Submitted by billy (not verified) on Fri, 05/07/2010 – 18:33.

Will Munro is a genius and a nice man.

Submitted by Linda Noelle (not verified) on Wed, 05/05/2010 – 15:24.

Will Munro is an incredible artist, visionary, activist, innovator, DJ, immobilizer and friend. I’m am continually inspired by his generosity and strength. I send magical healing vibes every minute of the day. Thank you for this wonderful article.

Submitted by David Machen Woodward (not verified) on Wed, 05/05/2010 – 02:17.

Delightful – missing Will in a very powerful way at this moment, a bit on the selfish side, really. But he’s been as much an inspiration to me over the years I’ve been in Toronto, and articles or interviews like this one help me put that into a useful and helpful perspective.
I only want to speak for myself in this: I believe that wanting someone to survive and get well is a funny mix of selfish and compassionate motivations. I’d be happier for Will to just keep on showing how amazing and deeply enjoyable life can be – and I’m afraid of this show ending. How many ways can you love someone you’ve never slept with? I think that’s the kinds and quantity of love I have for him, to be honest. So of course, I’m keen to support his and our continued mutual survival in as many ways as possible.

Submitted by Mikey (not verified) on Mon, 05/03/2010 – 22:18.

Thankyou Ms. Pourtavaf for a bang-on discussion of Munro and his practice. As one who’s been witness to the magic of Vazaleen, Virginia Puff Paint, Peroxide etc., it’s really nice to see someone delve into the mystery of Will Munro, and particularly his ‘source material’/inspirations. I’m still baffled by where Munro gets his visionary queer zeal, but if I knew I guess it wouldn’t be magic. Kudos to you for a proper dialogue on one of Toronto’s most exciting young artists!