Friday, September 30, 2011

Today the New York Stock Exchange reported its worst quarter since the "downturn." At the end of trading, one of its officers was heard to complain, in a less-than-bullish voice, that fear was undermining market confidence, and we should get over it.

Get over it? After all that money spent on heightening the fear of another terrorist attack?

Seems fear is in need of partition.

No more blanket fear!

Still in New York, a reminder that the New York Art Book Fair is at P.S 1 in Long Island City this weekend. Presentation House Gallery, whose board I serve on, is there, as is Publication Studio, who are launching Free Concert, a pendant to my exhibition The Rolling Stones Trilogy: an Inadvertent Opera in Three Acts, at Once. Free Concert is based on everything said from the stage during the Stones 1969 appearance at Altamont, and is not to be confused with the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A news service I subscribe to (weisslink) carried a NY Times article on the controversy surrounding Bob Dylan's current exhibition of paintings, "The Asia Series", at Gagosian Gallery. While some have accused Dylan of painting from existing photos (by Cartier-Bresson, Busy and Kessel), others have said that Dylan's "quotation" and "borrowing" is "as old as the hills in poetry, traditional songs and visual art," which is true (see the "conceptual writing" of Dan Farrell, the overheard songs of A. P. Carter and the rephotography of Richard Prince).

Dylan's mentor, Woody Guthrie, often rewrote lyrics to familiar songs, inverting their original intention to form a critique of that intention, like Joe Hill did when he rewrote a Christian song of compliance ("There is Power in the Blood of the Lamb") as a labour rally singalong ("There is Power in the Union"). Same structure (chords and melody), different materials (lyrical content).

What Dylan has accomplished in his "Asia Series", whether he intended to or not, is a re-examination of "Orientalism", a construction of the Asian subject through Western eyes. By reinscribing these photographic compositions in paint, he is, in effect, rereading them, taking the viewer with him, causing us to look again -- not only at their narrative structure but at the colours he has chosen, and why.

Woody Guthrie romanticized The People as he wrote them into his audience. I am not sure Dylan shared Guthrie's optimism, particularly after his move from rural Minnesota to New York City. Dylan's "Asia Series", like his song lyrics, is less an indifferent affirmation than a sly provocation. Whether The People get it is beside the point. This is something the Gagosian Gallery understands.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Birds are attempting a nest outside my back door. Every time I reach for the handle they fly away so fast I can't tell what kind. Nor can I tell from their guano. Not seagulls, not robins. Not sure what else.

For the past few years my neighbour has been putting bird seed out, usually atop a fence protecting her apple tree. As a result, there are now many different kinds of birds in our backyards, and I like that. Not only birds, but squirrels and chipmunks too.

Yesterday, while glancing out my kitchen window, I saw a coyote, a raccoon and a skunk within forty feet of each other. All these animals are familiar to us. But to see them together, even for a second.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The name -- of it -- is "Autumn"
(Emily Dickinson)

The name -- of it -- is "Autumn" --
The hue -- of it -- is Blood --
An Artery -- upon the Hill --
A Vein -- along the Road --

Great Globules -- in the Alleys --
And Oh, the Shower of Stain --
When Winds -- upset the Basin --
And spill the Scarlet Rain --

It sprinkles Bonnets -- far below --
It gathers ruddy Pools --
Then -- eddies like a Rose -- away --
Upon Vermilion Wheels --

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A drug I subscribe to has an occasional effect on my dreams. The latest concerns a conception of heaven as a vast cineplex where everyone has their own theatre, in which every thought we ever have (or had, as the case may be) runs in a continuous loop.

Last night's dream had me landing in a cineplex whose component theatres were organized not by the first letter of one's surname or by place of birth but by a system only my subconscious would have knowledge of. For example, why was Lee Atwater's theatre across from Georges Bataille's? And why was Jonbenet Ramsey's next to Louise Bourgeois's?

I toured a number of theatres last night, but the one that lured me was by someone I had never heard of, a woman by the name of Beryl Thigpen.

From what I could gather, Beryl was from the 19th century and lived a short life in a Dutch coastal town. Her favorite colour was yellow, and she wanted her hair to be yellow too. Her father, an English sailor, came and went when she was seven. Shortly after that, her life returned to the beginning

Friday, September 16, 2011

A news service I subscribe to has a sidebar announcing nude pictures of the actor Scarlett Johansson. My first thought was, What does that mean anymore, nude pictures? That someone shopped-out the actor's already see-through evening gown?

While considering the structure of a paragraph-ending sentence, I went looking for these pictures, only to be distracted by documentation of a Sister Mary Corita Kent exhibition opening at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery.

What a fine idea, combining Kent's seriographs with the coloured formal compositions of Frederico Herrera and the engravings of 18th century English pastoralist Thomas Bewick. Thank you, Nigel Prince!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A small room above 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.

This morning I picked a bowl of tomatoes from the vines outside. I chopped them up and added purple onion, cilantro, some white navy beans I left soaking over night, olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. In an hour I will be ready to eat them.

In the meantime, I will read a little more of Lane Dunlop's 1969 translation of Francis Ponge's Soap (1967).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tomorrow marks the first evening of Swarm: a Festival of Artist Run Culture. An initiative of the Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres (PAARC), Swarm has, over the past twelve years, grown to include university galleries (UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery), former artist run centres (the Contemporary Art Gallery), independent sites (Blim, The Gam Gallery, Shudder Gallery), hotels (New Forms at the Waldorf), parks (Vancouver Chinese Garden) and magazines (Fillip).

For my part I have curated Vancouver/Vancouver, a two-part exhibition drawn from the art collection of longtime Vancouver resident Rick Erickson, which opens tomorrow at Gallery 1965, in the same building as VIVO (1965 Main Street). Accompanying this exhibition is a short essay that mentions past trends in local collecting; the formal patterning found in Erickson’s collection; before concluding with a few words on the collector and his collection, how it provides us less a portrait of the collector than a spatial and temporal map of the city's cultural ecology. At the close of the second exhibition (“socially”-oriented works displayed in formal patterns, as opposed to the first show, where “formally”-oriented works are displayed expressively), I will post the essay here, at websit.

Also this week I begin at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Expanded Literary Practices is a Special Topics humanities course, hosted by the Department of Critical Studies. The course is based on my own research interests; specifically, the convergence of written and visual practices. Though focused on the 20th century, the course will reach as far back to 19th century France, where we will read and discuss Baudelaire’s innovative prose poem, “Anywhere Out of this World” (1869), before immersing ourselves in Symbolism, beginning with the visual poetry of Stephane Mallarme, who, in an effort to cherish life’s mysteries, implored us to “move that lamp away” (ecarte la lamp), something U.S. writer Jack Kerouac may or may not have taken seriously (see below).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

With summer two weeks from autumn, our warmest weather yet. But not all-round warm. Not warm coming out of the morning shower warm, or standing in the shadow of a building warm. Warm at bedtime warm, yes, but those coldnesses!

When was it, 1976? Sitting in Mrs Winters’s English 9/10 CanLit class on the third floor facing south, cooking in the wools our mothers bought us (with January in mind, not a hot September), the room damp with hormones, and Mrs Winters reading aloud “significant bits” from Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

Whither Mrs Winters? I remember how angry you looked when we goofed around, how you shook -- and that thing you did with your neck! Yet I also remember the glimmer in your eye that told us you had seen our kind before, that you knew us, and that you knew what we were going through.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The line from my house to the café is roughly three blocks long, an “L” shape that has me travelling east for one-half block and south for two-and-a-bit.

This morning’s conversation ranged from the recent report on our city’s 2011 hockey riot to what some suggest will be a much larger riot south of the border during the next U.S. Presidential election. My own feeling about the hockey riot is that the youth who came into downtown from Delta, Kerrisdale, Ladner, PoCo, Richmond, Surrey and West Vancouver have little respect for the downtown culture. They resent the money they pay to shops that sell phones and clothes, and they resent those living the cosmopolitan lifestyle. Had they felt otherwise, they might have behaved differently.

Predictions of an upcoming U.S. Presidential election riot took me by surprise, though the more that was said on the topic, the more I was reminded of my time in the southern states, where a range of people, from hotel bellhops to university academics, from those of European descent to those who identify as African-American, spoke with passion and intelligence about the myth of Reconstruction, how the old wounds still bleed. From there, the conversation returned to those who came into downtown Vancouver and rioted.

My return line from the café is longer. Usually I walk west down the lane behind the 1200-block Kingsway, north at Inverness, then east for that same half-block. Sometimes I walk to the café that way, but when I do, I always take the other route home.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011