Tuesday, October 31, 2017


A wall hanging and a shell that sat on a window sill for years is quarter-turned and placed above it. A figure emerges, both scared and scary.

Monday, October 30, 2017

More Activities

Hornby's Mount Geoffrey, as seen from Denman Island.

The return view from Mount Geoffrey's upper bench.

An extinguished fire that looks like monkeys playing.

The Heron Rocks campsite below.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


The sun always rises in the east.

How the light enlivens!

Preparing the crab trap at Whaling Station Bay.

Recording the sea lion orchestra at Helliwell Park.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Goldenback Ferns

A cluster of goldenback ferns at Downes Point yesterday afternoon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Remember It, Jake. It's Chinatown.

It stands to reason that the further a skin is stretched, the thinner it gets. And as we all know, a thin skin is a sensitive skin.

For a polarizing country like the United States, a thin skin is inevitable. What accounts for this thin skin is not simply a metaphorical stretching but a political economic disparity that began to accelerate with the Nixon administration and is only now just ripping.

(A thick skin, by contrast, is a privileged skin, if for no other reason than it does not know what it is to be thin.)

A couple years ago I reviewed an exhibition by Ron Tran at 221A. Entitled The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store, the exhibition began with the artist acquiring wares from neighbouring Chinatown shops for display -- and for sale -- at 221A's exhibition space. (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can read my review here.)

Not simply a riff on the "pop-up" phenomenon, The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store reminded me not only of where I was, but how variable that "where" is. For example, I am in Chinatown, but I am also at an art gallery. Or not simply an art gallery, but an artist-run centre. And not simply Chinatown, but amidst a complex of relations brokered by both feudalism and capitalism, benevolence and paternalism; prone to its own expressions of racism, sexism, heteronormativity. And not simply an artist-run centre, but one that participates in -- and profits from -- the sub-leasing of private property. It was all there in Tran's show, and a big reason why, for this writer, it remains a highlight of the 2015 exhibition season.

The Kitchen Garden at Home/Store came to mind this past week when I read about Israeli-born Berlin-based artist Omer Fast's exhibition at Manhattan's James Cohan Gallery, where the artist repurposed the (private) gallery's exterior and front space to approximate what N.Y Times critic Holland Cotter describes as a "funky Chinatown [0:48] shop or bus company waiting room." (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can read the entirety of Cotter's review here.)

Fast's repurposing has not gone over well with the Chinatown Art Brigade, who have called out the gallery for its "racist exhibition" and "for treating Chinatown as poverty porn." (There is more to it than that; and if you are curious, you can watch the video atop this post.) Indeed, Cotter too laments Fast's installation:

At best, the installation is a serious misfire, as some preliminary canvassing on the artist’s part might have revealed. The ethical indeterminacy that has worked in other contexts for him backfires here. It reads as nasty condescension. And, really, can a portrait of a “lost” ethnic neighborhood as a study in tawdry dysfunction read any other way? Not in the class-and-wealth co-opted New York City of today.

I agree with Cotter that there is something condescending about the installation, particularly at a time of gaping disparity, in a borough as wealthy as post-Giuliani Manhattan. But I also wonder why such a response did not accompany Tran's repurposing of the 221A space, particularly in a "class-and-wealth co-opted" city like Vancouver. Is it because 221A is an artist-run centre? Or because 221A has forged relationships with the Chinatown community? Or because Tran, a Vietnamese-Canadian, was selling his wares not for profit but at cost? Or because Canada, unlike the United States, is buffered by what remains of its mixed economy? Questions like these will be on my mind over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bomb Threat

The Fire Safety Plan for Griffin Art Projects is authored by West Coast Emergency Solutions. Near the end of the Plan is a section on Bomb Threats. Below are a list of questions to ask someone calling in a bomb threat:

What time will the bomb explode?

What kind of bomb is it?

What does the bomb look like?

Where are you calling from?

What is your name?

Why did you place the bomb?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Marriage of Alina and Steven

Among the myths of the artist: no one tells them what to do. Except wealthy collectors, who sometimes "own" them.

I would never tell Paul Wong what to do. But if I was infected with money, and Paul was in need of it, I would encourage him to spend a year working as a wedding photographer, towards a publication called Paul Wong: Weddings.

These pictures were taken by Paul at the Western Front last Sunday. The bride is Alina, the groom is Steven, the woman on her knees recording their "first dance" is Alina's mother.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bronze One-Way Mirror Sliding Door

On Friday early evening I visited Gareth at his Franklin Street studio and from there we walked to the Patricia Hotel for a drink before car-sharing it to the Emily Carr Hospital of Art and Design for the opening of the inaugural Libby Leshgold Gallery exhibition.

It was during our walk that we came upon the new Vancouver Public Library nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Branch at 730 East Hastings, where we communed with Erica Stocking's bronze one-way mirror sliding door entitled All My Favourite People Are Animals (2016).

Erica's is one of the more successful public art works I have seen of late: a door that does not so much open (to let people in) and shut (to keep them out), but remain open at all times within itself through child-height holes and a mirror. A "book" that, even if the library is closed, you can read!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Griffin Art Projects

Yesterday was a residency day at Griffin Art Projects, where I spent most of the afternoon reading the Fire Safety Plan. Not only did I discover some intriguing facts about the building, I also learned how a city or a district's "fire" regulations, like its "health" regulations, involve more than smouldering rags and unrefrigerated mayonnaise. (Recall Ray Bradbury's futuristic Fahrenheit 451, where fire brigades are primarily responsible for setting fire to books. Or the 19th century, when barbers performed amputations.)

I was about to attempt a Fire Watch "walk-through", for no other reason than than to enter it into the Plan's log, when Catarina from the Seattle Art Museum arrived to see Paul P.'s show, but also to joke, "I have been in Vancouver all day and I have yet to see a photograph!" That was one distraction. Another involved Paul's call to the gallery, whereupon learning that I was present asked Lee what I was wearing -- to which Lee provided what I thought at the time to be a rather dull description, only to realize later that what Paul was really asking was whether or not I was wearing work clothes.

The picture above was taken at the entrance of the Griffin, and was immediately sent to Catarina. Not a broken drain pipe, but the effect of a broken drain pipe. (It is my attempt at a Turner. Not the train, but its smoke as a measure of its locomotion.) In order to get the best picture possible, in the safest way possible, I had to borrow a rain poncho from the utility room. So yes, Paul, it was taken in work clothes. I literally had to bend over backwards to take it!

Saturday, October 21, 2017


A drawing of a broken copper beside the entrances of Fazakas Gallery and Will Aballe Art Projects.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fight for Beauty

When did we say yes to beauty being 
discarded deleted and demeaned?

I can't speak to "we" because I am not sure it includes me, nor do I feel part of those doing the we-ing. But I do remember in the early 1980s how connoisseurial words like beauty and uglygood and bad had no place in the contemporary art conversation; that to say a work of art was beautiful was too subjective to be generative, and was ultimately anti-social.

Where is the agreement
that beauty is optional – 

Not urgent for us to thrive?

I find this to be a leading question, if not a fallacy. Maybe I am wrong. Or maybe I would like to be provided with a definition of beauty and how it is important to our sur-thrive-al.

Since when have we learned
the price of everything yet know
the value of nothing?

This question is easier because the price of everything has its price, and an increasing majority of those living in Vancouver find that price impossible to meet. Last I heard, the value of nothing is 0.

How could we have missed
that beauty is a strength
not a substance that makes its way
through the cracks to come after our
senses in full force to push us forward? 

It is easy for those unable to meet the price of everything to have missed the proposition that equates beauty with strength in their day-to-day struggle to afford substances such as food and clothing and shelter. As for "what makes its way/ through the cracks," that could be false consciousness. But to assign an action to beauty -- "push" is too aggressive, too monological. Same too for unilateral directions like "forward." 

Because we, we have not signed up. 
Westbank. Fight for Beauty.

As a dependent clause, "Because we" only makes sense in a lyric poem. Only this isn't a lyric poem so much as a centre-justified admonishment of an imagined enemy of something that is refused a definition by a private developer in defense of what it really wants, and that's a fight. In the words of Mick Jagger at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Free Concert in Northern California: "Who's fighting -- what for?" He said this more than once.

Thursday, October 19, 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.

I awake for the second day in a row to music from the tenant next door. Only this time it is "live" music -- a friend of the tenant singing sweetly a song that sounds familiar but one I can't place.

It is not the singing that keeps me awake, but the guessing.

Then it dawns on me. Could it be those guitar paddling voyageurs of small town Ontario? Whose broken-branch lyricism is to rural wonder what white cube cynicism is to Talking Heads urbanity? Whose collected songs are to male bi-curiousity what the Smith's are to morning-after melancholy? A band that has generated few comparisons -- not because they are incomparable, but because there is so little left to say about contemporary rock music, only around it?

On that note, isn't this is a pretty song?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What's the Biggest Question Facing Artists Today?

In its quest to be all things to sane people, the Guardian continues to be everywhere. More recently here, asking artists, curators, directors (but not critics?), What's the biggest question facing artists today?

Responses vary. Jeremy Deller offers up incredulity's acronym ("WTF?"), while Marina Abramović reminds us that we are "human beings." Most see the present as a dilemma. Tacita Dean OBE RA believes in "balancing a need for the market with a detachment from it," while ICA director Stefan Kalmár is concerned less with functionalism's "balancing" act than in identifying what is, in effect, a Marxist "contradiction."

I appreciate what Stefan has to say about education in the third paragraph below:

The big question for us all – but particularly for artists because it’s more pressing – is, essentially, can we bite the hand that feeds us? The economic make-up of the 21st century has forced us to shy away from more fundamental questions. An artist is now someone who sells work through a commercial system, to people they might not know, whose political and social affiliations they might not know. As a director, you wonder how long those contradictions are sustainable. Your exhibition might be sponsored by people who you oppose.
How many galleries in the US have Trump supporters as their major donors? How does that sit with the more progressive curatorial decisions? Equally, how does the ICA behave with those contradictions? I mean, at least we can talk about them, rather than pretending they’re not there.
Then there is the question of education in general, and art education in particular. Why is it that a society that largely communicates through visual media then deprives generations of young people of an arts education? To do so essentially produces a visual illiteracy, so people can’t understand or read the world. They cannot understand that the world projected at them has social, economic preconditions and interests behind them. In a world that is saturated by image, where ideologies talk to each other through imagery, it is a basic human right to understand how images are produced, circulated and distributed. It’s like learning a language or learning the alphabet. Isn’t looking after the people the basic foundation of any politics? Why would it ever be interesting to introduce tuition fees and reduce people’s access to education? The same for healthcare. Why should it be difficult? Shouldn’t it always be government’s prime mandate to produce a well-educated and healthy society? We could get more political and say, “Why is it always conservative governments that do this?” There isn’t a liberal or social democratic element that would do that. You very, very rarely get well-educated fascists or racists.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Together Again!

A highlight of the VAG's Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting exhibition: a make-out corner featuring Joyce Weiland's The Kiss (1960) and Michael Snow's Between (1960).

Sunday, October 15, 2017


How in reading one thing, then another, a word, a particular word that speaks to a "momentary or partial view" -- a glimpse.

A kitchen table busy with books and papers. I sit down, make room for my coffee, then pull towards me something to read. At one point Anne Low's text from her Artspeak exhibition, Witch With Comb, which riffs on Muriel Spark's 1960 short story "The Ormolu Clock":

At one point in the story the narrator catches a momentary glimpse into a room through a door, that up until that moment, had remained locked.

I twig on the word. Where have I just seen it?

I read further:

The narrator’s description of the magnificence of the room revealed a canopied bed, stacked with plush pillows, highly adorned quilts and Turkish carpets all in hues of deep crimson, dark wood and flashes of gilded gold, a glistening tiled stove and an elaborately decorated clock.

A passage from Huysman's À rebours? (The copy in the bathroom?) Roussel's Locus Solus? (The copy in the glove compartment?)


The narrator is struck by the opulence of the bedroom, seemingly the antithesis to the rest of the establishment with its humble scrubbed and polished wooden interior. 

Of course! Right there in front of me! The opening of Mark Fisher's 2009 Capitalist Realism:

In one of the key scenes in Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men, Clive Owen's character, Theo, visits a friend at Battersea Power Station, which is now some combination of government building and private collection. Cultural treasures -- Michelangelo's David, Picasso's Guernica, Pink Floyd's inflatable pig -- are preserved in a building that is itself a refurbished cultural artifact. This is our only glimpse into the lives of the elite, holed up against the effects of a catastrophe which has caused mass sterility: no children have been born for a generation. 

The sterility of human beings (the film refers only to women's sterility) implies a shift in utility. While human beings can continue to produce things, they can no longer reproduce their species. This, too, is operative in Anne's exhibition, and is expressed not through a literal recreation of a functioning bed or stove (as glimpsed through a door or, in this case, through shutters or drapery) but through an aestheticization of these furnishings as forms crafted from -- memory?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Screen Shot

Found the above while cleaning up my desktop. It was taken from the front page of the November 1, 1966 edition of the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

Found the below while doing the same.

I wonder if Thomas d'Aquino's "family of Named Gallery Spaces" is related to Dr. Ron Burnett's family of Named ECUAD Spaces?

The world is so small these days.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blue Cabin

A few years ago, when Al Neil and Carole Itter's Blue Cabin showed no signs of going anywhere other than where it was, I spent an afternoon scraping its soffits in advance of another volunteer's paint job.

Most of these scrapings remained on the deck, but some I pocketed. Or rather, some fell into my pockets and, in preparing my clothes for the wash, I put them in a bowl.

Over the years I have come to see these scrapings less as remnants of the Blue Cabin than as emblems of labour, and it is for this reason that I keep them on my desk next to some seeds I collected from a tomato I picked that same year, in Noto.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Flight from Beauty

I first saw Jeff Wall's Overpass (2001) in the days following 9/11 and thought I would forever associate it with that event. But now, in light of Westbank's recent campaign, it has taken on a new meaning.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Barnacle Bill the Sailor (1930)

Amazing animation and sound. Cartoons were the first talkies, no?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

C.P. Lyons

C.P. "Chess" Lyons (1915-1998) was a Regina-born, Okanagan-raised naturalist famous for his botanical field guides. Given his eye for detail and subtle wit, it is not surprising that artists are drawn to his work. Brian has a number of Lyon's books at his ranch; and of those who came to visit this past weekend, more than a couple arrived with copies of their own.

Here is Lyon's description of Blue Sailors (Cichorium intybus), also known as Chicory or Batchelor's Buttons:

Blue Sailors is included as a wildflower although it could be more properly classed as an escape from cultivation. The bright blue flowers have taken their name from an old legend concerning a sailor's sweetheart who was deserted but nevertheless kept a faithful watch for him. The gods took pity on her and turned her into this plant which still haunts the roadsides from July to September.

The deep taproot has been used considerably in the past as a coffee substitute. The occurrence of the blue sailors near the sites of early-day construction camps may be due to this use when coffee was extremely scarce. The tissuey blue flowers, from 1"-1.5" across, usually open in the morning but close in the afternoon.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sunday Hike

On Sunday a group of us hiked into the hills above Six Mile Creek Road.

On our return Gareth stopped to make a field recording.

Sunday, October 8, 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.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Vegetarian Borscht

pound beets, grated 
1 large onions
2 large carrots
3/4 pound white cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups vegetable stock
Apple cider vinegar
Fresh dill
Sour Cream

Thursday, October 5, 2017

La Casa Resort

La Casa is a lakeside strata village that straddles Westside Road just south of an older, more feudal village known as Fintry.

Established in 2006, La Casa is now up to 250 cottages, with an amenity-filled hotel and a large grocery store.

If you stand at the roadside and stare at these cottages long enough, you begin to notice how the fascia boards -- all of which are painted regulation white -- join together.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Westside Road

Travelling north on Westside Road. Lots of deer on the shoulders. Then out of nowhere -- a For Sale sign!

Tuesday, October 3, 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.

A bump in the night. A boxspring meets the corners of the now-occupied apartment to my east. I glance at my clock. Who moves in at 3:41 a.m.?

I drift for an hour before I am awakened again. A ringtone derived from the opening bars of Jethro Tull's "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square" (1969).

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Apple Juice

A custom juicer set up in the parking lot of Askew's Foods in Armstrong this morning. Our 500 lbs. haul of apples amounted to 80 litres of flash pasteurized juice.

(photo: Lindsay Lorraine)