Elly on the Arts: innovating with live streaming and online broadcasting

“There’s a very cool event coming up this week within our arts and culture community. It’s actually an online event, which means it will be available across Manitoba – no, wait – all over Canada, or maybe we mean all over the world.”

There’s a very cool event coming up this week within our arts and culture community. This is actually an online event, which means it will be available anywhere in Manitoba – no, wait – anywhere in Canada, or maybe we mean anywhere in the world. The whole internet is still magical to us (and yes, we’re aware it’s years old now, but that really doesn’t help) so we really don’t understand it, but it’s called the World Wide Web for a reason.

Anyway, local visual artist Mike Spencer created a piece, written and directed by himself and Raphael Saray, titled ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (Shrug). The title is only the beginning of the innovations. It is described in its publicity material as “an innovative live production using a hybrid presentation method, which combines live video, live cartoon puppets and pre-recorded video segments. In this original comedy, a conflicted couple finds himself on an epic journey through cyberspace.

Spencer describes it as live action with real-time cartoon actors and puppets interspersed with pre-recorded moments. The show will take place on March 26 with a watch party at Johnny’s Social Club. Comedians Susan Gunn Saray, Alain Lachapelle, Miranda Bowman and John Bettger will perform live, as will cartoon puppets. We have no idea how they made these puppets learn their lines, but that’s just another of the mysterious elements of this production.

A third mystical moment pays the show. You can watch it from the comfort of your own home, as it is streamed live. It’s $20 and there’s a QR code you can scan for instructions to pay and listen to the show. We mean it when we said magic – the technology is just amazing.

¯_(ツ)_/¯ (Shrug) is a collaboration between quite disparate artists working in such a wide variety of media. Spencer is primarily a visual artist whose artistic practice includes ceramics, photography and painting. Saray is a performing artist who has written and performed in theater productions at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for several years and is also no stranger to the Flin Flon stage. Of course, he is also well known for his “day job” as a radio presenter at CFAR. Spencer quits her role as gallery manager at the NorVA Center to devote more time to visual art production work. Their collaboration on this project is very exciting for the public as well as for the artists.

The funding process for this project is interesting in itself. Spencer received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to fund this work through the ‘support’ activities stream, designed to ‘invest in the long-term viability of Manitoba’s arts and culture sector’. He applied to the ‘Adapt’ programme, which has a mandate to[assist] candidates who are responding to the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting their artistic practice, expanding their skills, forming new relationships or creating new works.

“This funding round is made possible through the Government of Manitoba’s investment in the Arts and Culture Sustainability Fund to support Manitoba’s arts and culture sector, which has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Try logging on Saturday for a whole new, never-before-seen experience – you know, the kind Flin Flon is famous for.

Corina C. Butler