Sports bars are so cliché – neon signs, projections screens, beer, more beer. So David Frankovich is holding his own Grey Cup party within the beer-scented environs of the Gladstone Hotel with a little historical refinement. Sipping Earl Grey tea – whose cup did you think it was, anyway? – and nibbling at biscuits at the hotel’s Art Bar, Frankovich, an artist, and a friend provide offer a hiccup of an unexpected sort as one kind of male-bonding ritual meets another in a very public way.
It’s the final act of a week-long performance art series put on by Toronto’s FADO performance art centre. Called “Escapist Action: Performance in Recession,” the series embraces the upsurge in cheap-pleasure indulgence that down economic times seem to spark, booze and TV among them. The tea party may have none of the former, but they’re in for the latter. If you brave the biscuits and finery, they’d probably tell you: ‘Riders by 2.
Towards the end of the series, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Recessions are supposed to be a natural part of business, and what goes down must come up. In an inclusive gesture both celebratory but cautionary, David Frankovich’s Grey Cup Party was a performance, installation and intervention staged on the day of the Grey Cup (the Super Bowl of the north). Camaraderie and sportsmanship were viewed through a queer lens, as historical victorian references and various Earl Greys were mixed. “The Grey Cup is also the name of the trophy given to the winning team of the CFL and is named for Albert Grey, the 4th Earl Grey and former Governor General of Canada. Every year, millions of Canadians watch the Grey Cup from home on their TVs. Earl Grey tea is an aromatic tea blend made with oil of bergamot. Like the Grey Cup, it is also named for an Earl Grey, but a different one: Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.” Male lineage as patriarchy were subtly critiqued in this piece, while other surprises happened along the way. Four ‘dandies’ sat to watch the football game in a grey object adorned room in a Victorian hotel, while other spectators (mostly women) came for tea and the performance. The performers were consumed in watching football, and the audience was consumed with watching the watching of footballBeyond the artist’s control were the commercials aired on the CBC that day, which were frequent, gendered, and aiming at a specific clientèle that weren’t necessarily present that night. While the performance intended to subvert the dominant narrative of the Grey Cup, it did so while inadvertently indulging in class tourism; plus, only so much tea come be consumed before getting the point. As the game wore on, eventually the Dandies started to serve tea to the audience, mingling, as unclear how the narrative would end as everyone else. An upset by the Montreal Alouettes ended the performance, the football game, and the series. Like some recessions, the problems continue, slowly fading out with a murmur, leaving most people to the daily monotony as if nothing had happened.