Saturday, June 30, 2012

Video Ping-Pong (c.1969)

Three knobs -- horizontal, vertical and "english."

When Pong came on the market in the early 1970s, the only function on the control unit was a vertical lever. If players wanted to mix it up, they did so by changing the on-screen paddle to one of three sizes, the smallest being the same size as the ball. (Speed was also a variable -- normal, faster and fastest.)

But this "english" function -- why was it dropped?

Seems there is less room for "english" these days.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kasabian covering Lana Del Rey's "Video Games".

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Before Lana Del Rey, there was Tom Anselmi.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not Norwegian

Not sure why the crackers who made this video have Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King (1876) in the background, but I'm sure they meant well, Grieg being Norwegian.

Speaking of Norway, her bicentennial is coming up -- two hundred years free of Sweden!

Of course other Scandinavian countries have their own problems with Sweden, who, in their own way, behave like the United States in North America or Iran in the Middle East.

Those familiar with Lars Von Trier's TV mini-series The Kingdom (1994) will recall how well the Danish writer/director dealt with the relationship between the staff of a Danish hospital and a visiting Swedish doctor.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Waterloo (1974)

ABBA's "Waterloo" arrived in North America the summer before Grade Seven. Down the street from where I lived was an electronic appliance shop that sold stereo consoles alongside ovens and washing machines. On a pegboard wall above the record bins hung the 45 rpm singles, whose order changed on Tuesdays, based on what C-FUN was playing.

I remember taking a lot of guff for buying this single. Most of my friends were listening to Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin and Elton John, as I was too, but I liked the colours and frequencies in ABBA's song, how they made me feel, so I didn't care.

"But you can hear their accents!" said a girl friend, as if an accent was synonymous with a bad note, as if it's not right for a boy to be listening to a song like "Waterloo".

ABBA went on to sell millions of singles. Unfortunately they never produced another song as good as how I felt while listening to "Waterloo" (though "Knowing Me, Knowing You" was close).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

En karlekshistoria (1970)

En karlekshistoria (1970) became known to viewers outside Scandinavia as A Swedish Love Story, which is odd, because until then Swedish films looked like they were made by Swedes in Sweden.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pictures of Summer

As in Sweden, summer in the United States is a time of eros. However, unlike their U.S. counterparts, Swedish filmmakers use longer shots and fewer words.

Friday, June 22, 2012


A couple weeks ago Criterion re-released Ingmar Bergman's Monika (1953) on DVD.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hello Rolla!

A photo taken between sets on the Main Stage, sent to me this morning by Lindsay Brown, who, along with Brian Jungen, will be joining guide Wayne Sawchuk on one of his legendary horseback expeditions into the Muskwa-Kechika sometime this week.

Not sure what I was saying when this picture was taken, but if I had to guess it might have been a shout out to one of the finest production crews I have ever had the pleasure of working with -- Chris (stage manager), Barry (monitors), Brian (FOH sound) and Dave (equipment). If not that, then a "thank you" to Emelie and Larry Mattson, and their sons Dean and Karl, for allowing this festival to happen on their ranch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Returned home last night after four great days at Rolla, with trips to nearby Dawson Creek and a dinner at the home of Sweetwater 905 co-organizer Donna Kane and her partner Wayne Sawchuk, who provided festival-goers with a saddle packing demo.

While there are many fine musicians in the Dawson Creek region, the best known is probably Roy Forbes, who recorded under his childhood nickname ("Bim") in the 70s to the mid-80s.

Below is my favorite "Bim" song, part of the great "CanCon" wave that, had legislation not been enacted to expose such talent, never would have made it to my radio.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The main stage at Sweetwater 905.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Glezhe Na'che

Day One of the Sweetwater 905 Festival is in the books. Eleven hours of non-stop performances, with visual art displays and horse-drawn public transit.

Of the many acts last night, a highlight for me was a trio from Prince George that performs under the name Glezhe Na'che.

As emcee I read out quite a few bios, but Glezhe Na'che's caught my eye, a bio that spoke not of genre or record labels but what happens along the way.

"Slow, low-key, and constantly searching for a melody. Waking from a dream to find that translation is not for the mind, but an exercise of the heart. Glezhe Na'che has been on a seemingly endless effort to find some peace and quiet; however, stumbling into a few hummable tunes during a sporadic and somewhat tumultuous road to enlightenment has yet to generate the desired outcome... Always the unsuspecting storyteller, Glezhe Na'che promises to sink or swim when under the watchful eye of the audience and his acoustic sets have the ability to do just that."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rolla, B.C.

Tomorrow I fly to Dawson Creek on a twin-engined, medium-range turboprop to emcee the Sweetwater 905 Arts and Music Festival at Rolla, B.C. This annual weekend festival, held on the grounds of the Mattson Family ranch, features music, poetry and visual art by “the community, the province and beyond.”

The last time I saw Dawson was in 1972, when my mother sent me from Port Edward, B.C., where we spent part of our summers, to my aunt at Edmonton. It was on the windy, blue-skied nothingness of the Dawson airport tarmac that the flight attendant walked me from a smaller plane to a larger DC3. (I will never forget that walk.)

A more recent visit to the Peace took place in 1998, during a reading tour organized by poets Barry McKinnon of the College of New Caledonia and G.P. Lainsbury of Northern Lights College (G.P. will be reading at Sweetwater this year). It was at Fort St. John's North Peace Cultural Centre that I met Emilie and her sons Dean (who did the tractor/sun/barn logo for this year's festival) and Karl, whose exhibitions opened that night at the gallery adjacent to my reading.

I am looking forward to seeing the Mattson Family again. The last time we ganged together was at Edmonton, where our mutual friend Brian Jungen had an opening at the AGA and we were invited to the dinner. It was fun catching up with the Mattsons, just as it will be fun seeing them on their home turf, at Rolla. But even more fun because Brian will be there too, fresh from the most recent exhibition of his work (his dog run piece below) at Documenta 13.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Juha Widing

In 1970 Imperial Oil Ltd. introduced their Esso Power Player promotion at gas stations across Canada. With every fill-up, drivers were given a packet of stamp-sized hockey “cards” for collection in a booklet (see above), also provided by Esso.

These cards were hugely popular when I was an eight-year-old, and the hardest card to find was Juha Widing, a centre for what was then the lowly Los Angeles Kings.

Although I never managed to find Juha for my booklet, Brian Smith did, and sometimes while walking near his house I would ask if I could look at him, rushing down the boards, his golden hair matching the piping of his mostly purple "road" uniform.

The Kings had unusual uniforms, the same colours as the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers, with whom they shared the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood. The Lakers were a winning team; the Kings were not.

The closest the Kings came to a Stanley Cup was in 1993, when Wayne Grezky led them to the final, only to lose to Montreal. By then the Kings had exchanged their purple and gold for silver, black and white, to match the National Football League’s Los Angeles Raiders.

I have remained a Los Angeles Kings fan since Imperial Oil’s promotion. And now, after forty-five years in the National Hockey League, the Kings have won the Stanley Cup.

While watching the team celebrate their Game Six victory last night, I saw lots of former Kings players, but not Juha. Players from his era were not included. But even if they were, he would not be among them. Juha Widing passed away in 1984, at the age of 37.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Western Front 'n' Centre

This March the Western Front turns forty. For those unfamiliar with this historic Vancouver artist-run centre, the Western Front was founded by a group of locally-based visual artists, musicians, poets and dancers who purchased the former Knights of Pythias Hall at the northeast corner of 8th and Scotia as both a place to live and a place to continue their experiments in food preparation, collaboration, installation, movement, performance and video -- in a non-institutionalized setting.

Over the years all but one of the original founders have dispersed, some selling their stake, others to heaven. Of the original founders, Eric Metcalfe remains in an Ikea-like suite at the bottom-rear of the building, while Hank Bull, who arrived shortly after the original founders took possession, occupies a rustic island-style apartment on the top floor overlooking the entrance. Running things now is a group of visual artists, musicians, dancers, curators and archivists in their mid-thirties to mid-sixties, all of whom work within (and sometimes without) the templates of public institutional funding.

The present regime is led by Caitlin Jones, who arrived two years ago from the Guggenheim Museum, where she held a combined research position in both the Curatorial and Conservation departments. Jones’s archival training is apparent in the centre’s current direction, which is focused on the material, ephemeral, mythical and logical inventory that has accrued since the Front opened its doors in 1973.

One program that has brought the archive to the fore is the Past as Prologue residency, of which I was an early participant (Three Readings: Camera, Tape and Sound), followed by Sophie Belair Clement, whose research resulted in a multi-channel exhibition based on an August 1, 1974 visit by Fluxus member Robert Filliou, a patron saint of the early Fronters.

Earlier this year, Instant Coffee was invited to "exhibit" Feeling So Much Yet Doing So Little (2012) -- two opposing bleachers, between which invited guests gave talks, while on “off-days” patrons engaged in social events (book clubs, whittling, etc.) facilitated by this self-described “service-oriented” collective. Most remarkable about Instant Coffee’s presence was its (re)assignment of events usually associated with the much larger Luxe space upstairs to the Exhibitions space, a space that reluctantly (for some of the founders) became a gallery for the display of art objects. Instant Coffee's inversion (inadvertent or otherwise) of the Front's traditional content-to-space apportioning was not lost on those who know something of the centre's history.

This past weekend Front audiences were treated to what might be the most insightful – and audacious -- reading of the centre in Isabelle Pauwels’s LIKE…/ AND, LIKE/ YOU KNOW/ TOTALLY/ RIGHT (2012), a 64-minute operatically-proportioned video (with ads, like the image above) that pairs the centre's multiple myths and histories with Pauwels’s own developmental trajectory, one familiar to anyone who attended a North American high school. Indeed, if the Front was a privileged and at times infantile “boys’ club” (as it was known in 1970s), Pauwels and her twin sister Valerie (who, for the most part, appears dressed as “Catwoman” -- in an homage to co-founder Kate Craig?), enact a “girls’ club”, with founders Glenn Lewis, Eric Metcalfe and Hank Bull playing both themselves and who we perceive them to be (in the case of Metcalfe, Pauwels takes the artist's legendary fetish impulse to new heights). But to leave it at that would be an injustice to Pauwels’s considerable research, staging and editing skills, all of which come together seamlessly in this mammoth undertaking, what Western Front Media Arts curator Sarah Todd, who commissioned the work, describes as a “two week shoot and a four month, 16 hour-a-day edit.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

For the past year or so artist Gareth Moore has, with permission, homesteaded on the Documenta 13 fairgrounds, growing food in his garden, mending socks in his shack.

Upon seeing this first online image of Gareth's compound I was reminded of artists such as Tom Burrows who, in the 1960s, did something similar on the Maplewood Mudflats in North Vancouver. Not with permission, but through a loophole that had their intertidal squat secure in the grey zone between municipal and federal jurisdictions.

In 1971, these shacks were burned down and bulldozed by the District of North Vancouver.

A couple years ago artist Ken Lum, with the help of the Vancouver Art Gallery, mounted a de-scaled version of this shackland shangri-la at the foot of Vancouver's brand new Shangri-la Hotel.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Shortly after the completion of Semmens and Simpson's Vancouver Public Library, bill bissett (b. 1939) arrived from Halifax to take classes at the University of British Columbia. One of his earliest jobs was at the VPL.

Earlier this year, I co-curated (with Scott Watson) an exhibition at UBC's Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery entitled Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry, which featured a sampling of early work by bissett, Judith Copithorne, bpNichol and others.

Below is an excerpt from a tour bissett led through the exhibition, beginning first in the "Literature: Transparent and Opaque" section.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Despite a wet and windy morning Team Dragu departed Euclid Street at the prescribed time and were only a few minutes late arriving at Squamish's West Coast Railway Heritage Park to scout locations for La Dragu’s upcoming performance video, which I have been hired to dramaturge.

On the ride home, Margaret’s dp/editor Moira Simpson and I chatted about the changes that have occurred on Robson Street post-Expo ’86, one of which concerned the passage of Semmens and Simpson’s Vancouver Public Library Main Branch (1957) into a Virgin Records, then an HMV, and now an empty storefront.

What we could not remember was the name of the artist who made the building's exterior sculpture.

After returning home I received an email from Moira informing me that the artist was not an artist but artists -- Lionel and Patricia Thomas -- and that the name of the work is Symbols of the Cueniforms (1957).

Something else that came up during our conversation was Modernism’s arrival in Vancouver, a topic I wrote on in Vancouver Art & Economies (Artspeak/Arsenal Pulp, 2007) -- in particular, Alvin Balkind and Abraham Rogatnick’s New Design Gallery, the Lower Mainland’s first contemporary modern commercial art gallery, which opened in West Vancouver in 1955.

Below is another work by Lionel and Patricia Thomas, their mural for the Super-Valu at West Vancouver’s Park Royal Mall (c. 1960).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This week marks the opening of Documenta, the Marshall Plan's gift to one of the Allied Forces' most frequented aerial targets, held every five years in the town of Kassel, Germany.

In this morning's Globe & Mail we saw three images of early-1930s Emily Carr paintings included in Documenta 13's "Tribute to the Women of Modernity" thematic, while last night Presentation House Gallery director Reid Shier telephoned from Kassel this image of Geoffrey Farmer's Leaves of Grass (2012), comprised of puppet-ized cut-outs from Life magazines and grasses from the artist's garden.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Monday, June 4, 2012


For Expo '86, the McDonald's Corporation gave us McBarge, a factory ship that converts trans fat, glucose and sodium into narcotics, which are taken orally, as meals.

Below is McBarge 25 years later, a wreck moored somewhere in Burrard Inlet.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012