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Check out these cool video interviews that BodyCandy took while experiencing the art at Infringement Festival, along with the companion article below, written by our own BodyCandy team member, Janna.

The Buffalo Infringement Festival: Wild & Free and Made for “We”

My favorite time of the year for the last seven years has just wrapped up and I’m still reeling from the amazing energy force that is the Buffalo Infringement Festival or BIF (for short).  When you can walk down the street and see a play, hear a poetry reading, watch an independent film, watch some people having an impromptu parade, stop and jam with the street buskers and then end up in the park to see a group of fire dancers flipping fire into the air, all in the span of a few hours, you know you’ve landed in the middle of BIF.

The idea of an Infringement Festival was conceived in 2001 by a theater group in Montreal who perform a show called Car Stories.   They were performing in the Montreal Fringe Festival when some of their material (controversial–politically and socially) was deemed “unworthy” by the corporate sponsors of the Fringe festival.  The Car Stories show was kicked out of the festival, despite paying their exorbitant entry fees.  The Car Stories group, including the illustrious Jason McLean, decided that they were not going to let corporate disapproval stop them from performing their street theater and they came up with the idea of an Infringement Festival, to provide an outlet for all the other “subversive” arts groups who didn’t fit into the corporate mold and in 2004, the first official Infringement Festival was born.  They had several conditions in the Infringement Festival mandate to keep it true to its roots.  These conditions were that it would always be free for all artists to sign up, that everyone who signs up will be accepted, that the fest would be organized by a non-hierarchical collective group (no one person in charge), that it would encourage art that challenged the social normatives, that artists would keep all the proceeds from all of their performances and, most importantly, that no corporate sponsors would be allowed to dictate show content, ever.

During the first Infringement, a theater enthusiast from Buffalo, named Kurt Schneiderman, happened to be in Montreal performing in the aforementioned Fringe Festival when he came across the group of Infringers and immediately knew that this was an idea that HAD to be implemented in Buffalo, NY.  So directly upon returning home, Schneiderman began work on what would (one year later) become the first ever Buffalo Infringement Festival.  The first year (2005) had 44 different acts performing 144 performances in 11 different venues throughout Buffalo’s historic Allentown district, all on a fundraised budget of $49!  I was so fortunate to be a part of the inception as a lowly poet girl speaking my soul out in a parking lot for 11 straight days.  The experience changed my life forever.

After the first year, the spark of BIF flew through the arts community of Buffalo and by the second year, the number of acts and venues had doubled, I’d become a much bigger part of the organizing process and we started having real fundraisers to make the fest happen, raising the money one dollar at a time from the same people who attend the festival events.  Each year, BIF has grown exponentially, expanding not just in size, but dimension—be that the number of venues or the content of the art.  BIF has redefined the meaning of art for a lot of people.

This year’s festival was the biggest yet with 1,200 separate performances in 50 venues across the traditional 11 days. These included 190 musical acts, 24 film and video productions, 20 dance troupes or individual dancers, 53 visual artists putting their work on display, 35 separate theater productions and 27 poetry and spoken word performers.  This year, Infringement was hard to ignore as it took over the streets and almost every inch of sidewalk up and down the Allentown district was full of people, laughing, playing music, drawing mandalas on the sidewalk, hula-hooping, juggling fire and more.

There is really something inspiring about bringing art directly to the people, incorporating social and political change into the content, and literally changing the landscape around us to create a better world.  That being said, BIF tends to bring out all the freaks and the geeks (most of whom are artists of some type anyway) and there was quite a bit of photographic evidence of that this year.  I will let the photos speak the thousands of words that I could try to use to describe the enormous impact that this festival has on my city and my life.  I challenge all of you to start your own Infringement Festival in your city, your town, your world.  Rally the artists and bring the art to the people.  Happy Infringing!!

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