Lorna Mills and Sally McKay
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Lorna Mills' Top Six or so List for 2008 Jam-packed with Oodles of Colonial Tensions.
1) My Trophy Nephew's RCMP Graduation Ceremony from the RCMP Academy, Depot Division in Regina, SK.
(Animated GIF's to follow sometime in the future).
(eat that Tonik Wojtyra!)
The Boots! The Riding Crops! The Red Serge! The Jodhpurs! Bossy Men Yelling! Hierarchy! A ten hour marathon of marching and prancing with three costume changes, lunch, signing ceremonies, more prancing, a dinner banquet, speeches, toasts, more prancing, a cool drinking game I invented, photos, video, and then more ceremonies where I sort of lost track what they were doing exactly. I felt like my family was the most Canadian family that ever was, on a higher plain of hyper-Canadianess, making me totally untouchable in my über Inner Canadian state, that was until it was announced this past week that Sally's dad, the poet Don McKay, will awarded the Order of Canada, so now I welcome her and joester up onto my Himalayan Heights of Personal Canadian Evolution.
This is now the most Canadian art blog in the universe.
2) Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams
The only Conservative politician in this country that will not be insulted or slandered on this blog ...for now. Over a hundred years ago the Crown leased water and forestry rights in Newfoundland-Labrador to a then British company who would run a lumber mill in exchange. The ownership of the mill and resource rights eventually came to AbitibiBowater Inc., who shut down the mill this year. Shockingly, a Canadian Politician grew a spine, and effectively returned the water, timber and lucrative hydroelectric rights into public hands.
Some observers warn that under the rules of NAFTA, Newfoundland will be sent to prison. And furthermore, no corporations will ever invest in Newfoundland ever again because their money is safer in Somalia. (They especially won't want their dumb old conveniently located off-shore oil). Danny gets a blingee.
3) Wil Kucey at LE Gallery - who looks at about 2000 submissions a year from young artists with small C/V's and few reviews, and is actually capable of figuring out who is really good and giving them shows. That's just not done, Wil, how the hell would you know good art without the supporting critical texts and sales to the Tate Modern. You aren't going to get on a Sobey Award jury just using your eyes and your brain.
4) Daniel Barrow - Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry (I think we all figured out where I was heading at the end of item 3)
5) Steven Cohen's Maid in South Africa part of the Images Festival, at V-Tape
Steven Cohen with Nomsa Dhlamini and Ann Cohen (a nice family picture I found)
I'll just copy and paste my earlier comments on the work:
Keeping in mind that I get embarrassed at re-runs of "I love Lucy" (it always made me squirmy and slightly sick and I'm not the only one), I was expecting to be cringing my way through this work when I went to see it.
First of all, Cohen's timing and edits were impeccable, he starts by leading us down the garden path with such a sweet elderly shuffling woman, slowly showing us brief glimpses of images and objects in her world that indicate the struggle against apartheid. The tenderness of that sequence, Nomsa's frailty and the subtle indication of the historical events she has lived through made me cry. Of course he's set me up for the cleaning-stripper sequence.
When Sally writes that he "is merciless to his audience, and delivers the debasement of this woman he cares about with unrelenting shots of her cleaning the filthy toilet, crawling on the carpet to sweep up cigarette butts". I can only partially agree with that, I thought he showed incredible restraint, this wasn't twisted cruel granny porn that he was producing. Each shot and angle went just far enough to torment the audience, make us fear what may be exposed next, but he's too much of an artist to debase her as a performer.
I saw the stripper sequence with the disco fuck me soundtrack as defiant, yet that defiance was oddly contradicted by her slow purposeful cleaning activities. She floated above Cohen's art video set-up, and he knows it. Defiant, as well, in the context of a national domestic economy that takes a huge servant class for granted, rendering them invisible, inconsequential and even despised. (That's before you even take into account the national legacy of slavery and abuse.)
I also had less of a problem with the sight of an almost nude 84 year old woman, in fact I was reminded of an early work by Lisa Steele, Birthday Suit - with scars and defects from 1974. She'd probably agree that eventually getting outfitted with an old body is a major sign of success.
I wish there had been a transcript of the phone interview between Steele and Cohen because I had a hard time understanding his accent so I know I missed a lot of additional information, but there were a few things he said that were very powerful. Several times he described her actions as "cleaning the uncleanable" --a brilliant metaphor for the larger political conditions of South Africa-- "with optimism and commitment".
There's one other thing that came to mind with Cohen's statement that the piece is truly a South African work. Participation in a international art scene does not have to simply translate to star-fucking festivals, V-tape has all my admiration for programming an artwork that purposely contains the peculiarities of a specific place, and I am so glad that I saw this video because I left the screening thrilled and moved.
6) Finally, I found this animated GIF:
Hannah Evans' Top YouTube Finds of 2008
2008 was the year YouTube melted my brain. Late in 2007, I met one of the founders - a nice, unprepossessing young man with floppy blonde hair. He didn't seem like a mad, brain-sucking genius. Then I started spending more time on the site. And even more time. Banal but true: there is an infinite variety of creative endeavour captured there. Here's my top 3 of the year:
1. Marvin Gaye sings the star-spangled banner : Best performance of any nation's anthem ever, delivered at a 1983 all-star basketball game. I wonder, is there anyone who could deliver the Canadian anthem with this kind of panache? Buffy Sainte Marie, maybe?
2. Riding a bike with Lucas Brunelle: Lucas Brunelle straps a camera to his head and races in alley cats across the world. His work is thrilling and the music always rawks. This one is from NYC.
3. Diva wars: There is a corner of YouTube where it really matters that Whitney kicks Mariah's ass. Or vice versa. A lot of sincere time and effort appears to be spent on this question and the posts are deeply infused with passion. I like that.
Sally McKay's top ten online things to do that don't involve reading (+friends&family links)
1. Most of the items below on this list are podcasts. Listening to lectures online goes down real good with puzzle flash eye/finger game candy: Bunch is truly mindless and looks like smarties; Desktop Tower Defense is actually kind of a good game; Bear and Cat Marine Balls is very very cute.
I highly recommend loading up one of these brain cell destroying little gem-of-a-games if you are planning to tuck into any heavy duty online listening. Everyone knows the human brain takes in audio information much better when the eyes are distracted by blinking blobs of saturated colour and the small motor control neural centres are busy pushing switches...right?
2. CBC Idea's "How to Think about Science" series
One of the things that has occasionally bugged me about some of the various art & science hybrid events I've participated in is the way that artists can sometimes get all on their high horse about how they (we) can be critical of science as if scientists weren't subject to ethical reviews up the ya-ya, and aren't held socially accountable to their own work through professional rigamaroles that would send most of us artists running back to the garret. I'm not saying that the ethics of science are by any means transparent, but the most thoughtful and thought provoking critiques of scientific ideology tend to emerge from the scientific community itself.
In this series every person interviewed is deeply invested in science while at the same time challenging fundamental assumptions about their own discipline. I enjoyed each episode, but I think my favourite was quantum physicist Arthur Zajonc, who has a great take on the ubiquitous practice of modeling (modeling abstracted principles of nature as opposed to experiential observation of nature) as a kind of narcissistic human self-idolotry.
3. The Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell
Dr. Ginger Campbell is my hero. Her generous, open-minded journalism is fueled by the kind of nerdish enthusiasm for her subject that reminds me how happy I am to live in the online age of niche disseminations. Campbell knows a lot about brain science, and she does much more prep work for her interviews than most journalists, reading carefully the books that her subjects have written, drawing connections between issues that arise in different episodes and always putting her listeners first. She is charming and disarming and creates such an atmosphere of comraderie that the really tough questions just roll off her tongue and her interviewees are happy to take them up. Pick and choose the topics that interest you. Three of my favourite episodes are:
#39 Brain Science Podcast: Michael Arbib on Mirrror Neurons
#36 Brain Science Podcast: Embodied Intelligence with Art Glenberg
#22 Brain Science Podcast: Christof Koch discusses Consciousness
4. Emergent Podcast: 2007 Theological, Philosophical Conversation- Session 1 part 1 and part 2, Session 2 and Session 3 with Richard Kearney and Jack Caputo
If you really want to get a grip on postmodernism, ask a Christian philosopher theologian! Caputo and Kearney are both serious intellectual philosopher dudes who got invited by a group of hard thinking, questioning young American Christians to discuss their work in a two-day symposium about the social benefits of ambiguity and doubt. There are really funny personal anecdotes about Lacan and Derrida thrown in for comic relief. If you (like me) have been harbouring a spidey-sense that Jacques Lacan was maybe a great big dick-head, this is the podcast for you.
5. Philosophy 185 Heidegger with Instructor Hubert Dreyfus
Many thanks to Be Smiley for turning me onto Hubert Dreyfus. He is like a professor from a movie about a professor. He dodders and fusses and gets his podcast microphone messed up. But he's right on top of the ideas and the best thing is that he rethinks his own philosophical positions as he goes along, so you can hear this big mind working and grinding and falling into pits of self-doubt and climbing out again while he talks. Also, at some point he goes on a hilarious tangent about how he took on the artificial intelligence dudes while he was at MIT, claiming — based solely on his reading of Heidegger — that they would never succeed, and he wins!
Trying to read Heidegger is kind of like trying to dig your way up out of a six-foot deep earthen grave, but this isn't reading, it's listening (don't forget the pretty colours puzzle games) and Dreyfus makes it fun. (Bonus: Dreyfus also taught a podcast course on Man, God, and Society in Western Literature which is just as good and you don't have to deal with Heidegger)
6. This American Life
USA voted Barack Obama for president because the country is not entirely composed of crazed and inbred republicans. In fact, if the only thing you ever heard from contemporary USA was This American Life, you'd think the country was overrun with humane and thoughtful Jewish intellectuals with a self-deprecating sense of humour and a gift for narrative that draws from the best depth and breadth of American literary tradition from William Faulkner to Hunter S. Thompson (passing through the East Village). It's feelgood bed time stories for lefty Western adults and ranks second only to Coronation Street on my list of entertainment vices. Two of my favourite episodes are:
7. The Moth
The Moth has rules: New Yorkers get onstage and tell a true story that happened to them without notes. Each one takes about 20 minutes. Some people are famous, most are not. All the stories are good because this is New York where there are lots and lots and lots of competitive people and the ones who manage to claw their way into a public forum of any kind usually have something going for them.
8. Practice of Art 23AC - Foundations of American Cyber-Culture with Instructor Joseph Donald McKay
Did someone say nepotism? Full disclosure: Instructor Joseph Donald McKay is a family member. Ever get frustrated because you wish you knew what your sibling knows? I did, and then I listened to these podcasts. Now I know what Joester knows, plus I know what I know ...bwa-ha-ha-ha! This course provides solid foundational info if you are into net art; lots of juicy history about Turing and Charles Babbage and Donna Haraway and the Whole Earth Catalogue plus good contemporary digital artist links and pertinent political reminders about the digital divide.
9. SART:3480 - Dynamic Web Content with Instructor Lorna Mills
Okay, technically there is reading on this site. But mostly I just look at all the pretty flashing scrolling spinning shiny thingies. Lorna is my dear friend and the defacto boss of this blog. She's an excellent teacher and almost makes me want to relive my undergrad so I could take her course. But not really, because I'd rather enjoy other people's messed up youtube hacks than do any coding myself. Lorna's class and Joester's class did a cross-border blog collaboration but I've lost the link. Little help?
I live with Von Bark, the brain behind the owls. I look at OVVLvverk every week because it always surprises me. This website began as a sort of spoof of the infamous VVork but has swollen way past any kind of gag into an online image collection that makes excellent use of self-imposed restrictions, bending and stretching categories like a good collection should. Each day's post is the best one yet.
Jon Davies' Top 15 (plus bonus: movies!)
I'm too lazy to editorialize too much, so I'll keep it short. These are in no order, and I'm sticking just to Toronto because it's easier.
1. Carla Zaccagnini: no. it is opposition. Art Gallery of York University, curated by Emelie Chhangur. 17 September – 7 December, 2008.
What could have been a Borges Lite gimmick ended up one of the most playful, well-put-together and compelling shows of the year, the exhibition's meticulously doubled structure bringing out the best in Zaccagnini's sometimes brilliant work.
2. Sadie Benning: Play Pause. The Power Plant/Images Festival. March 11 – May 1, 2008.
The Images Festival and The Power Plant scored a coup by landing one of the few showings anywhere of Sadie Benning's masterpiece – an incredibly imaginative and queerly moving two-screen animation that posits the polymorphously perverse "Ze Bar" as the heart and soul of a depressed War-on-Terror-era Midwestern city. Sublime.
3. Daniel Barrow: Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry. World Stage/Images Festival. April 10 – 12, 2008.
Greatest Living Canadian Artist™ Daniel Barrow goes to a dark, dark place with this serial killer-themed performance, years in gestation, that courageously ends on a note of absolute despair. Yes, he was robbed of the Sobey Art Award, but we loved his installation in the nominees' show at the ROM: he gave over the microphone and the overhead projector to strangers!
4. Swintak: Self-Aware Shed. YYZ Artists Outlet. September 6 – October 18, 2008.
I loved loved loved the video documentation of Swintak being an off-screen bossy boots and ordering around her shed, the gallery and the whole world: Night! Day! Night! Day!
5. Charles Atlas: Hail the New Puritan (1987). Pleasure Dome/Images Festival, curated by Kathleen Smith and Ben Portis. April 9, 2008.
It was an intensely emotional experience watching this thrilling, candy-coloured portrait of young choreographer/dancer Michael Clark and his 80s London demimonde – our flaming dandy ancestors on screen at their loveliest.
6. Jon Sasaki: I Promise It Will Always Be This Way. Nuit Blanche. October 4 – 5, 2008.
I couldn't take my eyes off of this troupe of goofy dancing mascots – the dolphin was my fav – a thoroughly entertaining spectacle but also so rich with pathos and desperation and depletion and boredom as well.
7. Stories, in Pieces. Justina M Barnicke Gallery, curated by Aileen Burns. July 10 – August 24, 2008.
Buried in the summer – hopefully people saw it! – this small but ambitious Canadian group show of elusive-narrative art was a perfectly polished gem – props to Myfanwy MacLeod and Jon Sasaki in particular.
Myfanwy MacLeod, Bedsheet With Holes, 2005. Courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.
8. Nomadic Residents presents Orlan. OCAD. September 30, 2008.
OK, I fled before the Q&A as usual: was her horrible translator revealed to have been a joke by the grande dame at our expense? Orlan's insane hybrid Franglais was a dizzying, near-incomprehensible delight, even if her more recent work can't compare with the plastic surgery carnivalesques of yore. [images on flickr]
9. Rosalind Nashashibi: Bachelor Machines. OCAD Professional Gallery, curated by Charles Reeve. June 25 – September 7, 2008.
Nashashibi's eye for composition, formal innovation and all-around intelligence made these enigmatic 16mm film installations a treat to be repeatedly savoured – and put the Prof. Gallery in my good books after their awful Rirkrit Tiravanija maiden voyage.
I know I shouldn't be concerned about nepotism – that's what an art scene is built on – but I decided to segregate things by close friends or that I was involved in myself. Do I not get out of my circle as much as I should? Should I feel bad about this? Discuss.
10. Artur Zmijewski, April 15 – May 3; Life Stories: Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela, Meiro Koizum and Tova Mozard, curated by Chen Tamir, September 10 – October 11; Jean-Paul Kelly: And fastened to a dying animal, October 16 - November 15, 2008. Gallery TPW.
I may be on the board but I can objectively say these were three amazing shows. Congrats to Kim Simon for dragging Artur Zmijewski's staggering video Them kicking and screaming to Toronto, and for Chen Tamir's curation of the fabulously weird documentary-portraits-gone-awry in Life Stories, and Jean-Paul Kelly's astounding domestic melodrama And fastened to a dying animal.
Artur Zmijewski, Them (video still)
11. Andrew Lampert: THE PURPOSE CROSSED. Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, Durham, ON, curated by Jacob Korczynski. August 9, 2008.
NY film geek Andrew Lampert took the piss out of the tried-and-true live projector performance genre with his delightfully shambolic, two-man comic chaos in an old barn – it would have made Jack Smith proud.
12. Margaux Williamson: Teenager Hamlet 2006. Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects / TIFF Future Projections. September 4 – 13, 2008.
So my friends made this and I wonder if people who don't know them could ever love it as much as I do. Margaux brings a huge amount of visual and verbal wit to bear on her playful make-believe portrait of her Queen West neighbourhood (its young denizens divided into groups of "Hamlets" and "Ophelias" and interviewed by the stars) as seen through the lens of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
13. Angelika Pietruk, Laura McCoy and Kathleen Phillips. Trampoline Hall, curated by Lauren Bride. June 9, 2008.
National treasure Lauren Bride changed the rules of the Trampy Hall game by writing all three lectures herself, resulting in a wonderfully odd mix of confession and self-erasure. The Q&A sessions in particular raised more Q's than A's since the speakers often couldn't answer on Lauren's behalf.
14. Ei Arakawa: The Color Ball. The Power Plant. November 22, 2008.
So I had to handle the video projection (of clips from films ranging from Parsifal to Showgirls) that Ei Arakawa scored his performance with. Maybe it's because I almost had a crate dropped on me, but I've never felt the adrenaline rush of live performance before this. Arakawa and his co-conspirators exploded – unpacked, rearranged, broke open – Scott Lyall's installation The Color Ball in 45 minutes of beautiful, death-defying entropy: it was a hurricane of constant movement and expertly carried-out destruction/construction.
15. Barry Doupé: Ponytail. Pleasure Dome, November 29, 2008.
Animation wunderkind Barry Doupé's first feature melted the mind, as did much else at Pleasure Dome's A Lower World: Excessses and Extremes in Film and Video fall season: Our first-ever gallery exhibition, Mike Kelley's Day Is Done, Ryan Trecartin's I-Be Area, the Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn screening that no one came to… (shame!)
Barry Doupé, Ponytail (video still)
And since nobody asked, here are the best films I saw in a terrible movie year - though I have yet to see The Wrestler, Wendy and Lucy or The Class:
1) Let the Right One In (YES!)
2) Man on Wire
4) Synecdoche, New York
and the rest in no particular order:
6) Savage Grace
7) The House Bunny ("the eyes are the nipples of the face")
9) A Christmas Tale
10) TIFF 2008 – Lowlight: 90-min lineups for tickets. Highlights: I Want to See, The Beaches of Agnès, Hunger, Salamandra, Still Walking, 35 Shots of Rum, Lorna's Silence, and Sounds Like Teen Spirit.
Thank you bye.
Darling, Our memory for these things is awful. All this criticism business takes it out of one, but nevertheless, we assayed, and have come up with 7 entries. Last year, we seem to remember only mustering up 2 examples. At this rate, we'll get to an even 10 next year.
1 - Daniel Barrow, Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry
A new performance that further elucidated his particular peculiar world of the shy, the shunned, the damaged and the perverse: the fey drawings, the floating objects, the effetely tragic narrative; the headiest of vintage Barrow. Not only has his command of narrative deepened, his performance style has sharpened: his apathetic, lisping narrative voice feels like one's inner defeated child weeping softly in one's ear. Surely among Canada's greatest treasures. Which brings us to 2008's greatest failure: The Sobey Award. Already a laugh-fest with David Moos' nationally absurd nomination of the internationally absurd Terence Koh, the fact that Daniel Barrow was passed over merely confirms what we already suspected of this country's institutional curators: a pathetic lot, with not an ounce of imagination or originality to be had. Fire them all, now.
2 - Cathy Opie, An American Photographer (Guggenheim Museum, NYC)
A dazzling, moving collection of work, and a startling, invigorating exhibition. Her mid-career retrospective at the Guggenheim marks her entry into the contemporary canon of American photography. Consider Opie's oeuvre, its profound, unabashed queerness, consider the institutional monumentality of the Guggenheim, and consider just how much more exciting is her show. Yes, beautiful work, deeply personal work that mines (and exhausts) ideas of community and representation; yes, a questing photographic eye, yearning for meaning and beauty (rare enough these days, in the art world, where content is a hurdle to sales); also a shining example of curation that matters: a thoughtful, daring, highly original act of historicization. If only the institutions north of the 49th parallel were this singularly risk-taking.
3 - Ryan Trecartin, I-Be Area
The Pleasure Dome is to be lauded endlessly for a voraciously ambitious fall program: A Lower World was the result of the magical panache that can be the result of living and working beyond one's means. The timing of the screening of Trecartin's latest opus was slightly off, but a marvelous coup nonetheless. Torontonians were able to see, first-hand, the continuing formation of a (so far) deserved mega-reputation.
4 - Carte Blanche, Vol 2: Painting
Yes, yes, yes, there were a host of dubious production choices and decisions that can easily smack of unfairness. And yes, amid the choruses of complaints of Not Doing Things the Right Way (what IS it with Canadians and due process?) some of the critiques levelled at the organization of this tome of contemporary Canadian painting are valid and right. And we aren't particularly impressed by the resultant show. Still, the book stands on its own, and no one else seems to be devoted to or championing this country's artists the way MaryAnn Camillieri seems to be. A sumptuously designed object that can be a genuine ambassador for Canadian painting; people should have been positively throwing funding at her. But no (what are people throwing money at? Well, MoCCA seems intent on giving Matthew Teitelbaum, one of this city's wealthiest residents, a cheque for $20,000). So we would like to extend a hand of hearty congratulation to Ms Camillieri for having the cojones to do something profoundly un-Canadian: committed, concrete self-promotion. We eagerly await Carte Blanche Video, Sculpure/Installation, and Performance.
5 - People Like Us: The Gossip of Colin Campbell (Oakville, ON)
Too long in the coming (see: Canadians, failure to self-promote and-). A tenderly curated show that highlighted just how intimate, warm, and funny video can be. A massive installation comprised of roughly 15 hours of single-channel narrative video that seemed inviting and accessible. A tour-de-force primer of the foundation and generation of community. Campbell's verve, intelligence, and camp should be the stuff of enduring international legend. Furthermore, the sensitivity and humanity of this show only throws into high relief the cold, alienating, and ultimately pointless techno-masturbation of Gareth Long (the partner show at Gairloch Gardens).
6 - The Quebec Triennial (Montreal, QC)
Yes, we complained about much of the work here, but much of it was also excellent. More importantly, the sprawling show was ballsy, forward-looking, unashamed to promote and be definitive about its participants. It just shows how valuable is a sense of cultural identity (as opposed to WASPy anglo Toronto -- we're looking square at you, Power Plant -- too careful and prissy and conceptually precious to actually care about decisively curating their own city's art, or too juvenile and sloppy -- ahem, MoCCA -- to do so without self-sabotage). With shows like these, Toronto and Vancouver, with all their pretense of being international art cities, deserve to be left in the dust of Quebec's thrilling art production.
7 - Sophie Calle, Prenez-Soin de Vous (Montreal, QC)
The DHC/Art Foundation in Montreal brought in this astounding installation of a conceptual artist at the height her powers, and everybody but Heaven knows how much filthy lucre they threw behind it, but they did 'er up right. They paid due reverence to the relentlessly, exhaustively encyclopedic nature of this project of public revenge, sprawling it up, down, across, and all over two buildings. A coup for Canadian curation.