Thursday, January 31, 2019

"If only he could see us now"

On January 5th I posted on a Kingsgate Mall pop-up shop. Included amongst its paintings and postcards were the decorative contents of the former Horseshoe restaurant on Renfrew Street. Yesterday I noticed the pop-up was filled with B.C. government promotional posters (like the 1978 Captain Cook Bicentennial above).

One of the sales people -- an older burly man in pilling black sweats -- wandered over to ask why I was taking pictures. "Because it's getting harder to believe posters like this once existed," I told him.

It was then that he told me about the current inventory. "Everything here belonged to a local design company. From reference materials," he said pointing to a 1969 copy of the Saturday Evening Post -- "to that poster you just took a picture of," which, as it turned out, was a company product.

"Did you know anyone who worked for the company?" I asked.

"Of course I do," he replied -- "I was a partner!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ian Carr-Harris

While in Toronto last week I stopped in at Susan Hobbs to see what's new. On display, an Ian Carr-Harris exhibition called Theoris: a paradox.

The exhibition link carries an excerpt from Carr-Harris's text. Below is an equation that comes later in the text, or out of frame, as it were.

An equation of sorts could be constructed that links together doubt and paradox through a series of terms that invite the consequence of both. The equation might look like this:


Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Translation within the Anglosphere is generally restricted to spellings (labour in the UK and Canada; labor in the U.S. and in the spelling of an Australian political party of the same name). But there are exceptions. One of them is the tendency to "translate" foreign sums into U.S. currency.

Such was the case when readers noted the Chan Family's recent 40 million dollar gift to the Vancouver Art Gallery's capital campaign towards a new purpose-built building (to be called the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts) was reported as 30 million dollars in the U.S.-based Artforum

Monday, January 28, 2019

Pauline Kael's January 7, 1974 review of The Exorcist (1973)

"Friedkin [Trump], beloved of studio heads [the Republican party] for such statements as 'I am not a thinker.... If it's a film [an ambiguity] by somebody [an artist] instead of [a tax cut] for somebody [a Republican voter], I smell art [lost revenue],' is not a director [president] given to depth or mystery. Nor is he a man with a light touch -- a failing that appears to have been exacerbated by the influence of El Topo [late-capitalism]. He has himself said that Blatty's book [Jefferson's writings] took hold of him and made him physically ill. That's the problem with moviemakers [presidents] who aren't thinkers: they're mentally unprotected. A book like Blatty's [Writings like Jefferson's] makes them sick, and they think this means they should make everybody sick. Probably Friedkin [Trump] really believes he is communicating an important idea to us. And the only way he knows how to do it is by surface [sucker] punch; he's a true commercial director [president] -- he confuses blatancy with power."

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Harrison Lake: lying there like Walter's Wendy.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Calgary's Esker impresses -- on many levels. During my visit Director Naomi Potter took me to the southwest window and pointed out the rivers and the railway tracks between them. A history lesson -- concerning multiple histories.

Last month Neil Campbell showed me a work he was hoping to realize as part of his and Jeremy Shaw's Esker exhibitions, which opened last night. Neil's Field (2019) was a computer mock-up until yesterday when it arrived as a vinyl acrylic wall painting. Now it is back on the computer, as documentation.

Friday, January 25, 2019

If There's a Hedgerow in Your Bustle

Always nice to see Rebecca Belmore's Rising to the Occasion (1987-1991). But given its placement in the current AGO exhibition (J.S.McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art), I wonder if it might resonate more if it was positioned "bustle"-out, not backed up against the wall?

Is it important that those who enter the gallery experience the work as British royalty did, as was the case when the artist greeted the Duke and Duchess of York (in her artwork) during their 1987 visit to Thunder Bay? Does the absence of the artist in the artwork (performance property) have bearing on why the work should remain in the "greeter" position?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gleaned from the AGO Gift Shop

"She's pleased with the little pastel from the other day. No Birds, an allusion to van Gogh's last painting, the one he was working on when he died -- Crows in a Wheat Field." from Robin Lippincott, Blue Territory: a meditation on the life and art of Joan Mitchell

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Street Food

For as long as I have been coming to Toronto: the hot dog stand at Queen and Spadina. The northeast corner, a few storefronts west of the Horseshoe Tavern.

On this trip I took a closer look, to see if the stand had a name. All I could find was signage for its other offerings, like burgers and "fresh cut fries."

No name, only menu items.

It was too early for a hot dog when I took this picture yesterday morning, so I walked west to Augusta and had breakfast at the Java House (537 Queen). The exterior looks like a battered roadcase, but its $5.25 breakfast (including coffee if you order before noon) can't be beat!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Art Bar Poetry Series

Reading tonight with Chris Bailey and Nicole Haldoupis at the legendary Free Times Cafe (320 College Street), 8pm.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, what UK psychologist's have described as the worst day of the year. It is also a full moon. It is also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

A 10 a.m. I will be speaking at OCAD U's 201 Richmond St. (Room 511). The talk is open to the public but is not advertised as such. Later today I will be taking part in a benefit reading for Nellie's Shelter at the Gladstone Hotel. The event is called Frostbite: a Literary Icebreaker of an Evening, and is co-presented by Another Story Bookshop. Come!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

At the end of the day, all that's left is to eat

Thursday dinner (above) with Judy, Bridget, Dan, Xenia, John, Andrew and Paul. Saturday dinner (below) with Dan, Sook-Yin, Walter, Judy, Kari and Bruce.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

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.

It is cold outside. The weather app on my phone describes it as "frigid."

I will spend a few minutes today researching the app's weather descriptions and how they correspond to numbers above and below zero.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Corazon del espantapájaros

Last night, Naufus Rimerez-Figueroa opened Corazon del espantapájaros (Heart of the Scarecrow) at SFU's Audain Gallery. Though noted for his performances, Rimerez-Figueroa's exhibition includes remarkable print series -- one of aquatints, the other of silver-on-black woodcuts -- that relate to a controversial play mounted by students at El teatro d la Universidad Popular de Guatemala in 1975. Pictured up top is the beginning of the first four performances Rimerez-Fiueroa will mount between yesterday and Saturday. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wil Aballe Projects

I spent time with Maegan Hill-Carroll's very literary Lucretia's Toe exhibition at Will Aballe Projects yesterday. After that, I sat in Wil's office (above) and read Maegan's excellent text, which she recorded and makes available through wireless headphones.

Such elegant writing! If Maegan's earlier Botswana pictures and texts were born from experiences as a young student in that country, Lucretia's Toe owes as much to online and library research.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

if the culture
gets any younger
it will require child care

Monday, January 14, 2019

Stump Grinding

A sign I have never seen before. Could it have been written any differently? SUCKER CUTTING? No, because that's not what this is.

What does stump grinding look like?

Here is Josh from Woodland Mills demonstrating the company's WG24 PTO Stump Grinder:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Vancouver Cloudline

Outside the VAG after yesterday's panel talk (Dana, Skeena, Naufus, Jeneen, with Glenn and Olivia moderating). Despite what it says in the picture, it was not quite 5 when I took it.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Store Front

Yesterday's walk. East on Kingsway. The 2100 block, north side. What remains of Kimmy's Hair Salon. The view above looks east; the view below looks west.

A beam poking out, once proud, now rotten, sagging. Like the Brain Bug at the end of Starship Troopers (1997). I touched its wrinkled surface -- but felt nothing.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hexsa'a̠m: To Be Here Always

Attended the opening of Hexsa'a̠m: To Be Here Always at the Belkin last night and of course I felt the power. Wish more of it was on the walls and floor and not landlocked from the Dzawada’enuxw speeches (including one by Elected Chief Willie Moon) and the friendly presence of those who came down from Kingcome Inlet to help celebrate that which was recently active in their community as a relational research-creation nexus.

Interim-Director Lorna Brown curated Hexsa'a̠m: To Be Here Always, and thanked Dzawada’enuxw artist Marianne Nicolson and UBC artist Althea Thauberger for their extraordinary work in helping to put it together. Both Marianne and Althea contributed material works to the exhibition: the former a large patterned wall hanging, the latter a poster-sized 2018 black-and-white digital inkjet print of school kids sitting with their teacher(?) on the front steps of a small wooden school house.

Although I intend to return to the exhibition, I admit to sad feelings about not having experienced much that has me looking forward to this trip. The retro-revisionist missionaryism of Althea putting smiles on sites of past trauma (schools) is problematic, but I have pictures (below) of the Inkameep Day School to balance that. (Incidentally, an exhibition of late-1930s/early-1940s drawing and paintings from the students of the Inkameep Day School will be mounted next month at the Kelowna Art Gallery and the Okanagan Heritage Museum.)

If there was one work that got me out of myself (besides Inuk/Haitian Taino artist Siku Allooloo's sealskin on canvas Akia, 2018, atop this post) it was Métis-Cree artist Kamala Todd's video Known and Unknown Trails, from Digging Up the Last Spike (2018). Here, the landscape is not captured directly onto the camera's memory card but via its (upside-down) reflection on the waters "running" alongside an ocean-going motor boat. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019


The barber pole has its histories. The barber pole also has its fictions, and I wonder who among us knows (or cares about) the difference.

My barber Amir has a picture (a sticker) of a barber pole stuck to his window. The red represents blood, the blue venous blood, the white bandages.

Prior to the 16th century, European barbers were allowed to perform surgical procedures. After that, only tooth extractions (in addition to haircuts).

My dentist, Dr. Yoshida, has cared for my teeth since 1972. He is now licensed to give botox injections.

In addition to haircuts, Amir dispenses dietary information, interpretations of current (political) events and Babylonian folklore.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Paying Attention

It was time, I guess. The tree's time, or the owner's whose property it was on. For years I walked by this tree and never paid much attention to it. Now sky is all I see, and it is deafening.

Yesterday I took Hannah to the Peace Arch border so she could get her residency papers signed. While waiting I came upon some topiary.

Still waiting.

This sign (or the back of one):

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Paris 1919

I thought I would wait until 2019 before reading Margaret MacMillan's acclaimed Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (2001), which is suddenly 18 years old, though it feels like it has been around forever. (Truth is I found the book outrageously discounted because of a two-inch tear in its cover.)

Paris 1919 doesn't quite sparkle as I was told it would, with much of "Part One" given over to portraits of France's Clemenceau, the UK's Lloyd-George and the U.S.'s Wilson -- too much of it densely detailed, too often at the level of the pore.

I had not read Wilson's "Fourteen Points" since my high school History 12 class, but looking it over this morning, Point V stuck out:

A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined.

I appreciate this: a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight, though I would be curious to know more about how an "equitable government" is defined. The government of the colonizer? The government of the colony? Are they one in the same? (Equally autocratic? Equally corrupt?) This is at the heart of Tayeb Salih's novel Season of Migration to the North (1969), which I must to return to, having left it open on its stomach, tent-like, throughout the fall.

Monday, January 7, 2019


On a pre-Xmas walk east of Main on 19th I came upon this sidewalk giveaway. I have never once felt the need for a real, flesh-and-blood bunny, but in this moment, oh how I longed for one!

Sunday, January 6, 2019


I saw this poster on Main Street last week. It stood out. All that white space. What it didn't say.

It had me squinting, looking for a URL, a QR code. Nothing, apart from its image, and the line "a Tamara McCarthy expedition (winter '19)."

Saturday, January 5, 2019


A pop-up at Kingsgate Mall. Hard to make sense of it. An out-sized styrofoam human skull at the door; a free-standing restaurant menu behind it; against the walls are tables covered in posters, postcards, pictures, picture books -- many of them from the early 1960s. Props from a movie shoot?

I gather up a bunch of postcards ("6 for $1"), including some of the photos. One of the photos (date stamped "JAN. 59") is of a forty-something woman who looks a lot like my mother's Auntie Kippy.

"I think this is my mother's Auntie Kippy," I tell the old man sitting by the cashbox.

"Did she work at the Horseshoe?" he barks.

"No, she worked at a doctor's office."

"Then it's not your mother's aunt."

Friday, January 4, 2019


I first heard of George Fetherling in the early 1990s, when he went by Douglas. He changed it to George (his middle name) in 1999 in honour of his late-father, even though every second (male) author in Canada went by that name too.

Fetherling was born in West Virginia on January 1, 1949 and came to Canada (Toronto, via New York) in 1967. He was House of Anansi's first employee. In 2000 he moved to Vancouver, to work as a Vancouver Sun book page columnist. Like many newly-arrived Vancouverites he fell in love with the Sylvia Hotel.

He has written over fifty books, in all genres, and edited and published many more. He has participated in numerous residencies and volunteered his time as an organizer, most recently as the Chair of the Writers Union of Canada (2016/2017). At some point he referred to me as "ineffable," which is a nice way of saying I would prefer not to.

A couple years ago Fetherling was interviewed by the Globe and Mail on the occasion of his novel The Carpenter from Montreal (2017). When asked What is more important: the beginning of the book or the end? his response recalled my late friend Dean Allen, a designer who was also a writer and an editor and a publisher. Dean would have appreciated the wit, the wisdom, and indeed the Adornoian dialectic carried in Fethering's example:

The beginning – and especially the opening sentence -- because it tells you much about the author. Richard Nixon's autobiography opens with "I was born in the house my father built." In fact, he was born in a house in Southern California that his father ordered by mail from Sears in the East – a kit – and then hired exploited Mexican labourers to assemble it for him. This first sentence shows Nixon as the very thing his book tries to deny that he was: a liar. Also, one can easily imagine how various writers would have begun other authors' famous openings. If Philip Roth had written Moby-Dick it would have begun: "My parents named me Ishmael but you can call me Ishsy."

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Monika emailed from Berlin on New Year's Eve to say she is eating an apple a day. I read her message while crossing 10th at Main. The shop on the SE corner is Kea Foods, and they have produce out front, so I chose an apple to eat while emailing her back. Delicious!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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.

October 31st and its explosions. Two months later, what's left over, what was hidden away, what waited to be lit. Do fireworks make more sense on Hallowe'en or on New Year's Eve? On our national holiday -- Canada Day (July 1st)?

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a Swedish chemist who invented dynamite. To say he made a killing is an understatement. Intelligence and accomplishment are rewarded through Nobel Prizes. The world has a Nobel Peace Prize -- named after an armaments manufacturer! The world has transportation tunnels -- is made closer -- because of Nobel's invention.

My phone, which I rely on for most things, is blowing up right now, vibrating its way across the room to my bed. It is always telling me that it is no good for me, that my life would be better without it. Yet I stay with it, because I can't function without it.