Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Yesterday I expressed concern over the jury selection in the second-degree murder trial of the man who shot to death Colten Boushie. (How is a jury trial fair if the jury is not representative of the community in which the murderer and the murder victim reside?) Today my concern is over local media reportage, which has produced a narrative that pairs the introduction of the murderer's gun -- a Russian-made handgun that has Boushie's DNA on it -- with a 22. caliber rifle carried in the SUV that Boushie and three others were travelling in.

I worry that the implication here is of a gun fight, that the murderer's lawyers will argue that Boushie showed up with a gun and the murderer was only trying to defend himself -- when in fact long guns are common in vehicles whose owners live and hunt in rural areas (and high-calibre semi-automatic handguns packed by fence-building farmers are not).

Boushie was shot behind the left ear through the driver-side window [now passenger-side?] of the SUV. That Boushie's DNA was on the gun that killed him suggests that the murderer was close enough to Boushie for that to happen. Not a gun fight at that range -- more like an execution. As for the "splatter pattern," we are told that the SUV was left in the rain all night with the doors open (huh?) -- and this, the murderer's lawyers will likely argue, will have compromised the evidence.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Colten Boushie

Why did the RCMP not ask permission to enter the home of Colten Boushie after his murder? What were the RCMP looking for? What did the RCMP take with them? What did the RCMP leave behind after their home invasion?

Why were no indigenous jurors chosen to represent the community?

What are the RCMP going to swear they "found" in Colten's home during their deliberate crowding of it? How will the lawyers representing the murderer use what the RCMP "found" and/or left behind in Colten's home as evidence in their defence of the murderer?

Why were no indigenous jurors chosen to represent the community?

Why were no indigenous jurors chosen to represent the community?

Why were no indigenous jurors chosen to represent the community?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Two Artists

Things happen, and when they do we reach for our phones. A picture to establish what is happening and, since the phone is out, a couple more of just goofing around.

While reviewing my pictures on the train home I delete those I don't want. Sometimes I see things in them and, with my phone's "edit" and "crop" functions, I zero in, forsaking fresh ice clarity for scuffed-up impressionism (on bad paper).

A couple weeks ago Jacob Korczynski was at the Or Gallery to launch a new publication of work by Andrew James Paterson. The publication is entitled called Collection/Correction (2018), and Jacob showed some of Andrew's videos as well.

I sat with Anne, Julia and Tiziana, who, during the projection of Eating Regular (2004), took out her notebook and wrote something down. That's when I took a picture of the event that later became the picture above -- of Or Gallery Interim Associate Director Kate Noble and, below her, artist Cornelia Wyngaarden.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Two Pictures

A haystack from Lala Meredith-Vula's Haystack (1989-2016) series has broken from the chorus to pursue a solo career. In other news, Steven Shearer's Wombles (2006) have reunited.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


An impressive exhibition at Catriona Jeffries Gallery this week. Charmian Johnson's careful pen and ink drawings provide the through-line, but it is the arrangement of Christina Mackie's expressionist annotation of Minimalist sculpture and Rochelle Goldberg's chia-seeded installation -- with Rebecca Brewer's felt hanging between them -- that held my attention.

Here is the north side of Rebecca's hanging:

Here is its more subdued south side:

Friday, January 26, 2018


Greek and Roman mythology is quite generally supposed to show us the way the human race thought and felt untold ages ago. Through it, according to this view,  we can retrace the path from civilized man who lives so far from nature, to man who lived in close companionship with nature; and the real interest of the myths is how they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills, unlike anything we ourselves can feel. When stories were being shaped, we were given to understand, little distinction had as yet been made between the real and the unreal. The imagination was vividly alive and not checked by reason, so that anyone in the woods might see through the trees a fleeing nymph, or bending over a clear pool to drink, behold in the depths a naiad's face.

The above text is the opening paragraph of Edith Hamilton's Introduction to Classical Mythology, from her book Mythology (New York: Little, Brown & Company. 1940).

In re-reading this paragraph I tried to imagine what it might mean to remove the words "Greek and Roman" and "nymphs" and "naiads" and apply it to other cultures. The problem of course is that the text is constructed to show a linear progression -- from what anthropologists once referred to as the "primitive" world to the civilized world. Another problem is that the world of 4,000 years ago, though younger than the world of today, was not "young," as Hamilton tells us. To argue as much is to infantilize the past. Indeed, this kind of linear reckoning is very much in line with the "salvage anthropology" of the 19th century, when American museums began re-staging for display the very cultures the American army was trampling over, particularly nearer to the end the century when the U.S. government set out to rid the west of its First Nations, but also of its Mormon and Chinese cultures. Just as things are never as they are said to be, so it is with post-U.S. Civil War Reconstruction: not only a rebuilding of the South, but an ethnic cleansing of the West.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Los Angeles Gallerists

The thing I don't get, Monte, is that you're this city's leading clothier, yet you come into my gallery with your pants hiked up over your belly button and your shirt blousing out like a muffin top. So no, I will not sell you the Byars. That same no applies to the Huebler.

Intriguing article by Catherine Wagley in Contemporary Art Review L.A. on mid-20th century L.A. gallerists Dwan, Copely, Butler and Mizuno. Only a matter of time before this history gets the film treatment.

But what would that history look like, as film? Yet another case of women (gallerists) serving men (artists), or a case of artists giving half of everything they make to their dealers in exchange for whatever their dealers make from the sale of their artists' work?

photo: Malcolm Lubliner

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cleaning My Phone

A picture I took at UBC a couple years ago. Something to do with Beau Dick's Belkin exhibition, but this sign was for something else.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Al Neil Memorial

At 2pm yesterday the Western Front hosted a memorial for artist Al Neil, who passed away November 16, 2017 at the age of 93. Hank Bull provided introductions to scheduled speakers Eric Metcalfe, Daina Augusts, Christos Dikeakos, Renee Rodin, Bill Smith and Glenn Alteen, who donated two boxes of wine to the event and who told us a story about the picture below -- the last one taken of Al before he went to spirit.

The story concerns a Remembrance Day walk that Al and Glenn took through Al's neighbourhood. Al had his medals on (he was among those who landed at Normandy Beach on D-Day). At one point a young man passed.

"Thanks for your service," the young man said.

A few steps later Al stopped and said to Glenn, "What did he say?"

"Thanks for your service," said Glenn.

Al nodded, then said, "I thought he said, 'Hey, you look nervous."

And with that the audience roared!

Thank you, Glenn.

Thank you, Al.

Thank you, Western Front.

Sunday, January 21, 2018



he says he’s on the spectrum
free to choose his own
snake prefix     “Let him!”
his mother says to him
though it’s me she means
sitting across from them

“A syndrome," she begins
"is just a list of symptoms --
one of which is brilliance!”
he stares ahead as she says this
unstimulated, powered-down
a mother's pride in profile

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Two Paintings

A recent notice for Oakville Galleries' upcoming Allison Katz exhibition carried with it a familiar image. Not that I had seen Katz's Giant (2013-2016) before, but I had seen something like it. Then it dawned on me -- Is this an homage to John Gast's Manifest Destiny (1872)? A response to it?

Unfortunately there was not enough information on Katz's painting, as both Oakville (who provide a cropped view of it) and Canadian Art spoke less of the painting than of its installation, which, given the subject of Gast's canvas (the unidirectional passage of "Progress" westward), has Katz's presented amongst others "in the round."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dean Allen

Yesterday morning I received an email from a friend who told me that another friend -- Dean Allen -- has gone to spirit. In writing this, the Dean I knew would have scoffed at the idea of having "gone" anywhere, let alone "to spirit," but that was part of his charm: not just the verbal and written forms his disagreements took, but the facial dance in advance of them.

Dean designed a couple of my earliest books: Kingsway (1995) and American Whiskey Bar (1997). As a designer, he made these books more than they were after I had signed off on them, and made a point of telling me so -- lovingly! Although both books were re-designed for later editions, Dean's original designs (especially Kingsway) remain my favourites.

There are already some nice remembrances of Dean online, including this one by Om Malik (the picture above is from Om's site and was taken by Matt Mullenweg). Om knew Dean after I knew Dean, who I met in Vancouver in 1986, and who I said goodbye to in the months before 9/11 when he moved to France "For good!" as he replied happily after I asked him, "For how long?"

I have more to say about my friendship with Dean, and will likely get to that over what remains of my own life. In the meantime, I would like to share a favourite (and friendlier!) piece that Dean wrote and posted on his Textism site on January 10th, 2001:


First, you need some water. Fuse two hydrogen with one oxygen and repeat until you have enough. While the water is heating, raise some cattle. Pay a man with grim eyes to do the slaughtering, preferably while you are away. Roast the bones, then add to the water. Go away again. Come back once in awhile to skim. When the bones begin to float, lash together into booms and tow up the coast. Reduce. Keep reducing. When you think you have reduced enough, reduce some more. Raise some barley. When the broth coats the back of a spoon and light cannot escape it, you are nearly there. Pause to mop your brow as you harvest the barley. Search in vain for a cloud in the sky. Soak the barley overnight (you will need more water here), then add to the broth. When, out of the blue, you remember the first person you truly loved, the soup is ready. Serve.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

F[]ight Patterns

The Trump Administration's invention of "fake news" as a device to dismiss those critical of its antics also serves to distance that Administration from the "fake news" that put it in office. A similar imperative might apply to recent "accidents" in Hawaii and Japan, where residents were alerted to ballistic missile attacks.

Were these "accidents" not their own form of testing? What did the United States, Japan and North Korea learn from the behaviours of those alerted to these attacks? Just because something is a mistake doesn't mean that something didn't happen. And make no mistake, this was no accident.

I am sure there are at present rooms in the U.S., Japan and North Korea filled with analysts pouring over time-coded CCTV footage, social media postings and phone logs noting what people were and were not doing during these alerts. And what will these analysts conclude from their findings, apart from new projections on how many lives will be lost as a result of what people failed to do when alerted to what might turn out to be a "limited nuclear war"?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Invention of Thanksgiving

National Museum of the American Indian associate curator Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche) gives an illustrated chat on the invention of Thanksgiving -- a day "that isn't like any other day of American life."

"The way it's corny, it's cartoonish and kitsch is kind of a protective layer to sort of not get too direct about it. So, underneath all those things, Thanksgiving is about trying to come to terms with this very difficult truth about the United States: that the country is a national project that came about at a great expense to native people."

I appreciate your research, Paul. From my childhood (and for many years after that) I carried with me the 1621 Wampanoag-Pilgrim dinner as a heralded first instance of settler-indigenous conciliation. Yet as David Garneau says of Reconciliation -- "There was no conciliation to begin with."

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What the Tweeters Are Tweeting

Not sure what evidence the tweeter has that Peter Culley doesn't have a "way bigger readership." Friends at the Amazon warehouse? Access to library databases? Or is it simply a case of connoisseurial omnipotence? I have attended readings by Pete in New York and San Francisco -- places that likely mean something to the tweeter -- and was impressed by the turnouts.

Pete deserves better than this. If people think so much of someone's work, tell us more about it, not less.

Not sure what evidence the tweeter has that 18th century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin is better known outside his native Germany -- or Europe, for that matter. But in the context of the New York Times book review to which the tweeter is reacting, where the measure of what is "known" is relative to key works by Defoe, Hawthorne, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Maddox Ford, Beckett etc., I think it is reasonable to say (though pointless to say so) that Hölderlin and his works are "lesser known."

Monday, January 15, 2018

A small room behind 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.

The sun is low and has turned the white wall opposite an orange gold. What puzzles me is the shadow. There is nothing in the sun's way to cast a shadow, nor can I make out what that nothing is.

Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming the shadow? The sunlight, too?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thomas Kakinuma

The story of ceramics in British Columbia art is a furtive history that includes artists who received their training in the medium (Glenn Lewis was a student of Bernard Leach), who shared their lessons with others (Gathie Falk was a protégé of Lewis), only to move in multiple artistic directions. Some ceramicists, like Wayne Ngan and Charmian Johnson, held the course and continue to produce intelligent bowls and vases, while others, like Japanese-born Thomas Kakinuma (1908-1982), are returned to us by thoughtful curators.

The poignancy of Kakinuma’s small figurative sculptures, which he was known for amongst collectors keen to accent their stark mid-century furniture, appears more so when viewed in relation to the artist’s own story. At 29, Kakinuma immigrated to Vancouver en route to Paris, where he hoped to study art. But World War II intervened. After studying drawing and painting in Toronto, New York, then Toronto again to study ceramics, Kakinuma returned to Vancouver, where he taught at UBC’sPottery Hut.

It was in 1950s Vancouver that Kakinuma developed his reputation as a maker of animals. “The birds are quick to produce and easy to sell,” he said of his figurines, “but I would really like to work on a one-man show, rather than making small items for stores.” Indeed, for Kakinuma the goal was to make large abstract sculpture. Although he realized his ambitions through participation in important exhibitions, and awards that allowed him to study in Japan and Mexico, it has taken this long for us to hear from him again.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"On Writing"

A few months ago I was invited by Bush Gallery to contribute to a guest edited issue of C Magazine. The magazine has a number of regular features, and I was asked to write something "experimental" for its "On Writing" column. Honoured, I said yes.

The magazine arrived a couple days ago, and I have been flipping through it.

Two of the more active members of Bush Gallery -- Peter Morin and Tania Willard -- took an interesting approach to another of the magazine's regular sections -- "Book Reviews" -- to apply the Bush Gallery concept of Storymancy to texts by authors such as Sherman Alexie, Shirley Bear and Eden Robinson. A nice piece of writing!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

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.

Last night I took By the Waters of Manhattan: Selected Verse (1962) by Charles Reznikoff to bed with me and read a couple of short pieces about a work crew boarding an over-crowded ferry and a young worker who gets her hair caught in the gears of a factory sewing machine before drifting off.

When I awoke I turned on the radio and listened to our mayor, Gregor Robertson, field questions on CKNW's "Jon McComb Show" about his decision to not seek a fourth term.

McComb: "Do you think that the housing crises has, in effect, left you unelectable as mayor?"

Robertson: "Oh no, not at all. Quite the opposite. I feel it's kinda going against my competitive nature to not run again. I've been elected three times with those consistent priorities of focusing on affordable housing and rental housing in particular. Those of us who are lucky enough to own a place and bought into the market years ago, we're doing fine, and we've had a huge windfall from the increase and made a lot of wealth.

McComb (sarcastically): Well good for you!

Robertson: Yeah, and that is something to be thankful for, but for half of the city here in Vancouver -- rent -- they don't own a place, and that's gotten way tougher. The values of real estate end up impacting rents, so we're seeing the pressure on half the city having trouble with affordability and that's where city hall has to focus on the affordable side of the spectrum, and rental housing, and making sure-- You know, I think that's been a top priority for me, and I expect and hope that the next mayor of Vancouver continues to do everything that city hall can do on housing and transit -- getting the Broadway subway built is still something I am hopeful I can deliver with mayors across the region in the year before this term is up -- so I've still got this year to deliver a whole bunch of the big commitments that I've been committed to.

McComb: But your heart is not in it though.

Robertson: Yeah, that's where I ended up over the holidays with my family and friends for a lot more time than I've had with them for many years and it really hammered home for me personally that I am ready for change.

Perplexed, I return to the imagistic poems of Reznikoff, and this short piece in particular, "Building Boom", which brings to mind the pictures of Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall, Roy Arden and Stan Douglas, not to mention Westbank's "Fight for Beauty" campaign:

The avenue of willows leads nowhere:
it begins at the blank wall of the new apartment house
and ends in the middle of a lot for sale.
Paper and cans are thrown about the trees.
The disorder does not touch the flower branches;
but the trees have become small among the new house,
and will be cut down --
their beauty cannot save them.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Glenn Gould's Obsession with Petula Clark (1967)

As Canadians we are told that Glenn Gould is a cultural icon. For years I had no problem with this. Then a couple days ago I saw a posting on Gould's December 11, 1967 radio documentary The Search for Petula Clark and thought, What a drip!

Of "today's pop music," Gould describes it as "relentlessly diatonic." I laughed when I heard this. But then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that pop music at the time of Gould's writing was in fact more pentatonic than diatonic.

As an example of "today's pop music," Gould gives us the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" (1967), which he likens to "a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band." Again, I laughed, but then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that "Strawberry Fields" is in fact closer to collage (montage?) than the 12-bar blues-based songs that dominated pop music at that time.

On that note, isn't Gould's subsequent The Idea of North (1967) documentary a collage, and as a collage, doesn't "Strawberry Fields" belong as much to its producer, George Martin, who assembled it from fragments (and scored it) than the band it is attributed to? And if that's the case, wouldn't that make Martin the minister who married Monteverdi and that jug band -- in Appalachia?

Or maybe I have this wrong? Maybe Gould has his tongue in his cheek and is putting us on. Or maybe he has a crush on "Pet" Clark and this is his creepy way of saying so. Or maybe, like that other media maven Marshall McLuhan, he is on the autism spectrum and all people saw was his genius.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Orthodox Christmas

Yesterday was Christmas for Orthodox Christians who follow the Gregorian calendar -- or for those who love Christmas so much they need it twice a year.

As a child I was one of those two-Christmases-a year-people because my father's mother is Russian.

Two Orthodox Christmases ago I attended a dinner at a Ukranian community hall in Surrey. So nice to hear the songs again, experience the thunder and lightning of those dances. Plus the designs and their relationship to those dances.

Hopak! (Or Gopak, as the Cossacks say.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018


In the confession booth that is YouTube, Kyle relates how his initial "upset" with Richard Prince's appropriation of other people's Instagram images led to Kyle's conversion. All Prince had to do is "like" Kyle's response for Kyle to admit that he "gained a fair amount of respect for the man."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Practice Makes Prefect

Recent talk of Donald Trump's art practice -- conceptual art, land art, private practice (the "art of the deal"?) -- brings to mind past talk of past-president George W. Bush's paintings.

In Vancouver, we have developers like Westbank and marketing systems managers like Bob Rennie trying to convince the public that they, too, have a cultural practice -- as "city builders."

The question is not where will it stop, but how far will it go?

Everyday Trump tweets out more about himself than he thinks:

Every day the artist Richard Prince does the same:

Both Trump and Prince possess what Artforum co-publisher Charles Guarino describes as prerequisites for participation in Today's Art World: "a really serious case of attention deficit disorder, a little bit of Asperger's, and...what I can only describe as a man-sized ego."

Oh, and by the way, it's "corn mash," not "corn bread." But given Prince's work -- his remarkable art practice -- he likely knows that and is simply adding (as subtracting) to that which is not yet sold.

Friday, January 5, 2018

"Eight Line Poem" (1971)

My friend Dallas Brodie and co-promoter Artie Devlin are hosting the 2nd Annual David Bowie Tribute at the Biltmore next week. For this event I will perform an a cappella version of "Eight Line Poem" from my favourite Bowie album -- Hunky Dory (1971).

Tactful cactus by your window
Surveys the prairie of your room
Mobile spins to its collision
Clara puts her head between her paws
Open shops down the west side
Will all the cacti find a home
But the key to the city
Is in the sun that pins the branches to the sky oh, oh

Thursday, January 4, 2018

June 3, 2017

While working through my emails yesterday morning I came upon subject line "June 3, 2017" from the artist Tim Lee. His message reads:

1. Saturday, partly cloudy, high of 17.9°C. A grey morning that got brighter throughout the day.

2. The Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus in Cardiff, Wales. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Madrid wins 4-1 and retains the European title in back-to-back seasons. As is our custom, Stephanie and I watched the match at the Three Brits Pub in English Bay. An annual ritual in which Hassan usually takes part. Unfortunately he was ill that morning and could not join us. 

3. Watching the same match in a pub in Borough Market, London is Roy Larner who was among the bystanders in an attack by 3 men who drove a truck into pedestrians leaving 7 dead and 48 wounded. Half-inebriated from game-time drinking, he got up and yelled “Fuck you, I’m Millwall” as he single-handedly took on the knife-wielding attackers armed with nothing more than his fists.

4. On its first Saturday in theatres, Wonder Woman earns 35 million dollars at the box office setting a record for a film directed by a female. The movie features its protagonist, like Roy Larner, going alone through No Man's Land and capturing the enemy trench, allowing the Allied forces to help her liberate the village of Veld. In the climactic battle between the hero and villain, Wonder Woman redirects Ares' lightning onto himself, disintegrating his body and leaving a black crater depressed in the surface of the Earth.

5. At the entranceway to Granville Island, a sinkhole appears.

6. You did not post on your blog. The only day missing that year.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


The More I Read You

the more I read you the more I need to
take care in my use of the pronoun
the “irreducible”

you versus the sharpened stick used
to accuse or shame or both through lists
Maxine Gadd

when asked by Daphne Marlatt* about
her use of you, yu and u what’s the diff
told her

a number of things that include the use
of i and I but of you, yu and u and their
upper case

variants Maxine says “Because it makes
them hard to read. Because most people
read so

efficiently they don’t even know they’re
spelling so there’s a certain few things

and here she tells us about the i and the I
but of the you, yu and u she speaks of
“different tones

of voice and each tone registers on a scale
of familiarity or love to alienation, rage,
confusion --

who am I when I call myself ‘you’ which
is and odd poetic convention, often I’m ‘yu’,
someone I’m

trying to objectify so to analyze or put down...
then there is the great ‘U that art out there, U
that art’”

most important to remember from Maxine is
that yu and u are, as Daphne’s echoes, “tough
and barbaric”

but this other you, quite literally this Other
that Luce Irigaray speaks of in “Approaching
the Other

as Other”** is in “[o]ur culture generally entrusted God-the-Father” but in the relationship of
the I

and the you the tendency is for the you to be
“reduced to an ‘object’ of knowledge or an
‘object’ of

love” and thus smothered instead of “recognizing
the irreducible difference of the other in relation
to me”

* Gadd, Maxine. Lost Language: selected poems by Maxine Gadd. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1982
** Irigary, Luce. "Approaching the Other as Other", Between East and West: From Singularity to Community. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Strange Fruit

could it be that your foul nature has
as much to do with me as your own

or is this stab at humility shared with
the world what you call self-loathing
on Twitter

just another mad outfit you don when
performing in the closet of your phone
a tableau

like the I’m-calling-you-out tableau or
the schadenfreude tableau or the WTF

the triptych template that combines
incredulity anger and an emoticon I
had not

seen before a figure that took a while
to figure out but once I had is that
a gallows?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Poem For a Musician and Scholar

In Stationary
 for Jill Bain

on-stage rage awakes to dollar store sadness
a wire cup can’t its contents any more than
a gift its delivery system

held to my ear awaiting its ocean
returned to the shelf no longer itself
but another dumb thing to be stepped from

last night’s mosh pit surfer rising
shirtless ribs a pitchfork into a broom
of ruffled jute its counterfeit effigy a life

returned to the cup but on its side this time
its face-out availability is what I am
getting you