Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm going out,
flies, so relax,
make love.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Degrades the dress I wear.

A power of butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly,
Meadows of majesty concedes
And easy sweeps of sky.

So I must baffle at the hint
And cipher at the sign,
And make much blunder, if at last
I take the clew divine.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vancouver Art Gallery librarian Cheryl Siegel's annual Xmas tree:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

After a slow lunch at the Wedgewood I ran into an old friend who once worked in book publishing but left to make his fortune in what we now call “electronic games.” Does he miss the world his new line of work helped to alter? Apparently. “Had I known what games would do to books, films and music, I never would have sold my soul to ___.”

Interesting that he should resort to the supernatural to account for his actions, and that had he stayed in publishing, none of this would have happened.

We live at a time when there is so much to apply our minds to, yet the content has never been so limited. In Literature, the magic of Harry Potter gave way to the narcissistic bloodsucking of Twilight. Part of me understands this, while another part blames an infantile culture of elimination that chooses the one over the many and the market as its arbiter.

Maybe it is time to read these books closer, as allegories, as evidence of the “invisible hand” Adam Smith wrote about in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” or what Karl Marx wrote in Volume One of Das Kapital: "Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” With knowledge comes understanding.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.

Pray you, who does the wolf love?

The lamb.

Ay, to devour him; as the hungry plebeians would the
noble Marcius.

He's a lamb indeed, that baes like a bear.

He's a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A small room above a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

This morning my neighbour had a caller; an actor like her, someone she has been rehearsing with.

Occasionally a line seeped through, always recognizable. Or maybe they all seeped through, and I only heard the ones I recognized.

From the sounds of it they are making a play based on selected lines from Shakespeare plays. And now they are arguing over what to call it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Today is the thirteenth and final meeting of those enrolled in Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s HUMN 311 F006 (Expanded Literary Practices), a special topics seminar course designed by practicing artists based on their research interests. As my interests include convergences between visual and literary practices, we looked at everything from Baudelaire to Flarf, from the Cubism of Gertrude Stein to the poems of Dan Graham.

The course began with four lectures based on a reading of Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith’s introductory essays to their Against Expression (2010) anthology of “conceptual writing,” followed by weekly class presentations. At the end of last week’s presentations, participants submitted their essays, which I have now marked and will be returning to them this afternoon.

Although HUMN 311 courses are academic, I gave participants the option of doing a “creative” paper in place of an expository essay, or an additional "creative" work to enhance their grade.

Below is a video by Petyna Bougie, who presented and wrote on Flarf poetry, a search engine generated poetry that begins with odd juxtapositions. After her presentation, it occurred to Petyna that she might make something based on her longstanding interest in “bad dancing.” At the end of her essay, I found a page that read:

Youtube Flarf videos by Petyna Bougie

Flarf Feeder – The initial video collage of the Google video responses from typing in “Bad” + “Dancer”. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga also came up in the search which is why it is the audio track for the video.

Inappropriate Bad Dancing – My performing * the video I put together for Flarf Feeder. The Clash was chosen as the audio track as a contrast to the choreography that was being done and the length of the song fit the video.

The videos are both searchable by title on Youtube.

* Bad Dancing is better and easier when you have an audience [happy face emoticon].

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A small room above a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The song on my guitar today is "When First Unto This Country", about an immigrant who visits his girlfriend on horseback, only to one day "spy" a finer horse, which he steals. Unfortunately the horse belongs to a military captain, and this magnifies his crime. The immigrant is sent to prison, where he continues to visit his girlfriend -- in mind only.

I have heard many versions of this song over the years, but the one I like best is from the early 1960s and belongs to the New Lost City Ramblers. Guitar, banjo, and that saddest of old time instruments, the autoharp.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recently, a friend brought to my attention the fiction of Bruno Shulz (1892-1942), a Polish artist and writer who died in the Second World War.

Below is the third paragraph from The Republic of Dreams (1939), as translated by Walter Arndt:

"The garden plots at the outskirts of town are planted as if at the world's edge and look across their fences into the infinity of the anonymous plain. Just beyond the tollgates the map of the region turns nameless and cosmic like Canaan. Above that thin forlorn shipper of land a sky deeper and broader than anywhere else, a sky like a vast gaping dome many stories high, full of unfinished frescos and improvisations, swirling draperies and violent ascensions, opens up once again."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Currently at CSA Space is “Into Thin Air”, a selection of twelve digital photographs by Vancouver-based art writer, curator, photographer, bookseller and gallerist Christopher Brayshaw, taken between 2008 and 2011 in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The curator of the exhibition is Steven Tong, who likely had a hand in the sequencing of these works, a sequence I will follow in the writing of this review.

The first thing that comes to mind after viewing these pictures are the angles from which they are captured. In the first picture (Opunta fiscus-indica, 2011), a cactus, like so many of those succulent fountains that greet us as we walk the streets of California’s largest city, stands at the edge of the sidewalk. From there, the photographer’s eye is drawn downwards (La Cienega, 2010), where curled leaves gather neatly at the base of the tree from which they have fallen and a ghost-like reflection dances in the shadows to the right. Following that, a garden of cacti (A Heterogeneity, 2011), where Latin nameplates, not fallen foliage, beckon at the base of these plants. Following that, the contents of a shop window (Antique Dealers Window, Los Angeles, CA, 2010), after which the high-angle view is broken (In a Conservatory, 2011) by a dead-on view similar to the one that greeted us at the outset (Opunta fiscus-indica). The difference here is that now, for the first time, the photographer is on the inside (of a glassed section of a building), looking out (past the cactus before him).

The sixth picture in the exhibition marks a shift in light, colour and subject. The photographer is still looking downwards, but this time on the outside looking in; in this instance, at a worker digging a hole, his back turned from the camera. Between the photographer and the worker is a gridded safety screen. After that, we are back in L.A., looking at the largest work in the show (Cosmopolitan Book Shop, Los Angeles, CA, 2010), a picture that hangs alone on the west wall, dividing the north and south walls of the gallery, and perhaps setting up an expectation for the second half of the exhibition. Or perhaps a review of what preceded it? Indeed, I see something of those curled leaves in the peeling letters of the book shop’s sign, a suggestion that the book shop, like many book shops these days, is headed for what might be its final winter. Like the hole-digging worker, and unlike the other pictures before it, the book shop is shot at some remove. But while the worker in the sixth picture is viewed with Waddellian admiration, there is something menacing about the book shop, where behind its counter sits a mean old man staring balefully at bursting shelves, with no signs of life between them.

Distance from the subject is both resumed and collapsed in the seventh picture (Blind, 2010). The focus here is not on what hangs in a smudged and dusty window but whatever is on the other side of the house that surrounds it, above which the sky is reduced to a small patch of blue and the house itself is a “blind” between photographer and subject, predator and prey. Are we disappointed, then, to find that the eighth picture (Coat Suspended from a Tree, 2008) is not worthy of such secrecy, that the union of a beige coat wedged neatly into the V of a tree looks as natural as the leaves at the base of the second picture, so natural in fact that it does not seem out of place and therefore hardly worth noticing? Of the tenth picture (Purity, 2011), a rain-soaked window sends us back to the grid between photographer and worker, and again we find the photographer on the inside looking out (or do we?). The eleventh picture (Surveillance Tower and Palm Tree, Livingston, CA, 2010) has the photographer outside once more, only this time he is looking up (for the first time in the exhibition) above a grassy knoll to a bright blue sky, before which stand traffic signs, light standards and a surveillance camera, all instances of social control, all aware of each other in this most constructivist of compositions. Of the final picture (Arroyo, 2010), the energy, though hidden, is gravitational: water pours out of a dusty mound into a creek hidden by brush. This work, to my mind, is the finest of the twelve pictures in the exhibition. A haunting composition, and a fitting end to an intriguing sequence.

What to make of this narrative? Given the photographer’s penchant for science-fiction, I am reminded of Philip K. Dick and his interest in the unraveling of the ordinary into the otherworldly, like that which lies on the other side of the aforementioned house (“Blind”). Maybe what “Ragle Gumm” sees (or thinks he sees) in Time Out of Joint (1959). Either way, after walking through “Into Thin Air”, I could only walk through it again.

But the artist is also an art critic, and this is significant too. Many of the pictures in this exhibition are reminiscent of the artists he has written on and curated. I mentioned Stephen Waddell in relation to the sixth picture (An Excavation), but that same picture also evokes an artist obsessed with holes and those who dig them: Jeff Wall. Cacti (specifically gardens) feature prominently in the work of Scott McFarland, while the coat in the tree looks like a "Roy Arden". Mike Grill also makes an appearance. But rather than see these works as derivative, what comes to my mind is not homage but a writer out for a walk with his camera, where the thoughts that occur to those who mull over what they write about are sometimes best expressed not in words but in pictures. I think Christopher Brayshaw – and curator Steven Tong – have reminded us of that with this thoughtful and worthwhile exhibition.