If riot is the new rave, why is everyone wearing black?

That was the question posed by my ensemble, Bright Riot, at the STRUTT wearable art show in St. Catharines. The concept, which featured a mirror-bejeweled riot cop battling grinning protesters to the sounds of the Soup Dragons “I’m Free”, proposed to inject colour and energy into what have become predictable and scripted events. Bright Riot was inspired by contemporary riot fashion, the 90s European dance scene, and cinematic depictions of youth and authority cultures. I created the outfits in six days (with the help of Christine Cosby), using mirrored tile, foam rubber, trophy parts, Hallowe’en costumes, and repurposed clothing.

Part disco ball and part South American dictator, this riot cop swings like a billy club. (©2011 Brian Yungblut photography)

When I submitted Bright Riot as a concept to the Niagara Artists Centre earlier this year, I included a lot of production notes regarding the way the characters should interact. But when I saw Bright Riot close out STRUTT, the final and fiftieth ensemble to come down the horseshoe-shaped catwalk, I was still blown away.

The rioters’ bandanas were inspired by Yellow Submarine villains The Blue Meanies.  (©2011 Brian Yungblut photography)

Director Deanna Jones used a breakdance troupe as the rioters, while the Woodshed Orchestra played a burning live version of “I’m Free”. The breakdancers hit the stage with tremendous energy, pushing the cop aside, hurling day-glo foam rubber bricks and molotov cocktails at the audience, and performing jaw-dropping acrobatics.

The rioters: Putting the “break” into breakdancing. (©2011 Brian Yungblut photography)

Bright Riot on stage at STRUTT

STRUTT was an amazing event to be part of, 15 pounds of awesome stuffed into a 10 pound sack. The WS Tyler factory building was converted into a one-night wonderland by dozens of people contributing their labour and creativity. STRUTT and NAC itself are great examples of what can be achieved by getting volunteers and participants excited about a project, and making them feel their energy is being well-used.

Photographer Brian Yungblut photographed all of the outfits backstage. You can see them all on his website: http://www.yungblutphotography.com/Strutt2011/