Friday, February 17, 2006
After sororial connections that eve and the next morn, decided to take the helijet back to vancouver. It's quite a tremendous adventure if the skies are clear, which they were. There's something about the elevator-ride of a helicopter, so different from fixed-wing, the very idea of not so much taking off (down the runway) but taking up (off the pad). A full 12-seater, but plenty to see, the layout of vancouver island, how it breaks away and gives up to the archipelagic appearance of the gulf islands and then the strait and finally to the mainland. Flew close in over my house in vancouver and down low enough to see a great deal. A bird's eye of a sort, to the reality below. Exciting enough that I even asked the counter folks what it would cost to charter a helicopter to the interior, thinking if I could fly out the whole bunch of Interior Investigations artists, it would be doable. Costs are still higher than normal flights, owing to the fact that the heli would have to return emply, but still thinking of ways of accomplishing this. The way the mind wanders.
After that, walked from the seabus terminal to the Vancouver Art Gallery and caught Brian Jungen's exhibit there. This is what the VAG site has to say about Jungen's work:
"Through the transformation of consumer goods and common materials into symbolic sculptures and installations, Jungen examines cultural norms and social issues. The artist is perhaps best known for his Prototype for New Understanding series (1998-2005), 23 startling simulations of Northwest Coast Aboriginal masks fabricated from disassembled athletic shoes. Through this ingenious manipulation, the artist collides two seemingly different commodities-globally branded footwear and revered First Nation's artwork. Also widely celebrated are Jungen's three enormous and incredibly lifelike whale skeleton sculptures-Shapeshifter (2000), Cetology (2002) and Vienna (2003). Made from common plastic lawn chairs, his "whales" oscillate between objects of natural history and critiques of commodity culture, simultaneously understood as both natural forms and recognizable household objects. Cetology, the largest of the three measuring 49 feet in length, is in the Gallery's permanent collection.
A new and most interesting piece from Jungen at the VAG, however, is his "Furniture Sculpture," an enormous black teepee that inhabits a room of its own, dimly lit and, apparently, nothing out of the ordinary. On closer inspection, though, we see that what Jungen has done is to "skin" a number of leather couches from the Brick to create the fabric of the teepee. The wooden infrastructure of the sofas are used to support the structure as well, so all in all, very fascinating and in keeping with his own focus on recontextualizing commercial product (as with the Canadian Tire plastic lawn chairs that go into creating his whale skeletons). I couldn't help but chuckle as I thought of the process, what it meant to be *doing* it and also how it occupies space at the VAG.
Made my way to the vancouver home after that, and then ended up visiting with Larissa Lai and Roy Miki at the tail end of an SFU dinner they were part of down at Wild Ginger in Tinseltown. Had a drink and then wandered over with others to the Honey Lounge, packed with colleagues, artists, graduate students, and numerous others to the beat of 60s music, so that was fun. Ended up closing the eve by going to Celebrities on Davey, but the crowd had dwindled some by then! The next few days will see me (i hope) writing more on the novel, putting together a couple of grants, and trying to stay lowkey and grounded for a bit -- the travel is stimulating, but sometimes overly so, and with what's upcoming in march -- ottawa, toronto, mexico, halifax -- think i need to take a breather of sorts.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Saturday, February 11, 2006
I'm sitting up on a wave of golden grass on Nose Hill, have just drifted back from a pleasant drifting off, trying to recover lost sleep from yesterday. Was up too early (for me) so i could do the necessary running-arounds in preparation for my cousin's havan today at the hindu mandir in Calgary. I must have been a comical scene at walmart at 8 this morn, purchasing and then attempting to assemble at the checkout a wooden easel, having been charged with the duty of finding some decent way to display the framed and garlanded 16x20 photo of Ravi at the mandir. Little sleep, less dexterity, and less than cheap easel parts made for a task rather more complex than it should have been! But job accomplished, the photo was displayed and it didn't fall over, and so now i reflect over the morning, only the memory and my yellowed fingers to show for it.
Ravi died a few days before christmas while travelling to the hill station of masoori in india. It was, as his daughter Sheikha narrated, a lifelong dream of his, so he travelled there against the advice of family who told him such a journey would be hard for someone with his high blood pressure. But he insisted on fulfilling this dream and so he did, and the shortness of breath he experienced did not detract from his utter enjoyment, apparently. When the breathing grew worse though, attempts to reach a hospital to attend to what was probably an aneurism that found its way to his lungs were too late.
And so i sit here on nose hill typing with stained-yelllow fingers, feeling the bite of a still-chilled february prairie wind while being warmed by a midday sun. Those contrasts.
The mandir in calgary is located in a commercial!warehousey district in the northeast and in its cross between a community centre, reception area, and sometimes gaudy but expansive temple area, it is not atypical of mandirs in the west. As immediate family, i was seated near the fire, next to my father and across from Ravi's daughters, wife, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. Panditji lit the small pieces of wood and asked daughter Mika to feed the flames with ghee. The rest of us seated round would make frequent puja offerings from bowls containing a blend of 33 medicinal and fragrant vegetations, such entities as cloves, camphor, cardomom, tree bark, saffron and the like. As panditji uttered the phrase "swahaa" at the end of each religious verse, multiple hands would toss finger- and hand-fulls of this blend onto the flames, throwing spark and scent into the hall. Yes, it was the saffron, i imagine, yellowing my fingers through the ceremony, yellowing and scenting them so they still have that faint aroma now.
The night before, first a meeting with family to see what remained to be done, then meeting with Kathryn, the UofC research assistant working on our multiculturalism issues SSHRC grant (described earlier and elsewhere on this blog). Exciting to talk of potentials, for artists and art schools, and i was fully cognizant of this happening in contrast (necessarily so?) to today's havan. Then later that night, a meetup and catchup with an old university friend at Ming, a chance to bring old and new times into the same space, quite a delight really. Such reconnections grow whiskers into late night sessions, however, hence the lack of sleep, but importantly so -- this bas relief of life-affirmation in the midst of death and loss. And in case this sounds like wandering maunder, this whole whirling return to calgary puts me back in mind of the premise of that little-distillery novel, that matter of not just free will and choice as philosophical ephemera, but how they show up and map out in different, sometimes exhilerating, sometimes more ponderous, ways.
Out for now, finishing what started as a nose hill reflection at a quiet part of YYC, waiting for my YVR-bound flight in an hour. And from there, have promised friends and would-be friends that i will stand them a drink at my place & then we shall all go out dancing. Perspective, always important to keep -- sometimes to create!
CRC in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry
Thompson Rivers University
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
While on the subject of installations, thinking of a collaborative piece i was working on with sandra semchuk and kristi malakoff that just came down at the end of december at the kamloops art gallery. The notion of the exhibition, "Proximities," was about the 'artist statement' as a central text to an exhibition. An intriguing if somewhat, sometimes, tautological proposition! At any rate, one of the projects i undertook was following on sandra's idea of the photograph as gesture, so i worked with 'gesturing' with the camera and videocam to the flying-dog gita, caught in various poses, not so much framed as 'stilled' in the moment of the gesture toward.
I subsequently played with various forms of text, excised from the collectively-written artist statement, and used those words upon/in the images. It is a hard project to describe (considering it was so full of words!) so i am hoping this brief descrip and the accompanying video clip can approximate what our portion of proximities was all about. Our title (within a title, really) was "suggesture" -- we liked how such a word pointed to, gestured to, the dual qualities of 'suggestion' and 'gesture' and, in the end, how it sounded and/or read. Anyway, in the gesture toward further text/installation work, here is a limited representation of what we were working on.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Back in Toronto, now, returning my mind to work at hand. Played a bit this morning with some of the video work that will/might make its way into the eventual "Little Distillery" installation or, if not, then will give me some ideas of what to use in the install as i play/edit with what i have here. The "1401 ways" piece was a short clip on memory as constructed by photography/super8film and manipulated audio tracks. Very low-res quality uploaded here, but the gist is there, a softfocussed, multiply-edited clip of some time gone. The '1401' refers simply enough to the number of frames in this clip. Beach scenes, these from the east coast of canada, to contrast, i suppose, with more recent beach visitations in trin. Memory and memories.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Bberry-writing this from the Bois Cano bar at the Kapoc Hotel, just off the north side of the savannah in Port of Spain -- but since i can't send this while in Trin, this post-post-savannah post will be up & blogged after i hit Pearson on thurs aft. The perils of time lags & travel!
Spent the day waiting for transport from outta the garrison, realized we cd have ventured out & found a maxi-taxi stop, but something 'bout this trip makes me feel less than (ad)venturous. Be that as it may -- finally got a driver (no cabs avail) to come by @3, & got downtown by nearing 4. Roger, the driver who lives nextdoor to K.Ramchand which is how we got to know him, is an even-tempered sort with a sense of humour about him. Yesterday, he chuckled away as i described to david what my paper was about (d was sposed to respond to it and was not enamoured of the idea of using the taxi time to read it in the backseat, can't blame him as i can't read on the road, so i "practiced" it on the both of them). Poor roger then got a glimpse of all i thot about race, globalization, etc, and seemed to enjoy it -- hope i didn't come across as too intellecty-pompous. But R did ask D today how his editing was going, so there were cool connections happening.
Anyway, dropped D off at the nat lib so he cd look at old newspapers (tho that went bust when he found the microfilm projector broken!) And i wandered up and down Frederick St, looking for i know not what. Did finally get some extremely tacky cushion covers, even the colour registration way off(!), as per the request of my kamloopsian housemate & confidant, david bateman, so that was a score. Collected the other D at the lib, and we started to walk in the direction of the savannah when i realized my body was full of heat (reminded me of the title of ian rasid's poetry book, _the heat yesterday_) so i told him i would take a cab the rest of the way. Good thing -- remembered yrs ago in india, pushing myself like a mad-dog-englishman in the midday heat, & much to my later chagrin.
Meeting KD here & the tiki village rest up on top of the kapoc hotel in a few mins, and that will be our last nite in trin.
Feeling oddly lonely and decentred and nostalgic as we prepare to depart. Might have to do with recent dissolutions and devolutions or just with the nature of movement. More reflection called for i suppose. Had a brief talk to KD 'bout some of these sensibilities while DC was on the phone to some Trinny relatives, so that was good, however briefly stated and unexplored! ... And now, many hours later, after rising at 4:30am to get to the airport for our morn flight, after about 2 hrs of sleep since i stayed up and wrote some more on the balcony while listening to waves and bats and steelpans all at once, we are on the plane, just over an hour away from wheels down @ yyz. More grant-related stuff to do there, then back to the west...
CRC in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry
Thompson Rivers University
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Thinking a lot about this being trapped in a garrison, that fort-like space (physical and mental) that keeps the inhabitants simultaneously “safe” and insulated from the world around them. Strong colonial impulse, one that I would not feel, perhaps, were we staying near the downtown core of Port of Spain. But even getting a taxi here to the lockdown community on the appropriately-named “Columbus Circle” can be harrowing. The accompanying photo is taken from the tenth floor where we’re living, looking down on Columbus Circle and its opulent expat houses. Off to the left is a canal that leads into the sea, and the wealthier inhabitants have boats moored by their houses. Off to the right is an equally opulent shopping mall, could be an upscale mall in a number of north american cities with its displays of high fashion and higher electronics. Quite a thing, this movement of capital.
It’s been interesting working within this space. In Richard Fung’s video, “Uncomfortable,” Trinidadian artist Chris Cozier shows some of his mixed media projects that play with the notion of gates – he notes that all around Trinidad are these ubiquitous gates, adorned with all sorts of decoration, but gates nonetheless, and he further notes the obvious about such garrisony devices, that as much as they keep the “others” out, they keep the inhabitants locked into a type of antiseptic reality. And in all this reality, there are David and I, doing what we do, I suppose, which is to work through ideas, writing, communication – critical and yet complicit. I actually feel like I’m doing something illicit when I sneak out of the apartment late at night to go and “steal” a wireless signal from down near the elevators! Yet here we are, working on our various practices in grand-style apartments, and I do wonder what I will make of all this on my return. I do know I am interested in maintaining some form of connection with this island and what it has to offer in terms of colonial history and such. Last night, David and I visited what could only be called the ‘keeper’ of the military museum at Chaguaramas,
Gaylord Kelshall, a man full of the history of WWII in Trinidad when the island was quite literally overrun by the presence of the US military. Gaylord kept saying how he wished he could time travel and see what that was like firsthand. The influence of a not-quite-yet military power, yet still significant as thousands upon thousands of soldiers – white and black – trained in Trinidad. Yet the citizens at the time were often of the mind that being a colony of the US would be preferable to being a colony of Britain, that due to the influx of capital and such. And the continued presence of the US, from food to culture to politics, is quite evident all around us, perhaps all the more disturbing in that it is as familiar as it is ‘foreign’ in so many ways.