mercredi 3 avril 2013

Scandal At The Owens, Gossip In Sackville

For the class of Tuesday, March 19th.
-I heard that thing... did you hear? That thing that happened at the Owens Art Gallery, in the 90's, that got them in court. Can you believe it? Who did you hear it from? 
-I heard it from Vanessa who heard it from Gemey. I'd heard it from John before, and a little from Jerry. Little from Jerry. Mostly from John... but Vanessa told it well... Gemey's version, that is.
-You didn't hear it from me.

Video Art

For the class of Thursday, March 14th.

During this class, we saw Lisa Steele's video art "Birthday suit with scars and defects" recorded on her 27th birthday, and it inspired me to make my own video art. It's a little out there, so either bare with me or skip to the next post.

"All You Can Eat Porn: My Apple", Claire Gallant (2013)


First, I prepare an apple: 
I wash it, remove its sale sticker, and peel the fruit.
Peeling apples is a very tender act to me, 
which I associate strongly with my mother, 
my aunts, and my grandmothers, and their gendered rituals. 
I love the sound of apples being peeled. 
Eventually, the gesture is meant to feed loved ones, and maybe to treat them. 
However, the action is uneasy to my hands since it is alien to my daily life as a 23 year old;
I've never found it easy.

Second, I strip naked to devour the apple as quickly as possible. 
I gag rushing through it, and most of it is wasted.
Planning and then making this second half of the video, 
I was referring to mainstream internet pornography, 
especially ones featuring women performing fellatio on men.
Today, the internet facilitates and increases the distribution and consumption of pornography, and brings along questions that are difficultly muffled in my conscience, such as:
What is being portrayed in the most popular videos?
What kind of sexuality does it exemplify for the genders?
Why is it being consumed so vastly and what are its effects?

This video performance, although a display of negative emotions from me 
(I wear them on my sleeve, or rather, on my face)
is meant as a comment to be heard and interpreted by viewers as they wish

Thanks for your attention.

Globe and Mail article.

mardi 2 avril 2013

Drawing on Krazy: Lunar Thoughts with Tintin

For the class of Tuesday April 2nd, 2013.

Today's class focused mostly on drawing, with a pronounced emphasis on comics and graphic novel artists, many of which from the publishing house Drawn and Quarterly. Check out this page for a delicious variety of artists published by the company.

I am a fan of graphic novels and of comics. Some of my favorites include Charles Burns, Guy Delisle, and Marc Bell. How it all began though, was probably through the series Asterix et Obelix, and Tintin.

I am still very interested in Tintin. There is a specific term for people like me: "Tintinophile", and therefore of course, internet fan clubs to match! Here's one of them. In comparison to some (this stuff gets pretty serious), I am definitely a Tintinophile Light, but I still wear my badge with honour.

In this selection from "Tintin and The Crab With The Golden Claw", the viewer's gaze is encouraged to wander along with Tintin's, as explains Fred Sanders in this great article from the Scriptorium Daily.
Personally, part of what interests me so much about Tintin is the richness of the story's narrative and of its symbolism, in combination with its ability to remain simple, clean and seemingly effortless: The testament of a true masterpiece. Tintin is an over acknowledged work, and as a comic classic has even been debated to be a literary classic by Tom McCarthy in his book Tintin and The Secret of Literature, conquering new grounds for the medium of comics in general.

I am currently reading McCarthy and loving it.
Borrow it after me if you're so inclined,
it's in Mount Allison University's library collection.

Comics are so powerful. I see the medium as an intersection between the story-telling tools of cinema and written word, incidentally on the same page as paintings, drawings, and other 2D art forms. So much can be communicated between the frames.

Themes and symbols that particularly interest me in Tintin, specifically, are those of good and evil-delegated and concentrated to specific characters-, and the themes of dreams and craziness. Here are some of my favorite examples of these enchanting follies:

1) The fast inflating and exploding mushrooms on the fallen meteorite island in The Shooting Star.

2) Dupont and Dupond's (in English Thompson and Thomson's) bubble burping and fast rainbow beard sprouting in The Land of black Gold. They are later still afflicted by this mysterious illness in Explorers on The Moon.

3) In The Shooting Star again, a mad street prophet announces a supposed upcoming apocalypse. 

Finally, seperate from the themes of dreams and craziness, I also love that Tintin goes to the moon. Two books are dedicated to the destination, Destination Moon and Explorers on The Moon. I am myself very interested in the moon and in its symbolism, as a subject of fantasy and impossibility, symbol of impossible dreams and of madness. Yet we have walked on the Moon, have done the impossible. What now? To me, it is the most beautiful and mysterious metaphor for our present time in history and our direction in the world. We have gone further than we ever thought possible. Technology has permitted the unimaginable, and yet it has also shrunk our world: We now have to pay greater attention to what we have instead of wanting more. Having looked to the stars and not found a planet as hospitable to life as ours (although I am sure it exists), we have, I hope, realized our luck and renewed our responsibility towards to fragile ecosystems on Earth. Yet despite having known it physically and "conquered" it as a human species, there is still something that makes us, and undoubtably always will make us dreamily look up at it at night... and this is one of the many things that I just love about the moon.

Earth seen from the Moon.

lundi 25 mars 2013

The Griffiths, Gender and My Queerness

For the class on Thursday February 21st.

Eliza Griffiths, General Idea, and the movie Lianna.

There's something about Eliza Griffith's work that reminds me of the movie Lianna and a slightly trashy friend of a friend that this friend suggested I add to my Facebook lately. And I did. She writes and is a woman born a man, both of which I think are great things. However she posts so much that she ends up all over my home page, and it's all a little much when combined with heavy internet-styled spelling.

I feel a little like this about the movie Lianna, and about Eliza Griffiths' paintings, although in different ways.

Eliza Griffiths painting.
With Eliza Griffiths' paintings, my verdict is that the gaudiness pays off. Although, most often, the ghost of gender stereotyping is very much so present, Griffiths bends them and reverses them, often making the men of her paintings the beings (or objects?) to be most desired. In combination with her bright and attention fetching color palettes, they run in danger of being obnoxious, but something in them saves them from this ill-fated destiny. Maybe it's their slightly illustrative style, or the thick clay-like rendering of the figures, most often based on Griffiths herself and her husband. Either way, they seem in the midst of communicating impressions, feelings and a narrative, which saves them, in my mind, from being needy or worst, desperate.

Maybe that's what bugs me a little about watching Lianna today. Although I understand that it came out in a different time and place, I found Lianna (a $300 000-budget movie from 1983) odd to watch today. In it, Lianna, a married mother with two children, played by actress Linda Griffiths, takes night classes and begins a liaison with her instructor, a woman in her mid-fifties. She leaves her husband, and is heartbroken when her lover admits to having a permanent partner in another city. We follow her as she discovers lesbian bars and as her entourage responds to her coming out.

Although both the movie and Griffiths' paintings deal with gender norms and sexuality, I find that Eliza Griffiths' paintings are much more flattering in their depictions of the norm transgressors. In Lianna, the final "hoorah" comes when Lianna's best friend decides to "tolerate" her homosexuality by saying something along the lines of "I don't understand it and I'll never understand it, but I've known you since a long time and if you're a lesbian, than that's something that I guess I'll accept about you". Gee, thanks. Better than a declaration of war, but it's still a little bit too close to the similar statement (concerning gender equality and heterosexual relationships) of "I may not be nice, or there much of the time, or treat you nicely, but at least I don't knock you around, woman!", which I've also heard many times between popular culture film protagonists. Again, "Gee, thanks". In Lianna, sexuality is also a black and white situation, one of gay or not, and of conformity or of being an outcast. Not once was it envisioned that Lianna might be bisexual. Given that she never once alluded to not having been attracted to her husband (soon to be ex-husband), the suggestion is not a radical one, but, I assume, perhaps one that was not considered by the writers and director. Or maybe the nuance between lesbian and bisexual escaped them.

As a bisexual woman, I am lucky to be comfortable with this facet of my identity almost 100% of the time. When I am not comfortable, however, is sometimes not so much when faced with sexist or queer-phobic ideas or language (which I mostly either directly address or dismiss as the result of insistent denial or stupidity), but when I am faced with too much of a good thing. Before I sound like a spoiled brat, let me explain myself. Have you ever had someone be too nice to you? Like, condescendingly, uncomfortably, over-insistently too nice to you? That's what I'm talking about. It's the type of discourse that may come from good intentions (somewhere), but that come off all wrong. What I read into it, instead of "You are just as worthy of my acceptance and attention as the average Joe or Jane on the street", is "I will pay all of my attention to you to convince you that you are worthy of me, and mostly that I am an open and accepting person." That's hard to deal with. How do you deal with that?

The best behaviour is the behaviour that meshes my sexual identity in with the rest of my perceived identity. I am not just a bisexual woman. I am also a Canadian, an artist, an environmentalist, a leftist, a feminist, an Acadian, a francophone, a Frederictonian, and the list goes on. The best behaviour is when my friends give as much validation and conversation when (and if) I speak about a female crush as when (and if) I speak of a male crush. If you'd gush with me about a man (yes, because I'm still 12), then gush with me about a woman! And if you just don't care, then you just don't care. I'm not out for your sympathy or your charity, I just want the same opportunities while being fully myself.

In the spirit of General Idea.
"P is for Poodle" (1983) by General Idea

jeudi 21 mars 2013

The Real Treat: Contemporary Canadian Performance and Installation Artists

For the class of Thursday, March 21st 2013.

I love the work of Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, most specifically, their experiential walks. Have a look at one below, called Alter Banhoft Video Walk (made in 2012). I very highly suggest watching it expanded to full-screen, and plugging in some headphones if you have them.

It's been awhile since an artwork moved me to tears. This did it. It is vivid and haunting, but softly so, like waking up to a nurse cleaning your bloody but anesthetized wound, soft white gauzes abounding around you, with your last memories being of angry grenades and battlefield dirt. It is personal, but magical and removed. I love that she talks of people watching, and of being in your head, when all the while her voice is dictating the viewer's experience of the space that he or she calls her own. Is this experience truly the viewer's? Having spent a week mute as an art performance two years ago, I relate immensely to the narrating voice, since by the end of that week, my own thoughts were as loud and clear as the voice in the headphones. I assume that this was because of their inability to be manifested into the outside world. By the end of the week I also "heard" my voice when I wrote to myself, to an imaginary audience (such as would a writer), and directly to others, as a live substitute for talking.

The theme of memory is also one that I am exploring currently in a collaborative project called "Somebody that you used to know." For it, I am making composite drawings based on people's  descriptions of a "past romantic interest", a category that includes (but is not limited to) exes, childhood crushes, friends with benefits, one night stands, almost boyfriends or girlfriends, and ex-partners, married or not. With this project, like Cardiff & Miller, I am interested in the subjectivity of memory and in transplanting the past into the present. Unlike Cardiff & Miller however, "Somebody that I used to know" also brings memory's failures into the limelight, when the memory-holder rates the final composite drawing out of ten for resemblance to what they think the past romantic interest really looks (or looked) like.

Although there are many differences, another similarity comes to mind: Both have the possibility to be highly personal, and yet are very public, either by being made for a wider (mostly art) public consumption or by treating universally relatable themes. And, if everything goes well on my side, both works are complimented if not primarily defined by sound.

All comparisons aside, I'm so glad we saw Cardiff & Miller's works in class today. Other installation and performance artists seen were Shawna Dempsey & Laurie Milan, John Sasaki, Adad Hannah, Daniel Olson, and Rebecca Belmore.

Fringe (2008) by Rebecca Belmore. This photograph of a stitched-up Native woman, red beads strung onto the stitching tread, has been installed in galleries and as an outdoor billboard. 

jeudi 7 mars 2013

The Ever-Evolving Medium of Film Meets The Internet

For the class of Thursday March 7, 2013.

Today, a treck through Canadian animation in Art History class lead us through the works of Norman McLaren, Graham Patterson (living and working in Sackville), Amy Lockheart and Elizabeth Belliveau. Through them, we also got a brief overview of the National Film Board of Canada, which has been producing animations since the 1930s.

This reminded me of how awesome the National Film Board of Canada is, and of a recent discovery of mine from its site:

A screen shot from "Bear 71".

Bear 71, in the words of this The Next Web article, is an "interactive documentary that blurs the line between wild and wired worlds". In it, the documentary film viewer gets to navigate a true-to-life reconstruction of the Banff territory and encounter wildlife in its actual-time location on the map. I'm not sure I'm explaining it clearly, so if you're any bit curious, please be my guest and check it out for yourself. Believe me, it's well worth it and makes you wonder... what will come next, and to what other possible applications could we give this wonderful innovative medium?

You Were Always On My Mind: Thinking of Native and Japanese Culture

For the class of Tuesday March 5, 2013.

The only thing I can remember without notes right now about Tuesday's class is the very end of the class when some movie clip was playing and I started to feel sick. So sick. Run to the bathrooms 'cuz you have cramps and and then be confused about which end you want stuff to come out of sick. So let me take out my notes one second...

While I do this (in the future when I'll have them... wait, what?) let me give you an overview of some things I've been up to lately that I find very interesting.

There's this paper on Tokyo, you see, and it's kind of my baby. It's making me really want to go there one day and, knowing me, there's a good possibility I will. I've even been checking out flights there "just to know", but let's face it, I'm actually testing out if the lake's ice is hard enough to walk on, and it's looking pretty smooth.

This list of 100 things to do in Tokyo is pretty much the best (written in French). Some of my favorites are:

70. Wander and get lost in the Shinjuku train station, the largest in the world. 
Given my current obsession with trains, YES PLEASE! The station is situated in the district of Shinjuku, pictured below.

74. Enjoy some sushi by taking the metro to a kaiten-zushi in Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko) at Ueno.
Because I LOVE sushi, and also because their metro looks like this:

83. Have one beer, then two, then three in a neighbourhood Izakaya.
Izakayas are the japanese equivalents of the english pubs. They moslty serve Japanese beers, sake, and hot or cold foods to be had in a casual atmosphere. Before reading this, I had totally forgotten that Japan is a big producer of beer and I was very glad to be reminded... I'm a total beer gourmande! Check out this website on Japanese beers.

97. To have a zen time in a Neko Cafe, petting cats. 
Neko Cafes are cafes, you guessed it, with cats. To me, it's like the the idea of sushi: simple, but brilliant! Ever feel like petting a cat and have none around? No problem! Just drop by a Neko Cafe and hang with the masters of the house there. They'd sure have my business... I'd be hooked!

Also, although I didn't see it on the list, Tokyo has many green rooftops, and some of the ones in Ginza are a-buzz with excitement! (hehehe) Check out Ginza's rooftop bees and beekeepers in the following news cast:

Alright, are you still there? I've found my notes! They remind me that on March 5th, we saw the works of artists Andrea Mortson (living in Sackville), Christian Pflug, Kent Monkman, Eleanor Bond, Wanda Koop and George Shaw. Out of all these, and to relate to all the Japan-esque information above, the one that kept my attention most was by far Kent Monkman.

Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist who identifies as Cree, Irish, and gay. A dabbler in many media such as film, installation, and performance, he is the author of "Icon for a New Empire" (2007), of "The Impending Storm" and of the film "Group of Seven Inches". By presenting himself as an individual of mixed and surprising identities, Kent Monkman breaks the rigidity of the Native stereotype as defined by descendants of Europeans colonizers. Yup, that includes me, and statistically speaking, odds are that it includes you too. 
"The Trapper's Bride" (2006) Kent's images often feature his alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testicle, cross-dressed and in homo-erotic situations such as this one, alluding to Jacques-Louis David's "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" (1801-1805).

Kent Monkman, as I mentioned, does performances for which he often fabricates his own accessories and dress. Here, a spicy pair of high-heels have been modified by Kent.
To me, what all of this has to do with Japan is the way in which learning about a culture diversifies your understanding of it. Indeed, skimming is very limiting, and in the case of the West's approach to Native and Japanese culture, some stereotypes are simply false. For example, as Jessica Danforth pointed out it in a mind-blowing talk last night, great respect and even veneration was often expressed in many native communities for what we call today members of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bi and transexual). Such individuals in Aboriginal communities since the 1980s refer to themselves as "two spirited". What more, many Aboriginal communities were matriarchal, a structure that patriarchal colonizers intentionally set to destroy to gain control of the land on which we, as Canadians, now all live on. I do not strive for a matriarchal society anymore than I thrive for a patriarchal one, but from such a culture, (also one that honours the land and its resources) us Euro-descendants have so much to learn!

In much the same way, my History of Japan class is enriching my understanding of Japanese culture, one that was before dictated mostly by popular culture and its often limiting idiomatic characters. An article I just read this afternoon, for example, talks of the 1960 Mi'ike Coal Dispute and of the subsequent second phase of the Citizen's Movement and Public Protests. Yet simplistic stereotypes would have it that the Japanese are an orderly and docile people, both to the state and to the opinion of the masses. Information such as this reminds us of human individuality and underlines the importance of stepping into another's shoes and of trusting that he or she is the larger authority on their lived experience, something I am sure both Jessica Danforth and Kent Monkman can agree with. Dare to be proven ignorant every once in awhile, and we will all be the better off for it.