Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Openings and Closings

Awful nightmare last night that had Burrard Inlet filled with leaky oil tankers as limousines sped from the airport towards the opening of a Robert Motherwell retrospective at the new Vancouver Art Gallery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Body Listening to Digital Equipment" (2011)

Pauline Oliveros explains her philosophy of "deep listening."

Below, "Rattlesnake Mountain" from her album Accordion and Voice (1982):

Monday, November 28, 2016

CCS 506

When we were young we were told that Modernism should not be confused with Modernity or Modernization, that it is its own thing  -- discrete, autonomous.

 As we grew older we learned that Modernism is not unrelated to the political economic ambitions of Modernity and Modernization   -- that if Modernity is a system of beliefs and Modernization the means by which these beliefs are disseminated, then Modernism is Modernity’s PR department.

 Although the term Post-Modernism emerged after the Second World War, it did not enter the lexicon until the late-1970s, and many were unclear as to what it meant.

 For some, Post-Modernism meant multiple Modernisms -- the contemporary art of “non-Western” peoples. This notion of Post-Modernism implies a critique of Modernism’s positivist, (Western) imperial impulses -- the idea that artists (and markets) advance their mediums (performance art, capitalism) as new technologies present themselves, which are in turn commodified.

 For those indisposed to self-reflexivity, Post-Modernism is an attitude -- a cut-and-paste decorative kitsch where inclusivity is reduced to an assemblage of glib, free-floating signifiers that further alienate those who enter its buildings or stand before its art.

But whether it be Modernism or Post-Modernism, one thing is clear: both are unsustainable. And if this planet is to be spared, something has to give.

 In an effort to extricate myself from this unsustainability I have sought alternatives as to how I might proceed in what remains of my time on this shivering planet, and beyond. The question is, How far back do I go to begin (again)?

 After some thought I have decided that whatever changes I need to make, they must begin not in the way I think but through a reorientation of my entire body. It was Ghandi who said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” but many more have said it too.

 In welcoming members of UBCO’s Summer Indigenous Intensive to the Okanagan Valley, elder Richard Armstrong introduced us to Syilx cosmology -- the four kingdoms and how they enter his people at ground level during puberty rituals.

Around that time visiting artist Fahreen HaQ, whose exhibition opened at the Alternator, invited visitors to lie on a long white linen tablecloth on the pavement outside the gallery and commune with her before she served us dinner. Like the Syilx puberty ritual, information entered us at ground level, but in ways that made the familiar seem fresh.

 Also around that time visiting artist Carmen Papalia invited a group of us to join him, quite literally, on his Blind Field Shuttle, where we walk behind him, hands on the shoulders of those before us, as he taps out a path through a city he is unfamiliar with.

Together, these three events provided the sensoria I need to re-orient myself. But how to proceed from theseplaces -- this place? By what method could I engage in this world towards making more -- and less -- of it?

 A method through which this engagement could begin includes Luce Irigaray’s notion of “self-limitation,” which involves divesting the Self of those totalizing narcissistic tendencies that are associated with grand theories like capitalism, Marxism and Modernism. According to Irigaray, this is the only way to form a relationship with the Other.

 Another idea of Irigaray’s contests the commonly held notion of transcendence as a “vertical” system (towards one’s god). For Irigaray, transcendence exists on the “horizontal” plane between the Self and the Other. The god, in this instance, is that intersubjective meeting place that occurs on the horizontal plane.

With eyes and ears refreshed, I am now in the midst of a world whose reds carry a temperature, whose notes enter not only my ears but my sternum, whose words I can taste and whose gestures I can smell.

Call me Geppetto, but it is hoped that my exploration of this world of images and gestures, of injuries and celebrations, of fear and love will manifest in a book designed as much to be a puppet guidebook as a human companion. A book to walk with that includes the work of others. A collaborative book that, through blank pages like the one that follows this one, carries room for the reader-as-writer.


1. Marcel Duchamp Fountain (1917) Alfred Stieglitz photo

2. Shi Xinning Duchamp Retrospective Exhibition in China (2000-2001) Oil on canvas 100cm x 100cm

3.  Hiroshima Atomic Bomb explosion, Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum

4. Shigeko Kubota Vagina Painting (Fluxus performance document) (1965)

5. Douglas Coupland Penguins and Slogans series (2014)

6. Susana Duffy Earth Tattoo

8. A Ghandi  8.B  Ghandi

10. Fahreen HaQ performance outside Alternator, Kelowna, Summer 2016 photo: Megan Bowers

11. Carmen Papalia Blind Field Shuttle document (2012) photo: Jordan Reznick

14. Meg Yamamoto Fictive Tree Rings II (2016) photo: Michael Turner

15. Carlo Chiostri “Le avventure di Pinocchio, storia di un burattino”, 1902

Sunday, November 27, 2016


While enroute to a meeting at the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies building last week I noticed a new exhibition in the FINA Gallery. Entitled Emplace, the show features work by MFA Visual Art cohort members Amberley John, Crystal Przybille, Tania Willard and Meg Yamamoto. All but Amberley are participants in FCCS 506A, a methods class I take part in.

Emplace is not a word I had (until now) ever used, nor one I had (until then) heard spoken or seen written. Although I can infer the word's meaning (the prefix em meaning in), I looked it up nonetheless.

The first two online definitions are from Merriam-Webster and Merriam-Webster defines emplace as "to put into position: missiles emplaced around the city" while gives us this: "to put in place or position A statue was emplaced in the square."

Placed on and before the north wall as you enter the gallery is an installation by Amberley (the wall tapestry to the right includes a touch activated audio element).

To the east is a vertical wall work by Crystal that is comprised of eight texts (I LIKE THIS PLACE/ I'M GOING TO TAKE IT/ MAKE IT MINE/ THROUGH FORCE, DESIGN/ NAME IT, ANEW/ MAKE A SIGN/ IMPOSE MY STORY/ STAKE MY CLAIM/ BELIE MY CRIME) .

To the south is a series or a range of twenty or so drawings and prints by Meg that are placed wider than they are higher (excerpted below are "FICTIONAL TREE RINGS I, II, and III").

To the west is a wallwork installation by Tania that includes, at the centre of the gallery floor, a ceiling projection onto a blanket. Between the projection and the wall work is a reflection cast by a silver-backed text taken from Freud's 1913 book Tabu und Totem.

My initial impression of the exhibition is focused on the relationship amongst the cardinal points. Both the artists on the north wall (Amberley) and the west wall (Tania) directly reference production: in the case of the former, the making of a garment (which stands beside the chair and is, according to the artist, ongoing); in the case of the latter (as projected onto the gallery floor), the crushing of berries, presumably towards the generation of another medium -- an ink or a dye.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


I remember reading years ago in the Atlantic Monthly (or was it in Harper's?) that Fidel Castro was a pitcher in a Triple-A baseball league before he and his compadres kicked General Batista and his U.S. business partners out of Cuba.

More recently, in an interview with 60 Minutes (or was it on CNN?), Castro used another sport to speak of revolutionary Cuba's relationship with the U.S., which he characterized as less of an ideological struggle than a boxing match.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Consecrated Punk

Before it became a musical genre, when it didn't quite know what it was (only what it wasn't), punk, or what came to be called punk rock, was a burlesque that took its cues from a softening of the artistic mainstream ("rock" music) and a hardening of a political culture (government deregulation, trickle-down economics, the unravelling of the welfare state) designed to usher in the world we know today, where power is brokered not through representational politics but through finance.

The politics of punk, as far as I could tell in the mid-to-late-1970s, was not about changing the world but performing its contradictions. In this respect, it is not unlike how Angela Carter described the power of the pornographic image in her book The Sadeian Woman (1978), how pornography, too, is a burlesque of a supposition-ridden patriarchal mainstream, how for every Batman there is a Buttman, but also how we must be vigilant when experiencing the self-conscious use of pornography as a critical apparatus. "Beware the moral pornographer," Carter wrote. I would apply the same to those who look to a moral punk rocker to represent them.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Three Apologies

Former prime minister Steven Harper's 2008 Statement of Apology on behalf of the Canadian federal government "to former students of Indian residential schools" excited my interest in the apology as genre.

Here are two more recent apologies, the first from President Elect Donald Trump, via YouTube, the second a third-person apology from former UBC professor Steven Galloway as issued through a "litigation boutique" to the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun and The Walrus, who in turn reported it to us.

Of the three apologies, that which was issued by the Canadian federal government contains the fewest qualifications (Trump used the occasion of his apology to further his campaign, while it is unclear as to what Galloway's third-person is apologizing for, and to whom). A reason for this could be a dialogical approach to the genre, where the apologizer worked with the recipients of that apology in advance of the completed text.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Screen Gems bumper

From black-and-white to colour, from figuration to abstraction, from crescendo to arpeggio, from orchestra to synthesizer...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ad Copy

"And you can't make it though the night if you don't have some kind of light that's showin'"

Monday, November 21, 2016

South on Pandosy

The faster the days go, the longer the nights get.

Now there is snow in the hills above Woodhaven, and sometimes a chill in the air. We are a month from winter -- what August is to fall, February is to spring, May is to summer.

When I return in January, I will bring my skates!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Now Playing

Ashok's office door has a vertical window. I am not sure at what point he wondered if his iPad would fit within it, but he did, and it stayed. On Monday I will take a picture from the outside. Who knows, maybe this will be playing?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Three Signs and a Painting

An artist lost her thimble and another artist made this sign for her.

A public call for "independent artworks."

A career in printmaking.

An acrylic-on-canvas painting by Karen Thunder. I saw it a couple of weeks ago at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The bottom of the title card reads "Life is a dark place, hiding from the world, finding myself and going forward." That is the title of the painting -- Going Forward.

Friday, November 18, 2016


That art world juggernaut/benevolent society known as e-flux continues its monetization/categorization of information through something called e-flux Architecture (remember when e-flux subscribers were suddenly receiving something called art-agenda?). This most recent issue caught my eye: SUPERHUMANITY -- Ingo Niermann, "Real Estate Porn".

Funny, when I think of "real estate porn" I think of people sitting at their computers scrolling through MLS sites like And come to think of it, when I think of people having sex, I think of them doing it openly at bars and cafes, where they talk about housing prices and which house sold for how much.

Here is the last line of Niermann's essay:

"People who continue to insist on a vast physical space just for themselves will appear as an unacceptable burden on the environment."

A familiar proposition? Especially so after reading the Guardian's review of Die Geträumten, a film based on the love letters between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan. It is here that reviewer Philip Olterman reminds us that Bachmann came from a part of Austria (Corinthia) that voted 99.8% in favour of annexation (Anschluss) with Nazi Germany.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Approaching the Other as Other" (1999)

Along with Roland Barthes, Luce Irigaray is my current go-to scholar. I read them daily towards an understanding of myself as two (or more).

This Monday I present my thesis research to my CCS 506 class. The essay I have assigned is Irigaray's "Approaching the Other as Other" (1999).

Below is the fourth paragraph from Irigaray's essay:

"We want to have the entire world in our head, sometimes the entire world in our heart. We do not see that this gesture transforms the life of the world into something finished, dead, because the world thus loses its own life, a life foreign to us, exterior to us, other than us."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1977)

"When I used to play prisoner's base in the Luxembourg, what I liked best was not provoking the other team and boldly exposing myself to their right to take me prisoner; what I liked best was to free the prisoners -- the effect of which was to put both teams back into circulation: the game started over again at zero."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


A view through a window of exterior french doors and a window to a pasture.

Monday, November 14, 2016

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.

In Sarraute's final tropism, "XXIV", she begins:

They were rarely to be seen, they remained buried in their apartments, shut up in their dark rooms, watching and waiting.

And later:

They remembered everything, they kept jealous watch; holding hands in a tight ring, they surrounded him.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sarsons Beach

While at Sarsons Beach Thursday afternoon a great roar was heard. Up in the sky, but not up enough, was a massive airplane that bore the dark tones of a military aircraft. Sure enough, it was.

The CC-177 Globemaster III is a 53 metre long (52 metres wing span) transport plane that can carry 72, 727 kilos of stuff and can travel at Mach 0.77.

A chilling sight in light of recent events down south.

Friday, November 11, 2016

"Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control"

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite films. Thank you Robert Altman for weaving Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy", "The Stranger Song" and "Winter Lady" so nicely throughout McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Steel Ceiling

People keep talking about the glass ceiling at the Javits Centre, but I see a lot of steel up there, too. In fact, the whole thing feels like a cage to me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Ghost of Lee Atwater

I waited until midnight to hear it, but none of the analysts said it. So I will say it. A bigger shock than Donald Trump becoming president will be his bi-partisan appointments. Look for an extraordinary number of Democratic women, people of colour, LGBTQ and disabled in key political positions.

Is it so strange that Trump will make so many bi-partisan appointments? Not when so many of his party members abandoned him (these are the people Trump really wants to stick it to). As for his behaviour towards women, people of colour and the disabled, regardless of whether Trump is a misogynist or a racist, these behaviours only endeared him to those white guys whose votes he needed to win the election -- and his campaign knew it!

So my question is, Who on Trump's campaign recognized this? Who was his dramaturge, his head of strategy? Was it the ghost of Lee Atwater? Or was it Corey "Let Trump Be Trump" Lewandowski, who Trump fired halfway through his campaign?

After four years Trump will leave office as one the best-loved American presidents, ever. Not because he will have adjusted his personality or dropped his bullying behaviours, but because the population will only become more like him. "He is a bully," they will say, "but he is our bully," and that is where America is headed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Here are the percentages of eligible voter turn-out for the last five U.S. presidential elections:

1996: 49.0%
2000: 50.3%
2004: 55.7%
2008: 57.1%
2012: 54.9%

The average is 53.4%

Donald Trump has said numerous times (always when he is slipping in the polls) that the election is rigged against him. What he doesn't say is that the alleged conspirators are the very people who have kept him in the headlines and have made a ton of money doing so -- the media.

I wonder if in my lifetime I will see a presidential candidate, much like the aniconistic imams of the Islamic faith, campaign against the media. Given the recent advancements in telepathic communications, it seems likely.

Telepathy, as far as I can see, is the best hedge against an increasingly concentrated and heirarchal image economy. The question is, Who among us is willing to let others in our head in exchange for a chance to do that ourselves?

But isn't that already the pattern? Have we not made a similar deal with companies who, in exchange for opening informational doors for us, have reserved the right to track us, use that information as they see fit, if not against our best interests? 

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Autumn Song" (1857) by Charles Baudelaire

Soon we will plunge ourselves into cold shadows,
And all of summer's stunning afternoons will be gone.
I already hear the dead thuds of logs below
Falling on the cobblestones and the lawn. 

All of winter will return to me:
derision, Hate, shuddering, horror, drudgery and vice,
And exiled, like the sun, to a polar prison,
My soul will harden into a block of red ice.

I shiver as I listen to each log crash and slam:
The echoes are as dull as executioners' drums.
My mind is like a tower that slowly succumbs
To the blows of a relentless battering ram.

It seems to me, swaying to these shocks, that someone
Is nailing down a coffin in a hurry somewhere.
For whom? -- It was summer yesterday; now it's autumn.
Echoes of departure keep resounding in the air. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Waves, Camera, Action!

It is safe to assume that anyone at Cannes for that city's annual film festival would be familiar with a camera and how to use it. For the first 3:40 of this video, the operator returns more than a few times to the two closed patio umbrellas as a frame within a frame. After that, a zoom-in, some dissolves, and then, at 5:15, a soundtrack, before closing with a series of stills.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Paul's Boutique

Thirty-six years ago today, on Wednesday November 5, 1980 at around 6:30 a.m., the train I boarded the night before at Portbou pulled into Paris Austerlitz. My question to the porter outside the window of my compartment was, "Qui a remporté l'élection americaine?" to which he happily replied, "Ronnie le Cowboy!" The middle-aged man who sat across from me for most of my trip, an English professor from a small midwestern university who sometimes with tears in his eyes and a halting voice told me everything I wanted to know about one of my favourite literary portraits ever -- Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" -- cheered.

And so it is today that I am overcome by a similar sensation, where the brightest among us, those who have recognized for some time now that power is no longer brokered through politics but by finance, are fur-balling over the potential for another mediated figure to be president of the United States. Does it matter? I mean, let us not forget that even before the U.S. electorate put step-and-fetch-its like Ronald Reagan in office, de-regulation and other neoliberal-friendly policies were already operative in the preceding Carter administration. Is Hilary Clinton any better (less worse?) than Donald Trump? I don't think that's the point. I think the point is that it is pointless to get caught up in the illusion or the pragmatics of choice when instead we should attempt to chart a life where crap like that doesn't matter, where, like the proverbial unfed fire, we allow illusions such as these to burn out, blow away.

When the walls started to cave in on Paul, he too hopped a train, this time to Newark, New Jersey, where he hired a carriage to take him into the country:

Once well into the country, Paul dismissed the carriage and walked, floundering along the tracks, his mind a medley of irrelevant things. He seemed to hold in his brain an actual picture of everything he had seen that morning. He remembered every feature of both his drivers, of the toothless old woman from whom he had bought the red flowers in his coat, the agent from whom he had got his ticket, and all of his fellow-passengers on the ferry. His mind, unable to cope with vital matters near at hand, worked feverishly and deftly at sorting and grouping these images. They made for him a part of the ugliness of the world, of the ache in his head, and the bitter burning on his tongue. He stooped and put a handful of snow into his mouth as he walked, but that, too, seemed hot. When he reached a little hillside, where the tracks ran through a cut some twenty feet below him, he stopped and sat down.

This is where I like to think that Paul, after further reflection (enough to realize, a la Barthes, that these images and others like them can only stand alone as "figures of the neutral"), stood up and returned to town where, in re-entering it from a back alley, he saw someone on a stoop picking through a bale of old clothes, maybe watching until that person asked if he might like to help in exchange for learning something about what clothes are for, which soon enough turned into supper, then another day's work, and eventually a job that one day resulted in a sign above a space that caught the eye of a group of musicians who took inspiration from it, a space that perhaps only just barely sold enough clothes to pay the rent, but more than that, provided a refuge for those who, like Paul, had no other options.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Curatorial Visit (1973)

The Curatorial Visit (1973) is a ninety minute Télé-Québec cable documentary that follows two Anglo-Montreal curators who travel to the French commune of Chevilly-Larue for a studio visit with an expatriate Quebec artist whose practice is based in dance, text and political activism.

In the above excerpt, the curators arrive at the home of the artist's gallerist. Upon entering they are taken upstairs by the gallerist's associate director, who had told them at the door what the artist was told only moments before: that she was invited to represent Canada at the next Venice Biennale.

Unbeknownst to this viewer, Québec curators were once licensed to administer sedatives to an artist whose behaviour is deemed indecorous. The French word for indecorous is inconvenant.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Le Bel Âge" (1964)

Barbara emerged as a singer/songwriter in the 1960s. Like Jacques Brel, she is associated with the France Chanson movement.

Here is Martha Wainwright singing Barbara's "Dis Quand Reviendras Tu" (1965):

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bande à parte (1964)

Trois danseurs, une danse, une caméra, pas de modifications.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"a dimple in your day"

Imagine living in the Paris suburb of Villejuif and receiving a letter that begins like this:

Dear Paris… I mean Villejuif,

I last saw you in 2011 on a trip that your Government paid for. I was meeting a couple people they suggested and had a couple of days left to myself to see the people I wanted to see. Neil Beloufa was one of those people. I rode the train to your quieter corner of the French metropolis. I must have skipped lunch because Neil met me at the train station and the first thing he asked was if I was alright? And not in that polite English kind of way. His tone was more serious and generous. I guess I was looking a bit pale. He took me to a cafe, workers were watching a soccer game on TV and drinking small glasses of beer. I remember eating white bread with some rillettes, the poor man’s pate. After, we walked down a road, past a school and there was his studio in a big spacious white building. We had a wandering conversation as usual and said we’d see each other very soon in Vancouver.

What happened after that was pretty special, he spent a month living in the guest room of Western Front and I was kept busy producing a big video shoot. We rented a helicopter with a Russian pilot who was still trying to get his license in Canada, hired actors and took out an insurance policy for an expensive camera that we hung outside the helicopter. What Neil didn’t tell me was that he was making another video at the same time…with a cheaper camera we had upstairs in the hallway.

When it came time for the exhibition, the expensive video was on the small screen and the cheap video was on the big screen. The expensive video hasn’t been seen much since, maybe a handful of times. The cheap video has had a bit more of a life, having been shown across most continents and even at the Museum of Modern Art. Isn’t that the way it usually goes; the thing you’re planning, working really hard at and sweating for, kind of does alright. But, that thing in the corner of your sight seems to flourish like it had its own life and intentions.

Neil’s studio is a busier place these days, with more people and a film set that’s decorated half of the place like some run down hotel called Occidental Temporary. This part feels like the setting for some illicit stuff to take place, kind of like in that movie with Audrey Tautou, Dirty Pretty Things (2002). The other part of the studio looks like the little brother of the Palais de Tokyo; white walls, dirty windows, bright lights and dripping pipes. A perfect place for the best kind of art. There’s been a few exhibitions here over the past year and now Neil has invited a couple of spaces from other parts of the world to stage their own kind of Art Fair during the FIAC week.  

221A is in Vancouver, running a space indoors and a vacant lot outdoors, where we put some public art works. We get some money from Governments and then there’s three big buildings that we leased out for artists studios. Their rent helps us pay our bills, our staff, our artists and every so often we publish something. It’s not new, it’s not perfect, but it works for better or worse. We’re usually pretty bored with art stuff and the design stuff too. I guess that’s why our mandate says we do both, so we can do the other thing, when the thing we are doing starts to feel a bit too cooked. William Gibson, that science fiction writer who coined the word cyberspace lives in Vancouver too. He tweets about our vacant lot. He told me Paris is a cooked city without many options left. I hope for a night you can feel like you saw another option. Villejuif, as sleepy as it feels, might be one of those weird spaces in your city that you can open up to a bit of pleasure; a good meal from a great chef and some art that you don’t already know about. Neil’s invitation only came to us a few weeks ago; maybe this exhibition is like one of those things in the corner of our sight.

I’ve been reading some George Bataille lately. Hate to admit it, doesn’t feel super hip, but I put his ideas into an essay. He’s reminding me that those hip writers today, the object oriented ontologists, smell like some spiritual animism and might just be readdressing older, more universal ideas we like to forget. Like the fact that we’re never really more than an animal in oily skin, full of bacteria and usually at fault for one reason or another beyond our control. In the sixth issue of Documents, Bataille wrote about the big toe as a way to embody his ideas of the division between the head, reaching up for greater things, while every so often you have to look down in disgust at your feet stuck in the mud. It’s about that part of your body you usually only look at when sitting in the bath…while thinking do I really need to cut my toenails again? You don’t, you go on letting your mind wander, soaking in the hot water a bit longer.

So Villejuif we offer you a bit of the Canadian Riviera’s escapism, mixed with that base materialism that Bataille loves. Walter Scott’s heavy boots on your walls, Tamara Henderson’s keep on truckin’ kinda sculpture and Julian Hou’s shoegazing and vapour waving tracks, hitting you like a dimple in your day.

Stay Cool,
Jesse McKee

Head of Strategy