Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Documentary on Bas Jan Ader

An artist who disappeared at sea.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Poem by Henri Michaux

The Jetty (translated by Richard Ellmann)
During the month that I was living at Honfleur I had not yet seen the sea, for the doctor made me stay in my room.  
But last night, tired of being so isolated, I built, taking advantage of the fog, a jetty as far as the sea. Then, right at the end of it, letting my legs hang down, I looked at the sea, below me , which was breathing deeply. 
A murmur came from my right. It was a man sitting like me with legs swinging and looking at the sea. "Now that I am old" he said "I am going to pull up everything I have put there during the years."  He began to draw things up by means of pulleys. 
And he brought up riches in abundance. He brought up captains from other ages in dress uniforms, chests studded with all sorts of precious things, and women dressed lavishly but as they no longer dress. And as he brought each being or thing to the surface, he looked at it carefully with high hopes, then without saying a word, while his face fell, he pushed it behind him. So we filled up the entire pier. I don't remember exactly what there was, for I have no memory, but obviously it was not satisfactory, in everything something had been lost which he hoped to recover and which had faded away. 
Then he began to throw everything back into the sea. Like a long ribbon it fell and, when it wet you, froze you. A last piece of junk which he was pushing off dragged him in too. As for me, shivering with fever, I wonder how I was ever able to get back to my bed.  

Monday, July 29, 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.

In today's mail, two poems by Henri Michaux, translated by a friend into English. One is about a flower, if anything. The other moves similarly.

Time to remove the flowers on the table. Time to replace the vase and the water inside it. Time to replace the table, make it smaller, allow for more room between it and the closet door.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

St. John's

In 1989 CBC television debuted two half-hour comedy shows: the Kids in the Hall, comprised of young men from Alberta and Ontario, and CODCO, a mix of slightly older men and women from Newfoundland. Both ensembles were seasoned "live" performers who mixed sketch comedy and improvisation. Both included homosexual scenarios delivered by homosexual actors.

While Kids in the Hall succeeded in pushing boundaries -- both identifying and mocking an ever-atomizing mainstream culture for an ever-widening popular audience -- it was the more-regional CODCO that took the bigger chances, dug the deeper wells, activating within this viewer the kind of complexities that make life what it is (and isn't).

I am not sure if the above sketch was included in the original CBC broadcasts. Looking at it now, it seems tame, but back then it would have been outrageous, too close to home, particularly in light of then-recent events.

That said, looking at the sketch at the level of language, it does not include words banned by the CRTC, only situations that could be perceived as suggestive. Indeed, where Kids in the Hall was over-the-top, CODCO was so far under-the-bottom, so far up our asses, it might as well have been radio.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Red Indian Lake

Rebecca Belmore's contemporary take on an incident that took place on March 5, 1819, at Red Indian Lake, Newfoundland. The work, entitled March 5, 1819 (2008),  received its premiere as part of Belmore's current exhibition at Carleton University Gallery, where it runs until September 1, 2013.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fogo Island

Six hours northwest of Cape Spear (by car and ferry) is Fogo Island, the ancestral home of Zita Cobb, who left the island with her family in the late 1970s, only to make her fortune in information technologies and return to it a philanthropist.

Among the many programs Cobb has put in place through the Shorefast Foundation (co-founded with her brother) is an artist residency administered by the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. According to Lisa Moore, who wrote a 2011 article on Fogo for Canadian Art, the goal of the Foundation is "to preserve the culture and way of life of Fogo Island," with the artist residency program one of its preservatives.

Last week a group of artists and curators met on Fogo under the auspices of the Fogo Island Dialogues. What was said during these dialogues has not yet been made public, but as one would expect, questions of preservation and culture were likely in the air.

For my part I am putting together an application for Fogo, one that proposes a Pride Day, with an annual parade and related activities. Whether my proposal fits with the preservation mandate is questionable, but I will make a case for it nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cape Spear

One of the more interesting writing projects of late is an ongoing intervention by Duane Linklater, where the artist inserts information into the Wikipedia entry for Cape Spear that its editors deem unworthy. Worthiness in this case is based on Wikipedia's "goals," which are, according to editor Steve Crayan, "to inform and elucidate, and any contribution to an article should hold those two words paramount."

What I particularly enjoy about Duane's project is that it challenges a more recent and polemical writing project served up in the name of literary vanguardism -- conceptual writing -- which derides expressionistic texts in favour of remodelling those already in existence, the kind of banal informational texts one might find sanctioned by Wikipedia, under the category of "reference."

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Sister Havana" (1993)

Not sure what is being conveyed in this song and video. On the one hand the singer is asking his "Sister" to "come around to my way of thinking," though what that thinking is is unclear. Does he want her to help him and others "overthrow" Fidel Castro, or does he want to "overthrow" "Sister Havana"?

Who is "Sister Havana"? Is she someone who lives in a shack outside of Havana, or in a shack outside of Miami?

As for the opening scene, that too is confusing. To my knowledge, Jacques Lacan never had a beard. And what's he doing smoking one of Bill Clinton's cigars?

Sunday, July 21, 2013


When my gender gets the better of me, when I need a break from my North American malaise: Carolyn Forché's "The Colonel" (1978) and Sabiá's "Mujer Sandinista" (1984).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Coulda, Shoulda, Prob'ly Woulda"

The first track from Liz Phair's amazing 1993 debut album Exile in Guyville.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rize and Shine?

At 2AM on Christmas Day, 2009, fire ravaged a building at the corner of Kingsway and Broadway, destroying seven ground floor businesses and a number of artist studios above that. If I was to set fire to a building in the hope of burning it down, I could not think of a better time to do so.

Eventually the rubble was cleared and an information park was installed by the new land owners as they waited to sell the City on their proposal for a tower complex, what is known today as The Rize.

The video above provides some information of its own on The Rize, not only the "process" but what this complex will feel like once installed. Where in the previous post leopard spots were used to show the presence of Brutopia, this video uses purple.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leopard Realty Postcards (1970-1971)

What a surprise to find in my mailbox yesterday an image from Eric Metcalfe's Leopard Realty Postcards (1970-1971) reproduced on the cover of the latest issue of Geist (#89). The four re-touched postcards that comprise this work (as found inside Geist, and crudely re-photographed above) were originally part of a six-card sequence that appeared in Metcalfe's 1992 Return to Brutopia survey at the UBC Fine Arts Gallery. That two of the postcards have since gone missing parallels the disappearance of a city into the pattern and recurrence of global market forces (in this instance, real estate speculation), a pattern and recurrence similar to the leopard spots Metcalfe used to signify the onslaught of Brutopia.

If, in a hundred years from now, art as we know it still matters, Metcalfe's Leopard Realty Postcards might well be seen as the artist's finest hour: a work that reflects not only the artist's participation in the New York Correspondence School, but also a conceptual art that was emerging at the time of its making. Further to that, the presence of the artist's signature motif is related to his 1970s performance persona -- that of Dr. Brute -- who could be found accompanying another Western Front founder, Vincent Trasov, as he danced about town in his Mr. Peanut costume.

For me, Metcalfe's motif functions similarly to the painted monochromatic fields employed by another Vancouver artist, Ian Wallace, in his photo-paintings, the best-known (at least as an instigator of the post-conceptual photo-based practices that this city is known for) being his hand-tinted Mélancolie de la rue (1973), a work that gives us, amongst other things, three instances of architecture: the (squatter's) shack, the (tradesman's) house and the (architect's) modernist -- and Brutalist -- museum.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Steel-Driving Man and Machine

John Henry's pyrrhic victory.

Monday, July 15, 2013


"Uncertainty is certainty..."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Money Can't Buy (2012)

A 2012 CBC interview with Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"now I live in a homeland"

Something that continues to stick in my mind is this 2006 interview with Gore Vidal, where, in advance of the 2007-2008 "downturn", he predicts a bankrupt nation, amongst other things.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hornby Island Artist

Jerry Pethick passed away in 2003. A long-time Hornby Island resident and community-builder, Jerry's work could be seen as a convergence of lens-based installation and sculpture, most notably his three-dimensional arrays, which combine collage assemblage and montage.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Vancouver Sunrise

Yesterday's sunrise, looking northeast from my kitchen window.

Friday, July 5, 2013

"Carnival: Second Panel" (1970-1975)

The ultimate fusion of the expressive and the concrete: Steve McCaffery's "Carnvial" (1967-1975). The image above is from the "Second Panel" (1970-1975).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"things that go unnoticed"

Jordan Abel is, amongst other things, a "First Nations writer who lives in Vancouver." The image above is the cover of his book of poems, forthcoming from Talonbooks this fall. You can read about it here.

Although I too live in Vancouver, Jordan and I have yet to meet. But we did appear together in the Winter 2013 "Narrative" issue of The Capilano Review, an issue that concluded with his "Argiope glycoside", which is comprised of a prose work on the verso side and a concrete poem on the recto side. His mix of expressive and concretist rhetorics is similar to what I attempted in the suite of five poems I contributed to that issue.

In a recent TCR Blog post, entitled "things that go unnoticed", Jordan spoke of the "Narrative" issue (amongst other things). His interest in my "O" poem inspired me to write the following poem for him:


for Jordan Abel


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"origins in Intolerance"

In yesterday's post I spoke of the relationship between cutting up a moose and cutting up film stock toward an edited film that has the hunting and butchering of that moose as its (unspoken) plot. In today's post I wanted to talk about two artists who approach the editing of film and video at opposing ends: Tamara Henderson, who uses story boards, laborious rehearsals and "edits" her films in-camera, and Isabelle Pauwels, who proceeds with scripted narrative material, but whose videos (particularly her latest) achieve their lyricism -- and overtone -- through an equally laborious post-production editing/writing regime.

As I said, I wanted to talk about these artists but am instead still thinking about Margarethe Von Trotta's most recent feature, Hannah Arendt (2012), which I saw at the Vancity Theatre last week. What haunts me most about this film is the director's ability to allow us to make the connection between what Arendt refers to as the unthinking "banality of evil" of Adolf Eichmann and the unthinking environment he helped to create in the form of the Nazi concentration camp, where all activity is "meaningless." That Von Trotta relies on our ability to think toward this connection (to form it, as it were) mirrors what Arendt learned from her mentor, Martin Heidegger, who, among other things, encouraged her to explore this very activity. Of course in leading us there, Von Trotta employs that which mirrors our own synaptic activity: editing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Butcher a Moose, How to Cut a Film

Currently on display at Catriona Jeffries Gallery is Modest Livelihood, a collaboration between sculptor Brian Jungen and filmmaker Duane Linklater that features three film works, two in the larger gallery (one of which is a double-screen projection), with the eponymous film  projected (as video) in a room of its own.

A lot has been written on Modest Livelihood (2012) since its debut at the Banff Centre last summer, but something lacking in the discussion, at least as far as I can see, is mention of the formal relationship between cutting and editing: how the cutting (up) of a bagged moose is a kind of reverse sculpture for Jungen (not unlike how he cut up Nike trainers and montaged the elements into his formline-friendly northwest coast masks), and how that cutting parallels the cutting (and editing) of film stock -- towards the very film that concludes with that gesture.

Something else worth noting: Modest Livelihood provides further evidence of Jungen's burgeoning interest in primary -- or non-mediated -- "materials", something I took up in a recent review of the artist's exhibition at the Hannover Kunstverein.