Sunday, July 31, 2016

Social and Formal Critique

Between Wednesday's post-panel potluck and the post-panel potluck dance party was Mark's jump.

This was to be a jump on a board that Mark had made based on a kayak, but I did not see the kayak in Mark's board, nor did it matter, as the event was less about what the board looked like, less about whether the jump was completed, than how many times a jump could be performed before authorities intervened -- and they did.

How many times did Mark attempt his jump? Was anybody counting? I wasn't. Nor did it occur to me to do so. As far as I am concerned, every jump was a successful jump, because Mark gathered up something for us that we knew existed but, as is often the case in art and in life, needed to be observed.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Shhhhhh! No Talking Circle!

There were twelve of us sitting cross-legged in a circle, a talking circle, and I was lost in us as the face of an analog clock, our host a psychopomp who had told us he would be there on the lawn behind the noisy machine-powered FCCS Building at 2pm to take us not from midnight through the morning (a.m.) to the afternoon and through the evening (p.m.), but to a place amongst ourselves, by virtue of what we had in common.

It would have ruined it to say so, even though our host told us that "to call it a talking circle is wrong," because it is not a talking circle but another of translation's travesties, as if to tell us why.

Each of us was asked to share in clockwise rotation (our host was in the twelve o'clock position, I was in the six o'clock position) a story of someone who had an impact on our lives, a teacher. I had time to think about this, but in thinking I was unable to retain the first thing that came to me, and so I was left not with the story of a teacher and the double portraits they inspire (with their students), but of lessons, authorless texts, a worldlined object in four-dimensional space-time.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Panel Four

He told us he stopped making art for awhile to look after his disabled parents. He showed us pictures of his parents -- separately, then together -- and I thought he might not yet talk about "hybridity" (his father is of Swiss decent, his mother of Japanese descent) but about what "walking on the land" meant when his parents "walked" on hand-powered wheels. Of course I thought about what Carmen had said, about what it is to be in a physical position different from that which is assumed to be the norm.

Later, he presented a book that moved him, and a critique of that book for its failure to consider architecture in a nomadic context.

Heidegger's "Building, Dwelling, Thinking."

Then his paintings, his interest in holes, enclaves. Literal holes, with strange shapes (strange to me), then more recently a series of alley paintings that suggest the kinds of walks required to find them -- dérives!

Like him, she began with who her parents are (were?), and their parents. Where they landed, how the word "settler" was stamped on their immigration documents by government officials.

A walking practice that she did not want to talk about -- "not today."

A recent project that had sugar cookies in unusual shapes (barbed wire, a noose) and distributed on Parliament Hill. For this she did not project its image, but gave its clear-topped plastic box to the moderator to pass around the room.

She had also mentioned that she would leave it to her collaborator (up next) to talk of a performance the two are doing on Friday, and this her collaborator did after introducing herself through a word that evokes "hybridity" but is specific to a particular time and place in the history of this country's histories, but not before speaking of her current work on a PhD that is interested in the "complexities of dealing with indigenous communities through art."

The kitchen table was mentioned as a site of engagement, research and exchange, a curatorial "counterpoint" to ideas that "mirror" those common to "colonial practice," and this too brought to mind the extra-long dining table cloth Farheen spread out for us in front of the Alternator Gallery a couple weeks back.

Then suddenly her talk began to move quickly, too quickly for me to keep up with. Someone was cited, and I was not sure if the citation had ended. She (her source?) said, "Curators should stand beside or behind artists, never in front of them," and then said something that sounded like she had rethought this position.

(Later, at the potluck at Platypus House, I asked her if she thought curation was closer to art history or to studio practice, and she said, as I expected, the latter.)

The kitchen table is to be the site of this Friday's performance.

The final presentation came from someone who asked not to be photographed or quoted without her consent, and this had me taking it too far, missing much but gaining more through listening with my ears, not my hand.

Ethics was a word that was mentioned more than once, and I mention it here because it is a word whose meaning, I wish, meant something to everyone. An eagerness to learn the natural laws of where she is living. Cognitive imperialism is mentioned only because she did not coin the term. An excellent description of neo-liberalism. Work was shown -- an image of a work made with (iron) nails and hair. New work in the studio, and an invitation to visit her there. Am I taking this too far? Maybe. But we spoke after, at the potluck, and I am hoping it is worth the risk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Walk, Don't Run

At noon today we gather for the fourth of our weekly panel presentations (we are no longer referring to them as "roundtables"). Today's panelists are Leah Decter, Kevin Ei-ichi deForest, Cathy Mattes and Tannis Nielsen. The panel thematic is "How might your art practice embody the original notion of the o k'inādās residency, that of walking on the land?"

In thinking about today's thematic, I went to my computer to see if Nicolaus Roeg's Walkabout (1971) is available online, for free, and saw that it is. The same could not be said of Zacharias Kunuk's Atanarjut: The Fast Runner (2001), which is too bad. Has anyone ever thought to show these films together?

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Poetry of Place

This past weekend I presented my annual summer lecture/workshop on the Poetry of Place for SFU's Southbank Writers' Program.

Among my first examples is a poem by Walt Whitman (1819-1892), who recorded the United States from its backroads, and a prose work by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), who did something similar, but from the backstreets of Paris. I conclude the lecture with poems and prose works by Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), Daphne Marlatt (1942-) and Annie Dillard (1945).

The Whitman poem is "A Farm Picture" from Leaves of Grass (1855). The Baudelaire prose work is "Anywhere Out of the World" from Paris Spleen (1869).

Here is Whitman's poem:


Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture field with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.

And for fun here is one by Ezra Pound (1885-1972), published fifty-eight years later:


The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Truth to Materials

The UBC Okanagan campus is a sculpture garden of wrapped utility boxes. Most of these boxes are designed to blend in with their "natural" surroundings. One box I noticed was designed to blend in with the brick wall behind it.

I am not sure how I feel about this need to wrap things, hide things so that they do not stand out. I loved those red Canada Post boxes from the previous century, how they contrasted with the greenery, including the British Racing Green that the City of Vancouver used on municipal property (benches and fences) to highlight what we once called "public space" -- when there was such a thing.

Among the community projects I am considering for myself this fall is an investigation into UBCO's role in choosing the content of these wraps. If it is not possible to allow these boxes to exist monochromatically (red, grey, beige or green, as in past instances), then why not as surfaces that include the work of those whom UBCO's Faculty of Creative and Creative Studies employs to teach us about colour, line and form, artists like Tannis Nielsen and Katherine Pickering (see below)?

I would much prefer to look at the work of an artist than at a cheesy trompe-l'oeil magic act that has a utility box blending into -- or disappearing into -- the natural landscape.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


What we have to learn from the land can begin with making oneself available to it, as a reader.

From a distance, the land east of the sidewalk (above) is mounded to separate where one lives from what one travels over. Of this land, much of it -- the topsoil, the sods over which it is placed, and the shrubs -- was imported.

Those familiar with the Okanagan Valley will know that the two holes pictured here were made by burrowing marmots. Those inclined towards creative and critical practices might imagine them as fang marks from institutions that, like most large houses of learning these days, have come to take their orders less from the land than from corporate models associated with private business.

Below are two pictures I took during Tania Willard's Congruent Bodies Bush Gallery presentation, the final presentation of what turned out to be both an emotional and fruitful third roundtable that asked the question: "What body memories and body futures are posited (and possessed) by your practice?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Last week I posted the second paragraph from the text on "Indian Policy" and Reconstruction (for the full text, click here). Below is the fifth paragraph:

Grant’s peace by choice or force policy occurred in tandem with the demise of the treaty making system. Based on humanitarian concerns regarding the power imbalance between the federal government and tribal leadership negotiating treaty terms, the abandonment of the treaty tradition “was part of a movement to end Indian tribal organization and make Indians wards of the government and ultimately individualized citizens.”8 This change in policy, however, was not the result of reformers’ efforts but the resolution of political conflict between the Senate, the governmental body with which treaty making powers reside, and the House of Representatives, which had to appropriate funds for treaties it had no power to influence. Promising to uphold treaty agreements already in place, the Indian Appropriation Act of 1871 formally ended the long-standing treaty tradition. Despite these formal changes, the practice of acquiring Native approval to formal agreements continued past 1871, although now both houses of Congress were involved in shaping the terms of such arrangements. Operating together, the end of treaty making and the prominent role Christian reformers played in Indian affairs represented considerable changes to federal Indian policy and practice, speeding along the erosion of Native American sovereignty.

In Canada, the federal government proceeded similarly through that statute known as the Indian Act

Today, the Canadian federal government encourages First Nations to exercise symbolic power -- not political economic power. But that, too, can be taken away.

An example of symbolic power is the Canadian twenty dollar bank noteIn 2004, the Liberal government introduced on the "reverse side" of this note an image of a sculpture by Haida Gwaii artist Bill Reid. In 2012, under the Conservative government, the image of Reid's sculpture was replaced with an image of a First World War memorial commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I was early for last Thursday's readings and performances at the Kelowna Public Library, so I did what I usually do -- or need to do more of -- and that is walk about, take note of the town and its design, its people and what they get up to.

The route I take from campus to downtown turns right onto Highway 97 for a kilometre past Edwards to Sexsmith, where I turn right (west) and climb successively higher, veering right of the left tine where the slope forks to climb higher still, veering right again until Sexsmith levels off and goes by another name, then another, before knowing when to turn right and arrive at Glenmore, which begins earlier on the highway, well before campus, and runs to Clement, which is north of the curving highway, but close.

So I turn left at Glenmore, then a right where I know to turn right until I come to a street where I know to turn left, then a right at Clement until Ellis. I park across from the manor house that is Prospera Place, a complex of apartments (or is it a hotel?) named after a financial institution, and from there walk south.

The Kelowna Public Library is on Ellis, but because I am early I walk a couple blocks further to Bernard, where I turn right and take in the increased obviousness of a town that feeds off the usual gaggle of reproductive families, hockey players, foreign students and that update on what was once a truckload of horny teenage farm boys and is now an SUV filled with horny fifty-something cougars. "Show us your balls!" one of them screeches at a pair of too-young skater dudes, both of whom turn their boards wheel-wise to look for something that is not there.

Thirsty, I decide to have a pint at the only joint whose entertainment, at least from its posters, is closest to the more dangerous experiments of my youth, and that is Fernanado's, a high-ceilinged wooden eatery that feels as if it has been around forever, while at the same time never existed.

Behind the bar are two young women, one of whom could be a cougar-in-the-making, the other her alt Juliette Lewis-like  sister. They make a good team -- saucy and sweet -- and have earned their following. But rather than engage, I fall into the amber of my beer. Not quite like Julie Christie did with that ceramic vessel at the end of McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), but close.

Monday, July 18, 2016


When Farheen had us prone on her tablecloth I thought about what Richard said the day before -- how the pubescent member is placed at eye level with the terrain, because that is the best position in which to receive information.

The information I was receiving while lying on Farheen's tablecloth more or less corresponded to what was going on around us, but because we were lying there and not standing or sitting there, it came together differently from how I am used to making sense of my experiences.

This relates to what Carmen had us experiencing days before we met Richard, when Carmen asked residency participants to chain together behind him, hands on shoulders, eyes closed, before taking us on a walking tour of the city, what he calls his Blind Field Shuttle.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


At the Kelowna Art Gallery last night, an opening of white people…

…for a show about brown people.

Across the way at the Alternator was an exhibition by Farheen HaQ. Entitled Being Home, the exhibition opened outside the gallery with a group lie down and dinner atop the artist's extended table cloth. After that we headed inside for two sculptural installations and some video.

Also inside is a member's gallery, featuring Shannon Lester's Of Goddesses & Monsters portrait series.

Is it me, or does the subject below look a lot like a certain Canadian art magazine editor?

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Full Day

A full day yesterday that started with a studio visit to atelier Pickering where Katherine shared with me a new body of work that has painted canvases cut into shapes according to their flow and figuration and from there manipulated into the third dimension.

Here is an instance of the cut canvas:

Here is an instance of the finished form that these cuts can take:

Katherine's new work will be on display at the Vernon Art Gallery later this year.

After our studio visit Karen and I walked to the stone circle where we met Syilx elder Richard Armstrong, who shared with us who he is and where we are, then asked those gathered to do the same.

From there, Richard led us to a spot underneath a giant pine where we learned of the Four Kingdoms -- those on four-legs, those in the water, those in the air, and those whose plants have roots -- and how these kingdoms are his parents, and that the name Syilx translates roughly as "a tear from," and that the Syilx are made of pieces of these kingdoms.

Richard also told us that knowledge comes to the Syilx through "vision quests" experienced by younger members who, during puberty, are taken into the mountains and placed at eye level with the terrain. It is from this position that knowledge enters -- not, as Richard explained, through the "trial and error" methodology promoted by anthropologists like James Tate.

Something else Richard shared with us. Of the Syilx language, he said, "Our language is so precise that to write it is a step backwards."

Later that night I travelled downtown to the Kelowna Public Library where UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies member Matt Rader introduced an evening of readings and performances related to his "Bodies of Knowledge" course. Hosted by Clayton McCann, the program featured contributions from Matt's colleague Michael V. Smith and Vernon's Hannah Calder, as well those from Matt's guests and students.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Panel Two

Yesterday's roundtable panel (on the body, sovereignty and territory) was the second in the Summer Indigenous Intensive series of weekly panels. Perhaps because it followed an electric first panel (and because the second martini, no matter how hard you want it, is never quite as perfect as the first), this panel did not quite achieve the overtone of its predecessor.

Although every presentation had its moments (Carmen's reminders of the blindered language that attends discussions of sight and sightlessness, Adrian's embodiment of the room by circling it, and David's chameleon military uniform and his attention to space-taking moments in history), the two that remain closest to me -- that walk closest to me -- are Lori and Michelle's.

I appreciate what Lori said about rocks. Watching her grandmother crush chokeberries with them and watching them piled up beside farmers fields, where they were once in the way of another kind of food production. Listening to Lori had me searching the room for Tania, who wrote beautifully on rocks (stones) in Presentation House Gallery's Nanitch catalogue earlier this year.

Lori also spoke of a work she made in response to Elliot Silverstein's controversial film A Man Called Horse (1970), where, apropos of her ongoing critique of the imposed upon indigenous body, she "unpacked" a handsome cracker, taught him how to crush berries, then allowed herself (her "princess" self, her "squaw" self, or a little torn from each of her selves?) to fall in love with him.

For her part, Michelle's presentation threaded traditional Mali, Caribbean and U.S. American folk and popular songs within a discussion of her own passage as a scholar interested in body artists like Suzy Lake, Cindy Sherman and Adrian Piper. She even busted a few moves here and there -- enough to wade our bodies deeper into that which she set in motion so quietly, so fluidly, so skillfully.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The American Body Politic

The second paragraph from the text on "Indian Policy" and Reconstruction (for the full text, click here):

The decline of Native American political autonomy in the second half of the nineteenth century was one of the results of increasing national authority that also irrevocably changed the character of the American West. With its powers invigorated by the demands of war, the federal government, having abolished slavery, turned in the post-war period to address its remaining, and largely western, racial and moral problem groups: the Mormons, the Chinese, and Native Americans. Native American populations, living at various stages of what nineteenth-century Americans called civilization, proved a particularly tricky segment of the population to integrate into the American body politic. The nineteenth century’s Indian “Problem” or “Question” took many forms; American policymakers had to determine what was to be done about hostile tribes still vigorously resisting relocation, how reservations would be managed, and how to “kill the Indian but save the man” through various civilizing projects. Preparing Native Americans for the new social and political order of the postwar United States necessitated new approaches to Indian policy, producing a massive and multifaceted Reconstruction program that forever altered Native American life and the contours of the American West.

(image: John Gast. American Progress, 1872)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Skin Stitch Tattoos

Last Saturday at Bush Gallery Tania showed me her latest tattoo -- a skin stitch tattoo on the inside of her forearm designed and sewn into her by Jeneen, who is participating in the Earth Line Tattoo Residency.

I wanted to take a picture of Tania's new tattoo, but for reasons that escape me I could not bring myself to ask her. Yesterday, while at our second residency meeting, I noticed Jeneen had two new stitch tattoos she had given herself on her left and right shins, and I wanted to take a picture of those, too, but again was unable to ask.

After the meeting I approached Jeneen to tell her how much I admired her stitch tattoos and she produced a sketchbook that had more of her designs, some of them floral (think William Morris), some of them in the abstract modernist tradition.

In telling me about her designs, Jeneen said that if I was indeed serious about getting a stitch tattoo (I had asked if she had any appointments left, and she said she was all booked up) I might present her with some designs that I am interested in and we could continue the conversation.

The designs that are currently on my mind (apart from Jeneen's) belong to a American Civil War period carpet bag I found online a few days ago, a long ago auctioned-off bag that has a "Native American" carpet pattern on one side and an unidentified carpet pattern (European? "Oriental"?) on the other.

Here is a link to the bag (Lot 118), with a description below it.

Here is the "Native American" (Southwest?) side:

Here is the unidentified side:

Why my interest in carpet bags? Well, it begins with my interest in carpetbaggers, which in turn is derived from an interest in the United States' Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) as it might relate to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commision. Am I the first to notice that while Canadian politicians and businessmen were announcing the confederation of their provinces in the summer of 1867 (the beginning of the Dominion of Canada), the United States was just getting started on the equally contentious job of "repairing" itself after a bloody civil war (1860-1865)? Not likely. Is it fair to compare the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that followed with the Canadian federal government's historic treatment of First Nations and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? That is a question I am currently pondering in advance of tomorrow's second roundtable (July 13), where the discussion will focus on how "The Body might be seen as an expression of Territory and Sovereignty."

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rodrigo Hernandez-Gomez

Seven days since Ayumi and Peter gave us our first breaths and encouraged us to consider how we might walk together. That night, while seated at a potluck at Platypus House, Rodrigo showed me an image of a clay figurine based on a pre-Columbian burial object common to central Mexico.

Each time Rodrigo makes this figurine, it differs slightly from the previous version. What remains the same is the process by which he makes it, which is modular: the legs, the trunk of the body, the head and the head dress. Rodrigo's intention is to scan this figurine towards the making of its three-dimensional print.

Wednesday was the first of our weekly round tables, and Rodrigo was the first presenter. The topic was multiple conceptions of the body and how one or more of them might influence the making of a work. Rodrigo began by asking, "Is a body always a collective? And if so, how does it think?"

As we thought about this, Rodrigo told us about Ayotzi 68, a collective he belongs to whose name is drawn from Mexican students who have disappeared. Rodrigo insists this disappearance is in fact a "massacre" -- not a random act of violence, but a "systemic" one.

"Death brings us together," says Rodrigo. "Indignity makes us think."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bush Gallery

A rock I watched from my haunches while playing with the dogs at Bush Gallery.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Portrait of Rebecca Belmore by Danielle Sturk

To chose not to be seen speaking is part of the artist's contribution to an artist's video of her.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Body Notion

Yesterday was the first of the UBC Okanagan Summer Indigenous Intensive roundtables. I took many notes during the presentations and discussion, and even managed a question.

In the coming days I hope to make something more of these notes, a figure if not a form. In the meantime, click here for Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson's thoughtful reflections on what transpired.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ayumi Goto

Featured in this video is a 2012 Reworks presentation by Ayumi Goto, who, with Stephen Foster and Peter Morin, is a member of the O k'inādās Collective.

As in Ayumi and Peter's performance (see yesterday's post), Ayumi focuses our attention on our hands, how in dealing with her rage she imagines the metaphorical mix of corn starch and water not as a substance that we allow to grow firm in our hands, but one that drips between our fingers, so that in elongating it will soften and, presumably, become more manageable.

Thank you, Ayumi.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Room 221

We gathered as we are here for a gathering. A ring of black plastic chairs with spaces for modernism and our backs to breathe -- our sacra.

(If you have ever set up or put away chairs like these, these [sacral] spaces might be the first thing you reach for.)

Ashok and Stephen welcomed us, reminded us that we are on Syilx territory and that in 12 days Elder Richard Armstrong will lead a welcome and a discussion. After that, they provided an "explication of the structure of the residencies," told us that our gathering is 11 years old and that when it started it was an "institute" -- until Administration said it wasn't.

We are gathered for an intensive -- the Summer Indigenous Intensive.

There is an Aboriginal Centre and the Administration's concern over tattoo needles and the fire that resides in smudges has tattoos happening off-site and smudges in the "sculpture area."

(Tattooing and smudging as social sculpture.)

Ayumi, Peter and Stephen told us of weekly (Wednesday) discussion panels.

Ashok and Stephen told us of weekly (Monday) resident artist meetings.

Ayumi, Peter and Stephen told us of "other periodic meetings, talking circles, gatherings…"

Peter learned about talking circles from Bob George.

O k'inādās is the Tahltan word for walking. (Later, Peter reminded us that alone this word means nothing. That only when modified does it…)

Philip is a studio trained artist and UBCO technician who told us about what he and his colleagues Joanne and Kaila can provide us with.

Katherine and Philip told us about studios and our access to them.

Ashok and Katherine told us about the schedule and "other calendar events."

Ayumi and Peter gave us a "provocation". They mentioned the salmon which, when dressed, looks a lot like the hands they asked us to hold out so that they could blow into them -- see what gathers, what doesn't.

Monday, July 4, 2016


A visit to Holly and Kevin's "domestead" before a brunch at Jane and Ross's.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trailer Night (1988/2003)

The Kamloops Art Gallery's Jerry Pethick exhibition is smaller and more focused than the earlier VAG version.

The work up top is Trailer Night (1988/2003), one of the last pieces Jerry worked on before his passing.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Elevator at Kingsgate Mall

The Richmond elevator at Kingsgate Mall is one of a number of Lower Mainland area Richmond elevators featured by Kira1106 on YouTube.