Monday, May 03, 2004

The article I wrote


No links, but I thought it would be nice to get some feedback on the article I wrote for Motel Magazine. If you have anythnig to say, good, bad, or indifferent, I would appreciate it - thanks

Flipping the Bird
And you thought that you took too many drugs
by Zeke

Bill Burns has a thing for small animals like pigeons, ferrets, prairie dogs, and the Masked Puddle Frog. That thing is called "Safety Gear for Small Animals" and is an Art Exhibition that is happening at the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery of the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts. Bulletproof vests for your budgie, knee pads for your panda, welding goggles for your wolf. He appears to be a man on a mission, and unlike Jim Phelps, his mission is to "help enable animals to escape from degraded habitats." Like Jim Phelps, his mission is pretty much impossible. But he keeps plugging away. He's been doing this sorta stuff for over 10 years now.

In order to dig this, you gotta first glom onto what is normally shown at places like the Canadian Museum of Nature. You remember the time you got to see the bleached and dried bones of a Stenonychosaurus when you were in Miss Barry's sixth grade class? And while the 12 year-old in you was sorta thinking "cool," ultimately it was mostly an excuse to skip having to take the school bus back home and being able to hang out downtown after the class trip was finished.

Well, if you had paid attention to Miss Barry at the time, instead of just staring at her tits, you would've realized that that wiring dead animals' bones together and sticking them in big halls was just a dickhead of an idea. Bill Burns obviously wasn't looking at Miss Barrys' tits. Normally your standard issue Natural History museum has all the dead and stuffed birds you can imagine along with really bad dioramas pretending to show grizzly bears menacing some poor hapless deer. Mr. Burns has taken the concept of a Natural History museum, turned it on its head, grafted onto it a warped ideology stolen hook, line and sinker from PETA, and shoved it all into something the Canadian Government is willing to call freakin' contemporary art.

Now, if you haven't been keeping up with the Contemporary Canadian Art scene for a while, I can understand. I'm not going to agree that you've been making what would be called "good choices" in you preferences of things to do that aren't work. But it is ultimately your choice. Nowadays all Contemporary Art in institutions comes with almost as much promo fluff as the next world tour by Metallica.

While the promo fluff for this exhibit, states that Mr. Burns' organization "is the largest safety gear for small animals producer in the world," he lies. I don't have exact figures, but I would assume that Peter Augustsson (the big boss at Saab) would also disagree. Initially, I thought that the whole concept of safety devices for animals was a joke. In reality, some jokes become friends and Mr. Burns has a lot of friends. But, there are numerous companies like Saab, that actually and seriously make things to protect your pet. Unfortunately, all of them are larger than Mr. Burns' organization. Fortunately, none of them has Mr. Burns' sense of humor.

Like any good museum exhibit, there are all sorts of things you can buy to take home after you've seen the exhibit, like Animal Trading Cards, a series of seven individual cards numbered from one to eleven, or the Songs of Birds Wearing Safety Gear Calendar. And like any good contemporary artist, Mr. Burns has priced his art to move. So, if you're feeling particularly flush, according to the website, most of the objects in the collection are a cool thousand bucks, which in the art world is chump change. Think of it, you could be the only person in the entire world with a pair of prototype ear protectors for your ferret.

When I spoke to him, Mr. Burns mentioned to me, that he wanted to mess with "format and expectations" or in other words, fuck with your head. He succeeds, not in a bright burst of glory like Tony Hawk, but more like a long lasting and lethargic couchlock you get from just one toke on some Mongolian Indica. This comes in helpful when reading the stuff written on the wall, which is "supposed" to help you gain a better understanding on what you're seeing, it is full of sentences like

For best results wildlife resettlement and other types of sponsorships should be sought from large agricultural combines, multinational fertilizer and pesticide producers and operators, investment banks, hydroelectric companies and engineering firms, all of whom have demonstrated green track records. Requests to industry should be framed delicately. For example, it is advisable to use terms such as "adaptability to mercurial effluent," "species resettlement" and "bio-aggregate" rather than Minamata Disease, smuggling and toxic waste.

If that doesn't make your eyes go like bug-eyed like saucers, then the drugs you've been taking are way better than those that I've scored recently.

Since this is an art review, and I'm fast coming up on the end of it, I guess I gotta tell you about the birdie gloves, the big color pictures of plastic animals placed on old books in the process of being "saved," the rescue kits which look like they were stolen straight out of an EMS vehicle and we can't forget the catalogues. But it would be way better for you to check 'em out yourself. And you don't have to live in Montréal to do this. The whole sucker is criss-crossing the country for the next two years, or in other words coming soon to a town near you! But, if you're not in Owen Sound, Toronto, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Coquitlam, Victoria, or Kamloops (the towns that it is visiting) then you can also experience this mind-twisting collection of warped and absurdist objects on the web at http://www.safetygearmuseum.com

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