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Rethink glamour at a pair of Ryerson photo exhibitions

Rethink glamour at a pair of Ryerson Image Centre photo exhibitions

Mia Wasikowska (Image: Alex Prager, Touch of Evil, 2011, digital video still. Originally produced by The New York Times Magazine. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong)

In a pair of clever new exhibitions, the Ryerson Image Centre documents how photography has shaped Western conceptions of glamour—and how photography can just as effectively tear those notions down. Burn With Desire: Photography and Glamour and Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women, both opening on Jan. 21 at the RIC, depict polar approaches to the representation of women in photography. Through portraits of Marilyn Monroe, archival Vanity Fair covers and projects by Andy Warhol, Burn With Desire explores how the medium—with its pre-Photoshop attention to immaculate lighting and gauzy romanticism—equated glamour with aesthetic perfection and vulnerable seduction. Anti-Glamour, meanwhile, playfully upends everything its counterpart professes, featuring contemporary pictures that affront viewers with the stark, sometimes ugly reality of gun-wielding femme fatales and brazen bare-breasted figures. The result is a jarring juxtaposition that gives new meaning to iconic images we thought we’d figured out long ago.

Jan. 21–Apr. 5. Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould St., 416-979-5164, ryerson.ca.

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Say farewell to The Guvernment with a Deadmau5-led dance party

deadmau5

(Image: The Guvernment)

The Guvernment, the iconic 18-year-old dance club, will soon be demolished for a strip of waterfront condos—but before that happens, it’s hosting one last thumping blowout. The massive entertainment complex has tapped a slate of star DJs—including the Dutch trance maestro Armin van Buuren and Australian electro duo Knife Party—to lead its epic three-night funeral march, but the best reason to come is Toronto’s Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a. Deadmau5, who’ll be capping off the party. Zimmerman, who got his start at the Guvernment a decade ago, is known for his dedication to all-manual production in a sea of push-play DJs—his smart, dynamic beats and relentless EDM sets appeal to club kids and indie rock fans alike. He’s going bigger than usual for the Guv’s finale, promising a live 130-minute set, including a 20-minute rendition of “Strobe,” his epic 2009 hit that blends clever digital melodies, slow builds and cathartic payoffs. Naturally, the show is sold out, but there are still tickets floating around for anyone who wants to bid farewell to Canada’s largest and longest-running nightclub in true Guvernment style: thrashing and drenched in sweat.

Sun. Jan. 25. SOLD OUT. The Guvernment, 132 Queens Quay E., 416-869-0045, theguvernment.com

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Get lost in the Gladstone’s annual art takeover

Gladstone: Come Up to My Room

(Image: Gladstone Hotel)

Every year, as part of the alt-design event Come Up To My Room, the Gladstone Hotel lets artist loose on its quirky rooms and exhibition spaces. This year, they’re taking it even further, filling the entire building with new, site-specific works from a scattershot collection of artists, architects and interior designers: a wall of mounted papier-mâché masks by Toronto’s Annie Tung, a dark room lit only by neon-and-wire installations from public-space design collective DTAH, and a hallway of irreverent Nike branding curated by local graphic designer Carla Poirier. The event runs to Jan. 25, with live music and panel discussions planned throughout, but we suggest saving your visit for the Love Design Party, where local psychedelic singer-producer and Grimes collaborator Petra Glynt will turn the Gladstone’s ballroom into an immersive cornucopia of sci-fi-inspired visual art, high-saturation video work and noisily entrancing electro-pop.

To Sat. Jan. 25. $10 for one day, $15 for entire festival. Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W., 416-531-4635, comeuptomyroom.com.

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Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #13. The sassiest dance parties are on ice

Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #13. The sassiest dance parties are on ice

(Image: Brian Medina)

There are bigger rinks and smoother rinks and more famous rinks, like Nathan Phillips Square, where at some point every Torontonian must pose for a photo under the arches, but the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront is our favourite because it’s a full-on party. Eight Saturday nights in a row, from January 3 onward, the city’s best DJs take over the sound system and the rink becomes an open-air nightclub. To the south is the pitch-black lake, to the north the ­twinkling lights of the downtown’s towers. People dress up in vintage mink stoles and crazy-coloured tights and open puffy coats, bouncing, boogying and shimmying as their skating prowess allows, and taking breaks at one of the flaming fire pits around the rink’s perimeter. Free ($8 for skate rental). 235 Queens Quay W., harbourfrontcentre.com.

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Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #15. The best festivals happen in winter

Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #15. The best festivals happen in winter

Long Winter. (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

1 Long Winter
Once a month, the thrash-rock outfit Fucked Up throw the city’s hottest party at the Great Hall, featuring sets from bands like the Hidden Cameras and Bruce Peninsula, modern dance and performance art, and a live late-night talk show. Jan. 9, Feb. 13 and March 13. $11. The Great Hall.

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Discover the staying power of Gordon Parks’s segregation photography

(Image: courtesy and copyright of The Gordon Parks Foundation)

(Image: courtesy and copyright of The Gordon Parks Foundation)

At Life magazine, where he was the magazine’s first African-American staff photographer, the American photographer Gordon Parks trained his lens on mid-20th-century sports, Broadway and influential figures like Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. But his most poignant works are those that capture an era of racial segregation in the American South. The candid photos that comprise his 1956 Life photo essay “The Restraints: Open and Hidden”—rediscovered in 2012, six years after Parks’s death—capture the home lives, church visits and everyday chores of African-Americans. With stunning beauty and composition, they also document the times when segregation broke down: in one photo, a black woman holds a white baby; in another, white and black boys play together. Discover the enduring relevance and power of Parks’s stills at Metivier Gallery, where the works will be on display through the end of January.

Jan. 8–31. Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W., 416-205-9000, metiviergallery.com.

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See your favourite local artists play their favourite tunes

July Talk.

July Talk.

The one-night-only Cover Me Impressed showcase features a goldmine of local roots-rock talent performing their favourite tunes. The lineup includes the seductive angel-versus-demon vocal interplay of July Talk (try “Guns + Ammunition” for a taste); iconic Broken Social Scene co-founder, solo artist and ubiquitous DJ Brendan Canning; ex–Attack in Black member Spencer Burton; singer-songwriters Stephen Stanley and Taylor Knox; rowdy blues duo Catl and hosts Sam Cash and The Romantic Dogs. Of course, the mystery set list won’t feature any original material, but that’s what makes the show so great: it‘s a rare chance to discover the songs that make these Toronto superstars tick. Admission is free with the donation of a non-perishable canned food item to the Daily Bread Food Bank, or $5 otherwise, with all cash proceeds supporting the SKETCH Working Arts program for marginalized and homeless youth.

Sat. Dec. 27. $5 or canned good donation. Lee’s Palace. 529 Bloor St. W., 416-972-4244, leespalace.com.

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See Venus in Fur, Canadian Stage’s seductive and sophisticated hit

(Image: David Hou)

(Image: David Hou)

Canadian Stage’s production of Venus in Fur, the darkly sexy comedy from American playwright David Ives, leaves no space for filler. The set is little more than chairs and simple New York City backdrops, and the cast is limited to solo-show master Rick Miller and homegrown film and Broadway star Carly Street. The bare-bones production highlights the complexity of Ives’s twisty script: in his search for the perfect actress to star in his adaptation of the erotic German novel Venus in Furs, a chauvinistic playwright unexpectedly discovers a talented and ambitious candidate. As they begin to act out the racy relationship between the characters of the play-within-the-play, the boundaries between script and real life begin to dissolve, upending their pre-determined gender roles and power dynamics. Street’s shapeshifting turn is dazzling—she took home a Dora Award and a Toronto Theatre Critics Award for best female performance. After two sold-out stints under Toronto’s veteran theatre and opera director Jennifer Tarver, her performance will surely be as captivating as ever.

To Dec. 28. $29–$59. Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St., 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com.

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Check out Austra’s thrilling, trilling pop operatics

(Image: Matt Lambert)

(Image: Matt Lambert)

No one sounds quite like Austra. The Toronto synth-pop trio has cultivated an innovative sound that blends theatrical vocals with danceable electronica. On their Polaris-shortlisted 2011 album, Feel It Break, and its 2013 successor, Olympia, the band throws disparate sounds together to create a catchy, body-moving end product: there’s Afrobeat percussion, analog synthesizers and blaring horn sections, all anchored by the powerfully trilling voice of lead singer Katie Stelmanis, who trained with the Toronto Children’s Opera Company. Austra’s live shows sound like an opera and a Nine Inch Nails gig wrapped into one—only a whole lot more fun. The group takes the Opera House stage this Friday alongside Montreal glitch-pop duo Blue Hawaii, local solo songstress Petra Glynt and a Chinese opera troupe from Markham’s Soong Kam Wing Music and Arts Centre (only at an Austra gig).

Fri. Dec. 19. $21. Opera House, 735 Queen St. E., 416-466-0313, ticketweb.ca.

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Relive the entire Harry Potter saga in just 70 minutes

potted-potter-best-bet

Harry Potter’s popularity is as durable as a lightning-shaped scar. Two actor-writers have cashed in on the perma-fandom by stuffing all seven volumes of the series into Potted Potter, an “unauthorized” 70-minute comedy act. The performers are Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, who are —known in the U.K. as Dan and Jeff. They’re —a vaudevillian pair of former BBC kid-show hosts who began messing around with J.K. Rowling’’s wizarding epic as a piece of satirical street theatre. The resulting stage show has toured the world, and is now returning to Toronto for a month-long run. Turner, in a pair of fat-rimmed Warby Parkers, is an exaggeratedly earnest Harry, while the stringbean Clarkson races around the stage as every other character. It’’s a tart, zany take on the wizarding world, without the time commitment.

Dec. 17 to Jan 11. $29.95––$99.95. Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St., 416-872-1212, mirvish.com.

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Discover the surprising story of Wonder Woman’s feminist, polygamist creator

(Images: Wonder Woman: courtesy of Random House; Lepore: Dari Michele)

(Images: Wonder Woman: courtesy of Random House; Lepore: Dari Michele)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, the new book by Harvard history prof and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore, is much more than the genesis story of a beloved superhero. Behind the Amazon warrior princess’s invincible bracelets, star-studded tiara and Lasso of Truth is the tale of her creator, William Moulton Marston, an American psychologist and writer. Using unpublished diaries and letters, Lepore’s impeccably researched, century-spanning volume documents Marston’s improbable existence, which somehow included both writing a magazine column that celebrated conventional family life, and, in private, polygamy and BDSM. (Ironically, Marston’s other claim to fame is the invention of a blood pressure test used in modern lie detectors.) At the Lillian H. Smith Library Lepore will converse with Globe and Mail columnist Nathalie Atkinson about how Marston channelled his suppressed identity into the pages of his series, and how his feminist superhero became an embodiment of the women’s rights movement in America.

Thurs. Dec. 11. FREE. Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College St., 416-393-7746, beguilingbooksandart.com.

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Start a strange new Christmas tradition with Henri Fabergé’s holiday rock opera

(Image: Madi Chambers)

(Image: Madi Chambers)

The avant-garde enigma Henri Fabergé (real name: Henry Fletcher) has been hovering around the city’s art, music and theatre fringes for years: he’s best known for The Adorables, a secretive supergroup featuring members of The Bicycles and Born Ruffians, who play surreal live shows that feel like East Village ’80s performance art. His latest creation, Crisis on St. Creskins, is a site-specific holiday rock opera that transforms the great rooms and hallways of the Campbell House Museum into an Edwardian naval academy, where students are staging a Christmas pageant while stoking a long-held rivalry with a nearby arts college. The show is arch and absurdist, combining cabaret, improv and punk into an irreverent new holiday tradition.

Dec. 13 to 15. $20. Campbell House Museum, 160 Queen St. W., 416-597-0227, henri-faberge.com.

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Go beyond the Grinch at Liss Gallery’s Dr. Seuss exhibition

(Images: courtesy of Dr. Seuss Enterprises)

(Images: courtesy of Dr. Seuss Enterprises)

Searching for a perfect complement to the obligatory annual viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Head to Yorkville, where the Liss Gallery is hosting a touring exhibition of the work of beloved American cartoonist and storyteller Theodor Seuss Geisel—that is, Dr. Seuss. The Art of Dr. Seuss consists of more than 50 limited-edition prints (not originals) released by the artist’s estate. Items on display will include images of preliminary sketches from Seuss classics like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and The Lorax. Meanwhile, prints of items from the artist’s surreal “secret art” collection will provide a darker, more nightmarish take on his career. The exhibition continues until Christmas Eve. Admission is free, but offerings from un-Grinchlike donors will support Autism Speaks.

Dec. 6–24. PWYC. Liss Gallery. 140 Yorkville Ave., 416-787-9872, lissgallery.com.

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Get chills at Cold Specks’s haunting hometown show

(Image: Steve Gullick)

The Etobicoke-born singer-songwriter Cold Specks was barely in her 20s when she first caught the attention of producers with a set of innovative early demos. Before long, she was collaborating with Swans and Moby, touring the world with pop paragon St. Vincent and local folk rockers Great Lake Swimmers, and headlining her own shows. She specializes in what she calls “doom soul,” a brand of dark, brooding gospel-meets-goth music steeped in the legacy of Tom Waits; check out the single “Absisto” from her latest album, Neuroplasticity, for a taste of her commanding alto, evocative lyrics and brooding instrumentation. Her live shows are haunting and intimate, blending a cappella ballads and band-backed anthems. See for yourself when Spx returns to Toronto’s Lee’s Palace this weekend.

Sun. Dec. 7. $15. Lee’s Palace, 529 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1598, leespalace.com.

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Join a riot at Death From Above 1979’s Sound Academy show

(Image: Death From Above 1979/Instagram)

(Image: Death From Above 1979/Instagram)

After an acrimonious split in 2006, Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler—known collectively as Death from Above 1979—have picked up almost exactly where they left off: their first reunion show, at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, caused an actual riot, complete with cops on horses. The Physical World, their long-awaited sophomore album, begins with a bass guitar—a forbidding, fuzzed-out rumble, like an explosion heard through a cheap phone. Then we’re right back to the visceral, frantic dance-punk template laid out a decade ago by the group’s wildly successful 2004 album, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. Like a happily unhappy marriage of Queens of the Stone Age and LCD Soundsystem, DFA 1979 makes music that throws club kids, headbangers and indie rockers together on the dance floor and lets them fight it out. Grainger and Keeler’s sound is heavy metal without the kitsch, dance music without the camp and coke. Catch them this Friday at the Sound Academy.

Dec. 5. $36.50–$59.50. The Sound Academy, 11 Polson St., 416-469-5655, ticketfly.com.