Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Something I have noticed in the coverage of Jim Green's passing is mention of his role as "developer," a word that, until recently, brought to mind market housing and capital accumulation. In this video we hear Jim Green refer to himself as a "community developer," a believer in what others have referred to as "social profit."

One of the longstanding narratives that have come to define this city is that it is pro-development. Nice to see that the word development has expanded to include more than the evictions and exclusions that we have come to associate with its usage.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Sunday I attended a “celebration of life” for former city councilor Jim Green at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Jim, who was gravely ill, listened as our current mayor, another city councilor, and a steady stream of musicians paid tribute to someone who has embodied the transition of this city, for better or for worse, from resource port to tourist mecca, from a site of beehive burners and fishing boats to one where transportation stops for film production.

As I write this, there are a number of obituaries and life summations appearing online (Jim passed away at 6:15 this morning), so I will stick to what Jim said on Sunday, when he spoke of the positive changes that have occurred in the city since his arrival, but also that which has remained the same, like the way strangers say good morning to each other, something I experienced recently on Denman Street with some of our city’s seniors.

I did not agree with everything Jim Green said and did during his time in Vancouver, but I appreciate his engagement with the city and what he brought to it, be that as a longshoreman, a member of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, the force behind Bladerunners and a player in the Woodward’s (re)development. Knowing that we will be without Jim Green feels a lot like how I felt in 1989, when I watched the demolition of the Georgia Medical Dental Building. Jim was that present. No one can take his place.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two weeks ago the artist collective Instant Coffee opened Feeling So Much Yet Doing So Little at the Western Front’s Front Gallery. So far (besides its opening) the show consists of two bleachers facing each other joined by a walkway above its lone (western) entrance. The spaces beneath the bleachers house a colourful text-bespeckled sitting room to the south and, to the north, a darkened room for viewing. Between the bleachers is an 8x8’ section of floor space, above which hangs an abstracted chandelier. Filling out the room are wall texts, buckets, painted (pink) forms, an LED sign and, where an EXIT sign would hang, an EVICT sign. Over the next six weeks IC will host its “exhibition, residency, publication, and series of talks and events,” while their material infrastructure will be available to the public during regular gallery hours.

Formed in Toronto twelve years ago, Instant Coffee describes itself as a “service-oriented artist collective,” one that, like the beverage itself, “mimics the real thing without the pretense of being better,” a clever tag that recognizes the ascendance of the simulacra in the popular culture while at the same time alludes to the critical artist’s interrogation of authority in an era where the “copy” is more resonant, or at least more fun to argue for, than the “original.” Put another way, the IC tag reminds us that time – or the lack of it -- is its own material, and as such should be considered when speaking of those who have more of it to make their coffee, their face, their love or their art. At least that is how I have come think of IC, particularly where, prior to their arrival in Vancouver eight years ago, the affordability of space has become this city's central preoccupation.

The Front Gallery has, at various times, been the Western Front’s central preoccupation as well. When the WF opened, in March 1973, the founder-artists expressed themselves not through object production but through performance and correspondence art, aligning themselves not with minimal or even conceptual practices but with the art-as-life manifestations of Fluxus, which were played out upstairs in the building’s largest space, the Luxe. What is now the Front Gallery was originally the dining room, just as it was for its former owners, the Knights of Pythias. After that, it became Robert Cumming’s Lure of the Sea Bar, until finally, in the late-1970s, and at the insistence of co-founders Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov, a space for the exhibition of objects. What I find most intriguing about IC’s Feeling So Much Yet Doing So Little is that it has, in effect, made its own Luxe (in the exhibition space, no less), a gesture that speaks to the persistence of “relational” practices but also an echo (and an inversion) of WF history.

Something else that comes to mind when considering Instant Coffee’s inhabitation is the era in which the Western Front founder-artists emerged. This was a time when Vancouver’s first artist-run centre, Intermedia (1967-1972), was seeded with a $40,000 Canada Council grant (contingent on the formalization of what was then a loose pattern of collective and collaborative artistic activity), and when eight Vancouver artists could afford to buy a building big enough to house them (the Western Front). However, while Intermedia dissolved after five years, the WF evolved into a model for artist-run centres, a situation that required the founder-artists to withdraw from the board and become less an artist collective than joint tenancy landlords. In any case, while Intermedia began with money and the WF began with property, IC provides a service (what we called “labour” thirty years ago, when resources drove the provincial economy). As for what that service includes, here is a list of IC's upcoming WF events:

Feeling So Much International Prospective Lecture Series
For this series Instant Coffee has invited a number of international curators representing key moments in the collective’s 12 year history, as well as moments to come. Moderated by Caitlin Jones.

This International Prospective Lecture Series is presented with the generous support of Jane Irwin and Ross Hill

Bernd Milla
 Thursday, March 8, 7pm

Bernd Milla, Director of the Kunststiftung Baden-Wuerttemberg will reflect on exhibition praxis and possibilities for artists’ work and presentation.

Lise Nellemann
Thursday, March 22nd, 7pm

Lise Nellemann of Sparwasser HQ, a not-for-profit project and exhibition space in Berlin, will speak about Instant Coffee and collaborative curatorial practices.

Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy
Friday, April 6th, 7pm

Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy, curator of contemporary art at Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in New York, and agent for Documenta 13 will speak about her curatorial practice.


Every Saturday Instant Coffee will be selling necessary accessories and other special items from their new “West Coast Modern” furniture collection, and will on occasion be joined by other designers and artists, including Robert Kleyn and Samuel Roy Bois.
As part of STORE FRONT each Saturday Instant Coffee has invited artists, critics and curators to host a series of low key events.

Making Sense of Things Together 
Saturday, February 25th, 12-5pm

As a response to IC’s motto “Get Social or Get Lost,” join artist and critic Amy Fung for an endurance performance/lecture for which she will assembling a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of a Jackson Pollock painting she inherited at an Edmonton garage sale.

Paper Folding Doodle
 Saturday, March 10th, 2-5pm

Kim Kennedy Austin and Graham Kaye will distractedly origami.

General Joke Store
 Saturday, March 10, 2-5pm

Artists Aaron Carpenter and Jonathan Middleton have been honing their joke-writing skills over the past year or two. The General Joke Store provides the opportunity to purchase some their recently crafted jokes. An assortment of jokes will be on offer in the “knock-knock”, “lightbulb”, and “chicken crossed the road” genres, as well as a selection of rude and off-color jokes, sure to alienate you from your friends and co-workers.

Paint it Pink
Saturday, March 17th, 12-5pm

Bring it in, Instant Coffee will paint it pink

Pyrography (woodburning) Workshop
 Saturday, March 24th, 2-5pm

Come, burn a design on a piece of wood and make a button!

Track Day 
Saturday, March 31st, 5-9pm

A slot-car race tournament hosted by Matt Smith.

Bild N Sound
Goethe Satellite @ Instant Coffee
Saturday, March 10, 8pm

A project by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with Instant Coffee and Revised Projects

Instant Coffee together with Bernd Milla brings together German artist videos with Vancouver musicians. Milla has programmed a selection of silent videos by German artists, including Hans-Christian Dany, Mirko Martin and Sebastian Stumpf, and in response, Instant Coffee will program Canadian musicians to play a live score.

Issue 05 Launch 
Saturday, April 7st, 2pm

Instant Coffee will publish the next in their series of “one question” handmade journals. GOOD NEWS Issue 05 will address the question “ What constitutes a successful failure?”

Wood Whittling Club 
Feb 29th, March 14th, March 18th, 7pm

Every second Wednesday Instant Coffee will host an informal gathering of artists and anyone who wants to whittle and socialize. Wood will be provided, but bring your own carving tools.

Classical Reading Group
March 6, 13, 20, 27, 7pm

Every Tuesday in March Instant Coffee will host a reading group for TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens, a relevant classic for discussing present economic issues. By the way it is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A small room inside 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.

Artaud writes:

"I am quite aware of the jerkiness of my poems, a jerkiness which derives from the very essence of inspiration and which is due to my incorrigible inability to concentrate upon an object."

For Artaud, any attempt at refining his poems threatened his mental equilibrium. Thus a jerky poem is less an unfinished work than a reflection of the poet's condition. Could the same be said of one of Artaud's "cleaner" poems, as in, the poet was having a "good" day?

Years ago, during a lecture on Roland Barthes, Stephen Scobie told a story of one of Bob Dylan's more optimistic songs, "When the Ship Comes In" (1964), a song that was written ("in a vituperative rage") minutes after the musician was refused entry to a hotel (where he was staying) for being "unkempt."

At bottom is a version of "When the Ship Comes In" by Peter, Paul and Mary. The clip is from a UK program "brought to you by" British Petroleum. The child whose face Mary is cleaning before taking the stage belongs to her daughter, Erika Marshall.

Friday, February 24, 2012



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Cokes

Above is Decio Pignatari's 1957 poem "beba coca cola"; at bottom, Robert Hollander's 1968 Norton Anthology mainstay.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Above is Eugen Gomringer's "Silencio" (1954); at bottom, a text he wrote that same year. "Silencio" is on display (in book form) as part of Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, until mid-April. "From Line to Constellation" was translated into English by Mike Weaver and published in Mary Ellen Solt's Concrete Poetry: A World View, (1968, Indiana University Press).

Our languages are on the road to formal simplification, abbreviated, restricted forms of language are emerging. The content of a sentence is often conveyed in a single word. Longer statements are often represented by small groups of letters. Moreover, there is a tendency among languages for the many to be replaced by a few which are generally valid. Does this restricted and simplified use of language and writing mean the end of poetry? Certainly not. Restriction in the best sense-concentration and simplification-is the very essence of poetry. From this we ought perhaps to conclude that the language of today must have certain things in common with poetry, and that they should sustain each other both in form and substance. In the course of daily life this relationship often passes unnoticed. Headlines, slogans, groups of sounds and letters give rise to forms which could be models for a new poetry just waiting to be taken up for meaningful use. The aim of the new poetry is to give poetry an organic function in society again, and in doing so to restate the position of poet in society. Bearing in mind, then, the simplification both of language and its written form, it is only possible to speak of an organic function for poetry in terms of the given linguistic situation. So the new poem is simple and can be perceived visually as a whole as well as in its parts. It becomes an object to be both seen and used: an object containing thought but made concrete through play-activity (denkgegenstanddenkspiel), its concern is with brevity and conciseness. It is memorable and imprints itself upon the mind as a picture. Its objective element of play is useful to modern man, whom the poet helps through his special gift for this kind of play-activity. Being an expert both in language and the rules of the game, the poet invents new formulations. By its exemplary use of the rules of the game the new poem can have an effect on ordinary language.
The constellation is the simplest possible kind of configuration in poetry which has for its basic unit the word, it encloses a group of words as if it were drawing stars together to form a cluster.
The constellation is an arrangement, and at the same time a play-area of fixed dimensions.
The constellation is ordered by the poet. He determines the play-area, the field or force and suggests its possibilities. the reader, the new reader, grasps the idea of play, and joins in.
In the constellation something is brought into the world. It is a reality in itself and not a poem about something or other. The constellation is an invitation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Not sure what moved me to turn on the television this morning and dip in and out of the Whitney Houston funeral, but I did, televised celebrity funerals being potentially more soulful and spontaneous versions of awards ceremonies, but without the material award. Princess Diana’s funeral had something to do with this, as did Cher’s words at the interment of her former husband, Sonny. As did Michael Jackson’s funeral, with Cher’s highly-rated appearance afterwards on the Larry King Show, and then James Brown’s funeral, making the African-American celebrity funeral its own variant, a dipstick into U.S. culture, African-American culture in particular.

I remember the first time I saw Whitney Houston. I think it was an awards ceremony, or a tribute to Dionne Warwick, I am not sure. But there she was, on stage singing with Warwick (her aunt), and everyone was wowed by the power and intelligence of her voice. After the event, Warwick, Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother) and Whitney were gathered on the sidewalk, where they were interviewed under L.A.’s silver glare. The interviewer had kind and respectful words for Warwick and Cissy, but then the topic turned to Whitney, who was bursting with unbridled energy, jumping up and down, more so after the interviewer’s praiseworthy words. When will we be hearing more from you? the interviewer asked, at which point Warwick and Cissy turned stern. Soon! Soon! said Whitney. But before she could say more, Warwick leaned forward and said something to the effect that the artist’s life requires maturity, and that Whitney was not quite there yet.

At the time I thought it a condescending, buzz-crushing comment, in the way expressions of love can sometimes appear. But I could also see something in Whitney’s eyes that told me Warwick was right, that Whitney, despite her vocal control, was not entirely in control of her life. Yes, that too might sound condescending, but I have seen that look before, just as I have seen where it can lead.

There was another look I saw this morning, and that was through the lens of CNN’s lone camera, stationed at the back of the church, zooming in and out on those speaking from the altar, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Kevin Costner, or, in the case of Stevie Wonder and the most intriguing presence of the day, Alicia Keys, from the piano. What the camera gave us (besides a refreshing absence of cutaways) were two shots: master-shots of the church’s interior and middle-distance shots of those who spoke and sang. Which is to say no close-ups, nothing of anyone’s eyes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

For the past month artist Kevin Schmidt has been readying a project in Alberta. His transmissions began arriving last week.

February 7, 2012 9:36:45 AM PST (CA)

Today at around noon I am sending my homemade 4x5 on a weather balloon to take a picture of the horizon from the edge of the stratosphere. I am working with an amateur balloon launch team in Edmonton - Barry and Gareth Sloan, a father and son team. Our launch is called BEAR-9, as there have been 8 previous BEAR flights.

You can track our balloon flight over the internet. Go to and in the track call-sign window put in ve6atv-11 then you can watch our flight over Google Maps.

February 7, 2012 9:43:48 AM PST (CA

We haven't started up our GPS broadcaster yet, so you can't track us til we actually launch.

February 7, 2012 9:53:27 AM PST (CA)

Barry and Gareth have been running predictions to see where our balloon will land. Apparently if we launch today as planned, the balloon will land in the Edmonton Airport. So we have to delay our launch. Saturday is looking good.

February 11, 2012 10:16:29 AM PST (CA)

We are rushing to get everything ready to go. I discovered that my shutter release motor wouldn't work at -16 degrees. It can be up to -60 where the balloon is going, so we are trying to come up with a solution. Right now the camera is in the deep freezer to test.

We are hoping to launch by 12 noon Mountain Standard Time.

You can track our balloon flight over the internet. Go to and in the track call-sign window put in: ve6atv-11
Once we launch the balloon that call sign will work and you can watch our flight over Google Maps.

February 11, 2012 10:37:57 AM PST (CA)

Seeing as it's 11:37am and we're still testing the shutter release.... I have a feeling we'll be launching more like 1pm. I'll keep you posted.

February 11, 2012 12:09:16 PM PST (CA)

New shutter trigger almost done. I think we'll be launching at 2ish.

February 11, 2012 1:02:14 PM PST (CA)

We're finally ready to launch - but we only have 3 hours of daylight left, which means we won't be able to find the camera on the ground - it'll be dark when it lands.

So we have to launch tomorrow. Sorry.

9am I promise.

February 12, 2012 9:13:20 AM PST (CA)

We are about to launch. The tracker is broadcasting so you can track us. Go to and in the track call-sign window put in: ve6atv-11. You can watch our flight over Google Maps.

February 12, 2012 11:00:25 AM PST (CA)

The Balloon is launched! Current altitude 47000 feet! Halfway to photo threshold.

Go to and in the track call-sign window put in: ve6atv-11. If you put this in the track call sign window, you will also see the vehicle I am in to chase the balloon: ve6atv-11,ve6srv

Wish me luck to find it when the camera falls after the balloon bursts - probably 110000-120000 feet.

February 12, 2012 11:02:20 AM PST (CA)

ps - Some of you have been concerned about falling in the lakes. The lakes are all frozen. A benefit of winter

February 12, 2012 12:10:14 PM PST (CA)

On the website if you click on ve6atv-11 you can see our altitude. Right now it looks like we are going for a height record!

February 12, 2012 12:13:04 PM PST (CA)

The balloon just popped. It's falling. We're trying to get under it now.

February 12, 2012 1:38:15 PM PST (CA)

We got the camera! The camera took a picture!

February 13, 2012 5:52:13 AM PST (CA)

We had a video camera on the package pointed in the same direction as my 4x5 camera, and a beeper attached to the shutter trigger motor. This way, when the shutter was triggered, we could look back at the video footage to determine where the camera was pointed when the shutter opened.

This is the video frame from when the shutter of my 4x5 camera was opened.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Malibu, California, where the "river" is a swimming pool and the fire, which my father was conscripted to fight during a family road trip, raged on.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Moving east, to North Carolina:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The latest stop on our tour of the United States is the Nashville home of Plantation Records owner Shelby Sumpter Singleton, Jr.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A photo I took last summer of Geoffrey Farmer reciting from memory a passage from Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Below that, a haiku from Basho.

Lightning flash—
what looked like faces
are plumes of pampas.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Thursday, February 2, 2012

As it turns out, the proprietor of Evoke Flowers (where I purchased my pot of cacti) is also a musician. Her name is Gina-Lily D'Attilio and here she is singing a song she wrote in her shop:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thank you to those who responded to the previous post. Yes, there are no penguins in Alaska (but there are cacti to be found along the highway from Whitehorse to Skagway); and no, Cactus is not I band I listen to.