Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Artists in the GTA: Faisal Anwar profile at Yonge Street Media

The internet is, to some people, all about connecting. But to others, it can be about reinforcing distances between people as well.

I got to thinking about this while writing my latest profile for Yonge Street Media. It took me to Oakville, where I visited with Faisal Anwar, a Pakistan-raised artist who bridges interests in the web, theatre and social work. Here's an excerpt from the profile:

Some of Anwar's projects—like a 2010 Nuit Blanche piece that turned viewer texts and tweets from Toronto, Karachi and New York into leaves on a single, growing tree—have provided surprisingly poetic visualizations of local and global community. Other ventures have been technically prescient, like a 2004 video-game interface that required children to use broad physical gestures instead of sedentary button-pushing—a paradigm the Nintendo Wii used two years later to achieve mass-market success.

His current projects play with storytelling. Pluscity, a collaboration with artist Siobhan O'Flynn, seeks to make Twitter streams during big civic festivals "more meaningful to people who are experiencing that event" by visualizing them as flowers and planets. Throughout, Anwar has been interested in "the idea of how the audience actually participates in a narrative," whether that narrative is theatrical, social, technological or otherwise.

"I'm trying to work against the randomness of information. Yes, we can share everywhere [in a web 2.0 environment]. But then how do you get focus? How do you find a meaningful narrative around it? How do we generate a community around it?"

To find out more, read on at Yonge Street.

Let me also say that Anwar's wife, Tazeen Quayyum, is an artist too, and makes very interesting work that's more in the realm of painting and sculpture.

(Image of Faisal Anwar by Tanja-Tiziana for Yonge Street Media)

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