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AWW Free School: Extreme Music Therapy

Tue April 16, 6:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Co-presented with Ken Moffatt, The Jack Layton Chair, and Melanie Panitch, The Director of The Office of Social Innovation, Ryerson University

Inspired by the exhibition Ai Weiwei: Unbroken, this unique series in collaboration with Ryerson University will transform the exhibition into a site for social action. Four interdisciplinary workshops, focused on documentary media, spoken word, performance, and online journalism, will be offered free with registration. These workshops, co-led by artists, facilitators, and writers, will activate the exhibition by connecting its themes to the practice of public citizenship.

March 5: Embodied Narratives
March 19: Documenting Dissent
April 2: Fake News
April 16: Extreme Music Therapy
June 4: AWW Free School Final: 6/4/89

6:30 – 7:30 pm: In-gallery workshop with Carla Gillis
7:30 pm: Doors open for metal show
8 – 10 pm: Metal show

When Ai Weiwei was released from his detainment by the Chinese government in 2011, he put out the self-proclaimed heavy metal single “Dumbass” as “a kind of self-therapy” to help him deal with the traumatic experience of being held in detention by the state. With this in mind, writer, musician, and therapist-in-training Carla Gillis facilitates an in-gallery heavy metal listening exercise, followed by metal show featuring angry queer gloom cult Vile Creature; author, activist, and musician Chris colohan (sect/cursed/burning love); and more.

Carla Gillis is a writer, musician and therapist-in-training in Toronto. She is a former music editor and ongoing contributor at Toronto’s urban weekly, NOW Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and is a senior student at the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy. Raised in Halifax, she grew up on her older sisters’ heavy metal and classic rock record collections, and began playing in bands as a teen in the 90s. In addition to building a private therapy practice, she continues to write, record and perform music, currently in the heavy rock band Overnight with her sister, and is at work on a book that draws from her experiences touring Canada as a teenager in the Halifax indie band Plumtree.

About the exhibition

Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most influential artists and human rights activists, as well as one of China’s most formidable critics. Known for smashing conventions—and ceramics—with iconic works like Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, he upends the cultural traditions and materials of his native China.

This highly-anticipated and timely exhibition explores the breaking of boundaries, both physical and symbolic, and considers how the artist’s ceramic works form a basis for his ongoing exploration of urgent social justice themes, including immigration, freedom of speech, and the repression of dissent. Learn more

Presenting Sponsor

La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso

Exhibition Partners



Hal Jackman Foundation

Kim Spencer McPhee Barristers PC

AW Asia

Media Partner

Toronto Star

Programs Sponsor


AWW Free School Partners

Photo: Barry Douglas