Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hands



Last Saturday afternoon I walked the six blocks to King Edward Boulevard, took the #25 bus to Cambie Street, then the Canada Line downtown.

At Main Street a young woman boarded the bus with a shrink-wrapped edition of Big Boggle.

I noted the purchase and, eyebrows high, was noticed noticing.

"I know -- Big Boggle!" said the young woman excitedly, giving the box a shake. "I've been looking for this for ages!"

As I listened to ourselves exchange Boggle stories I noticed the man to her right, who had boarded the bus behind me. In the eighteen blocks between Knight and Cambie he had applied and absorbed three huge squirts of hand cream.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pierrot le fou (1965)



Such rains yesterday! Because there was no chance of getting any yard work done, and because there is only so much reading and writing I can do, I reached into that tub of DVDs and pulled out Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965).

Here we are early in the film, with Ferdinand/Pierrot driving home the babysitter, Marianne, in his American friend's car. Marianne is introduced to us as F/P's American friend's "niece", but it is in this scene that we learn that F/P and Marianne share a past.


Shortly after that:


Except she never "said" she didn't like talking about herself.

Nor did he, for that matter.

In fact, she never said anything.

Have to check the translation again, whether F/P used a French word meaning "feel" and Marianne used a French word meaning "like". An important distinction.

Much later in the film:




Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sign of the Times



This morning I walked past this sign on Glen Drive, just south of Kingsway.

What is it? Well, it's a for sale sign, erected by the realtor, Sutton Westcoast Realty, on behalf of the seller.  But not a single seller -- "land assembly" implies the sale of multiple properties, usually towards their reconfiguration into a larger, multiple dwelling development. Sellers are told they can receive more money if they band together, given that the profits from a subsequent development are greater than those achieved from the re-sale of the individual (adjacent) properties.

Below the words LAND ASSEMBLY is a text in Chinese characters. I am not sure what these characters say, but it could be a combination of "land assembly" and the English text below:

"Call for details and Call for free evaluation."

Spray painted across the Chinese characters are two black lines.

What to make of this defacement?

To me, the lines across these characters read not as a redaction of the content but an attack on what these characters signify -- those who speak and read Chinese, but specifically those of ethnic Chinese descent. Like the assigned realtor, Melissa Wu, who, though her hair is brown, her eyes green and her skin a pinkish white, carries a surname that is, in the Pinyin transliteration of its Chinese character, the tenth most common surname in Mainland China.

Equally disturbing is the line underneath Melissa's eye, which reads to me like a bruise, the result of a punch.

I am upset by this sign. I am upset by this sign because it, too, is a punch, a punch that carries with it the injuries of class, but also violence against woman and racism. Much of what ails me about this city -- and indeed our global culture -- is present in this sign.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Polygon Gallery



Last night's opening of Polygon Gallery's N. Vancouver exhibition was overshadowed only by the opening of the gallery itself. In addition to a display of gallery mandated lens-based media works were some intriguing sculpture and weavings.

The image up top is of a work by Gabrielle L'Hirondelle Hill. Entitled The Highest and Best Use (2017), it is one of four works from her Four Effigies For the End of Property: Pre-empt, Improve, The Highest and Best Use, Be Long (2017) series, all of which are included in the exhibition.

Oh yes, and Slow played -- appropriately enough in a room devoted to a screening of Jeremy Shaw's Best Minds, Part 1 (2007). The band hadn't played together in over 30 years. Amazing.

Here is Slow's gear having a smoke out back during the opening's opening remarks:




Friday, November 17, 2017

Al Neil (1924-2017)




"Right now I'm working with various instruments -- toy instruments and things I've torn out of children's carousels and so on and music boxes and the strings of the piano -- anything that will distort the sound of the tempered scale into something which is possibly unholy and possibly holy because everything gives out a sound, every molecular thing gives out a sound -- a plant cries, a vegetable cries, everything cries -- there's all these sounds -- we've proved that in this age of extended consciousness ... and I'm trying to get into these sounds which we don't hear but we know are there."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Some Final Questions" (1965)



Stopped by the People's Co-op Bookstore yesterday to revel in its ever-expanding poetry section. I don't think there is a Vancouver bookstore with a bigger new-and-used poetry section than the one at the PCB.

Years ago I had a copy of Phyllis Webb's Wilson's Bowl (1980) but lost it or gave it away. In looking for it at PCB I noticed a selected that Webb did with Talon in 1982 called The Vision Tree that includes a thoughtful introduction by Sharon Thesen who, with Erin Mouré, are launching books at the store tonight, 7pm.

Webb's Naked Poems (1965) is well-represented in The Vision Tree. Included is her poem "Some Final Questions". In this piece, which moves from questions concerning sadness, melancholy, pain and desire, Webb finally asks (herself?) "But why don't you do something?" To which she replies (after five carriage returns) "I am trying to write a poem". Following that:

Why?




Listen. I have known beauty
let's say I came to it
asking

And following that, on the final page:

Oh?


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Epistle to Dippy" (1967)




A strangely beautiful, at-times disturbing lyric. Equal parts Lewis Carroll, Ezra Pound, Diane Wakoski and bill bissett, with some brilliant syllabic footwork (mehhhhhhhhhh-di-tat-ing rho-do-den-dron for-est).

EPISTLE TO DIPPY

Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk meditating rhododendron forest
Over dusty years, I ask you
What's it been like being you?

Through all levels you've been changing
Getting a little bit better, no doubt
The doctor bit was so far out
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see I had your fun

Doing us paperback reader
Made the teacher suspicious about insanity
Fingers always touching girl

Through all levels you've been changing
Getting a little bit better, no doubt
The doctor bit was so far out
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see I had your fun
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see I had your fun

Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see I had your fun
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see I had your fun


Rebel against society
Such a tiny speculating whether to be a hip or
Skip along quite merrily

Through all levels you've been changing
Elevator in the brain hotel
Broken down but just as well-a
Looking through crystal spectacles, ah
I can see I had your fun

Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dum

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

American Foreign Policy




I don't know how many times I have heard the meeting of U.S. American Bob Dylan and Scotland's Donovan Leitch referred to as a "showdown," but a glance online has it in abundance and perpetuated of course by posts like this one.

In Don't Look Back (1967), D.A. Pennebaker's documentary film on Dylan's 1965 tour of England, we see the singer-songwriters sharing songs in a hotel room. Donovan sings "To Sing For You" (1965), while Dylan follows with "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (1965).

For those watching, the meeting seems friendly enough (Donovan initiated the song sharing to defray tensions over an argument between Dylan and a guest who threw a beer bottle out the window), but many continue to describe the event in adversarial terms, with Donovan challenging Dylan and the latter's song "trumping" the former's.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nest



Who does not enjoy finding one of these? The excitement and the simultaneous step back, as if to protect.

What I first learned about bird nests I learned in childhood, when I reported to my mother what I saw in a maple tree at 37th and Laburnum on my way to school, and below it a piece of robin's egg, which is the most beautiful blue, particularly in the morning light of April. I told her how I returned the shell to the nest and saw babies in there.

"Did you touch one of them?" my mother asked.

I wanted to prove myself adventurous, so I lied and said I did.

"That's too bad," she said, "because the mother will reject it."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Begonia



Years ago, when Mina and I would visit nurseries looking for what's new in plants, she announced one April that this would be the year of the begonia, and purchased a dozen species, one of which she uprooted in September and bagged in the hope of reviving its tubers next spring.

More recently I have heard stories from friends that, with a little care and consideration (keeping the potted begonias dry and close to the house), their plants survived the winter.

This November, while at Hornby, I noticed two potted begonias under the corrugated fibreglass shelter at the south end of the cabin. They looked good huddled with the still flowering geraniums and lobelia, but I knew the following day's snowfall would test them, so I brought one of them inside with me -- to survive.

Friday, November 10, 2017

"Lady Developer"



A block east of the Beedie Group's parking lot is a 17-storey mixed-use commercial and residential tower built by Westbank Projects a couple years ago on the site of the former Mandarin Shopping Centre built in 1972 by developers Dean and Faye Leung.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Beedie's Latest (and Last?) Proposal for 105 Keefer Street



The proposal based on the above model was turned down Wednesday by the City of Vancouver's development permit board. It is the first time since 2006 that the development permit board has turned down a proposal.

In response to complaints by an incredulous development industry, urban planner and director of the City Program at SFU Andy Yan had this to say to the Vancouver Sun:

"Design is no longer the only criteria for the permit board. Now the context must also be included."

Which brings to mind another recent article, this one by Pasha Malla writing in the New Yorker on creative writing programs and the "larger social reality" that impacts the stories that many of these programs were designed to workshop.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Towards a New Universalism"



Paragraph 6 from an e-flux Journal #86 text by Global Art Culture's Dr. Familiarlove, Boris Groys: 

Migration is the one truly universal, international phenomenon of our time. And it is also perhaps one of the only phenomena that radically differentiates our era from the nineteenth century. That is why migration has become the main political problem of our time. It is safe to say that it is primarily attitudes towards immigration that structure the contemporary political landscape—at least in Western countries. The anti-immigration politics of contemporary New Right parties is an effect of what can be characterized as the territorialization of identity politics. The main presupposition of the ideology of these parties is this: every cultural identity has to have its own territory on which it can and should flourish—undisturbed by influences from other cultural identities. The world is diverse and should be diverse. But the world’s diversity can be guaranteed only by territorial diversity. The mixture of different cultural identities on the same territory destroys these identities. In other words: today the New Right uses the language of identity politics that was developed by the New Left in the 1960s–80s. At that time, the defense of original cultures was directed against Western imperialism and colonialism, which tried to “civilize” these cultures by imposing on them certain allegedly universal social, economic, and political norms. This critique was understandable and legitimate—even if it was one-sided. But in our time this critique has changed its political direction and its cultural relevance.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Bad Sign



Next to the Co-op is a private campground. I have always assumed that the road beside this sign is the road that leads to the campground. But with messages like these? "NO PUBLIC ANYTHING!!"? Is there not a better way to convey information, to say "PLEASE"? I would never feel comfortable staying at this campground. So no, it can't be the same road. It's not.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sand Dollar Beach



Tracks in the shape of the domicile.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Huh?



the plant survives its planter
no more a planting
than a maple is its tree

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Central Road



This morning I took a different route to the Co-op. Whereas previous walks had me travelling via Seawright Road, today I took Sandpiper. The difference is almost negligible, with Sandpiper maybe a minute longer.

While walking along the section of Central Road that precedes the Seawright junction I came upon a cistern. I had never really noticed it before, but now it can't be helped. "Look at me!" it insists, "Not only am I here to do what I was put here to do -- I am also a support for a seascape painted in the happy graphic style!"

Why can't a cistern be a cistern anymore? Same with those beautiful cement silos at Granville Island that Barry Mowatt had painted as part of his open showroom sculpture biennale?


Friday, November 3, 2017

At Tristero's (Two Illustrated Eavesdroppings)



"Make mine a double -- with a giant olive on the side."


"The plunger's next to the toilet paper."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Man in the High Castle



Last month I found the time to watch the first three episodes of Amazon Studio's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel The Man in the High Castle (1962) -- an alternate historical fiction that has the United States (and its allies) losing World War Two and the country divided into puppet states: the Greater Nazi Reich on the eastern seaboard and the Japanese Pacific States out west. (There is a middle area known as the Neutral Zone, where much of the drama takes place.) Both the novel and the series are set in 1962.

A couple of days ago, while looking for a book to res(e)t my eyes, I found a copy of Dick's novel at the Hornby Island Free Store. As is often the case when reading Dick, I enjoy the writing more for the quality of its prose than its story, which, though it shares events with the Amazon occupation, has a strikingly different narrative. For example, where the series begins with the double-agent Blake, the novel begins with a more complex (unadaptable?) character -- a curio dealer named Childan, who appears only briefly (and namelessly) in the adaptation.

Here is something that occurs to Childan early in the novel:

Yes, these new young people, of the rising generation, who did not remember the days before the war or even the war itself -- they were the hope of the world. Place difference did not have the significance for them.

It will end, Childan thought. Someday. The very idea of place. Not governed and governing, but people.

Readers of (science) fiction are fond of pointing out the prescience of its authors' texts, as in Thomas Pynchon's prediction of an internet (a dark net?) in The Crying of Lot 49 (1965). However, with Dick it is not the internet that is predicted, but its consequences?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Another Record" (1981)



A bike ride from Downes Point to the Co-op is exactly ten minutes. A brisk walk is exactly thirty-three-and-a-third minutes.

Yesterday morning a Jeep Wrangler drove past with the middle of this (the whirling keyboard riff) blaring from its speakers.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Creature



A wall hanging and a shell that sat on a window sill for years is quarter-turned and placed above it. A figure emerges, both scared and scary.

Monday, October 30, 2017

More Activities



Hornby's Mount Geoffrey, as seen from Denman Island.


The return view from Mount Geoffrey's upper bench.


An extinguished fire that looks like monkeys playing.


The Heron Rocks campsite below.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Activities



The sun always rises in the east.


How the light enlivens!


Preparing the crab trap at Whaling Station Bay.


Recording the sea lion orchestra at Helliwell Park.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Goldenback Ferns



A cluster of goldenback ferns at Downes Point yesterday afternoon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Remember It, Jake. It's Chinatown.




It stands to reason that the further a skin is stretched, the thinner it gets. And as we all know, a thin skin is a sensitive skin.

For a polarizing country like the United States, a thin skin is inevitable. What accounts for this thin skin is not simply a metaphorical stretching but a political economic disparity that began to accelerate with the Nixon administration and is only now just ripping.

(A thick skin, by contrast, is a privileged skin, if for no other reason than it does not know what it is to be thin.)

A couple years ago I reviewed an exhibition by Ron Tran at 221A. Entitled The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store, the exhibition began with the artist acquiring wares from neighbouring Chinatown shops for display -- and for sale -- at 221A's exhibition space. (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can read my review here.)

Not simply a riff on the "pop-up" phenomenon, The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store reminded me not only of where I was, but how variable that "where" is. For example, I am in Chinatown, but I am also at an art gallery. Or not simply an art gallery, but an artist-run centre. And not simply Chinatown, but amidst a complex of relations brokered by both feudalism and capitalism, benevolence and paternalism; prone to its own expressions of racism, sexism, heteronormativity. And not simply an artist-run centre, but one that participates in -- and profits from -- the sub-leasing of private property. It was all there in Tran's show, and a big reason why, for this writer, it remains a highlight of the 2015 exhibition season.

The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store came to mind this past week when I read about Israeli-born Berlin-based artist Omer Fast's exhibition at Manhattan's James Cohan Gallery, where the artist repurposed the (private) gallery's exterior and front space to approximate what N.Y Times critic Holland Cotter describes as a "funky Chinatown [0:48] shop or bus company waiting room." (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can read the entirety of Cotter's review here.)

Fast's repurposing has not gone over well with the Chinatown Art Brigade, who have called out the gallery for its "racist exhibition" and "for treating Chinatown as poverty porn." (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can watch the video atop this post.) Indeed, Cotter too laments Fast's installation:

At best, the installation is a serious misfire, as some preliminary canvassing on the artist’s part might have revealed. The ethical indeterminacy that has worked in other contexts for him backfires here. It reads as nasty condescension. And, really, can a portrait of a “lost” ethnic neighborhood as a study in tawdry dysfunction read any other way? Not in the class-and-wealth co-opted New York City of today.

I agree with Cotter that there is something condescending about the installation, particularly at a time of gaping disparity, in a borough as wealthy as post-Giuliani Manhattan. But I also wonder why such a response did not accompany Tran's repurposing of the 221A space, particularly in a "class-and-wealth co-opted" city like Vancouver. Is it because 221A is an artist-run centre? Or because 221A has forged relationships with the Chinatown community? Or because Tran, a Vietnamese-Canadian, was selling his wares not for profit but at cost? Or because Canada, unlike the United States, is buffered by what remains of its mixed economy? Questions like these will be on my mind over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bomb Threat



The Fire Safety Plan for Griffin Art Projects is authored by West Coast Emergency Solutions. Near the end of the Plan is a section on Bomb Threats. Below are a list of questions to ask someone calling in a bomb threat:

What time will the bomb explode?

What kind of bomb is it?

What does the bomb look like?

Where are you calling from?

What is your name?

Why did you place the bomb?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Marriage of Alina and Steven



Among the myths of the artist: no one tells them what to do. Except wealthy collectors, who sometimes "own" them.

I would never tell Paul Wong what to do. But if I was infected with money, and Paul was in need of it, I would encourage him to spend a year working as a wedding photographer, towards a publication called Paul Wong: Weddings.

These pictures were taken by Paul at the Western Front last Sunday. The bride is Alina, the groom is Steven, the woman on her knees recording their "first dance" is Alina's mother.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Bronze One-Way Mirror Sliding Door



On Friday early evening I visited Gareth at his Franklin Street studio and from there we walked to the Patricia Hotel for a drink before car-sharing it to the Emily Carr Hospital of Art and Design for the opening of the inaugural Libby Leshgold Gallery exhibition.

It was during our walk that we came upon the new Vancouver Public Library nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Branch at 730 East Hastings, where we communed with Erica Stocking's bronze one-way mirror sliding door entitled All My Favourite People Are Animals (2016).

Erica's is one of the more successful public art works I have seen of late: a door that does not so much open (to let people in) and shut (to keep them out), but remain open at all times within itself through child-height holes and a mirror. A "book" that, even if the library is closed, you can read!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Griffin Art Projects



Yesterday was a residency day at Griffin Art Projects, where I spent most of the afternoon reading the Fire Safety Plan. Not only did I discover some intriguing facts about the building, I also learned how a city or a district's "fire" regulations, like its "health" regulations, involve more than smouldering rags and unrefrigerated mayonnaise. (Recall Ray Bradbury's futuristic Fahrenheit 451, where fire brigades are primarily responsible for setting fire to books. Or the 19th century, when barbers performed amputations.)

I was about to attempt a Fire Watch "walk-through", for no other reason than than to enter it into the Plan's log, when Catarina from the Seattle Art Museum arrived to see Paul P.'s show, but also to joke, "I have been in Vancouver all day and I have yet to see a photograph!" That was one distraction. Another involved Paul's call to the gallery, whereupon learning that I was present asked Lee what I was wearing -- to which Lee provided what I thought at the time to be a rather dull description, only to realize later that what Paul was really asking was whether or not I was wearing work clothes.

The picture above was taken at the entrance of the Griffin, and was immediately sent to Catarina. Not a broken drain pipe, but the effect of a broken drain pipe. (It is my attempt at a Turner. Not the train, but its smoke as a measure of its locomotion.) In order to get the best picture possible, in the safest way possible, I had to borrow a rain poncho from the utility room. So yes, Paul, it was taken in work clothes. I literally had to bend over backwards to take it!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Graffito



A drawing of a broken copper beside the entrances of Fazakas Gallery and Will Aballe Art Projects.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fight for Beauty




When did we say yes to beauty being 
discarded deleted and demeaned?

I can't speak to "we" because I am not sure it includes me, nor do I feel part of those doing the we-ing. But I do remember in the early 1980s how connoisseurial words like beauty and uglygood and bad had no place in the contemporary art conversation; that to say a work of art was beautiful was too subjective to be generative, and was ultimately anti-social.

Where is the agreement
that beauty is optional – 

Not urgent for us to thrive?

I find this to be a leading question, if not a fallacy. Maybe I am wrong. Or maybe I would like to be provided with a definition of beauty and how it is important to our sur-thrive-al.

Since when have we learned
the price of everything yet know
the value of nothing?



This question is easier because the price of everything has its price, and an increasing majority of those living in Vancouver find that price impossible to meet. Last I heard, the value of nothing is 0.

How could we have missed
that beauty is a strength
not a substance that makes its way
through the cracks to come after our
senses in full force to push us forward? 

It is easy for those unable to meet the price of everything to have missed the proposition that equates beauty with strength in their day-to-day struggle to afford substances such as food and clothing and shelter. As for "what makes its way/ through the cracks," that could be false consciousness. But to assign an action to beauty -- "push" is too aggressive, too monological. Same too for unilateral directions like "forward." 

Because we, we have not signed up. 
Westbank. Fight for Beauty.

As a dependent clause, "Because we" only makes sense in a lyric poem. Only this isn't a lyric poem so much as a centre-justified admonishment of an imagined enemy of something that is refused a definition by a private developer in defense of what it really wants, and that's a fight. In the words of Mick Jagger at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Free Concert in Northern California: "Who's fighting -- what for?" He said this more than once.