Thursday, June 21, 2018

Work Day

The pitch fork hits the ground (and slides in) or it hits rock and I wiggle it (in). Once under, I lift, turning the fork this way and that before kneeling down and pulling up stuff like mallow, mustard...

Into the cart they go.

Then it's off to the next square foot.

I have done this at least a thousand times over the past three days, and it is something, but if there is a contraption that removes weeds without taking too much topsoil with them -- great! I want one!

Lunch now. On the deck under the gazebo. The towering clouds and blue patches have given way to dark twisting shapes. I hear thunder, but I see no lightning.

Part of me wants to see a lightning strike, like it strikes in that Earle Birney poem,

He invented a rainbow but lightning struck it
shattered it into the lake-lap of a mountain
so big his mind slowed when he looked at it

but that would mean fire. The forests are tinder dry, and if they catch fire, then we catch fire too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A small room behind 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.

Last night's dream was slept on. When I rolled over, there it was: a genre that reflects and accelerates (the times); an assertive genre that, in its listing, celebrates, admonishes; a prayer that clears as much space as it takes -- a litany.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Westchester Loyola Village Library

After dropping off my rental car to avoid paying for a day that would end six hours later (or two hours before my 8pm flight back to Vancouver), I walked to the Westchester Loyola Village Library to work on the piece that brought me to town: 800 words on Peter Cardew's design of the Reigning Champ store on South La Brea.

The person sitting next to me was also at work. You can't see it from the photo (taken surreptitiously), but to his left is a small keyboard, which he tapped away at, sometimes furiously.

I would love to have heard what this person was composing. The style of music, the samples he was using, whether it had anything to do with him writing and recording it at a library.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dog Star Orchestra

A group that meets. The Dog Star Orchestra.

On Thursday night at Coaxial, three pieces: the first we missed; the second, a floor "mounted" score for group movement; followed by music -- someone blowing tone clusters through a melodica while a voice, a voila, a trumpet (and more) take turns pulling from these clusters individual notes and, as angels do, holding them.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Made in L.A.

The Hammer has added a bridge since my last visit -- not to the wider community, but within itself. No more going down stairs to climb up those on the other side of the courtyard.

The piece on the wall belongs to MPA. The other half of these glasses can be found on the floor at the start of the Made in L.A. exhibition.

Following MPA is Charles Long's installation based on the sectioning of the human penis. Equal parts classical ruin, scrimshaw assemblage and art historical index (penile cross-section as Munch's Scream and South Park's Cartman?).

Neha Choksi contributed a very watchable video installation (three projections, one monitor). Choksi's is one of five or so works that feature dance or dance artistry.

taisha paggett contributed a video installation that alludes to the dancer's body as bellows. Between its two monitors, at the base of an "open mic" that invites viewers to share our breath(s), are the artist's post-it-notes, recipe cards... Note the filters.

James Benning presents a spare room with sculpture, wall works and projection. This pairing of the U.S. flag and a textile portrait of the assassinated Che Guevara caught my eye. Thank you, James. I know where I am now.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was the work of Luchita Hurdado (b. 1920), in particular her painting Encounter (1971). Vancouver has seen a lot of recent work by painters working with textiles (from the sewn, intricately puckered sheets of Colleen Heslin to the droopy "hard edge" weavings of Brent Wadden to the woven strands of acrylic in the paintings of Angela Teng); but in Hurdado's Encounter, it is the weave that is applied to the surface (with paint).

For me, the Hammer galleries provide the perfect length of space for an exhibition. As for Made in L.A., as much as I enjoyed the first half (Galleries 4 and 5), the second half (Galleries 1 and 2) wobbled due to this recent institutional pandemic known as the overhang. Yes, I understand the desire to overwhelm the viewer after we emerge from the sea change that is SunĂ© Woods's undersea world, but surely it was not the curator's intention to hit us with this terra-wave of decorative, if not juvenile work. That would be, as they say in the biz, disingenuous. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Subject to Edward Hopper (South La Brea).


Subject to Dirck van Baburen (Wilshire).

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Los Angeles

Up at 5am, taxi at 6am, at the gate at 7am, boarded at 8am, arrived at LAX at 11:15 am, as advertised. 

Shuttled to Avis, where I picked up the car I booked through the night before. Not the Ford Focus I requested, but its "equivalent": a copper-coloured Ford Veruca (or some such name) with Nevada plates.

Up Sepulveda, a right on Pico, then a left on Beverly, eventually to the Sunland foothills. Ruscha to Sultan to Sergio Leone.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018


At last count, the Vancouver Art Gallery has used the word "prescient" 87 times to describe the work of some of the artists included in its first triennial -- Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures.

In a complementary turn, Lee Valley has provided a prescient example of the VAG's new built-to-budget, gallery-on-a-stick design for the front cover of its Summer 2018 catalogue.

Here is the VAG's old new design:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Halfbreed (1973)

Most of my public schooling took place in the 1970s. I was in Grade 11 in 1978, and English 11 was divided into six half-year classes, of which we had to take four over two years. One of the classes I chose was Canadian Literature, taught by Mrs. Winter. The main text for that class was the novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) by Mordecai Richler, which was made into an equally great film by Ted Kotcheff in 1974.

While the remainder of our required readings were short stories (Alice Munro's "The Office", 1968, was a highlight), we were asked to select another novel from a list of ten and write a report. The new girl who sat in front of me chose Marie-Claire Blaise's Mad Shadows (1959), while I chose Maria Campbell's Halfbreed (1973). Though a memoir, Halfbreed was presented to us as a novel, something I was reminded of when I read that Nlaka'pamux writer Marie Terese Mailhot first published early chapters of Heart Berries: A Memoir as fiction.

Halfbreed was in the news recently over a three-paragraph passage that was removed from the original publication -- the author's rape by an RCMP officer when she was fourteen years old.

Here is that passage:

During all this time Dad worked for Bob and poached on the side, and as usual the Mounties and wardens were often at our house. We were eating fairly well, as Dad made good money from the sale of meat. One day he was away and Grannie and I were drying meat in the bush. We had a tent set up about a mile from the house and all the children were with us. I raced home to get something we’d forgotten just as three R.C.M.P drove up in a car. They said they were going to search the house as they knew Daddy had brought meat home the day before. I let them in and said that everyone else was at the store, and prayed that no one would come from the camp. While one Mountie was upstairs and another in the barn, the third followed me into the kitchen. He talked for a long time and insisted that I knew about the meat.
Suddenly he put his arm around me and said that I was too pretty to go to jail. When I tried to get away, he grabbed my hair and pulled me to him. I was frightened and was fighting back as Robbie came running into the room. He tried to hit the Mountie but was knocked to the floor. I was nearly to the door when the other one came in. All I can recall is being dragged to Grannie’s bed where the man tore my shirt and jeans. When I came to, Grannie was crying and washing me off. I must have been in a state of shock, because I heard everything she said but could not speak or cry despite the pain. My face was all bruised and I had teeth marks all over my chest and stomach. My head felt as if my hair had been pulled out by the roots.
Grannie was afraid that Dad would come home, so she helped me upstairs and put me to bed. She told me not to tell Daddy what had happened, that if he knew he would kill those Mounties for sure and be hung and we would all be placed in an orphanage. She said that no one ever believed Halfbreeds in court; they would say that I had been fooling around with some boys and tried to blame the Mounties instead. When Daddy came home she told him that King had gone crazy and had thrown me. Dad sold King because he was afraid that I might be crippled or even killed next time. I don’t know what Grannie told Robbie. After that, he always hated the police, and when he grew up he was in trouble all the time and served prison terms for assaulting policemen. My fear was so great that I even believed they would come back and beat me to make sure that I told no one. For weeks afterwards, if I heard a car coming into the yard, I would be sick to my stomach with fear.

Friday, June 8, 2018

"There are places to come from/ and places to go."

If the 1970s had a window, it would be similar to the one above (located on Main Street between King Edward and 33rd), with its terra cotta pot, its hanging philodendron, the dark space behind them and a wicker blind.

The Kitsilano of my youth was full of windows like this one. Better than a flag, these windows indicated that whatever was going on behind them smelled like black hash, sounded like Joni Mitchell, tasted like rose hips and felt soft and smooth and equally responsive.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Woman in Berlin (1954/2013)

The best known diary to have emerged from the Second World War is The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) by Dutch national Anne Frank (b.1929). Another wartime diary is A Woman in Berlin (1954/2013) by Marta Hillers (b.1911), who, until her death in 2001, insisted that her authorship remain anonymous.

Apart from some obvious differences between these two women, their books are similar insofar as their lives are determined by occupying forces. In the case of Frank, it is the German army; in the case of Hiller, the Russians who "liberated" Berlin in April 1945.

Below is a passage from A Woman in Berlin that was written on Thursday, 26 April, 1945 at 1100hr, the day before the Russians arrived in Bergmannkiez:

These days I keep noticing how my feelings towards men -- and the feelings of all the other women --  are changing. We feel sorry for them; they seem so miserable and powerless. The weaker sex. Deep down we women are experiencing a kid of collective disappointment. The Nazi world -- ruled by men, glorifying the strong man -- is beginning to crumble, and with it the myth of "Man". In earlier wars men could claim that the privilege of killing and being killed for the Fatherland was theirs and theirs alone. Today, we women, too, have a share. That has transformed us, emboldened us. Among the many defeats at the end of the war is the defeat of the male sex. (62)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Stairway to Brutopia

The concrete stairway at 1168 West Cordova.

Robust, no? All those years in truthy grey, then someone had the sad idea to paint it black -- a flat black -- to highlight accumulations of algae, moss and mildew.

In the 1970s Vancouver artist Eric Metcalfe drew on this location for a series of retouched postcards for his Leopard Realty project. It is, in my view, his finest moment.

In this era of vapid, decorative, up-with-people mural painting, wouldn't it be worth giving Metcalfe and his crew the keys to that stairway, in an effort to bring a little more realty to this fantastic market city?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


with a K and an S left over

Monday, June 4, 2018

Bon Bombs

I am not sure when I first heard the words "bath bomb." It must have been a quarter-century ago when wars and their reportage were focused more on corporate mergers than on roadside explosions and aerial targets. Back then, if a person, place or thing was worth swooning over, we referred to them as "the bomb".

The events of 9/11 changed the way we think of bombs when its perpetrators allegedly hi-jacked and steered three fully-fuelled passenger aircraft into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Now the word "bomb" is used to describe any number of things that imply a concentration of incendiary elements -- the most recent example occurring at a chocolatier on Robson Street a couple of blocks west of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where the Bombhead exhibition banner hangs like a dirty towel before an institution enslaved by the sound of its own unmaking.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Art Writing

An opening. I am at an art opening.

An artist had an idea, connected with a gallery, and it was decided that the work would be exhibited, that it would open and the public would enter -- until it closed a few weeks later and the gallery would lie quiet for a while before repeating the cycle.

I am sorry that Tommy's exhibition had to be the one to inspire this post, but knowing Tommy, he will understand. Pattern and repetition interest him, from factory work to the zoetrope to house music to the writing of code -- all of it "encouraged" by the hectoring voice of the master.

As for the mouth behind this master's voice, I recognized it immediately as belonging to Mark Oliver, who, in his late-50s now, might well be the original slacker -- if he weren't doing so well as a voice actor. Mark's show business break-through, he likes to tell people, came as a late-90s "ass double" for Terence Stamp.

Here is Terence in Pasolini's Theorema (1968):

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Main Street

It was just one of those days. A change in the weather. A low-pressure system pushing the Melancholy button, and voila, there I was, parking the car at 20th and walking south on the east side of Main Street, eventually to 30th, where I would cross the street to ReFind, poke around and make my way north, on the westside.

ReFind is selling this oxidized copper candle holder for $149:

I know.

On my way back I noticed Liberty Bakery has filled-in that gorgeous blank space on the south side of its building with its name, broken down into syllables and stacked atop itself.

What a shame. Might as well put up a sign reading: LOOK HERE.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Spring Fling

When I was in elementary school (1967-1975), the Friday before the Victoria Day long weekend was Sports Day, an event that kicked off with a decorated bicycle parade, followed by a sprint, a sack race and an egg-on-the-spoon race for those in the younger grades and more team-oriented activities for those in Grades 4-7. We bought five-cent tickets from an onsite kiosk and exchanged them for pop, hotdogs and chips. Sports Day ended at noon, but because both my parents were away at work, I spent what remained of the day at the house of a friend's whose mother worked from home.

Somewhere between then and now it was decided that the Friday before the long weekend was interfering with families wanting to escape the city early, so Sports Day was moved to the following weekend. But by then Sports Day was deemed too exclusive, too competitive, which is fine -- not everyone can run, jump in a sack or walk slowly and carefully enough to keep an egg on a spoon from falling.

Because of this exclusivity, my neighbourhood elementary school came up with a fair -- the Spring Fling -- which takes place on a Thursday after school hours between 4pm-8pm.

Unlike Sports Day, the Spring Fling is located throughout the school. The gym is reserved for those in the younger grades (and their parents) who are still learning how to learn, while the adjacent outdoor plaza is a mix of food sales, games of chance and sales of "gently used" clothing. Inside the plaza doors are tables crammed with hampers and their bid sheets, while the eastern plaza functions as a place to eat and listen to "live" music, in this case a band of young vibraphonists.

When I arrived I was greeted by my nine-year-old friend Olive, who lives at the end of my block. Olive had won a cake and offered to share some of it with me. Even in its half eaten state, the cake was huge -- a dense sprawling thing topped with moss green icing, parts of which had been smeared away. Olive handed me a plastic knife and I cut a piece just big enough to keep her from feeling insulted.

On my way back I stopped to watch the Spring Fling's biggest spectacle -- the dunk tank. A source of humiliation in my era, the line-up for those willing to be dunked was twice as long as those paying for the chance to dunk someone. Part of me thinks this inversion, like the de-emphasis on Sports Day's exclusivity and competition, is a measure of how far we have come, while another wonders if the Fling's market-like atmosphere, with its prize cakes and dunkings, is only a reorientation of activities that many of us thought to be limiting.