Wen Wei Wang, Karissa Barry, Vivaldi & Alison Denham's Abs
Friday, October 19, 2007
There is one book in my library that I have never finished. It is Russel Hoban's 1980 Riddley Walker
. It is an apocalyptic novel much like my favourite A Canticle for Leibowitz
but I cannot struggle past chapter one. Hoban invented a language for the main protagonist Riddley who speaks in a devolved form of English, with a much changed spelling and resembles a phonetic transliteration of a Kentish accent. I have given up on this book. Riddley Walker is defined as an ergodic
novel. An ergodic novel requires a "non-trivial effort" to traverse the text. This effort must be extranoematic, that is, it must consist of more than simply reading by moving one's eyes along lines of text, turning pages and mentally interpreting what one reads. My favourite José Saramago, who is very stingy with punctuation, is a mild example of ergodic literature.
Sitting on the front row with Rebecca last night at the Cultch watching the hour long dance program, Three Sixty Five
by choreographer Wen Wei Wang was sort of like ergodic dance if there is such a thing! The music was composed by Giorgio Magnanensi and the score was pre-recorded with the addition of the never boring and very live cello of Peggy Lee. The music seemed to me like a devolved Four Seasons
by Antonio Vivaldi
. And there was a reason for this. Wen Wei Wang says this in his choreographer's statement:After four years of work with my own company I wanted to challenge myself as a creator and push myself beyond my own cultural roots. Vivaldi's Four Seasons was my inspiration for this work and is also the basis for Giorgio Magnanensi's composition. This has been a great challenge for me. Vivaldi's music is so beautiful, so well known and so often chosen by choreographers that it required a fresh and imaginative treatment in order to succeed. This project was not just to create new movement but a way for me to understand another culture through its music.
My last work, Unbound, was the result of my proceeding choreographies and I regard Three Sixty Five as the beginning of an important new phase in my choreographic career. As I enter this phase I want to go beyond everything I have previously expressed through movement.
-Wen Wei Wang
I relied on my own imagination to figure out this one hour long dance that pushed the five dancers with constant and grueling movement to the limit of their abilities. Five dancers (sparingly dressed in white) and one musician (Peggy Lee), a troupe of entertainers in a space ship from Proxima Centauri on their way to Sirius get lost and crash land on our planet. We have been gone for a while. In a dump site Lee finds a boom box with a tape (Vivaldi's Four Seasons). Radioactivity and age have affected both the tape and the box. What plays (every once in a while you can recognize Vivaldi, the rest of the time it seems to sound like program music)is the score we heard last night.
Lee puts in her interpretation and the dancers do likewise. I felt both trapped and mesmerized by the performance. A white violin hangs from the ceiling. The dancers and the musician have discovered a cult to the instrument. They are in awe of it.
And so were we in awe of the five dancers, Wen Wei Wang (slippery and fit like a Weddell Sea seal), Scott Augustine (a prime example of this new breed of Vancouver contemporary dancers who are compact and with their low centre of gravity can move with incredible speed) Karissa Barry
(when I saw her in the mentor program at Arts Umbrella she already stood out. She is another one of those compact and strong dancers) Andrea Keevil (willowy in contrast to the rest) and lastly Alison Denham. Of Denham, Rebecca said, with amazement, "What abs!" Unlike Hoban's Riddley Walker I think I could handle Three Sixty Five one more time.
There is one more performance of Wen Wei Wang's Three Sixty Five
tonight at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
Timothy Findley, Yes, His Greatness & Mark Twain, No
Rosemary and I attended the opening on Wednesday evening of the Daniel MacIvor play His Greatness
based on a potentially true story about two days in 1980 (in a Vancouver hotel room) in the last years of the life of Tennessee Williams. He died in a New York hotel in 1983. The play (on until November 10 at the Granville Island Stage of the Arts Club Theatre Company) is superbly played by Allan Gray, David Marr and Charles Christien Gallant. Alas I never had the opportunity to photograph any of them so others are posted here as surrogates.
Rosemary, my wife, rarely likes anything but on Wednesday night she was smiling with pleasure and glee.
Yes, I laughed a lot, particularly when playwright MacIvor made fun of our two-newspaper town. But I was dead serious and uncomfortable (paradoxically) because of the uncanny reconstruction by Scenery Director Kevin McAllister and Lighting Designer Alan Brodie of what to me has to be a Hotel Vancouver suite. I should know as I have photographed many actors, politicians, directors, authors, pornography stars, etc in many Vancouver hotels and quite a few of them at the Hotel Vancouver.
One of my first Hotel Vancouver subjects and, certainly one that gave me lots of pleasure was a sitting with poet/novelist Timothy Findley in October 1988. While I was certainly no Young Man
, played with a wicked panache by Charles Christien Gallant, I was the younger and third person in that Hotel Vancouver suite. The second was Findley's friend Bill Whitehead. At the time I discussed with the friendly Findley ("Please call me Tiffy.") the idea of some day having a show of hotel portaits. In January 1989 I received a kind letter from Findley that raised the question of those hotel portaits.
I wonder if anybody snapped His Greatness when he was in Vancouver? I must state that I first became interested in taking photographs in Vancouver hotel rooms when I saw the picture (seen here) of Mark Twain holding court from his bed in the (yes!) Hotel Vancouver when he visited our city on August 18, 1895.
I include here a photograph of American writer Richard Ford whom I photographed at the Hotel Vancouver in October, 1990. He had come to town for the Writer's Festival
. I had taken the liberty of calling the Hotel Vancouver publicist to tell her that of all the persons who were staying at the hotel the one who would most likely write about the hotel was British travel writer (by then he had moved to Seattle) Jonathan Raban
. I did not know that Raban and Ford were friends. While I was taking Ford's picture (I'm happy," he said to me, "you are making me look like Graham Greene."), Jonathan Raban walked in and said, "Richard I have this great big room that is semicircular and occupies a whole end of the hotel. I have no idea why I have been given this room." Ford countered with, "Mine is a normal room. Somebody must like you." I said nothing.
Rosemary and I drove home from His Greatness
. We were silent but content. After all it had been an excellent evening at the theatre. While I had missed Tennessee Williams's stay in Vancouver, the play had carried me back to that hotel room in my head, haunted by all those ghosts, some dead
that have passed in front of my camera and through my life.
Alejo Carpentier, A Drunken Antonio Vivaldi, Motezuma & A Mexican
Thursday, October 18, 2007
In 1995 when I read Mexican poet and novelist Homero Aridjis's
novel ¿En quien piensas cuando haces el amor?
, I was perplexed by the mention of a Vivaldi opera called Motezuma
. I figured this was simply a sample of Homero Aridjis's brand of Magic Realism. This was not the case. When I interviewed him at his Mexico City home in 1997 he said it was a long lost opera.
He also told me that what was most interesting is that in the premiere in 1773, Vivaldi's mistress Anna Giró
had played the lead female part. Aridjis said he had first read about the opera in an Alejo Carpentier
novel. When I returned to Vancouver I went on an Alejo Carpentier binge taking out most of his books from the excellent collection at the UBC Library. It was there that I discovered Carpentier's novella Concierto Barroco
I don't know why but in the middle of the night, last night, and the reason for this blog today, I dreamt of a character (above) I had photographed near the Zócalo (Mexico City's main square) in 1997. I never saw his face as he walked quickly away in his colourful indian clothing. He and a musician I photographed a few blocks away, made me remember my favourite Arijdis poem that conjures the ghosts of people from the past mingling with us. Was that man Moctezuma's ghost? Or could it have been the Grand-Tour-Mexican dressed as Moctezuma (read below) come back to Mexico aftr his binge in Venice?
walk with us
through the back streets
the stares of children
young girls's bodies
cross through them
Weightless and vague
we travel through them
at doorways that no longer are
on bridges that are empty
with the sun on our faces
move toward transparency."
Homero Aridjis - Letter From Mexico
Moctezuma was first portrayed on the stage in 1695 in Henry Purcell’s masque The Indian Queen
. Purcell got it wrong as Montezuma is seen as a young Inca general in the Peruvian army. Jean Philippe Ramaeu’s lncan setting in Les Indes Galantes
is now thought to be the first serious work on the new world set to music. The fact is that two years before, in the autumn of 1733, Antonio Vivaldi premiered his first opera, Motezuma
in the Teatro Di Sant’Angelo with a libretto by Alvisi Giusti. Anna Giró, Vivaldi’s supposed mistress, sang the lead female part. A meeting between Vivaldi, Handel and Domenico Scarlatti (who had been seent by his father Alessandro to seek his musical fortune in Venice) during the Christmas carnival in Venice in 1709, by all accounts had no bearing with Vivaldi’s opera Motezuma.
But Cuban born writer Alejo Carpentier
(1904-1980), who coined the term lo real maravilloso
or “magic realism”, thought otherwise.
In his 1974 short novel Concierto Barroco
(the same title in the English translation available at the Vancouver Public Library and at the UBC Library in Spanish) a bored rich Mexican goes on a grand tour of Europe with Filomeno, black Cuban servant who has a fondness for women and trumpets. Bored in Madrid, the Mexican ends up in the Venice carnival in 1709. Dressed as Moctezuma, (his black servant, decides that his face will do as a mask) runs into the composers, all three very drunk, in a dark corner of Victorio Arduino’s Botteghe di Caffe
. The idea for the opera is born when Vivaldi questions the Mexican on his costume. That Vivaldi doesn’t get the story quite right (or the name as any Mexican who knows history will tell you it's Moctezuma not Montezuma or Motezuma) could be blamed on his inebriated state.
What follows is one of the most delightful stories I have ever read. An impromptu concert with the composers and Vivaldi’s foundlings ( with the wonderful names, Pierina del violino, Cattarina del cornetto, Guiseppina del chitarrone, etc…..) at the Ospedale della Pieta, leads into a session with Louis Armstrong charming Handel and the Cuban servant with his rendition of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
It should come as no surprise to those who may have read other books by Carpentier, an eminent music critic and musicologist, that in Concierto Barroco
he uses this knowledge to play jokes and twist time, while educating us. The Mexican and the composers have a picnic on Igor Stravinsky’s tomb, who some credit with having said, “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 600 times.” Thus we find out that Stravinsky is buried In Venice (but did not die there) while another character in the novel, Richard Wagner in a casket, died but is not buried in Venice.
If Concierto Barroco is a literary potato chip that has you wanting more I would recommend Jose Saramago’s Baltasar and Blimunda
wherein Domenico Scarlatti plays the harpsichord in early 18th century Portugal while the novel’s heroes Baltasar and Blimunda build a flying machine.
Wondrous Dance At The Museum Of Anthropology
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I receive email announcements from Vancouver arts publicists. This profession in Vancouver is as endangered as the Stanley Park penguins. So I would never, ever call it spam. These publicists need all the help we can give them. As an example why would anybody leave home on a lazy late October or November afternoon? This is the announcement that I received from the Museum of Anthropology, admission is $9.00, $7.00 for seniors and students.Stimulating the Senses: A Sunday Series of Music and Movement
Kokoro Dance: “Heart, Mind, Spirit, & Soul”
Sunday, October 28, 2007, 3:00 pm
Kokoro Dance merges kinetic and visual elements from Japan and the West to create a uniquely Canadian Butoh aesthetic. This concert is presented as the second in our Sunday series of three dance and music performances, “Stimulating the Senses: Music and Movement at MOA.”
“Move It!” – Joe Ink
Sunday, November 18, 2007, 3:00 pm
“Move It! is everybody’s chance to groove. Find your feet in the participatory workshop with Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Jacci Collins.
I don't think I have ever seen Jacci Collins but I can tell you plenty about Kokoro and Tara Cheyenne (who now includes her married name. Damn!) Friedenberg.
Of Kokoro (that's Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget below, left) I already wrote here
but I have never told you about Tara Cheyenne.
I first photographed her in my studio for the Georgia Straight and she told me she was going to appear in one of the Dances for a Small Stage
. She told me she was going to be a mermaid. She didn't come with the costume to my studio but we made do. Since the Straight
is a family publication she offered to tape her nipples. They showed in my Polaroids. We used gaffer tape!
Dancing at Dances for a Small Stage
is a challenge as the stage is
small. But I was not prepared to see what I saw. Cheyenne sort of splashed on stage and stayed in one spot. Can mermaids dance? She made seal noises and moved her upper body in amazing sinuous movements. Since then I have been amazed by her virtuosity.
Now there is a recently retired choreographer of note, Chick Snipper (of Slab fame, seen here with Cheyenne, right) who also noted her virtuosity. Upon retiring, Snipper handed over her company to Cheyenne.
A few days back at Stupidity
I ran into Cheyenne. I can report (and if you cannot justifiably describe the body of a dancer then what's left?) that she looks even more voluptuous than I remember her and I see many reasons why we should leave the comfort of our home on a lazy (and probably bleak) Sunday, November 18 afternoon.
And what of the other Sunday, October 28 afternoon with Kokoro Dance? If you have never ever seen Butoh here is your chance to see this Japanese 20th century dance form inside a perfect venue, Arthur Erickson's Museum of Anthropology
The Feline Question II
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This photograph has appeared before here
but it is constantly before me as I go up and down the stairs to and from our bedroom. It hangs outside the bedroom hall. It is impossible to miss. It is special in many ways, the least of which, is the easiest to explain.
I cannot do justice to the print here. I scanned the framed photograph and the glass added some green I had to remove. The print is one of six pictures of Rebecca that I made from a found envelope of Agfa Portriga that was hiding in a dark corner of my darkoom. The paper was long discontinued by Agfa and Agfa is now gone. The paper was very special as it had a rich warmish tone that produced what is called split toning when I immersed the fixed and washed print in a very strong solution of selenium. Because the paper was expired it developed a few extra colours of its own which can never be duplicated.
And of course I can never duplicate the moment or the experience of snapping this picture of Rebecca in the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden. The garden is known for its varied and rich sculpture, its cats (hundreds of stray cats and left cats) and for a fading glory of plants that with no budget have to manage on their own.
It was perhaps here (in that garden) where the Vancouver-born Rebecca developed that air of sophistication that I hope will never leave her. I further hope she will inherit my mother's flair. She always used to tell me, "Alex, hay poca gente fina como nosotros." There are few people as sophisticated (Spanish fina or fino
is a combination of gentle manners, too) as we are."
Last week our neighbourhood had an art show at the nearby Osler Elementary gym.
It was an evening affair with wonderful food and sweets. I brought 11 pictures of Rebecca. But because we were told to think of the venue (children) I knew I would have had a problem if I had taken this, the finest of all the pictures of Rebecca along. I didn't.
It was when Rebecca was 6, a few months before we went to Buenos Aires four years ago that I took Rebecca to the Calabria Bar on Commercial. We sat right under a reproduction of Michelangelo's David. Rebecca asked the obvious question and I explained why it was sculptors favoured the nude. It has been one of our favourite places for cappuccino in the city. Rebecca calls the table under David, "Our table." Shortly after, one afternoon of sipping mate and chatting Spanish with Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich, Rebecca and I returned home. She decided to do her interpretation of Sanchez's nudes with their perfectly round breasts.
French Ramblers, Hypericum, A Moth & Soldiers In The Garden
Monday, October 15, 2007
Most of my roses are on the wane. Some have fat buds but you know they are not going to open. But I was surprised yesterday afternoon to see that Rosa 'Sweet Juliet'
had one nice open flower and its scent was carrying far in spite of the cool afternoon. I was more surprised to find that Rosa
'Ghislaine de Féligonde'(left) had a nice cluster with buds and open flowers. I only purchased her this year. Her name is French but my Australian, The Ultimate Rose Book
by Sterling Macoboy states:
Pronounce the lady's name as 'Elaine de Féligonde' and you have got over the main obstacle to the revival of this rose, its awkward Flemish name. It is rarely seen these days, but it is one of the most charming Ramblers, with the added bonus that it sometimes bears a second crop of flowers. The fat little buds are quite strong a yellow, but they open to the palest cream with pink tints. Foliage is glossy green and resistant to mildew. It was raised by the French firm of Eugene Turbat et Cie and introduced in 1916. 'Ghislaine de Féligonde'is of fairly restrained vigor.
'Golfinch' x unknown
Right next to Ghislaine I spotted the curious effect of Hypericum androsaemum
'Albury Purple' whose fruits were showing the transition from yellow to blue black. Hypericums have the lowly popular name of St. John's wort because of its traditional flowering on St John's day, 24 June. The genus name Hypericum is derived from the Greek words hyper (above) and eikon (picture), in reference to the traditional use of the plant to ward off evil, by hanging plants over a picture in the house during St John's day.
There are several species of Hypericum, all having yellow flowers. Most are considered ordinary but I have found that my particular cultivar is a fine garden plant. It sometimes gets rust so I have to tear out the plant. But Albury Purple seeds itself so I am always able to replace it.
Not far from Ghislaine and Albury Purple I found this moth. It was fluttering its wings just a bit, about to die in the cold of the coming evening.
The moth might have searched for protection under my Japanease anemones, Anemone x hibrida 'Margarete'(pink) and 'Whirlwind', white)
(below). I call them the soldiers of the garden because you plant them in the back of a bed and they soon march forward. But how can I complain when they are still in bloom in mid October?
Risky Business, Tellicherry Peppercorns & Grandchildren
Sunday, October 14, 2007
It is difficult not to look at my fall garden and not think of myself and Rosemary. I notice how time has affected us, more gradually perhaps, but the decay is there. It is much too late to buy a red Miata to feel young or pretend (at least for me) that those women in all the gossip magazines or in those Hollywood films we rarely see are attractive to me. They are much too young.
After all these years can it really be possible that happiness is shopping for socks, shirts and jeans at Mark's Work Wearhouse? It seems so.
If someone had told me only ten years ago (the idea of becoming a grandfather was so anathema, that as soon as Rebecca was old enough to talk, I instructed her to call me Papi and not grandpa) that happiness was going to be shopping with Rebecca for cheese at Bossa
on Victoria Drive and for Maldon Salt and Yorkshire Gold Leaf Tea at the Gourmet Wearhouse
on East Hastings I would have been speechless. I did just that yesterday. I had no idea then of the pleasure of buying Rebecca green apple ice cream at Mario's Gelato on 1st Avenue and Quebec Street and sitting on a stool to savour the ice cream and a beautifully waning sunny Saturday. I could not have known of the pleasure of walking with Rebecca and Lauren to our nearby park at Osler Elementary School and playing in the swings and then running across the field to see who would get to the red fire hydrant first. I did, but then, Rebecca probably let me win or slowed down as Lauren cried as she could not keep up to us.
For years I have specialized in making an excellent cheese fondue. I use Swiss Gruyere, Emmental and Appenzeller. I use a pinch of nutmeg, lots of freshly ground pepper (Tellicherry), white wine and real Kirsch. But it has only been until know that I have had to compete with anybody (my daughters never even tried) to get that last brown part that collects in the bottom of the fondue pot. Rebecca and I both fought for it last night. It felt good to fight for it.
And just as I did with Rebecca years ago, Lauren and I walked to 41st and Athlone yesterday afternoon to watch when Hilary (Lauren's mother) stepped down from the bus with her precious cargo of fresh bread for our fondue.
Above you see a scan of leaves of Hosta
'Risky Business'. In summer she is dark green with a white centre. She is a mutation of Hosta
'Strip Tease'. Just like I appreciate the beauty of these leaves on their way to decay and disappearance in the early winter earth I have come to understand that I have to be like those leaves to finally understand that happiness is all the above.