Congress 2023 sustainable decision to create memories without swag

Arial view of Kaneff

By Elaine Smith

Among the many sights for Congress 2023 attendees to enjoy at York next month, four Swag Stages will host pop-up dance and musical performances.

Located in high-traffic outdoor locations on York’s Keele Campus, the community can enjoy various artistic performances selected by Congress 2023 organizers in lieu of the swag that conference attendees often receive as souvenirs.

“I discovered that only 21 per cent of branded items are kept for any length of time,” says Liz McMahan, director of Congress 2023. “Promotional items definitely have their time and place, but with such a diverse group of over 8,000 people, it would be difficult to find something useful for everyone.”

Swag Stage performer and Arts, Media, Performance & Design PhD candidate Collette Murray will perform with the Coco Collective
Swag Stage performer and Arts, Media, Performance & Design PhD candidate Collette Murray will perform with the Coco Collective, an organization of which she is the artistic director

Collette Murray, a York PhD student in dance studies, and the Coco Collective are among the dozen or more acts who will bring joy and relaxation to campus during an event that focuses heavily on papers, posters and panel discussions.

“I appreciate that the Congress organizers are expanding the conference’s reach to include additional ways that intellects engage in research, and performance is one of them,” says Murray, who will also be presenting a performance art discourse on Afro-diasporic dances practices as freedom at a Black Canadian Studies Association session.

McMahan also says that, “Given Congress 2023’s theme ‘Reckonings and Re-Imaginings’ and York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we thought about our responsibility and how to make Congress 2023 a more sustainable experience. We wondered about what we could give them that wouldn’t end up in landfill and decided on pop-up performances to surprise and delight people.”

Congress 2023 academic convenor Andrea Davis, Joel Ong, an associate professor from the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design and McMahan collaborated to create a list of York-related performers who were interested in participating. Each performer will commit to a morning or afternoon performance and will circulate among the four stages to give more attendees an opportunity to enjoy their work.

“I hope that in addition to their morning coffee, the performances help people wake up and give them a way to de-stress after presenting papers and attending conferences all day,” McMahan says. “The entire York community is also welcome to experience these performances and I hope will seek them out.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.