Sunday, June 30, 2013

Annie Pootoogook

In many of Annie Pootoogook's drawings of interior life at Kinngait (Cape Dorset) you will notice a figure bending over. The link here will take you to a brief article by Canadian Art editor Richard Rhodes. If you click on the camera icon you will see three reproductions. The first, Sobey Awards (2008), has its figures standing upright (Annie received the award in 2006); the second, Erotic Scene -- 4 Figures (2001), has its figures bending both forward and backward (the fourth figure requires some looking); and the third, Eating Seal at Home (2001), where the lone bent-over figure distributes the meat.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Two Exhibitions

On Thursday Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery opened three exhibitions -- Kay Rosen in the windows, Monika Sosnowska in the larger gallery and Itee Pootoogook in the smaller one.

Sosnowska, who is from Warsaw, gives us a series of abstracted sculptural works that bear traces of past figuration. Whether this abstraction is born from a transformation (Poland's passage from a Soviet bloc country to a participant in the global capitalist mode) or a degradation (the ruination of a worker's utopia) is debatable.

Pootoogook, who is from Cape Dorset, Nunavit, works in coloured pencils and paper, and has largely chosen the town's exterior buildings as his subject (this in contrast to another Pootoogook -- Annie -- whose best-known works focus on the town's interior, and at times psychosexual, spaces). Also worth noting is the embossed stamp in the corner of his paper surfaces, a mark that tells you that the paper was made not in Cape Dorset but sold there -- at what I am told is a price much higher than what you would pay for it down south.

While Sosnowska and Pootoogook make seductive, eye-catching work, what looms large over the two exhibitions, what draws them together, as it were, is the works' relationship to the economic systems they are both born from and subject to. Sosnowska's sculptures imply the passage from one system (socialist) to another (capitalist), while the embossed stamp in Pootoogook's paper is less a sign that the paper was sanctioned by Cape Dorset's company store "brand" than a reminder of another modal transition (this one from feudalism to capitalism).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lost & Found

Yesterday, while passing a vacant bus stop at 41st Avenue and West Boulevard, I noticed a black pocket-sized Moleskine notebook lying on the ground, the first three pages filled with the beginnings of a story.

Rather than post a picture of the notebook, I will supply a line from the story (at bottom). If you can provide additional details, then I will assume that it is yours.

"When Boris saw Mrs. Silva reaching up into her fig tree, to test the ripeness of its fruit, he raced to his sock drawer to fetch his binoculars and lube."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One Serious Artist

Kim Deal and audience performing "Cannonball" at Echo County Outpost.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Lady Jane" (1966)

Sir Mick Jagger and the court of the Rolling Stones.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pygmalion (1938)

"I won't be called an object when I have offered to pay like any lady."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

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.

The day, measured from midnight not sun up,  is nine hours old, and I have been awake for an hour of it, reading Stein's Ida (1941), pausing to think back on other man-made subjectivities -- Shaw's Pygmalion (1916), Breton's Nadja (1928) -- but also another Stein story, a novella that appeared in her first published work, Three Lives (1909), a story called "Melanctha".

"Melanctha" is the story of woman born of a black father and a white mother, who is, as Stein describes her, more "blue" than black-and-white. A key element in the story, perhaps the central element, concerns not Melanctha and those around her, but the emergence of modernity, and how it both affects and shapes its subjects.

Thinking about "Melanctha" while reading Ida is its own story, one that has me pausing in this instance to wonder what has been written about this novella, particularly in the 1980s, when stories involving mixed-race parentage were perceived to be the domain of those who shared that parentage, not those who sought to explore its ubiquity as a consequence of something we all have in common: modernity.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Not Making the News

The question of what is news and what makes news speaks less to the flow of information than the news agencies (newspapers, television) that organize and convey that information.

In the report above, we hear from a concerned citizen, someone who has come upon information, formed a proposition (the relationship between seismic activity in the southern United States and the Caribbean) and asked not only why the major news agencies have failed to report this proposition, but why his source (Google Maps) did not include the times in which this activity occurred.

While some might argue that this lack of reportage constitutes a conspiracy, or at the very least a willful decision on the part of news agencies not to convey the relationship between earthquakes in the southern U.S. and the Caribbean, that might be moot given the rather large hit count this citizen's report has received (for he is, in this instance, the news agent). Another question concerns how a formal news agency might report these findings in a dynamic and entertaining fashion, lest its viewers change the channel.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Breaking the News

"Anti-, um, anti-globalism sort of thing."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Staging the News

In its presentation on the Syrian government's alleged use of sarin gas to fight anti-government forces, CNN provides a stage that includes a horizontal surface to depict the spread of a gas they have said is invisible and, behind its presenter, a triptych that features Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (left), a packet of gas vials (centre) and, in a shape similar to those vials, five medium-to-long-range missiles (right).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chemical Enlightenment

Googled "antonym for weapon" this morning and the first thing that came up was from Yahoo! A single vote has it that "[a] weapon is an instrument of war and destruction. So an antonym would be an instrument of peace -- perhaps a "treaty' or a 'flag of truce'?"

When considering this antonym in relation to the chemical, could LSD be a "treaty" of sorts, a negotiation within the self towards an inner peace or enlightenment, as opposed to ongoing conflict and destruction?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Agent Orange

Is Agent Orange an American chemical weapon (a dioxin also known by its benign-sounding name, 245D), or merely a herbicide, as Monsanto would like us to believe?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chemical Weapons in America

This week the United States government expressed outrage over the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons on its people, yet the United States government has used chemical weapons on its people routinely since the 1960s, whether to train its soldiers (see above) or to quell its dissenters (see below).

Friday, June 14, 2013


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Water Purification

A survivalist demonstrates how to purify creek water.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"You Don't Miss Your Water"

When at Banff or the Banff Centre, one thing I do not miss is the water, which remains good and pure, like the mountains it comes from.

In yesterday's post I provided a coy link to the Byrd's version of Cindy Walker's "Blue Canadian Rockies", via the word "peaceful." In today's post, a "live" 1968 recording of the Byrd's version of "You Don't Miss Your Water", written by Don Bell and, in this instance, sung by the Byrd's then-newest member, Gram Parsons.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Banff Centre

Last Thursday I travelled to Banff, where I had been invited by Jesse McKee, curator of the Banff Centre's Walter Phillips Gallery, to respond to Julia Feyrer and Tamara Henderson's Bottles Under the Influence, a sprawling exhibition that features staged assemblages, two publications and a performance.

This was my sixth visit to the Centre since 1996, when I was invited to give a reading for the Literary Journalism program. Since then I have participated in a couple of Pan-Canadian Wordfests, an opera residency and a curatorial symposium.

As has been the case with all my visits to the Centre, I am immediately struck by its changes. At first these changes concerned the old dining hall, where, over time, fewer and fewer tables were reserved for artists, and more and more for corporations, who come to conference there. Nowadays, however, the more immediate changes are architectural, with glass-and-concrete buildings, such as the Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation (see above), replacing those made of wood-and-carpet, such as Farrally Hall (see below).

The Banff Centre of today is a very different place than the one I first came to. Where until this last visit I stayed at the Centre's residences, this time I was put up in town, at the Fox Hotel, as the Centre was booked-up for a Environmental Economics conference. While I did not mind the peaceful fifteen minute walk to and from the Centre, much of that walk was spent thinking about the changes I have seen since my first visit -- and how some of these changes I do mind.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Western Front

The demise of Intermedia coincided (roughly) with the opening of the Western Front, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary a week today.

The picture up top is the building when it was purchased by the artists who have come to be associated with it, while the picture below is what the building looks like today.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


One of Vancouver's most important "cultural hubs" (as we call them today) was Intermedia. Less a place for artists than an attitude towards art and art production, Intermedia first opened its doors in the latter part of 1967. The picture above is of the artist-run centre's first home at 575 Beatty Street.

For more information on Intermedia, visit Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties and Intermedia 1967.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Artist Production Space Survey

The release below is from Alix Sales, Cultural Planner on behalf of Cultural Services, City of Vancouver.

Survey: Artist Production Space in Mount Pleasant

On April 17, 2012, Vancouver City Council approved a rezoning application by Rize Alliance Properties for 228-246 East Broadway and 180 Kingsway.  As part of the rezoning the City received a $4.5 million Community Amenity Contribution to support artist production space in Mount Pleasant.
To explore options for delivering the artist production space, Cultural Services staff hosted a workshop on March 14, 2013, with local artists, representatives from arts organizations, the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee, and the City’s Arts and Culture Policy Council. 
Now we'd like to hear from you!
How do you think the $4.5 million fund should be used to support artist production space?
Rate and comment on key concepts from the community workshop. Your feedback will inform the strategy that staff presents to City Council. 
The questionnaire is open until June 12, 2013.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Death in Venice (1971)

In Visconti's version of Thomas Mann's 1912 novel, Gustav is the artist and Tadzio is the curator.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nicholas Roeg in Venice

Film critics agree that Nicholas Roeg's Venice-shot Don't Look Now (1973) contains the 22nd "scariest movie moment," ever.

In this video clip we hear from a number of critics. One of them, Kim Newman, echoes strategies employed by certain visual artists, when he says: "It's what Hitchcock always used to do -- picking a location and then thinking about things."

Venice is built on 118 small islands linked by boats and bridges, not a city that chose canals over roads. It was for most of its life a wealthy commercial city. It was also known as a military base and a node in the Renaissance. Today it is known mostly for its beauty and its romance -- and that it is sinking.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Canadian Artists in Venice

There are a number of Canadians participating in the Venice Biennale this year.

Some, such as Shary Boyle, occupied the Canadian Pavilion, while others, such as Corin Sworn, shared the Scottish Pavilion with Scots. Another Canadian is Raphäelle de Groot (pictured above), who hails from Quebec, and who, through the will of curator and Sobey Award jury mainstay Louise Déry, became an "unofficial" entrant.

In a series of posts on Canadians at the Biennale, Canadian Art's Leah Sandals has this to say of de Groot's performance.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spring Clean #3

While in Germany last summer, Antonia Hirsch took me to Pfauninsel (also known as Peacock Island), near Potsdam.

What was a drive-in-cum-car-lot at the northeast corner of Kingsway and Inverness was torn down last fall to make way for a four-storey condo/retail complex, called Charm.

In April I attended the opening of Brian Jungen's exhibition at the Kunstverein Hannover. Because I was reviewing the show, I arrived early with my camera (not the one in the picture).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Spring Clean #2

A picture I took last July in the water-closet of our Berlin residence.

This picture was also taken in Berlin, but in April, a couple evenings before I visited the Kippenberger exhibition. The occasion was a DAAD dinner, and the man across the table (his hand not unlike my fork) is the artist Jimmie Durham. To Jimmie's left, the artist Maria Theresa Alves.

The entrance to Active Pass (moving east to west) has Mayne Island to the south and Galiano Island to the north. The picture below is mostly of the southern sky above the Strait of Georgia, though it includes the tip of Mayne, a strip of land that, over the years, has come to mean something to me.

After the opening of my exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria we moved to a 1950s-era bar located in the huge copper dome above Paul's Motor Inn. This bar has had many names over the years, but the current version is called the Copper Owl and is run by a group of twenty-something artists.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spring Clean

Just as we clean house each spring, now we do the same with our cameras.

Below is a recent picture I took of my friend Olive, who lives down the block. Olive likes to pick flowers. On this day I surprised her with a bouquet of daphne and alyssum from my garden.

Here is a picture I took while hosting the Sweetwater Festival in Rolla, B.C. last June:

Here is a picture I took while at the Martin Kippenberger exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in April: