Censorship at every level is difficult and feels dirty and wrong. Artistic freedom is taken away daily while over sexualized children and extreme violence are plastered on billboards and ads without remorse. Yet a woman cannot be topless? What’s so gross or wrong about that? Every human had nipples, I just can’t figure out what the fuss is all about?!

Recently in Saskatchewan at the Lyric Theatre’s Chautauqua Theatre Festival a burlesque performer called Rosie Bitts was censored during her performance about censorship! It is currently illegal to strip in the province of Saskatchewan. She did a non-striptease performance involving audience banter. She does her number in pasties and a g-strip to show how ridiculous the laws are.

When Ms. Bitts brought a male audience member on stage to reveal his nipple, she pointed out that revealing her female nipple would be completely illegal. Quickly the president of the Lyric Theatre shut the show down and the burlesque performer gracefully left the stage.

She was basically told to shut up and dance like a nice girl. The audience was left shocked, some thinking that the stoppage was all part of the act. Sadly it was not.

Rosie Bitts
Rosie Bitts

Are all nipples created equally? Guess not! I love how on Instagram there are women who are photoshopping men’s nipples over their own to talk about how silly it is that the female nipple is so sexualized and the male nipple is just fine. Women are fighting against this absurd double standard with a loophole that makes Instagram look like an a-hole.

Artist Micol Hebron created a digital male nipple pasty template. Celebrities such as Courtney Love and Sarah Silverman have even used this app. Currently the only female nipples allowed on Instagram are of women breastfeeding and post mastectomy scarring. #freethenipple is the hashtag used for this important feminist movement.
I’m not afraid of public nudity! My dad was arrested for streaking in the 1970s, so it’s in my blood. Besides baring it all on stage I walked in the first NYC Slut Walk, rode my trike in pasties in the Buffalo Naked Bike Ride (nude not lewd is the slogan), and have done many street performances wearing nothing more than body paint or pudding in some cases.

The best art causes a conversation. I’m an organizer of the Buffalo Infringement festival. With organization comes making venues and artists happy. Luckily I’ve only dealt with artist censorship a few times.

cat nipplesOnce was during a show about addiction. There were plenty of pieces about drug addiction and other realty dark shit. But as soon as my friend hung a painting about sexual addiction the owner of the gallery got pissed.

He let the artist hang her work and then as soon as she left the building her work was fucking ripped off the wall. Can you say coward?! I fought the good fight. We never used the venue for visual art again.

This was a simple painting of a girl masturbating. No realistic interpretations of genitals. It was black lines on a yellow canvas. I couldn’t believe that THIS was the piece that was too controversial.

Only a few years before this same gallery was under different ownership and I showed my own graphic sexual paintings (it was actually my first time hanging in the Buffalo Infringement Festival).

This guy would have shit a brick if he saw my stuff. It included a 5 ft painting of a vagina dentata with grillz that said CUNT in rhinestones, an even bigger painting of two beautiful obese women feeding each other cupcakes, and a painting of my vagina cumming out frosting made of pink tinted caulk.

The same painting was torn off a wall by a teacher while I was in college. He took it down during a foundation art class for being too lewd. The students in his class defended me and the painting remained on the wall. Fuck you buddy!

My Kitty Porn series was torn down off a wall during the Montréal Infringement Fest two years ago by an employee who found it lewd. The art was later reinstated by the venues manager, but was now slightly damaged.

I was happy with how it all worked out, my work is now slightly more infamous knowing that it can offend someone so deeply. That girl must have had some issues with her own sexuality to want to destroy someone’s art like that. I put a slash in the win column.

I would be a hippocrite if I didn’t share this story. There is one case of censorship that I was involved in: An artist was not allowed to show their cartoon because it showed all of the worst things including violence towards trans women. This particular venue is a safe place for any and all people who are queer or transgender.They also allowed a full on X rated art show during the festival, so they didn’t care about nudity.

So in this case I understood why censorship occurred, it was not for sponsorship reasons, not because the venue was prude, but instead because showing this cartoon would take away the safety of the space itself. You always have to see things from every perspective. The cartoon was not banned from the festival, it was just moved elsewhere.

I’m happy I live in a place where stripping is legal and I can swim topless if I want. I’m not happy that my male burlesque counterparts do not have to cover their nipples with pasties.

Freedom of speech is everything in the art world. Women need to take a note from Rosie Bitts and the boobies of Instagram and smash society’s stupid standards of nipple censorship by letting it all hang out without consequence or remorse.

Featured image of The Stripteasers Burlesque troupe, Buffalo, NY

A few weeks ago, I sat down with David Boots to discuss his documentary Peace Park and the issue of legalizing skateboarding at the Park.

Melanie Renaud: How did you first end up at Peace Park?

David Boots: Back in the early 90s, I used to skate at the City Hall. There were about a hundred skaters there, all the time; so many, that the security guards would start kicking us out. As the City Hall was becoming more impossible to skate in, Peace Park was being built. Being perfect for skating  and more centrally located, we all started skateboarding there. It became the new meet up spot. Everyday I’d just go to Peace Park and skate with whomever was there. Then we’d go skate around the city.

Photo by Danny Stevenson
Photo by Danny Stevenson

Why did you decide to make the movie?

I originally got a video camera to put together a skate promo (video), which I did. But I also ended up filming what was going on around me at the park. The documentary basically evolved from my skate promo. I ended up filming for twelve years, compiling footage and doing years of research, before deciding it was time to put it all together.

After I received grants to finish the movie, I met Jessica McIntyre, who has [a bachelor’s degree] in History. Jessica dedicated a year of her life to help me write the movie. She would sleep on my couch four, five nights a week, and we’d work for 18 hours a day! Making the documentary was definitely a big learning experience. She taught me a lot about answering ‘why’s’ when telling a story. Thank you Jessica.

How many screenings have there been of Peace Park?

So far, the movie has been shown three times as work-in-progress, twice during the 40th anniversary of the Festival du nouveau cinéma, and once at the Canadian Centre of Architecture during their ABC : MTL exhibition, under the letter F for Film.

The finished version of Peace Park premiered in the Park last summer, as the closing show for the Société des arts technologiques’s (SAT) “Cinéma, DJ et Chefs invités“, which is a movie screening event that happens at the park, once a week. They helped me turn the movie premiere into an event. The premiere for The Peace Park – For the People included a skating contest, a Hip Hop reggae show, free food and more. We had over a thousand people show up, making it the most successful event ever to happen at the Park. It was awesome.

What is next for the movie?

Now that the movie is complete, the real work begins. It’s hard to get a movie out into the world, if you don’t want to just give it away. I submitted it to some festivals, but stopped, because the submission fees cost too much, and most festivals don’t even have the time to view your movie. I was speaking with some distributors, but I have since got distracted by the approval of a pilot project that [temporarily] legalized skateboarding in the park for the summer, so the promotion of the movie has been put on hold. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get it out yet, because if we legalize skating the movie will require an epilogue.

Can you describe the details of the skateboarding pilot project at Peace Park? And was there talk about extending this to more locations in the city next summer, if all goes well?flame.thrower

Even though we’ve been skating in Peace Park since it’s construction, there has been a long history of skaters getting tickets in the park. Skateboarders were being jailed, and ticketed for over $600.

With the help of the SAT, I managed to get a pilot project approved by our mayor Denis Coderre. [The project] legalized skateboarding in Peace Park for seven days a week, from 10am to 9pm, from August 8th until September 26th.

This approval has given us the ability to organize four skate events in the park. So far we held three “Skate Jam and Tea Tuesdays“, which are skate contests, where we give out free tea, jam, and toast, with [the chance of winning] $500 in cash for tricks. The events were a huge success and they helped prove to the city that skate events are a fun and positive way to help animate the park. They also showed that skateboarding fits well into the Quartier des spectacles.

Now we are currently working on the last event: Peace Park’s 20th anniversary, which is next week on September 20th! For the event, I am putting together a video entitled “Peaceful Moments.” The video highlights the park’s most memorable moments, over the last two decades. Preceding the video will be a skate contest with over $2000 in cash to win, a free spaghetti dinner, a birthday cake, a Hip Hop reggae show, and more.

smokingOur goal with this event is to show, that the skater community doesn’t just want to legalize skateboarding, simply in it’s own interest, but that it wants to be a part of the greater community and help it. To do this, we will use Peace Park’s 20th anniversary, in order to help create awareness for the social problems at the park. We have invited social service organizations, who have been helping educate people on the services that are already available, to participate, to thank these organizations for their years of hard work, and most importantly to let the public know that an effort is being made to help improve the situation in the park. All of our actions this year aim to demonstrate the impact of skateboarding in the park, with the ultimate goal of legalizing skateboarding once and for all at the end of the pilot project.

Has there been more skateboarders at the park since it has become legal?

Yes, skaters have been returning to the park, but they haven’t overrun the park. Peace Park is actually pretty difficult to skate in, so it generally only attracts more advanced skaters, which limits the number that will skate there. And, skaters usually only get there around two, three in the afternoon and are gone before dusk.

You are very active on Instagram, why have you chosen this platform?

DB – I really like Instagram. A photo is worth a thousand words, or so they say.

It’s a really good social media tool for me, as opposed to twitter, because there is nothing I’m going to say in 140 characters that is worth anything, compared to me posting a photo, or even a video now. I also like that, when posting on Instagram, I can share it with all other social media platforms all at once. It is very simple to use. Social media has become such an important part of marketing and promoting whatever it is you’re doing. It’s also become an outlet for me in some ways. I think it’s cool because it helps me raise awareness for some of the social issues present in the streets of Montreal. Sometimes I feel a bit addicted to it: like if I don’t put pictures up on Instagram for a few days, I start feeling as if  I’m not being productive. I only have a few thousand followers, but I have been voted the number one Instagrammer in the city by Mook Life and MTL Blog, so I must be doing something right.

What can I say, I’m addicted to Instagram.

I’ll admit, when I discovered there was an Instagram-branded digital camera I bemoaned the death of Polaroid, but hey, who am I to tell the free-market what to do?

Personally, I like the filters and the way by which the filters are able to ameliorate otherwise low-quality digital photos, but I’m sure that will change too as the technology improves. Regardless, here are some of my favourite snap-shots of people and places in our fair city.

Tour KPMG (Place de la Cathedrale)
Tour KPMG (Place de la Cathedrale) – Montreal
St-Henri depanneur
St-Henri depanneur

The quintessential Montréal Dépanneur, commerce integrated directly into a residential plan, optimizing convenience while maintaining the link between vital small business and the neighbourhood that supports it. I read somewhere the estimate was that a single Montréal dépanneur typically serves a base of 1,000 regular customers, and as such, these small mom and pop operations tend to cater to specific local needs, not to mention offer some unique treats. One of the finest lunches to be had (on the cheap) in this city involves homemade soups and sandwiches sold by a lovely Polish lady in a dépanneur located at St-Marc and René-Lévesque.

Montreal World Trade Centre instagram
Montreal World Trade Centre

A hidden gem, the Centre du Commerce Mondiale de Montréal (located next to Square-Victoria and a component of the Réso underground city), this massive atrium was built over the former Ruelle des Fortifications and as such unites several heritage properties into a single complex. It was conceived of as a horizontal skyscraper, with the Intercontinental Hotel anchoring the base. The fountain at one end of the reflecting pool was built in France in the early 18th century and, along with a piece of the Berlin Wall also located here, were together with the complex, part of the city’s numerous 350th anniversary presents.

Windsor Station Place du Canada Montreal instagram
Windsor Station & 1250 Boul. René-Lévesque taken from the Place du Canada viaduct

An afterthought – both of these buildings have lost their anchor tenants. The tower was originally jointly owned by IBM and Marathon Realty, another 350th anniversary gift to the city from the private sector. It was built in competition with 1000 de la Gauchetiere West and though both are icons of the city’s post-modern architecture, both lack anchor tenants. Odd considering how beautiful both are, how centrally located they are. Windsor Station was the corporate head office of Canadian Pacific Railways until 1997 when they consolidated their operations in Calgary. Today I believe CSIS maintains an office there. I wonder if new residential developments in the area will have any effect on their future significance in the urban tapestry.

McGill College Montreal instagram
McGill College Avenue at Dusk from the PVM Belvedere

One of the better achievements of 1980s city-planning, Vincent Ponté’s re-design of McGill College Avenue. Plans to create a showcase street date back to before the Second World War, but didn’t come to fruition until the 1980s. Prior, it was a far narrower street, with much of the space above Boul. de Maisonneuve nothing but parking lots. Redevelopment began when the Capitol Theatre was torn down in the 1970s and replaced with the squat, ugly brown building off to the left (out of frame).

A more comprehensive plan came to fruition in the early 1980s that would ultimately lead to the development of several gleaming post-modern office towers and one of the city’s premier show streets. If I have one complaint, it’s that despite the large number of people who pass through here, work here etc, no one lives in this part of town. I can imagine it would be a rather fetching address. Sometimes I wonder why there isn’t a trend in this city to redevelop old office buildings (such as the aforementioned brown monstrosity) into condos. Seems like a natural evolution.

avenue du musee montreal instagram
Avenue du Musée

I like the gradual development of the Quartier des Musées and the new pavilion of the MMFA – this is progressing in the right direction. The city has a plan for economic stimulus in this area, as they want to increase the number of stable local high-end boutiques and galleries. It could use a café and a bistro and it would be wise for the city to help in the quartier’s branding if they were able to offer various incentives to help concentrate galleries in the area.

Also, while I’m a big fan of the outdoor sculptures, they’re overwhelming given how close they’re grouped together. Would it be so bad if they were spaced out a bit? Maybe the presence of art installations could be used to delineate the boundaries of the Quartier?

Montreal balcony instagram
We have beautiful balconies in this city…

A place where everyone can pass a long summer day thinking about tomorrow, pondering what could be. I think we’re lucky it’s considered an element of good design to include some type of balcony, front porch or rooftop terrace on urban residential construction here. In some places, it’s quite the rarity, considered old-fashioned. Odd no?

Place Ville Marie Montreal instagram
The Sun Life Building (1931), PVM 5 (1968) and PVM 1 (1962)

Olympic Stadium Montreal birds instagram

We’ve really got to figure out what to do with this place. How much longer do we let it slowly decompose?

This post originally appeared on TaylorNoakes.com