When faced with intrinsic inequality in the electro-acoustic, audiovisual art and experimental scenes, the role of the curator is crucial. Not only to navigate and disrupt this pattern of privilege, but to make creators feel like they are in a space where their work will be celebrated for what it is, not for its adherence to a larger framework. Levy is hopeful of the way the role of the curator is changing. He says: ‘Now you have curators as curators, curators as artists, artists as curators, writers as curators, curators as writers. It’s not just this one thing, it’s not institutionalised.’ He characterises the aforementioned frameworks of academia as curating with a capital C, which would involve actively imposing your own beliefs of what is and isn’t art with a capital A, and maintaining a level of control over how commissions are shaped. With Refraction, this notion is thrown violently from a fifth story window: “I don’t curate with a capital C. I think the work can speak for itself. Too many times people take credit for things that aren’t theirs. There’s been a framework, similar to the one around academia, around the capital C curator which is bullshit.” Hear hear!
One of the key aspects that make Refraction Festival special is the no-pressure approach to streaming. Whereas many other festivals have used a live stream-and-its-gone model to promote a feeling of liveness and togetherness online, Refractions chose to go a different way. Levy said the decision stemmed from “this major issue that a person could be out at a park enjoying fresh air for the first time in a couple of months, having that first patio beer, or sleeping if they’re in a different timezone. There are so many reasons why the live stream framework didn’t make sense. This way you get to watch them for a while, it’s not disappeared.” Due to this, all the performances are still happily chilling out on the Refractions website waiting to be perceived. You can check the Worldwide FM pieces here, and the rest of Refraction’s programming through their website.
The future of Refraction Festival, as with many other creative endeavours at the moment, is as yet unclear. But the outlook is hopeful: “We’re gonna do it in Toronto as a festival, like an outdoor festival in Toronto. That’s the intention, we were already kinda talking about that, but we don’t know what’s gonna go on in the world a year from now.” Very true.