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Ellis and Tannahill’s ‘The Videofag Book’ documents the extraordinary Toronto landmark

The Videofag Book

William Ellis & Jordan Tannahill, eds., 192 pgs, BookThug, bookthug.ca, $20

This fascinating anthology records the life of Toronto art space Videofag, in photo-graphs, prose, poetry, and a short play. Situated in a Kensington Market store-front for only four years, Tannahill’s and Ellis’ apartment-cum-art-hub hosted a who’s-who of the city’s queer and art scenes, and The Videofag Book documents the people, the space, and the moment.

Tannahill and Ellis were smart to include such a variety of media here: the mix of photos and text, of fiction and essay, triangulates a feeling more than straight forwardly cataloguing events (though there is a handy list of everything hosted at Videofag in the back). Taking up about half of the volume, Greg MacArthur’s play A Man Vanishes is the clear stand-out piece in the book. MacArthur gets across a playful, manic tone that makes for great storytelling, and the slightly fantastical elements evoke a scene more viscerally than the various, though less fictional, pieces are able to.

The portrait of the time and place set out in The Videofag Book is very compelling. The book is certainly a mythologizing exercise: it induces the feelings of having-missed-out that histories of the Belle Époque or Weimar Berlin rely on for their interest. But the fact that the book makes you wish you were there is exactly the way in which it is successful.

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