Mid-January is not well-known as a holiday season, unless your friend circle has a robust crop of January birthdays. But there is one very significant birthday coming up, a birthday that deserves celebration by one and all – a birthday that has inspired festivities all across the globe.
Mark your calendars: Jan. 17 is Art’s birthday.
No, not some fellow named Art, but Art, as in fine art, visual art, performance art, sound art – all of it. Without getting hung up on definitions and divisions (as this year marks Art’s 1,000,051st birthday, there are bound to be many branches in Art’s lineage), this is a day to celebrate all of Art.
The concept of an annual celebration of the birthday of Art is younger than Art itself. It was proposed in 1963 by French artist Robert Filliou, who claimed that Art began at a specific point in time, one million years before, on Jan. 17.
According to a history provided by the Western Front, Vancouver’s artist-run centre, “[Art] happened when someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water. Modest beginnings, but look at us now,” reads the description on www.artsbirthday.net.
To mark this year’s birthday, Video Pool is holding a games and gameshow-styled event (on Jan. 17, of course). The celebration, titled Fortuna’s Arcade, features a curated selection of video games courtesy of mrghosty (Skot Deeming), and the titular Fortuna’s Wheel, created by Ken Gregory and Andy Rudolph.
“Fortuna was the goddess of fortune and personification of luck in ancient days. She might bring good luck or bad,” says Gregory. “At the beginning of the year, what better can one do than participate in a ritual designed to bring luck into our lives?”
Fortuna’s wheel was made through “DIY hardware and software hacking and a classic game of chance,” says Gregory. He’s been involved in organizing and participating in Art’s birthday events in Winnipeg since the first local observance in 2005, which he “helped organize [ . . . ] as part of [a] media arts residency [he] did at the Western Front.”
Entry to the event is five dollars, with the option to “play to win” your cover at the door. Danceable music will resound courtesy of DJ Beekeeni; she also participated in a previous Art’s birthday party, and recalls “some wild martini ice machine that made drinks by people in other countries celebrating this annual event and there was a big cake that was thrown, I believe.”
Beekeeni brings both her tunes and her enthusiasm for Art to the party. “I’m excited because I love Art in all forms. A celebration is ALWAYS needed to remind everyone that it is important or we will be living in a douchebag city.”
For Gregory, the local aspect is as important as the sense of connection that this event engenders.
“Art’s birthday is celebrated globally. The spirit of celebration and the fact that we are all doing something inspired by Robert Filliou’s concept brings us all together.”
Whether your personal style of revelry involves spinning the wheel, playing mrghosty’s games, dancing, or pondering the community created by such an event, Gregory and Beekeeni both invite anyone and everyone to attend.
Beekeeni promises to play “the wildest stuff I have in my repertoire and then some,” including “b-sides in retro, weird beats, and taking chances [on] the dance floor mixes I make,” and there will also be pizza at midnight.
This is, after all, a birthday party for a celebrant that hopes to be ever-present in all of our lives. Gregory reminds us, “Some of the best parties ever for almost anyone is a celebration of their entrance into the world. It’s one thing we all have in common. We are all Art! Celebrate!”
Fortuna’s Arcade is being held from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Jan. 17 at Video Pool Media Arts Centre, third floor of Artspace (100 Arthur Street). See www.videopool.org for more information, and find other iterations of Art’s birthday at www.artsbirthday.net.