Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Good Art, Bad Art (or is the other way around?)


So do you like this?

Jean Paul Lemieux, Jeune Fille dans le vent, 1964, Musee Nationale des Beaux Arts du Qu�bec - Sorta like Guy Lafleur's 89-90 season with the Nordiques.

Or do you prefer this?

Marc-Aur�le de Foy Suzor-Cot�, Symphonie path�tique, 1925, Mus�e national des beaux-arts du Qu�bec. � Sorta like Guy Lafleur's 76-77 season with the Canadiens.

If you like this, please email me, and tell me why. Thanks.

Tony Scherman Napoleon: The Seduction of France - Brumaire 1796 (The French Revolution Series), 1995 (last I heard, it hadn't made it into anyone's collection)- Keeping the analogy, like the Canadiens' 1982 draft.

If anybody knows Angela, please tell her that I think her art rocks! And, if she's looking for a husband, I'd marry her in a flash!

Angela Grauerholz, Foot, Mus�e d'art de Joliette, 1993 � Last one�like the Canadiens' 1971 draft.

Now which took more time? Researching the Art? Or researching the hockey?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Curatorial responsibility


Something came up over the weekend, and the concept of Record Store Clerk as curator was branded into my brain. Now upon doing some research, it seems that it was really long weekend. The article was written in August and published by the Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately the LATimes' archives aren't coughing up anything useful, but I was able to track down this quote:

"Like their counterparts at book and video stores, record clerks shape our experience of culture as decidedly as any critic, curator or culture-industry executive.- Link (scroll down.)

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Curators oversee collections... They acquire items through purchases, gifts, field exploration, [and] intermuseum exchanges... Curators also plan and prepare exhibits. ...Most curators use computer databases to catalogue and organize their collections. Many also use the Internet to make information available to other curators and the public. Increasingly, curators are expected to participate in grantwriting and fundraising to support their projects.
Most curators specialize in a field... Those working in large institutions may be highly specialized. ...Some curators maintain the collection, others do research, and others perform administrative tasks. ...In small institutions, with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for multiple tasks, from maintaining collections to directing the affairs of museums. - Link

Unstated in all of that is that curators choose. Like an editor, or dictator, they make decisions about what belongs and what should be taken out back and shot. Although being comprehensive is a valid curatorial method (ie everything belongs! You're all saved!!) sometimes it can get overwhelming. (And you end up needing really really large buildings to house your show).

Back in the day, having a bond with your local record store clerk (radio DJ, bookstore clerk, librarian, etc.) was worth its weight in gold. You'd bring one record up to the cash, and they would suggest something else ("if you like that, you really should hear this!") If they got it right (and invariable they did) you'd be back the following week like clockwork.

Now if you go to a museum or gallery here in town, there isn't that same "you gotta try this" sensation. It is much more like being at a discotheque; you come you dance, you have a drink or two, and then you go home. If you're lucky the music doesn't suck and if you're really lucky you're not going home alone.

The Art curators in Montr�al are a tight ass bunch. If we go the bureaucratic route (see the USBLS definition above) the Montrealers who curate, write grants and fundraise for the bulk of their time. I can't think of a single person here in town, involved in Visual Arts, who is even trying to shape your experience of culture. On the other hand, I can come up with about half a dozen who aren't in the Visual Arts who do shape your experience of culture.

When was the last time somebody told you "you gotta see this!"? I thought so. So as a public service these are the shows happening in town that you gotta see. OK?

On vous pisse � la gueule - Centre de diffusion en art subversif - 1126 de Maisonneuve E.,
Guglielmo Marconi - Mus�e des Ondes �mile Berliner - 1050 Lacasse
C'est ma place (publique)! - Monopoli - 372 Ste-Catherine O. #516

Let me know what you think. Or better still tell somebody else what you think.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The need to Talk about (and buy) High and Low Art


As I mentioned yesterday, there were a couple of articles of note in the New York Times. First Holland Cotter reviewed a bunch of Nativity scenes around New York (after all it is the holiday season). The thing that caught my eye was this:

Value-laden distinctions between high and low, elite and popular art are old and persistent. Traditional museums like the Met deal primarily in high, though low is constantly sneaking in, often in a non-Western context.
Although elite still rules in big museums, it no longer determines what is art and what is not. A vertical, upstairs-downstairs picture is being replaced by a horizontal model in which culturally related forms with different, sometimes conflicting social histories run on parallel tracks from which they often veer and intersect. Despite obvious contrasts in formal polish, the Met and the Brooklyn Nativity scenes are equally ambitious in concept. And, depicting the same religious image, they share a basic view of the world and its meaning.
There is no better place to catch these dynamics in action than in a great high-low city like New York. And in no genre is that action more transparent than in religious or devotional art. In the examples surveyed below, elite and popular stay apart, switch places, meld together or just disappear, leaving all easy distinctions in confusion, which is not a bad way to start a new year. - link

He's right of course. Montr�al is not a "great high-low city." It isn't even a great "high city" nor is it a great "low city." It attempts to be a "high city" but ends up failing miserably. In order for it to be great in either one of these endeavors, there needs to be a whole lot more focus from the Museums in town. How often does the Met, or MOMA bring in touring shows? How often do their shows go out on tour? Right now MOMA has four touring shows, the Met five. The Musee des Beaux Arts has one as far as I can tell, and the Musee d'Art Contemporain is offering seven shows up (they seem to cost about $4,000 plus shipping and insurance and other hidden fees). Of the seven, three are touring to such hotbeds of culture as Fredericton, Guelph, Whitehorse, and Sainte-Foy. And the other four seem to be stuck in Montr�al.

If the MACM wants to proselytize about Canadian and/or Qu�becois and/or Montr�al art then it needs to get things out to better places. If they want to shout about how high Montr�al is culturally, they need to be shouting it in places where they care; London, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Buenos Aires, etc. Or perhaps they need to get low (down and dirty), but until somebody actually comes in and replaces Marcel Brisebois it is going to be tough to see if they are making any progress on either front.

Thankfully the MBAM seems to be getting the idea, although Hitchcock and Art, and Global Village were and are flawed, they are nice steps for a museum to be taking to start.

Then we get to the second article in yesterdays Gray Lady, which talks about the new curators at MOMA. The interesting lines are as follows:

"Much of the job of being a curator is going between: whether between collectors and the institutions, a dealer and an artist, a work of art and the viewer. You're always in the role of this middle person, seeing that as the art of your work."
"When I hear someone say I do my installations all myself, I think, `That's why their installations are so terrible,' " Mr. Elderfield said.
Yet he has not reached his position by being a wimp, and he expects his curators to defend their ideas. He fondly recalled a three-month stint at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where he participated in weekly seminars in which curators presented their work and then endured a frank discussion of it.
Mr. Elderfield, whose enthusiasm for structural analysis reveals a fondness for corporate-style flow charts, wants to divide the curatorial tasks, though everyone is currently occupied with preparing for the reopening. He has placed Ms. Temkin in charge of acquisitions, put Ms. Umland in charge of display and given Mr. Pissarro responsibility for research and publications. His plan is to rotate the positions, he said. - link

Nothing terribly earth shattering as far as news, but nice to hear that discussion is going to be a major focal point, and that the folk chosen for the positions all come from a wide variety of backgrounds. My take on the MACM (and I could be very wrong) is that discussion is not something that is looked upon favorably. I've been trying to get in touch with a bunch of the members of their Board of Directors and it has proved somewhat frustrating to say the least � nothing like not returning phone calls and emails to foster a good discussion.

Then we get to the latest and greatest - in today's Globe and Mail John Bentley Mays interviews Ydessa Hendeles. And beyond the brown nosing and sycophantic behavior by what passes for Canada's National Newspaper, there is a very interesting point that Ms. Hendeles makes:

"But this personal backing has not translated, so far, into enlarged interest by Canadians in the nation's creative culture. "The arts don't have a priority here," Hendeles says. "You don't need to see an art show to go to your next dinner party. You do in New York. Whenever you're pioneering something in Canada, you're pretty much on your own."
"As a dealer for eight years at the Ydessa Gallery, I knew what was missing here. It was money. Unless you have people up here who are buying art, the dealers are not going to come here because there's not much motivation. The ecological system of the art world demands all the components. Not just brilliant artists, brilliant curators and brilliant writers. It needs the whole system -- buying art, too.
"But there's this problem in the country. Become interested in contemporary art, and you can get shot down for it. It is a lot easier to buy a fetal heart machine for a hospital, because you're celebrated for it. If I wanted celebration, I wouldn't be doing it in the arts." - link

Or in other words everybody wants to defend their turf, violently if necessary. I never knew that I would have to possibly wear a bulletproof vest to come into work.

Thankfully there are folk out there like Ms. Hendeles, Stephan Aquin, Dave Liss, otherwise I suggest that one easy way for the Martin government to save boatloads of cash would be to shut down the Canada Council for the Arts.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Badly priced art


I was going to continue explaining where there were alternative spaces to see Art during the holidays ? but then in today's New York Times there were two kick-ass articles. (here and here) And while those articles dealt with the New York Art scene, and so are not entirely applicable here, I thought that they showed the in a rather simple fashion why New York is New York and Montr�al is Montr�al. But I think I'll save my discussion of and about them until tomorrow - you might want to consider reading them in advance. There might be a test.

To start with first things first, as today was Boxing Day (the biggest shopping day in Canada ? in the United States it is the Friday after Thanksgiving, interesting that in Canada they wait until AFTER Christmas to hit the stores, while in the States they make sure to get you into the stores BEFORE Christmas) I am certain that there were and are folk out there who decided to see if they couldn't get themselves a nice little bargain on a couch, or perhaps a chair, or maybe a floor lamp. Well, if you were doing it in the neighborhood of the gallery you had a choice of 24 stores, not bad, eh?

Some of the better known ones are: Biltmore, Cote Sud, Erik Desprez, Intervision, Latitude Nord, Moderno, Montauk, Occident, Ohm, Urbana, and Volt.

Since all of these companies are devoted to making your house, apartment, home, abode, or residence a nice place, not only do they sell the couches, but they also sell the stuff to put above the couches, too! Sorta like one-stop shopping ? how convenient.

Urbana is right next door to my apartment. And one of their designers (perhaps their only designer, I dunno) also dabbles (or maybe that should be dribbles) as a painter, too.

Henri-Pierre Lavoie (no relation to Bertrand, as far as I know) has at least half-a-dozen hanging on the walls of the store. Now, I didn't check the prices for the couches, chairs, or floor lamps, but I think that they are probably cheaper and better made than M. Lavoie's paintings.

Cool Colors, eh?

Now while M. Lavoie at first glance seems to be an Abstract Expressionist, and upon taking a second glace you realize he probably is, but there is one problem. AE as a means of saying something new through painting is sorta as dead as Bernd-J�rgen Brandes, although I would imagine he was tastier than M. Lavoie's paintings would be.

Armin Meiwes' thoughts are probably clearer than the paintings of M. Lavoie. M. Lavoie's paintings on the other hand are much less offensive than Herr Meiwes himself. Heck! After the hassles that Jackson Pollock went through one would certainly hope that would be the case, but in this day and age you never can be too certain, and if Herr Meiwes is the thin edge of the wedge, then it does not bode well for gastronomy in the future.

The thing that I found most intriguing about the paintings at Urbana, was that next to the tag was another slightly larger tag that gave a nutshell course in how to buy a painting. Where the most significant point was "do your research."

Objects on the web appear smaller than in real life

Now I have just one question: If I can buy a Marcel Barbeau for $900, then why would I pay $2,000+ for a Henri-Pierre Lavoie?

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Art for Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Godless souls, and other non-believers


So whatcha gonna do? Pretty much everything in this town is shut down, closed locked tight, and not open. Who says the church has lost its power in this town? But thankfully, "pretty much" doesn't imply everything. Today there are going to be a whack of cafes that are open, and by 6 pm some of the more progressive bars, tomorrow there will be the derigueur Boxing Day Sales!!

Well, most of the cafes, and all of the progressive bars (or is it the other way around?) will and do have art up on the walls. In this neighborhood, there is Caf� Pi, conveniently located right across the street from my apartment ? or for those of you who have never been to my apartment, about a block and a half up the street from the gallery.

Now, the one thing about Art in cafes and bars, is that it sorta hit or miss. Right now the stuff up at Caf� Pi is most definitely a miss. Now, as an aside, some of you are going to ask why should I pick on a "new" artist? Why slag someone who I've never met? Why risk potentially alienating someone who in actual fact might be a really nice, sweet and kind person? Two reasons, a) I'm a nasty despicable individual, b) Just because I say something sucks, does not mean that you're going to think that it sucks, c) Book reviews, movie reviews, game reviews, music reviews, restaurant reviews and even baseball scouting reports regularly point out faults, errors and sub-par performances. Art reviews, on the other hand tend to speak glowingly about the artist and the Art in question, the thought being, that if it is bad art then it is a better idea to not speak about it. How are you going to establish any credibility at all if you're a reviewer if you don't talk about the bad with the good?

Some of the stuff on the walls at Cafe Pi

Bernard Lamarche has told me that there is way too much good art in this town to waste the limited space he is allotted in Le Devoir to talk about the bad stuff. As a reader, this strikes me as patently patronizing ? I am quite capable of making my own mind up as to whether some Art is good or bad with or without M. Lamarche's help. If he only writes "kind" words then how am I to know whether he is writing about it is because he honestly believes that the Art is going to change the world, or if there are other reasons behind his prose? I prefer to think of reviewers as folk who should be making me aware of stuff that I would not otherwise be aware of. Writing about the current show at Rene Blouin's gallery (of the 13 exhibitions that he has held in his gallery since May 1, 2002, 11 have been reviewed in Le Devoir) or Oboro (6 for 9, you get the picture) is not going to make me more aware that it is happening. I already know about those galleries and regularly see exhibitions there. However writing "kind" or "unkind" words about stuff on the walls at le Va-et-Vient, or Pharmacie Esperanza would get my butt out of my chair to see the stuff that they have on their walls.

Given that today, the only place you're going to see art is in places like le Va-et-Vient or Esperanza, then I think it is worthwhile writing about them. Yes, it is unfortunate that Caf� Pi doesn't have stuff that I like up, but what are you gonna do, even Virginia knows now that there ain't no sanity clause.

Now, since Maclean asked for some pictures, we got some pictures:
Some more of the stuff on the walls at Cafe Pi Yet some more of the stuff on the walls at Cafe Pi

A couple of things that struck me, in no particular order. The artists' names was nowhere to be seen. Although the exhibit was separated out in five distinct sections, I couldn't figure them out. The lighting was really bad, and although Caf� Pi would never be confused with a white cube, as I wasn't a chess player, it had the same sang-froid atmosphere. If any of you know, or figure out what the password is, please let me know.

Now this unnamed artist might, with a little bit of practice, develop into an acceptable medical illustrator, but right now they need a whole lot more training. The two paintings that attempt to seem like they might be approximations (not close) of some sort or nerves, or perhaps bad sci-fi, need a lot more work on the colors, while the yellow against the purple is an interesting juxtaposition the green and brown don't add anything, and depending on your point of view actually could take away just about anything interesting (but it might also be due to the lighting. While Richard Diebenkorn's paintings are just as raw, this unnamed artist isn't using the process of painting in any shape or form to express anything. And while the lines and dots might have had a meaning when they were contemplating the canvas, something got lost in the translation.

And the last picture of the stuff on the walls at Cafe Pi

Now switching over to the collages, oooh, lemme guess! A rhinoceros, an ashtray with a burning cigarette, a desert, the pyramids, etc. It means that according to the ancient Egyptians rhinoceroses were going to get lung cancer because they were lazy sods (notice the character slouched in the chair lower left). The train engineer is the reincarnation of Casey Jones, and the military rubber duck is either because Bert and Ernie have escalated their feud, or is the trouble ahead that just crossed my mind. Whatever, unless you're going to make really big and intricate collages that reference a certain sub-genre of mythology that 99% of the folk out there don't know, don't.

Your turn ? Caf� Pi is at 4127 St. Laurent

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

So now what?


OK, so you've decided to forgo two movies in order to buy Art. Cool! I always knew you'd come around from the dark side. But now, the question is where can you get you hands on some kick-ass art for $120?

A couple of suggestions (and no, I'm NOT going to suggest you come to the gallery, that just ain't kosher. Yes, you can come and you're always welcome, but I just can't suggest it, you gotta come because you thought of the idea, and not because you're being brainwashed by me). First and easiest is you obviously have a friend who is an artist. Give them the money. I bet they'll take you to a movie (and spring for the parking and popcorn, too!) or at least buy you a beer. Plus you get the added benefit of being able to talk to the person who made the sucker, so that when you have to talk about your new found interest in Art, you don't sound like a complete shmuck - "if you notice that brushstroke in the upper right-hand corner, well, let me tell you that Francine (rule number one when becoming an art connoisseur: name dropping is required. Remember to never use the last name) was looking out the window while she was painting and couldn't believe her eyes, there was this couple that was... blah blah blah... then she realized that it was the answer and everybody lived happily ever after.

Second suggestion: And this is where it gets fun, lotsa fun! Auctions. There are about five relatively serious auction houses here in Montreal that deal with Art (and art). They are off the top of my head, Iegor de Saint Hippolyte (remember the brouhaha about the Ripoelles?) Empire, the guys up the street at the corner of Bernard (aka by the very evocative name of "Maison Des Encans De Montr�al,") Pinney's, and the city of Montreal themselves.

Now Iegor, has sold this:
Nice painting, eh? for $103, and this Yet another nice painting, eh? for $120. Empire doesn't list their prices from previous auctions, but while they might be selling
Still more nice paintings, eh? and No, this one is only worth it for the name...,
my guess is that they will have a whack of stuff going for under the $120 bar, too. If I'm not right, stop bidding, and I'll buy you a beer, ok?

Now we can get to the wonderfully evocatively named Maison Des Encans De Montr�al, where if they sell any art for more than $120 I would be not only pleasantly surprised but completely and utterly slack jawed in amazement. But just because it is cheap, doesn't mean that it sucks. Then for the best bargains, you gotta check out the city's auctions. They don't have much in the way of art, but it does show up every now and again, but the possibility of owning an official streetlight or accidented fire truck is too good to pass up. Then finally I gotta keep my trap shut about Pinney's, 'cuz I've never been there.

Third suggestion: All along Monkland, Mount Royal, Sherbrooke Street, Saint Laurent, Saint Catherine, Jean Talon, and any other major thoroughfare where there are cafes, bars and restaurants, you got Art (and art) so jam packed in that is positively oozing onto the sidewalks like the sewage from a broken water main. The key things to watch out for if you're more comfortable with this method more than that of the auctions is to ask if the establishment is taking a commission (not good if they do), if you can take it with you upon paying, and if upon seeing it in bright (or at least good light) what happens if it does not speak to you like it did in the dark with the beer.

With all of these suggestions, there remains the first rule of buying Art (not art): Do you adore it? And have you decided that you can't live your life without it. Then again, you might be one of the lucky people who thinks that $120 is a drop in the bucket, bully for you! But you still should stop to at least look at the piece, after all it is going to go over your couch. If you adore it, I betcha it goes in front of the couch...

There are tons of other methods to procure art (dumpster diving, antique stores, estate sales, divorce, making it yourself, stealing it, and renting a furnished abode, among them) and each of those has their own specific traits to be aware of, and potentially take advantage of.

But the basic idea remains, buy the Art.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Collecting Art


Well seeing as how pretty much all the galleries in town have shut down for the festive season (bah humbug, to you too, thanks). It appears that I am going to have to write about more ephemeral topics. Seeing as how I am selling my record collection now, it occurred to me, what about foaming at the mouth as to why you should collect Art in the first place? I think this is a very good topic for a guy with a gallery to write about.

Easy and short answer: Because it is pretty and you need something above the couch.

Tougher and longer answer: Things that make you think are good. Having a brain that is equivalent in size and color to that hunk of stuff stuck to the wheel well of your car is not good. Art should make you think. If it doesn't, I'm not certain I would be comfortable calling it art. Maybe we should just call the stuff that doesn't make you think, sitcom re-runs.

Once you got the thoughts flowing like Rwandan refugees to Zaire in 1994, then comes the fun. Because, besides the thoughts, there is always the concept of "pretty." Or for you folk who like big words, aesthetics. Sorta like listening to music and then suddenly breaking out like Fred Astaire (or Ginger Rogers, depending on which way you swing).

Now I'll be the first person to say that some of the stuff I like (and that makes me think) is pretty damn ugly. But, just because I think that it is ugly shouldn't stop you from thinking whatever the hell you want to think. And if you want to think that that piece by Adad Hannah or Richard Purdy is the most glorious thing you have ever seen since that sunrise on the Bay of Fundy with Judy after having spent the night (oops, getting off the topic there, sorry) that's fine. But you better be able to defend yourself, 'cuz with Art (notice the capital "A") there ain't no such thing as "well, it's the only thing on now, damn I wish I had cable."

Now this is where it gets cool. Right now, I think that there are 38 movies playing in English here in town, then add in the 75 French films and you get a total of 113 films. And that's only if you're counting the French versions and the English versions as two separate films (and sometime they actually are!) Each of those movies is going to set you back at least $6 and perhaps as much as $12 before parking and popcorn. Well, my friend, there are over 200 places to go see Art here in town. All of them ('cept of course this one and this one) are completely free, and those bastions of reactionary self-referential bravado also cough up their permanent collections for free in order to keep the mandarins off their pant cuffs by making them believe that they truly are offering "culture" to the masses.

Now, if you really really like a movie, you're likely to go buy the video ($20) after having seen it in a theater, and then because the technology is always changing - man, why can't they wait until I figure out how to program the new remote before I have to go out and get the next one? You end up buying the Super Enhanced DVD with 17 extra minutes of really bad stuff that we didn't want you to see the first time around ($30). The total spent so far is $60, not including parking or popcorn.

Now if you, instead of going to see the movie, then buying the video, and then buying the super-duper extra bells and whistles DVD (I also forgot to mention the hardware that you need in order to see all of this) you go to an Art Gallery (any gallery) you've automatically saved yourself at least $60 (not including parking and popcorn). If you don't see the movie in the first place, then you won't be thinking that it would be nice to see it again on the couch at home, if you're not watching it on the couch at home, then you won't be wondering about those missing 17 minutes that they didn't want you to see in the first place. Got it? Good.

Do this twice, and you got enough money to buy Art. Stick it on the wall in front of the couch (go ahead, be different) and instead of watching re-runs of sitcoms after the extra-special limited edition DVD with 18 minutes of stuff they didn't want you to see the first time is over, you'll be thinking.

And as we know, thinking is good.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Slow news day


But, I have officially launched the "Zeke's Wedding All-Stars Legal Defense Fund Record Sale." Or in other words I am selling off my LP's. Come by and check out 30 years worth of collecting. The gallery will be open from 3 pm until 8 pm through the holidays.

I'll be back tomorrow with more, promise.

Friday, December 19, 2003

What a twisted web is weaved


I was finally able to get around to reading the latest issue of Canadian Art, [Full disclosure: The magazine published an amazing and wonderful article about me and the gallery last year, I will forever be grateful to Rick for getting it into print and Richard for writing it. See the link on the right to read it.] and the thing that struck me was how self-referential the issue was. Sorta like a tail-eating snake (Ouroboros, sorry couldn't resist the big word - thank heaven for Google!) although now upon some reflection, I think I prefer the image of a puppy chasing its tail. I'll leave it up to you to figure out what the differences are.

But to get to the meat of the matter, a quick glance at the table of contents and it seems like a pretty much regular issue. But then in going through it everything swings back to itself.

Bernard Lamarche is mentioned as one of the "new" guard, and he has an article in the issue talking about "the key players shaping art in Montreal today." His article makes reference to Nicolas Baier (yet another of the "new" guard) who had a show at the Musee d'Arts Contemporain, who's out going director is featured in an article on page 44 of the issue.

Or what about this head spin? Alain Paiement is the artist on the cover and also one of the seven artists mentioned in Lamarche's article, he had a show at UQaM which was curated by Anne-Marie Ninacs, who is yet another one of the "new" guard. Do you have whiplash yet?

Or this one? Pierre-Francois Ouelette ("new" guard) -> Rewind review of John Latour's show at his gallery -> John Latour is Assistant curator at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery -> General Idea's touring exhibition is reviewed twice on its Montreal stop.

I'd prefer to focus on what is missing. Why no mention of the Centre des arts contemporains du Qu�bec � Montr�al? Perte de signal? Centre international d'art contemporain de Montr�al? Louise D�ry? Sylvie Gilbert? Maurice Achard? Are they "old" guard? Or are they not worthy?

As for missing artists, Dominique Blain, the Sanchez Brothers, Kamila Wozniakowska? BGL?

And as for obvious articles that should have been written, what about an "overview" of the art world here? Instead of an interview with Marcel Brisebois that feeds his ego. What about an interview with him that focuses on the art that he has been responsible for introducing to the public? The interview mentions Wagner's operas more than any contemporary Montreal artist. The two tiny pictures of previous exhibitions are from non-Montreal artists - and I won't even get into the picture of M. Brisebois.

Then touching on the interview with Guido Molinari, how about this for an oblique comment? It strikes me that Canadian Art magazine takes the same view about Montreal artists as Mr. Molinari does about contemporary painting. [see page 55 of the issue]

There is way too much happening in Montreal, and even if you just focus on the art, it is impossible to comprehensively cover it in one 114-page magazine. Richard Rhodes, in his introduction states that the contemporary art world in Montreal "was intimate, dramatic and timeless in its concerns, and a bit surprised by an outside gaze." Although I imagine that Mr. Rhodes saw an awful lot of art while he was living here, to give the impression that he "knows" and "saw" it all, is ridiculous. Canadian Art has readers who do not have any prior knowledge of Montreal and Montreal artists. Coming out and stating that what they are doing is just a sampling of the stuff going down here would have been extremely helpful. Or on the flip side coming out and stating that anybody and everybody not mentioned in the issue is not worth the air required to even mention their name would be equally good.

I realize that there are a whole whack of things involved in getting a magazine to print, that I'm not completely aware of, but I would hope that a Vancouver issue, or a Halifax issue, or a Saskatoon issue would be a little bit more explicit about its mandate. As I mentioned earlier, judging by the turn out for the launch party, I would imagine that there were a bunch of annoyed folk who's noses were out of joint at not being mentioned. Whether you believe me or not ? I'm not one of them.

To sum up, I like the idea of Canadian Art branching out from the Toronto-centric nature that seems pervasive in everything Canadian, but I hope that the next one will be better.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

FIND is lost


Oh, boo-hoo! The Festival international de nouvelle danse is toast. Sunk under a deficit of $600K. As you might have surmised, if you read my post of December 11th, I don't harbor much sympathy for Chantal Pontbriand.

Nice hair, eh?

Don't get me wrong; I am saddened that if somebody else more capable doesn't pick up the torch then Montreal's reputation as the hot-shit place on the planet for contemporary dance will take a serious hit. But, given what (little) information about how Ms. Pontbriand ran FIND, I cannot feel sorry for her.

In today's Montreal Gazette she is quoted as saying "Any contemporary art has to be highly subsidized by the state." Yeah, right! That is such patent and utter nonsense that I do not know where to start my rant - and I apologize to you if I go on too long.

Blaming September 11th is ridiculous - here at the gallery we had an exhibition (click on Tour du Monde to see it again) that opened on September 15th, 2001. It rocked, we sold tons of art, and all the folk at the vernie appreciated being able to retreat from the constant bombardment of news about Osama Bin Laden for a while. Isn't that one of the things that Art is about? Being able to retreat from the world and gain some vantage point for reflection?

If $600K was all that was needed and Heritage Canada wasn't gonna pony up the Mackenzies (this is Canada, there ain't no Benjamins here) or the Williams or the Lyons, and FIND was so damn dependent on the tutu and plie crowd from NYC and other points south, then why didn't she hit up Tourism Canada? Or Tourism Quebec? Or Tourism Montreal? Or Tourism Boulevard Saint Laurent?

If FIND was so important to the international dance world, then why are there no mentions of it (or the lack of it, now) in the New York Times? The Los Angeles Times? The Guardian? Le Monde? (Sorry I'm not up to date on my Dutch newspapers, and I wouldn't be able to read them either).

To get back to her quote in the Gazette, the government already does heavily subsidize contemporary art. University tuition for art students is pretty much paid for by the g-men. The magazines that tout, hype and otherwise attempt to convince folk that this is the most amazing thing since sliced bread are heavily subsidized. The Artists themselves get some cash in order to be able to pig out on Macaroni and Cheese every other week (and it definitely ain't enough). If Ms. Pontbriand thinks that the promoters need to get more money. Then the first thing I would do if I were H�l�ne Chalifour Scherrer or Line Beauchamp is take my truckloads of loonies and dump them on Rene Angelil. He's done more to promote Quebecois culture than any seventeen people I know.

If the government is subsidizing art, any art, heavily or not, then the public should not have to pay for it. What's Ms. Pontbriand doing charging $65 to see a show? That is $15 more than Iron Maiden is charging for their show! [OK full disclosure, I went looking for the most expensive ticket for FIND, most of the shows they put on were $25 - but, I couldn't resist the easy shot. Good thing I didn't pick on the $300 benefit!]

Art is good, good art should be available to everybody. And you are capable of discerning between good art and bad art. You don't need Ms. Pontbriand to lead you by the nose to things that she considers good. OK, I've run out of steam here. Last thig I wanna know, is who gets the fancy ass computers that FIND has?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Back when I was your age


A couple of Wednesdays ago I went to see the current show at the Musee des Beaux Arts, after having seen curator Stephan Aquin give a talk at McGill about the show. For those of you who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, think "one after 59." Before hearing him talk, my initial thoughts were "jeezus! what the hell is a Fine Arts museum doing with a Porsche and some Barbies?" Or if I wanted to phrase it in such a way as to avoid the question mark, it would go like this: "Friggin' cash grab! designed to separate the baby boomers from the contents of their wallets."

Then, (there ALWAYS is a then) I heard the talk. Silly me! M. Aquin seems to be trying to personally and physically change the concept of what Montrealers think of as a Fine Arts museum. I haven't had an opportunity to sit down with him and ask the tough questions as to his specifics and what goals he has. Nor do I know how the rest of the folk at (and involved with) the museum think. And my guess would be that the other folk are probably more difficult to convince then the Montrealers. But, to give you an idea of the scope of his ideas, imagine trying to fold the QEII into a envelope, or Celine dueting with John Lydon. Hmmmm...

After seeing it (yes, Virginia, I do go see Art) I emailed him some of my comments and questions, as today has been a particularly busy day, I figured that copy/paste from the email would be way easier than coming up with something completely new and original. Tomorrow I'll try harder, I promise. If you haven't yet seen the show, this should give you some points to focus on as you see it, if you have seen it, you might have some other questions of your own.

As I was not a big fan of the MBAM beforehand, I had only seen one other show there recently (Francoise Sullivan's) and upon walking into the "before the 70s" I was immediately struck by the similarity in the set up between Ms. Sullivan's and the "two-thirds of the way through the last century's." I asked M. Aquin, "What's up with the humongous video at the beginning of shows? I wasn't certain if it worked in Fran�oise Sullivan's show, and I found that it made the Sputnik sorta secondary to the initial entry. Is it in the museum's mandate that you must use the big screen first? Or do you think that given the preponderance on TV culture now, that an easy point of entry to a show is a really big TV? Or something else? The screen was angled to cut off part of the room, and there were other places in the exhibit, as well, where all the space wasn't used. In certain cases I would agree and accept this reduction. But it wasn't always completely evident to me as to why rooms weren't used completely. Sometimes I sorta figured that M. Aquin made the executive decision that because some piece(s) hadn't made it across the border that moveable room dividers might be able to hide the empty space.

Given the period, and the eclectic nature of the stuff shown, I really really want to know which pieces that they tried to get and were not able to. I could probably come up with a list almost as long as the list of the stuff that is there.

Then to switch from bashing to a more positive bent, the second room was quite well done - there was way to much stuff happening all over the place, I went through it twice, and I am certain I still missed some stuff. It is a concrete example of what he is trying to change at the museum, it works, and works well. But, it was only through my prior knowledge from his talk that I was aware of what he was trying to do. It was not something that was self-evident. In retrospect I would counsel both M. Aquin and the rest of the folk at the museum to enlist General Motors as a sponsor, if only to be able to use "Not your father's Museum" in their advertisements and other marketing materials without being accused of stealing.

Continuing further through, the TVs (much smaller than the one at the begining and supplied by a sponsor not named GM) and the associated ephemera (sorry about the big word, remember this was originally an email to a Curator - for purposes of the blog, lets use "stuff strewed around," ok?) were spectacular, and very well presented. I asked him if it had been a conscious decision not to do the Space video (back at the begining of the show) the same way? In retrospect, it might have been cool to have a bank of TVs on one side showing Apollo's 1 through 75 (or whenever they stopped) and the Russian rocket ship launches on the other side, with Sputnik right smack dab in between the two. But unfortunately, they had not asked for my input before they put the show together, damn.

The Sex room was also a lot of fun, and the only difficulty was not of his making, I got stuck in the middle of a tour given by a woman with a particularly annoying and grating voice who was too scared to pronounce the word "nigger," (the piece she was describing was a Faith Ringgold piece named "Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger, 1969 (Blacklight Series # 10)" and she had to spell it out) so for about 10 minutes, I giggled about her lack of vocal qualities, and PC behavior, I decided to go back to the beginning so that I wouldn't have to hear her. My high school-ish behavior might have been aided by my complete dislike and abhorrence for everything Yoko (another artist in the same room) - once I go down that path, it takes a little bit of time to recompose myself.

The Dan Flavin piece is spectacular. If you go see the show on a Wednesday night you're getting the bargain of the century, if you go at any other time, it is almost worth the price of admission. But I wanted to know why he didn't completely divide it off from the rest of the room.

I sorta view myself as having already experienced the 60s as an observer, not as a participant, so I consciously avoided most of the historical background stuff written on the walls. But then I realized that a large part of the museum's clientele were high school students who would not have been as lucky as I; I couldn't quite tell if they were aiming for a specific demographic, or if they were doing their best to please all ages. But the silliest thing of all was that on one of the tags they mentioned that Playboy had expressly given permission to exhibit one of their magazines. Copyright law these days' sucks. But on the other hand it seems like it might be possible for somebody to stage their own "it was 40 years ago" exhibition, or at least a significant chunk by floating around eBay!

Given that the museum is consciously trying to change, I figure that I will be seeing more of the shows there, in order to get a better idea if they are succeeding - plus if I'm going to be crotchety about things, it is way better to be an informed crotchety guy, then a clueless crotchety guy.

Then, lastly, up and to the right, you can purchase raffle tickets on line, I just added the PayPal button. There are only 200 of 'em available, and you have a chance to win a pair of round trip tickets on ViaRail good for travel anywhere in between Windsor and Quebec City. Once they are gone, feel free to click on the "make a donation" button as your method of keeping the gallery afloat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Time to catch up


Way down at the bottom, I posted a list of upcoming events that were happening here. Well, two of them have already passed, and then there was the other thing that happened here, that wasn�t publicized. I figured that I would get y�all up to speed on what you missed so that you wouldn�t feel like you missed out.

First off there was Dragana. As promised, it was Bulgarian Woman�s Music. Kick-Ass and wonderful. Swoops shouts, yells, whistles, growls and hollers, all done in perfect unison and ridiculously sublime harmonies, they were pretty much like I would imagine that the DeZurik Sisters (aka the Cackle Sisters) would sound like if they had been born in eastern Europe. Do you know how to describe an aural orgasm? There has already been talk of Dragana coming back to play here again. I�m going to try to get them some transcriptions of the DeZuriks, now that would be amazing!

Notice the radiator in the background

Then we start to search way back in the memory banks, and on Saturday, Brent Moffatt (aka Needleman)

Check out Carrie's painting!

came here in order to break the world record for most self-inflicted piercings. What had been 702 in January of this year, became 900! - Holy Mother of God!

No actually, while it was interesting, it was like watching somebody knit. There was excitement for the first dozen, then as he approached 700 (but I actually missed that specific needle) They all were 1 inch and 18 gauge, and cost around $7 for a box of 100. There�s a guy who lives in the neighborhood (Jerome Abramovitch) who previously held the record. As an aside, Brent has some serious pain happening pretty much all the time, due to a gunshot wound that he got when he was about 18, which is then compounded by his kidney stones. According to him, self-inflicted pain is controllable, the other pain isn�t. Being able to control pain is something that gives him comfort. I can�t say that I would argue with him. I think the thing that I appreciated most was the ability to talk to him.

And if any of you are planning on getting pierced after seeing the pictures. Let me pass on some things that Brent told me. a) Some woman in Winnipeg died after getting her tongue pierced. b) Be very scared about Hep C. And c) You don�t need to be licensed or trained in order to poke holes in other people�s bodies. Now while �a� might be an urban myth, you might want to consider writing to your MP about getting some legislation happening, if plumbers and elevators need licenses, I think that the person who sticks a hole in my scrotum should too.

I�ve gotten some very positive feedback about this blog, if you have any that you would like to contribute, good or bad, I�d love to hear it. That all being said Maclean asked for some pictures, so I�m going to try and accommodate him in the up coming days.

If you�re in the neighborhood Insitu, on Wednesday at 7:30, and Dirty Ol� Band on Thursday at the same time promise to be finger licking good. Come by, mention the blog, and I�ll buy you a beer, ok?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Jana Sterbak is a ...?


Sorry that I'm late to the party, but as far as I can tell Ms. Sterbak took George Bush's idea lock, stock and barrel for her piece that was in this year�s Venice Biennale. [Full disclosure - I have not seen From Here to There and although Ms. Sterbak lives across the street from the gallery has never, been here, or if she has, she was incognito.]

Now, it wouldn't be considered a major news item, but it caught my eye none the less, this year on the White House website, they have as their Christmas treat "Barney Cam II - Barney Reloaded" a video taken from a dog's eye perspective in this case, George Jr & Laura's. The sequel aspect of it caught me eye, too. Reading further, Barney Cam I came out last year, and according to the NYTimes article that I read, was the most popular offering on the White House web site.

In one of the catalogue essays for From Here to There, John W. Locke, writes: "...this is the first use of a canine camera in narrative or experimental film or video." Wrong-O! Boy-O! Thank god he also wrote "as far as I know..." otherwise he'd look really, really dumb.

Now critics can rant all they want about the "paradox, irony and sometimes even the absurd" make all the references they want to Decamps, Chardin, Lascault, Varchi, Poussin, and others, and make mention of 6 big screen videos, desaturation, and blah, blah, blah. But in a nutshell, Ms. Sterbak didn't do much that was original.

Compare this (concluding) paragraph from the catalogue for Ms. Sterbak, by Gilles Godmer (Curator at the Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal)

Under the influence of Stanley who, clearly, is calling the tune, at the mercy of his raw, playful energy, we are definitely confronted, in this work, with a disorder bordering on chaos. This disorder is obviously related to the size of the animal, but even more so to his nature which, for the most part, relies on the extraordinary acuity of his sense of smell a sense that has always been considered suspicious, long since dethroned, eclipsed or even sometimes banned from Western civilization. Consequently, this disorder goes well beyond the purely aesthetic aspect of the work. Having its origin in a return of the repressed, it is linked with a position of the subject whose emancipation dates back to the dawn of time. It is a disorder that may be described as fundamental (because it relates to animal nature), and that has resonances in the writings of Georges Bataille in that it goes back to very murky waters of sexuality and death. Quite insidiously, this has the effect of greatly increasing the discomfort we feel, and in which this new work by Jana Sterbak plunges us without any doubt.

With this paragraph from the article by Elisabeth Bumiller

The video, appears designed for the under-7 set. But it is notable for adults in that it captures the president of the United States talking to his 3-year-old Scottish terrier as if he were a small child. (Mr. Bush has referred to Barney as "the son I never had" in political speeches.)

I think Ms. Bumiller got it dead-on-balls-accurate - and M. Godmer missed the boat.

Now to jump into the theoretical analysis (ok, sorry, those are big words). Let's break it down, ok?

George Bush is the president of the United States, last year, as an obvious publicity stunt, he got some folk who worked for him to make a video with his dog, in order to make him seem to sorta, kinda, you know, nicer and more of a regular guy. It was such a humongous hit, and exceeded any and all expectations, that he figured "hey! let's do it again!"

Jana Sterbak is a Czech artist, jet setting between Montreal and Barcelona. Recognizing the obvious absurdity if a dog shilling for the president, decided to take that absurdity and toss it into the Art World. Like deciding that the War on Terrorism was/is a good thing and then using the same tactics and methods to start a War on Dumbness. The only problem is that by not making the obvious connection between Stanley and Barney, Ms. Sterbak ends up looking and sounding like Mr. Bush.

Add in the hit-you-over-the-head-it-is-so-obvious reference to the James Jones book (1951) and the Burt Lancaster film (1953) made at the height of the Cold War, and things start to get murky.

Copying from the inside flap of the slip cover of the book: "In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair...in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no other the honor and savagery of men."

So, do you think that while most folks out there think that Artists and the artistic world are in general a bunch of pansy ass liberals, that Ms. Sterbak is secretly doing stuff to help make the world a safer place for democracy? Or that by using the methods of the leader of the free world and a toss off line from Rudyard Kipling she ain't saying more than it's a dog's life?

I guess I'm going to have to find a way to see the damn thing now.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Big Words Suck


Kate Taylor has an interesting piece in yesterday's Globe & Mail. In a nutshell, my reading of it goes like this:

"News item: Astronomers have figured out a reason why the sky in Edvard Munch's The Scream is so cool. But who cares what astronomers think about art? They are by definition not qualified to talk, look or even think about art. Art should touch the heart, and if you don't get it, tough."

She uses big words like; "apogee," "quintessential," "reductivist," and "seminal," in order to prove her point. Her point being that she's writing about Art (notice the capital "A") and you're reading it.

Unfortunately, by using that line of thinking, any way to further an understanding of a piece of art, or cheap and easy way to get somebody to look at a piece of art, is bad. So much for using connoisseurship, deconstructivism, ethology, feminism, formalism, Freudian criticism, hermeneutics, historicism, Jungian criticism, Marxism, new historicism, semiotics, structuralism, or any other means to appreciate a painting (or poem, film, sculpture - you get the point).

From my perspective all of these are equally valid and kick-ass ways of talking about pretty things. Most people don't give a rat's ass about the things that are on walls (unless of course it offends them). If by chance, there is a particular star formation that then causes them to stop and look at a Van Gogh painting, instead of scanning the headline for how much it sold for at auction - Rock On! Brother!!

Granted I don't know what the hell Kristevan (Kristevian? Kristevanism? Kristevanist?) is. But I would sure as shooting figure it out and use to analyze paintings if my mom had decided that the 11th letter of the alphabet was a cooler letter than the third. Or if Mary Ann Caws had been my mom I might know what it means, too.

If you like the color pink, and as a consequence really, really like paintings (or movies, or songs, you get the idea) that have pink in them, this is a good thing. If, because of this unnatural attachment to Pantone 9301 U and its cousins, you summarily decide that every movie made before the Wizard of Oz sucks that's cool. Just because I really dig something doesn't mean that you have to.

The best part of this is that if your study of the Norwegian weather in 1883 gets somebody else to look at The Scream who otherwise wouldn't have (and my guess is that it did). That is one more person who is now enjoying the painting.

As a defense Ms. Taylor writes "The eager detectives who ferret out the scientific details of these artistic experiences always argue they don't mean to diminish the art, but that is the effect, however unintended, of their discoveries." Or if you would like the Zekespeak translation: Scientists hit you over the head that their way is the only way. Since their way is wrong, they should be stopped.

Munch himself wrote in his diary on 22 January 1892:

"I was walking along the road with two friends.
The sun was setting.
I felt a breath of melancholy -
Suddenly the sky turned blood-red.
I stopped, and leaned against the railing, deathly tired -
looking out across the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword
over the blue-black fjord and town.
My friends walked on - I stood there, trembling with fear.
And I sensed a great, infinite scream pass through nature."

In the explanation of The Scream at the museum on Norway, where the painting has hung since 1910, they write "The work depicts not so much an incident or a landscape as a state of mind. The drama is an inner one, and yet the subject is firmly anchored in the topography of Oslo - the view is from Nordstrand towards the two bays at the head of the Oslofjord, with Holmenkollen in the background." Sounds to me like getting a better grip on what was happening in Nordstrand wouldn't hurt.

Last I heard in order to be a scientist, you need to ask questions, and look for answers. That Q&A thing 99% of the time involves dialogue. Dialogue means talking about stuff. If that stuff is Art, - Rock On! Brother!! Talking about Art is ALWAYS good.

If Ms. Taylor had done some more research before she wrote, she would have discovered that Dr. Donald W. Olson, not only identified when and where Munch was when he painted, but that he had published his findings in Sky & Telescope - the most famous of the famous Art Magazines. I think that the other astronomers (professional, academic, and amateur) are talking about The Scream and other paintings just a little bit more than they did before.

Then finally, the thing that I got the biggest kick out of was discovering that Dr. Olson did the same thing with Troilus and Criseyde, man, I think I'm going to either get myself a telescope, or maybe hunker down with Chaucer, on a couch at the Nasjonalgalleriet.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Stuff gets weird, sometimes.


About 2 weeks ago I was here at the gallery and I get a phone call from this guy Martin. He says that he had been to the gallery before (during the infamous Smurf Halloween Party) and was wondering if he could bring a film crew here, in order to document a guy who wanted to break the Guinness World Record for most piercings.

After I pick my jaw up off the floor, I say �sure, why not?� Then it starts t get surreal. Apparently Martin is calling from London, England, Bravo UK has this series called �World of Pain� and the guy who wants to turn into a human pincushion is from Winnipeg. Something about Montr�al being in the middle, or that they are going to do more than one �interview� while they are here in town, so it becomes cost efficient. But I really got a kick out of the London-Montr�al-Winnipeg triangle, not one of your standard issue isosceles.

I have a feeling that this breaking of the world record for the largest number of surgical needles to be inserted into the human body will make for a better story than it will be in actual fact (again that Perception versus Reality thing). But riffing off the idea is tons of fun!

Back in the old days I got a copy of Re/Search #12 and was fascinated by the body modifications that were detailed, a couple of years before that I spent a full 2 years thinking about getting a tattoo, and then going back further, when I was 18 I burned myself with a cigarette, deliberately, once. But seriously getting into any of those things, or becoming a professional masochist was not something that I thought would be terribly fun. However, reading, discussing, thinking and watching, occasionally (following the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow around the country as a roadie was not going to happen either) is an eminently enjoyable diversion. Sorta like a small dose of TV.

Now, I get my kicks from and by smaller pleasures. But it is nice (ok, maybe not THAT warm and fuzzy) to still think that I can revert back to the level of entertainment that I had when I was 18.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Defining Art #351-A


Upon rereading what I wrote yesterday (scroll down) I realized that I was just a tad disjointed. Maybe the excitement of starting a BLOG got to me. Apologies. So, now I�ll try and keep myself focused. Wish me luck.

I have a pretty much open and inclusive definition of Art. If it makes you think, it is Art. Pretty much keeps me on my toes. It does not mean that everything that makes you think is Art, nor does it mean that if you�re thinking then the Art is good. But it is a fairly radical stance, and I�ve gotten myself into a number of heated discussions about it.

As the gallery is continuously and always being approached by new artists of every size shape and color, forcing myself into a position where I have to consider the possibility of anything being art is a good thing. On the flip side I end up seeing a whack of stuff that shouldn�t even grace a landfill.

The biggest problem I run into is with the other gatekeepers, the Museum curators, gallerists, Established (or emerging) Artists, bureaucrats, jury members, and critics. They all have a vested interest in not only defining what is and is not Art, but also in then telling you what is good Art.

Think about it for a second.

When was the last time you needed somebody to tell you what a movie was. When was the last time you nodded sagely and exclaimed, �Now I understand!� after reading a book review about an author you thought stunk? And since when do you need a PhD to turn on your CD player?

Take out the words �movie,� �book,� and replace them with art, and change that CD player you�re turning on into walking into a contemporary art gallery � get the picture? You (and everybody else I know) has a head on their shoulders, most of the time you use it quite well, why the disconnect when it comes to things you stick on the wall?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Perception versus Reality #75


Last night's shindig at Quartier Ephemere was interesting to say the least. One would figure that between the three organizations that everybody who was anybody in the Art World would have been there.

Not quite.

By my best guess there were about 150 folk who showed up. There are a lot more folk involved in the Montr�al Art World than 150, and off the top of my head I could get to at least 50 missing folk without breaking a sweat.

On the other hand those that were there did have a grand time. Myself included. Being able to talk to Bryne, Melony, Kristi, Phil, Phillip, Pierre, Dawn, Cas, and everybody else was good. I used it as an opportunity to introduce a whole whack of folk to the gallery. And given how strong the fear factor is about my gallery, any and all opportunities are appreciated.

I'm looking forward to reading the Montreal issue of Canadian Art especially to reading between the lines and seeing who isn't there. Off the top of my head I can imagine that there are a whack. And this is where the perception versus reality kicks in.

The perception is that getting your name in Canadian Art (and by extension Parachute is a good thing). Therefore not being in either of them is a bad thing. When in fact the amount of people who become aware of your name due to either magazine is miniscule - as evidenced by the turn out last night, and the number of readers of each magazine.

Parachute is not attempting to expand the ideas of Art in any way shape or form. They are furthering the idea of the White Cube, and doing everything that they can to scare away anybody who might be curious as to what the fuss is about.

Canadian Art is attempting to broaden the discussion, but unfortunately there is a lot of baggage that they are carrying, and getting them to turn on a dime is very difficult. I like the direction that they are going in, but only wish that they would get there faster.

Perception: Visual Art is a good thing.
Reality: The amount of people who go to see contemporary Canadian visual art is minuscule.

Perception: Visual Art is difficult.
Reality: Most people don�t trust their eyes.

Perception: Visual Art is expensive.
Reality: Going to a gallery is free.

This probably could serve as my manifesto, or rant. The Canadian Contemporary Art World, as represented my Parachute, is a snobbish clan that attempts to serve its self-interest by continuing to further the idea that Art is complicated, tough, and makes your brain hurt. They regularly write paragraphs like this:

"Replicating a human body in artificial form has been a goal since antiquity, although it was not until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that the term automaton came into prominence to describe these ingenious inventions. In Enlightenment Europe, the famous mechanisms simulating human and animal activities � Wolfgang von Kempelen�s chess player, Jacques de Vaucanson�s eating and defecating duck � raised perplexing questions about the definition of humanity as well as the boundaries between living beings and inanimate matter. Despite being marvels of deception, these devices incarnated the promise of mastering nature and overcoming the body�s mortality, yet also generated anxious sensations of the uncanny".

Umm, have YOU ever heard of Wolfgang von Kempelen or Jacques de Vaucanson before? Didn�t think so. If Parachute wanted to make the Art World more inviting to most people, how about a reference to Frankenstein the movie, (or the book) or if you want to be fancy, Der Golem. I don�t think anything would be lost at all. All Jim Drobnick is trying to do by making references like the above is telling you, the reader, that he is smarter than you are. All he is really doing is showing you that he has more books than you do.

Talking down to your audience is a surefire way to make sure that your audience remains small. Sorta like making a club that requires a $50,000 annual membership fee. But at least the Augusta National Golf Club is public about wanting to be a bunch of snobs.

By being a bunch of snobs, Chantal and company are attempting to limit the people who have access to the approximately $20 million that the Canada Council handed out last year.

How about this as a re-write?

Pretty much since the beginning of time, people have tried or wanted to make a Frankenstein monster, you know, Golems and the like. Back in the 1800s, they invented a word; automaton to describe what we now know as robots. As is the case when people try to mess with nature, there were (and still are) a whole mess of questions that get raised. And believe it or not, some of those questions were scary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Upcoming stuff happening here at the gallery:


December 14 - Dragana - 7:30 pm - Free (Bulgarian music) - Live at Zeke's CD, Vol 91
- Something about a maiden who challenges a nightingale to a singing contest. My guess is that the maiden wins hands down, especially since in this case there are seven of them.

December 17 - Insitu - 7:30 pm - Free (rock/pop) - Live at Zeke's CD, Vol 92
- Baby it is cold out there, best to get your butt Insitu at Zeke's to hear Fred and Diana. No, not the John Mellencamp song, much smoother, and so much more 21st century.

December 18 - Dirty Ol' Band - 7:30 pm - Free (Celtic music) - Live at Zeke's CD, Vol 93
- After getting those Xmas presents for your third cousin twice removed, you're definitely going to want to blow of some steam - or at least roll around in the mud with Sean, see you then.


December 14 - Streeteaters Art Market - 1pm
- Paula and the gang supply everything you need for all those stocking stuffers - easy, friendly, and warm.


Carrie Jardine - Stay Gold - watercolors and acrylic paintings
- Are you one of the 471 folk who have seen her paintings? Or are you still out in the cold? Mighty roasty toasty warm here, and the paintings are fun as well.


- We got a raffle going on here, $5 gets you a chance to win a round-trip ticket on ViaRail for two anywhere in between Quebec City and Windsor. A full $795 worth of train travel! Only 200 tickets available - email zeke for more details.

Parachute Magazine, Canadian Art Magazine, AND Quartier Ephemere, are all co-hosting something that is happening at Quartier Ephemere tonight. Talk about blowing your load all at once!