Monday, May 31, 2010

When Good Artistic Intentions Do Not Equal Good Results

A few weeks ago, Joe Fiorito wrote a column for the Toronto Star addressing the gap between one artist's intentions and the result. While everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and expression, I have to say I agree with his assessment.

Jason Kieffer, the young man who wrote that awful little book lampooning this city’s street people, was at a symposium a while back, the purpose of which was to allow him to explain himself.

He seems a nice kid; if only niceness were all.

The cartoons are hurtful; the people lampooned are defenceless; worst of all, each caricature is accompanied by a map indicating where the person depicted can be found. Given that these men and women are already vulnerable, it seems to me they are now at greater risk.

I recommend reading the whole column here. Other reviews of Kieffer's work (some positive) can be read here.

Read More......

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cutely Creepy: Electronic Rabbit Opera coming to Luminato

Luminato remains a bit of a cipher for many in the visual arts community. But I can't resist posting this video of Nabaz’mob, an electronic-rabbit "opera" that's just been announced as part of the fest. It won the Prix Arts Electronica Award of Distinction Digital Musics in 2009 and will run from Saturday, June 12 - Sunday, June 20 in the Distillery, for free. More vids of the work can be viewed here.

Read More......

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Noticed: Still no Museums Day for Toronto... or Vancouver... or Calgary...

Earlier this week, a notice about Montreal Museums Day--a day of free admission to and transportation between museums--landed in my inbox. Once again, this annual event (happening May 30 this year) prompted me to wonder, why no event like this in Toronto? Or Vancouver for that matter? Or Calgary? Though Montreal Museums Day has lost a couple of participants along the way--the Montréal Insectarium and Montreal Botanical Garden are not offering MMD this year--the access-focused event still outshines initiatives (and/or highlights a lack thereof) in other parts of the country.

What's more, this event further highlights the general lack of action (as far as I know, feel free to correct me) around International Museums Day in our other major cities. MMD is inspired by IMD on May 18 of each year, which "provides the opportunity for museum professionals to meet the public and alert them to the challenges that museums face if they are to be - as in the International Council of Museums definition of museums - "an institution in the service of society and of its development"."

I know Toronto has Doors Open this weekend, which has strongarmed the ROM into actually providing a free Friday evening, but that event has an architectural focus. We need to bring this type of access initiative into the gallery and museums realm as well.

Read More......

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Will Munro Remembrance Tomorrow Night @ Gladstone

The news that artist Will Munro passed away on Friday is very sad. I just wanted to post that a remembrance event is set for tomorrow night at the Gladstone Hotel. According to a release from Paul Petro Gallery,

A memorial service/celebration for Will Munro will be held on Wednesday, May 26, at 8pm at the Gladstone Hotel's Melody Bar. All those who have loved and been loved by Will are welcome to attend. The theme is TRANSCENDENCE.

Also, instead of flowers and gifts, we will be asking people to make a charitable donation. The details of this are currently getting sorted out and we will provide you with all the information on Wednesday.

More information is available on Facebook. Eye Weekly and many other outlets and blogs have posted remembrances about Munro as well.

Image from Munro's final exhibition from Paul Petro Gallery

Read More......

Upcoming: Talk at the Art Gallery of Mississauga May 29

What happens when an artist wants to shift gears in a big way? That's one topic I'll be discussing at the Art Gallery of Mississauga this Saturday, May 29, at 1pm. The occasion is Andrew Morrow's exhibition at the gallery, which uses the space to make quite a significant leap, I'd say—though Morrow is best known as a painter, this show uses his painting solely as a source for an animated projection that in turn is part of an installation. Other things we might discuss: music vs. "silence" in the white cube, historical figure painting vs. porn, and more (viewers are welcome to bring interpretations and questions). Fun times! It all starts at 1pm at the AGM, 300 City Centre Dr, Mississauga.

Read More......

Friday, May 21, 2010

Contact Reviews and Ratings Blues

Victoria Day signals the home stretch of the Contact festival, and there's still plenty of good stuff to see.

The National Post (online today, in print tomorrow) has three of my Queen's Park-area reviews: The Brothel Without Walls and Probing McLuhan at UTAC and Creative Commons at the ROM. An excerpt:

The Brothel Without Walls at University of Toronto Art Centre
15 King’s College Circ.
Philosopher Alan Watts said “trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.” Sometimes, this limitation also applies to art that tries to define itself through art. Fortunately, Contact’s keynote exhibition The Brothel Without Walls overcomes these challenges — it’s a photo show that capably shows how photography has altered our relationships, both to each other and to ourselves. Stefan Ruiz’s pics of Spanish soap-opera sets unfold like a grown-up hall of mirrors, while Evan Baden’s prints of online sex acts — a different form of fantasy — are backdropped by the mundane: reams of gold gymnastics medals and Scotch-taped collages of friends. Christopher Wahl’s photos of journalists at work hint at the information industry’s frantic dependence on image collection, while Marina Gadonneix’s pictures of TV news sets complement the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” vibe. Susan Anderson’s portraits of tiny, heavily made-up Barbie wannabes at child beauty pageants resonate in a fresh way, particularly because Anderson asked each girl to create her own pose. (Their choices reflect how deeply ideas of photographic glamour are ingrained at a young age.) Each artist’s insights build upon the others and result in a critical picture of the way photos affect us — a difficult and admirable achievement for a celebration-toned fest. To May 29.

Yesterday, NOW also published my capsule reviews of three public installations at the festival: David LaChappelle at MOCCA, Barbara Kruger at the AGO and Hank Willis Thomas at Front and Spadina.

I think I realized more than ever in writing these NOW reviews that I'm pretty bad at rating art on an "out of 5" scale, unless it's indubitably great or indubitably awful. I envy the Entertainment Weekly folks with their letter grades, which are a little more nuanced. At the same time, I realize if I took that approach I would give the LaChappelle an A/A-, the Kruger and Thomas a B+ at least. But 3/5, which I ended up with on the latter two reviews in NOW, is more like a 60% C/D, much lower than reflects my views. Getting these ratings right (at least in terms of the reviewer's perspective) is part of a reviewer's job, though, and I basically just wanted to admit that I haven't been doing a great job on it of late. That's my long-weekend truthiness, folks.

If you have any views on these shows or others--or commentary/advice on the business of rating art by stars, Ns, grades or what have you--feel free to share in the comments.

Christopher Wahl's image Jennifer Lopez, 2009, © Christopher Wahl, from the National Post

Read More......

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cats, Colour & Candour: Q&A with Elizabeth McIntosh

For a few years now, I've been a big admirer of Elizabeth McIntosh's paintings. Though she's been exhibiting her abstract works since the mid 90s, for some reason I only got to see them relatively recently. In any case, she's debuting new works at Diaz in Toronto tomorrow, and I took it as an opportunity to ask her more about her work. Today, the National Post published a related Q&A. Here's an excerpt:

Q When you look back at your childhood, can you see any connections to your art today?

A Yes, I did lots of drawings about pattern when I was a kid. I actually titled one of the paintings in this show Cat because I got the idea from a drawing of a cat that I did as a kid. My mom had it framed on the wall, which is why I remember it so clearly. Back then, I divided the cat's body into shapes and coloured each one in a different pattern. I guess abstraction is something that's been personally fulfilling to me for a long time.


Q Vancouver is best known for photography and conceptual art. How does it feel to be a painter there?

A I think Vancouver is a really interesting place, and it's a great place to live and be an artist. But my work doesn't fit within the dominant dialogue that people hold onto. And that's not just because I'm painting; it's because my art is more based on process than on research. At the same time, you can't say painting isn't conceptual, because painting is a way of thinking--it's just not within the "tradition" of conceptual art.

I don't think I suffer because of any of this, though. I teach at Emily Carr University and I'm surrounded by faculty and students who are interested in painting and in questioning painting. I have a place to pursue what I want to do. But y'know, stuff does come up. I'll get the odd super-clever student who starts taking a class at UBC, and then argues with me about the validity of painting.

The rest of the interview, including McIntosh's comments on feeling a bit ashamed of painting at first, here.

Image of McIntosh's The Brute 2009 from Diaz Contemporary

Read More......

Monday, May 17, 2010

National Portrait Gallery to be Resurrected this Summer by Latitude 53

Remember the National Portrait Gallery debacle? It received a lot of (merited) outcry in the past few years.

This summer, Latitude 53, an Edmonton artist-run centre, intends to resurrect the NPG dream, if only in a small way. Its savvily framed exhibition is described as follows:

This summer from June 11 until July 17, Latitude 53 hosts an artist-initiated response to the Portrait Gallery of Canada fiasco that has made headlines over the last few years, culminating in cancellation and sublimation into Library and Archives Canada in 2009. Conceived by a group of Edmonton artists, this National Portrait Gallery includes work from across Canada in a vital, artist-focused collection intended as a shadow of the official project with an eye to contemporary relevance. Organizer Fish Griwkowsky says, “Instead of lamenting Edmonton’s ignored bid to house Gatineau’s treasure, we decided to build a grassroots collection in the West, calling on artists across the country to join in. The NPG hopes to revitalize, decentralize and liberate the very idea of a national portrait gallery.”

The first stage of the National Portrait Gallery, a group show opening June 11, 2010, at Latitude 53 in downtown Edmonton, includes the work of thirty artists in a variety of disciplines, includ- ing traditional painted portraiture, music, film and experimental forms. The artists include well- known Canadian names like Douglas Coupland, exciting and varied contemporary talents such as Hank & Lilly and Daniel Barrow, and a strong contingent from Edmonton and Western Canada including Kristy Trinier, Jonathan Kaiser, Terrance Houle, Brandon Blommaert, Megan Morman and many more.

It's sounds like a great idea and I'm intrigued to hear how it pans out.

Image of what might have been our National Portrait Gallery in Ottawa from the National Post

Read More......

Friday, May 14, 2010

This is My Cecil: Hotel Histories

The Cecil Hotel in Calgary has a bit of a notorious reputation. According to the CBC, police were called there 1,700 times in just one year, and there was a stabbing death there in 2008. This year Then, the City of Calgary took possession of the building, and some councillors wish for it to be demolished as part of a "revitalization" of the surrounding area.

But as artist Tomas Jonsson is attempting to show in his project This is My Cecil, there are also more complex histories of the hotel--ones that tie into struggles between the affluent and the poor, between developers and social aid agencies, between heritage and progress.

On Tuesday, May 11, Jonsson began holding regularly scheduled workshops (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm) at the Epcor Centre to to facilitate sharing of narratives around the Cecil. As Jonsson notes in an essay,

It is clear that the Cecil needs to change, but what the nature of that change can be is still a matter of debate. As a city-owned asset, all citizens own it, and have the right to present their ideas on the site and related issues. A proposal for the Cecil that embraces the complexities of the site and takes up difficult discussions is neccesary to truly understand the lived use, and what this entails. Rather than paving over, excising its recent past, the Cecil can instead work as a conduit to take this up and work through the troubled legacy of Calgary’s development and identity.

In his essay, Jonsson also notes similarities to situations in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver; I would add there are collaries to Queen West in Toronto as well (the film Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel comes to mind). He also notes photographer George Webber's past work in documenting Cecil Hotel residents and exteriors.

In any case, Jonsson's project sounds interesting. Closing reception is May 28 at the Epcor Centre, if you'd like to talk with him about the results of his research.

1982 image of the Cecil from On Site Review

Read More......

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Ha-Ha to Horror: Sanchez Bros. Q&A out today

Carlos and Jason Sanchez's work is pretty dang dark, but in person the brother-art-duo is jovial, finishing each other's sentences with quips and goofy grins. I spoke with them a few weeks ago at Nicholas Metivier Gallery, where they're having Contact-related show of works old and new. Today the National Post published our condensed Q&A. Here's an excerpt:

Q Can you talk about where some of the works in this show came from?

A Our newest image, By the Skin of His Teeth [pictured above] was based on Jeffrey Dahmer's last victim, who got away and was seen running from Dahmer's house with one handcuff on. We tried to make it reportage style, to make it look as real as possible.

The Hiroshima image is more like a postcard. The idea was to make it look as beautiful as possible--to take this horrible thing and twist it around a bit. The gas chamber at Auschwitz was also a straight shot. They have a whole department set up to accommodate photographers --you just have to shoot at night, when it's closed to visitors. So we were there around midnight.

Friendly Fire was shot in Arizona. We had seen a press clipping of Afghan soldiers standing around a big pool of blood in the desert; the caption said something like "American forces accidentally kill eight Afghan soldiers."

And The Everyday, that was inspired by the film Children of Men. There was an explosion scene in it that was just incredible--long, handheld shots, just amazing.

You can read on here about the Sanchez's first-ever feature film project (upcoming) as well as the adolescent-humor vids they made as bored Montreal-suburb teens.

Image of the Sanchez Brothers' By the Skin of His Teeth 2010 from Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Read More......

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Of Race and Representation: Q&A with Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall's first Canadian solo show opened at the Vancouver Art Gallery over the weekend, and before that he kindly made time to chat with me on the phone about some aspects of his practice, including his thoughts on images of black people (or lack thereof) in art museums. A few exchanges from our conversation appear in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q At the age of 14, you vowed never to paint a white person. Why?

A That statement came from thinking about art history. When you read art books and go to museums, almost all the people you see in paintings are white. When you take classes at art schools, almost all the models -- at least that we had -- were white. What you do with that experience is take for granted that white-figure representation is what constitutes art. The idea of the black figure in pictures is not something that people have as part of their common experience.

So when I first started making pictures, that was what I did, too--I made compositions with white figures, because "that's what art looked like." Since then, I became interested in what people expect to see when they go to a museum. That's why I decided I would always paint black figures--to me, that has the greatest transformative effect on people's expectations of art.

When it becomes common to see black figures in art, there won't be a need to make that statement. But until then, you have to hold to a conscious effort to introduce something different into people's art-going experiences.

Image of Kerry James Marshall's Our Town (1995) from Saatchi Gallery (which reproduces some of Marshall's advice to young artists well worth reading)

Read More......

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recommended: Are Museums Nonprofit or For-Profit?

Though Toronto in general is Banksy-crazy right now (I saw a bunch of photographers huddled around one of the suspected-his fresh images on Spadina near Queen this afternoon), I'm for some reason in the title of the new documentary about him, "Exit through the Gift Shop." On the great Center for the Future of Museums blog, former Smithsonian counsel Marie Malaro has this to say about shaping the financial future of museums (though her examples are American, particularly as they relate to current US crises around nonprofits, I'd say the principles apply in Canada too):

The position the museum community now finds itself in should have been foreseen at least 30 years ago. By the early 1990’s museums were becoming more and more market oriented. The bicentennial boom of the 1970’s and early 80’s with its out- pouring of grant money for museums was over and many museums were left with new buildings and programs that were costly to sustain. The solution for many was to embrace a more entrepreneurial approach to acquiring income.

The first steps were tentative but the spirit of competition soon took hold. Museum shops were moved to center stage in museums and some even ended up in shopping malls. Exhibitions became “events” not supported by philanthropy but by corporate sponsorships which are nothing more than business arrangements with for-profits organizations. “Lending for profit” became common place and museums joined the bandwagon only to be diverted when marketers began singing the praises of “branding”. And, not surprisingly, those holding major management positions in museums began to compare themselves with managers in the for-profit world and demand similar compensation packages. It is growing harder and harder to tell whether museums are nonprofit or for-profit organizations by the way too many operate today and just about every problem now facing museums is due to the failure of museums to understand and adhere to their nonprofit status. Let me explain this sweeping statement.

We support a nonprofit sector in this country and afford it many privileges because we expect that sector to offer our society services and products that cannot be provided by our government sector or our for-profit sector. In other words, nonprofits are expected to stand apart from the other two sectors and put their special privileges (great tax advantages, government encouraged philanthropy, freedom to accept volunteer services and a public willing to volunteer,) to good use so they can provide their unique services and products to the public. When the nonprofit sector forgets what its distinctive role is (when what it offers cannot be distinguished from what the other two sectors provide) it places in jeopardy its special privileges, and the good will of the public. This is why we see so many attempts by governments to curtail tax exemptions enjoyed by nonprofits, why true philanthropy (giving without expecting anything in return) is being replaced by “deal-making" and why there is so much confusion in the profession about what a museum is....

In a nutshell, there is a bright and secure future for museums if they truly commit to their nonprofit status in both word and action and demonstrate to the public that what they offer is unique and important.

I'm not against gift shops per se; I actually like to browse them a fair bit. But I tend to worry the same way Malaro does--that museums must remember they are nonprofits and commit to that in word and in action. (This is also the basis of my continuing concerns about rising museum admission fees--museums are mandated as nonprofits to provide access, yet are shutting more and more people out economically speaking.) It is worth reading the full post here. She also has a book on museum governance, if you're interested.

Image of possible Banksy rat in Toronto from Torontoist

Read More......

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reviews: Jens Haaning's Sunshine Girls, Adam Harrison's Digital Romantics, Thaddeus Holownia's Good-Lookin Book

For my at the At the Galleries column in today's National Post, I visited three exhibitions that seemed to depend a lot on context. (What aren't art doesn't, of course... but with these three—Jens Haaning at Guelph Goodwater, Adam Harrison at Clark & Faria, and Thaddeus Holownia at Corkin Gallery) the factor seemed extra-present. An excerpt:

1. Jens Haaning at Guelph Goodwater
234 Queen St. E.
Copenhagen artist Jens Haaning often presents texts, such as highway signs, that are foreign to the country they're exhibited in. Here, his 33 Page 9 Girls continues the practice, albeit with a (rather distracting) twist: The texts are pinup-girl interviews from a Copenhagen newspaper [Ekstra Bladet], and yes, pictures accompany. One of the most fascinating things about this show -- nudity-friendliness of European journalism aside -- is the range of ways these women present themselves. Asked what their best feature is, answers range from "my ass, of course!" to "my brainy head." Some go full monty, while others are relatively demure. Overall, this feels like an anthropological document of Western womanhood -- a realm that has many possibilities, but many prescribed limits, too. Though some of these women work in auto-body shops, and others plan careers as teachers, the fact is that each receives media attention because of her relatively nubile body and her willingness to bare it. While that reality is reflected in local "Sunshine girls," geographic distance and a gallery setting prompt viewers to consider that, er, truth with more seriousness than they might usually. To May 22.

Image of Copenhagen newspaper Ekstra Bladet from

Read More......

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Charmaine Wheatley Pamphlet that Broke My Heart, and a Few Other Nice Things At Art Metropole

I don't drop by Art Metropole nearly enough. This is the thought that occurred to me when I did at long last stop by the other day to see what might be worth a read while standing and holding my bag. Here's what I found:

Charmaine Wheatley's 30% of Buffalo
A few times in the past on this blog I've noted the fact that I can be a sucker for artworks that are reading/writing-oriented, since these are two of my primary interests. 30% of Buffalo falls firmly into this category, but it's something I think others who are less biased to print than myself would also enjoy... or should, dammit! In this zine/graphic novel/booklet, Charmaine Wheatley offers drawings of and stories from adults who are learning how to read in Buffalo, NY. (The title comes from the stat that apparently 30% of Buffalo residents are functionally illiterate.) I finished this book angered at the public school system (and/or lack of funding for literacy supports in same) and so, so impressed with the so many unsung volunteers and nonprofit workers who engage in trying to help adults read and write. Above and beyond, I was very touched by the stories of the learners who were willing to speak to Wheatley. Frank, funny and true, true, true.

Micah Lexier: I'm Thinking of a Number by various authors
OK, so when it comes to publications, Micah Lexier is no slouch. The man knows his bookworks pretty well. I'm thinking, as an example of the reverse-knockout text project he did for Border Crossings #112, or that collaboration with Colm Toibin and 1334 public school students from a few years back. Anyway, I'm thinking of a number is more a publication about Lexier than by him--it's a survey of his works including essays by AA Bronson and Garry Neill Kennedy. Being all browsy and standy in the shop and all, I didn't actually get to read said essays, but I was impressed by the sharp-looking design and printing and the range of works reproduced. (For those who are extra keen, there's a Toronto launch for this book May 17 at Type.)

Two Boiler Suits and a Playlist: A Guide for Primates by Bill Burns
I actually saw this book at YYZ before I saw it at Art Met, but no matter--it's good in both places. In this small paperback, Burns lists the supplies provided to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and provides simple line drawings thereof. It's has a bare-bones, children's-picture-book feel that absolutely works. Why? Because we all know it must completely suck to be at Guantanamo Bay, in so many horrific ways, and probably some banal ones too. But bringing it back to the details of simple supplies, of the physical details of life, of a "kit" for imprisonment, as it were, Burns makes that experience real in a way that the abstraction of "Guantanamo Bay" does not. For instance, I did not know that there were special spherical-design toothbrushes provided to prisoners nowadays (I presume it's harder to make a shiv out of these guys?). Two orange boiler suits--one to wash and one to wear, how.... convenient? Yes, I liked the emphasis on practicalities there. As an added touch, Burns includes a playlist of songs played to Guantanamo prisoners. I can't recall the entire list right now, but it is far from peace-inducing, and also provides that "daily life" dimension of reality I mentioned previously. For bigger spenders, Burns has also produced a box set including some of the records from the playlist. I'm a bit cool on those discs, but I do like the large IKEA-style drawings of watchtowers and prison cells that Burns includes in that larger multiple, which is titled Guard Tower Plans, Prison Cell Plans and the Songs of Guantanamo Bay.

Fuck Death Mug
I have no idea what the Fuck Death Foundation is, but I sure do enjoy their ephemera.

Image 1 & 2 from Charmaine Wheatley's website, image 3 from NSCAD Press, image 4 & 5 from Art Met

Read More......

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Recommended: Michael Wheeler on Return of the Canada Prizes (and Related, Soon to End Online Consultation)

Michael Wheeler has written a great post over on the Praxis Theatre blog about the return of the Canada Prizes this past week, the new version's pluses and minuses, and the ridonkulous 2.5 week online consultation period the feds have slated for everyone to provide feedback on this $25 million initiative. As he puts it,

It’s hard to have a single opinion about all this: In some ways putting this cash in the hands of The Canada Council is the best, smartest, depoliticized way to distribute arts funding. So fundamentally I’m not sure that the specifics of the award will be all that controversial as long as it is distributed by an arms-length jury. The crazy part about this whole process, and the media coverage of it so far, is the lack of attention to whether the prize is a good idea to begin with.

The stated goal in the Ministry’s press release is to “brand Canada as a centre of excellence”. Which is a good idea – except for one thing – after we’re branded as excellent, we will have to create things that are excellent. Things aren’t looking so hot on that end – between the policies of current Federal and Provincial governments and the economic crisis – actual monies for art going to artists is way down. Farewell DFAIT, Trade Routes, PromArt, small magazines, endowments, and BC artists. Bonjour a huge amount of money to an artist at the top of his or her career and the administrative and production costs of a massive international ceremony.

So more than anything this just seems like putting the cart before the horse. We would like to be branded as excellent, we would like to be perceived as excellent, but we are going to reduce the funds that would lead to excellence. (We will however throw you a big party if you ever get there.) It is a common approach to Canadian cultural funding these days that is a lot like encrusting the tip of a melting iceberg with gold. It should also probably be noted that it creates an inverse relationship between the creation of art and “fancy galas“.

He also talks about heritage minister James Moore's recent Twitter-hockey-basic-Canadian-geography gaffe. Please do read the whole post here.

Image of what looks like a serious money-party-gala from - and hey, what a coinkidink, it links to a story on whether contests spur innovation.

Read More......

Monday, May 3, 2010

"That Critical Review that Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me": True Story from Kerry James Marshall

Recently, I've been doing some research on Kerry James Marshall related to his first-ever Canadian solo show, which is co-curated by Jeff Wall and opens at the Vancouver Art Gallery this week. In the course of my research, I came across the video above, which documents a talk Marshall gave at Otis Art Institute in 2008.

My reason for posting this video is that Marshall makes a point I have never heard someone utter before—namely that receiving a slightly critical review was the best thing that ever happened to him. (The review, as he explains, was by the LA Times' now-retired arts reporter Suzanne Muchnic; as a point of interest, in 1981, another artist responded much less graciously to Muchnic's criticism by dumping 10 tons of horse manure in front of the Times' main entrance.)

I don't expect all critical reviews to have as much positive impact as this--far from it. And I don't presume to replicate Muchnic's sensitivity in my own work. Nonetheless, it's nice to know these positive impacts of journalistic criticism can happen, and be acknowledged. The relevant story runs from around 1:09 to 3:30.

Read More......

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Get Schooled, Get Shocked, Get Stuffed: Three Plans for Contact Photo Fest

With over 200 exhibitions and events going on--and a new festival planning tool on its website--there's about a bazillion different ways to experience the Contact Photography festival, which officially starts today. In today's National Post, I offer three potential plans: one for smartypantses, one for slatterns, and one for stealth gourmets. Here's an excerpt:

Plan 1: Get Schooled
Legendary Canadian brainiac Marshall McLuhan inspired this year’s Contact theme on the pervasive influence of images, and there’s plenty to engage intellectuals here. Today’s media-wisdom wannabes must see David Rokeby and Lewis Kaye’s Through the Vanishing Point at U of T — which recreates McLuhan’s heady Monday-night seminars in the very classrooms where he once taught (39A Queen’s Park E.) — and set the PVR May 7 at 10 p.m., when TVO airs one of McLuhan’s last interviews. Also key is The Mechanical Bride, another McLuhan-phrase-titled show focusing on branding and media at MOCCA (952 Queen St W). There, Kota Ezawa alters IKEA-catalogue images, while former runwayer Britta Thie acts as both photographer and model. Smart billboard installations by Hank Willis Thomas, Barbara Kruger and Olaf Breuning will prompt double takes on advertising strategies and stereotypes at Spadina and Front, Dundas and McCaul and Queen’s Quay respectively, while Penelope Umbrico’s Pearson Airport installation analyzes the world’s most popular Flickr trope — sunsets. Umbrico’s PM Gallery show of busted eBay TV screens also looks like a bookworm best-of, as does Barbara Probst’s show of perennially savvy multi-angle pics at Jessica Bradley (1518 and 1450 Dundas St. W.). Providing vital information on overlooked realms is another repeat Contact strength: Always Moving Forward, a much-anticipated show of contemporary African photography at Gallery 44 (401 Richmond St. W.) fits the bill, along with journalist Finnbar O’Reilly’s exhibition on the Democratic Republic of Congo at CBC (250 Front St. W.) and Toni Fouhse’s images of Ottawa crack addicts at Pikto (55 Mill St.). The North American premiere of Zineb Sedira’s Middlesea at Prefix (401 Richmond St. W.), including an interview with international übercurator Hans Ulrich Obrist, also beckons. Finally, the Magnum Lecture Series from May 4 to 6 at Ryerson will get you inside the head of the world’s best photographers.

For my picks on the eye- and tummy-appetite fronts, read on at the National Post's blog, Posted Toronto.

Image of Marshall McLuhan from UTAC Contact show Probing McLuhan, via Posted Toronto

Read More......