Take Back Your Mind At The Fotoautomaton
Saturday, October 26, 2013
|Art Bergmann - Self portrait, October 26, 2013|
In spite of recovering from an Argentine
strain of pneumonia I managed to take in a few shows in the last two weeks
involving the arts. I attended Ballet BC's Tilt, Margie Gillis and
Elizabeth Parrish – Bulletins from Immortality…Freeing Emily Dickinson at the
Cultch, Venus in Fur at the Arts Club Theatre’s Granville Island Stage, Art Bergmann
at the Biltmore on Saturday and Sunday a matinee performance of Turning Point
Ensemble’s Forbidden Music.
I noticed a common thread beyond the fact
that all performances were satisfying and not your usual bland cultural cup of
tea. That common thread, with perhaps the exception of Ballet BC’s Tilt,
is that I saw few young people.
It wasn’t more evident than at last night’s
Art Bergmann at the Biltmore.
In the afternoon, if I am driving I listen
to CBC 1 on the radio and I cannot understand why the music played between the
excellent segments of local commentary on Stephen Quinn’s radio show features
stuff that is devoid of passion. It seems like it's indie music (of the Canadian
variety) that is designed not to offend or even wake you up from a driving
slumber. At its best I find the music efficient. At its worst I find it
But then anybody reading this must
understand that I am not a music critic and I know nothing of rock and roll.
Last night at the Biltmore I was standing
stage centre about 10 inches from Art Bergmann’s microphone. At age 71 I did
not find myself overwhelmingly surrounded by much younger people. If anything
there were people from my long past whom I did not recognize. They looked really
old, perhaps as old as my image in a mirror.
And yet the music, electrifying, was of
passion, it contained controversial lyrics, and there was a showcase of excellence
in performance (and in particular Stephen Drake’s slide guitar and his whammy
bar effects without a whammy bar). The drummer, Adam Drake is the most solid
(physically, too) drummer around. Kevin Lucks a sound bassist who brings order and a centre to the band,
with drummer Drake, to the potential for over-the-top shenanigans of Art
Bergmann. In the few, very few, shenanigans of the evening it was wonderful to
watch the cool Stephen Drake and Kevin Lucks playing almost oblivious to the
drama of centre stage.
Next to me was a young man, age 25 who knew
all the lyrics to Bergmann’s songs. He kept shouting, “We love you Art.” Could
this young man be the token young person of the evening or could it be that
somehow that young man has been freed from access to radio mediocrity or the
27,000 indie songs out there to be downloaded today and forgotten tomorrow?
Can anybody who has ever attempted to play
an electric guitar not have marveled at Stephen Drake’s virtuosity or of Art
Bergmann’s (rudely affected by nature with bad arthritis) now spare but still passionate
The songs and especially two of my faves
Marianne and the Hospital Song, had lyrics with intelligent content which at
the same time managed to convey a whimsical wonder at being alive even if in
constant pain or in the realization that life can have so much disappointment.
There is a catchy smirk in Bergmann’s face
who may be shouting at you (but can do it with the appearance that it is a loud
whisper) that made me feel so alive. I felt rejuvenated. Since his punk years
of the 70s he has mellowed and developed that smirk into what if you notice
carefully is a warm smile.
We have been friends since about 1978 and
every time I meet up with the man I find a new facet that is always a challenging
During the sound check, Bergmann shouted, “Alex,
Eduardo Galeano.” I shouted back, “Un uruguayo.”
The depth in Bergmann’s lyric has a substance
that many of the youth who were not there last night or who found the comfort of
a TV den, a laptop or a cell phone might have profited from.
Bergmann cannot possibly be that much of secret,
can he? Ballet BC? The Cultch? The Turning Point Ensemble? The Arts Club Theatre?
Bergmann so prominently wrote with indelible ink on his guitar, “Take
back your mind."
There's A Certain Slant Of Light At The Cultch
Friday, October 25, 2013
Rosemary and I attended Bulletins from
Immortality …Freeing Emily Dickinson at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre last
I went with an ever so slight reluctance.
Having seen modern dancer Margie Gillis perform a few times I knew I could not
go wrong in anything involving her.
I must confess that my first poetry reading
(I believe that poetry readings must be experienced in moderation like garlic and sex)
was one that I abhorred. It featured beat poet Allen Ginsberg (at the PNE!).
After a few minutes I could have forced his concertina down his throat. But the
evening was saved by the wonderful and most local Gerry Gilbert. It was Gilbert
who really helped me to learn to enjoy poetry and even readings (with moderation, of
So who was this obscure (certainly only to
me) American actress, Elizabeth Parrish who was collaborating with Gillis?
I need not have been concerned. Parrish
with verve, exquisite diction and with an enthusiasm always present in her face
that immediately had me in rapture. There was a level of confidence in her
mastering of Dickinson’s poems that if you were
not already a fan of the Belle from Amherst
you might just go home and Google “There is no frigate like a book”.
I must confess that I am an Emily Dickinson
fan happy to report that last night was not a Vancouver Jazz Festival
performance. Had it been the case, it would have given me license (a reason why
I abhor local jazz festivals) to clap at the beginning of every line read last
night. There was not one poem that surprised me in any kind of newness. But
each line read last night seemed brand new.
No matter how many times you read Dickinson
or hear Dickinson, the imagery and power of her lines, “zero at the bone” are
visceral every time.
Combine those poems with the natural flow (director
Paola Styron must have music in her soul) of Parrish’s declaiming with Gillis’s
reaction (sometimes these movements of reaction were after the fact, sometimes
they preceded the lines (pre-told might be a better word) and sometimes they
were carried out simultaneously, and you have a combination of dance and
theatre that is and last night was unique.
But it was not only that. If you happened
to watch the mute (I heard a few gasps and laughs) Gillis you could see a level
of expression on her face that for me only has a parallel in the pathos that Evelyn Hart
brought to her Juliet in Prokoviev's Romeo and Juliet.
All in all Bulletins from Immortality
deserves a long run across Canada
(alas two more, one today and one tomorrow at the Cultch) and I hasten to urge
local directors and theatre companies to bring Elizabeth Parrish for anything.
Pierre Lavoie’s lighting was just right. It
was never intrusive.
I was delighted to see that Gillis’s
trademark, her long hair was in evidence. I was ever so slightly disappointed
that the dynamic duo did not select:
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him, -did you not?
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun, -
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
But then they did perform this one:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
As I watched Gillis prance around with the
black book (were poems indeed inside or did Parrish know them by heart?) I could
almost imagine words removing themselves and buzzing away like bees:
Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.
And going to places, “to
take us Lands away”, like that Dickinson
Joy Division At Café Retiro
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I was having coffee with my friend Felipe
Occhiuzzi in the venerable Café
Retiro. This is a restaurant built by the British in the cavernous Victoria-Station
like Retiro which is the end station terminal for the Mitre Line of which I have been
most familiar with since my youth.
During my stint in the
Argentine Navy I would arrive at Retiro and go directly to the man in charge of
the train schedules. I had befriended him. He always knew what I wanted. He
would sign a document with lots of flourish in which he stated that my train
had arrived 45 minutes late and would cite a time 45 minutes after he handed me
the document. From there I would go to Café Retiro and order my tostadas (huge
and very thin toast) and café con leche. Once I arrived at my office none of
the corporals or non-commissioned officers ever questioned the frequent late
I told Felipe that I
was going to the men’s room and to watch my bag and camera.
Today I picked up the
film which I used in my Nikon FM-2 camera in Buenos Aires. It is Fuji colour negative 800 ISO Superia film.
Within the pictures I took there is this strange anomaly. It is an image I have
no memory taking. I suspect that Felipe (who is not a bad photographer in his
own right) took pictures of this delightful couple (note she is holding a
sophisticated digital Nikon). I cannot imagine a smiling Argentine young man
with a Joy Division T shirt.
I wonder, who are
they? And why are they so happy?
ESMA & The Banality of Evil
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I have written on this subject here. But
until now I had not returned to the scene where the story cited unfolded so
horribly during the Argentine Military Regime which began with the fall of Juan
Perón’s wife Isabelita (Martínez)
de Perón, on March 24, 1976 who became President of Argentina when Juan Perón
died. The rise of the military under Jorge Videla ushered in a “dirty war”
which ended with the loss of the Falkland’s
War and the house arrest of President Leopoldo Galtieri in 1982.
The infamous place of
torture and death which was housed in the lovely and beautifully landscaped
Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA) on one of Buenos Aire’s most
prestigious streets, Avenida del Libertador General San Martín was just that
for me, a lovely and beautifully landscaped… I was last there in 1976 before
the horrors began. Many of those that presided in that horror in the 70s, where
officers I had met as younger men in the mid 60s.
I returned to ESMA now
given the special name Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos (Space of Memory and
Human rights) with my friend artist Nora Patrich. She was going to give a mural
how-to workshop on a weekend. She was there to make sure her workshop would run
smoothly. This gave me the opportunity to take some photographs, although eventually
I was told I could not take any for reasons that escape me.
I did manage to take a
picture of the door to the infirmary which I am sure by the end of the 70s has
perhaps other reasons for its existence. I took the picture and shuddered only
The shudder in my
memory became much stronger when in my flight back from Buenos Aires I watched the German film Hannah
Arendt. It was in German with French subtitles so most of the dialogue did not
record in my brain. But there is a section where during Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem you see actual
black and white TV footage of the man behind his bullet-proof screen. Without
his handsome SS uniform and wearing his glasses he looked like and ordinary bureaucrat.
His voice seemed forgettable. It was then that I thought of Arendt’s coined and
most famous expression, “the banality of evil”. It was then that the lovely
door of the infirmary at ESMA suddenly became an antesala del infierno (a dramatic Spanish expression
that sort of means the anteroom to hell).
Ballet BC - Boys! Boys! Boys!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Boys! Boys! Boys!
This dance aficionado is going to come clean
and point out that his knowledge of dance is purely amateur and that any
opinions herein should be taken with a flake of salt (preferably Maldon Salt). I
would also like to state that as a retired magazine photographer the former
tickets to openings in the arts, for quid pro quo services rendered, have all
but shrunk to a trickle. For this reason I must be very frugal in those
performances for which I must disburse funds of a pension nature.
My presence with my 11 year-old granddaughter
Lauren Elizabeth in Friday, October 18, at the latest Ballet
BC program called Tilt at the
Queen Elizabeth was funded by a small quid pro quo.
That acknowledgement does not give me the
possible sense of guilt that I would have were I to pan the show as being a
terrible one. There is no guilt because my review is a from-the-heart good one.
With those cards on the table I have to add
one more important one. Because of frugality I have to admit here that my last
presence at a Ballet BC performance was during the previous mandate of the Ballet
BC Artistic Director who shall remain nameless as Soviet-style political
revisionism and non-personing is alive and well in Vancouver. None of us should
know that the man, brought us many ballets by the world-renowned William
Forsythe when other ballet companies in Canada were parading tutus around
With the air now cleared to that of a
crisp-blue-skied fall Vancouver day, October 22, 2013 I can now indulge in
wowing and raving of our (Lauren was ecstatic, too) Friday experience at Ballet
I never thought I would ever begin anything
I would write on our venerable city ballet company with this, Boys! Boys! Boys!
There is a very long bench of talent in Ballet BC, one end being
at Davie and Granville and the other on Granville Island, smack by the studios of Artemis
Gordon’s Arts Umbrella Dance.
While the women in Ballet BC
are beautiful and talented (I will write a tad about them further on) I only
had eyes for all those men.
At one time testosterone at Ballet BC
seemed to be the realm of cool Edmond Kilpatrick and a more passionate one by the
long departed (and sorely missed by this amateur) Miroslav Zydowicz. Once
Kilpatrick left Ballet BC I stopped noticing the men.
Friday night my eyes were constantly
shifting from Peter Smida, to Scott Fowler, from Connor Gnam to Thibout
Eiferman and from Alexander Burton to Ryan Genoe. There were others but that
night my eyes were on the former.
For many years men in Ballet BC
were lifters and blurs. I wanted to stare and enjoy the bodies of the women. Ballet BC
has always been a feast for the eyes for lovers of women. Kudos to costume designer Kate Burrows for not hiding those wonderful bodies with superfluous cloth.
Friday I again enjoyed (alas I have never photographed her) watching the
classical ballerina that she is for me, Makaila Wallace, knowing that after
this year she will be gone. I watched those two different female powerhouses
that are Rachel Meyer and Alexis Fletcher. Scurrying with delight around those
two I watched Livona Ellis and Emily Chessa (on that bench from Granville Island). I watched in delight but this
time I also noticed some of the men dancing with them. In particular in Jorma
Elo’s I and I am You, that was the combination of Alexander Burton with Mikaila
Wallace and Peter Smida with Alexis Fletcher. It seemed like Mikaila was signaling, it's not over yet. And for good reason she was superb.
Few might know that Alexander Burton treats
a dance floor like his architect father’s vision of space. Few might know that
I first saw apprentice dancer Scott Fowler as a little boy at Arts Umbrella. Who would guess that
the muscled man who oozes in testosterone is the vary same boy? If those two
weren’t enough and considering that I am suddenly noticing a mature Smida there
is that little joy of motion that is apprentice dancer (from the Bench!) Ryan
Genoe who has a style and face to perhaps launch more ships than the fair
All those men and many more that I will
notice in future performances have brought a balance to Ballet BC
that I never saw before. In particular
there is French-born Thibaut Eiferman whose enthusiasm for dancing is infectious.
But there is something more. Perhaps it is his Frenchness. Or it could be his
face. It is a face that reminds me of another era and of a ballet company I
never saw in the flesh and that is Diaghilev’s Ballets Rousses. If I understand well Artemis Gordon may have played a talent scout here in persuading the powers-that-be to hire the young man.
My granddaughter was in glee watching all
those men wearing party hats in Johan Inger’s Walking Mad. I did not
want to tell her that I saw the whole wonderful farce as a mixture of several
bowler-hatted-waiting-for-Godot and a connection to Peter Noon’s band The
Tremblers (if you have to ask, you don’t know). The dance was definitely all
about funny sex to me!
In I and I am You I watched as the queen,
Mikaila Wallace competed with her perhaps replacement Alexis Fletcher.
But most of my interest was in watching
Emily Molnar’s (in cooperation with the artist of Ballet BC)
piece 16 = a room. With all those men front and centre, Molnar’s work
accompanied by Dirk P. Haubrick’s sound scape ( I particularly liked one that sounded like a hovering helicopter), Jordan Tuinman’s lighting and
Kate Burrow’s costume design. Here was something spare but bold, clean but
complicated, very contemporary, but ever so much more warmish than the works of
last year’s Cedar Lake Dance that I saw at the Vancouver Playhouse. Best of all Molnar cleared the whole Ballet BC bench. It was extra nice to see so many dancers, all at the same time in the spacious Queen Elizabeth stage.
As contemporary as it was it did not go
over the top of my Lauren. But then she is being trained to dance at Arts
I am now forced to bring back the memory of
the man, a former Artistic Director of Ballet BC. That is John Alleyne. Since I
never had to work with him as dancers did I liked the man and I respected many
of his views. But I had a bit of problem when he summarily let go one of the
best dancers that Ballet BC ever had which was Lauri Stallings. Stallings was so
unique that I could watch her dance from her ankles down and I knew who it was.
I would seem that Alleyne wanted a team of dancers with no personalities and with no exception.
He must have gotten up on the wrong side of
the bed that day (aren’t we now glad?), soon after Stallings was gone, when he
decided to recruit dancer Emily Molnar. The rest is
A Monument, An Audi & A Cop
Monday, October 21, 2013
Some 7 or 8 years ago when Nora Patrich was
still in Vancouver
she was commissioned by the Argentine Government to design a monument. It was
to commemorate those Argentines who died (estimated at 362 and 800 wounded) on
the Plaza de Mayo, next to which is the Casa Rosada, the official seat of
government, during strafing and bombing by aircraft of the Argentine Air Force
and Navy at 12:40 on the 16th of June 1955.
A very large crowd was gathered there to
support President Juan Perón. The
air strike took place during a day of official public
demonstrations which condemned the burning of a national flag allegedly carried
out by detractors of Perón during the recent procession of Corpus Christi. The action was to be the
first step in an eventually aborted coup d'état.
The coup d’état was indeed aborted but it
became the initiation of the end of Juan Perón. On September 16 his government faced
a revolt by a military group headed by General Eduardo Lonardi, General Pedro
E. Aramburu and Admiral Isaac Rojas. Three days later Perón fled up the Paraná River in a Paraguayan gunboat ARP Paraguay.
The bombing like most other events in
Argentine history is seen differently in what is still a polarized country
divided by a landed and rich aristocracy who saw and see the bombing as an
event that marked the beginning of the expulsion of a dictator. Those on Perón’s
side (a big majority of Argentines even now) saw and see it as tragedy.
Originally the monument (Patrich confesses,
usually with a smile the influence of Canadian aboriginal totem poles as
inspiration) was to stand on the beautiful and large Plaza de Mayo but
regulations are strict in keeping the square with the look of the 19th
and beginning of the 20th century. Patrich’s monument now stands
behind the Casa Rosada in the courtyard of the beautiful new Museo del
Bicentenario (1810-2010) commemorating the 200th anniversary of an
event, on the 25th of May of 1810 that marked the beginning of Las
Provincias del Río de La Plata in becoming what it is now, República Argentina.
Patrich took me to see her monument this
past October. I also got to see the museum. I took some pictures of the
monument and of Patrich by it. You might note some damage to one side. The
damage has an interesting story. A story that could have been written by Borges
had Borges expressed less repressed sexual feelings.
Sometime in September in the middle of the
night a gentleman in an Audi A-4 was driving a bit recklessly and he missed a
curve and ran into the fencing of the museum courtyard. The car lifted the
fencing and pushed it forward to stop at the monument where some small damage
happened at the base.
The man, slightly under the influence emerged
from his car with his pants falling. A woman was seen in the passenger seat. This
is the official story.
I found out that there is more to the story
from the horse’s mouth (perhaps a dog as cops are called canas in Argentina).
Patrich had to see to some documents inside
the Casa Rosada (she is friends with President Cristina Kirchner). The folks at
security told me that my camera (with film inside) had to go through the X-ray machine.
I decided to wait in the courtyard where I had a chat with the very pleasant policeman
called Bentancourt. I mentioned the monument and that I was a friend of the sculptor
who was inside. He got very excited. This is his story as I
I was on guard duty that very night. At around
4 in the morning we heard the screech. I looked out of the window and saw the car
come crashing in. The man got out of his car wit his pants down. His companion had
been performing oral sex and in the excitement he missed the curve. When he saw
me he told me, “Sony, you should buy a car like this one. I recommend it. Look,
nothing happened to me.” Can you imagine the man telling me to buy a car like that
when I can barely on my policeman’s salary afford a motor scooter!
The incident was never reported by the press.
Dos Artistas Y Un Galerista
Sunday, October 20, 2013
|Alfredo Plank, Enrique Scheinsohn, Juan Manuel Sánchez|