Tuesday, April 24, 2018

la nuit américaine

On Page 100 Godard tells Losique (and the audience) that he and Truffaut have "completely, definitely fallen out...in part over money." One Page 101, Godard says:

We no longer have any contact. But it's not by chance that Day for Night won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, because it's a typical American film. "Day for night" is a technical term, it's an effect, the Americans often shoot night scenes during the day with a filter that makes the sky look dark blue. They call that day for night [la nuit américaine] rather than really filming at night. At the same time, I think this film won the award because it did a good job of concealing, at the same time as it made people believe it was revealing what cinema can be. Something magic about which nobody understands a thing but which at the same time attracts a kind of wizardry, luminosity, people moving about in every direction, a world both very pleasant and not. This makes people happy both not to be a part of it but also to pay five dollars to regularly see a film.

Here is another history, not of cinema but of warfare.

Monday, April 23, 2018

People's Co-op Bookstore

A book launch last month for George Stanley's West Broadway and George Bowering's Some End. Both published by New Star, both in the same book -- a flip-book bound by an image from a painting by Jack Shadbolt entitled Encounter (1995).

The picture up top was taken by Renee Rodin.

Stanley read first, and for a brief second it looked like this:

Then Bowering read, and something similar happened, except the picture I took was tilted, so I had to re-frame it, making Bowering bigger, which is true -- he is. Bigger than Stanley. But now he is way bigger than Stanley and getting in the way of the event!

But this event -- it was something. Renee to my left, Jill to my right, with Fred and Pauline in front. Peter and Meredith were there. Daphne. Maria was there, not Gladys. (No one's been called Gladys for how many years now?) Scott was there, and as I watched him listen I thought of that picture of him and Stanley in San Francisco, 1970, when Scott was twenty.

There were others there, but in poems. Jamie was there. Gerry. Phyllis. Al. Peter. These were names Bowering brought with him, including James, who he claims not to know of, but he knows. He didn't read the poem "Please write a poem about James Franco", but I was hoping someone might call out: "Please read a poem about James Franco!"

Stanley brought names, but his entered the room quietly, like he does.

Rolf was there, our host. Jean was there. Someone said Jean was the youngest person in the room, and Jean protested, "No way, Michael's younger than I am. Not by much -- but he is younger!"

There were other younger people there, much younger than me, but I didn't know them. Grad students, I think, which warmed me, made me look at them in ways motivated by a desire to see these Georges read into the next century.

Will these youngers encourage that? I kept looking at them, imagining them lecturing to us, telling us something we are excited to know, asking us how our essays are coming, and no, none of these poems will be on the test.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Capture Photography Festival

Vancouver's Capture Photography Festival runs from April 1-28. I have seen none of it thus far, which is a difficult thing to do, given that it is everywhere.

The picture up top is Adad Hannah's An Arrangement (Polka Dots) (2018). The picture is reminiscent of Herb Gilbert's Ditto performance (below), which was part of the Vancouver Art Gallery/Intermedia co-produced Electrical Connection exhibition of April, 1969, except Hannah's "performance" is a picture that highlights objects (pottery) as still-life over authorship (performer) as portraiture?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Xmas 2016

Two Xmases ago, while flipping through a New Yorker magazine at the old Shadbolt house on Hornby Island, I found this AT&T ad from the early 1970s. I showed the ad to Hassan, who works in what was once called telecom, and he laughed, took its picture and returned to the kitchen to help Scott with the pasta.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Voice of Fire (1967)

Only when a painting speaks to me can I tell for sure if it talks.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Headline Writing

American Precedent Trumps Republic; Land Return Awaits Zymr App 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Day at the VAG

With my yearly membership about to expire, and a couple hours to kill before the 6:50 screening of The Black Panther, I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery to tour its shows.

On the third floor, John O'Brian's Bombhead -- a nice and spare and fitting companion to the ecstatic vomitorium that is the Murakami exhibition below it.

Bombhead highlights include Adolph Gottlieb's Untitled (1968), Robert Rauschenberg's Pages and Fuses (Page 1) (1974) and David Hockney's Picture of a Landscape (from A Hollywood Collection) (1965) together on one wall, and a series of five Nancy Spero gouache, ink on paper works from 1966-1968 on another

On the ground floor, The Herman Levy Legacy: A Cultivating Journey  -- a portrait-heavy exhibition that features work from the Impressionists to the Neo-Expressionists of the 1980s.

Is it me or does Portrait of the Painter Richard X (v.1916-1917) by Chaim Soutine

look a lot like this portrait of the critic Aaron Peck by Stephen Waddell?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

McArthur Glen

With Anne and Gareth leaving the west coast for Québec this June I want to spend as much time with them as I can.

On Sunday Gareth and I met in their backyard for tea and garden observation. Following that, we drove to Iona Island for a walk.

Gareth took the wrong turn off the bridge and we ended up at that market town known as McArthur Glen, where well-known brands have shops subtitled "Factory Outlet," and you can get a Japadog that tastes like the bucket it came in.

The picture up top is of the north end of McArthur Glen. In a small gated area you can read in both English and Salish a didactic entitled "Who We Are From."

Below is a 1966 Dan Graham picture of tract housing in Bayonne, New Jersey:

On our walk back Gareth pointed out this oddity:

"What are they trying to protect?" he wondered, and I took its picture in case anyone might know.

Monday, April 16, 2018


I was unable to make Tim Lee's Robert Smithson talk at the Polygon Art Gallery yesterday. But Smithson was on my mind this morning after reading Carolina Miranda and Jeffrey Fleishman's Friday L.A. Times article on how images -- "fake" or otherwise -- are "shaping" politics.

Up top is Christos Dikeakos's picture of Smithson's Glue Pour (1970) performance at the UBC Endowment Lands. Below is Sgt. Louis Lowery's 1945 Iwo Jima flag-raising on Mount Suribachi, taken moments before Joe Rosenthal got there to take his own photos -- but with a bigger flag.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Sugar Plum Fairy, Sugar Plum Fairy"

A neighbour's plum I have eaten from for the past 25 years. Sad to see it come to this. But that's life, from gestation to birth through its slow decay -- like the last registrations of this chord, given to us by the Beatles in 1967.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


before words

what feels you

to even think them

this is what

you are missing

Friday, April 13, 2018

"The lights down there, that's where we land"

There is so much Saskatchewan in the news these days. Seems every time I turn on the CBC I hear Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve-born Buffy Ste. Marie sharing her wisdom and insights with Roseanna Deerchild. The music Buffy is making now, at 77-years-old, is astounding.

Another newsmaker is the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, which looks amazing, but is not without its contradictions, as brought to light by scholar and curator Jen Budney.

But there is devastation, too. The murder of Colton Boushie at Biggar; the botched crime scene investigation, the bogus trial (no indigenous jury members) and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, Gerald Stanley, has resonated beyond provincial boundaries.

More recently, the traffic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus and a semi-truck. Sixteen dead.

On April 8, 2018  freelance journalist Nora Loreto noted on Twitter the millions of dollars raised through a Broncos GoFundMe campaign, before tweeting this into the grief stream:

The response to Lareto's decontextualized tweet has been intense. Not just tweets from those in search of an outlet for their grief, but from Maclean's magazine, where Loreto has published her writing.

Rather than remind readers that Loreto's tweet was issued within the context of a larger conversation concerning systemic and structural racism in Canada, rather than remind the public that her tweet is consistent with the kinds of emotional and intellectual bloodletting encouraged of all Canadians through the findings of the 2008 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, rather than further encourage those who might be offended by her (decontextualized) tweet to examine and talk about the grief that ails us in the course of our everyday lives as not unrelated to the grief of those whose children were "scooped" and given to the families of another cultural milieu (Buffy Ste. Marie?), or imprisoned in residential schools, Maclean's took the proverbial low road and turned its back on one of its own (a journalist, freelance or otherwise) by treating her as if her comment was off-hand, malicious, when it was anything but.

Should Maclean's have issued a statement in support of Lareto's comments? No, not a statement, per se, but a thoughtful editorial that has the potential to re-direct her comment from the hands of those who only know their anger to the kind of teaching moment that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has asked of all Canadians through its findings.

Back in 2013, Saskatoon-raised Joni Mitchell enraged many Canadians when she told the CBC that "Saskatoon has always been an extremely bigoted community. It's like the Deep South..." The context, in this instance, was her exhaustion with a city that kept trying to honour her, but kept failing to raise the necessary funds.

"At one point," says the CBC, "there was a museum proposed to recognize her work. Mitchell had suggested it have a first nations component [Mitchell's father. William Anderson, is of Norwegian and Sami descent]. The idea eventually fell through."

In closing, here are some honest and inspiring words from Celeste Leray-Leicht, one of the grieving mothers whose son was a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, as quoted from the April 11 online issue of the Hockey News:

This is the kind of comment that I hope Maclean's and other news agencies pick up on in order to, in the words of Joni Mitchell, "turn this crazy bird around" and publish something generative -- not something inculpatory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Madeline (1939)

Travelling through my bookshelves yesterday I found a copy of Madeline. Flipping through it I noticed a mistake.

After Madeline's eleven classmates return from their visit to the hospital, where Madeline is convalescing from her appendectomy, they sit down to supper: six on one side of the table, six on the other.

But if Madeline is still in the hospital, who is the twelfth classmate?

The twelfth classmate could be Brigitte Bardot, I think to myself.

I went online to see if I was the only one to notice, and of course there are as many notices as the internet is old.

"and that's all there is --
there isn't anymore."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Note Taking

Yesterday I googled "wrath of affect." Nothing came up, so I guess I'm stuck wth it.

Yesterday, while sitting around reading and waiting, returning to Franz Fanon in order to return again to Glen Coulthard, scribbling notes, checking something in a dusty reference book ("Négritude is, however, a universalist concept, which owes a great deal to its French, or even Parisian, intellectual origins, and it is very different from traditional African tribalism." The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, 2nd. Edition, 1988),

wondering about this "owing", whether the articulation of what I, in my own and equally complicit subject position, "owe" indigenous scholars like Jeannette Armstrong, Marcia Crosby, Shawn Wilson and Leanne Simpson, who have taught me things about about the land and language and social relations, and what I "owe" eurowestern thought through readings

of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray and Chantal Mouffe, placing over them like decals words like intersectional, how the personal is positional, never truly satisfied, never truly gathering and subtracting, sweating over everything while holding back the tears, something to sing about, like these crackers:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kinder Morgan Canada Press Release

Kinder Morgan Canada Limited issue a press release yesterday. I have pasted it here (bottom) because texts like these have a way of rearranging, disappearing. Also because texts like these are carefully and collaboratively written, not just with the help of editors, but with public relations people and lawyers, and therefore are worth studying for the information they convey ("content") as well as their rhetoric ("form"). When Franz Kafka was asked why he studied law when he wanted to be writer, he said that of all the professions, law was the closest to writing.

CALGARYApril 8, 2018 /CNW/ - Kinder Morgan Canada Limited (TSX: KML) today announced that it is suspending all non-essential activities and related spending on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.  KML also announced that under current circumstances, specifically including the continued actions in opposition to the Project by the Province of British Columbia, it will not commit additional shareholder resources to the Project.  However, KML will consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements by May 31st that may allow the Project to proceed.  The focus in those consultations will be on two principles:  clarity on the path forward, particularly with respect to the ability to construct through BC; and, adequate protection of KML shareholders.
"As KML has repeatedly stated, we will be judicious in our use of shareholder funds.  In keeping with that commitment, we have determined that in the current environment, we will not put KML shareholders at risk on the remaining project spend," said KML Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Kean.  The Project has the support of the Federal Government and the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan but faces continued active opposition from the government of British Columbia. "A company cannot resolve differences between governments.  While we have succeeded in all legal challenges to date, a company cannot litigate its way to an in-service pipeline amidst jurisdictional differences between governments," added Kean.
"Today, KML is a very good midstream energy company, with limited debt.  The uncertainty as to whether we will be able to finish what we start leads us to the conclusion that we should protect the value that KML has, rather than risking billions of dollars on an outcome that is outside of our control," Kean said.  "To date, we have spent considerable resources bringing the Project to this point and recognize the vital economic importance of the Project to Canada.  Therefore, in the coming weeks we will work with stakeholders on potential ways to continue advancing the Project consistent with the two principles previously stated."
KML had previously announced a "primarily permitting" strategy for the first half of 2018, focused on advancing the permitting process, rather than spending at full construction levels, until it obtained greater clarity on outstanding permits, approvals and judicial reviews.  Rather than achieving greater clarity, the Project is now facing unquantifiable risk.  Previously, opposition by the Province of British Columbia was manifesting itself largely through BC's participation in an ongoing judicial review.  Unfortunately BC has now been asserting broad jurisdiction and reiterating its intention to use that jurisdiction to stop the Project.  BC's intention in that regard has been neither validated nor quashed, and the Province has continued to threaten unspecified additional actions to prevent Project success. Those actions have created even greater, and growing, uncertainty with respect to the regulatory landscape facing the Project.  In addition, the parties still await judicial decisions on challenges to the original Order in Council and the BC Environmental Assessment Certificate approving the Project.  These items, combined with the impending approach of critical construction windows, the lead-time required to ramp up spending, and the imperative that the company avoid incurring significant debt while lacking the necessary clarity, have brought KML to a decision point.  
Kean continued:  "We appreciate the support shown by the Federal Government and the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and are grateful for the strong endorsements among the majority of communities along the route and 43 Indigenous communities, as well as customers, contractors and unions. The fact remains that a substantial portion of the Project must be constructed through British Columbia, and since the change in government in June 2017, that government has been clear and public in its intention to use 'every tool in the toolbox' to stop the Project.  The uncertainty created by BC has not been resolved but instead has escalated into an inter-governmental dispute." 
Trans Mountain has spent C$1.1 billion (approximately half of which has been spent since the KML IPO) and made unprecedented efforts to develop the Project since its initial filing with the National Energy Board in 2013.  As a result of extensive engagement, a comprehensive regulatory process and detailed engineering and design, the Project has changed in several, substantive ways during the intervening five years, including: thicker wall pipe in environmentally sensitive areas such as watercourses and aquifers; avoidance of several fish bearing streams; changes to the detailed route of the pipeline in consideration of community needs and concerns and environmental impacts; Burnaby tunnel construction, to avoid neighbourhoods and minimize impacts; changes to Burnaby Terminal tank design in response to risk assessments; and, enhancements to marine safety that will benefit all marine users.
In addition, in an unprecedented negotiated commitment, Trans Mountain agreed to provide financial benefits from the Project, if completed, to British Columbia for a newly-formed BC Clean Communities Program to be accessed by communities for local projects that protect, sustain and restore BC's natural and coastal environments.
"While we are prepared to accept the many risks traditionally presented by large construction projects, extraordinary political risks that are completely outside of our control and that could prevent completion of the project are risks to which we simply cannot expose our shareholders," said Kean.  "However, given the importance of the Project to Canada and Alberta, to Indigenous communities, our shippers, our contractors, and working Canadians, we are committed to trying to find a way forward, working with stakeholders between now and the end of May on measures that may allow us to advance this critical project, but only if it does not subject KML shareholders to undue risk.  If we cannot reach agreement by May 31st, it is difficult to conceive of any scenario in which we would proceed with the Project.  The time period for reaching a potential resolution is short, but necessarily so because of approaching construction windows, the time required to mobilize contractors, and the need to commit materials orders, among many other imperatives associated with such a large project."
Given the current uncertain conditions, KML is not updating its cost and schedule estimate at this time.
Please join KML and Kinder Morgan, Inc. (NYSE: KMI) at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time on MondayApril 9, 2018, at www.kindermorgancanadalimited.com or at www.kindermorgan.com for a LIVE webcast conference call that will include a discussion of the matters described in this news release.  Dial: 1-517-308-9248 Passcode: 2088258
About Kinder Morgan Canada Limited (TSX: KML). KML manages and is the holder of a minority interest in a portfolio of strategic energy infrastructure assets across Western Canada. The Trans Mountain Pipeline system, with connections to 20 incoming pipelines and current transportation capacity of approximately 300,000 barrels per day (based on throughput of 80 percent light oil and refined products and 20 percent heavy oil), is the only Canadian crude oil and refined products export pipeline with North American West Coast tidewater access. In Alberta, KML has one of the largest integrated networks of crude tank storage and rail terminals in Western Canada and the largest merchant terminal storage facility in the Edmonton market. KML also operates the largest origination crude by rail loading facility in North America. In British Columbia, KML controls the largest mineral concentrate export/import facility on the west coast of North America through its Vancouver Wharves Terminal. Through its Puget Sound pipeline system, KML ships crude oil to refineries in Washington state and its Cochin Pipeline system transports light condensate originating from the United States to Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. For more information please visit www.kindermorgancanadalimited.com
Important Information Relating to Forward-Looking Statements 
This news release includes "forward-looking information" and "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of applicable securities laws (forward-looking statements). Forward-looking statements in this news release include statements, express or implied, concerning, without limitation: consultations with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements that may allow the Project to proceed, and the time period over which such consultations would occur; KML's intention not to commit additional shareholder resources to the Project under the current circumstances; the level of uncertainty as to whether the Project could be finished; and the impacts of political risk, governmental and regulatory actions and judicial decisions on the Project. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance or certain outcomes, and future actions, conditions or events may differ materially from those expressed in forward-looking statements provided in this news release. Forward-looking statements involve significant risks, uncertainties and assumptions, many of which are beyond the ability of KML to control or predict.  Among other things, specific factors that could cause actual results to differ from those indicated in the forward-looking statements provided in this news release include, without limitation: the willingness and ability of Project stakeholders to work with KML in a timely manner and reach agreements that would allow the Project to proceed; and judicial decisions as well as changes in the political environment, governmental or third party support and regulatory actions relating to the Project. 
The foregoing list should not be construed to be exhaustive. In addition to the foregoing, important additional information respecting the material assumptions, expectations and risks applicable to the forward-looking statements included in this news release are set out in KML's annual report on Form 10-K dated February 20, 2018 under the headings ""Information Regarding Forward-Looking Statements"  and "Risk Factors,"and in KML's management's discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2017 under the heading "Outlook,"  each available under KML's profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and available at www.sec.gov. Shareholders and prospective investors are urged to review and carefully consider such information prior to making any investment decision in respect of KML's restricted voting shares or other securities. The risk factors applicable to KML could cause actual results to vary materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. KML disclaims any obligation, other than as required by applicable law, to update the forward-looking statements included in this news release.
SOURCE Kinder Morgan Canada Limited
For further information: Media Relations, (604)-908-9734, (855)-908-9734; Investor Relations, (800) 315-0578, KML_IR@kindermorgancanadalimited.com, www.kindermorgancanadalimited.com

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fred Moten at the Or Gallery (Part Two)

In a recent tweet, Canadian Art Associate Editor Yaniya Lee linked to Nasrin Himada's* "For Many Returns" essay. While reading the essay I was reminded of what Fred Moten said at the outset of his October 2017 Or Gallery talk, when he asked, "Why can't I just like an art work?" What I thought was a naive comment was obviously a provocation -- and I missed it.

* Photo above from Himada's This Might Not Work.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Night Music

The mouse you hear in your closet is God running her finger over that which you call your stuff.

Friday, April 6, 2018


Last December I attended a group exhibition opening at Unit 17, a gallery located in a small, single-level building near the corner of Bayswater and 4th Avenue. Behind the exhibition space is a kitchen, and across from it, the studio of artist Derya Akay. In back of that, a large parking lot, where a magnolia grows against a cinder block wall.

I took a picture of the magnolia, lit up by my flash. Looking at it later I thought of Goya's El tres de mayo de 1808 de Madrid (1814), an execution illuminated by its own gunfire.

Yesterday afternoon Derya sent me a picture of the magnolia, now blooming.

Tesekkür Ederim, Derya!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

After Pound


The separation of these feces on the floor:
Diamonds in a Black Top cab.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

CPR "Eastern Core" Landfill Update

A friend requested a look at a piece I wrote a couple weeks back, and I shared it. Friend responded an hour later with comments, and to say that "we are still in this fucking branding meeting that our dean insisted we attend."

The pictures up top and at bottom are vista-blocking image supplements designed for those who insist that the "Flatz" (rhymes with "Platz") is no more than a capitalist accumulation project. Whether ECUAD was involved in this mural/hoarding campaign, or whether PCI Developments used its own people, is unclear.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


For the past forty-plus years those who own and operate a vehicle in British Columbia have had to bend down between once and four times a year to apply a sticker to their rear licence plate. But for all my time living in this province, not once have I seen anyone do so.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Vanilla and the Vancouver Real Estate Market

Madagascar is home to a variety of floral and faunal oddities -- from lemurs to a periwinkle used in chemotherapy drugs like vinblastine, which, along with cisplatin, saved my life over half my life ago.

How odd, then, to hear that Madagascar is the world's leading supplier of vanilla, and that a "perfect storm" of events has lead to a four-ounce bottle of vanilla bean paste jumping from $5.75 in 2014 to $32 today.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Funeral Coach

Those in the trade refer to hearses as "funeral coaches". For years, the only hearses I saw looked like they were built in the mid-1970s. Last week I saw this one driving south on Knight Street.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

968 Kingsway

Noticed this last week: a brand new building with a drainage problem.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Loss, Grief, Art, Criticism

Loss begets grief. Someone we know -- or someone we don't know but have formed an attachment to -- goes to spirit and a complex range of emotional, intellectual and physical processes are activated. If that someone is murdered, the murderer enters the mix, and we are haunted by the murderer -- and his or her life -- for as long as we live our own.

When I first heard of Colten Boushie -- a fire keeper of the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation -- it was not of his passing but of the situation that led to it. The more I learned about the situation, the more I paid attention. This attention included the trial of the man accused of murdering Boushie -- the Gerald Stanley Trial.

The acquittal of Gerald Stanley on the charge of Second Degree Murder had a profound effect on many Canadians -- myself included. Stanley's acquittal represents a loss (of justice), and I am not the same person I was prior to hearing the news of Stanley's acquittal.

Shortly after Stanley's acquittal a GoFundMe campaign was established in support of Stanley and his family. In response I posted something on my blog. The post was concerned with cycles of violence in smaller communities and was based not so much on the verdict or the arguments Stanley's lawyer made in court, but on what was known (and was not known) by all parties -- from the moment Boushie and his friends came onto Stanley's farm to the moment Boushie was shot in the back of the head at close range by Stanley.

Within two hours of my post I received over 4500 page hits. Some of these visitors left comments reminding me that I wasn’t there, that I didn't know what I was talking about, that my responses are typical of a fiction writer, etc. All of these responses missed the point, which again concerns cycles of violence that exist -- and are often condoned -- in smaller communities. Gerald Stanley's son attacked the vehicle carrying Boushie and his friends with a framing hammer while his father, Gerald Stanley, retrieved a pistol, fired "warning shots,” before shooting a sleeping or groggy Colten Boushie in the back of the head.

In her grief, Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott published an essay in Hazlitt (March 27) on the effect the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Tina Fontaine murderer Raymond Cormier have had on her and her family. Entitled “Dark Matters”, the piece opens with the historic "discovery" of dark matter, which Elliott uses as a metaphor throughout her powerful and heartfelt essay.

Elliott is a young, well-respected writer who has published a number of essays that concern BIPOC and LGBTQQIP2SAA realities in a white supremacist patriarchal Canada "founded" on the theft, commodification and unequal (re-)distribution of Turtle Island. I rely on Elliott's voice as both a writer and a social (media) commentator to help me negotiate my way through a Canada that I, in my privilege as a middle-aged white male settler, have both benefitted from and am humiliated by, and I am grateful that this important writer is both present and active in the contemporary conversation.

That said, there is a paragraph in Elliott's essay that troubles me. The paragraph in question is the third paragraph, and I would like to go through it carefully, respectful of both its author and of that to which its author refers (see below).

"There’s never a good time to get news that breaks you, but sitting in a Starbucks with your family in the midst of a vacation seems particularly inopportune. My husband and child were visiting Vancouver while I was on a fellowship at a major university. We’d visited the Contemporary Art Gallery that day. The main exhibit, “Two Scores,” was split between rooms. In the first room were Vancouver artist Brent Wadden’s giant woven blankets, which he apparently insists on calling “paintings.” They lacked the artistry of the Squamish weavings we’d seen a few days before at the Museum of Anthropology. The gallery write-up, however, spun this messiness into a positive, describing Wadden’s self-taught weavings as “exploratory… purposely naïve”—even if they were “often inefficient… [and] would confound a traditionally-trained practitioner.” I wondered whether this artist, who lived and worked on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory, had any idea of the Squamish history of weaving. I wondered if he’d care that Squamish blankets were placed in an anthropology museum while his were given a solo exhibit in a respected art gallery."

The "news" to which Elliott refers in the first sentence was revealed to the reader in the previous sentence: a tweet that signaled the acquittal of Gerald Stanley. However, the same cannot be said of the second sentence, for nowhere in her essay does it say that the "major university" from which Elliott received her fellowship was the University of British Columbia, and that it was UBC's Creative Writing Program who announced it. Anyone familiar with Elliott's social media presence would know this.

Why Elliott chose not to mention UBC by name when she is attentive to proper nouns like Starbucks (and the next place she visits -- the Contemporary Art Gallery) stuck to me like a bur. Was it the spectre of the Galloway Affair and the controversial "due process" petition it generated? Surely it was not based on a negative experience at UBC, given Elliott’s generally positive social media responses to the students she met with during her fellowship. Is it possible that the editors of Hazlitt removed any reference to UBC? Or does Elliott believe that the written world of social media and the written world of traditional journalism (Hazlitt is funded by Penguin Random House Canada) exist apart from one another, and that by not mentioning UBC, maybe she is happy to keep it that way?

This separation of worlds is alluded to again in the next sentence, when Elliott writes of her family’s visit to the Contemporary Art Gallery, where they took in Brent Wadden's Two Scores exhibition. Though its title implies that the exhibition occupies two worlds (or “Scores”), it is the world of the literary writer and the world of the visual artist that comes to mind -- in particular, that a writer can use creative strategies to make a work (Elliott's essay), but a visual artist somehow cannot (Wadden's exhibition).

The creative strategy Elliot employed in her essay is, as I mentioned earlier, the recurrence of the dark matter metaphor. Wadden's creative strategy is based on the histories of modern (Hard Edge) painting -- evidence of which should be apparent to those who know something of those histories, but is also supported by the gallery through didactics and supplementary information. Whether Elliott is aware of these histories is unclear. But one thing that is clear is that the language Elliott uses to describe Wadden’s project (“which he apparently insists on calling ‘paintings’”) indicates not an appreciation of artistic strategy, but an ambivalence toward it. This is most apparent in the following sentence, where she compares the “artistry” of Wadden’s work to Musqueam Salish weavings (Elliott identifies them as Squamish Salish weavings) that she and her family saw days before at the Museum of Anthropology. Without any qualifying details, she declares only that his work “lacked” that which the latter has -- as if an apple can be blamed for not being an orange.

As for the CAG, Elliott appears equally ambivalent. What was initially an exhibition of art that “lacked the artistry of the Squamish weavings” is now a “messiness” that needed to be justified by the gallery. Rather than quote a larger, more contextual passage from the gallery “write-up,” Elliott cuts into it, adding ellipses, an em-dash and square parentheses -- transforming a lucid and generous curatorial text into another form of “messiness.”

Elliott’s approach to criticism is reminiscent of an earlier nineteenth century form of judgement favoured by the wealthy connoisseur. Although this approach never entirely went away, to see evidence of it in the work of a writer known for her care and consideration is unsettling -- especially when writing on the work of another artist for whom care and consideration are hallmarks of his practice, an artist who is, he tells me, aware of whose land he is on, aware of Salish weaving, aware that he is white and a man and of the privileges that that status affords him.

As for the Museum of Anthropology, while it might be said to occupy another world in the cultural ecology of Vancouver, it too is a “respected art gallery” that belongs as much to the Musqueam people as it does to UBC, a museum that has worked hard to live down the accusation thrown at it years ago by Coast Salish/Okanagan artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, who referred to it as a “morgue” -- until it proved itself otherwise as a site in which to mount his Unceded Territories retrospective in 2016.

I would never be so bold as to suggest Alicia Elliott apologize to the MOA. But if there is something in her paragraph that should be addressed (besides the correct authorship of those weavings), it is her implication that the MOA is a lesser institution. If Elliott were to devote time to learning how this museum has transformed itself from a “morgue” to a relational space co-authored by settlers and indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, she might be more hopeful of its potential, in addition to implying, through her grief, its historic failings.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Chagall Après la Russie

Hats off to the National Gallery of Canada for de-accessioning Chagall's La Tour Eiffel (1929). Consistent with NGC policy, revenue from the sale of this painting will go towards future acquisitions.

Is Canada losing anything by de-accessioning a painting that carries with it this description:

"Filled with an air of sensuous, passionate romance, Marc Chagall’s La Tour Eiffel (estimate: $6-9 million) encapsulates the wonderfully poetic style that emerged in his oeuvre during the 1920s and 1930s. It was during this period that he experienced unprecedented period of happiness, stability, comfort and professional success amidst the bustle and energy of Paris. Bursting with rich color and the artist’s unique symbolic vocabulary, this beautifully composed painting includes many of Chagall’s favorite themes, from love and memory, to music and fantasy, combining unexpected elements to create an otherworldly effect. La Tour Eiffel, which Christie’s is honored to handle on behalf of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, to benefit its acquisitions fund, is being offered for its first time at auction, following record-breaking results for Chagall in November."

I mean, I'm happy Chagall was happy -- but seriously!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jimmie Durham

Durham’s retrospective exhibition has reactivated longstanding debate surrounding his self-identification as Cherokee and his refusal to be categorized as a Cherokee artist. We acknowledge that Durham does not belong to any of the federally recognized and historical Cherokee Tribes in the United States, which as sovereign nations determine their own citizenship.

The opening and closing texts of this post appear in "Remai Modern Supports the Artist Jimmie Durham" from the Remai Modern website, on the occasion of Jimmie Durham: At the Centre of the World, which opened at the Remai this week.

The question I have of the opening text is not Durham's self-identification, nor the Cherokee Tribes' non-recognition of Durham as a citizen of its nation(s), but the word "debate." Has a debate really been reactivated concerning Durham's self-identification? Or is it a controversy, given the stakes and the way this touring exhibition has -- and has not -- played out?

Why not use the word controversy instead of debate, when that's what Durham's self-identification has sparked -- a controversy.

In its anxiety over hosting this controversial artist, the Remai has side-stepped the word controversy in favour of something that sounds like a conversation -- which it isn't. Not when the artist refuses the topic, and not when the museum has programmed a lecture series -- with no mention of something more dialogical, like a panel.

... the exhibition is accompanied by a lecture series featuring the exhibition’s curator Anne Ellegood, art historian Richard William Hill, and curator, artist and educator Gerald McMaster, adding perspectives on Durham’s influence in Canada. The museum will also present a series of films selected by Durham, giving insight into his interests and influences.

Tuesday, March 27, 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.

With Terese Marie Maillot's Heart Berries now finished (save the preface by Sherman Alexie and the interview at the end), I struggled with where to file it on my shelf. My initial impulse was to file it with Shawn Wilson and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. But after reading it, it made as much sense alongside Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son (1992) and Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945). Rather than choose, I purchased another copy, and did both.

My decision behind me, I return to Erin Wunker's Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, which I was enjoying for its honesty, simplicity and generosity -- until I was so beautifully interrupted. But first, my go-to palette-cleanser: Renata Adler's Speedboat (1976):

"My own mind is a tenement. Some elevators work. There are orange peels and muggings in the halls. Squatters and double locks on some doors, a few flowered window boxes, half-dressed bachelors cooling on the outside fire steps; plaster falls. Sometimes it seems that this may be a nervous breakdown -- sleeping all day, tears, insomnia at midnight, and again at 4 a.m." (14)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Pixie Kitchen

Lincoln City's Pixie Kitchen closed in 1985, but I remember it. First as a child stopping for meals there with my parents when driving to and from my babushka's place in Los Angeles; later as a young man hitch-hiking the 101.

Some people I know might not think much of the PK's orange trim, but the trim wasn't always so orange, nor was the restaurant that opened in 1948 a collection of unrelated buildings cobbled together -- by pixies!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Road Trip

Sometimes the writing is no longer enough and the car becomes the pen, the highway the pad.

Those long thoughts you have two hours into the trip about what exactly woke you at 3am, when you hurriedly packed a bag, grabbed your passport and drove south; through Seattle before rush hour, to Portland for a breakfast too white to mention, then west to Astoria, where I once had a haircut and my friend Jeff filmed it.

It is Friday lunch time, and teens are gathering like chat groups on the sunny streets of Astoria to talk about what they might wear to their town's version of March For Our Lives. I linger at a bus stop so I can listen to what they are saying without scaring them.

They are internet informed, these teens -- full of facts and figures about the NRA and the Second Amendment. They also know that Dov Charney is a creepy daddy so "No American Apparel -- not even a t-shirt under your sweater," says the ringleader, Aviva, whose name is Hebrew for "springtime".

Teenagers today are not one thing or another but everything at once, tipping this way and that but never falling over. They know the only thing to get their president's attention is injury to children, so they are risking their lives to prevent more of them.

I interrupt Aviva and am met with hard stares from her brethren. I interrupt Aviva to thank the group for what they are doing and to tell them that I will be praying for them in the days and weeks to come. When I am done, they look at Aviva. She smiles and thanks me, and the rest nod a collective "Uh-huh."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thinking Allowed


What does this acronym really mean? What does it say about the platforms where it is used?

Is social media really so "fake" (IFL)? Is it fake like drugs or alcohol are agents of fakery -- stimulants that allow us to open up, say what we're really feeling, while at the same time allowing us to not be ourselves? Isn't a court of law similarly structured -- a process designed to get at a truth?

Even before the Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier trials many Twitter users who read and write carried a negative view of due process.

To suggest social media is fake is to get the benefit of reality without having to face the consequences.

Twitter is not real life, but it is part of the dominion of real life insofar as it has real life consequences. But if it were real life (like Roland Barthes's 1977-1980 Collège de France lectures were attempts at creating a "fantasy"), what would that life look like?

A building that looks like a dormitory but is in reality a gymnasium bleeding into a food court. There are no private rooms, only ear plugs and blindfolds.

People wander around in their pyjamas. In one hand they carry a flare gun; in the other, a phone. Around their necks is a whistle.

Authority is expressed in quantifiable terms, through Followers, Likes and Retweets.

Social media is not a tool but an amalgam of collaborative multi-genres that are closer to dramatic narrative (theatre, film) than poetry or prose. If it is edited, it is edited by robots fed on algorithms. Where its information goes and how that information is used will be revealed to us after we are done with the Holy Roman Empire that is Facebook -- and after that, telepathically, in the "dark age" that will invariably follow.

Declarations oscillate. One moment the Twitterian can be "thrilled" about inclusion in a market that trades in commodified forms; the next, disgusted by a "shit bag." Sometimes these declarations are broken by a selfie, with the eyes of its taker not on the eye of the camera (the viewer) but on the image it is about to capture (the taker). Sometimes that selfie is an animal or a well-known personality, either in still form or in GIF form.

Elders can be respected one minute, then reduced to "a shitty white woman" the next.

Twitter is full of contradictions, like life is full of contradictions.

Outside the building is a dumpster, which everybody knows is the basis for a metaphor that, in our mixed drink world, went viral ten years ago and continues to spread -- like wildfire.

I think I have only the slightest idea of what I am talking about. But as most thinkers know, it helps to write things down. Whether that makes us writers is part of it. Most of those parts can be found on Twitter.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


The north-east corner of 20th and Main. The former site of Bean Around the World, where Dr. Nadia Aleem and I would meet once a year for coffee, where you'd say hi to Garry Morse and he would bolt for the door clutching his angst like a snapped football, where Paul Wong would swan in with a dowager and a recent ECUAD grad/intern -- until money shook the earth and engineers and rough carpenters were hired to build this gorgeous office platform, literally in minutes, as a bulldozer swam laps, smoothing the lot beneath its treads.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Guest Curators

Back in the 1980s, McDonald's began hiring retirees as cashiers. Other corporations followed, notably Walmart, who hired them as greeters.

The trend continues. At the Vancouver Art Gallery retired white male university professors of art and art history are hired as guest curators.

March 3 - June 17, 2018
Curated by John O'Brian (ret. University of British Columbia)

September 30, 2017 - January 1, 2018
Curated by Bruce Grenville and David MacWilliam (ret. Emily Carr University of Art & Design)

July 1 - November 13, 2016
Curated by Colin Browne (ret. Simon Fraser University)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

By Instant Coffee

Can Instant Coffee's audio equivalent of the monochrome transcend its literal relationship to the data it consumes?

There is no one at Websit Labs to subject the collective's app to rigorous testing. There is no "At Websit Labs, we feel..." because there is no Websit Labs. Only websit, or we(bs)it.

That "feel" is the same feeling you get when inhaling through your pink no(i)se -- the same "we".

The "we" in We, the feeling.

Instant Coffee is a feeling machine. It has pumps and hoses, shielded cable with liquid coursing through it, and an app.

Those curdled bits of sour cream that won't blend with the borscht.

Wite-Out on a wet, pink bough.

I am speaking of the app's visual representation, as publicity, which it also is, yet isn't.

I am speaking of its beleaguered sincerity.

Instant Coffee sounds best as a bellows.

Monday, March 19, 2018



If this address should appear before you, please send the account holder something you think might distract museum trustees from putting their private collections before the curatorial vision of the museums on whose boards they serve. The account holder is human and would like to act as a conduit.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Love and Affection (1976)

I love this song. I loved it when I first heard it over the house PA before a CANO concert at the Queen E in 1977, and I have loved it to this day, especially while driving between the Okanagan, Vancouver and the Northern Gulf Islands.

The video above is a "live" performance from Armatrading's appearance on BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test (1971-1988). The highlight for me comes at 1:24, when Armatrading delivers that wicked upstroke -- the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick's great match-cut.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nothing Is What It Seems (2006)

While doing research on the original Woodward's store I came upon Tony Pantages's film of its September 30, 2006 implosion. From there, a music video Tony did for Colin James that features guest appearances by musician and author Tom Wilson and myself as "The Barber".

I had forgotten about this, but not about the many who, in the weeks after the release of the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), greeted me on the street with, "Hey, Billy Bob. What are you doin' in town?"

For those interested in Tony's implosion (Nothing Is What It Seems, 2006), click here. For those interested in my work with a straight razor, scroll down to the fifth video -- Colin's song "Far Away Like a Radio" (2005), written by Colin, Tom, and Craig Northey.

Friday, March 16, 2018


The image above is of Béance (gap) (2017) by Bernadette Phan. Wool, oil on canvas.

You can't see it in the image, but the work has a horizontal slit halfway up its non-fringed form and slightly to the right. Already I need to return to the gallery to see if the slit is "woven" into the form or if it is cut, with its edges sewn down. It makes a difference. Everything is of interest in a work of art.

Inside the wool form (though it functions as a pocket it looks like a halter top, a purse, a votive object) is a small abstract painting, of which only the top portion is available to the human eye.

Béance is one of eight works in an exhibitional conversation between Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan at CSA Space. Entitled Threads, the exhibition runs through March 30.

Below is an exhibition statement, and below that another of my inconclusive photos -- an image of Tom's China Silk Lining (2008). Polyester thread in polyester resin.

Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan
February 22nd - March 30th  2018 
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 22nd, 6-9pm

“a dense mat of threads which completely hides the animal” 

Painting, weaving and layering set the foundations for the dialogue between Tom Burrows and Bernadette Phan, whose bodies of work often involve processes of accumulation, be it the slow buildup of marks or layering of resin. This exhibition offers a peek at new directions for both artists.

For the past few years, Tom Burrows has been working in Jingdezhen, a city with a history of producing pottery for over 1700 years. In a discourse between ceramics and his ongoing exploration of cast resin, Tom creates colour fields that probe the surface and textures of both polymers and porcelain. “Bethune,” glazed porcelain, is a nod to Doctor Norman Bethune’s dedication to battle-field surgery in the struggle against fascism.

Bernadette Phan's work often negotiates the pictorial plane using patterns such as ovoids, grids and fields of colour. With "Béance", Bernadette revisits her painting practice through textile. The woven surface echoes the stippling of paint on her canvases  and the pace generated in the making. Alongside its colourful siblings, "Béance" envelops and contains, hanging loosely between painting and sculpture.