Saturday, April 30, 2016

Can You Stand It?

The Instant Coffee list serve has posted the Rennie Collection at Wing Sang's call for a "Fine Art Technician". There are a number of requirements, but this one stood out:

ability to stoop, bend, kneel and to stand for up to eight (8) hours per day

Friday, April 29, 2016

Front Porches

I am only just now getting around to reading the articles in the 2015 Harris's Farmer's Almanac. One of these articles is on front porches and their importance to Americans, particularly those in the South.

The image up top appears near the end of the article, and as you can see it features a drawing of a farmhouse, rendered in some detail. This in contrast to the footpath leading to it, which, despite its foregrounded presence, has forsaken any pretence at realism lest it detract from the subject at hand.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel"

The image above is a re-photograph of a photograph I took of Peter Schuyff at his Chelsea Hotel home in New York City on March 7, 1998.

Peter and I had met the previous spring, at the Banff Centre, when we were guests of the Centre's Writing and Visual Arts programs, respectively. He asked me if I might trade him a copy of my book Kingsway (1995), which I had read from the night before, for an artwork, and I said yes. Below is a picture of the 3"x3" tile Peter shaped, painted, glazed and traded.

This evening Anne Low and Gareth Moore are coming by to look at what Judy Radul and I have in our collections, toward an exhibition they are curating at the Griffin Gallery this September. I will show them Peter's tile as an example of what I hold dear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Woodwards

Peter Schuyff is an artist who paints and writes songs about his voice and where to put it. Together with Stevie Guy they are the Woodwards, a duo that takes its name from a former downtown eastside Vancouver department store.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


A couple months ago I received a request from the MacKenzie Art Gallery to re-print a cento built from twelve Rodney Graham songs.

This particular cento is the lyric for a theme song I wrote to accompany Theo Sims's Candahar Bar at Vancouver/Whistler's 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Entitled "Candahar (Is It Far)?", the lyric is scheduled to appear on cardboard coasters during the bar's run this spring and summer (as it did for Presentation House Gallery's Olympic version).

The image up top is of the three coasters the MacKenzie will be printing, with each coaster carrying one of the song's three five-line verses. The only lines that are not Rodney's are the title (repeated three times) and the refrain ("Everyone is high but me").

Monday, April 25, 2016

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.

My neighbour to the east has a steel guitar. After purchasing it last year, she immediately restrung it; a sound I fell asleep to, resulting in a dream that anticipated one of Myfanwy MacLeod and Shannon Oksanen's recent public art sculptures at Vancouver's Children's Hospital.

When I awoke, she was playing this.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Helmut's Sausage Kitchen

Today is Customer Appreciation Day at Helmut's Sausage Kitchen!

While taking in the store's mural, Helmut walked over and introduced himself. "That's me," he smiled proudly, pointing to the bearded man. "Or sort of me." I nodded. "And that's my wife," he added, pointing to the woman across from him, and then to the woman on the other side of the parking lot, behind the barbecue.

Friday, April 22, 2016


This, too, is a sign. Like the billboard sign in yesterday's post, this sign has an economic relationship to the land. But unlike the billboard sign, this one is closer to the land and what grazes on it, and it is for this reason that it stays on the land long after its use value has expired.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


The drive across Head of the Lake through Spallumcheen is one of the Okanagan's great intermezzos. Then one day billboards appeared.

If these first billboards were advertising anything, it was their availability, in the meantime blocking what was once a shimmering view.

Capitalist vulgarian Jimmy Pattison has seven billboards like this one lined up in a row, waiting. The First Nations band that licensed this space to Pattison, they are waiting too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring Clean #4

At which point I reached for my phone and, a fork in the other hand, accidentally took what was cropped into this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spring Clean #3

A peek over the fence at the new Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver. Was not that long ago the gallery (still known as Presentation House Gallery) had its ground-breaking. Now -- suddenly -- they have a foundation!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Clean #2

Derya Akay and David Lehman (Arvo Leo) at the "Mc-Murray" house in East Vancouver on the last day of the year.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Clean

A self-portrait taken at Downes Point, Hornby Island on the shortest day of the year.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chris Gallagher

Walking back from RONA yesterday, who should I see after crossing Knight Street but someone shooting Super-8mm film from the planter outside House of Dosas. I asked the filmmaker (Chris Gallagher) what he was going for, and he said, "The reflection."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Party Reading

It was a nice enough party -- a birthday for a friend -- but there comes a point at any party, after what amounts to the duration of a feature-length film, that I need a break from the people and the food and the booze, so I find myself standing before that age-old dispenser of knowledge -- the bookcase -- looking for a way -- any way -- out of this world.

In this case, Lucy Lippard's book on Eva Hesse, which, like an old friend, I reach for, excited to experience once again those old drawings, of groovy tubes and curvaceous sacs, from an artist who understood the desire for what came to be known as Minimalism, but also a freeing up of that which, for many in the early-60s, had been repressed.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jerry Pethick's Stamp Collection

Shortly before my visit to Fred Douglas's studio, Scott Massey and I travelled to Hornby Island to look at some privately held works by long-time Hornby Island resident Jerry Pethick. Scott was there to photograph the work, I was there to write on it. Both Scott's photographs and my essay appear in the SFU Gallery exhibition catalogue Jerry Pethick: Works 1968-2003 from Collections on Hornby Island (2011), alongside texts by Geoffrey Farmer and exhibition curator Bill Jeffries.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fred Douglas's The Van (1983)

Back in 2011, VAG curator Grant Arnold and I paid a visit to the North Vancouver home studio of artist Fred Douglas (1935-2005). Although it had been six years since Fred's passing, his studio was pretty much the way he left it.

The image above is a photo document of an installation Fred presented at Toronto's Harbourfront Sculpture Court in 1986. The work, entitled The Van (1983), centres on a 1963 Morris van whose contents have been activated. For more on this work, see Mercer Union's archive.

The first photo in the image below came from one of the many boxes in Fred's studio. From the looks of it, I would guess that its contents (newel posts) belonged to Willie Wilson. Whether the contents of Fred's photo are from Willie's home at the Maplewood Mudflats, or his later home near Downes Point, Hornby Island, I am not sure.

The images that follow are of the photographs that immediately followed the above.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Selected Posts

Posted by insufficient data to Grab Bag:

Outside my house, at this very moment (11pm) there is a noise that sounds like a movie submarine sonar ping (like this, but slightly lower and with a longer interval between pings). It is coming from an ice cream truck that comes around my neighborhood at various times of day (and, apparently, night). There are no children around, because it's 11 o'clock at night, and frankly even during the day, the sound is eerie. Is this. .. a common thing for ice cream trucks? I'm used to annoying music in the afternoon. Is there some rational explanation as to why this truck plays this super creepy noise in the middle of the night? Because it seems like an odd business decision on both counts.

Posted on yahoo:

Should I be concern? cream truck.....late at night....weird thought...?

Ok, the ice cream truck comes out different times in the day, that's fine.

Now, for the past month, it comes out at night too, from like 9:40pm, to as late as 1am. There's clearly nobody, and the stupid truck stays there for like 10 minutes and the stupid song gets annoying.

the only ones who I see buying at night are the hobo looking guys that look like they're high or drunk all the time.

You think something might be going on...selling drugs or something??

I throw eggs at ice cream truck all the time, but it doesn't seem to bother him, as well as a shoe...I make sure I hit the window, or the hood though.

Posted on babycenter:

The one thing I WON’T miss about Summer, is the creepy Ice Cream truck that frequents our neighborhood.
There’s lots of reasons as a mom to loathe the Ice Cream truck:
– the ice cream is over priced and most of us moms keep a freezer stocked of popsicles and otter pops to have on the ready, anyway.
– the music! Yuck! The music is like a kid trap! If the music matched the actual appearance of “the ice cream trucks” that drive by our street, it would be scary!
– the guy driving the truck. Oh geez! I have yet to see a normal ice cream truck driver.
– the truck itself. Can you say creepy?! It’s never the kind of truck that you would imagine for an ice cream truck that your kids would run up to.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ice Cream Truck

"It is ten-o-one -- ten-o-two -- at night. What the fuck is this ice cream man selling on the block here in San Bernardino? Ice cream my ass. Shit."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

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.

Once a month I awake in the night to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. Not a vacuum cleaner bumping against the walls of the hall outside my door, but a recording of a vacuum cleaner played from a speaker affixed to the top of an ice cream truck that circles our block three times before continuing east.

How do I know it is a recording of a vacuum cleaner and not a blender or an orbital sander? Because it includes the sound of those bumps.

Friday, April 8, 2016


It was 1994 or 5, and artists Phil McCrum and Reid Shier had a studio near my bar, the Malcolm Lowry Room, in Burnaby. On Fridays they would drop by for pints.

One day Phil pulled out a Polaroid camera and asked if he could take my picture. I was tempted to ask why, but I didn't have time for what could easily be one of Phil's perfectly oblique, time-demanding "answers". So I said sure, and that was that.

In 1998, Phil opened a large exhibition at the Or Gallery, entitled Tear. One of the more memorable works in the show was A diagrammatic Interpretation of the French Revolution Based on Georges Lefebvre's "The French Revolution, From its Origins to 1793" (1998), which, in the words of Or Gallery Director/Curator Reid Shier, "consisted of 49 small oil on wallpaper portraits of McCrum's friends and acquaintances."

The image up top is of a portrait Phil painted of me as Jean Joseph Mounier, based on that Polaroid. The image below is of Deanna Ferguson as Manon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Desert of the Real(tor)

We have entered the era of the one-named realtor.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Airing on the Side of Fraser

A couple weekends ago, while walking from my place to Bâtard, I entered an alley just west of Charles Dickens School Annex and saw the above. An instance of public art, or an attempt to air some dirty laundry?

Out of the alley, a dandelion amongst the periwinkle.

A number of freshly planted trees died during the heatwave of a couple of summers ago. When the City plants trees now, they are bagged (to keep the moisture in).

The Fray was a popular and inexpensive restaurant that closed down in March 2013 due to a squabble amongst its owners. The restaurant that opened in its place, Graze, closed down last December.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Kingsway Deli

Kingsway Deli is located at 1188 Kingsway. When the current owners of Kim Chau gleefully announced they were no longer selling banh mi ga, I took my business to Kingsway Deli -- or rather, I returned my business to them.

Kingsway Deli was for years my number one after moving to Kingsway in 1994. Then one day, while waiting in line for my banh, it occurred to me that the place was not very clean. So I tried other delis, eventually settling on Kim Chau, whose former owner (Chau) I enjoyed having coffee with -- listening to her stories of Vietnam, how she had a congee stand at an Indonesian refugee camp, and of her family's experiences in Canada.

The first thing I noticed upon my return to Kingsway Deli was its cleanliness. Secondly, its orderliness. Something that stuck out was its new counter; in particular, its centre section, which looked odd to me (see above).

I stared at this centre section wondering how the designer arrived at its pattern: the first set of four vertically-stacked tiles to the left are thin; the middle tiles are the same factory standard as (most of) those on the sections on either side of the centre section; and the third set of tiles are about half the width of the middle tiles.

Then it dawned on me: the tiles were laid out not as a symmetrical design but as left-to-right (or right-to-left) writing. The tiler started at one end and tiled until he or she came to a bend, where the tiles were split to fit. To riff on Gertrude Stein, whoever was behind this counter "act[ed] as if there was no use in a [symmetrically-designed] centre."

Monday, April 4, 2016

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

A seasonal highlight for me is the blossoming of the Japanese Cherry trees that line our block and, because these trees are huge now, create that tunnelling effect that attracts visitors the world over.

Once this tunnel is established, and the day is as blue as it was yesterday, it is not uncommon to see vanloads of tourists pull up at the west end of our block and walk the gentle slope towards Clark Drive.

Most of these tourists carry cameras. And if they are not carrying cameras, they are running in front of those who are, posing, allowing themselves to be directed, or taking the place of the photographer so that he or she can get in the picture, too.

Now that everything digital is also a camera, other sights include visitors walking down the middle of the street holding up their iPads and, more dangerously, those racing past, holding their smart phones out of their sun roofs of their cars.

But alas, there are those who continue to earn the baleful stares of my neighbours, those who, in their desire to get the best picture ever, step on our flower beds, climb onto the hoods of our cars and, once done, leave behind what they are no longer in need of.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Wil Aballe Art Projects

It took the opening of longtime ex-Vancouverite Mark Soo's latest to get me out of my viral spiral and (finally!) down to Wil Aballe Art Projects. Although I could appreciate Mark's play of (camera) line, (digital) colour and (transposed) form, I wish I could say the same of Jon Rafman's Mainsqueeze (2014), a Monde Cane-meets-VICE magazine triumph-of-the-internet in an '80s video passe-partout. I mean, had I never been online before, maybe, but who is that person who has never been online before, and how soon before that person will be said to have never existed?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Railway Club (1931-2016)

On the afternoon of Friday March 11, while killing time downtown before the opening address of Duane Linklater's Wood Land School: Critical Anthology symposium, I decided to drop by the Railway Club for a pint, see who might be there.

Because it was after 5pm, I was expecting the energy and excitement of a big crowd. But as I made my way up the threadbare stairs, I could already sense the club's emptiness, its rooms and hallways echoing with a corporate rock that, if Natasha or Paul were behind the bar, would only be played with irony.

Oh it is so hard to write this!

A few days ago, when the sudden closure of this unique cultural institution was announced, Georgia Straight music critic Mike Usinger asked those of us who had worked and played there to share a memory. I gave it some thought (the gigs, the gags, the goofs, the guffaws), but there is too much to choose from, and to suddenly sit down and flip through it all, well…

So I sent Mike a thank you note in recognition of the Williams and Forsyth family, who took over the club in 1980 and, in the twenty-seven years they operated it, helped to define a Vancouver that no longer exists, but in particular a generation of men and women who know the difference between this city's less-than-rancid past and its far-from-perfect present.

The picture up top is of me playing with the Hard Rock Miners in 1988. I am not sure who took the picture, but am fairly certain it was not taken during the two dozen or so times I played the Railway Club. Nevertheless, it is the picture I gave Mike, and the one he published here.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Fountain of Life

The Garden of Earthly Delights is an epic that takes place at once. If Time is involved, it is the time we take to read it. It took Bosch ten years to paint it.

Many of us have seen this work in pieces before seeing it in its entirety, if at all. These pieces have been broken down and pathologized, with symbols derived from the Bible.

Larry Solomon supplies a reading of the above detail, which appears in the first panel ("Paradise"):

This seemingly benign scene contains symbols that tell us that all is not well in paradise. The most telling is the owl (Satan) at the core of the Fountain of Life gazing at the jewels (souls) below, which are partly submerged (in danger) in the pool. A serpent winds around the Tree of Knowledge, a warning of the impending Fall. Strange dark reptiles (evil) emerge from a a pool. Crescent shapes (malignancies) and horns (warnings) adorn the Fountain. Beasts, both real and fanciful, cover the landscape, some preying on others. At the top left, birds enter a broken shell (degeneracy).