Exhibitionists exposes arts programming to CBC

Season 2 of Exhibitionists begins this afternoon on CBC, likely surprising many of you who didn’t realize there had been a Season 1. Or those of you who might have checked out CBC.ca. Besides the absence of a feature box promoting the show, the show’s link from the homepage schedule leads to “Sorry, we can’t find the page you requested”. CBC recommitted themselves—somewhat—to arts programming last year with the launch of series such as Exhibitionists and Crash Gallery, though a large TV audience—or marketing budget—hasn’t yet followed.

The 30-minute series highlights artists, their process and their impact on the community, and is hosted by the multi-talented Amanda Parris: artist, educator, scholar, producer, actor and playwright.

Fortunately, the TV audience is only a piece of Exhibitionists‘ mandate as a multi-platform program of short documentaries, digital series and arts-related content from across CBC. Parris calls it a flagship for CBC Arts, which is primarily a digital hub where original and aggregated content from around CBC is released year-round.

Parris is an engaging and passionate host who talks about the crucial role of digital platforms in what she and the CBC Arts team she works with are producing. “We realized we were attracting a great millennial audience online, so this season we’ve launched a YouTube channel that has some of the same content as the show, but also some content specific to YouTube.”

They’ve paid close attention to what people watched, liked and shared online, and of course what they comment on, so have a good sense of what their audience is attracted to: “Artists who are disrupting the conversation, challenging the status quo. Our audience is interested in diversity, so we don’t just stay in city centres, and we represent every medium—not just visual arts but dance, digital arts.”

“We’re interested not in presenting art that people will like all the time, but art that will spark conversations. The types of art that get the largest response are the ones that hit you in the heart or someplace intellectually or spiritually. People are interested in art that’s odd.”

Parris cites some season one standouts as photographer Dina Goldstein’s childhood icons twisted into a contemporary setting—“Ken might be a cross-dresser, Barbie looks really depressed”—and Marina Bychkova’s dolls that explore issues such as breast cancer and sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

“My hope  is we connect Canadians to art and that in turn inspires them to be more engaged with art in general,” said Parris. “Art can literally change the world. It’s not a coincidence that artists are some of the first to be targeted by repressive governments. Artists are powerful people.”

“We live in a very celebrity-obsessed culture—I just came out of a 45 minute conversation about Beyoncé, so I’m part of it—but there also needs to be room to talk about artists who aren’t necessarily interested in entertainment or celebrity but who are trying to create beautiful, provocative, innovative things that change our world. I’m so excited to be part of CBC’s commitment to doing that.”

Exhibitionists airs Sundays at 4:30 p.m. on CBC, or find segments online at http://www.cbc.ca/beta/arts/exhibitionists.