Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Drafting Artspeak," "Designing Community"

Who would have thought that when Artspeak opened its doors in 1986 it would one day mount an exhibition that would "tour" to a private gallery. But that was the case with Valérie Blass's My Life, whose curatorial text by Artspeak director Kim Nguyen is included on the Daniel Faria Gallery website.

For my Canadian Art review of the Artspeak exhibition, click here. For Wojciech Olejnik's Momus review of the Daniel Faria exhibition, click here.

Another exhibition that implicates notions of public and private is Ron Tran's The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store at 221A, which I reviewed for Canadian Art last week. For that review, click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan

This song was pretty magical when it was released just before Christmas, 1987. An amazing duet, one I imagined would be sung again and again by its principals, Shane MacGown and Kirsty MacColl, every time the season neared.

But then MacColl's life was cut short by an accident in 2000, and MacGowan, well, he seems to spend as much time writ[h]ing in the ether, allowing himself to be cartooned back at us, than he does at love's "live" mic.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"

Ewan MacColl wrote hundreds of songs during his lifetime, most of them in the British folk/labour tradition. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (1957) is a song MacColl and Peggy Seeger wrote about their love for each other. Fifteen years later, it was covered by Roberta Flack and was ranked the number one song of 1972 by Billboard Magazine.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Thirty-Foot Trailer"

Derrick Knight's Travelling For a Living (1965) is a BBC television documentary on the Watersons, a family-based singing group from Hull, Yorkshire. At the end of this clip they sing Ewan MacColl's "The Thirty-Foot Trailer."

Here is MacColl singing the tune with his sweetheart, Peggy Seeger.

Friday, April 24, 2015


A view of -- and from -- a 1973 Airstream trailer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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 road ahead is over 200 miles long, and I will leave for it shortly. A small bag beside the passenger window. A change of clothes, a toothbrush and floss, and a book. 

Hopefully all goes well, and at the end of the day I will have my trailer.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Within the Context of No-Context" (1980)

Click here for the opening section of George W. S. Trow's "Within the Context of No-Context" as it first appeared in The New Yorker in November 17, 1980.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Boxed Venus (1967)

This year's recipient of the Audain Prize for the Visual Arts for Lifetime Achievement is Michael Morris.

The image above is of Michael's Boxed Venus, 1967, silkscreen on acetate 39.25" x 29.25".

Is it me or does this image not look like the personal computers that arrived on our desk tops some twenty years later?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

VIVA Awards

Tonight we celebrate the VIVA Awards.

This year I served on the Alvin Balkind Curator's Prize jury. The name we came up with is Cate Rimmer.

Cate is the founding director/curator of Artspeak. After that she was the director/curator of Truck Gallery, in Calgary, before taking a job at the Charles H. Scott Gallery at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she is today.

Behind the Sign is one of the exhibitions Cate curated at Artspeak. Among the collaborations between poets and visual artists is a project by Peter Culley and Sara Leydon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Corked (2014)

I was hoping to hear Catriona read from her latest book, Corked (2014), after I read Ted Byrne's thoughtful review of it in the most recent issue of The Capilano Review, but I read too long (something I never do!), and Catriona only read from her latest project, "Reveries of a Solitary Biker" (a collaboration with composer Jacqueline Leggatt and clarinetist François Houle).

Ted's review brought to mind another book that "spoke" from the perspective of a domestic (slave) labourer: Alice Randall's response to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936) -- The Wind Done Gone (2001).

Catriona did not have any copies of Corked with her, so after the reading I walked to Paper Hound and purchased one.

The bulk of Corked is made up of poems that begin "Dear Proust," but here is one from the opening section, a poem I read more than once on the bus ride home:


I'm so catty in green.
Will such hides express one
single shout of greening
rosemary? My hat's green
so green

Will's laugh zooms for lichen's
jagged wood, out-ditched hiding
and hugging (this hat's really
a gem), the wild jag I dance
heists my love's knot. My snazzy
hat's a jumping hide

Grabbed by some wanting,
decked much within green's
reasons -- my hat has grown
so going -- kind swarthy cruising,
kind bunting blooms, it all
rings green around here. My hat's
so damn green.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Passe-Partout (2015)

Tomorrow at noon Catriona Strang and I will read at SFU's noon hour Lunch Poems series. In looking for things to read, I came across five lines I started last year, only to lose track of them.

Re-reading these lines, which seem to characterize a condition, I wondered how I might ground them. That's when Peter came to mind.

So that's what I did yesterday: finished my poem while walking through the woods with Pete.


for Peter Culley

doctors all yourself

bounds not where

it hurts or when

a numbness does

its presence such

as stopped to light

dumb rustles felt

a feathered breath

since ferns from this

is listened into



watchers call on elves

hounds are there

this flirts for sense

the wonder of

its pheasant bunch

past all last night

some dozen welts

untethered hence

it burns from this

it glistens in you



poachers caught on film

soundless air

within this fence

an unspooled stump

this pleasant lunch

with all its might

no one to help

another went

pictures of him

en passe-partout



climbing up an elm

on a dare

hitherto dead

what fooled you once

is too much fun

give up the sight

so much for self

a plundered sense

midges hover

in this instance



falling on post-health

bounds not where

this flirts for sense

an unspooled stump

is too much fun

as stopped to light

past all last night

with all its might

a feathered breath

it burns from this

en passe-partout

Monday, April 13, 2015


Something Peter Culley caught on a walk with his camera and dog.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Waited a day too long to take out the garbage, then did. Because the kitchen still smelled like I hadn't, I went outside and snipped some daphne. When I awoke this morning, inside and outside were one.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's Personal

Stylelikeu is an online magazine devoted to "personal style." Here, art historian and performance art maven RoseLee Goldberg appears as part of/submits to its "Closets" portrait series

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Many Pictures Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

A highly-staged publicity photo for an upcoming Images Festival performance by Jess Dobkin, entitled "How Many Performance Artists Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?"

Is there anything left to chance? This is the question I ask myself of a work whose title takes the form of a question.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"aka" (Artspeak Knows Acronyms)

CCA Wattis is one of a number of feeding stations on Contemporary Art's long march. Jens Hoffmann was a director there, as was Ralph Rugoff before him.

The current director is Anthony Huberman, who will be lecturing at Artspeak this evening at 7:00 pm. The lecture is entitled "Have You Heard the One About the Cow, the Frenchman and the Bottle of Budwesier?"

For those wanting more information, Artspeak's messy website notes that the lecture will include "Some thoughts about wall texts, press releases, exhibition brochures, catalogues, and other modes of address -- aka: how an art institution expresses itself."

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Daddy" (1960)

You do not do, you do not do   
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot   
For thirty years, poor and white,   
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.   
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,   
Ghastly statue with one gray toe   
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic   
Where it pours bean green over blue   
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.   
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town   
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.   
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.   
So I never could tell where you   
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.   
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.   
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.   
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna   
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck   
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.   
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.   
Every woman adores a Fascist,   
The boot in the face, the brute   
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,   
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot   
But no less a devil for that, no not   
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.   
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,   
And they stuck me together with glue.   
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.   
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,   
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you   
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart   
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.   
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Sylvia Plath

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Message to My Daughter (1973)

In this ABC Movie of the Week we begin with Miranda, 19, who finds the world "meaningless, cruel and stupid." Frustrated by her behaviour, her father gives her a box of reel-to-reel tape recordings made by her dying mother when Miranda was a baby.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pincher Martin (1956)

This story was written in rather difficult circumstances, and subject to frequent interruption. Indeed, when the first chapters appeared in Chambers's Journal early in 1916 the narrative was barely half-finished. Sometimes I almost despaired of ever completing it, for it can perhaps be understood that writing on board a small ship actually at sea in time of war is impossible for more reasons than one.
The reader is cautioned against accepting the story as an official account of the part played by a certain section of the Navy during the war. Incidents described are true; but, for reasons which must be obvious, it has been necessary to give them fictitious colouring. It also seems desirable to add that all my characters are fictitious, and that each chapter was submitted to the censors at the Press Bureau before publication.
It should be added that a considerable amount of matter is contained in this volume which did not appear in Chambers's Journal when the story appeared in serial form.
More than ever am I deeply sensible of the very real debt which I owe to my wife, both for her help in revising and correcting the proofs, and for her many suggestions for improvements.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ocean Rain (1984)

All at sea again
And now my hurricanes
Have brought down this ocean rain
To bathe me again

My ship's a sail
Can you hear its tender frame?
Screamin' from beneath the waves
Screamin' from beneath the waves

All hands on deck at dawn
Sailin' to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts

I'm at sea again
And now your hurricanes
Will bring down my ocean rain
To bathe us again

My ship's a sail
Can you hear its tender frame?
Screamin' from beneath your waves
Screamin' from beneath your waves

All hands on deck at dawn
Sailin' to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts

All hands on deck at dawn
Sailin' to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts

All at sea again
And now our hurricanes
Have brought down this ocean rain
To bathe us again

My ship's a sail
Can you hear its tender frame?
Screamin' from beneath the waves
Screamin' from beneath your waves

Screamin' from beneath the waves
Screamin' from beneath the waves

All hands on deck at dawn
Sailin' to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts