From the white cube to the white coats! For real! This press release about having McMaster U med students study art landed in my inbox recently:
A new program for Family Medicine residents at McMaster University is taking them out of the clinic and into the art gallery, with an aim to make them better family physicians.
It is all part of an innovative new visual literacy course, being offered through the McMaster Museum of Art in conjunction with the Department of Family Medicine.
“Research has shown that doctors can improve their observation and diagnostic skills by studying works of art,” says Carol Podedworny, director of the McMaster Museum of Art. “When students – or in this case Family Medicine residents – learn to appreciate fine art on a deeper level, our hope is they will translate those skills into medical practice and become better communicators, particularly with their own patients.”
Eight second-year Family Medicine residents will participate in the bi-weekly sessions, where they will examine original works of art from the Museum’s vast collections and participate in group discussions to explore meaning within the imagery.
“As a family physician, it can be easy to make assumptions about a patient but we’re trying to train our residents to look deeper, to really understand the patient’s experience of illness and to improve their understanding of the complex nature of human beings,” says Dr. Joyce Zazulak, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and co-leader of the program. “One of the goals of this program is to promote self-awareness, which the residents will take into their professional lives as physicians. This will truly give new meaning to the term ‘I’m going to see my patient now”.
A paper published by the Harvard Medical School in 2008 found that medical students who were assigned to take an art appreciation course at the university museum –who examined various works of art to hone their observational, analytical and communication skills—were 38 per cent more successful in making accurate medical diagnoses than those who didn’t take the course.
“Through a series of interactive workshops, exercises and exposure to a variety of works of art throughout history, the residents will develop the skill of seeing beyond, learning to recognize symbols, messages, images, and the story behind the work. These skills provide us with a greater understanding of perception, both in art and in life itself,” says Karen Scott Booth, an art educator who will be co-leading the sessions.
Maybe art really could be a matter of life or death? I've never been able to see things quite that way, but this news made me think that perhaps, one day, it could be so.
(Image of doctors in training from The Guardian)
Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
This weekend, Canada’s first-ever Culture Days hopes to attract thousands of people to free events at under-visited galleries, theatres, studios and arts organizations across the nation. But while Culture Days is bound to be jubilant, it’s doubtful that a single weekend can reverse the decade-long decline in arts access in Canada.
From coast to coast, admission fees for traditional cultural institutions such as the symphony, opera, museums and ballet have risen well beyond the rate of inflation. At the Vancouver Art Gallery, fees have increased to $19.50 from $10 — a boost of 95 per cent. At the Art Gallery of Ontario, which raised $276 million for its transformation — helped by CEO Matthew Teitelbaum, who collected $945,498 in salary and bonuses last year — general admission has increased to $19.50 from $5, a rise of more than 200 per cent.
What’s more, many measures that once provided some guaranteed public access, such as free outdoor performances by the National Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company, or daily free access to the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada — have also disappeared over the past 10 years. Since 2000, the traditional museum-access measure of one free evening per week (a minimum practice still upheld by New York’s MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, and many other reputable museums) has become particularly endangered in Canada. It’s being phased out, from Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology to Edmonton’s Art Gallery of Alberta to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to Toronto’s own Royal Ontario and Gardiner museums. (More than a few of these access cuts have come on the heels of multi-million-dollar renovation projects.)
Over the past few weeks, I've been in touch with institutions and experts across the continent about this decline in arts access, and what threats it holds for us both as a society and as individuals. You can read some of the results of that research in my feature article in today's Toronto Star--particularly on the Star's website, where the article, trimmed for print publication, appears in full. An excerpt:
It’s not just culturati who are hurting from reduced arts access — the general public is, too. In June, the Canadian Index of Well-being linked reduced rates of citizen wellness to a need for “equity and inclusion” in the cultural realm and the fact that “leisure and culture activities are becoming more expensive.”
The upshot can be social, as well as individual, breakdown. “Culture carries values,” as Simon Brault, vice-chair of the Canada Council, CEO of the National Theatre School and author of the recently released book No Culture, No Future, explains. “If we want to live in a society where we can still share common values, despite the fact that we come from different parts of the world, we need more deeply rooted culture and artistic expression.”
Some statistics from Hill Strategies, an arts-focused research firm, support this theory of the arts as a catalyst for social cohesion, finding that people who participate in cultural activities are more likely to have done favours for their neighbours and are more likely to volunteer in their communities.
Even if social cohesion and public wellness weren’t on the table, a case could be made for public arts access as a requirement of public funding: The most recent Hill Strategies figures show that 67 per cent of museum and gallery revenues and 27 per cent of performing-arts organization revenues still come from the public purse. (This access principle has been successfully applied in some other jurisdictions.)
In terms of other jurisdictions, I'm referencing examples like the Auckland Museum, which is mostly funded by municipalities and recently made it free for Auckland residents to visit. I'm also referencing places like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Shedd Aquarium, which offer discounts for Chicago residents.
Thanks to Nina K. Simon for sharing her views for the article as well, and shedding light on the non-economic parts of arts access issues, which appear later on in the feature. I also really enjoyed talking with Paul Whitney, city librarian at the Vancouver Public Library, who suggested how tradition and legislation can affect access to arts institutions. Actually, everyone I spoke with was very generous, and I only wish more of it could have made it into the article. For now, you can read the whole feature here, though the sidebars, for now, only seem to be in the paper.
(Image of guide and visitors at the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre, a particularly accessible institution housing the Glasgow Open Museum, which allows visitors to touch and even borrow artifacts to create their own exhibitions elsewhere)
This weekend, Culture Days features free arts events from coast to coast. But it’s worth remembering that art shows are always free of charge at 401 Richmond. Today the National Post has published a few of my site picks for now and later: Yorodeo @ Open Studio, Lara Rosenoff (and Melanie Friend) @ Gallery 44 and Dianne Pearce @ Red Head (the latter closes today, so if you're in the area—perhaps for Gabby Moser's 1pm tour of the building for the Canadian Art Gallery Hop, also recommended—you'll want to drop by to catch it. An excerpt of the reviews:
1. Yorodeo at Open Studio
104-401 Richmond St. W., to Oct. 30
This is the most fun I’ve had in a gallery all year. Forget 2010’s buzz about 3-D TV and 3-D magazines — Halifax’s Yorodeo, which started as a gig-poster company in 2003, branched out into 3-D art prints in 2008. This Toronto premiere of their eye-popping oeuvre (accompanied by a bin of retro, blue-and-red-lensed cardboard glasses) features out-there imagery and excellent execution. The content, admittedly, mostly runs the Comic-Con-to-indie-hipster spectrum: There are crystal igloos in darkened, bat-filled caves; wolves prowling bottled cities; and skyscrapers growing out of clouds — a more analogue version, perhaps, of Star Wars’ Cloud City. But there’s also a sweet, fairy-tale quality that comes across in scenes of a dog-coached dogsled wending through snowy mountains, mystical worlds attached to swimming turtles’ backs and braided waterfalls flanked by turrets. A series of smaller vignettes — a rooster in a peaked cap and lace collar, an elf napping in a peanut shell and winged horses out to pasture — also charm with precise, ridiculous medievalism. Throughout, Yorodeo’s craft shines; rather than being muddled like old-school 3-D, these scenes are clear, standing up to extended viewing. Overall, a delightful twist on op-art and printmaking traditions.
(Image of someone giving their eyeballs a treat at Open Studio by Sara Kelly, via the National Post)
Friday, September 24, 2010
Of late, I've really enjoyed some works I've seen by Mark Kasumovic. One, a project on hydro, did a great job of trying to show a diffuse and often-overlooked power grid. Another, a commission on the Greenbelt that's currently up at Harbourfront Centre, showed recreational sites with a serious approach to compositional drama. Today, my Q&A with Kasumovic is out in the National Post. An excerpt:
Q Your Greenbelt project, like your past project on hydro, tries to document massive phenomena. Why?
A I use one or two lenses, all wide-angle. Rather than showing a small fraction of a scene, I like to try to show the entire scene as I feel I truly see it. A lot of photographers capture the little details in an environment really well. But I feel there's something special about trying to see how everything fits together.
The challenge is that these types of projects take time. They rely a lot on things outside your control--lighting, weather and people are hard to gauge when a site is a three-hour drive away. So I just keep revisiting places. For the Greenbelt project, I visited each site at least two or three times. It added up to a lot of driving. I was borrowing my mother's car, and she was like, "How did you put 10,000 kilo-metres on in three months?"
Q What sites did you visit?
A To start, I researched almost every park in the Greenbelt. A lot are really great visually, like the Collingwood Caves--almost every picture turns out amazing. More challenging are flatter places like Kleinburg, where I shot a kite festival. For the second part of the show going up in October, I visited the Ganaraska forest on the eastern limit of the Greenbelt. It's the biggest forest within an hour and a half of Toronto, and it's amazingly beautiful.
But it wasn't just landscape I was interested in; I wanted to capture interactions between people and landscape. So I sought out treeplanting festivals, trail-riding associations, birdwatching clubs, ATV groups, Mother's Day at the Royal Botanical Garden. I even got a great Canada Day fireworks photo. It's kind of cheesy, but I always wanted to do a fireworks photograph.
You can read more here.
(Mark Kasumovic's image of a Rouge Beach pathway from Upfront)
Thursday, September 23, 2010
CORRECTION! Reader, I messed up on the critic schedule for Speed Art Criticism. Many apologies for any confusion. Please find the corrected schedule below. As usual, I regret the error and continue to reevaluate the usefulness of continuing the "unedit" theme on this blog. Any other mistakes anywhere, feel free to let me know anytime at leahsandals [at] hotmail [dot] com or leah [at] leahsandals [dot] com. Thanks.
This year, I've forgone doing some of the Nuit Blanche previews I usually do, because this year, reader, I am Nuit Blanche. Well, at least a little tiny bit of it. At least 0.0001%. And you're welcome to partake!
First, at the all-night art-event proper, I'm manning a graveyard shift at Speed Art Criticism, a wonderful (or wonderfully unpredictable!) Toronto event where artists and the general public will get to present work directly to and chat with reviewers for Artforum, Modern Painters, BlogTO, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, Eye Weekly and other outlets. The catch: each visitor's art-critical feedback or dialogue will be limited to 15 MINUTES ONLY. As you can see from the above poster, egg timers will be in effect to enforce the rule! Here's the key details:
WHAT: Speed Art Criticism
WHO: You, other members of the arts community and general public, and the following critics (with one of their many notable publications listed in brackets): Dan Adler (Artforum), Sarah Milroy (Canadian Art), David Balzer (Eye Weekly), Murray Whyte (Toronto Star), Otino Corsano (artUS), RM Vaughan (Globe and Mail), Bill Clarke (Modern Painters), Elena Potter (BlogTO) and Leah Sandals (National Post)
WHEN: From 7pm on Saturday October 2 to 7am on Sunday October 3, 2010
WHERE: ***Note Venue Change from Nuit Blanche Print Program*** Six String Garage, 1658 Queen St W (East of Roncesvalles)
WHY: Because you want to get your work in front of critic eyeballs without having a gallery as intermediary, because you want to tell a critic off, because you want to find out why some shows are reviewed or others not, because you want an art-crit autograph that you can satisfyingly flush down the toilet, because you wonder how objective art reportage can really be, because you just kind of want to discover how these people behind the uniform text look and talk in real life, because... just... because
HOW: Bring your smallish work of art, or its digital reproduction on a laptop, or your questions, complaints or compliments to the event during Nuit Blanche.
SCHEDULE (AS OF SEPT 23) WITH A COUPLE OF THESE CRITICS' MANY NOTABLE PUBLICATIONS LISTED:
7-10pm David Balzer (Eye Weekly, CBC.ca) &
Sarah Milroy (Canadian Art) Dan Adler (Artforum, C Magazine)
10pm-1am Otino Corsano (ArtUS) &
Dan Adler (Artforum, C Magazine) Sarah Milroy (Canadian Art)
1am-4am RM Vaughan (Globe and Mail, This Magazine) & Elena Potter (BlogTO)
4am-7am Bill Clarke (Magneta Magazine, Artinfo, Modern Painters) & Leah Sandals (National Post, Canadianart.ca)
Murray Whyte (Toronto Star) will likely be around in the early part of the evening, with schedule kept flexible due to family matters
Then, the day after Nuit Blanche, when everybody else will be sleeping, a few folks are going to get together for "When Critics Speak..." a panel I fear to complete the ellipsis of. The panel, featuring writers for the Globe and Mail, a new-critics-prizewinner for C Magazine, a legendary indepdendent critic and (yes!) Murray Whyte and myself, will be moderated by ROM ICC director Francisco Alvarez. The event is part of a series of panels organized by Nuit Blanche in honour of its 5th anniversary. Here's the lowdown in W5 format:
WHO: Peggy Gale, independent critic; James Bradshaw, arts reporter for the Globe and Mail; Corinna Kirsch, winner of C Magazine's New Critics Prize; Murray Whyte, art reporter and critic for the Toronto Star; Russell Smith, novelist and columnist for the Globe and Mail; and yours truly, moderated by Francisco Alvarez, director of the ROM's ICC
WHAT: "When Critics Speak..." a postmortem (in more ways than one) on this year's Nuit Blanche event, organized by Nuit Blanche itself for its fifth anniversary
WHEN: 4-5:30pm on Sunday, October 3 (!)
WHERE: The Drake Hotel Underground, 1150 Queen Street West
WHY: You want to see reporters and critics attempt to remain articulate when they are clearly sleep deprived and conflict of interest filled; you want to add your two cents on how Nuit Blanche worked (or didn't) this year
HOW: Show up, grab a beer or a coffee or both. Discuss.
Hope to see ya'll there!
Monday, September 20, 2010
OK, from my last post to this one, it would seem my focus is firmly fixed on my very own belly button these days. Apologies for that. But I just wanted to let ya'll know that I'm giving a talk this Saturday as part of the Canadian Art Gallery Hop's program of free talks and tours. Here's the details:
Leah Sandals talks about Nicolas Baier's new (surprisingly anti-photographic, at least in my view) work
Saturday, September 25 @ 4pm
Jessica Bradley Art & Projects, 1450 Dundas St W, Toronto
The unfortunate thing about doing one of these talks is that I have to miss other ones on the roster—do check out the other offerings here.
Image of Nicolas Baier's Impact 2010 from Jessica Bradley
Friday, September 17, 2010
Recently, I signed on to do a talk at Sheridan's art and art history program, and was asked to "please send along... a jpeg of an aspect of your activities with caption information." A jpeg of an art critic/freelance writer/editor's activities? Hm. Uh. Okay. I felt a bit challenged coming up with a visual representation of a text-based practice, rather than just a headshot, and considered opening a dictionary, scrawling some red ink over a some newspaper pages or the old-hands-on-a-keyboard shot. In the end, because I tried to shill that part of my "practice" (rather than just meeting deadlines) is relating art to the world beyond, I went for a shot of my bookcase, above, which includes a slightly squishy football, a folded up kite, and Shinan Govani's Boldface Names, among other stuff. I'm also open to any other suggestions for what "a jpeg of an aspect of a freelance writer/editor/critic's activities" might look like. Laser beams coming out of eyeballs onto art could be a good altered pic, I think, but I just don't have those mad photoshopping skillz.
UPDATE: Danny Custodio, a photographer and former classmate who works at Rodman Hall, rose to the challenge! Thank you Danny! Too late to meet my Sheridan image deadline, but an inspiration nonetheless.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Recently, I was working on an article about Art School Dismissed, that exhibition that took over Shaw Street School back in May. One of the works I enjoyed there was Alexander Irving's Symposium—small wall plaques that looked like directions to the principal's office but instead offered borrowed bits of zen wisdom. The one above quotes Mark Twain, and seems particularly useful to my life right now, even if isn't quite true. Thanks, art!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Though TIFF's new exhibition space doesn't officially open until tomorrow, there's related art programming happening around town. Here's my reviews of three; they're also in today's Post in condensed form; I'm posting the full ones here.
1. ! Women Art Revolution at the AMC (10 Dundas E) September 12, 14 & 19
Condensing a remarkable 40 years of footage, American artist/filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new flick (world-premiering here) tries to show how the feminist art movement has fused creativity and politics to striking effect from the late 1960s on. The grassrootsy result is far from perfect. After all, many creative movements have sought and achieved a similar fusion, and the film has annoying repetitions, omissions and self-reflections that undermine viewer attention. Fortunately, these problems are overpowered by the film’s strengths, like the opportunity to see legendary artists like Nancy Spero and Adrian Piper talk about their work and the challenges sexism has presented. LA art star Mike Kelley makes a surprise cameo on how women form a key (if double-standard-affected) avant-garde, and clips of the US House of Representatives debating a ban on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party have to be seen to be believed. Best, though, is the film’s extended life online at http://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution. There, many of Leeson’s full artist interviews are available for free viewing at your own pace. (One question not answered: Would these ladies picket the Lightbox, which features just one female director in the Essential 100?)
2. William Kentridge at Gallery TPW (56 Ossington Ave) to September 19
South African artist William Kentridge is renowned for his charming (and often profound) hand-drawn animations, which received a MOMA survey earlier this year. His short film Journey to the Moon, which has been circulating worldwide since 2003 and is now showing here, isn’t Kentridge’s best work, nor his newest—but it’s still pretty goddamn delightful. For it, Kentridge uses the 1902 sci-fi flick and Film Studies 101 staple Voyage Dans La Lune as a point of departure. Where the original Voyage (helpfully screening in an adjacent room, and truly the Avatar of its day) has umbrella-wielding astronauts being attacked by uncomfortably tribal-looking aliens, Kentridge’s Journey focuses on inner universes, with a white-collar artist haunted by the memory of a mysterious woman. Despite the content inversion, Kentridge still makes great, ingenious play of reproducing Voyage’s key scenes, art-studio style: his coffeemaker becomes a rocket ship; his espresso cup, a handy telescope. The result, enhanced by a beautiful, single-piano soundtrack, is both sweet and mournful—a wry, witty lament that ably counterpoints (and co-opts) the original film’s fantasies of external ecstasy and androgen-fuelled adventure.
3. The Otolith Group at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay W) to September 19
Film-theory headz won’t want to miss this exhibition of Otolith III, which UK collective the Otolith Group dubs a “premake” of The Alien, an abandoned 1967 Indian sci-fi film. The rest of us folks, well… we might find it a little trying. Intentionally disjointed and dislocating, Otolith III (named, like the group, for an inner-ear particle that helps humans maintain a sense of balance) mashes up old Indian cinema clips, contemporary London street scenes and lines like “How did we exit the screenplay? Let’s just say we practiced.” Many will find it obtuse, cryptic and boring, and rightly so. But there’s a quiet courage here too—one that finds a crack in the celebrity-filled, culturally homogenous certainty of so much cinema and dares to crowbar the whole thing open. That gumption’s worth a nod, as well as the wholly enjoyable segments that assess passing pedestrians using central-casting lingo.
Image from Kentridge's Journey to the Moon from Objective Correlative
Friday, September 10, 2010
Just saw this over at the Guardian. It's great to see a prominent artist like David Shrigley advocating on behalf of their arts community this way. My only critique would be that some jokes are made at rural folks' expense--but then again, Damien Hirst's A Thousand Years gets some jabs too.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Just wanted to post a quick note about two fun public-art installations I saw a couple of museums take on in Montreal. These really impressed me with the way they extended the institution into the public (or in the case of a mall, semi-public) sphere.
1) After Notman, coordinated by the McCord Museum, on McGill College Avenue to October 18
True confession: I have never been to the McCord Museum. Call me a Canadian-history idiot, 'cause it's true. But I loved this outdoor exhibition installed on mini-billboards on the pedestrian-trafficked McGill College Avenue. In it, the museum shows photos of Montreal in the 1800s by famed photographer William Notman alongside photos of the same places today. The angle and framing of the contemporary shots are almost exactly the same as Notman's and the result is the ability to see how familiar streetscapes looked in another era--while you're in the streetscape! Nice. This is a super idea that I think other cities should take up--should they be so lucky as to have the archive of a rabid 19th-century urban documentarian such as Notman, er, that is... Overall, not the easiest thing to arrange for those aforementioned reasons, but a highly enjoyable and publicly accessible show.
2) Le Musee Sort Ses Griffes by the Musee du costume et du textile de Quebec at
les Ailes de la Mode Eaton Centre to October 3.
OK, so how come I have never seen a textile and costume exhibition in a shopping mall before? Huh? Are curators just afraid of the word "synergy"? Do they fear getting Orange Julius grime on their plinths? (OK, I can actually see being concerned by both of these things.) Nevertheless, this exhibition was a delightful surprise--a quite large show about contemporary fashion designers set in one of Montreal's large downtown malls. There were vintage stuffs from Expo 67 here as well as really recent designs. And there was also a lot of supplementation in-situ with video and text. Great idea! Again, I'd love to see it happen in more Canadian cities. But until then, yeah, I'll take an occasional hit of Marielle Fleury while I'm enroute to Mrs. Fields. No problem!
(Image is my bad cellphone photo of the After Notman installation)
Thursday, September 2, 2010
With the Venice Film Fest just opened and TIFF right around the corner, the media is cinema-crazy.
Martin Beauregard is too, kinda, but in a way that wants to pay attention to the end of movies, as well as the men who make and star in them—and even the empires that glorify them. Beauregard hopes these kinds of ideas come across in his massive, cinema-screen-sized images installed as "Drive-End," his current solo exhibition at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montreal.
Last month, Beauregard was kind enough to take some time to chat with me about his striking work, which has also been exhibited in quite a different context on prairie billboards. Our condensed exchange was published in today's National Post. Here's an excerpt:
Q I've read that this work relates to your grandfather. How so?
A I asked my grandfather to participate in making these photographs--that's him dressed up as a cowboy. My asking him was linked to other works I've made. In 2003, I made a film based on the funeral of my father, who died that year. In that earlier work, I tried to turn the funerary rite into a kind of photographic game. So this work follows on that one. Some might think of this old man as being on the way to death, but the same could also be said of Spaghetti Westerns, or cinema in general. Representations of Americanization, and the ambiguous decline of that national empire, are also of interest to me.
Q All that sounds pretty heavy. What did you grandfather think of the whole thing?
A I think he thought of it as playing a persona. He seemed happy to do it, but he did it with a lot of irony. He knew that it would be not just a representation of himself, but also something more theatrical.
Q A lot of people will see these images and think of old drive-in movie experiences --experiences that are, as you suggest, almost extinct. Do you have any drive-in memories of your own?
A I actually never went to a drive-in. But I took this picture in Val d'Or, Que., where I grew up, so it conjures my childhood. More importantly, the drive-in is a kind of American cultural symbol--one that's becoming a bit of a ruin. So I'm less concerned with nostalgia and more concerned with how the drive-in evokes the death of a culture. I'm also interested in how drive-ins and Western movies are instances of U.S. culture spreading to, and being strangely preserved in, the Quebec countryside.
On a related note, I visited the MBAM last weekend and was struck by how much work they have purchased by "younger" Canadian artists—in addition to a massive painting by Dorian Fitzgerald (which I knew had been purchased), I saw acquisitions of Andre Ethier and Rick Leong. I also see on their recent acquisitions page purchase of work by Mario Doucette and BGL. Maybe it's just me, but I wonder how big the MBAM's acquisitions budget is compared to other institutions. I guess I feel like I don't see as much of that kind of activity for younger artists at the AGO... but that's said with zero research, folks! All about the unsubstantiated feeling! All about the wondering! Anyway, it's great to see that support for "newer" Canadian artists on proud display.
(Image from Martin Beauregard's Drive End from Paved Arts)