Thursday, October 31, 2013

Collage vs Montage

When Elizabeth Zvonar began to exhibit her magazine collages (second image), the artist who came to mind was John Stezaker (first image).

For some observers, such a recognition would lead to a dismissal, a declaration that the artist whose work is reminiscent of another is but an imitator, which is often the case with critics who like to keep the world in line (or its artist from colouring outside them).

But rather than go there, I returned to Stezaker, particularly his Mask series, where the artist imposes one petite genre (landscape) over another (portraiture).

What I found in Stezaker's series was not an instance of collage but of montage.

The difference between collage and montage is that the former is a more spontaneous composition, performed on the spot, whereas the latter is contrived: a compositional idea in advance of its material inventory.

With Stezaker's Masks, the artist begins with portraits -- where the lines are as finite as the faces that bind them -- then seeks out landscapes that can be modelled to meet those lines.

Zvonar, on the other hand, often applies abstractions over her figures, images whose beginnings and ends are mutable, irrelevant to the surface over which they are applied. The effect is not a mask but its opposite: a surface that neither hides what lies behind it, nor likens it to something else, but leaves it open to imagination -- the same way Ian Wallace uses the monochrome, or the early, furniture sculpture-era Ken Lum once used the void.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gone Fishin'

We are attracted to the art of Rodney Graham because it is both intelligent and funny. Not ha ha funny, but funny in a way that Marcello Mastroianni is funny. Which is to say quietly funny, where the grins begin not with anything the artist does, but his presence in a context that often feels incongruous to who we think his subject is.

The only artists I know who engage in this kind of presentation in a "live" improvisational setting are Paul Kajander and Ron Tran, both of whom are known to sneak off at the height of a house party, only to re-appear like ninjas in the middle of the dance floor, having decorated themselves with their host's clothes, linens, umbrellas, handbags, cardboard boxes -- whatever else they find lying around (or in some cases hidden!).

In the above diptych (which Graham shot in his studio and at the entrance to False Creek), the humour does not reside so much in the artist's presence but in a visual gag that brings to mind the necessity of the void space that another artist, Ian Wallace, has made so much of in his photo-paintings, where figures enter and exit monochromatic voids. These voids are imaginative spaces, dérive spaces. In Graham's Fishing on a Jetty (2000), the void is what happens between two of these frames, not within one.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Orcas

Like the avant garde, public art has become a genre. When I see a work of public art, I think less of the work's form, line, colour and materials than the suppositions that allow for its implementation.

For what is public art but a monument to that which two out of three people can agree on? (Sixty-six-point-six percent is but one decimal point removed from the beast.) Heaven help us if a member of the public should find the work ambiguous.

Above are two public artworks based on the orca.

The first, by Douglas Coupland, is a three-dimensional figure made of highly-finished blocks that, once digitally photographed, approximate its pixelated two-dimensional self, a work that should become active in this instance, but only under a limited set of circumstances, such as cloud cover and camera-angle. The second, by Bill Reid, is a bronze cast of a carving whose details are composed largely of ovoid motifs associated with northwest coast aboriginal art.

The first orca is caught leaping, like those once trained by Vancouver Aquarium staff to jump for their herring, while the second is further along in its leap, its dorsal fin erect, and placed outside that same aquarium.

Monday, October 28, 2013

West Edmonton Mall #2 (1988)

In West Edmonton Mall #2 (1988), Vikky Alexander does not so much impose her squares, like Cézanne did in Mont Sainte-Victoire (1902-04), but implicates those put there by architects. Were these architects aware of what their large glass panels would reflect, prior to their installation? Probably yes -- but not exactly.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Cézanne's Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1902-04). A surface built of coloured blocks, not lines. Multiple perspectives on what we know is there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Or Sew It(s) Seams

Jeff Wall is a contemporary of Christos Dikeakos. However, whereas Dikeakos has staked out Vancouver's inner-city (False Creek), Wall is more interested in its urban/suburban edge, where violence is not what happens when gangs clash, but when developers see market housing opportunities where ducks once laid eggs.

Writing in Ken Lum's 1990 Witte de With/Winnipeg Art Gallery catalogue, Wall had this to say about Vancouver art and artists:

In Vancouver, a "warm" environmentalism set the tone from about 1970 in the work of Liz Magor, Tom Burrows and Marian Penner Bancroft, and was carried on through the 80s by artists like Joey Morgan and Jerry Pethick. This work expressed what was seen as the specificity and essential quality of the local culture, its closeness to nature and its concern for organic life rather than the hostility to nature and the need to dominate it which drives the resource economy of B.C.

Wall's fascination with the urban/suburban edge, as content, finds its formal equivalent in his own "warm" form of composition: montage. In the March, 2001 issue of Artforum, Wall discusses his cinematographic method (bringing together multiple shots to form a single "unifying" event) in relation to The Flooded Grave (1998-2000), at one point stating: "If you could tell [where the seams are], I would have failed."

Friday, October 25, 2013

False Creek

Artist Christos Dikeakos has been making work in and about False Creek for almost fifty years now. He is something of an expert on the area.

The image above is from a presentation Dikeakos gave for Centre A. Note that the body of water near the bottom right-hand corner of the map is not yet filled in. Prior to 1913, those waters reached the shores of what is now Clark Drive.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Great Northern Way (Campus Trust)

We turn right at the sign and drive north towards a second sign, screaming at us, orange in its urgency.

Left, says the arrow.

And there it is, like the sign itself: this big orange building with yellow letters, like the McDonald's three blocks away.

There it is again, looking north -- two galleries, one paint job.

But for how long?

Yesterday I attended the Great Northern Way Campus Trust's open house at that trojan horse known as the Centre for Digital Media, where it was revealed that the former Finning Tractor site (recently re-branded the False Creek Flats) will one day include not only a new campus for Emily Carr University of Art and Design, retail space, an "open space," and student and market housing, but provision for a commuter train connection to a yet-to-be-approved Broadway train whose footprint would, in the process, require the demolition of this building.

Of course by the time a Broadway train gets approved (if it ever does), this building will have served its purpose: lending colour to a canvas whose true ambition is not public education/public space but the kind of activity art and education are in service of these days -- real estate.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Un homme, une femme, quelles différences?

Dodie Bellamy's Cunt Norton begins with a quote from Luce Irigaray:

Two lips kiss two lips, and openness is ours again. Our "world." Between us, the movement from inside to outside, from outside to inside, knows no limits.

In the first part of the above video, Irigaray talks about her language experiments with children and teenagers. The operative words here are avec (with) and ensemble (together).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

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.

At my bedside sits Book 4 of 5 in Les Figues of Los Angeles's TRENCHART: The Logistics Series: Cunt Norton by Dodie Bellamy.

Cunt Norton is a continuation of a project that has its author "cunting" extant texts (in this case, the English canon -- from Chaucer to Ted Hughes) to produce not their yonic equivalent but an unfolding.

Here is the opening of "Cunt Ashbery":

The inside of my cunt is a bit sore, as I sit here
between sea and buildings. I've ridden your horse
and I write this as a child, imagining prayer as
merely silence. All I can think of is fucking you on
sand and seizing your bush, plastering my portrait
along your whole body.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Thirteen years after this "live" performance, my band backed up Foghat at a Victoria, B.C. niteclub (not Harpo's). After the show, Foghat's singer noticed that I had a signature on my acoustic guitar (Stompin' Tom Connors) and offered to add his name to it.

What could I say? It was Lonesome Dave Peverett!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fog (1980)

At the 1:16 mark, Jamie Lee Curtis says, "I think I'll go to Vancouver now." But for what? More fog?

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The past few days have opened with fog. Around mid-morning it thins, and the sun streaks through.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Turkey in the Straw"

"Turkey in the Straw", zydeco style.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Carl Andre's Passport (1960), 1969, page

If you have this poem in your collection, or others by this artist, Tate Publishing wants to know.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pierre Bonnard's Nu au Tub (1912) and D.H. Lawrence's Gloire de Dijon (1917)


When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
Spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and the swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and the shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
for the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as 
Mellow as the gory roses.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Friends of Peter Culley

The puffer:

The skink:

And the manatee:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

from Parkway (2013)

A poem by Peter Culley, taken from the site. (I added possessives to the first line in the first stanza and the fifth line in the second stanza; changed a pluralized proper noun to a singular possessive in the first line of the third; and separated "monitor" and "the" in the third as well.) The poem appears in Pete's latest collection, Parkway (New Star, 2013), the third of three books in his "Hammertown" series.


Blue from Player's Plain
Pharoah & Coltrane
hopped-up hummingbirds
raging on raw honey, oysters &
barnacle-scraping soul-encounters
buzz the pre-dawn Lynnwood rain

Blue from Winslow Homer
or someone with no home to go to
he wet his finger west
& traces out the weather week
his weakest hunch a sheriff's gut 
thrust out for the informer 

Blue Six's Music & Wine
was a song we heard all the time
before the macrobiotic encounter
split the silver monitor the crashing
symptoms came complete 
with waves of Om on yellow gull feet

Blue moons a passenger with no ID
& nothing solid in the dictionary
no per diem, no booking fee, 
no very convincing reason to be
alone in swollen solidarity with
the puffer, the skink & the manatee

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Last night I attended the launch of three book projects, two of glue and paper (an Isabelle Pauwels monograph and Phaidon Press's Art Cities of the Future), the other online (Flakey: the Early Artworks of Glenn Lewis). Although held at The Apartment, the publications were generated by Presentation House Gallery (the Art Cities "Vancouver" entry was written by PHG director Reid Shier).

The night before saw launches of literary works by two authors I am social with, Thea Bowering and Peter Culley. The launches where a block apart -- at exactly the same time. The lack of co-ordination bothered me, so I took it out on the authors and allowed my annual late lunch with visiting writer Oana Avasilichioaei to extend into the evening.

Yesterday morning I received in the mail the latest issue of The Capilano Review, which carries within it a section devoted to my A Postcard from Victoria exhibition (annotated video grabs, installation shots and my essay). Very happy with how this section turned out, as I always am when I publish with this journal.

As for tonight, another launch, this one at Or Gallery: Jesse Birch's Ginger Goodwin Way (Publication Studio, 2013) and a 12" vinyl record called Night Shift by Brady Cranfield and Jamie Hilder. I will be talking about/reading from my contribution to Ginger Goodwin Way, so if you are entertaining friends from out of town, and you cannot decide what to do, I understand.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Village Sunday (1960)

A documentary on Greenwich Village that tells us early on (0:40) who was kicking around prior to the arrival of the European documentary tradition.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Among the highlights of our Candahar program at the 2010 Winter Olympics was a performance by Christine, a band that includes visual artist Kevin Schmidt.

The video above, like the video in yesterday's post, shows the relationship between popular music and industrial machinery -- in this case, Christine performing a song in their basement studio to the razing of the house next door, something the Olympics, as an agent of gentrification, had a hand in.