Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Posting Notice: Gone Fishing, Or Some Such Nonsense, to July 12

Some people--or, okay, myself when I worked an office job--thought that perhaps freelancing could be somewhat vacation-y. I've learned since that--okay, given my bad-self-boss habits--it's actually meant not having much in terms of vacation or time off at all. (For more information on the goods and bads of the freelance life, you might check out some notes from Stanford U's recent Future of Freelancing conference and Zoe Cormier's "Freelance: Professionally Bipolar" post.) Anyway, for the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try to turn the tide on my sorry freelance-vacay relationship. I'll be gone fishing--or some such work-free nonsense--until July 12. I'm even going to hold off on moderating comments, so just FYI if you try to post some they won't go up until then. Whatever happens, hope ya'll stay safe and have some good days off of your own.

Image from Happy Times Party Rentals

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Monday, June 28, 2010

A Sad Weekend for Toronto

No art angles from me today, folks. All I can say it was a very sad weekend for Toronto. A lot of people have already articulated why in ways that reflect my own views, so I'll just link to them here:

Dale Duncan on Spacing Wire notes the key question, Why were so many peaceful protesters and passerby harrassed by ostensible security forces while vandals and criminals were allowed to go on a rampage without any police intervention? This is a cognitive dissonance that continues to resonate for me.

John Cruickshank, at the Toronto Star, writes a cogent editorial on the ways the summit and huge security spending managed to fail a city and its people

Matthew Blackett, also at Spacing Wire, asks how infrastructure and zone design might have played into events that unfolded.

BlogTO rounds up video of the protests; not all of the videos reflect my views--as Duncan noted previously, there were thousands of people who marched peacefully without incident with police, and these videos focus on violent incidents from both sides. Nonetheless, the videos certainly are eye opening.

Rabble also notes that Amnesty International--no fringe group, that!--is concerned about the way events unfolded over the weekend, and wants security operations reviewed.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Athletic Art: Q&A on Mixed Signals at the Art Gallery of Calgary

Athletics and art haven't always been the best of friends--after all, there's a reason Bad at Sports seems such an apropos name for an art blog and podcast. But Mixed Signals is trying to bridge the gap. It's a touring exhibition organized by Independent Curators International that's currently got its sole Canadian stop at the Art Gallery of Calgary. Today, the National Post published my Q&A on the show with AGC curator Molly Steeves. An excerpt:

Q There are also a lot of Collier Schorr's rodeo photos in this show, which evoke the upcoming Calgary Stampede. Does the broader theme of athletes and machismo have a special connection to Calgary?

A I think Calgary has a very masculine spirit, a very Western spirit--we take pride in doing business deals with a handshake, for example. I think this exhibition will be very interesting to host during Stampede, when a lot of tourists are downtown and every-one's urban cowboy comes out. In the past, we've done shows on the commercialization of the rodeo and ideas about cowboys, but I think it's also pertinent to Calgary to examine general stereotypes of masculinity. Also, I think Calgary might struggle sometimes with contemporary art. We don't have a collecting facility at our gallery, but we can bring in great shows like this one that provoke conversation.

For the record, I ask these kinds of questions because I spent most of my life in Calgary, and I think it's an awesome town. I miss it. Other stuff there that's upcoming that I would love to see there are the Sled Island Festival and the related IKG exhibition With Nothing You Starve; With a Little, You Survive. It features work by a couple of young artists who have, inverting the difficult institutional legacies of Calgary, turned their rented house into the Contemporary Art Museum. Fun stuff!

(Image of Paul Pfeiffer's John 3:16 from ICI)

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Worth a Look: Beyond Imaginings at Harbourfront Centre

While many are avoiding the downtown at all costs this G20 weekend, and many galleries and museums are closing (the AGO, the Gardiner Museum and U of T St George campus galleries included) one of the art centres closest to the summit grounds—Harbourfront Centre, which includes the Power Plant—is mostly open for business. One of the exhibitions there, Beyond Imaginings, can even be enjoyed 24/7, being posted on all-weather billboards as it is. The show, which will evolve with new photographs in October, focuses on 8 artists' views of the Greenbelt, a newish semi-protected zone around Toronto. As I write in a review out in this week's NOW,

While all the artists are quite capable, there are a couple of standouts: Meera Margaret Singh’s penetrating portraits of migrants and women in the agriculture sector put overlooked workers front and centre, suggesting toughness as well as vulnerability. They have a haunting, powerful depth.

On a different note, Mark Kasumovic’s wide, sprawling views of people at play in the landscape – flying kites in Kleinberg, fishing at Christie Lake or walking the Blue Mountain Caves – reframe our relationship to nature and tourism in a way that seems both intimate and sweeping.

You can read the full review here and see the full range of currently installed photos here.

(Image of Mark Kasumovic's photo of the Caledon Badlands from NOW)

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out of trauma, art -- or at least, a well-designed one-inch pin

Toronto was all about the earthquake today--to be honest, I thought it was people moving furniture in the office above, and only discovered my folly when someone walked in and told us 10 minutes later that the cause was geological, not decorative. (Thank goodness no one was hurt is all I can say.) In any case, Spacing has quickly turned around a batch of pins to commemorate the big, largely unexpected event. Pins are available in blue, green, orange and pinkish-purple for $1.50 to $2 each at Swipe, Outer Layer, the Spacing office, and online.

Image of Quake pin from Spacing

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Just Because: Cheddar Harper on the G20

It came to my attention today that Cheddar Harper, "the ginger tabby cat of the most powerful man in Canada," is on Twitter, reporting live from the G20 site. In the midst of serious summit hype (and sad freedom of expression indicators) it's a relief to see a little levity. Also nice: G20 Blingees on Sally & LM's blog. And not art, though it could be: the Post's Peter Kuitenbrouwer walks the G8 fence perimeter in Huntsville. Oh, and as for initial reports of the fake lake's appearance? Not so hot from non-Cheddar sources.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Left-Field Links: How Declining Arts Access is Hurting Canadians' Health and Wellbeing

Last week, there was a lot of to-do about a new study revealing how an increasing time crunch is hurting Canadians' wellbeing.

This being a study on leisure time and its health and wellbeing impacts, the report looked a lot at the fact that Canadians are increasingly working non-standard hours and precarious jobs, with women in particular crunched for time because they are caring for seniors as well as kids. All of these are definitely cause for concern.

One of the unexpected points in the study, though, has to do with issues of arts access—an issue close to my heart, as recent posts on museum admission fees and access measures show.

Could access to arts and culture institutions actually be vital to our wellbeing as Canadians? Yes, says the study:

Participating in leisure and culture pursuits, either individually or overall, contributes to individual, community, and societal wellbeing. Some relationships are stronger than others. Taking part in physical activity and exercise, for example, is more strongly related to physical wellbeing and the prevention of disease, engaging in social activities is more strongly linked to social wellbeing, and participating in the arts can help to enhance both social and psychological wellbeing.

Could declining arts access, then, actually be hurting Canadians' wellbeing? Also yes:

Worrying is that over the past several years, public agencies and non-profit, voluntary organizations responsible for the provision of leisure and culture programs, services, facilities, and other opportunities have seen an ongoing shift away from core funding. Indeed, since 1990, community per capita expenditures on recreation and culture have not kept pace with inflation or population increases. This decline in basic operational support represents a serious threat to the ongoing missions of these agencies and organizations, which are mainly responsible for the infrastructure supporting leisure and culture in Canadian communities. It represents a loss of potential to improve the wellbeing of Canadians.

The upshot? We need to "be especially mindful of ensuring equity and inclusion" in culture and leisure and "now, more than ever, we need governments and public policies that support our culture and leisure infrastructure."

Specifically we need to "encourage barrier-free arts and culture activities" and promote "inclusive environments for physical, leisure and social activities by ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate." This includes "initiatives such as discounted or free programming available for those with limited incomes, as well as tax credits to allow all families to better afford these programs."

Though I've based my most recent arguments on arts access on the fact that many museums are mandated to provide public access, it's also great to get support for the cause from a health perspective. I do hope that museums, public galleries and cultural policymakers across the country take note.

Image from SUNY Oswego

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Friday, June 18, 2010

At the Galleries: Non-Summit Politics

Online now and out in print in tomorrow's National Post are my reviews of three politically oriented (though not necessarily G20ish) shows along the Lansdowne corridor: Erin Thurlow & Alex Hubbard @ Mercer Union, ATSA @ Toronto Free and New Shape @ Gallery 1313 An excerpt:

ATSA at Toronto Free Gallery
1277 Bloor St. W., to July 24
As our large security-zone fence indicates, world-conference organizers often assume that protest or disagreement is likely to end in destructive mayhem. But the playful, pointed — and entirely peaceful — work of ATSA, an activist art collective founded in Montreal in 1998, shows otherwise. This survey-cum-storefront for ATSA’s oeuvre documents its many impressive projects and offers retail items so that consumers can get in on the (social) action. For example, photos and videos show the massive ATSA project State of Emergency, an annual cold-weather “festival” in downtown Montreal that provides the homeless with $55,000 in warm clothing, 3,500 meals, 24/7 snacks, sleeping areas and more. A suitcase full of ATSA-made, citizen-issued air-pollution tickets (presented to SUV owners and Montreal City Hall) greets viewers at the door. Finally, cloth bags, wool socks and toques are purchasable as enviro-souvenirs of the group’s philosophy. Due to ATSA’s radical history, this recent foray into marketing and retailing might surprise fans. But that’s really just an extension of the group’s pragmatic and populist approach to progressive causes. Overall, a strangely hopeful and heartwarming show.

Image of ATSA's store from the National Post

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Bit of Better G20 Art News: ADAC Installing at Convention Centre & Deerhurst Resort

No sooner did my G20 fake lake art post go up than I got notice from the Art Dealers' Association of Canada about their plan to install a collection of Canadian art at the political venues for the upcoming G8 and G20 summits: Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (But not, sadly, that "Experience Canada" pavilion where 3,000+ international media are due to convey Canada's story--or at least its b-roll--to the world.)

A list of works and artists is not yet available, but ADAC manager Johanna Robinson says the works will be installed throughout each venue. Lenders for the project are ADAC members, and the project is curated by William Huffman, Associate Director of Visual and Media Arts at the Toronto Arts Council. A press release says,

the development and installation of the Canadian Collection is being conceptualized as a national exhibition – providing an important Canadian, visual narrative for the numerous visiting international leaders. In exchange for its involvement, ADAC Foundation will receive a financial contribution. These funds will form seed capital for a developing endowment within the Foundation, aimed at providing its membership and individual artists with additional professional and developmental resources.

This is the kind of collaboration that I was talking about in my last post, some kind of joint venture between a professional arts organization and summit organizers that would have been a great idea for the media pavilion.

Overall, I'm relieved to hear about this project. At least it could lead to some quality works getting out there to represent Canada because the people involved generally have many years of art expertise between them.

At the same time, I don't think I'll be able to pass full judgment until the list of works and artists is released—it's not like I love every show ADAC members do, and they're quite a varied bunch in terms of what they exhibit. Also, in an ideal world, this would have been a job for the National Gallery, though I'd suspect getting loan permissions for their works that need specific climate control (ie. non-fake-lake humidity levels) could have been a stumbling block.

So... I'll watch for more detailed information to come out at a related press conference that's slated to happen just before the summits begin. But for now, relative to the information I was dealing with yesterday, this does come as a bit of happy news.

Image of Deerhurst Resort from BlueCMI

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fake Lake Artist List: Who's Showing At the G20 Media Pavillion?

NOTE: This post deals only with the art situation that was described to me for the G20 media centre. The art situation for G8 and G20 political venues is different, and is described in a more recent post here.

There's been uproar aplenty about the fake lake in the G20's media pavilion--uproar that is certainly well deserved! Yet there's been little discussion of other aspects of the "Experience Canada" pavilion (as it's pegged), like, say, which artists will be representing Canada to the 3,000+ media representatives coming from all over the world.

Yes, that's right, the FAQ for Experience Canada promises "art installations" that will help media access "100s of hours of b-roll material to assist them in story development about Canada".

So who, exactly, are these artists? Mostly Muskokan, as it turns out. Just like the fake lake's chairs. Here's the list I got from a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade:

Tom Bendtsen - The Ontario artist's Luminato installation—"a towering sculpture of over 15,000 books" currently showing at the Toronto Reference Library—will be moved to Experience Canada after L-fest wraps up. (photo from Bentsen's 2008 Nuit Blanche installation from Fuck, yeah! Books)

Max Streicher - This Toronto artist and former Albertan is known for inflatable sculptures that have been widely shown. Experience Canada will show his Horses. (photo from Flickr user Product of Newfoundland)

Lloyd Walton - A Muskoka landscape and still-life painter, formerly a cinematographer, whose exhibitions include the Canadian International Auto Show and the Canadian Consulate in New York. Yep! (image from Walton's website)

Brenda Wainman Goulet - A Huntsville/Muskoka artist who creates stone and bronze sculptures of trees, otters and canoes. (Image from Goulet's website)

Nathalie Bertin - A Newmarket artist who paints people, chickens, animals, moss flowers and M├ętis themes.

Ryan Coyne - A Bracebridge/Muskoka craftsperson who makes fine cabinets, chairs and tables out of wood. (Image - the largest I could find, sorry - from Coyne's website)

Vicki Sharp - A Muskoka jewelery designer (mainly beadwork) and painter of meadows, birds, lily pads. (Image from Sharp's website.)

Col Mitchell - A Muskoka artist who bridges cute chickadee paintings and renderings of Heath Leder's Joker, often using crumpled paper. (Image from Mitchell's blog)

Krysia Bower - A Muskoka artist who makes flower cards and prints (Image from Bower's website)

John Delang - A Muskoka woodcarver who does realistic models of waterfowl and other fowl. (Image from Delang's website.)

OK, so with all due respect to anyone who makes a living from creative production, it kind of goes without saying that this is a totally embarrassing megafail on the representing-Canada's-best-artistic-face-to-the-world front. We have tons of artistic talent in this country, talent that is recognized worldwide. Yet, Streicher and Bentsen perhaps aside, that talent overwhelmingly absent from this important international presentation.

Did I really expect any different? No. We are in fake lake territory here. And the media are going to be so strung out on politics they'll hardly be hard up for art.

Nonetheless, there are so many ways this could have been a no-brainer—getting the Sobey finalists to show, for instance, or the winners of the most recent GG awards, or RBC awards, or Grange Prize, or Ontario Crafts Council Awards. (I ain't against craft, far from it—I just think any work presented at the pavilion should be at an agreed-upon standard of quality and originality.) Alternatively, why not ask the National Gallery of Canada (an crown corporation, natch, and planning a biennial of recent acquisitions this fall anyway) to pull some works? Or even reproductions of works? How about asking the commercial galleries that used to get DFAIT grants to go to international art fairs to lend something out?

The pavilion was actually a bit on the right track with that Luminato crossover—let's do a little collaborating, folks!—and the DFAIT rep did clarify that it was "the Summits Management Office" (hardly a curatorial brand name) that made the call on everyone but Streicher and Bendtsen.

Still, whoa. I expected to see a strange field of art crop up, but this takes the cake for an international event.

Also, I have to say even the lack of regional representation is likely upsetting to many Canadians. Muskoka/Toronto=Canada? I don't think so.

Rendering of the fake lake from CBC

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bringing the Outdoors in on Morrow Ave

The three galleries in the Morrow Ave complex seem to simultaneously be showing some nice, quiet, contemplative works on nature, the cosmos, etc. At Peak, Laura Moore is showing marble sculptures of a pinecone and acorns with USB sticks attached. Chris Cutts has a show of paintings by Daisuke Takeya where the skyline of a city takes up 2% or so of painting's height, then it's just sky for the other 98%. (Closeup, I don't really like the way Takeya paints the sky and find it distracting, but I like his obstinateness on the importance of what we typically disregard and I like his choice of sites: Toronto, the Confederation Bridge, St. John's, Calgary...) At Olga Korper, Reinhard Reitzenstein does a bunch of nature-themed stuff. It's not all my bag, but I really like the cast bronze honeycombs and the circular photographs of rope lava. Go nature! And, er, culture!

Daisuke Takeya's Calgary 2009 from Christopher Cutts Gallery

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Yes and yes

A cogent observation from Torontoist's Style Notebook, in which two style bloggers went from the Gladstone's SpeakEasy art networking event to the PowerBall in one evening:

Between the two events there was a lot of push and pull going on in our eventful artistic style notebooks. It’s striking that the people who make art in the city, and the people who make galleries like the Power Plant possible through their financial support, are in such obviously different worlds. One is about art, the other is about money—and an event like Power Ball, as glam and glitzy as it is, is a microcosm of their uneasy, almost unnatural relationship.

Yes and yes. True, even if normal and good in its way.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Fun Show: Hazel Meyer @ OCAD Grad Gallery, Today & Tomorrow

There's a fun show that wraps up tomorrow at OCAD Grad Gallery. If you're up for something doodle-y, social-y, athletic-y, wall-drawing-installation-y and funn-y than I recommend checking it out. It's by Hazel Meyer, and it's called Hyper Hyper, open today and tomorrow 2-6pm. Here's some more (bad cellphone) images:

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Bouncy Castles = Spiritual Envoys: FriendsWithYou Q&A Out Today in National Post

Can cuteness be a potent creative force? Miami art duo FriendsWithYou — famed for rainbow-plastered playgrounds, parades, toys and animations — certainly thinks so. This week, Friends’ largest-ever project invades the Ontario Legislature grounds with 12-metre-high blimps, massive mushroom totems and grown-up-size bouncy castles. You can find out more about the project's surprising spiritual groundings in my Q&A in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q: Your art is almost unrelentingly fun. Why?
A: Our installations revolve around the idea that the moment of exuberant, interactive play can generate a sense of euphoria. We’re trying to create instances where art is a higher spiritual ground. We even mimic some of the same things you get going to church — a physically controlled environment, special music and so on. It’s about making people have one of those everlasting super experiences that mark you forever.

Q: Can you really compare your amusement-park installations to churches? They’re pretty far removed from a traditional religious atmosphere.
A: Well, that’s our basic idea — to not make it as dogmatic as a religion, but to still offer really awe-inspiring things. It’s about giving groups of people the opportunity to feel something together. And it’s more open than church — you become the protagonist in the story we’ve built. We’re not putting rules in it, like a religion would; we’re just putting in the huge moment.

Whether you buy the high-mindedness or not, it sure looks like fun. You can find out more about their TO foray on the Luminato website.

Image of a past bouncy castle installation by FriendsWithYou from the National Post

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unedit my Heart Gets Action!

One thing I've enjoyed in the Toronto Star since Michael Cooke became publisher are the occasional front-page items bearing the deck/headline "The Star Gets Action". This label is meant to represent times when an investigation or article by the Star has yielded corrective action in the government or elsewhere.

So for this post on Unedit My Heart, I'm borrowing that showy-showman style. Yes, we are reporting today that "Unedit my Heart Got Action" (or what passes for its governmental equivalent) on its long-held observation that accessibility measures at the Royal Ontario Museum—particularly economic access—are woefully substandard. (For more evidence of my whinginess/steadfastness on this front, you can look back to these items from 2007, 2008 (twice) and 2009, among others.)

Basically, today I received a hard copy of a new report on the ROM written by the Ontario Legislature's Standing Committee on Government Agencies. As frequent readers may know, back in September 2009 I presented to this committee about the ROM's poor access levels as part of their review process of the museum—which is, just to recap, an agency of the government of Ontario (not just a tourist attraction, natch!).

Here's where the "action" part comes in: the government committee's #1 recommendation for the ROM is that it "develop and implement a plan which would enhance access by the residents of Ontario to the Museum."

Sure, they only had two recommendations overall, but the fact that they recommended this at all, let alone first, makes me tremendously excited.

To quote the passage in full:

During the Hearings the Committee was struck by the importance of the issue of access to the Royal Ontario Museum—both in the sense of the possible effect of price on attendance, and in the sense of exposure to the Museum of Ontarians of all ages, places of residence, economic status, and cultural background. Without suggesting which methods would be best employed by the Museum in increasing access, and without suggesting that visits to the Museum by out-of-province and out-of-country visitors are unimportant,

1. The Committee recommends that the Royal Ontario Museum develop and implement a plan which would enhance access by the residents of Ontario to the Museum.


The Committee asks that the ROM respond to the Recommendations and provide the Committee with its plans to address them by sending its response to the Clerk of the Committee within six months after the Chair has tabled the Report in the Legislature.

So.... I guess this all means that in a few months we should check back in with the ROM to see what access plan they've submitted to the government, no?

To read the full report (which does contain other notes on access, as well as a making-me-sound-more-cogent-than-I-was summary of my presentation) click here. To read other notes from my presentation, including data showing that the ROM ranks among the most expensive museums to visit in the entire world, click here.

Image of the ROM by Saku Takakusaki from Wikimedia Commons

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Travelling Time and Space: Angela Grauerholz Q&A out in today's National Post

Just as the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton was wrapping up one Angela Grauerholz exhibition, another opened at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Recently, I spoke with Grauerholz about works old and new. The resulting Q&A is in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q Your photos range from soft black-and-white landscapes to sharp colour interiors. What binds them all together?

A Probably certain fascinations with spaces. I look for elements that create a tension in the image--historical incongruence or elements that don't fit together.

Q How does that work in, say, your 1989 photo of the Eiffel Tower area in Paris?

A Well, I hesitated on that for a long time; the Eiffel Tower is so iconic, almost too much so. But because the photo is quite large in person--as large as a painting--what you focus on is all the people moving around the park. It almost makes you feel like you're looking at an image from the 1950s. There's that time lag that makes you wonder.

Q A lot of your images focus on things like that--things that evoke historical Europe. Why?

A In my work, there's always that allusion to another time period or another place. A lot of it comes from the fact that I immigrated to Canada from Germany when I was very young. That was definitely a driving force earlier in my career--coming to grips with having moved in space, and wanting to create a visceral experience of that. I'm also interested in how you can perceive spaces peripherally, and they stay with you nevertheless. So I don't work with a lot of spaces that are widely considered to be important. But they become important through the image.

Image credit: Angela Grauerholz,
 Les Invalides, 1989 Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario 
© Angela Grauerholz

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Coming Soon To Toronto: Inflatable Art Fun

In an effort to better understand what, exactly, Friends With You plans to do in Toronto this coming month (specifically with their installation at Queen's Park June 16 to 20) I took a look at some video offerings. The vid above shows Minneapolis gallery-goers enjoying a 2007 show, while the one below shows a parade at Art Basel Miami in 1006.

As an aside, their animations remind me of more utopian Amy Lockhart videos. Yes? No?

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Reviews: Libby Hague, Rochelle Rubinstein, John Oswald, Mechanical Bride

I've got some west-end reviews out in today's National Post, including Libby Hague and Rochelle Rubinstein at Loop, John Oswald at Edward Day, and Mechanical Bride at MOCCA. An excerpt:

Libby Hague and Rochelle Rubinstein at Loop
1273 Dundas St. W.; to June 13

Luscious material processes and playful creative experiments highlight this two-person show. Hague's installation Sui Generis has a kindergarten feel, with pipe cleaners, curled paper and plaster blobs tapping into childhood delight. Though I'm disappointed Sui isn't larger, I enjoy it as tongue-in-cheek primordial marsh from which so-called "higher art" evolves. Its sugary naivete is balanced by more sophisticated Hague works, like abstract paintings whose lines reach off the canvas, yearning to be something more than theoretical, serious or wall-bound -- to be actual rather than just visual. In another imaginative inversion, Hague turns a plain, overlooked corner into a colourful grid of paper strips. In contrast, Rubenstein's works use richer materials -- embroidered and printed silk, washi paper and carved wood--and more elegant, minimal forms such as columns and grids. Nonetheless, Rubenstein's monumental groupings retain a raw, tactile, human quality, with stitching done by hand and some threads hanging loose. Her prints mimic stone walls and steel bars, symbols of limitation and security that Rubenstein handily marries to a looser aesthetic freedom. For the run of the Loop show, the artists also offer a 24-hour display at Mon Ton Window (502 College St.). Though this latter collaboration seems a bit piecemeal, it does offer a nice drawing/ print of a realistically cluttered artist's studio. In the end, both exhibitions highlight what's often missing from galleries, and even visual culture at large -- the productive messiness of studio spaces, rooms that can be cozy and expansive all at once.

Image of Libby Hague's work from Loop.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

This One's For the Editors: Regret the Error Seminar

Occasionally, I like to post on items related to editors and editing specialties. This is one of those times, as this morning I attended a seminar on "Preventing Factual Errors in Writing and Editing" delivered by the famous (to, um, me and other word and journalism types) Craig Silverman, author of Regret the Error and host of its related website.

Silverman (whose blog today highlights a hilarious "Hadron Collider"/"Hardon Collider" typo at Reuters) seems to have done a fair bit of research on why humans make errors, and what can be done to correct them.

Silverman said that one thing we should bring to error is a sense of curiosity, rather than excessive shame, which would keep us from analyzing its causes.

Also, he basically offered stories about how the complexity of many of our systems is now too much for our brains to manage, particularly when we are under pressure. As a result, one of the main tools we can use to avoid errors (whether we are heart surgeons or decidedly less life-and-death-dice-rolling proofreaders) is the humble checklist.

He noted that the plane that successfully landed on the Hudson River after its engines lost power last year not only had a great pilot, but a great copilot who dutifully read through the airplane manual checklists for "landing on water when your engines have lost power."

Silverman also pointed to the newish book on checklist effectiveness in preventing death (!) by New Yorker writer and surgeon Atul Gawande.

Silverman also offers a free accuracy checklist for writers and editors here. While I haven't run this post through it (heh, heh... hm) I feel somewhat saved. Alleluia! I've seen the (red-pen) light.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Emotions and Enlightenment: Daniel Barrow Q&A out in today's National Post

Daniel Barrow has had a busy spring, with a show at the AGYU (where visitors can play with his famed projections), a new book released and performances starting in New York, where he is a resident at ISCP. In today's National Post, we discuss some aspects of his work, from brutal to Buddhist. An excerpt:

Q On a page of your website devoted to "healing," you have a Thich Nhat Hanh quote about "garbage that can transform into flowers if you hold it in your hand long enough." Is this what your art is about in general?

A Well, Buddhism is really a big part of my work. In my performances, all of my protagonists are in a process of spiritual transformation -- but ones that our culture doesn't recognize as such. I love to write characters who are very intelligent but who are nonetheless very confused; starting with a character like that, I can create a kind of spiritual transformation that, for me, feels real. I guess that reflects my own experience of spirituality, that a healing transformation can kind of come from anywhere. You don't have to be on a Zen retreat -- though of course, a retreat does help a lot. But I'm more interested in representing transformations that take place in a city, amidst the confusion of interpersonal drama and depression.

Image of Barrow's work from the CASV

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Another look: Wangechi Mutu, this time at the Deutsche Guggenheim

Many in Toronto enjoyed the Wangechi Mutu show that recently wrapped at the AGO. So I thought it might be helpful to share this Vernissage TV video of her late-April opening at the Deutsche Guggenheim. The comments from talking heads are not so interesting, but it's neat to see the work itself a bit and look at how the installation contrasted with the AGO's.

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