Pressing My Buttons at the Emily Carr End-of-Year Show
Saturday, May 06, 2017
In my many years of rejecting any idea that I may be an artist
I have at the very least gained an education in the arts thanks to an Argentine
painter, Juan Manuel Sánchez
who in his ten year stay in Vancouver taught me
about art in his gentle way. If anything he might have persuaded me to think
(sometimes) that I am an artist. The second contribution to my art education
has been my daily delivered NY Times for 18 years and especially its Arts II
section on Fridays which is all about the visual arts.
This past Thursday evening I attended the huge (and huge it
is) end-of-year show at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design on Granville
Island. This is the last show on the island before it moves into its huge
building on Great Northern Way. The building as it stands now reminds me that
it could be a 21st century version of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s gigantic Palace of the
Parliament in Bucharest. The only
building close to that, in our 20 the century Vancouver, may be our main post
office on West Georgia.
Perhaps judging by the size of Thursday night’s opening
is the fact that the present building may indeed be too small. But I have heard
that classrooms and studios in the new building are not all that large. We
shall have to see.
It may be that the university’s president Ron Burnett, a
forward looking kind of a man knows where the future is headed.
As for me at age 74 I am beginning to repeat and think
about my former friend Abraham Rogatnick (a lover and patron of the university)
statement, “I am not long for this world.”
The show features lots of stuff that is interactive. One
has to look into screens, listen and press buttons. This confirmed to me that
my hard copy NY Times’ inability to contain hyperlinks is why I may not have
suspected the trend in the arts as I saw at Emily Carr. That kind of art can
only be understood and or appreciated in anything that may contain 1s and 0s.
My friend the effusively direct Ian Bateson (a former
designer and illustrator of note [is design as we know dead?] ) talked to many
third year students who instantly punched their cell phones to find out exactly
who Shadbolt was. On the other hand I ran into on David Heffel and I was
completely delighted at his smiles and his delight at what he was seeing. For that
other gallery man, Andy Sylvester (through the years I have been introduced to
him by the likes of Arthur Erickson, Abraham Rogatnick and others) I have
always been an un-bandaged H.G. Well's man.
|Helen Yagi, David Heffel, Ona Grauer & Tiko Kerr|
Most important for those graduating design students looking for a job I can happily report here that I saw many of Vancouver's graphic design millieu, most of them with smiles on their faces. One of them was the noted designer Barry Marshall. He was wearing a colourful shirt with countless butterflies that he said was based on Shadbolt. Looking at the butterflies I thought of this:
“When we define the Photograph as a motionless image, this
does not mean only that the figures it represents do not move; it means that
they do not (i)emerge(i), do not (i)leave(i): they are anesthetized and
fastened down, like butterflies.”
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
The show overwhelmed me in its size and I almost can say
that I felt alienated by the quantity.
There is one little spot in the industrial design section
(I did not do my homework so I did not pick up the artist’s name) that featured
a table and bench of wood that had extremely heavy cast cement tops. They were
made to look like an Ikea piece of furniture complete with an Ikea-like
catalogue. I smiled and smiled. But I wonder if this was a dead serious display
or a tongue-and-cheek.
I did know one of the artists and this was Glenda Bartosh
whose display on the wall involved an elaborate explanation. And yet as I
studied engineering in the early 60s and had a wonderful professor who taught
us quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity with a sampling of particle
physics I felt quite at home with this piece of art that was certainly not dead
serious but a whimsical example of tongue-and-cheek.
All in all I believe that as I write this (Friday
morning) I am beginning to have a good time looking back at yesterday’s evening
and I must wish Ron Burnett, his staff and his students the best for next year.
As I gaze at my static photographs on the walls of my oficina I think of my friend Abraham Rogatnick.
For anybody who might be wondering how I made the photograph or Ron Burnet here is the explanation:
1.Portrait of Burnett in his office.
2. 8x10 print from my darkroom
3. I propped up the picture on a chair in my garden.
4. I placed one of my cameras, I believe a black Pentax MX on a tripod.
5. I opened the back and had the shutter open on bulb.
6. I focused on Barthes' book Camera Lucida
7. I coppied the setup with my Mamiya RB 67.
Sunshine at Wreck
Friday, May 05, 2017
I am writing this on a cool and rainy May 3, 2017. Even one
day of semi-sun during a rainy week is not enough to take away that melancholy that
consumes me on cloudy days.
Our perennials are not as affected by rainy day melancholy
in the spring. My shade tolerant hostas (never use the incorrect term “shade
loving”) are doing just fine. In the first weeks of May as they unfurl their
leaves one cannot but notice their fresh pristine beauty that may suggest that Roman
concept of the Vestal Virgins the
priestesses of the Roman goddess of the hearth Vesta.
By the end of May my 27 roses need sun.
While experiencing this melancholy of no sun I perused my
old negatives of my times in the late 70s at Wreck Beach. My Rosemary never
quite understood my obsession in going there an exposing my nude body to sun.
In fact I read quite a lot there and made some very good friends. It was in
Wreck Beach where I first had contact with cartoonist/animator Marv Newland and
free-lance writer Daniel Wood.
|Hosta 'Party Favor' May 3 2017|
The many beautiful women I met there all gladly posed for my
camera, perhaps understanding, how inept I was at it. Thanks to them I learned
One friend, a lead singer of a lovely Vancouver pop band
suggested I try some of his excellent hash. I did and then found myself
incapable of any movement. Worse still, in my attempts to say anything, all
that came out from my semi paralyzed lips was a stutter. That was my first and
last time in smoking any kind of weed that was not tobacco. And tobacco I last
smoked (a pipe) some 20 years ago.
|Hosta 'PlatinumTiara' May 3 2017|
Those sunny and lazy days at Wreck Beach gave me plenty of
time to reflect on my life as a married man with two daughters. It gave me the
opportunity to think out my ever increasing assignments for magazines.
Illustrating an article with a photograph or photograph (in some cases before
the article is written is one of the most satisfying of pleasures. It is one
that I miss now that I am obsolete – redundant & retired. I would even go
as far as stating that thanks to Wreck Beach I became a good photographer of
Now in 2017 I have no desire to sun myself except on some
holiday where I would probably want to escape the sun I a museum. Now in 2017 I
have come to appreciate the undraped female not on a sandy beach (where I
learned the craft) but in my smallish studio with its reduced options. In the
studio my approach has to be one that is not of those Roman vestal virgins but more on the Greek and thus
Platonic concept of the essence – the essence that makes a woman be that.
Here are pictures of the laid back and delightfully beautiful
Lorien. She was my friend and I learned a lot from her. I remember with some
element of distaste and disapproval that the former Playboy scout (those who
know who he was will know his name, I will not name him here) had to adhere to
the then (and now?) standards of female beauty. He would parade naked (I gave
him that) while wearing shoes and socks and with a Hasselblad around his neck. He
would then pick possible Playboy beauties (who often had a little dog) and
approach them and ask them about their cute dogs. Lorien did not fit the mold. Her
lovely breasts had only a vestige of nipples and the breasts themselves flopped
a tad. He would say hi to her but keep on in his search.
|Hosta 'Liberty' May 3 2017|
To me it is interesting to note that the two colour photographs
here of Lorien are in decided out of focus. I cannot here give the excuse that
I was stoned. I wasn’t. Those two pictures were just poorly focused.
|Hosta 'June' May 3 2017|
|Hosta 'Grand Tiara' May 3 2017|
A Macaroni Penguin - La Merda Kicks Butt
Thursday, May 04, 2017
|Cristian Ceresoli & Silvia Gallerano at the Cultch , May 3 2017|
such a God-damned sissy! Why can't you stand up before fine strong music like
this and use your ears like a man?"
- At a 1931 concert of Charles Ives's and Ruggles's
music, a man booed during Ruggles's Men and Mountains.
For those expecting a quick review of May 2nd's opening La
Merde at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre you will have to be a tad patient
and read on.
Every once in a while when I am in the doldrums I take
out my Charles Ives records and play them. They almost sound normal perhaps
because of numerous playings through the years.
At my age 74 it is very comfortable to read my beloved
mystery writers like Andrea Camilleri, Donna Leon, or the-easy-now-after-repeated readings of the poems of Emily Dickinson
. I can say the same about the
stories and poems of Jorge Luís Borges.
But knowing I am in this easy doldrums I have been
tackling the more difficult Julio Cortázar.
Also at my age it is comfortable to stay home and watch
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC with my Rosemary while eating healthy food that I have
prepared for the both of us. It is as pleasant as waking up on our Stickley bed
and bringing up our breakfast tray with our NY Times and Vancouver Sun. This
easy routine is that, easy, and it feels good. But at the same time I know
there is more to this as Peggy Lee put it, “Is this all there is?”
I have written often how those who go to the Vancouver
Symphony programs usually avoid the more avant-garde Turning Point Ensemble or
the paradoxical experience of witnessing Early Music Vancouver celebrations of
the “new music” of 17th century composers.
I have written how those who go to Ballet BC will not
also attend Contact Improvisational Dance at the Western Front or try the many
very good modern dance companies of our city.
There is a lot of edgy stuff in our city by the edge of
the sea that is not reported by our fading mainstream media.
When Paul Grant the stellar CBC arts reporter for CBC
Radio retired a few years ago his position was not filled. There is hole in
that radio station where culture should be flourishing.
But there are a few bastions in this city of ours of
stuff the push thee boundaries of the expected, the comfortable, the usual and somehow
lure us out of that everyday comfort.
One such bastion is the Turning Point Ensemble
made up of musicians (well known ones) who as part of other musical orchestras
have gotten bored with the daily faire.
Another is our East Vancouver Cultural Centre or the
Cultch as it is affectionately called.
For many years as I have noted here
, the Cultch made it de
rigueur to offer one performance work per year that had complete nudity. In our
formerly Scottish Presbyterian influenced city this was verboten. But slowly
and surely the Cultch prevailed and nudity was no longer seen as something to
The Cultch - How to be Edgy
It was a combination of complete nudity, some shouting,
various references to fellatio (look it up) and a good deal of scatological
language that may have offended or shocked the audience at last night’s full
(perhaps over-sold performance) of Cristian Ceresoli’s La Merde performed by Silvia
Gallerano in pretty good English.
My Rosemary was serious but I was laughing. Perhaps this
is because for close to 8 years in my boyhood Buenos Aires our neighbours
were Italians from Calabria who always
dined on their patio. They had fights and it seemed that whispering anything
was out of the question. They were plain noisy. The patriarch of the family was
the neighbourhood barber. He would cut my hair while discussing that weekends
football games. He would gesticulate to the point I thought he might slice off
portions of my face! His son, Miguelito was one of my two best friends as was
Gesticularion, shouting, passion, not keeping it inside
is a trait that all Argentines (and I am a former one) share with Italians. We
are warm and express ourselves readily. Gallerano's repeated foul language could never have offended my ear. In Spanish and Italian (most similar in how they and we swear) there is a more varied and truly edgy offensive language of the insult.
The premier one in my Argentine Spanish (which I will not translate is aggresive and all about motherly suggestions):
¡Vete a coger a la puta madre que the parió!
Not long after we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 we were
invited for after-dinner-drinks. Even my staunchly Canadian wife (New Dublin,
Ontario) did not know what that was. I still feel alienated in this rainy, gray
Vancouver so full of people who do not gesticulate!
So it was that last night I felt much at home as Silvia
Gallerano (she is surprisingly short but her thighs are not big, and you must
see La Merde to understand what I mean!) performed with microphone in hand on a
tall platform while not wearing a stitch except for perhaps a couple of rubber bands
for her two very cute buns on top of her head.
To fully understand La Merda one has to know a bit about
the political chaos of Italy that has been its tragedy since its inception as a
country in the 19th century. The only big and less dangerous
difference between the not-yet-forgotten Silvio Berlusconi and the US’s
President Trump is that Berlusconi never had a nuclear red button to press. But
corruption and patronage (read any of the books by Michael Dibdin) that feature
Aurelio Zen, a Venetian cop or Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian cop,Salvo
Montalbano) to understand what all that shit that Silvia Gallerano was talking
and shouting about.
Particularly prescient was the big theme of La Merda on
what a woman has to do in order to “make it” in the world of men. Between Trump’s
groping and what is still ailing Fox News, and not to mention our very own Jian
Ghomeshi what we heard from Gallerano. was an uncomfortable truth of society I our
One the one hour show was finished the silence in the room
was palpable. People might have been shocked. But I insist in recording here
that thanks to the Cultch and to whoever selects the stuff that is offered, we
in this Vancouver of complacency need to be kicked in the butt.
Last night Silvia Gallerano did a lot of that.
The Cultch A Bastion of Edgy Culture
Addendum: It was pleasant after all the shock of that intense performance to meet (very short) Silvia Gallerano and her partner the writer of the work, Cristian Ceresoli. They were (I thought) uncharacteristically soft-spoken as we conversed in their very good Spanish. But there is one statement by Gallerano that troubled me when I pointed out that few in the audience may have known of all the travails of her country. She said,"Many in my own country have forgotten." It would seem that the pair will have to keep performing the play (as they have in several languages all over the world) to keep the world, the forgetful world, on it toes.
Wednesday, May 03, 2017
I would like to set things straight before I proceed. I have
never been a communist nor have I ever even agreed with any of its dictums. I
am a liberal and very definitely to the left of centre.
But this does not mean that I do not listen to or read or
admire conservatives of note. Two I admired and had the luck to photograph were
William F. Buckley and William Safire. I have also read and l liked the way George
I also loved the sense of humour of Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (Illinois) during the 60s. I am sure he did not have a speech writer.
Today in my NY Times I noticed (ever more as I am beginning
to like The Times Insider
on Page 2)
an essay about William Safire by David W. Dunlap called Paid Manipulator’ in
1973, Pulitzer Prize Winner in 1978
. Read it here
The Times Insider as the
name suggests is all about the lesser known stuff that happens inside the
newsroom of a very good newspaper.
With the polarization in Canada, the United States and in
Argentina where in all cases one side wants to see the other side fail I
appreciate the pragmatism that Buckley and Safire projected in their essays
(and books) with a vivid and intelligent use of the English language, something
that is sadly missing these days.
I must also add that my interest in the the English
language, its words and even their relationship to my native Spanish are all
due to years of reading Safire’s On Language.
Before Safire stopped writing for the NY Times his column
had guests writers. Few would know (I know!) that Vancouver’s
Taras Grescoe wrote one! Here