In the midst of festival season here in St. John’s there’s one that is unlike any other. Hold Fast (formally the Art Marathon) is a contemporary art festival that brings together local and visiting artists in multiple venues across downtown St. John’s.

The main event is the Art Crawl, a wandering nighttime art experience akin to events such as Nuit Blanche. This year the crawl features some seriously amazing artists working in a wide range of media from signal flags to storefronts, performance art to projection, and a variety of local pop up projects. Other events include artist-led workshops, imbibed artist talks, a game of 120s, and a steamroller.

Call me biased, but I believe Hold Fast offers something that other festivals tend to underplay or miss out on altogether. That is, along with celebration, great art, and community, Hold Fast opens up a space for imagination, experimentation, and critical discussion about society and the role of the artist.

There are a delicious amount of head-scratching art experiences that happen at Eastern Edge. Experiences that will cause you to question your preconceptions of what art is, what art can do for the world, and please you so much that you will want to stick around and get drunk with everyone.

Suffice to say, there are things that happen at Eastern Edge and its annual summer festival that aren’t a part of the normal dog and pony show. There’s space there to forget about the sale, the pursuit of perfection, and really say something.

As a space run by artists for 30+ years, Eastern Edge has a long history of provocative practice, of inclusion and collaboration while bigger galleries can be distracted by bureaucracy, forgetting why they exist in the first place. If you want to hear some wild stories head to the festival’s Fancy Artist Talks on Friday night, this year hosted by evil art wizard Jason Penney. This event is one of my personal favourites of the entire year.

Heck, call me a romantic too for what better way to spend your Saturday night then strolling under the stars with your pals, looking for weird art magic in every corner made by some of the country’s best contemporary artists. Plus, “catching them all” will garner you a discount entry to The Ship that night to hear Ritual Frames, the Vocal X Choir, and The Kubasonics, some of St. John’s most experimental sonic artists.

So strap on your life-jacket. Here’s a taste of what’s in store for you at this year’s Art Crawl. Check out Eastern Edge Gallery’s website for Hold Fast’s full program. There’s plenty of accessible, free, and amazing events for everyone.

Art Crawl:

First up we have Life of a Craphead. This art-comedy duo hails from Toronto and have presented work at some of the countries biggest venues like the Power Plant and the Banff Centre. For Hold Fast, Amy Lam and Jon McCurley will be opening a store in the Wandering Pavillion staffed by bugs for bugs. Yes you read that correctly. Bugs Store is a real life extension of their feature length film that satirizes contemporary pop culture and politics. Life of a Craphead will also present their film Bugs and a film-making-on-a budget workshop.

Next up we have one of Newfoundland’s own, Jonathan Green. You may recognize his name from the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art and St. Michael’s Printshop who carry some of his printed work. Today Green makes his home in Edmonton where he dreams about Newfoundland on foggy days. For the crawl Green invites you to play with code using the International Code of Signals (ICS), nautical signal flags whose poetry will be your next best Instagram tag. This work will be located at Eastern Edge on Harbour Drive.

Another duo, VERSA will melt the boundary between music and visual art through a unique live performance at Christina Parker Gallery. With his bass guitar, Alex Ricci will provide a rich sonic landscape that vibrates a liquid bath of colour further manipulated by Monika Hauck. Pulling monoprints from the bath, audiences will be able to witness the performance through projection and also take home the prints as unique records of the event. Further paper marbling techniques will be shown at their workshop.

Passing through McMurdo’s Lane (Duke of Duckworth alley), local art heroes Kailey Bryan and Pepa Chan  will be found at dinner. For four hours the artists will feed each other. An experiment in gluttonous consumption and an emotional rollercoaster, Eat Your Heart Out will explore new territory for both of these artists bite by bite. Previous works by Kailey and Pepa explore identity, vulnerability, and the body. You can also check out their workshop on navigating conflicting emotions.

Next up at NIFCO, Montreal based artist Nadège Grebmeier Forget‘s durational performance Reflecting On Track No. 9 (Interlude) will continue the artist’s exploration of intimacy and fiction through the manipulation of a series of props constructing a dreamy digital experience that is both decadent and disconcerting. Here’s looking at you, looking at me, looking at you, kid. Nadege will also host a mid-day pyjama party during Hold Fast.

Rounding off the official artists for the Art Crawl, Walter Scott an interdisciplinary artist working across writing, video, performance and sculpture. His new work The Sun Set Sideways will occupy Rocket Bakery. The performance tells the story of Spike, a television writer from Los Angeles who is visited by two non-human characters representing rationality, desire, fear, sexuality, and faith. This is a work about the manipulation of narrative. In addition, Scott is the author of the Wendy comic series and will host a comic writing workshop. 

So there you have it, get out and enjoy Hold Fast this week. You’re bound to have the best story at your next dinner party as a result. The art crawl is the best social art adventure you’re gonna get all year. See you on the street.