Saturday, October 31, 2015

Myfanwy MacLeod

Some scary Hallowe'en shit from artist Myfanwy MacLeod, whose most recent exhibition, The Private Life of the Rabbit, opened last night at Or Gallery.

For next to no information on the artist, the practice or the exhibition (apart from it being yet another in the Or's seemingly endless collaborations with an institutionally-affiliated curator from Montreal, under the banner of an equally endless thematic), click here.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jerry Pethick at the VAG

Dear W,

Just returned from Jerry Pethick's unfortunately titled Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie. As much as I would like to say how nice it was to see so much of Jerry’s work at once (some of which I am unfamiliar with), it felt at times like I was walking through a warehouse. The exhibition generates no overtone and comes off as less than the sum of its parts.

This could have been remedied through subtraction, or by mounting the exhibition on the floor below it where the bias arrays would have benefited from that floor’s two large rooms. Instead, Wheelbarrow/Cabin (1989) is compromised by an unnecessarily adjacent wall work. What is more, Geoffrey Farmer's (reprinted) text appears in the catalogue without mention of the 2011 SFU Burnaby exhibition that commissioned it -- yet another instance of the VAG forgetting that the city’s cultural ecology continues outside its admittedly too small walls.

Something I have learned from this exhibition: Jerry's arrays are so grand that they need to be displayed in large(r) spaces and in relation to the work(s) of others, not with more of what Jerry does so well. We saw shades of this with the Jerry/Christina Mackie exhibition; less so with the Jerry/Liz Magor/Ron Tran exhibition that followed it (both at Catriona’s). Will we ever see Jerry's arrays in relation to, say, Brian Jungen’s Void (2002), or Jerry's Intersections (1971) with Ian Wallace's photo-paintings of intersections? Hope so. In the meantime, I remain bummed by this cramped and static show.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Nude Descending a Staircase

There are more than a few "naked selves" to be found in Duchamp's too-Futurist-for-the Cubists Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912). For the prudes, what better way to obscure nudity than to paint it in motion? For those interested in X. J. Kennedy's ekphrastic treatment, click here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"My quietness has a number of naked selves…"

Before New York had Kathy Acker (1947-1990), it had Frank O'Hara (1926-1966), a poet who worked at the MOMA and, though he lacked Acker's audacity, actually knew something about art and its history.

From the opening two stanzas of his 1956 long poem "In Memory of My Feelings":

My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent
and he carries me quietly, like a gondola, through the streets.
He has several likenesses, like stars and years, like numerals.

My quietness has a number of naked selves,
so many pistols I have borrowed to protect myselves
from creatures who too readily recognize my weapons
and have murder in their heart!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"…memory's vision…"

In her 1990 essay "Critical Languages" Kathy Acker writes of her hunger for New York's art community ("or rather for my memory's vision of New York's art community"), and how in returning there ("I ran from gallery to gallery") she recalls the "artists from whom [she] had learned so much" (Sherry Levine, Richard Prince, Jenny Holzer) and the inevitable let-down that comes with "memory's vision" ("I now saw that these works equaled money").

I bring up Acker's essay because people are reading it again, and the quote that rises most often from its dormant ocean floor is this:

"Let one of art criticism's languages be silence so that we can hear the sounds of the body: winds and voices from far-off shores, the sounds of the unknown."

It's a nice quote (or rather it sounds nice). But does it say anything more than I am an art critic, and I have not written any art criticism lately?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sounds of Silence (1965)

There are two commercially released versions of Simon and Garfunkel's first hit single. The first, "The Sounds of Silence", was released on the duo's first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (1964); the second, "The Sound of Silence", appeared as the lead track on the duo's second album, Sounds of Silence (1965), with electric guitars, bass and drums added -- without the duo's knowledge. This is the same (hit) version of the song that opens Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967), an opening Quentin Tarantino borrowed for the opening of Jackie Brown (1997).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"…unknown lyrical haze…"

I continue to thumb through the second-hand copy of Clayton Eshelman's Caterpillar Anthology (1971) I picked up at the People's Co-op Bookstore earlier this year.

Last night I came upon Richard Grossinger's review of The Graduate (1967), which opened so gently I couldn't put it down:

When Simon and Garfunkel first sang "Sounds of Silence" and cars in urban night and along dark country roads heard it on their way to other places, and the song was number one, and nothing had happened but everything was about to happen…

It was their destination; it was an unknown lyrical haze into which they were moving,  regardless of where they were or thought they were or were going, regardless of where they parked and continued on foot...

This morning I Googled "Richard Grossinger" and read about someone who sounded like I thought I might sound once to someone looking back on me after all these years. (I too studied anthropology at university, but I am not the father of Miranda July.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fred Moten at the Or Gallery (Part One)

to have been there last night, to put it passively, and to describe it without what Fred would call "information"

"to be poetry," as opposed to writing poetry, or "being a poet," says Fred

(or notes, in my case, without having taken any)

arriving earliest to a Jonathanless Or, Eli behind the desk again, with Kate, and The Capilano Review's Andrea, who, with SFU's sometimes comically dudely English Department, sponsored the event: a reading by Fred in its retail section

which fills up quickly, so more chairs added, Andrea in her black dress, lifting them over us, Kate helping

until Phanuel's wingéd introduction, and Fred proceeding slowly, rolly, two hundred words into it and everything sounding aw shucks

speaking of what he will read -- "new work" -- a three part project with a beginning he describes but will not attempt, a middle drawn from his time as a sessional at Bard College, which he does, and then something from the third part, he says

of this middle work, based on the upset he saw at Bard, whose crits have the entire school asking questions of the artist and his or her work, Fred seeing a violence in this, him asking why can't I just say I like it if I like it

poems whose titles are the names of those who stood there and took it, poems derived from notes Fred took while listening to the artists present their work and those who asked questions of them (I have seen a Bard crit and Fred neglects to mention that the artist cannot respond until the end of it)

(so we get Fred's crit, but later, in places like Vancouver, and in poems, like those he reads to us)

and this goes on for a decent amount of time, until Fred stops and, as it is at Bard, the room is given over to "discussion," and the first thing you hear is that pause, like the snare shot (gun shot) that opens the Doors' "Light My Fire"

"Where you from?" someone asks, and I swear I am not the only one in the room who cannot tell who said it

Thursday, October 22, 2015


When a young man's first official public appearance is to eulogize a former prime minister (who happens to be his father), expect a life scripted from Sophocles, Aeschylus and Hosidius Geta.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Margaret Trudeau

We did not hear much from Margaret Trudeau during the recent federal election campaign. Only after the election did she appear on CBC's As It Happens, where, as Justin Trudeau's aides feared, she spoke freely on anything and everything asked of her.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Sunny Days, Sunny Days"

Stephen Harper benefited from voter alienation. He too is cynical about politics.

I am excited about this new era of deficit spending, and my growing economic alienation. Hopefully we can give Greece a run for its money.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


For his sculpture The Prince (2006) Brian Jungen applied baseball gloves to a designer's dress form.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mass Production

At the end of this clip, Bugs tells us the Gas-House Gorillas are "a bunch of dirty players." Not sure I agree, as the Gorilla batters are only doing their job: stepping up to the plate and hitting what is thrown at them. The word "dirty" might better apply to the Fordist re-imagination of the game -- less a conga line than a production line, one that rewards brawn over temperance.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Game Five Seventh Inning

Yesterday Fox announced an hour-long television special devoted to the Blue Jays-Rangers' suddenly legendary Game Five seventh inning -- an inning that took almost all of that (53 minutes) to complete.

More than a few commentators have referred to this inning as one that transcended the game. Not just its strange baseball plays (three errors in a row and a return throw/infield "bunt"), but a man-on-man tush tap, a petulant bat toss and the presence of mothers and babies on the field, among other things.

An artist who made a work out of baseball is Janice Kerbel. Using every MLB statistic at her disposal, Kerbel devised what she calls a "perfectly average baseball game." Feel free to ask her about this, and more, when she comes to Vancouver next week to speak at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Far We Have Come… Apart

The leading candidates for the Presidency of the United States include a self-described socialist and a billionaire whose foreign policy consists of building a wall to keep out Mexican "drugs and rapists."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

News Cycle

Between Playboy "dropping nudity" and the latest from Karl Lagerfeld.

Monday, October 12, 2015


To my friends outside of Canada, today is Thanksgiving. After reviewing hundreds of seconds of YouTube videos, I have decided to feature the Hiller Family. Unlike most of the holiday home movies that I have seen, the Hillers begin not with their possessions, but with that great symbol of thanks -- the turkey.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

List #2

The imposition of the modern grid made Vancouver's first road a diagonal road, an irrational road, a subject of scorn.

The image above is my attempt at a representation. It appears in its complete form on Page 17 of  Kingsway.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Lists. I am all for lists. Each item a breath, a footstep, followed by another; but also the spaces between them, the exhalation, the back foot rising...

A few years ago the writer Aislinn Hunter surprised me with her gift of Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art (2010) by Lisa Kirwin. Great bathroom reading, but also a great resource.

Atop this post is a poem by Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974). Entitled "The Bohemian Dinner", it too is a list, but in its listing (also) manages to convey what it is to set out for the night, only to return at the end of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Aislinn! Enjoy your turkey dinner!

Friday, October 9, 2015

God Save the Queen

The above painting by Bracken Hanuse Corlett was included in God Save the Queen, a September 2013 group exhibition at the UNITT/PITT. God Save the Queen also included works by Byron Steele and Nigel Z. Chris Bose was the curator.

At some point during the exhibition, Bracken's painting went missing, and is presumed stolen. Any information as to its whereabouts can be sent here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Joy of Painting (1983-1994)

It is impossible for me to calculate how many hours I spent watching Bob Ross make mountains out of oil paint.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Crash Gallery

While the CBC attempts to comp on the art-making game with Crash Gallery, the editors at Canadian Art (“Deputy,” “Interim” and otherwise) have submitted their script for the critics version.

Monday, October 5, 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.

What does the world want said about it today? What is its conversation? Shootings, trade deals, a woman's right to hide her face in public?

I want to write about a park bench whose dedication defines its subject as a mother, a sister, a wife and a daughter. Her dates tell us she lived just long enough to be cornered by these relationships, and that she loved penguins, apricots and sunny fall mornings.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Picture from Falkland

At some point this afternoon I will pass that biker's pie stop known as Falkland.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Picture from Kamloops

A postcard of the Davy Crockett Motel, early-1960s.

Tomorrow I travel to the Kamloops Art Gallery for the opening of a survey exhibition on the work of Kevin Schmidt.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Picture from Iona Island

A 2013 picture taken at Iona Island, before the City of Richmond began its ruthless "clean up" of what is now a peninsula's paths and beaches.