Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Paris in Edits




Discontinuity editing and Godard's À bout de souffle (1960).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Paris in Film




Some silent film footage of Paris in the 1960s shot by Andre de la Varre. Monsieur de la Varre asks that if you would like to licence this footage, contact him here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


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.

September often brings with it hot days, but almost always cool mornings and even cooler nights. Not last night. When I turned in at midnight it was 16 degrees centigrade.

James Salter, whom I had the pleasure of reading with in Paris in the early '00s, begins his deliciously-written yet at times disturbingly male-gazing A Sport and a Pastime (1967) with this paragraph:

September. It seems those luminous days will never end. The city [Paris], which is almost empty in August, now is filling up again. The restaurants are all reopening, the shops. People are coming back from the country, the sea, from trips on roads all jammed with cars. The station is very crowded. There are children, dogs, families with old pieces of luggage bound by straps. I make my way among them. It's like being in a tunnel. Finally I emerge onto the brilliance of the quai, beneath a roof of glass panels which seem to magnify the light.

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Is Not a Transformer



A few streets north of my home is a transformer that BC Hydro, like Canada Post with its once red mail boxes, has painted as someone might cultivate a garden.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deterrent Sculpture



People who live on the corner of city blocks often complain about pedestrians taking short-cuts across their lawns. For some, it is the mere presence of strangers on their property; for others, it is the path in the grass they leave behind.

To get around this, some property owners place plantings at these corners, or a fence. Sometimes these fences extend diagonally from the corner of the house to the property line, like the chain-link fence at the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and Victoria Drive.

Last Saturday, while visiting a friend on William Street (just east of Nanaimo), I came upon a brick structure whose siting suggests its intention: to discourage short-cuts. But what a structure! A form that is open, almost welcoming, but closed to those outside it.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Public Art



A few months ago, while looking for a place to park on Granville Island, a voice came over the radio to say that a mural was planned for the silos at Ocean Concrete, "and won't that look nice!"

Because the silos were to my immediate right, I looked through the factory gates and saw what many of us see when we look at these structures: how magnificent they are.


Why would anyone want to mess with that?

Once home I went online to see what else I might learn about this mural. Sure enough, I discovered that the mural is part of Barrie Mowatt's not-for-profit Vancouver Biennale, a speculative project with questionable beginnings that places largely decorative, out-sized sculpture in public space for a two year period -- while at the same time trying to sell it.

This would not be a bad idea if the project was shepherded by those who know something of the city, its art and its histories, as is the case with other public art programs. However, as this is an enterprise driven not by the larger conversation but by a self-interested party, the transformation of public space into an art dealer's display case is unsettling.

Making matters worse is a recent report that has the mural project running a deficit -- and now we, as readers of a paper that purports to inform us about our city, are subject to comments like these:

“I think both for the boys and for us the size of those silos is bigger than they really imagined. Yes, they did all their calculations, but this is 23,500 square feet,” says Barrie Mowatt, Biennale founder and president. “Lots of surprises,” he adds.
(How would you like to be an artist and have the person who invited you to his biennale publicly accuse you of lacking in imagination?)
Another "surprise" is the theft of $20,000 dollars worth of spray paint (Was a police report filed? Did the reporter check with the VPD?), plus another $20,000 needed to protect the mural from wear and tear.
“So your $50,000 budget just went to hell,” Mr. Mowatt says. He adds that the budgets for the other major projects for this Biennale have been maintained. “So this becomes an anomaly.”
(Not the Biennale's mural budget -- "your" budget.)
On the topic of crowdsourcing to cover the deficit:
“We’re naive in terms of crowdsourcing,” says Mr. Mowatt, who says the point of the campaign was not simply financial, but also to involve the public in this public art endeavour. “Our sense was how do you tell the story when you don’t have the images?” Showing the grey concrete silos, they figured, would not be as exciting for potential donors as being able to watch them transform into spectacular animated giants.
(The image below is of the grey concrete grain silos on Burrard Inlet, as photographed by John Vanderpant in the 1930s.)

Later, the author of the article writes:

When I ask what happens if the Biennale does not raise the money for the silo project, which is to be completed Sept. 6, Mr. Mowatt at first refuses to entertain the possibility. “I mean, we’re a rich city. We’re a very wealthy city. There are lots of people in this city who could write cheques – not [just] for this but to fund the whole Biennale.”
(Really? And are these the same people who will be writing cheques for the new Vancouver Art Gallery?)
In closing, here is an April 29, 2011 comment from another player in Mowatt's Biennale fandango, a member of the same municipal party that allowed then-councillor Jim Green to bully into being a project that turns public space into market place:
"We're enormously lucky that Barrie and the Biennale group have decided to do this in Vancouver, because at relatively low cost to the city, we get a regularly changing display of really impressive public art, the kind of thing we wouldn't normally be able to afford on a permanent basis," says Heather Deal, the Vancouver city councillor who is council's liaison on the Public Art Committee.