Queer Arts Festival postpones Piano Burning, releases statement about fire ban

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

Updated: THE QUEER ARTS Festival has decided to postpone its Piano Burning concert due to the fire ban.

Though the fest had a fire permit, it’s going to comply with the provincial fire ban and delay the performance at Mountain View Cemetery until a to-be-announced date in the fall (see the full letter below).

It seems that some community members saw the performance, which was meant to comment directly on some of the reasons BC is engulfed in forest fires this season, to be tone deaf to the fact there are wildfires raging. Some also questioned how the performance fit into the fest’s green eco theme this year.

As Stir previously reported, Full Circle First Nations Performance and the Queer Arts Festival’s had planned to feature musician Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will play a new piece commissioned from Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace—all while re-enacting the idea behind New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, a composition that called for a pianist to set the instrument alight. Biut in this presentation, curated by SD Holman and Margo Kane, the idea was to reframe the fire that engulfs the dilapidated piano (a symbol of colonial European culture) as a metaphor for striving toward decolonization. The act also refers to the banned fire rituals from Indigenous cultures: as stated in a letter from the artistic director below, “the colonial fire ban also outlawed the time-tested Indigenous forestry practice of controlled fires”.

Here is the letter in full from artistic director Holman:

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