Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's Not That I Don't Trust You

The couple up top are old enough to remember when Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were in power.

I took their picture last week in Kerrisdale on a break from our walk along the Arbutus Corridor.

Bean Brothers has a high stool bar that runs along the inside of its south facing window. Below it, on the outside of the shop, are tables and chairs.

The camera on my phone is strong enough that I could zoom in on the contents of the letter the man is holding and read it, but I didn't. Nor should you. That's why I posted the first picture, even though the second one is sharper, clearer, more focused.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Heads of State

The spectacle that is the Trump campaign has transitioned from media incredulity to death watch. This is a transition authored as much by the media as it is by the candidate.

Meanwhile, not enough has been said about what it might mean for the United States to have a woman as president, and a white woman at that.

Did it make a difference that the current president is a black man? It made a difference insofar as we heard a lot more about America's increasingly militarized police forces and their ongoing war on young black men.

When I was younger, in the 1970s, there were some pretty tough woman running their countries. Golda Meir in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India and Margaret Thatcher in the UK -- all of whom, regardless of their political stripe, took their countries to war.

Will Hillary Clinton take her country to war? If so, I wonder what war it will be.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Concept of Face

“To me, your ‘face’ is your position and standing in the eyes of others, and it also has to do with the degree of respect you receive. Face can also be saved up over time and used to accomplish things later on. If you drove a fashionable or luxurious car to attend a friend’s party, then the majority of your friends would feel that you had face. Also, if you can achieve something through your personal contacts that others cannot through normal channels, you would also be thought to have face. You can gain face if you are praised by your boss, or if you accomplish a difficult task at work. However, if you greet others warmly at social events, but are met only with indifference, then you would lose face. Questioning someone’s ideas or opinion in a public setting would cause that person to lose face.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caricature as Critique

The same year Faulkner published Light in August (1932), the German artist John Heartfield gave us this photo-montage, which translates as "Adolf the Superman Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk".

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tragically Hip

Yesterday Dan asked me if I watched the Tragically Hip's final concert and what I thought of them. The first part was easy -- I watched it. The second part required some work.

I first met the band at Amigo's in Saskatoon in 1988. We were in the middle of our last song when the Hip arrived from its gig at the Broadway Theatre up the road. Amigo's was a rollickin' joint that served great Mexican food; The Broad was a soft-seater where the serious bands played.

The Hip were nice, the kind of guys who got decent marks in high school, played on school teams and never messed up. Basic guys, except for Gord, who could pass for basic had he not made so much room for his poet, which, as far as poetry goes, was closer to the Group of Seven, with maybe a dash of David Milne, than what the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E-influenced, new lyric vanguard was writing at that time. So: a figurative poet. Landscapes, portraits -- in that order.

Last week's concert was the first time I had seen the band perform since the early 1990s, when I saw them at a festival in Southern Ontario. Not much has changed -- the band still emits that boys-in-a-treefort vibe, with Gord its witch doctor, acting out what has been repressed. 

My favourite part was the opening shot, where the band was waiting to go on stage and Gord kissed his bandmates on the lips. 

As for Gord's pro-Trudeau comments, I blanched at first, but later realized his selfless genius: that in order to get somebody to do something (Inuit suicide prevention strategies), sometimes you have to flatter them. Poets are not generally known for their pragmatism, but Gord is Gord, and when he passes, he will be missed.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Light in August (1932)

Above is the edition of William Faulkner's Light in August I started reading on a train to Portland years ago and finished years later on a train from Berlin to Kassel.

I came upon the book during a recent purge -- not the copy I read but one I purchased later, to read again.

Below is what I wrote inside the book's back flap, a passage whose page number I forgot to include:

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows remembers believes a corridor in a big long garbled cold echoing building of dark red brick sootbleakened by more chimneys than its own, set in a grassless cinderstrewnpacked compound surrounded by smoking factory purlieus and enclosed by ten food steel-and-wire fence like a penitentiary or a zoo, where in random erratic surges, with sparrowlike childtrebling, orphans in identical and uniform blue denim in and out of remembering but in knowing constant in the bleak walls, the bleak windows where in rain soot from the yearly adjacenting chimneys streaked like black tears.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Arbutus Corridor

Years ago one winter we walked the CP Rail lines from 2nd and Fir to 49th and Arbutus. It took a while. There are community gardens along the way, but nothing as elaborate as those that run south of 49th to the north arm of the Fraser River, past 70th, where residents have erected schrebergartens.

We said we would resume our walk one day, and until yesterday we left it at that. In the meantime, CP and the City got shirty with each other over the future of what is commonly known as the Arbutus Corridor -- despite the fact that CP was given thousands of forested acres in the 1860s for making Vancouver, not Port Moody, the terminus of its national railroad. Last year CP calmed down and sold the Arbutus Corridor (back) to the City for less than market value. Just recently it removed most of its railway tracks.

The City says it wants the Arbutus Corridor to be a green space, a commuter bike lane. While I am sure that certain stretches will be given the "green" treatment (including some very un-green asphalt bike lanes), those that run through commercially zoned areas like Kerrisdale might be made to behave similarly. Whether this means public markets with portable kiosks or more permanent structures with market or social housing remains to be seen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eric the Forbearer

Four blocks from the Belvedere is the Western Front artist-run centre, where Allison Collins is the Media Arts Curator and Western Front co-founder Eric Metcalfe (above) awoke this morning to his 76th birthday! 

Happy Birthday Eric!

In a 2015 Art Lab Gnesta presentation on Vancouver’s 2012 Institutions by Artists conference, Allison pretty much begins and ends with Vincent Bonin’s “Here, Bad News Always Arrives Too Late”. The text below (from Bonin) is the penultimate passage in her presentation:

 A perverse rekindling of the self-management paradigm is heavily influenced by neoliberalism where “alternative” grassroots organizations function as links in the chain that consolidates a system based on individual entrepreneurship and meritocracy rather than a spirit of collectivism. Rejecting both models, certain groups of artists attempt to circumvent bureaucratic red tape by setting in motion para-institutional projects mostly developed without recourse to government money.45 These groups generally follow the now-exhausted model of a gift economy that had allowed collectives from the early 1970s to operate in a relatively autonomous manner. The life expectancy of these projects thus depends largely on the investment and commitment of both the founding members and the counter-publics that form around them. Some groups demonstrate a firmly leftist allegiance, whereas others disassociate themselves from politics altogether. The initiators of these projects essentially short-circuit meritocracy, and instead simply set up spaces where exhibitions, events, or meetings between peers can take place...

followed by Allison in her own words:

So this is the promise, the space of potential that exists as a commitment as well to self-criticality and in whatever form that takes a constant kind of re-evaluation of whether the structures that we are building do what we need them to do and live up to the ideas set forth by our forbearers – or surpass them.

I am interested in – and indeed committed to -- “self-criticality” with respect to the structures “we” are building, especially in “whatever form that takes.” I am also interested in -- critically interested in -- that part of “we” that includes “certain groups of artists,” designers and curators who do not fit easily into Bonin’s streamlined camps, who have not quite rejected “individual entrepreneurship” and who assert their autonomy in part by forsaking pubic funds for funds derived from private enterprise – in this instance, as well-paid, non-profit property managers who marginally undercut an already hyperbolic rental market to provide studio space for artists, and in doing so refer to themselves as “benevolent”? (Compare that benevolence with that of Eric and the other former owners of the Western Front building, who, as Eric is fond of telling everyone, sold the building and the property it sits on to the Western Front Society for less than market value.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Arvo Leo

The picture above is of the artist Arvo Leo, who was still a Belvedere resident as of July of this year when it was announced that he would be a resident at the Rijksakademie vanbleeldende kunsten in 2017.

Early in Arvo's one hour video Fish Plane, Heart Clock (2014) the artist is seen climbing a hill in Cape Dorset, Nunavut while carrying before him a picture of the town below -- a picture taken from what looks like the same position as the camera that has captured him.

Is the artist a camouflaged hunter, or is he presenting himself clad in an artistic device (a trompe l'oeil) in order to make his intentions known: that he is not a cultural tourist, as some suggested after an earlier work he had made in India and installed at the Western Front, but an artist (who happens to be white) visiting an artist's town (that happens to be Inuit)?

Below is Warhol's Self Portrait with Camouflage (1986).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Consider the Belvedere

Hard to get much information on the Vancouver Mural Festival, apart from its team, its muralists, its sponsors and its locations.

Among the Festival's locations is the Belvedere at the northwest corner of 10th and Main. The Belvedere is an apartment building that has some very small suites -- but also some very affordable rents. A number of artists live there.

Nice of the Belvedere's landlords to offer up the building to the Festival's muralists. Not so nice that these landlords abandoned their tenants after half-assed repairs to the building's vermin-ridden walls, floors and ceilings.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mudflats Living (1972)

Mudflats Living (1972) is the name of an NFB documentary about a community that took root at the Mapplewood Mudflats in the late 1960s.

A second, more lyrical documentary was made by Sean Malone, entitled Livin' in the Mud (1972). In Malone's doc (currently unavailable online), activist Helen Simpson confronts a demolition crew, and later, the District of North Vancouver burns down the last of the mudflat homes.

The proposed "town site" to which the DoNV mayor refers was never built. If it was, it was built as a shopping mall on the west side of the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge. Not the same thing -- only an economic rationale by a DoNV city council that did everything it could to move those "squatters" along.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Artist-Run Living

A brand is born -- and exported to Florida!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jesse Marketing Systems

221A programs are developed in-house, with a curatorial emphasis on projects by staff and residents. With this in mind, specific proposals are seldom encouraged, but we do appreciate bodies of work being brought to our attention to inform our planning. For further information please contact Jesse McKee, Head of Strategy at

I had to start over after reading “programs” as a verb.

Okay, so 221A does not program projects, it produces something called “curatorial emphasis” from the work of those employed there (“staff”) and that of invited guests (“residents”).

So now that I have “this in mind,” which proposals were “encouraged” and how “specific” are they? And of the "proposals" and/or “bodies of work” that were not encouraged, which of them “inform[ed] [y]our planning,” and where on your site can I find them acknowledged (in the form of Themes Received)?

This is not a request for “further information.”

This is the kind of copy a “Head” writes when the curator who donned that cap is a marketing system.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bush Gallery

UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies' Summer Indigenous Intensive residency ended on Sunday with a visit to Bush Gallery, but I was in Vancouver by then, having left Thursday morning.

I have made a couple of visits to Bush Gallery in the past year, both of them special, but unfortunately had too much on my plate to participate in a visit with the residency.

For those interested in reading M:ST Artistic Director Tomas Jonsson's recent interview with gallery principal Tania Willard, click here.

Monday, August 15, 2016


South of Marine Drive in North Vancouver, between Lloyd Avenue and Lower Capilano Road, is a low flat area of unceded Squamish territory comprised of residential and commercial buildings. Griffin Art Projects is located there, as is North Shore RV Centre, where I find things for my trailer.

Recently I found myself wandering down the area's narrow easements and lane ways, marvelling at the 1950s and 60s era rancher houses, not to mention some amazing trees, gardens and public green spaces, when I came upon a DoNV construction crew.

I asked, "What is this area called?" and one of them, the younger one who looked like an engineer, said, "Norgate," while another, an older guy whose hands looked like they had lived most of their lives outdoors, said, "Little Hawaii!"

Around the corner, closer to Marine Drive, was a strange, vaguely alpine house that said on it Khot-La-Cha Art Gallery & Gift Shop, and I went inside.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"All modern equipment and materials/ are allowed to create an ovoid"*

Shadow-casted ovoids at Platypus House.

* Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun quoted in Colour Zone: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Petra Watson, ed. (Winnipeg: Plug In Editions, 2003), p. 8

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jessie Fosty

On Wednesday evening, after our dinner at Platypus House, Jessie gave a performance that had her braiding Tannis's hair while sharing stories of her family, particularly her mother, who has passed.

After braiding Tannis's hair, Jessie asked if others would like to have their hair braided, and David stepped forward.

Later, while I was doing the dishes, Jessie poked me in the shoulder and said, "I have a present for you," and I was presented with a postcard-sized drawing of something she said I talked a lot about on our drives to and from the supermarket.

Thanks again, Jessie!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Last Panel

Today was the final panel of the residency. Julie, Tara, Annie, Millie, Jessie (Short), Cheryl, Warren. It was billed as informal, and it was. Jessie brought her weaving on stage with her.

Before that we were treated to staged works by students of Troy's Indigenous Performance Praxis course. These works -- presented by four groups of four to five performers -- varied from those based on historical material (the 1990 Gustafson Lake Standoff) to those embodied by movement.

Tonight is a group dinner at Platypus House, hosted by Haruko, whose performance yesterday had the outline of her body filled in with that which she had collected since her arrival in early July. Following tonight's dinner, a performance by the youngest member of the residency, Jessie Fosty.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Studio on Unceded Native Land

Apropos of Sunday's post I went looking for images from Kenneth Fletcher and Paul Wong's Murder Research (1977), a serial photography project that began with the early morning discovery of a body outside of Wong and Jeanette Reinhardt's second-floor apartment -- a body that turned out to be that of a First Nations man named Eugene Lloyd Pelly, who was stabbed the night before. Interesting to see which of the 36 photographs that make up this work are available online, and in what order. (The image up top was found on the Paul Wong Projects website.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd.

On Friday, in the middle of her presentation, Heather asked, Why aren't more Inuit artists accessing funding for indigenous artists? To answer this question she recalled her findings from 2011, when she learned that of the 60 Inuit artists she had spoken to, only 2 had applied for arts funding. When those who had not applied were asked why, a common response was, "I didn't want to take money away from those who really needed it," while others saw the funding as "charity." From there Heather's presentation turned to a lack of Inuit in administrative positions, a problem compounded by the lack of a university in the north where those who might hold such positions would be prepared for them.

Something that was not mentioned in Heather's presentation -- a presentation that began with a ("six minute") presentation she was invited to make on northern economic development and the importance of the arts -- was the role co-ops have (and haven't) played in a northern arts infrastructure. For my part, I was interested not so much in the past legacy of these co-ops (a largely commercial venture based on a somewhat feudal system), but in how they might be involved today in the making of a more complete northern administrative infrastructure that would serve both private and public interests alike. But then, after asking this question, it occurred to me that maybe these co-ops will never converge with other forms of arts production, that like David's "colonial museums" they will continue to play to the dead and not to the living, giving people what they know, not what they don't, about what it is to be this north.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Frontier Font and Pictures

Artist Ian Wallace has often said that the story of Vancouver art is one of frontier.

Below are works by four Vancouver artists associated with Ian. The first is Jeff Wall's Bad Goods (1985), the second is Ken Lum's Mounties & Indians (1989), the third is Stan Douglas's Klatsassin Portraits (Prisoner) (2006) and the fourth is Rodney Graham's Paradoxicial Western Scene (2006).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Manitou Stone

The School of Badger was born from on-campus badger sightings by the School's founders. To say that the School began with the badger is also to recognize that the land on which the badger lives had a school dropped on top of it. Inside that school, just before the start of the School's performance, was the start of the symposium.

Like Richard did at the start of this residency, symposium participants were welcomed by Jordan, a young Syilx man who spoke to us of where we are, who the Syilx are, before singing the "Okanagan Song," a song that Jeanette sang before Margo introduced her mother, Eloisa, who told us about the Texas-Mexico border wall last month.

Following Jordan was Skawennati, who introduced Archer's funny and touching space-time performance document, Our Beautiful Future, and then David, who presented a condensed version of an address he gave in Australia about the colonial museum and its tendency to make dead the living, be it through variants of reason, rhetoric, accumulation or science -- a presentation that revolved nicely around the Manitou Stone (pictured up top). During the Q&A that followed (or was it the Q&A for Brian's talk after Heather's talk?), Loretta mentioned Leroy Little Bear's interest in quantum physics and waves in contrast to binaries like zeroes and ones.

And more. But I will get that -- once I get my notes in order!

Friday, August 5, 2016

The School of Badger

On the eve of the 2nd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary, Tomas circulated an announcement for "The School of Badger -- On Indigenizing the Institution," a performance (intervention?) by Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau and Adrian Stimson to be held "up the hill towards the Health Sciences Building, half way in the gravel pit."

Below (and attached to the podium pictured above) is the artists' statement:

Taxidea taxus Tuum Est
The School of Badger – On Indigenizing the Institution
A performance by Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau and Adrian Stimson
Friday, August 5, 2016 - 49° 56’ 14” N 119° 23’ 56” W – 450m Elevation

Upon arrival at UBCO all three artist encountered the Badger, thus the School of Badger was born.
Badger is vicious, and attacks with powerful aggression. Badger is quick to anger and quicker to pounce. The power of Badger's medicine is aggressiveness and the willingness to fight for what it wants. The very thought of facing Badger makes other animals run for cover. Like Skunk, Badger's reputation precedes it. Its hissing fangs will tear less aggressive opponents to shreds.

Badger is the medicine of many powerful medicine women, for Badger is also the keeper of the medicine roots. Badger sees all the roots of Mother Earth's healing herbs hanging in its burrow home. These roots are a key to aggressive healing. Roots can ground negative energy into the Earth by allowing illness to pass through a body into the ground as neutral energy. Badger medicine people are quick to act in a crisis, and they do not panic.

If Badger medicine is part of your medicine, you are quick to express your feelings, and you do not care what the consequences are. Badger people oftentimes insist on carrying the ball for the touchdown. This attitude, however, does not endear them to their teammates. Badger medicine may also point to the aggressive healer who will have the courage to use unconventional means to exact a cure. Like the mother who sits for days nursing a child with high fever, Badge is willing to persist.

Badger people can be vicious gossips, or may exhibit a chip on the shoulder, if they are out of balance. You can be sure that people with Badger medicine will be aggressive enough to make it to the tops of their chosen fields, because they do not give up. They are also the finest healers, because they will use any and all methods to ensure healing, and will not give up on the critically ill. A Badger person is often the boss, and the one what everyone fears. That same boss will surely keep any company afloat. Badger gets the job accomplished. Badger is certainty is a source of strength.

If Badger has pushed its way into your life today, it may be telling you that you have been too meek in trying to reach some goal. Badger asks you how long are you willing to sit and wait for the world to deliver your silver spoon. In this medicine, the key is to become aggressive enough to do something about your present state of affairs. Badger is teaching you to get angry in a creative way and say, "I won't take it any more." You must follow-up by keeping your eye on the goal. Honor the healing process as you express those inner feelings.