Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"The Battle of Evermore" (1971)

MacLeod's exhibition (introduced yesterday) has a drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll heart that has Led Zeppelin featured prominently. During a recent talk, MacLeod said that she wants Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" played at her funeral.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Myfanwy MacLeod

Another exhibition worth visiting is Myfanwy MacLeod, or There and Back Again at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Most remarkable about this exhibition is its blend of the artist's work over the past 18 years with works MacLeod and curator Grant Arnold selected from the gallery's collection.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review of Persian Rose, Chartreuse Muse, Vancouver Grey

My review of Persian Rose, Chartreuse Muse, Vancouver Grey at Equinox Gallery.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"You've Got a Lot to Live"

Alan M. Pottasch, who passed away in July, 2007, is the author of the "Pepsi Generation", one of the longest-running advertising campaigns in history and the first to emphasize not the product but the lifestyle around it. A similar trend can be found today in the visual arts, where for some the emphasis is less on the object than the (social) practice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The province of Quebec has laws that insist on French as the primary language for public signage. We have no such laws in the province of British Columbia, though we do have an anxious mayor of Richmond who, when asked about a Chinese language-only advertisement for Crest's "whitening" toothpaste (50% of Richmond identifies as Chinese), could only respond (on CKNW yesterday) by expressing his disappointment with a company that would forsake a wider market share than the one they have targeted in their recent ad campaign.

But is Procter & Gamble (the makers of Crest) losing out by not including English on an ad for a product that, through its brand label and attached image, conveys its intentions regardless of the language it is written in? Personally I would be curious to see how Richmond's Crest sales fare in the weeks and months to come, as I am sure some will be drawn to a product that expresses itself in their mother tongue (and no other), just as there will be some who will make a point of not buying Crest because they claim not to understand what Procter & Gamble is selling, even though they do.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Delicate Issue (1979)

An instance of intense self-portraiture, where the artist turns the (video) camera on herself.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Geranium maculatum

My wild geranium came from the East Vancouver home of Sidney Shadbolt. I was taken there one hot September morning fifteen years ago by Sidney's daughter, Kate Craig, to help her with some thinning. I also left that day with the crocosmia that now grows between my smoke bush and my evergreen magnolia.

Saturday, April 19, 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.

At this time of year, clear blue mornings appear a degree or two warmer than those that preceded them, forgotten as they are after three-day stretches of wet grey weather.

Yesterday opened with a light blue sky. Below it, a pink tunnel of cherry blossoms, the neighbour's towering rhododendron (also pink) and a reddening quince.

Last week I cut back a wild geranium that was flooding onto the lawn, the area before it now a dark brown patch.

Not sure what to do with this patch, whether to patch it with sod from another part of the yard or leave it, see what happens.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970)

A scene from the film version of D.H. Lawrence's long short story, "The Virgin and the Gypsy" (1930), where a smitten Yvette travels through the rain to visit the Gypsy, only to hear from his wife that he is not home. Upon returning, she meets him travelling in the opposite direction, on horseback. He invites her to "warm places," but she declines. As he rides off, she has a change of heart.

Some memorable lines:

Some silver, for my luck.

Beware the voice of the water.

Be braver in your body or your luck will leave you.

A horse will go up a hill.

It's a stallion.

Be braver or your luck will leave you.

I am expected home for tea and there is no more to be said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lacho Drom (1993)

Years ago, when my friend Julie Marr was programming the Ridge Theatre (when there was a Ridge Theatre), she told me to come see a film they were showing, a film she had seen first on VHS but did not think much of, until she booked a film print and saw it on the big screen, where it came alive.

The film is called Lacho Drom (1993) and is about the passage of the Romani people and their music, from India to the British Isles.

The clip above is my favourite scene in the film, the one that makes me weepy. Where are the mother and son going? Or are they waiting for someone? Why is the mother so sad, and why does her son love her so much?

Tuesday, April 15, 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.

Last night was a "blood moon", a lunar eclipse; today the moon is merely full. Weather permitting, I will spend time with her, ask her the kinds of questions that only occur to me while in her presence.

When I was a child, my mother would take me to visit her Aunt Kippy. These were very different visits than those with her Aunt Dodie. As a child I was unsure why.

For the longest time I thought the difference was related to the difference between these two women. Only later did it occur to me that the difference lay not in who these two women were, as people, but the purpose of our visits.

As a child I saw more of Aunt Kippy than I did of Aunt Dodie. As a grown man it dawned on me that my mother only visited Aunt Dodie when she was happy, and Aunt Kippy when she was sad.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Recently, the artist-philosopher Hito Stereyl declared the internet dead. No one to my knowledge has declared television dead, though I remember hearing in the late-1990s of the impending "marriage" of our television and our computer.

Seems people stopped talking about television after the so-called merger of AOL and Time-Warner in 2000. After that, the dot-com bubble burst, followed by 9/11, a loss of market confidence and a recession.

How did I get onto this track? I wanted to talk about the death of a medium (television), how death is marked by funerals, how funerals are marked by eulogies, and how the eulogy could be History's last platform -- and a eulogy for History itself.

Marshall McLuhan said that when a medium dies it turns into an art form. But I don't want to talk about that either.

What I want to talk about is a history of television that would tell us how, in the late-1960s and through the 1970s, Saturday mornings became filled with children's programs, most of them cartoons. And of these cartoons, the first ones on that day were from the 1940s and 50s.

Like many of us who were born in the last years of the Baby Boom, we watched a lot of television -- and a lot of cartoons. One cartoon I remember was from the 1940s or 50s. Not sure if it was a Looney Tunes cartoon, but it had as its subject our new modern conveniences (new mod cons, as the British say), and what it might look like if they turned against us.

The image above is of an older model thin coil hot plate, like the one I imagined for yesterday's post -- the broken one. Indeed, this hot plate looks broken too, based on its expression, a kind of apoplectic rage, like what happens to Tweety Bird after he eats the "Hyde Formula", or what Sponge Bob might look like if he too ate the Hyde Formula, while at the same time turned into an appliance.

Friday, April 11, 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.

The hot plate is broken, so no morning coffee. No oatmeal either. Instead, jam on a slice of bread whose loaf, according to its manufacturer, expired the day before.

The bread looks okay, and I have to think hard to see if I am tasting mold.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Last month I was invited to contribute a text to the catalogue for Kevin Schmidt's current exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery. The exhibition features two new works by the artist -- EDM House (2013) and High Altitude Balloon Harmless Amateur Radio Equipment (2013) -- but it was mostly the former that I wrote on.

In considering what to write I found myself recalling Rodney Graham's The System of Landor's Cottage: a Pendant to Poe's Last Story (1987), where the artist takes a short fiction by Edgar Allan Poe ("Landor's Cottage: A Pendant to the Domain of Arnheim", 1849) and, with his own writing, expands it into a 14-chapter novel, a la Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus (1914).

As it turns out, it was Poe's second-to-last story, "The Domain of Arnheim" (1847), that revealed some curious parallels between the story's "Ellison" and Schmidt. So, a la Poe, I activated a narrator to tell the tale of a college professor who, while driving home from work, comes upon a radio narrow-cast that, by virtue of its fading signal, has her turning around to find its source: a farmhouse whose coloured lights are timed to a music track.

My text features three quotes by Poe. They are (in order of appearance):

 that the creation of the landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most magnificent of opportunities.

… that no such combination of scenery exists in nature as the painter of genius may produce.

The original beauty is never so great as that which may be introduced.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blue Car Strathcona (1967)

An "aesthetically-claimed" sculpture garden by Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ramble On (2013)

Although I was not blown away by Myfanwy MacLeod's rotisserie treatment of a 1977 Camaro Rally Sport chassis (Ramble On, 2013), the room it appeared in was enhanced by some complementary side dishes: gothic wall texts in opposing corners, one of which had at its feet Dallas Selman and Glenn Toppings fibreglass waves (Black Tide Rip, 1969). Indeed, it is platings such as this one -- the display of the artist's work with her selections from the VAG's salad bar collection -- that proves you can make a great meal with burnt meat.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Old Narrative

Andy Adams's The Log of a Cowboy (c.1970) is subtitled "A Narrative of the Old Trail Days", which, as Marshall McLuhan suggests in his essay "Roads and Paper Routes" (1964), is what a trail (or a road) is -- a narrative. At least until the advent of the telegraph, where for the first time in history the message arrived before the messenger.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Narrative

Tomorrow and the day after the Western Front will host There are reasons for looking and feeling and thinking about things that are invisible, "a weekend of readings and responses" that "aims to re-contextualize the field of contemporary art writing as both a form and a labour of creative production." This event, co-presented by 221A and Artspeak, is organized by Amy Fung and features Eileen Myles and Jacob Wren (Friday), Lynne Tillman and Maria Fusco (Saturday), and their audiences.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

from an upcoming issue of The Capilano Review

Work No. 851 (2008)
51 East Pender Street (Wing Sang Building)
Martin Creed

This work of neon text, commissioned by real estate salesman Bob Rennie and attached to his Chinatown palais, will be forever wedded to the year it was made. For it was in 2008 that the world experienced what is softly called a "downturn," an event whose consequences are dependent on who you talk to: if it is a single-parent mom working as a paralegal in Chicago, it was the year the bank foreclosed on her one bedroom condo; if it is a man who made his fortune selling condos, it was the year the public had to be convinced not to lose confidence in the market as an arbiter of what is good and right, and that sooner than later you will get your condo back, perhaps with a second bedroom this time. If the informational content of this British artist's text is not enough to allay our fears, consider the formality of the declaration: not EVERYTHING'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT, like the pop song says, but EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, as if spoken into a camera by a tele-prompted politician.