Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its last November edition. Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!
As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message or leave a comment below.
Beaux Dégâts #45 – Tap Water Jam MTL + Ella Grave showcase
Beaux Dégâts is a time-honoured Montreal tradition that combines improvisation in musical and fine arts to create a unique organic event space. From their Facebook page:
“Beaux Dégâts tries to make a parallel between the reality of street artists and the Fine Arts. It is here to bring back what has been ignored for too long by art institutions and return to the street artist’s reality: the importance of community, sharing, accessibility and uniqueness.
For two hours, six teams of artists will improvise 8ft X 8ft murals on different themes given on the night. Each team will have to research and find visual references to create a production in front of public. All mediums except spray cans are allowed. During the evening, the public will vote for it’s favorite mural using their empty Pabst beer cans. The team that will collect the most cans will win the right to paint over the other artists work if they wish.”
Beaux Dégâts #45: Live Improvised Painting and Music – Wednesday, Nov 30, Foufounes Electriques, 8pm-1am. Entrance: 5$
The Crossing presented by Cinema Politica Concordia
Cinema Politica is a media arts, non-profit network of community and campus locals that screen independent political film and video by Canadian and international artists throughout Canada and abroad. It is volunteer-run and all screenings are by donation.
The film that Cinema Politica is screening this Monday, The Crossing, “takes us along on one of the most dangerous journeys of our time with a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents and five countries, searching for a home to rekindle the greatest thing they have lost – Hope.”
The Crossing screening @ Cinema Politica Concordia, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard W, Room H-110, Monday, 7pm. Entrance by Donation
50/50 presented at Mainline Theatre
50/50 is a novel concept; a half-scripted, half-improvised live comedy show! This show was a major hit at Just For Laughs 2016 and will not be back for four months – definitely catch this if you can at the Mainline Theatre.
Coming off a sellout show at OFF-JFL/Zoofest this past July, 50/50 returns with a new cast blending talented actors and hilarious comedians. In each of the show’s nine scenes, a prepared actor who has learned lines off a real script is paired with an improviser who has no prior knowledge of what the actor has rehearsed.
50/50 @ Mainline Theatre, 3997 boul St-Laurent. Wednesday, November 30th, 8pm. $15 (students/seniors/QDF Members $12)
Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!
Forget The Box is kicking off Autumn with a new weekly calendar of arts shows in Montreal! Check out these events and feel free to contact us with suggestions for others as well.
Alder & Ash
Alder & Ash is a counterpoint of two extremes. The music lies in stillness, introversion, and penitence. It lies in violence, cacophony, and angst. Alder & Ash plays solo cello with loop pedal to create improvised minimal classical music, with influence of doom metal, ambient, post-rock and noise. Alder & Ash will be performing live at Le Réactueur as part of an ambient music showcase – don’t miss it!
Alder & Ash Live at Le Réacteur, 2401 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Friday, October 14th. Pay-What-You-Can
Fela Kuti Tribute
The Tupi Collective crew, ASMA, KYOU, and DJ Kobal are putting together an exciting evening filled with sonic tributes to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti at Groove Nation. The event is in celebration of what would have been Fela’s 78th birthday, October 15th (but don’t get it twisted, the show is October 14th).
Fela Kuti Tribute at Groove Nation, 410 Rachel Est, Friday, October 14, 10pm-3am. $5 before midnight, $10 after
Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza
Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza offers Montreal’s finest in a casual context with one of the best new resto/bars in the city. At your service Riccardo Spensieri & his crew will be dishing out the eats and libations as Franco Taddeo & friends light up the night with laughter.
Taddeo is joined by emcee Peter J. Radomski of Just for Laughs fame as well as Paul Baluyot, ParkEx’s One Name Wonder Pantelis, TV’s Geoffery Appelbaum, Erica “The Funny & No Relation” Taddeo plus a Special apperance by Ernie the 80 year Old Comedian & his stool (chair to sit on to be clear!!).
Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza at Pompette, 4128 Boulevard St-Laurent, Wednesday, October 19th, 8:30pm – 10:30pm. $9 with comedy night special on drinks
Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at email@example.com. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!
Jason is back for a new season of the FTB Podcast! Panelists Mirna Djukic and Cem Ertekin discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline, the problems happening within the Canadian Green Party with an interview from Quebec Green Leader Alex Tyrrell and our News Roundup segment. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
MTL is a city with a vibrant underground culture, you know. This may be the last major city in Canada where one can still lead a Bohemian lifestyle and not starve. We got musicians, artists and creative types for days. FTB was at the annual 420 marijuana gathering held every April 20th at Mount Royal park. This year the weatherman dealt us a weak hand: it was windy, cold and raining those fat drops that are only welcome on hot summer days.
I got my effects sorted out early in the day and put on my worst pair of shoes to brave the wet. We get it in. There were hundreds of people in rain slickers dancing through the muck. A ramshackle tent made of tarps was strung up over the DJ table. His set was pure 90’s dancehall gold. Buju Banton and Beenie Man. Staccato patois injections by the DJ—
I even heard a Beres Hammond track at one point.
There were lots of student organizations handing out info on drug policy, which was a new thing, and maybe portentous of changing drug laws in Canada. MTL would be wild if you fly in, hit the hotel, then drop by a super lush lounge where you could purchase the finest green from a menu with gold embossing. One can dream, right!?
At one point some dude thrust a water pipe up into the grey sky and started dancing like mad. In that same instant the sky broke open and the rains came heavy and sideways. I stayed until 4:20 proper, huddled around the huge angel on the obelisk. Pretty smoky by 4:25— that’s MTL.
420 is a sanctified party holiday in MTL: no police, no violence (other than that kid who was chased into midday traffic on Parc) . No problem. Just beautiful young people smoking weed in a downpour and listening to classic Caribbean rhythms. Happy 420 from FTB. Hope to catch you at the party next year.
2015 has been off to quite a busy start, but before we get too involved, let’s take one final look back at 2014.
Every year we ask our contributors to vote on the favourite two posts they wrote and the two posts they liked most from all the other contributors on the site. Then, in a not-too-scientific manner, we turn that into this list.
In no particular order, these are the top posts of 2014 on FTB:
After the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri erupted. In Montreal, the Black Students’ Network of McGill organized a vigil. Cem Ertekin was there to report and record audio and Gerry Lauzon took pictures (read the post).
We only published one post about Jian Ghomeshi this year: Johnny Scott’s satirical response to the overbearing presence of Ghomeshi images in his Facebook feed. The story is important, but do we really need to keep looking at his face? (read the post)
Did you know that Igloofest started out as a joke? Well, it did, and now it’s anything but. Find out about the fest’s origins and its future in Bianca David’s interview with founder Nicolas Cournoyer. (read the post)
When municipal workers took up the fight against austerity, Jason C. McLean wondered if it was possible to show solidarity with those who didn’t reciprocate. Also, would that even be a good thing? (read the post)
This year, we covered Just for Laughs, OFF-JFL and Zoofest. One of the more, um, interesting performances we saw was by Brody Stevens (he had a cameo in The Hangover). Find out why it piqued our interest in this report by Jerry Gabriel. (read the post)
Lindsay Rockbrand just wanted to lay down for a few minutes on a park bench, but the SPVM wouldn’t let that happen. Even though it was before 11pm, they managed to give her a ticket for being in a park after hours (read the post and listen to the interview)
It’s not usual for a year-in-review piece to make it to the list of favourite posts, but Stephanie Laughlin’s look at the events of 2014 as a reason feminism is still needed bucks that trend. Find out why. (read the post)
Our April Fools posts usually catch a few people (usually those just waking up) off-guard, but in 2014 we really seemed to have hit a nerve. Maybe it’s because the scenario we jokingly proposed wasn’t all that inconceivable, given the climate. (read the post)
This year, McGill held a conference on oil and Canada’s energy future. It welcomed people with sustainable solutions to our dependence on fossil fuel and Ezra Levant. FTB’s Sarah Ring and Jay Manafest were in attendance. (read the post)
No, this isn’t just in here because it mentions Ygritte from Game of Thrones, but that helps. It’s actually a pretty cool interview by Pamela Filion with Leigh Janiak, Rose Leslie’s director in Honeymoon. (read the post)
This piece by Cem Ertekin is a prediction of what’s to come in the Quebec student movement (SPOILER ALERT: We’re in for another Maple Spring). It’s also a great primer for anyone wanting a rundown on just what austerity is and Quebec politics for the last few years. (read the post)
Earlier this summer, I began journeying back into the world of poetry reading, a scene I had exited almost five years ago, and attended one of Montreal’s new reading series organized by local poet Klara Du Plessis at the lovely Resonance Cafe. Jon Paul Fiorentino was one of two featured readers and took to the stage at the end of the event. I’m not sure what caught my attention first, the wit in his poetry, or the copy of Hello Serotonin that he threw right by my head as part of his performance. Let’s call this a very memorable first impression indeed.
Fiorentino is a young author with an impressive body of work including full length books, contributions to literary anthologies, radio essays, scholarly articles and criticism. His past full length books of poetry and fiction include Indexical Elegies (2010) Stripmalling (2009), soon to be produced into a feature length film, Asthmatica (2005), Hello Serotonin (2004), Transcona Fragments (2002). He is currently a professor at Concordia University where he teaches creative writing.
After my encounter with Jon Paul Fiorentino at the Resonance Reading Series, it seemed that we kept bumping into each other around the city at local shows and poetry readings. After a little while, I decided it was time for me to read one of his books. On September 8th, Fiorentino is launching his latest book of poetry entitled Needs Improvement.
Needs Improvement is Fiorentino’s sixth collection of poems. In these pages, Fiorentino takes a critical look at the language of education and the way in which pedagogy coerces and enforces certain types of performances. Split into three sections, Needs Improvement, is satirical, witty, and ironically educational in the ways of poetry and language. Of the collection, “Lowerhand”, “The Report Card of Leslie Mackie”, ‘Guide for Taking the Exams’ and “Open Source” are standouts. Furthermore, the schemas used in the ‘Pedagogical Interventions’ section are poignantly tongue-in-cheek and a treat for those familiar with the seminal works of Foucault, Butler, Freud, and more.
In light of the launch, I had the chance to quickly interview Jon Paul Fiorentino about his writing process, his wit, and Needs Improvement.
Poets you admire/enjoy currently?
JPF: David McGimpsey, Darren Wershler, Darren Bifford, Margaret Christakos, Sina Queyras, Ken Babstock, Christian Bok, Mike Spry, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Jessica Grim, Catherine Hunter, John K Samson. I am happily all over the map.
What is your writing process like?
JPF: Drink, cry, write, rinse, repeat.
What inspires you generally, and more specifically when it came to writing Needs Improvement?
JPF: If this book has a “cause,” I suppose it would be anti-bullying. Needs Improvement addresses the way we receive instructional, evaluative, and pedagogical language. It reveals how teachers are often the worst bullies and it advocates for a space for the marginalized, different, odd.
What would you say was the greatest challenge in writing this book?
JPF: I “wrote” some visual schematics for seminal texts and a series of fake report cards. It was a lot of labour to come up with a design that looked like grainy photocopies of 1980s report cards. The schematics were fun to do, but also very labour intensive. Graphic design is one of my unhealthy habits.
You have an impressive amount of publications under your belt, can you tell us a bit about your journey thus far as a writer?
JPF: I started young. But I’m glad I did. I am proud of my early books, warts and all. The early juvenilia is still mine and it makes it clear how far I’ve come. I am no longer afraid of saying a thing simply and clearly. Nor am I afraid of letting myself go in the name of linguistic experimentation.
Wit and comedic ability seem to be at the core of your work, where do you think this comes from?
JPF: I think I use humour (less so in poetry than in prose) because it’s a natural component of my rhetoric. I was a weird little kid and got picked on a lot. I developed a heightened sense of humour in part because it was the best way to negotiate with bullies. The adult world has even more bullies and I find myself in the unique position of being able to call them out. Humour is an excellent all-in-one tool for disarming thoughtless, evil people.
What would you say has changed in terms of your writing since your last book?
JPF: I think I am more at ease with the idea of the intersection of activism and art in writing. I’ve always believed in this intersection, but I wasn’t always able to be so direct about it in my own practice. I think things changed for me quite recently when I began to write op-eds about things like sexism, depression, mental health advocacy.
“So what are you doing now?” is the question that has been consistently posed of me since my arrival back home from my final year of university. It’s a question that hits a nerve every time that it is asked. It may seem innocent but it can be packed with judgment, it’s not so much a question as it is a gauge of ones usefulness.
Originally a Montrealer, I spent the last four years studying at Western University, formerly known as the University of Western Ontario, in London. While at Western I actively participated in clubs, edited the film studies journal, and was a zealous member of an on-campus fraternity, while simultaneously maintaining a straight “A” average. In listing my achievements at university my intent is not to self-congratulate myself (there are many students at Western who have similar if not better achievements than I), it is to implore my elders and those who claim seniority over me to lay off. After four years of hard work and campus involvement, what am I supposed to do? At least allow me to catch up on some sleep before you ask me to figure out my life. Now, to return to the question that opened this article: “So what are you doing now?”
Whenever I hear that question I feel like Samuel L. Jackson’s infamous character, Jules, in the scene where he interrogates his doomed victims in Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic, Pulp Fiction. I feel like pulling my metaphorical Colt .45 out of my pocket, look my innocently curious interrogator in the eye and yell, “say what again! Say what again! I dare ya! I double dare ya motherf#%^er! Say what one more Godd@!mn time!”
It seems to me that university grads are not getting the credit they deserve. More alarmingly, the university system doesn’t seem to get the credit it deserves either. From an economic standpoint, fewer students are able to land jobs upon graduation. However, economic trends fluctuate and that statistic may change. Yet, of late, I’ve noticed that the university system does not retain the clout that it once yielded on a sociological level. Students have just finished what could be their final educational achievement and they are quickly shoved into another stage of their lives as if their milestone was meaningless. It is no longer enough to say that you graduated university.
Times are tough. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for university graduates to get a job. Thus, we are forced to either take jobs that we are under qualified for, or, we feel the need to jump into a “practical” graduate program, which we are not positive is the right fit for us. It is this mission, this search for the sacrosanct entry-level job that I believe spells doom for the new generation entering the workforce.
Sure, parents can blame it on laziness cultivated by electronic stimulants. They can blame it on poor work ethic exacerbated by caffeine boosting energy drinks, which fuel the notorious college “all-nighters.” This is only the surface of the problem.
What truly is the issue with my generation is our lack of curiosity. Though, we are not completely to blame. How can we be blamed when we are taught that university is merely a factory where students are conditioned to enter the workforce without thinking twice about what they actually want to do? We are conditioned to believe that business and economics are the only valuable programs to study. I believe that there is more to education than finding a job.
Many folks bemoan the destruction of art. Music is not what it once was. Films have become cheapened. Maybe one of the reasons that artistic production has deteriorated is because students are no longer encouraged to follow their artistic dreams. Conversely, they are told to stay away from the study of arts because art does not cultivate the ability to get a job.
I have an arts degree and I am proud of it. Will it land me a coveted job upon my graduation? No. My friends who have graduated with finance and business degrees, on the other hand, will. Many have received high paying and highly sought after jobs at investment banks, start up businesses and other such firms. I think that this is wonderful. I think that the economy depends on people like my friends to contribute to the economy.
However, I don’t believe that employment out of university should be the only criteria of one’s value or worth in society. I don’t believe that the only jobs that are worth a damn are ones that are purely financial. I believe that students, upon graduation, should not be coaxed into a career that they are not sure they want to pursue. I believe that parents and elders should encourage younger members of society to take a breath, think about what they want to do, and then go after that goal with ambition, passion and hard work.
Next time you see your neighbour’s kid arrive home from university, think for a moment. Rather than ask him his plans and what he is going to do next, congratulate him, and tell him (or her) that he made his parents proud. Everything else will follow in time.
Roy Ascott writes in Gesantdantenwerk “One can no longer be at the window, looking in on a scene composed by another, one is instead invited to enter the doorway into a world where interaction is all.” The relationship between the viewer and the art object has always caused debate, which can be traced back to religious art and its place within the church, as art pieces were seen as a window to the vision of God and having holy elements, viewers were often prohibited from interacting with them by touching or closely inspect them.
The artwork was meant to produce a humbling effect on the audience from afar, which aimed to place them in awe of some divinity. These notions were shared by all monotheistic religions, be it Judaism, Christianity or even Islam where the decorated shrines of “Imams” were protected by gold cages and the pilgrims were refrained from touching the artwork.
Seeing seems to be the only interaction deemed suitable for religious artworks, and this was further implemented by the restrictions of ownership and private property laws which are still in place today. As Erkki Huhtamo writes: “touching with one’s eyes only, was a manifestation of an ideological ‘mechanism’ where the formation of aesthetic experience was associated with ‘stepping back’ – maintaining physical distance from the artwork.” As he rightly points out the condition of art as valuable commodity, and the romantic notions of artist as a mad genius contributed to the limitations being imposed on interactivity with an artwork.
However, with the emergence of the avant-garde and a fresh take on presentation of art pieces by artists like Duchamp and the Surrealists in the 20th century, the path toward interactivity and the idea of “touch” becoming essential to works of contemporary artists was laid. Erkki Huhtamo continues in his essay concerning new media and idea of “Touch”: “The idea of interactive art is intimately linked with touching. As it is usually understood, an interactive artwork is something that needs to be actuated by a ‘users’.” He then proceeds to explain that the notion of “touch” is nor restricted to the physical act carried out by hands or other parts of the body, and can include vision and motion senses and even sound.
He goes on to say: “In a technological culture, forms of touch have been instrumentalized into coded relationships between humans and machines.” Interactivity of new media artists, especially light artists like UVA consists of interaction between man and technology, be they machines, computers or electric circuits. As technology and science based artwork became part of the art scene, interactivity became much more mutual on both the artist and the viewer, and in some cases the artist becomes unimportant as the interaction takes place between the viewer and the artwork itself.
By showcasing the Array piece in Japan, the UVA were tapping into a long ancient tradition of a country very familiar with the concept of Interactivity and Immersion. Japanese culture has a long artistic history and they view their “bijutsu” (Meaning ‘Visual Fine Arts’ a term introduced in late nineteenth century as Japan opened relationship doors and trading with the west) as having roots in traditional concepts of immersing in art which they value highly. Art played an integral role in Japanese life; and instead of being something revered as special, it was used in everyday life and surrounding with ordinary use. The tradition of painting pictures goes back throughout Japanese history, however it was seen as harmonizing the living and religious environment by hiring artists to paint their work on screens and sliding doors. Artwork could be found on most household items like tableware, chests and trunks. Elegant designs and complicated embroidery could be found on clothes and accessories.
Oliver Grau writes: “Immersion is produced works of art and image apparatus converge, or when the message and the medium form an almost inseparable unit, so that the medium becomes invisible.” And certainly with artworks like Array and Volume, the audience lose themselves in the experience, unaware of the medium or the artwork. Most contemporary audience fail to recognise such work as art and concentrate on working out a way to interact with the piece in their own individual way.
They are immersed in an environment accompanied by changing lights and sounds which they control by their movement and distance. It can be described as another alternative existence. Oliver Grau writes: “The most ambitious project intends to appeal not only to the eyes but to all other senses so that the impression arises of being completely in an artificial world,” and whereas Grau is referring to virtual reality, one can pursue the same notion in explaining the light installations of UVA with a difference which is: whereas in virtual reality one is aware of being immersed in an artificial world, in connection with light installations in question one is faced with real environments which can produce a sublime and lasting effect when immersion takes place.
Tim Stanley, the senior curator of Islamic Arts at V&A, tried to simplify the term Islamic Art as the art produced under the Arab influence in the region, and as an example he presented the Ardabil Carpet as the oldest dated carpet in the world. This is untrue due to the discovery of Pazaryk Carpet in 1940s excavated by U.S.S.R archaeologists Rudenko and Griasnor, which is dated around 400 BC and is now on exhibition at the Hermitage. Pazaryk Carpet is also believed to be an Iranian carpet, so one must ask why do curators insist calling Persian carpets Islamic?
The Ardabil carpet, which one cannot deny is the oldest fully preserved carpet, resides in V&A’s Jameel Gallery of Islamic Arts, and was made in Iran around 1540 AD, and this is known due to the date 946 AH woven into the carpet. The carpet has been signed by Muqsud Kashani, and it contains the first couplet of a poem by Iranian poet Hafez Shiraz.
The wrap, the weft, the pile, knot count and knot density, are all features which can help identify the carpet. It is generally known that carpets made in places like Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt or China, differ in style and techniques used. What is intriguing is that one can identify the actual city in Iran where the carpet was made, and even the workshop, making each carpet unique.
The size of the carpet is also of great importance. The bigger the carpet the more weavers were employed for the job, who would have sat side by side and had great skills and timing in order to make the carpet evenly and with the best quality possible. The Ardabil Carpet measures 34ft x 17ft 6ins, and the sheer size and quality of it makes it one of the most noteworthy carpets in the world.
Due to these characteristics, historians have come to the conclusion that the Ardabil carpet was made for Safavid Shahs, the royalty of Ardabil, hence the title. Adding to this notion, is the fact that the carpet has been signed, a procedure only undertaken by the person in charge presenting his or her work to the palace, a tradition in Iran to obtain as much favour from the royals as possible.
Arabs defeated the Byzantine army at Damascus in 635 AD and headed to Iran, where they occupied the Sassanian capital Ctesiphon in 637 AD, however it was in 650 AD when they managed to fight off the Iranian resistance. Political dominance seems to be initial goal of the Arab army, and then they proceeded to force Islam onto the people, however in theory only. The Arabs invaders, of whom the Umayyads had succeeded Muhammad from 661-750, started adopting many Iranian traditions and styles of governance. The Sassanian coinage system was adopted, as well as the office of minister, and the Divan, a bureau for controlling the expenditure and revenue. Many pre-Islamic influences can be observed in ornaments and textiles long after the Arab Invasion of Iran, and many artists and designers disagree and to this day fight the ideas behind an Islamic Iran.
Another feature of the Ardabil Carpet, which has been overlooked, is the beginning of the poem by Hafez. He is indeed a controversial figure in Iranian literary history, and has been misrepresented as a religious figure among the western historians, partly encouraged by the Islamic Government of Iran, which one should point out tried to ban the publishing of his book after the 1979 revolution.
Poetry in Iran has a long history, and to this day ordinary people take part in reciting poetry in social games. Iranian poets, like many intellectuals have always questioned the idea of faith especially that of Islam. Ferdowsi’s epic poem “The Book of Kings” (Shahnameh) which was written before Hafez, had eliminated every Arabic word, producing a purely Persian text. “The Book of Kings” is memorized by Iranians and acted out in ceremonial plays around the country, another tradition that the religious Imams pushed to destroy throughout history. Hafez was fully aware of these struggles by the people to hang on to their cultures, and so he portrays people’s discontent with religion and constantly questions the idea of faith in his poems.
The couplet from Hafez’ poem weaved into the carpet has been wrongly translated as:
“I have no refuge in this world other than thy threshold.
My head has no resting place other than this doorway.”
The issue of translation is a much overlooked problem, which exists in all languages, and many translators have adopted a new “sprit of the poem” method which will simply create confusion about the original. In the couplet above, the translator has clearly, either on purpose or by mistake, replaced the word “your doorway” with “this doorway” in the second line, thus bringing another meaning to the poem. Hafez is essentially showing his love for “Saghi” (the girl who pours the wine and is also his muse) in this poem. His love for drinking wine and women are prevalent in his poetry and at odds with Islam, and this fact brought him problems with the religious figures who had influence in the courts in his own lifetime. On one occasion he was charged with blasphemy against Islam.
If we look closer at the Iranian history we realize that the art of carpets has nothing to do with religion, especially Islam. These misunderstandings and popular misconceptions do not end with Iran. Many Middle Eastern countries are losing their identity daily due to lack of knowledge and research carried out within their countries, and more importantly by laziness of the western academics. Let’s face it: it’s easier to turn a blind eye to the oppression of traditions than having to carry out a comprehensive research.
Watching Fox 44 the other night, I noticed surprisingly in my drunken state, that I could not understand a word of the commercial lasting for around 60 seconds. I thought it was due to my then numbing mind, however after rewinding the television commercial I saw that it was in Chinese without any subtitles. I have to be honest and say that it was liberating in a way. It was as if finally a minority group in our society were being represented without having to cater for the super majority. They did not care whether you and I were interested in the product. It was irrelevant whether we understood the language. If I wanted to find out more, I would have to do research, or at least ask someone about it.
Yes there was something on my television that I did not understand, and instead of resenting the people who made it, I found myself more interested in their product and indeed it reignited my interest in all things Chinese. Culturally speaking China has a great history going back thousands of years, yet the country has seen the most dramatic fundamental changes happen in the past 100 years. The establishment of the Communist Party in 1921 and the Cultural Revolution in 1966 changed China’s cultural backdrop beyond recognition. People’s lives were also changed and copious injustices were force-fed to the population who lost much of their individual liberties for the promise of national progress.
It’s immaterial whether I’d agree with the Chinese take on Marxism, because these days I have my doubts about Marxism itself, however from an art history prospective I have never seen any group of artists find their connection with humanity and modern times more than the Chinese artists of today. What is even more wondrous is that these groups of Chinese artists are doing these great works amidst embargoes and restrictions placed on them by the government. It’s as if when artists’ hands are tied and they are more limited they manage to shine brighter and find a clear voice amidst the fog of conflict.
Chinese art that really matters today is born out of boundaries and not heartache. It is profoundly political and uncompromising. It is the new generation questioning the value system of the old, and ironically finding their way back to history. It is rebellion against collective ideology, yet it works within that framework. It is subtle and meaningful when you look at it twice, and you need to because you might otherwise dismiss it wrongfully. I have here introduced three artists that I thoroughly like myself.
Liu Bolin is a great Chinese artist who uses his own body to question the position of the individual inside a modern society. He prepares his body with paint and stickers in order to blend in with his backgrounds. He disappears, yet you can still see him, you know he is there because his work is being presented in a way that requires you to look for him. Living in any city around the world and you might encounter hundreds of people walking around at one time or other, yet you’d be hard pressed to remember their faces because you tend to be on your way to somewhere or on your way back. We have become so preoccupied with getting to places that we miss each other on the way. We have become complacent to other’s existence, and we are more ignorant because of it. Seeing these works makes you question your own preconceived values and you are searching for an individual in an urban background.
Next artist is the painter Zhang Xiaogang whose work I came across when watching the film “Sunflower” by Chinese director Yang Zhang. The film explores the relationship between an artist father in the time of Mao and his son who later becomes an artist himself. Sunflowers are referring to the communist generation who turned toward the revolutionary party exhibiting their loyalty. However the son’s paintings when he grows up, which are actually by Zhang Xiaogang, question these loyalties and the conditions people of China were subjected to. Some people see these works as supporting the Communist ideology, however I see more of a human link within these paintings which do not adhere to the ideas of a collective. Zhang Xiaogang himself commented: “For me, the Cultural Revolution is a psychological state, not a historical fact. It has a very strict connection with my childhood, and I think there are many things linking the psychology of the Chinese people today with the psychology of the Chinese people back then”.
Final artist I want to praise is the world renowned Ai Weiwei. He has been described as an activist artist, and much of his work is about highlighting the flaws in a system that preaches perfection. He took it upon himself to collect the names of children who died in the devastating Sichuan earthquake in 2008 called the “citizen’s investigation”. Ai Weiwei published 5 385 names in his blog which was later shut down by the authorities. In 2010 his installation “Sunflower Seeds” was exhibited in Tate Modern Turbine Hall, and consisted of one hundred million porcelain seeds all handmade and painted. Apart from referring to the revolution loyalists, the seeds are significant in terms of exhibiting the condition of the Chinese population. He remarked that having sunflower seeds have become a favourite pastime of the people, some of whom have cracked front teeth because of it.
China’s art is now a force to be reckoned with, and they are showing the world a side of our modern times that might have been forgotten and forsaken due to shackles of cultural and social fixations.
The question is an old one, and also been asked throughout history by various critics and artists from all over the world, yet the question has never been as paramount as it is today. Photography has changed enormously with the advancement of technology, and I would venture that the very nature of it has changed with the digital age.
Capturing a moment in time, at a certain place and thus cementing it in history is a long gone advantage of photography, and no matter how much the professionals in the field argue for the case of documentary genre, it is a thing of the past, and as it did when it was popular, it belongs in news rather than art galleries and museums.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of some old photojournalism work, and I would still pay to attend exhibitions of works like Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, or Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier. However if I’m being honest I’d rather pay to see the Paris scenes by George Brassaï, because artistic photography draws me in, stimulates my mind and inspires my soul.
Documentation of a moment is admirable, and indeed tremendously important, but for me art happens when you use your imagination to create something new from that moment. I’m looking for an experience, and that is precisely why I enjoy stimulating work. I’m afraid photojournalism’s contribution to this stimulation is few and far between and those who capture these moments can only be called lucky, because as much skill as they might possess, they would have to come in contact with the right situation to use their skill, and that happens through chance.
When a painter is confronted with a white canvas, the possibilities are endless. It is like a poet and a blank page. It is like a musician with his instrument. Endless variations. Endless prospects. Endless risks. It is only when the camera is presented with these visions that it reaches the same level as any other art form, and again it requires an artist to arrange the scene, or alternatively manipulate the already taken image to reach a desirable artistic scenario.
Digital age of ours has allowed us to crop, cut, replace; play with saturation, light, contrast; blur, frame, distort; use effects like cracking, bricking, edge burning, rainbowing, inverting; even pixilating and sketching a photograph. You can change a photograph so much that it will no longer resemble the original, and you can now have a printer reproduce the image with paint onto a canvas which then can be framed and put in a gallery labeled oil on canvas and no one could argue otherwise. After all, if contemporary art has taught us anything, it is the fact that the role of the artist is not important; it is the product that is born out of the idea that matters.
The problem is that with all the digital manipulation involved one might find it hard to call the process photography, because what we are being presented with aren’t just photographs in the traditional sense, they are artworks created using photography. These images are a far cry from reality, and no one would claim they have anything to do with the real world, so we would have to find a new word for them.
I would like to call them “Digigraphs”, and I really think they have revolutionized the art world. Anyone using a few applications and programs can create a piece of artwork using their computer, phone or tablet, and the result are not just photographs because the original file looks nothing like the finished product. Millions of these artworks are being uploaded onto social media sites every day, and some even find their way into our local galleries and museums.
True art for the people by the people, and although of our time, certainly not the same as photography or any other art form previously revered by the elite of the society. This is something entirely new and in constant state of evolution. It’s time to get involved and express yourselves, because being an artist means precisely that.
The winter season is upon us, and snow has already started to fall from the sky, however not surprisingly it has again been milder than last year and not much ice has formed on the grounds yet.A warmer winter means bad news for our ever so considerate and uniquely well-mannered taxi drivers as people are more inclined to walk their way to various locations, while it means good news for dog owners like me who do not have to worry about winter shoes for our pets.
Winter is of course the season that sees more greeting cards being sold on the account of that merry imminent eve when young and old come together, whether religious or secular, to celebrate generosity and selflessness. For as long as we have had the existence of cards, we have had the need to supply images for the cards especially for holidays like Christmas, and over the years images on holiday cards have become an industry of their own with certain artists and graphic designers working exclusively on Christmas cards all year round.
I would like to single out three images which I think would be ideal for Christmas cards, and considering the fact that I am a devout atheist, you can bet that I will not be picking works that are remotely chocolate boxy or religious in tone. So, if you were hoping for Thomas Kinkade like idealized winter scenes, I’m afraid I would have to disappoint you.
First painting is “Hunters in the Snow” by the Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel the Elder who is sometimes referred to as Peasant Bruegel because he depicted peasants lives predominantly. Painted in 1565 the work is also referred to as The Return of the Hunters as it portrays a group of hunters descending toward their village accompanied by their hunting dogs. The painting itself is monumental pieces of work which plays with the idea of civilization versus savagery. The hunters who kill and are violent by nature are returning to a place where there are no signs of primitive barbarism. Their hunt has been unsuccessful and they are tired, back bent, struggling to control their gait, resembling in many ways their dogs. At the same time down at the village there is modernism afoot. Children playing games and others ice skating with modern buildings surrounding them. The fire being lit at the left hand side might be referring to progress, and the crows resting on tree branches on the hunters’ side could be reinstating the idea of doomed activities men partake in. The right hand side of the painting where the village rests is more open and light, and the horizon takes the viewer deeper into the future where there is hope for improvement and better understanding.
The second work is “In the Woods” by the 19th century Canadian artist Tom Thomson who has been associated with the Group of Seven; however he was not a member of the group as he died before the group was formed, nevertheless his influence on Canadian art has been well documented. The painting in question was purchased by National Gallery of Canada in 1918 and it is truly a treasure worth seeing. The painting depicts woodland with trees blocking the way of any visitor and the viewer struggles to see beyond the obstruction. The snows on the grounds give the painting a chill factor which accompanied with the suffocating feeling one gets being denied access to proceed, makes one very aware of his or her position with respect to nature. Defenceless is a word which appropriately describes your feeling, yet there is hope and optimism presented by the sunlight which is allowed to peek through the tree branches. And there is the future to consider with the hint of mountains visible in the background, as if Thomson is saying don’t worry you will find a way through, however it might not be yet so patience is a virtue.
The final work I would like to bring to your attention is Le Moulin de la Galette Terrace and Observation Deck at the Moulin de Blute-Fin, Montmartre by Vincent Van Gogh painted in 1886. This painting represents what Van Gogh had been feeling before he embarked on his journey to Paris where he discovered a taste for colour and bold brushstrokes. This painting is Vincent prior to being bitten by Impressionism and Pointillism and has loneliness and alienation feeling to it. Vincent’s experience leading up to this point had been a very tragic one. He had spent his time observing poverty and abandonment of the underprivileged by the very society which was supposed to care for them. He saw himself as a prophet for the destitute, and his promise of salvation would come in the form of art. Yet, at this point he yearned for recognition and he detested the utter solitude gnawing at his insides.
In my view these three paintings would make wonderful card images for any art lover who is looking to enjoy something other than the usual over sentimentalized Christmas card. However if you think these works would be too sombre to send to your relatives and friend, I have here created an image which is so full of holiday cheer that I’m sure even your grandma would love, and it is free for all you Forget The Box readers to download and enjoy. However, I must state that even though I am permitting the private use of this image, the public copyrights belong to me and you should refrain from making an unscrupulous business venture out of this.
Lens, Pas-de-Calais, France is the new destination for art and architecture fans. You might not have heard of the town because it is very small with a population of only 35,000 and the only attraction of the town thus far has been a football stadium that had a capacity more than the population. However, now this old mining town has become the grounds for Louvre-Lens which is a branch of the Paris Musée du Louvre.
Lens was chosen in 2004 by the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin out of the other candidates for the project which included: Amiens, Arras, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, and Valenciennes. Choosing Lens seems to be a tactical as well as practical move by the officials as the town boasts a 20 hectare site just an hour away from Paris, as well as being located on an important highway to Holland and Belgium. They have estimated around 500,000 visitors from all over Europe per year which the officials hope will revitalize the local economy.
Similar projects have been experimented with in the UK with opening of Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate and also other branches of Tate in Liverpool and St Ives. There are talks of international ventures like opening branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, UAE. These projects have made many in the art world uneasy and skeptical as to their benefits overall.
The fact is that you are more likely to become a head of a museum or major gallery with a degree in economics or marketing than art history, and this is a reality many face after graduating. These establishments need to make money and with the growth of online resources and reproduction technologies, less people are inclined to visit Paris or London to see a major artwork. This has caused museums to increase lending, tours and opening of branches nationally as well as internationally.
Many have been vocal in their disdain for the branch openings, with critics like Harry Bellet from the Le Monde describing Louvre-Lens “like a bookshop where all the books are muddled up”, and the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones writing “British art museums must avoid the mistake the palatial Paris gallery is making in sending its treasures to the provinces”.
The Lens branch itself is very unassuming minimal structure designed by the Japanese architecture firm Sanaa, and the two people involved in designing Louvre-Lens Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima couldn’t be happier with the result. They set out to produce a space which would complement the outdoors and the natural setting of the grounds, as well as taking as much advantage of the natural light as possible.
The space looks and feels open with the walls resembling thin aluminum with plenty of windows and glass structures. It is a far cry from the 200 year old Louvre building in the heart of Paris, and in no way has that awe factor. Yet, it manages to draw people in and tweak their interest. The curator Adrien Gardère has produced an exhibition completely different to the Paris set up, where most of the artwork and artefacts are intermingling. The point seems to be to introduce pieces you might not have had the chance to see alongside one another, and this way it might produce inspiration for further exploration.
Granted the average visitor might be planning a trip to Lens just to see a few masterpieces like Liberty Leading the People and Leonardo’s The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, however they might have just set on a journey of discovery which might will them more interested in History of Art and a tad bit more enlightened.
A painting of the late singer Amy Winehouse done by the South African born artist Marlene Dumas has been acquired by UK’s National Portrait Gallery which is the second most important Art gallery in Britain. The price paid for the work is undisclosed, however judging by Dumas’s price tags I would estimate it for around $3 million. She has been described as the most successful artist of our time, which goes to show how far the art world has drifted away from the shores of sanity and taste.
I challenge anyone to find any resemblance of beauty in her work. Her paintings, which you might mistake of that of a child playing around with paint are, contrary to popular conception, devoid of any emotion or honesty. She possesses no technical proficiency, and the color palette might have as well been done by that elephant that wowed the YouTube audiences with randomly splashing paint onto a canvas.
Dumas’ Amy-Blue which will now shock the visitors to National Portrait Gallery as they walk into the contemporary wing, will be given an entire wall to itself as another testament to what market created reputation does for a bad artist. Look kids, you don’t have to learn how to draw or paint, you just have to find the right rich man to buy your finger drawings and you will be the most famous artist in the world.
The painting itself was painted after the pop star’s death, and has some resemblances to the singer, and the blue used has been described as relevant to her troubled life and her choice of music, but man it is an awful portrait. Failing to find any critic who would praise the work without abandoning their ethics, the press resorted to asking Amy Winehouse’s father to comment, and this is the man who disowned her own daughter when she was alive because of her drug taking and out of sorts behaviour, and after her death published a book about how he loved her, starting a foundation to cash in from her fame.
Mitch Winehouse in an interview said about the painting: “It is a fantastic piece of work and we are fascinated to know how Amy was seen and remembered by family, friends and artists of all kinds. With the Amy Winehouse Foundation, Amy is our inspiration and it is profoundly moving to find that she still inspires so many others too.”
Yes, Amy Winehouse was an amazing singer and I was a big fan of her lyrics which were raw and uncompromising, but honestly, would anyone call her an inspirational figure? She became so addicted to drugs that she could not perform on stage anymore, and people booed her until she was forced to cancel her tour. She kept returning to her relationship with Blake Fielder Civil who admitted to getting her addicted to crack cocaine and has a long list of charges to his name from sexual abuse to attempted robbery.
Have we not had enough of celebrities and pop idols? Are we not intelligent enough to decide for ourselves what is good or bad? Do we still need to pay for entertainment, while those who have to carry the burden of entertaining us lose touch with reality more and more? Aren’t studios and managers and publishers rich enough to stop feeding us garbage in hopes of fattening their own pockets?
Why does the old man in the corner of Saint Catherine and Drummond have to beg for cents and cigarettes, shacking from the cold, fingers and lips frozen blue, while you and I take money out to pay these robbers and charlatans to give us celebrity and all the products and news that come with it?
I’m afraid I find no beauty in the portrait of Amy Winehouse, and I will not condone UK’s National Portrait Gallery for exposing such inferior work to people especially children who will visit on their school trips. We do not need any more idols.
Barry MacPherson is an outstanding artist currently working in Montreal. His work takes you on an emotional journey so compelling that one cannot help feeling the awe inspiring admiration which I would usually associate with Abstract Expressionism. However, Barry’s pieces are far from abstract, they are figurative in all aspects, and yet they are not mere copies of nature and real life, they bring with them such ferocious force of feeling that you cannot look away. All I could do when confronted with his work was gaze meekly, unable to grasp my thoughts, unaware of my surroundings. I met with him and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
In your view, how hard is it to call yourself an artist or a painter? Does it take courage?
I guess if you take yourself seriously, it does. It’s a choice that you make and have to take responsibility for but it seems that the answer to that is left up to others biases and opinions.
Your paintings deal with emotions predominantly, even when they are devoid of people humanity can be found in them, do you consider this quality risky in the art market?
I never really understood the “Art Market” It has to do with money and marketing I guess and that is certainly something that was never taught in art school. I always (naively) believed that art was something that was creative and informative. It had nothing to do with what was being sold, just to be hung on a wall or whatever else. I have always had a strong belief that my work would be legitimate if I tried to be honest about my feelings on how I observe and portray whatever qualities I wish to express in my work especially within the context of the human condition. A world devoid of emotion would be a cold one indeed. From my observations I continually ask myself what is this person really feeling or what is really the situation here? My biggest problem is how can this be conveyed with all the limitations one has with the chosen medium, i.e. paint? To really answer your question, I think the art market has to do with what others dictate and not really the artist wishes to create.
Where do you stand on copies of your work painted by yourself or others? In essence can a copy ever regain the original quality?
I truly don’t think or care about this. We all copy something from something to some extent. Les Levine did a piece in 1970 titled “Les Levine Copies Everyone” In my “Reality of Life Series “ I took one of Bouguereau’s models and made her much younger to express what I was trying to do in “Broken Dreams”, the first painting in this series. I guess one might feel that they are on to something if their work is copied but a copy is a copy is a copy. To me the original quality is not only in the finished work but in the whole process from the concept to the chosen medium and the end result. There is a lot in there that a copy or reproduction could never capture.
Are you influenced by the Art scene or what is happening around you socially or politically? Or would you rather find solution to the meaning behind your work away from other influences?
I am not really not interested in the art scene, but am to some extent perhaps influenced by what others are doing, and yes I am certainly interested what does go on socially and politically. I feel this has always been the source and true foundation of anything I might think of as significant in any of my work. I like the idea of working in a series of paintings to cover a time frame of what actually happens in any event. And again these can be social or political in context.
When and where can we see your work next?
Presently I am part of a group exhibtion “Traffic” Conceptual Art in Canada, 1965‐1980, at The Vancouver Art Gallery that ends in January 2013 and in my studio.
For all those Plateau folks out there who so obnoxiously declare that nothing cool ever happens outside of their neighbourhood, I say you better watch out. I love the hustle and bustle of The Main as much as the next person, but with the opening of Gallery Boutique Arts dans le Coin, right next to NDG staple Shaika, things are starting to develop on Sherbrooke West. And for this west end girl who has spent more then her fair share of time on the orange line heading east, I say its about darn time.
This past Thursday I made my way to the Gallery Boutik to check out “The Lowbrow Theory” Vernissage. While there was no specific theme for the show, it was easy to understand why the curators brought the 12 artists on display together; the work was a combination of surrealistic, illustration, pop and street art, and it flowed together perfectly. To enhance your viewing pleasure the event had a DJ and gal in a Princess Lea bikini serving drinks… now who could possibly resist that?
I’ve greatly enjoyed expanding my arts coverage here at Forget the Box, and I do believe this is my first time devoting a post to a vernissage. It’s made me think about how I can ramble on for a thousand words about film or theatre but I find it much harder to analyse a piece of art. My date for evening summed it up best when I asked him why he liked a certain piece the best (painted by FTB friend Jody Hargreaves) and he shrugged and replied. “I don’t know… I just do.” A film or a play has two hours to win you over, but with a piece of art its all about the initial impact. You can wax on poetically about the use of colour which all the paintings (especially Hargreaves), used to excellent effect, but in the end like fashion I feel it comes down to that immediate feeling you get when you first lay eyes on it. Thankfully for me the night was full of positive gut feelings.
Of all the work on display that night, the pieces I found myself drawn to were the illustrations and prints. Dewey Guyen for instance, was one artist whose dark work reminded me of the “American Splendor” graphic novel series. While I don’t know if I would ever purchase his artwork, Guyen’s pieces are so intriguing that I found myself examining them the most all night. There’s got to be something said about art that creates such an intense reaction in you that you just can’t look away. If I was a wealthy art collector instead of a poor blogger, I happily would have purchased all the work of Earth Crusher whose simple yet engaging prints would look great hanging on any wall.
I wish I could have stayed longer on Thursday, but thankfully with The Gallery Boutik just around the corner from me now I’ll hopefully have plenty more chances to stop by and ponder the question of what it means to analyse a piece of art. If you want to check out The Lowbrow Theory show for your self the vernissage runs until November 15th.