Friday, March 31, 2017

Inverse Karaoke

Love these "vocals only" YouTube postings. When I get bored I google the chords, pick up my ukulele and strum along.

"Running With the Devil" was the source of a long-time mondegreen. What I thought was "Yes, I'm livin' at a basement keels" is "Yes, I'm livin' at a pace that kills."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Beau Dick (1955-2017)

Yesterday's post was supposed to include details of Beau Dick's participation in Documenta 14's Athens platform. But just as I was about to post these details I received a text from someone who had visited Beau on the day he went to spirit and it didn't seem right to post information that some people needed to hear from somebody other than myself.

Beau Dick
Περφόρμανς, ΕΜΣΤ–Εθνικό Μουσείο Σύγχρονης Τέχνης (4ος όροφος), 11 π.μ.

I was not friends with Beau in the way people talked about friends prior to Facebook, but I knew who Beau was and he knew me as someone who wrote on art, who had questions he would sometimes indulge, and who he could talk with about hats, guitars...

A few years ago, in an effort to situate Beau in a eurowestern art historical context, I began to refer to him as our Joseph Beuys, a "social sculptor" who made what he would of materials, but also of more ephemeral systems, like those that link capital to private galleries, etc., a practice I stopped when I realized that Beau, and indeed my own research and writing, did not require this kind of alignment.

Roy Arden did a nice job of discussing Beau's work in a contemporary art context. As the curator of the CAG's 2004 Supernatural exhibition (a two person show featuring the work of Beau and the conceptual painter Neil Campbell), Roy gave us an essay that bears reading, or re-reading. Here it is.

The photo up top was taken while I was visiting the Sointula Art Shed last spring. It is more or less the same sunset Beau would have seen from his home at Alert Bay.

Strong winds, Beau. Prayers for your family.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Learning from Athens"

Documenta 14 opens in Athens, Greece on April 8 and overlaps (for 36 days) with the festival's traditional Marshall Plan-ned capital, Kassel, Germany, where it opens on June 10 and closes on September 17.

When it was announced that Documenta 14 would expand its field of operations to Athens I was hoping its program would include the participation of Athens-born architect Alexander Tzonis who, together with historian Liane Lefaivre, developed their concept of "critical regionalism" and inspired a long-running conversation of scholars, from Kenneth Frampton to bell hooks to Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak, but I did not see Tzonis and Lefaivre on D14's just-released list of "Venues and Institutional Partners in Athens."

Documenta cannot be all things to all people, of course, but when what some have called the "Olympics of Contemporary Art" announces its program with additional catch-phrases like "Universes in Universe" and "Learning from Athens", you'd think, right? I would love to see a Tzonis and Lefaivre-hosted forum that included Butler and Spivak revisiting their Who Sings the Nation-State? (2010) conversation in light of the refugee beach-landings that were everywhere in the news a couple years ago. That and a new print of Z (1969).

Monday, March 27, 2017


In 1968 Grace Slick dons "black face" and performs "Crown of Creation" with Jefferson Airplane on the Smothers Brothers Show. At the end of the song she gives the Black Power salute.

In 1970 Mick Jagger appears in Nicolas Roeg's Performance, where he channels Bob Dylan via Son House to tell us about "the black man" from "San Antone" who "drew his knife."

In 1972 Ed Kleinholz debuts Five Card Stud (1969-1972) at Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany. Almost forty years later LACMA shows the work as part of its Pacific Standard Time and not much is made of it, apart from Hyperallergic noting that it "couldn't have come at a better (or more ironic) time."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Snack Display

Curation continues to be this decade's word for doing anything a robot can't do. A few weeks back, while taking a short-cut through UBCO's still-unbranded Science Building, I noticed Starbuck's latest snack display.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

This Now, More Than Ever

Three months ago SFU Galleries director Melanie O'Brian and SFU English professor Stephen Collis sent out invitations to contribute to an emergency exhibition/publication/conversation entitled This Now, More Than Ever. It read:

In response to our pressurized new world order, we are seeking visual and textual responses (and these can be immediate responses, not belabored ones) from artists, theorists and writers that will be presented at SFU Gallery, Burnaby with a potential digital parallel.

We are undertaking this as part of a constellation of events occurring in response - several at SFU - and would be interested to hear about other related projects.

The invitation was accompanied by a larger text, available here. (Pictured above is the publication.)

Taking their instruction to heart, I thought all of sixty seconds before composing an old-style personal ad -- informed by new world problems:


Eurasian moment with chronic neoliberal distention looking to disembody, turn time
into space. Of variable means, prone to malaise but never lazy, and a heart -- OMG! a
heart that is large and getting larger! If you are worldwide, sustainable, intentional and
metaphysical, could we meet, start over?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Somnambulant Pleasures

In this internet meta-moment, a daughter shares with her father her sister's video of his sleepwalking.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Two Beheadings Or Not Two Beheadings

Holofernes was an Assyrian general who, according to the apocryphal Book of Judith, wanted to have sex with Judith before destroying Israel.

Other versions have it that Judith, upset with her fellow Jews for not trusting in God to save them from foreign powers, travels to the Assyrian camp, gains the trust of Holofernes, then, when he is drunk, slips into his tent and cuts off his head.

The painting up top is by Artemisia Gentileschi and is notable because it shows the effort it takes to cut a human head from its body. The painting below is by Caravaggio and is notable, too, but for the opposite reason.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Open Casket (2016)

Our maker gave us to each other. Our parents, and their parents, helped to make our faces. Emmett Till (1941-1955) had a beautiful wide-eyed face that was as much his parents' faces as it was his own. Murderers Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam took Emmett Till's face and abstracted it until their fears were momentarily allayed. Emmett Till's mother chose to show that face to the world -- both in person and in photographs -- after her son's body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River and prepared by staff at A. A Rayner & Sons Funeral Homes. Now, over sixty years since his murder, Dana Schutz has made a painting of Emmett Till's funereal face and some people are calling not for a conversation about this painting, but for its destruction.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Yesterday's post on the American Conservative website asks, "Is Trump the New Teddy Roosevelt?"

In an excerpt below, we are told that both presidents are against hyphenation, with Roosevelt using a hyphenated word to indicate the intensity of his commitment:

Roosevelt famously railed against “hyphenated Americanism” and declared that America was not a “mosaic of nationalities.” In language that rings as distinctly Trumpian today, Roosevelt demanded total allegiance and nothing else from American citizens, native and naturalized alike: “A square deal for all Americans means relentless attack on all men in this country who are not straight-out Americans and nothing else.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

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.

Who Sings the Nation-State? (2010) by Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is a book that looks like it was made from a recording of an on-stage conversation or an email exchange. It begins with ten pages of Butler, before Spivak says, "You said we're reading Arendt." Another thirty pages of Butler before Spivak says, "Oh listen, I don't want to say anything more about Agamben because you've already said it but I'm tempted. But you have more, no?"

Early in Butler's opening she addresses the hyphen between "nation" and "state":

"So, already, the term state can be dissociated from the term 'nation' and can be cobbled together through a hyphen, but what work does the hyphen do? Does the hyphen finesse the relation that needs to be explained? Does it suggest a fallibility at the heart of the relation?"

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Go ask Alice...I think she'll know"

Go Ask Alice was a sensation when it was first published in 1971. Constructed as a diary by a 15-year-old who died of a drug overdose, this Anonymous-ly authored book was in all likelihood written by Beatrice Sparks, a 54-year-old youth counsellor and registered therapist.

I was curious to see Go Ask Alice as a course text in the UBCO Bookstore earlier this week. The shelf card says the book is assigned to CULT 400K -- "CULT" for Cultural Studies, right?

The title of the book is from the Grace Slick penned, Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit", from the band's amazing Surrealistic Pillow (1967) album. "My Best Friend" is another song from that album, written by Skip Spence, who, as a member of Moby Grape, gave us "Omaha" (1967), and a solo album, Oar (1969), which only gets better with age.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Studio Visit

On Monday artist Tiziana La Melia visited the UBCO campus where she gave a talk and the following day took part in crits. A stop on the crit trail included the studios of Amberley John and Tania Willard.

The image up top is from Tania's studio and is a corner of a stretched reproduction of a southwestern style tapestry pattern that provides the ground for the centre piece of a larger work. On either side of this centre piece is a canvas with photographs of folded textiles taken by anthropologist Harlan Ingersoll Smith that Tania printed onto these canvases. Sewn onto the canvases are silk ribbons with excerpts from Smith's texts lasered into them. The centre piece also carries (negative space) ribbon texts, as well as chevrons.

During her presentation Tania told us how Smith's interest in collecting indigenous patterns was in part towards the manufacture of a single (Canadian) indigenous image pattern -- a kind of salvage anthropology, a la Edward Curtis's photography and museum installation, but in this instance based in "abstract" design and, ultimately, towards a commercial application. Another interest of Smith's was the plaster casting of Secwepemc people's heads in an effort to understand indigenous migratory patterns. These castings, which are stored in New York, provide the basis for another of Tania's projects.

Returning to the image up top -- I took the picture because not all four of the centre piece's corners are fastened with staples, only the top-left and bottom-right corners. As for the top-right and bottom-left corners, they are fastened through a different system, where the staples are hidden. As I see it, these diagonal fastening systems are in solidarity with the diagonal or staggered weave of the pattern -- the kind of details Tania is attentive to in both the form and the content of her work.

For Tania's narration of Smith's silent film The Shuswap Indians of British Columbia (1928), click here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Geoffrey Goes to Venice

Regardless of what artists put out in the world, the media who meet with them too often focus on their artworks as reflections of their personal lives. You hear this all the time on CBC Radio,  particularly when it comes to books. Just the other day I heard Q host Tom Power turn a musician's new album into a discussion of that musician's cancer odyssey.

This is partly why I find Geoffrey Farmer's proposal for the Canadian Pavilion (pictured above, top) so intriguing. Rather than provide information on what his installation will look like (a fountain? a pumping station? a sculpture garden?), he offers the media a family story concerning a traffic accident (pictured above, bottom) that occurred around the time the pavilion was built.

Anyone familiar with Farmer's work will know that what he begins with is often unrecognizable when compared to what ends up in and around the gallery. And even then it keeps changing, not just because the artist is an inveterate tweaker, but because we change, too.

Farmer has spoken of the influence of Donald Allen's New American Poetry (1960) on his practice, and you can see it in two of the anthology's better-known poems -- Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter" and John Ashbery's "The Instruction Manual". A line from another New American Poetry participant provides Farmer with the title of his installation. "A way out of the mirror" is from Allen Ginsberg's "Laughing Gas" (see excerpt below):

A way out of the mirror
was found by the image
that realized its existence
was only...
a stranger completely like myself.

Canadian Art (Spring, 2017)

A couple days ago Canadian Art posted an "adapted" version of its hard-copy feature article.

The article, written by Sam Cotter, is entitled "Break It Down", while the digital version carries a more informational title -- "10 Artists Who Disrupt the Status Quo".

(The status quo? Really? Haven't heard those words in awhile -- which hardly bodes well for an existing state of affairs.)

Not knowing who Sam is, I googled him and found an artist who writes. An example of Sam's art is his On Location series:

Sam's picture (Number 4 in the series?) brought to mind another artist who is something of a disrupter. Or at least an artist who has made a work "about" disrupting -- Jeff Wall's The Stumbling Block (1991):

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Annharte Poem

december multiple haiku

help us feed our tropical
memory jungles

whoever else is
in the conversation it's
oneself one talks to

self-portrait sends out
what is wanted to be seen
pretending presence

clocks find tomorrow
rain rivers outside
muscular minding

rain bestows upon
us the way to another
washed off vancouver

rather than rushing
to anyplace else hurry
up to where we are

once upon a place
the wet footprints tamely dry
to smiles on wild's place

for Gerry Gilbert

from Annharte. Indigena Awry. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2012. Print.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh, How I Long For Home

Yesterday's post quoted a passage from George Woodcock's Ravens and Prophets (1954) that refers to the ostensible oxymoron of the "visiting Indian." Taken in context, this visit can refer to indigenous people from northern BC communities like Kispiox, Kitwanga, Kitwancool and Gitsegukla coming to Vancouver after the Nass and Skeena River salmon canning season to explore the PNE, purchase a new guitar, catch a football game -- any number of things.

For most of the past year, SFU's Teck Gallery has hosted an installation by Marianne Nicolson, entitled Oh, How I Long For Home, which "addresses a persistent idea of the city as a conflicted promise" -- or the downright failure of a Eurocentric "program" of modernity, modernization, and their PR Department, modernism, to improve the lives of those who live in or visit such cities.

The installation is comprised of "photographs the artist found of her relations on Vancouver's streets during the 1940s and '50s;" her more recent photos taken of existing neon signs along Hastings Street; and a neon Kwak' wala text translated from the exhibition's English title. For more on the Oh, How I Long For Home, click here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

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.

Returning to George Woodcock's Ravens and Prophets (1952), which sits at my bedside atop Annharte's Indigena Awry (2012), I read how the author and Inge, once back in Vancouver, "gaped at shop windows like visiting Indians and saw a film in which Bob Hope impersonated a fox-hunting English gentleman."

Later Woodcock writes, "For once, after the north, Vancouver appeared genuinely metropolitan, and our return seemed to emphasize the roughness of the country we had left."

Later still, in "Part Two", Woodcock and Inge depart on another journey, this time by rail to Penticton, where the author relates information told to him by a German orchardist about the conditions that led to the rise of the Fruit-growers Cooperative.

Woodcock, who was born in Winnipeg, is most generous when it comes to stories about settler industry and economics but, as is evidenced throughout his book, disrespectful in his portrayal of "Indians" -- "visiting" or otherwise. One of a long line of British Canadians who wrote not of here, or to or with those living amongst him, but for those from whence this Britishness came.

Friday, March 10, 2017


It's not road rage, it's rage, and it often manifests in a violence towards those unaware of having done anything wrong. In this instance, a woman gives a courtesy honk to let another driver know she is pulling out, and he follows her to where she steps from her car and attacks her with a crowbar, breaking both her arms.

I don't ever remember hearing stories like this twenty-five years ago when I was the age of the young man who attacked this woman, and I worry that the world we are living in today is creating the conditions for more rage, what with its emphasis on markets, competition, hubris, division, exclusionary tactics...

Tired now. Tired of the world and its cruelties. Time to get back on the high road, put some apologies together.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ha? Ki lil xw

Spotted Lake (Ha? Ki lil xw) is not just a funky tourist attraction -- it's a pharmacy!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sidney Shadbolt

Sidney Shadbolt taught me a lot about gardening, and how to have a particular kind of conversation. I think of her today as I look out my kitchen window -- not at the snow-covered ground, but at the blue sky above.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Material Practice

Before the "me" blog there was the "me" scrapbook.

Concurrent with the "me" blog, the same.

And now that nobody reads blogs anymore, a scrapbook to tell us why.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Picturing Sculpture and Architecture

Four black totem poles, with four black houses in the distance.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


Tina attended Lejac Indian Residential School between 1963-1971. Her blog, entitled Lejac (2009-), contains a number of photos and remembrances.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

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.

Returning to George Woodcock's Ravens and Prophets (1952), which sits at my bedside atop Chantal Mouffe's The Democratic Paradox (2000), I read how the author and his travelling companions Audrey, David and Inge turn west at Prince George, where they come to Fraser Lake, just west of Vanderhoof.

Fraser Lake's Fort Fraser was established by the Northwest Trading Company in 1807 and is one of the oldest colonial settlements in B.C. However, unlike some outposts that grew into towns, Fort Fraser did not. According to Woodcock:

"...there is little except an indefinable kind of English village atmosphere and a still functioning Hudson's Bay store to indicate its special antiquity or its important role in the early settlement of the far west of Canada." (57)

Those familiar with 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong's unofficial years as a teacher at Immaculata Roman Catholic [residential] School at nearby Burns Lake in the late 1960s/early 1970s will know of complaints filed against him by some of the school's students. Additional complainants include a student from another Roman Catholic Church operated residential school at Fraser Lake, known as Lejac, where Furlong was not employed but may have had contact with, given his work in physical education.

Of the Lejac school, Woodcock describes a "red-brick collegiate building," and on an adjacent field, "a swarm of little Indian boys" with burlap sacks following a mechanical potato picker. From there we learn of Father Morice, "a notable pioneer in the study of Carrier customs and languages," and from whose writings we learn of "the rough treatment of the Indians by the Hudson's Bay Company representatives -- details which might otherwise have been unavailable to history students anxious to make an objective study of British colonization in Western Canada." (57)

As mentioned in my previous post, Woodcock's trip was undertaken at the end of the 1940s. Something the author does not mention is that on January 1, 1937, four Lejac students -- Allen Willie (age 8), Andrew Paul (age 9), Maurice Justin (age 8) and Johnny Michael (age 9) -- were found frozen to death on a lake six miles from the school -- and a mile from their home reserve, where they were running away to.

What remains of Woodcock's passage on Lejac includes the complaints of Inge and Audrey, who feel the deployment of Indian boys as farm workers constitutes child labour. As for Woodcock and David's position:

"We admitted that, being fanatical devotees of their own way of thought, [the priests] could not be expected to do anything other than attempt to transmit it to the children under their care, [that these priests] might individually be very just and humble men, who acted not from a desire to dominate, but out of a genuine love for the people among whom they worked, that they might indeed be men whose sincerity and goodness should inspire our respect for them, however we might disagree with their creed and detest some of the church's social manifestations." (58)

And with that, they continued westward.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bomb Shelter Chic

I came upon this picture a couple weeks ago while not researching bomb shelters. Swore for a second it was a Rodney Graham. Part of a new black & white series, along with his recent After Braque: Playing Concertina in My Studio (With Hanging Construction) (2016)?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Public Forum

At last Saturday's Ambivalent Pleasures forum co-curator Daina Augaitis introduced the exhibition's three curatorial rings -- Surrealism, Abstraction and Conceptualism -- while co-curator Jesse McKee provided the caulking -- introducing the panelists, offering commentary and concluding with a passage from Walter Frisch (?) on "ambivalent" modernism.

What was learned? Well, I learned that people can attempt to proceed surrealistically (obliquely) without supplying a definition of Surrealism, when asked for one, and that because art history is fraught (patriarchal, bourgeois, Eurocentric), definitions are therefore moot and unfriendable. (The difference between growing up with punk as a social expression in the 1970s and seeing it "break" as a retail category in the 1990s.)

I learned also that abstraction is not necessarily a sanctuary for diffidents (abstraction has it that I can make nouns out of adjectives), but, in the hands of those who care enough to get it down as exposition, can result in thoughtful and generative essay presentations.

Finally, I learned that conceptualism can be refused by those who have been thrown into its ring, and of that ring, have it reorganized and renamed to reflect not an artistic style but a critical pedagogy.