Friday, September 30, 2016

Unceded Territories

A few weeks ago Museum of Anthropology curator Karen Duffek emailed to say that the Unceded Territories catalogue that she and exhibition co-curator Tania Willard devised and edited is nominated for a City of Vancouver Book Award.

As a contributor to -- and a reader of -- Unceded Territories (the other contributors are Glenn Alteen, Jimmie Durham and Lucy Lippard), I am happy to hear of its selection alongside The Revolving City by Wayde Compton and Renée Sarojini Saklikar and The Lonely Section of Hell by Larimer Sheather. Yuxweluptun is an important artist, and Karen, Tania and Figure.1 Publishing were a pleasure to work with.

Unfortunately I am unable to attend the October 3 awards ceremony at Vancouver's Roundhouse, as I am committed to a UBC Okanagan lecture by another artist whose importance to our cultural ecology cannot be overstated.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kettle Valley Railway

The CPR's practice of pulling up its rail lines (most recently along Vancouver's Arbutus Corridor) can be found throughout parts of the Central Okanagan. In 1980 the CPR pulled up the Kettle Valley Railway and turned over its right-of-way to the provincial government. The Myra Canyon is now one of the most popular recreational sites in the valley.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Royals Are Coming! The Royals Are Coming!

After Kelsie's presentation Samuel called a break and we walked over to the University Centre and purchased soup. Because it was warm, we took our soup outside to eat on one of the Centre's built-in tables overlooking University Way. Cops stood at both ends of the crosswalk that links the path just south of the Fipke Building to the path just south of us.

All morning young men in black t-shirts had assembled a labyrinth of blue fencing, making the campus look more like today's "university of business" than Chicago's Union Stock Yards. At the north end of the Administration Building, another group in less standardized wear assembled a stage, a public address system and a couple dozen rows of chrome and vinyl chairs.

Suddenly, without warning, an RCMP motorcycle cop charged up the hill followed by eight black vans filled with soldiers in camo gear and berets. The vans in turn were followed by eight pairs of motorcycle cops -- the whole lot disappearing around the corner.

A rehearsal, I thought.

For the royals, said Samuel.

We returned to our soup.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Some Kelowna Houses

North of Pandosy Village near the lakeshore is Kelowna General Hospital, where I began yesterday's walk -- north on Abbott Street,  through the tunnel under the highway just east of the bridge, around downtown and back again.

There are some impressive houses along Abbott, from the Streamline Moderne

to the bungalow

to what might be called "modern Spanish colonial"

to those still finding their way.

Below is one of a number of posters I saw tacked to tree trunks on my walk up Abbott.

The text below the image reads:

African mask stolen from 344 Park Avenue on September 19th. 

Approximately 2m (6 feet) tall.

Reward $200 for information resulting in its recovery.

Please contact Robert at 250 826 1447

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Father Pandosy

Like José Martí in Cuba, Kelowna's Father Pandosy is everywhere. He is the name behind Pandosy Street and Pandosy Village, of course, but his presence is also felt in the city's architecture and, as you can see above, in its statuary.

Father Pandosy is known as Kelowna's "first settler." He arrived in the area in 1859 and built a mission that, whether in name or in aesthetic, influenced a number of area structures, from shopping malls to condos.

Obviously there is more to Father Pandosy than my gloss above (for example, he is described as being "as much a farmer as he was a priest"), but I will leave it at that before speaking further on someone whose presence belongs more to those whose came here than to those who have always been here.

José Martí is revered in Cuba because he wrote poems and essays, lectured, took up arms and died in the liberation of his country from Spain. If I were to speculate on an indigenous perspective on Father Pandosy, I might think of him as closer to Spain than to Cuba.

*photo atop this post taken from The Daily Courier

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Lakeshore Road

Across Lakeshore Road just north of Boyce-Gyro is a small house with features that belong to a time long before this house was built, a time when Kelowna's public roads were lined with orchards, many of which were razed after the Second World War and turned into motels and trailer parks, which in turn were razed in the 1980s when private developers, backed by Ontario and Alberta money, turned those lands into shopping malls, like those on the Harvey Avenue stretch of Highway 97.

But this won't happen on Lakeshore, nor will it happen on the former CP Rail lands that run from Marpole to Granville Island in Vancouver, what some still refer to as the Arbutus Corridor. People with money have to live somewhere, and in Kelowna, they live on Lakeshore.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Boyce-Gyro Beach Park

A recently built shed on the beach at Boyce-Gyro.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Recent Decisions

On Tuesday morning I awoke to UBC Okanagan Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies professor Nancy Holmes speaking on CBC radio about the Regional District of the Central Okanagan's recent decision to terminate the contracts of the seven on-site resident caretakers who live and work in seven of the RDCO's parks. On Wednesday morning I awoke to one of those caretakers, Lori Mairs, talking on that same program about the work she does in addition to locking and unlocking the gate and making sure the trails are free of coffee cups and gum wrappers.

Lori spoke of sitting outside the caretaker's house at Woodhaven one afternoon talking to a student about a bear she had seen hanging around -- and how it might present a problem to visitors -- when a man and his young daughter started up the path with a picnic basket. No sooner did Lori tell the man to return whatever food he was carrying to his car because there is a bear in the area, when a bear reared up behind a bush, his nose twitching.

When the person interviewing Lori played a clip from an earlier interview with RDCO's Bruce Smith, where Smith told listeners how an off-site security presence would be augmented by park neighbours "keeping an eye out," my mind raced. In one direction I saw a bear chasing a terrified man and his daughter down a forest path; in another, a group of neighbours huddled together on a front lawn feeling guilty for not warning a young family of a hungry -- and desperate -- bear.

But what bothers me most about the RDCO's decision is the loss of embodied knowledge -- information held and distributed by those who have committed themselves to the reception and understanding of life forces common to conservancies like Woodhaven. And please, don't tell me this is a budgetary decision -- not when the Central Okanagan is among the fastest growing regions in the country and whose tax revenues have grown accordingly. No, decisions like this one have more to do with the elimination of alternative ways of life and learning by those motivated not by profits, as we often accuse private developers of, but by bonuses given to public sector workers for whom "saving" money is making money. A neoliberal instance of language making the land safe for those who rip it off.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jesse Marketing Systems II

Jesse Marketing Systems is circulating Royal College of Art-style advice -- for free. Young Curators, please note that Jesse, too, is a Young Curator, and will remain so if he continues to emphasize his received experiences over his lived ones. 

Content that is singularly produced -- also known as own content or Mine! -- is Roark and rarely the result of critical conversation. Like gold bullion, it is a hedge against the fluctuations of self-reflection. To say that a ladder is part of your psychic workspace, and that your workspace smokestacks industry, is also backwards. Scrap it!

As for voice, employ different voices, just as you would different materials for different jobs. As for living well above (and below) the poverty line, read Hamsun’s Hunger and get back to me, for I too am an established institution, an example of the pitfalls of traction as stance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ten Years After

Sometimes a picture arrives and you recognize yourself but have no idea when and where the picture was taken.

There are clues, like who sent it, who is cc'ed...

I still have that blue shirt, though a grease stain on the left breast makes it unwearable. I would have added it too my work clothes -- my gardening clothes -- but it is not that kind of shirt.

The person who sent me this picture is not the person who took it. The person who took it was cc'ed.

The picture might have been taken on Hornby Island in 2006 when Geoffrey and I visited the Shadbolt house and repaired Doris's herb garden.

(The picture was taken at a Van Dusen Gardens plant sale in Vancouver between 2003-2006.)

That's it. That's all I know.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Audain Art Gallery

Upon further reflection.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Prison Art

What is the Canadian government's position on this 1976 painting by Peter Doige? Is it simply prison art? Or is it an example of surrealism, both in its narrative content and as a prop in the theatre of law?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Two Pictures

In the news is Herbert Badham's Snack Bar (1944), an oil painting that the Australian government has deemed of national importance and has prohibited its new owner from shipping to England. BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz has his own take. Click here.

As I was looking over Snack Bar, something kept niggling at me, like I had seen it before. If not its subject or its narrative then its palette.

That's it! Stan Douglas's Hastings Street, 16 July 1955 (2008)!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Reflections of the way life used to be"

Years ago I remember the late Jack Adelaar telling me how his and Maryon's house fire was likely caused by sunlight magnified by one of their Chihuly glass sculptures and, like a death ray, directed at an overstuffed couch.

As Jack told his story I thought of the last time I held a magnifying glass, how as kids these things were part of our weapons systems, like the knives and slingshots we also kept in our pockets. I think I still I have the piece of chamois Phil Comparelli and I burned our names into at Camp Elphinstone the summer when this song was on the radio.

As for the picture up top, that's what I saw on my desk the other night while transcribing my lecture notes from the day before: the effect of the southwest light coming through my window and projecting onto my notebook the contents of my wine glass.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Sitting on a park bench"

Below my porch is a deer-proofed garden and a trough for spring run-off. Beyond them, just before the creek, is a bench.

Yesterday I sat on this bench and found it most unpleasant.

From a distance the bench looks like a loveseat. But up close it looks more like a "hateseat" in that it is too big for one and too small for two.

As for the view, you can hardly see the creek. In fact, there is more water to be seen from the left and the right of this bench than there is from sitting on it.

No, this is not a bench to use, but one to look at and imagine using. In that sense, it is not unlike a pair of shoes that look good in the reflection of shop windows but kill us with each step.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Western Living

From my southwest-facing porch above the rush of Bellevue Creek.

It was 6:15 p.m. when I realized that if this was 1981 I had everything I needed to make an ad for wooden railings.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Forest Walk

Yesterday afternoon I set out to explore the immediate area around my apartment. As mentioned in an earlier post, my apartment is located at Woodhaven, a 3.5 hectare nature conservancy that includes a "heritage house" administered by UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, where I am an MFA Interdisciplinary Studies candidate.

My research at UBCO will include a project set at Woodhaven featuring the artists Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, whose work I have contributed to both as a writer and as an actor, and who live up the valley in a town so small that to name it would be like shining a flashlight in their bedroom window. The purpose of yesterday's walk was towards such a project.

At the bottom of the stairs that lead to and from my apartment is a deer-proof garden. If one did not know there are deer here, and that they eat gardens, one might think of it as a caged garden. Beyond that are a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees, a run-off stream that I am told will "turn on" this spring, and a larger stream that, like the narcissistic actor, is always on.

From there heading south-east is a structure halfway between a shelter (for firewood) and a shack. I was intrigued by the structure and spent quite a bit of time with it. After that, some underbrush, and then a fence between me and a soft green pasture where there stood four of the most magnificent horses -- two adults and two foals. The horses belong to a pair of horse breeders who, I was told, do not want their horses touched, fed, or even looked at. Judging from the looks these horses gave me, it appears they are in agreement.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


The slow and gentle abstraction of a City of Vancouver bylaw sign at the eastern entrance to Clark Park.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Poets and Poetry of Peter Culley

On Wednesday I flew to Vancouver to read from and talk about the poets and poetry of Peter Culley for a National Gallery of Canada event in support of Geoffrey Farmer's Canadian Pavilion presence at the 57th La Biennale di Venezia next year.

The original plan was to read some of Peter's poems, but Geoffrey suggested we include poems by those who had influenced Peter and the Kootenay School of Writing with whom he is associated (a "school" that included poet/critics such as Jeff Derksen, Lisa Robertson and Nancy Shaw), as well as those who came before KSW (such as TISH poet/editors George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt and Fred Wah and Internedia poet/artists bill bissett, Judith Copithorne, Maxine Gadd, Gerry Gilbert, Al Neil and Roy Kiyooka).

Unfortunately time flew, so by the time I was to present, I had to set aside those contextual poems and, like Kitty did in her presentation of Geoffrey and his work, supply not the works themselves but a list of their titles -- with the promise that I would post the unread poems on my blog.

The Peter poems I read from and discussed were "Fruit Dots" (1986) and "The Provisions" (2003). "Fruit Dots" because it speaks to the pastoral-natural that Peter was so fond of and because it is, like Geoffrey's The Last Two MIllion Years (2007) and Leaves of Grass (2012), a work of collage -- in this instance, made from lines drawn from a 19th century botany text. "The Provisions" because it follows nicely from the scientific arcadia of "Fruit Dots" in that it opens with a series of marks made in "nature" by the encroachment of human culture, an at times violent encroachment reminiscent of the landscape photography of Vancouver artists Stan Douglas, Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall and Roy Arden, artists with whom Peter was familiar with and, in the case of Roy and Stan, had written on.

I should also say that the contextual poems were drawn from the New American Poetry (1960), an important anthology edited by Donald Allen and introduced to Vancouver audiences through the teachings of influential UBC English professor Warren Tallman. The Ginsberg poem was chosen because we recognize him as a successor to Whitman (whose Leaves of Grass [1855] inspired Geoffrey's work of the same name). The O'Hara poems because he is something of a model for the North American poet/critic. The Guest poem in part because there are only four women in the original New American Poetry anthology. And finally, the Creeley poem because it was Creeley who "discovered" Peter at the 1980 Poetry Colloquium that Barry McKinnon, et al., organized in Prince George.

A Supermarket in California
Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
     In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
     What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

     I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys. 
     I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
     I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective. 
     We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

     Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight? 
     (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.) 
     Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely. 
     Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage? 
     Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe? 


Why I Am Not A Painter
Frank O’Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES. 


Lana Turner has collapsed!
Frank O’Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky

and suddenly I see a headline 
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up


Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher
Barbara Guest (1960)from her first book The Location of Things 

I just said I didn’t know
And now you are holding me
In your arms,
How kind.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher.
Yet around the net I am floating
Pink and pale blue fish are caught in it.
They are beautiful,
But they are not good for eating.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher
Than this mid-air in which we tremble,
Having exercised our arms in swimming,
Now the suspension, you say,
Is exquisite. I do not know
There is coral below the surface,
There is sand, and berries
Like pomegranates grow.
This wide net, I am treading water
Near it, bubbles are rising and salt
Drying on my lashes, yet I am no nearer
Air than water. I am closer to you
Than land and I am in a stranger ocean
Than I wished.


Like They Say
Robert Creeley

Underneath the tree on some
soft grass I sat, I

watched two happy
woodpeckers be dis-

turbed by my presence.   And
why not, I thought to

myself, why

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Provocation

I would like us to take a position. Not necessarily a position all of us can agree on, nor a position bound by a grand or totalizing theory of everything, but one that is operative, generative and capable of reconstituting the time it takes to devise and implement such a position and turn it into a bunny.

Or if not a bunny then something unexpected. Yet something recurrent, or at least a position that returns to us in ways that remind us of what it was and who we were when we first took it. What motivated it, what it felt like as a thought, or simply just a feeling.

Not a position to wield, like one might hold up a sword and wave it around, but one to nurture, like what one does with a tamagotchi.

This summer I was in a situation where I thought the only way I might learn something, the only way I might be of use to anyone, was to take a position associated with what Luce Irigaray talks about in her discussion of gender relations, a position that awkwardly translates (from the French) as self-limitation.

For me, this was the only position to take, particularly when the common position taken by those faced with me and what I commonly signify is resistance.

So yes, I would like us – each of us -- to take a position. And not just an intellectual position but one that operates outside the realm of thinking, as one might find oneself in situations where what is usually received in the vertical position is sensually different when experienced – or let’s say assumed -- on the horizontal plane. Which, incidentally, is another position associated with Irigaray: horizontality.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


So this it: a large room above another one just like it, in a 1960s country house in the middle of a forest administered by the University of British Columbia and known as the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, where the red lights at night are not falling embers but cars descending from a hilltop caramelized by fire in 2003, and where I will be living until April of next year as an MFA Interdisciplinary Studies candidate in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and a teaching assistant to the artist Samuel Roy-Bois.

Today being the first Tuesday after Labour Day, school has officially begun. I have no classes today, but tomorrow I have my first (in over thirty years). Our assignment: "Write a provocation."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Interior Provincial Exhibition

Oldtimers still call it the Armstrong Fair, but in an effort to "act so that there is no use in a centre," to quote Gertrude Stein, provincial funders insisted on something more regionally inclusive (expansive?), and thus the Interior Provincial Exhibition, or IPE, was born.

As a child growing up in Vancouver, we had the Pacific National Exhibition, or PNE. It too had a midway lined with games of chance, rides and fun food; barns and arenas where animals, plants, pies and art were entered into competition; and outdoor performances by loggers, demolition derby drivers and musicians. Something the PNE does not have that distinguishes it from the IPE and the larger Calgary Stampede is a rodeo.

Pictured below in the "Hobbies" section is a "Class #6" example of "FIRST NATIONS Buckskin wearing Apparel any article":

Friday, September 2, 2016

On the Road

Behind a Chevron, beside a building, before a loading dock -- someone took the time to care.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


The drive is just under five hours, without stopping. But I no longer drive like that.

Five hours is a theoretical span, not a real one. It doesn't include gas in Hope and a late-lunch in Falkland.

(Picture atop this post by Derek Brunen.)