On January 19th Montreal photographer Ana Jovmir debuted her ambitious new series What’s the Problem at Theatre St-Catherine. The series is comprised of photographs from a diverse group of individuals who each tell their own distinct story; I’m passionate. I’m angry. I’m ready for change.
With this series, Jovmir stepped away from her usual fashion and commercial photography work to create something much more intimate. Using friends and acquaintances as models, all the shoots were improvised. “As they stepped in front of the lens, I asked them to tell me about the things that piss them off. Things they’d want to change in themselves or their environment. And we just went from there,” Jovmir said.
So what inspired Jovmir to create a photo series based on the idea that anger and disillusionment can lead to creativity and positive change? “Often our freedom of creation is restricted by the society that surrounds us,” Jovmir explained. ”This project is about making people think what’s important to them. I’m hoping it inspires people to act on the things that they care about in a positive way.”
The theme behind What’s the Problem is a noble but quite broad one. Therefore certain photos in the series work better than others. It’s not that any of the photos in the What’s the Problem series are bad. Rather two photos in particular stand out for both perfectly embodying the theme of the show, and their immediate emotional impact.
Erica doesn’t just stand out because of the model’s beauty. Rather it’s her charisma and self-confidence that gives the photo a sense of energy. “I know what I want and am NOT afraid to go out and get it,” the photo seems to say.
Rosemary meanwhile is the only two person photo in the series. Immediately upon viewing the photograph one can see it speaks the most to What’s the Problem is trying to express. With only their eyes visible, both models represent that youthful determination that caring for a cause can elicit real change. It’s easy to imagine these two models just returning from a student strike protest.
In reviewing the photos for this series, it’s clear to see that Ana is a talented photographer with a long career ahead of her. Let’s hope she continues to take on interesting personal projects as well for a long time to come.
What’s the Problem will be on display until March 13th at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, 264 Rue Sainte-Catherine E.
The VICE Annual Photo Show kicked off yesterday evening at the Phi Centre, located in the Old Port of Montreal. “The New Photojournalism” features four talented photojournalists, whose photographs document various aspects of nature, daily life, and struggle around different parts of the world. The collection was co-curated by Larry Towell, a renowned Canadian photographer who has had his photos published in multiple popular magazines, such as the Rolling Stone, LIFE, and the New York Times Magazine.
According the VICE, “VICE and Towell share a passion for bringing an immersive, global perspective to the world.” The photojournalists that were selected for the show each give a unique perspective on a part of the world through their photographs, evoking emotion, wonder, and curiosity for the subjects and places that star in their work.
.The four collections that are featured at the VICE Annual Photo Show 2015 are Aaron Vincent Elkam’s Sleeping with the Devil, a photo series documenting the transitory state of Fort McKay in Northern Alberta; Mauricio Palos’ La Ley Del Monte, a collection that offers a glimpse into the tumulus state of the Mexican Drug Cartel; Dominic Nahr’s Seeking Refuge in Iraq, a documentation of the displaced citizens in Iraq in the midst of terrorism and political strife; and Brett Gundlock’s Flowers for Zapata, an emotional collection showcasing the fight against organized crime in a small Mexican town named Cherán.
Photo #21 from the series La Ley Del Monte, by Mauricio Palos. Photo by Sisi Ye.
The opening night of the photo show was largely successful, with the venue reaching full capacity within a matter of minutes after it opened. There was a line wrapped around the corner of the building, filled with excited guests who wanted to get a peek at what the show had to offer. However, if you didn’t get a chance to check out the exhibit last night, don’t fret – the photo show goes on until July 31st, with free admission for all guests. The only thing you’re missing out on now are the free drinks that were served on the opening night!
* Featured image: Flowers for Zapata, by Brett Gundlock. photo by Sisi Ye
The exhibit will be presented at the Phi Centre from July 23 to 31st, 2015. Admission is free. Visit the VICE website and the Facebook event for more information.
Montreal’s underground music and arts scenes are multiple and varied. So many pockets of underground (counter)culture exist in this city, it’s impossible to be aware and keep up with all of it. Thankfully, a great culture of collaboration exists here among underground musicians and artists and it’s common to see people blending different sounds and media while working with other artists.
Witching Hour is trying to take that concept and really turn it on its head with full moon or new moon parties that combine music, visual arts, performance and much, much more. Their next event takes place tonight, October 8, and is being promoted as the first Halloween party of 2014, so yes, costumes are welcome.
At its core, Witching Hour aims to bring people together for a fun night out in a way that breaks down barriers and banishes inhibitions. But it’s not just fun for the sake of fun (although it can be if that’s what you’re looking for). Rather, Witching Hour hope that attendees will actively participate in the night’s planned activities — which in the past have included yoga, meditation, drawing, body painting and martial arts — and learn something about themselves or the world through discussions of social and geopolitical issues. However, they are very careful to not taint the vibe of their events with personal opinions or schools of thought.
It’s important for Noom to make sure that “it’s the one time people can come together where they’re untouched by educational, corporate and social institutions. Almost everything we do in life is imposed upon us. The concept of magic and wonder is not just for the movies and TV.”
If that sounds ambitious, it’s because it is. Noom and others created the group with the idea of bringing the counterculture to the mainstream and welcoming as many opinions and ideas as possible as long as they are presented with compassion and an open mind. They make it a point to team up with others in the artistic community in an effort to draw more and more people into to these events.
I spoke with Ling and Vincent Ferrari (aka Così e Così) of No Exist about their involvement in Witching Hour. They were both invited by Noom to participate as performers in previous editions and have decided to join forces in putting on this event, thus Collision of Dimensions is an appropriate title for this edition.
Originally from St. John’s, Chang E Ling moved here and started painting. Previously, he was more into illustration but discovered he loved using watercolours. He told me about his evolution and growth as an artist, about having to get over failures and accept that making bad work is part of being a good artist. Most importantly, he’s very much about encouraging people to re-think what the role of an artist is or what their place is in the cultural fabric of society.
“Definitely I can see an alignment of my values and those of No Exist or Witching Hour or QuebékisŤanz,” Ling said. “All those people are definitely who ‘get’, per se, what I do and they understand the value of trying to do things differently just for the change. I want to be where that is being done. I don’t want to be doing something that’s just some money-making motion, I want to do something that’s about tearing all of that down and trying to get people to reconsider what a show is, what a painter is, everything. Because those are things that I found really helpful to think about when I started painting. It feels good to be a part of something like that.”
Ferrari also hails from elsewhere, having lived in Toronto just before moving here in May. He met Max Posthoorn (aka Nothinge) and they decided to start making intense electronic music together in unconventional or alternative spaces. He was drawn to working with Michael Noom and Witching Hour primarily because of the trust and freedom he is afforded. But he also found that some of his ideas align with the things Noom has put forward.
“I don’t know how much I agree with every single thing he says,” Ferrari said, “but I do know that down at the basis of this, he’s trying to deconstruct the system as it is already and that’s exactly where No Exist is coming from. It’s trying to dismantle these concrete ideas and preconceived notions of how music should be or how we should live. So Max and I are trying to explore this new-found black void, this empty canvas and find new ways of doing things and I believe that’s what Witching Hour is trying to achieve as well. That basic idea is similar so now we’re joining forces and we’ll see what we come up with.”
The biggest challenge is really convincing people to take a lot of what they know and what they’re comfortable with and throwing it out the window. It’s not enough to create a space where people can feel free of judgment from others; people need to free themselves from their own self-criticisms and fears.
“If you want to be able to create new things or change the pattern of, or the process of art, the first thing you need to do is accept awkwardness and uncomfortable-ness,” Ferrari said. “To develop, to grow you need to accept these things. That’s what we want to do on the 8th, we hope that everyone gives in to that reality.”
Concert poster design has become a great art unto itself and the proof is in the pudding with the fourth edition of Music on Paper, the annual exhibit co-presented by Osheaga. The event is held at Yves Laroche Gallery and entry is free. There you’ll find iconic poster art by some of the best in the business, silkscreens of which are for sale and cost between $30 and $150.
Here’s a short rundown of some of the artists featured at this year’s exhibit:
The founder of Pfahlert Creative Labs in North Carolina was inspired by design at a young age watching his father work in graphic design back when it was still done by hand. He’s done posters for The Black Keys, Wilco and Band of Horses, to name a very few.
The Toronto-based artist is obsessed with Wilco. He has designed posters for them several times and his favourite book is Learning How To Die, which is about Wilco. But he designs rad posters for plenty of other bands too.
There’s plenty more where that came from so get your fill at Yves Laroche Gallery (6355 boul. Saint-Laurent), open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. The exhibit runs until Saturday, July 19 and will be subsequently available for viewing at the Osheaga Arts Village during the festival August 1 to 3.
Since its inaugural edition in 2004, the Infringement Festival has offered Montreal audiences something unique. In a sea of big-name and medium to large budget events distinguished primarily by the art form they present, the Infringement has always opted for a different model.
With little to no budget and a team of strictly volunteer organizers (full disclosure: this year I’m one of those organizers as well as a performing artist and co-founder of the event), the Infringement presents acts from a variety of genres. There’s music, all types of music, theatre, visual arts, spoken word, video, guerrilla street performance, comedy, art in alleyways and much more.
The common thread? This is boundary-pushing, frequently activist and political art that challenges the concept of art as a commodity. Instead, it’s a labour of love.
The Infringement is not a stepping stone to the mainstream, rather a challenge to it (though, to be honest, some former infringers have gone on to mainstream success). Whether it’s a play in a bathroom challenging transphobia or a band who just wants to play a show and not have to go through red tape, there’s always a message.
This year is no different. The overall theme is Make Some Noise, a challenge to recent noise fines in the Plateau.
What is different this year is the length. The Infringement is focusing all the activity over five days and nights, call it an intensive dose of authentic culture.
The fest kicks off tonight (Wednesday) with the second-annual Recital Fractal hosted by Louis Royer at Labo de la Taverne Jarry on Jarry East. Expect an evening of French spoken-word and music. I attended the first one at last year’s Infringement and was impressed by the multiple talented artists crammed into just a few hours.
Thursday: The metro, dumpsters, dinner and open mic
There’s more music Thursday afternoon in George Vanier Metro. Yes, the Infringement is doing a show in the metro, busker-style. The event features Rebecca Anne Banks, Mr Saad and Richard Lahmy.
Thursday night the Infringement is in two parts of town, first in the Plateau for the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, always one of my favourite Infringement events. With art made from found objects and a vernissage with wine in a brown paper bag, how can you go wrong. If there ever was a challenge to the commodified model of art, this is it.
Next is the Infringement Feast. It’s a dinner celebrating both Infringement conceptualizer Donovan King’s birthday and ten years of the festival at first-time Infringement venue Caverne Grecque on Prince Arthur.
After dinner, the fest heads downtown, western downtown to be precise. Le Bull Pub near Atwater is the home of Jay Manafest and Eric Chevrier’s weekly open mic show Mic Check. This week, the mic is open to all Infringers.
Friday: Rock & Candyass
On Friday, the Infringement returns to familiar surroundings with a rockin’ night at the Barfly and the monthly Candyass Beach Party Cabaret at Cafe Cleopatre. Cleo is the venerable burlesque, drag and fetish performance venue with a strip club on the first floor that fought the city’s gentrification efforts and won. Candyass Cabaret is a sexy burlesque show that challenges stereotypes. A perfect Infringement match if you ask me .
The lineup at Barfly, in true Infringement fashion, is a medley of musical styles. There’s the sweet meaningful folk of Richard Lahmy and the wild, melodic punk of Crazy Knows Crazy, both Infringement veterans. We also get the trippy rock of Realms of Bliss and the experimentation of the extract, both Infringement newcomers.
Saturday and Sunday: Infringement intensive in Old Montreal
In another first this year, the Infringement is going to Old Montreal. Le P’tit Cabaret on St-Paul is a multi-purpose performance space with a mission: to bring locals back to the tourist-dominated cobblestone streets of the old city. The Infringement is happy to oblige with shows on Saturday and Sunday.
Quite a few shows, that is. While there are two events on the weekend that take place elsewhere: the Candyass and King Red Light Walking Tour that starts in front of the now closed (sigh) Bar Midway on Sunday and the art exhibit at Usine 106U on Roy Street East which is running for the duration of the fest, the rest of the Infringement action is at Le P’tit Cabaret.
Melissa Campbell and Cat McCarthy of the Buffalo Infringement Festival (the largest fest in the Infringement circuit) will be performing The Painted Dress, an interactive live painting, all day both Saturday and Sunday on the stage of the P’tit Cabaret’s first room. This is also where McCarthy’s Kitty Porn will be displayed. Yes, it’s an art exhibit featuring collages of hardcore pornography mixed with cute kittens.
McCarthy will also perform as part of the Buffalo Burlesque Collective on the main stage of Le P’tit Cabaret both nights (and will also be part of Friday’s Candyass Cabaret). This stage will also showcase performances as diverse as King’s Critical Report from the World Fringe Congress, Seven No-Name Comedians Doing Comedy, Infringement film screenings, a public reading of John Faithful Hamer’s Blue Notes and the Infringement Spoken Word Show hosted by Laurence Tenenbaum.
Le P’tit Cabaret will also be home to quite a bit of Infringement music including the second edition of the Infringement Hip Hop Show, this time featuring socially conscious rappers Jay Manafest, Nikolai Kush and Drop D and the always intensely entertaining PsynLangWage.
You may want to note that I mentioned the acts at P’tit Cabaret in no particular order. That’s because the best way to experience the Infringement as a journey of discovery, an artistic scavenger hunt, if you will. Just know that there will be something to enjoy on Saturday and Sunday from three in the afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning and head out.
Of course, you could just consult the schedule at infringemontreal.org, but that’s kinda cheating, don’t you think?
The 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival runs June 18-22
While Montreal may not come close to rivaling the level of fanaticism many European and Latin American cities display toward their soccer teams, there are definitely many devoted enthusiasts of the beautiful game among us. For the first time in North America, an effort is being made to bring them all together. Pitch Fest, Montreal’s newest festival, aims to connect hardcore and casual fans alike through film, visual arts, and music all in celebration of the game of soccer.
Paul Desbaillets, one of the founders of the festival and an avid soccer fan, said the time is ripe for this kind of festival to exist here and he hopes the idea of a soccer-themed festival will spread to other North American cities. Soccer as a cultural phenomenon is becoming very prevalent here, he said, but we don’t really have as much of an outlet for it as other parts of the world.
In a way, the cultural aspect of the game is the true focus of Pitch. It seems as though Desbaillets and his fellow founders really sought to make this a celebration of the fans rather than of the players of the sport. Soccer players are idolized the world over so it’s refreshing to see the focus shifted to soccer’s legions of supporters.
Desbaillets said it was important to not make this just a film festival, but to include other forms of art as well. Photography by Jeremy Patterson, art installation by Alan Ganev, painting by Ruben Ramonda, and visual art by street artist Stikki Peaches, as well as DJ showcases presented by MEG are some of the non-film components of the festival. Desbaillets said all the artwork presented in the festival (all of which are for sale) were specially created for this year’s edition of Pitch.
Additionally, organizers have made a great effort to showcase the cultural phenomenon of soccer from as many viewpoints as possible. Ladies’ Turn, which premiered in North America at the festival, tells of the difficulties Senegalese female soccer players face; Casuals explores the development of a youth fashion movement among UK soccer fans in the 80s. 11 Metri is the story of Agostino Di Bartolomei, legendary captain of Italy’s Roma team who took his own life with a gunshot to the heart.
In a city with as much multicultural diversity as Montreal, it can be difficult to unite soccer fans whose loyalties are fragmented and lie with so many different teams. This festival may prove the one occasion per year when every soccer fan, no matter their allegiance, can share the love of their favourite sport under one banner.
Pitch Fest runs from December 5 to December 7. For a full schedule, see their website.
The past few days on St-Laurent have been amazing! Beautiful weather and great artists expressing themselves on many walls along the Main which will leave an outstanding legacy!
My two favorite walls are off the Main on Clark Street, Pixel Pancho is just behind Mont-Royal and ROA’s is just below Marie-Anne, well worth checking out as the size of the work is astounding!
The street artists started painting on Wednesday taking advantage of the beginning of the sunny weather. A lot of the Montreal artists participating in the Festival have been around the scene for many years and are very well respected for their own style and innovations in their work.
Mural Festival in its first edition is definitely a success, I haven’t seen so many people on the the Main in a while. The organizers of the Festival have a 5 year plan with the SDBSL (Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent) to help increase the traffic on the street.
Many events were on daily as part of the Festival, a great vernissage at Station 16 on Friday night. Friday evening brought multiple colors in the streets with the Corona paint party, it was entertaining to observe people full of paint afterwards walking around.
The Osheaga block party yesterday afternoon was pumping and a lot of people were enjoying the beats and sunshine!
Saturday afternoon I did the walking tour with Cam, it was a great and very informative. Lots of details about the different artists participating as well as general info on the street art scene in Montreal. Explanations were given on the different styles and mediums used.
The walking tour is on again today, Sunday at 2pm and 4pm and I definitely recommend it! A voluntary contribution of $10 is appreciated. It departs from the info booth at the corner of Mont-Royal and St-Laurent! Don’t miss it.
If you would rather bike, there is also a bicycle tour starting from St-Laurent metro at 2pm and 4pm.
Today is the last day of the Festival, the weather is a bit less on the sunny side but it’s till worth getting out there! A few events are on tonight for the closure of the Festival, the Beauty of Tragedy at the Atrium of the Conseil des Arts on Sherbrooke will be on from 8 until 10 pm followed by the Fresh Air closing party at Ballroom!
Will be writing more about the Festival this week!
Now a sentence you may have never thought you would read: tonight the Montreal Infringement Festival begins its tenth annual edition. Just as some thought the world wouldn’t continue past 2012, others believed the Infringement was just a drunken bar joke that would maybe make it to a second year only if organizers were really lucky. And like those Mayan-inspired doomsday prognosticators, the people subscribing to the common logic of how festivals run these days were wrong, too.
Turns out you don’t need huge budgets, major corporate sponsorship, a trademark, political apathy or hefty registration fees to survive, thrive and expand as a festival. Over the past decade, the Infringement, which follows an incorruptible anti-oppressive and anti-arts commodification mandate has not only continued in Montreal but spawned lasting offshoots in Buffalo, Brooklyn and Hamilton (and a handful of onetime events in places as far away as Bordeaux, France).
I’m happy it has, not only because (full disclosure) I’m a co-founder and participant this year, but because it really is a fun and unique event. You never truly know what to expect at the Infringement.
This year’s event in Montreal runs eleven days and takes place in both new and more established venues as well as the streets, alleys and parks of Montreal, mostly focused in the Plateau and Mile End neighbourhoods. Since the weather is nice, let’s start outdoors.
One of my favourite Infringement events, the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, is back. We’re talking about art made from materials found in the trash and displayed, at a vernissage no less, in an alleyway. Get there early or you may miss out on the wine and cheese.
This year, there are not one but three walking tours: of the historic red light district, of the most haunted spots on the mountain and one that takes you through the history of the Infringement itself. Add to that the interactive show Infringement Therapy, countless guerilla theatre culture jams and maybe even a picnic and you have a wide scope of outdoor activities to choose from.
The options don’t end when you head inside, either. Still operating in venues like Barfly, the Infringement has added a slew of new spots this year, places like Cafe Sierra, Dragonfly Studios and TRH-Bar (formerly Saphire).
Music has been a prominent part of the Infringement in recent years and this year is no exception. As usual, there will be plenty of local and out of town acts playing rock, punk , pop, folk, electronic, political and funny choir singing from Chorale du Peuple and even a bit of the blues in the form of returning Brooklyn band Sunshine (playing with Trevor Davies and Crazy Knows Crazy).
The Montreal Infringement has featured hip hop before, but this year, for the first time, there is a political hip hop evening called Smashing Through Walls. It features Jay Manafest , Lucky Lex, Nikolai KUSH and Infringement veterans PSYNLANGWAGE.
The fest, which began as a theatre event, is offering plenty of stage performances this year. There are plays like 420: The Musical (the name pretty much says it all), coming all the way from Buffalo, plays in French by La section québecoise des Esprits solubles, burlesque in the form of the Candyass Cabaret, a spoken-word show (I’m performing in this one) and the return of the multimedia show Smoke n’ Mirrors.
The fest kicks off tonight at Barfly with Grr en famille and runs, well, hopefully another ten years…stranger things have happened. That’s still no reason not to catch as much of the fest as you can over the next eleven days.
* The 10th edition of the Montreal Infringement Festival runs June 13 -23, for schedule and artist bios, please visit infringemontreal.org
Montreal was once the most bombed city in North America and by bombed I mean there was graffiti all over the place.
Next week will be the beginning of a 4 day festival dedicated to street art in Montreal, MURAL ART FESTIVAL organized in collaboration with LNDMRK. From June 13th to the 16th, 35 local and international artists will be featured and paint close to 20 unique murals around the Main!
Montreal was once the most bombed city in North America and by bombed I mean there was graffiti all over the place.
All the activities will be happening on St-Laurent boulevard between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal, the street will be closed during the event which will give you a chance to wander the street freely.
The quality of the artists that are taking part in the Festival is quite mind-blowing! Montreal has its share of amazing artists such as Omen, Jason Botkin, Labrona, A’Shop, Paria Crew, WZRDS GNG, Stare, Chris Dyer and super crew En Masse, who will be covering up some 3 story walls! Other Canadian artists and some well known international artists will be joining the fun with names such as ROA from Belgium, ESCIF from Spain, Pixel Pancho from Italy, Phlegm from England and Reka One from Australia and many more.
During the festival, Omen and Reka One will be doing their biggest walls yet! It will also be ESCIF’s first wall in North America!
Twice a day at 2pm and 4pm on June 13th, 15th and 16th, you will have a chance to go on a guided walking or bike tour to discover the other urban art in the area! Every night will also offer some entertainment at different venues along the street.
The official vernissage of the festival will be happening at Station 16 on June 14th from 7pm onwards. The closing of the MURAL festival will be curated by Alan Ganev at the Atrium of The Conseil des Arts de Montreal on Sunday June 16th.
Check out the many events that will be happening during the Festival and more about the featured artists at http://muralfestival.com
Looking forward to seeing the murals that will make the city even more beautiful!
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.
Last week I attended an exhibition at The VAV Gallery a student organized exhibition space located in the Visual Arts building at Concordia. Human Error was a mesmerizing exhibition that brought together Aidan Pontarini and Caroline Steele and showcased some surprisingly fresh and ground-breaking paintings. I say surprisingly because I was not expecting to see such mature work being produced by couple of students. Yet there they were, occupying the walls with such vigor that they demanded attention and admiration.
Aidan Pontarini, who is a photography major at Concordia University and also the Art Director and Production Manager for a magazine called THE VOID, has produced some splendid photographs, and I can see him becoming a well-respected contributor to the field; however what I see in his paintings go beyond respectable and marginally good. These paintings are spectacular and so in your face that you abandon your sense of social convention and feel powerless in front of them.
Aidan Pontarini work catch you off-guard, because from afar they look like innocent cartoon figures and you approach them with the same giddy as a child spotting Pluto at Disneyland. Yet when you reach the painting everything goes awry, and you realize you are not safe anymore and Pluto might as well be a zombie Goofy, half decayed and missing a leg. Sure there is humor in these paintings like the use of the word FACK; however they are anything but lighthearted.
Aidan’s works are not cartoons or Pop art, even though the inspiration for them might have roots there; they are contemporary wonders that force you to look for narrative that is not there, leaving you doubting yourself and your senses. I was left wanting to see more, and even though it is not my place to dictate any sort of direction for an artist, I do think it would be a tragic loss if these paintings are not pursued and exhibited more widely.
Caroline Steele’s work equally deserves much praise and I have state that they were completely different from Aidan’s work. The technical aspect of Caroline Steele’s paintings puts them on par with old masters, yet visibly new. I have a feeling she will become known as a painters’ painter, because her works are so complex that I’m afraid her intention might be lost on the ordinary public. But I have to say that even with the works’ multifaceted qualities, they manage to look beautiful and the colors are so vibrant that people will be attracted to them even though they might fail to understand them. These are moot points of course because either way she will have a fruitful future as an artist and will receive a great deal of attention from critics.
Online Caroline Steele expresses her desire to find the relation between the human and mechanical production with the concept of error in mind: “While keeping the history and condition of art in mind, my work relates to the dichotomy of man and machine producing art, to what would happen when one uses the language of the other for reproducibility, and about the creation of new images through human errors when utilizing its technology.”
Indeed what make anything we create original are the errors that occur in the process, and our flaws are our undeniable connection with humanity. The question remains whether machines can create a flawless piece of art? Or whether by creating the machine we have automatically created a flawed design that can only replicate our mistakes?
What would happen if we allow a machine to create another flawless device? Or is that too impossible because our example no matter how hard we try will contain a certain number of errors?
A perfect specimen eludes me, as rightly it should. I think if we delve deeper into quest for perfection we will unwittingly reach the ideology behind God and all that that nonsense, so I prefer to stay down here with the earthy imperfect mortals and express my utter bewilderment at the level of maturity and excellence in Caroline Steele’s work.
It has been a long time since I was this excited about a painting exhibition and I have to say that I was blown away by Human Error at The VAV Gallery. Very well done to Concordia for once again producing such wonderful artists and I do hope I see more of their work.
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.
I have a very active imagination, driving me to the depths of insanity where color patterns and psychedelic scenarios exist. I have come to this condition after years of abusing my brain and spending some time in various states of intoxication. For this special Christmas piece I would like to summon art to envisage the worst festive dinner with the most unbecoming, loathsome, and abhorrent artists imaginable as guests. These artists are by coincidence some of the most well-known, creative and well respected figures in art history. Suitable for a dinner party of any sort however… they are not, especially one that celebrates this time of benevolent behaviour. So welcome to my fantasy Christmas, bah, humbug!
The doorbell rings, two hours early, and it can only be our ever neurotically precise friend Joan Miró. He is dressed immaculately and as usual does not say anything as he enters the house. He has always been quiet like this, saying as little as possible. In fact he was so reluctant to answer any questions put to him that the Surrealists sentenced him to death with Max Ernst grabbing a piece of rope, while others grabbed Miró’s arms and put a noose around his neck, all the while the artist said not a word. Man Ray later depicted Miró with a rope that plays on the incident in the Paris studio. The poet Michel Leiris said after the Artist’s death in 1983: “The joke about the hanging could not have happened with anybody else. Miro really was afraid that they would hang him.”
Clement Greenberg wrote about Miro’s visit to America in 1947: “Those who had the opportunity to meet Miro while he was here saw a short, compact rather dapper man in a dark blue business suit. He has a neat round head with closely trimmed dark hair, pale skin, small, regular features, quick eyes and movements. He is slightly nervous and at the same time imperson
al in the company of strangers, and his conversation and manner are non-committal to an extreme. One asked oneself what could have brought this bourgeois to modern painting, the Left Bank, and Surrealism?”
However, now the rest of the guests have arrived, and everyone hurrah a “Pablo” when Picasso walks into the door and finds the first girl that takes his fancy. He nonchalantly takes a drink from the table and walks up to the girl saying what he had said to win over Marie-Thérèse: “Mademoiselle, you’ve got an interesting face. I’d like to paint your portrait. I am Picasso”. This move is not welcomed by our old friends Gustav Klimt and Paul Gauguin who were planning to make their own move and win the heart of the barley legal girl with promises of fame and fortune through modeling.
In one corner a schizophrenic and a manic depressive are arguing the relevance of reality. Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, both drunk on absinthe, smoking god knows what, are talking about the importance of expressive brushstrokes and using prime colours to produce paintings that question the idea of reality and produce a new way of seeing the world. Even though they seem to concur on most points, especially the significance of German Expressionism, they have difficulty when it comes to the question of religion. Our friend Vincent believes in rapture and salvation, whilst Munch takes a dimmer apocalyptic take on life and cannot help talking about his own encounter with death, yet both artists agree that for a painter it is ill-advised to shoot one’s hand rather than cut an ear.
In the other corner our Marxist comrade Diego Rivera is arguing with the Nazi sympathizer Salvador Dali who openly supported Spain’s General Franco and even featured Hitler in one of his paintings causing the Surrealists to expel him from the group. Dali who claims now that he did it out of concern for his nation and that it has all been over-hyped by the media, is bested by Rivera who points to the commercial work Dali did in America advertising various products for the Capitalist cause. All the bickering comes to a halt as Caravaggio challenges Jacques-Louis David to a sword fight, fortunately I manage to stop the situation from getting out of hand by pointing out that the doorbell has started ringing and everyone calm down to see who’s at the door.
When I open the door I see a sulking Damien Hirst who complains about his invitation being lost in the mail. I smile shaking my head at the artist saying: “My dear Damien, I’m afraid you were not invited. Make sure you close the gate on your way out.”
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.