A Word 15.05.2015

This week’s episode is really more of a teaser of things to come: from Ed Poitras’ billboard in Riversdale (I may have gotten the name incorrect, as it’s Don’t Speak, not Can’t Speak) to Dana Claxton and Bear Witness taking over the spaces at 424 20th Street West in Riversdale. All of these are part of TRIBE‘s Twentieth Anniversary Celebration: more information about the panels, presentations and performances that will be happening as part of that can be found here.

The image below is the billboard image that should (hopefully) be up now: and here’s some thoughts in the current Planet S Magazine about The Narrative Dish at the SCC.

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You can listen to the show here: I also eulogize Dr. Peter Purdue whose contributions to this place and this community were multifaceted and will be very missed.

Peter was an activist, and a vocal supporter of a collegial, respectful space at the continually and exponentially failing Art Department at the U of S. I was thinking about him as I was laughing out loud reading this story, where the Sask Arts Alliance is prancing about like its any kind of advocacy organization that is worthy of respect, or that has any real credibility.

There’s surely cause for consternation over some of the changes that have happened at the SAB: especially the Sask Party “belt tightening” that has led to a significant Arts Officer position not being replaced. Combined with the waste of funds to send a bureaucrat to Los Angeles to promote a film industry that the Sask Party willfully murdered, concern is not misplaced.

However, anyone who’s familiar with the Sask Arts Alliance will know that they’re no CARFAC: their primary mandate is to pat themselves on the back (a line a number of us with significant history in the cultural communities here will tell you). I can’t take seriously any organization who has a board member who’s a fine apologist for the U of S art department, with its history of allegations of racism made by some significant teachers / artists who now have little to do with the toxic site. These are not people who represent the cultural community: they have more in common with the Harper PMO than most cultural producers.

Returning to something of relevance, the College Galleries on the University of Saskatchewan campus will also be having their opening reception for Amalie Atkins’ exhibition we live on the edge of disaster and imagine we are in a musical in a week’s time. This exhibition is sure to be whimsical and enjoyable.

A Word 08.05.2015 Carole Epp and The Narrative Dish

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation between myself and Carole Epp, who is the “instigator” (to use her wonderful alternate title) as well as one of the artists in The Narrative Dish at the Affinity Gallery at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. The exhibition also includes Elizabeth Burritt, Aura Carney, Jenn Demke-LangeMariko Paterson, and Cathy Terepocki. Epp is very able in the online social sphere, so be sure to check out the hashtag #thenarrativedish on Instagram and Twitter.

You can listen to the show here, and I’ll be publishing some further thoughts on this show in the next Planet S. And I give you some images below from Dish, specifically the works of Mariko Paterson that may be my favourite (of the moment. I change my mind with shows like The Narrative Dish that have so much good work when I go back to see them again).

 

A Word 01.05.2015 Wanda Nanibush and The Fifth World

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation with curator Wanda Nanibush, focused on her curatorial endeavour The Fifth World at the Mendel. Its the first of a series of exhibitions and events marking TRIBE‘s 20th anniversary, and we talk about the show and how Art is indivisible to the current politics and struggles at play here in Treaty 6 and beyond. The images below are from Nicholas Galanin (The American Dream is Alive and Well) and the two further down are part of Meryl McMaster’s triptych Murmur. 

You can listen to the show here and my review of the exhibition can be read here, at Planet S Magazine.

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Now, a few other things of note: there was an announcement at the Mendel this past weekend, and Scotiabank has generously donated a large sum to ensure that the Something on Sundays program will continue at the Remai Modern, at no cost to any participants, for at least five years. I’ve no children, but I believe I’ve mentioned that my visits to the Mendel – and I hope to continue this – on Sunday afternoons are a staple of my weekend. The number of children I see, and the bond that is formed in terms of art and cultural spaces is something invaluable, and praise to Scotiabank for this support. It’s a nice compliment to the RBC’s support for the Artists by Artists program.

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I’ll add that I’ll be featuring some more information about the Remai Modern on upcoming shows, including a chat with CEO / Director Gregory Burke that we were tentatively arranging this week at an information session about the new gallery that helped dispel some of the rumours and such that have proliferated – either by poor reporting or by politicians with their own agendas.

A Word 25.04.2015 Free Flow Dance

This week’s radio show is a conversation with Jackie LaTendress, founder and Artistic Director of Free Flow Dance. We talk about the history of the organizations, some of its past highlights and a number of events and exciting happenings that are upcoming, to mark their anniversary. You can listen to the show here.

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A Word 17.04.2015: Nonie Mulcaster & Emma Anderson

This episode of the A Word we turn our gaze back to the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert: specifically talking to curator Emma Anderson about her project Breaking Spaces: the works of Nonie Mulcaster. We talk about the artist and her legacy, both in a specific manner and in the larger “landscape” of Saskatchewan art. The reception and the talk by Emma is later in the month.

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You can listen to this week’s show here. This was a busy week, as I also spoke to Wanda Nanibush, the curator of The Fifth World at the Mendel, the first in a series of exhibitions / events marking the 20th anniversary of TRIBE. That will air in the next while, and is yet another reason why CFCR is the best station in the city, and deserves your support through purchasing a membership.

Something else I’d like to add, as some of you may know Emma as a musician as well, and she’s involved with Girl’s Rock Camp. There’s an event this weekend that deserves your support (I’ve been told there may be ukuleles, and that’s been a fave of mine since the Cedar Tavern Singers). Go and support Girl’s Rock Camp: change only happens if we make it.

While we’re on the topic of exceptional young women in the arts, this week’s Planet S has my review of Cautionary Tales, the current exhibition at the void gallery, highlighting the work of Cate Francis and Maia Stark. That show is up for a few weeks more, so go and see it. Buy more art, as Zocia Malevich would yell.

Now, let us come to some final housekeeping: a new exhibition is opening at the Affinity Gallery at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. I’ll talk more about this in later shows, but I hope to lure Carole Epp back to the A Word to chat about it. paved has several things on the go, as always: an alternative methods photography workshop and the call for the next Toon’s Kitchen is now out. Everything you need to know about that is here, and this is a very exciting step for the Toon’s Kitchen project. More praise to paved for supporting artists in a variety of ways, including valuing their work through production facilitation – and artist fees.

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A Word 10.04.2015

This week’s episode of the A Word, with one exception, never leaves Riversdale: I mention the Bam Collective‘s call for submissions / participation / ideas / initiatives, as well as RiversdaleLove‘s forum at the end of the month. Their poster is below: and Allison Moore’s Video Terrarium at paved has now turned into Suburban Terrarium: it looks to be as amusing and engaging as the earlier manifestation.

Finally, Nuit Blanche Saskatoon 2015 is now calling for submissions for the second incarnation of the festival: you can follow them on FB or on Twitter, but the image for their submission call is below too.

And, of course, no A Word is complete these days without me completely forgetting to mention something important: in this case, BlackFlash Magazine has a new issue launch on the 25th of April. Read about the new issue here.

Listen to the show here: and next week I’ll be talking to Emma Anderson, whose curatorial project about Wynona Mulcaster has just opened at the Mann Gallery.

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A Word 03.04.2015

And this week’s radio show, which was supposed to be a chat with Wanda Nanibush about her exhibition The Fifth World which is open right now at the Mendel, did not come together exactly that way. Our schedules got the better of us, and Wanda and I will talk via phone in the next few weeks. But Fifth World is up right now: its a beautiful and disturbing exhibition, and I’d quote Mendel Acting Chief Curator Sandra Fraser that this exhibition, marking Tribe’s 20th anniversary (one of many upcoming events that will do so) is a very prescient final exhibition for the Mendel Art Gallery.

This week’s A Word can be heard here: and if you’re listening to the show, you should support CFCR with a membership.

So, on this week’s show I talk about a screening and production opportunity at paved, an upcoming exhibition at Art Placement and an exhibition that opens next week at the Mann Gallery, as the curator will be my guest the week of the 15th. Their poster is below: but the Mann also received a large donation that I speak about on air, and you can read more about that here.

Of course, the Mann is still going strong with the Wolf Campaign as well: but I’d echo part of the conversation I had with Director / Curator Jesse Campbell and how the Mann is focused upon history as told through the eyes of the artists they present, as we’re seeing with Mulcaster, the works of Hone and upcoming exhibitions by artists like Ruth Cuthand.

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Oh, and some thoughts on the current exhibition at the College Art Gallery on the University of Saskatchewan campus are in the new Planet S Magazine: that can be read here.

Lastly, the Void Gallery will be showing works by Maia Stark and Cate Francis  in a two woman show called Cautionary Tales. That’s an excellent title: Joseph Anderson used it for a series he exhibited at the Mendel some time ago, and I was recently speaking to Rowan Pantel about a series of works by female Video Vérité members decades ago that explored and revisited the rich history of myth and fairy tales (Little Red was never the same, nor should she have been).

Cautionary Tales is on display right now, and the reception is the 9th of April. More information and images here at the void, but I couldn’t resist including some work from both of these excellent artists (Stark is above, Francis is below).

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A Word 26.03.2015

This week’s A Word is all about events that are happening this weekend: from a new exhibition at the BAM space to the 330 Design Group. You can listen to the show here.

Some housekeeping: the article I mentioned at the beginning of the show about city councillors is here. The shameful partisan squander of tax payer money that the aforementioned CPC candidate Donauer has no apparent issue with can be seen here…and I don’t really remember him ever being a big supporter of the gallery anyway.

This post is going up a bit earlier than usual, as it is a busy weekend: but this isn’t to nudge CFCR out of the way, and you can show your appreciation for the best radio station in the city by making sure you renew your membership (or buy one for the first time) during our upcoming Membership Drive. Whether you listen to the A Word, Tonight It’s Poetry, Civically Speaking or so many other great cultural focused shows that CFCR not only provides but actively promotes, it is time to show your love.

The A Word is entering its eighth year: and considering that the CBC is facing some unpleasant local cuts, just announced today, local voices speaking to relevant local issues are needed more than ever.

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Respective posters are below with all the information you need, but I’d like to also add a link that a friend sent to me, which is a wonderful piece by Jerry Saltz. You can read that here.

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A Word 19.03.2015 BAM Collective

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation between myself, Cynthia Blanchette and David Stonhouse. These two are part of the exciting and dynamic BAM Collective, and we talk about the current show that’s on display there as well as what they are and what they do, and what they hope to do.

You can listen to us here. The images directly below are posters from the current show (Cynthia mentions when the space will be open near the end of our conversation) and the next exhibition that will be in the BAM space. The reception for that is the 28th of March.

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Now, a few other things worth mentioning: you have until tomorrow to see the Winter Gala at the Mann Gallery. Its worth a day trip to Prince Albert, and while you’re there you can also check out an exhibition at the John V. Hicks Gallery, presented by IPAC, (the Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective). Solitaires/Solidaries is a group exhibition organized and toured by the Conseil Culturel Fransaskois (CCF) which “highlights the reality of the Fransaskois artist creating in a contemporary prairie setting. It juxtaposes the reality of the artist working in a solitary space with the experience of cultural and linguistic solidarity”. The exhibition features the work of 4 Fransaskois artist, Anne Brochu Lambert, Jean-Sébastien Gauthier, Liza Gareau Tosh and Michèle Mackasey.

I didn’t mention the Mann’s Wolf Back A Beer Campaign last week, so I mention it here: support this endeavour. Public art is important to defining and renewing a civic space. Emma Anderson’s curatorial / educational project on Wynona Mulcaster opens at the Mann on the 2nd of April: that will be an interesting piece of history that has relevant contemporary applications too.

To return to Saskatoon: the latest Toon’s Kitchen at paved is an excellent one. I have some thoughts about it here, at Ominocity. I’m hoping that I’ll continue to contribute pieces to that excellent site, as some events / exhibitions are here so briefly that it’s necessary to note them immediately (I’m still letting an idea regarding abstraction and the works of Lorenzo Dupuis, who’s currently at Art Placement, Tammi Campbell’s work at the Mendel and Robert Taite’s current exhibition at aka fester in my head….I find myself returning to the title of Dupuis’s exhibition – A New Grammar – when thinking of the language of abstraction….). It’s an important show in the Toon’s space as we don’t seem to be having a debate about immigration these days so much as we’re shouting slogans and unpleasant bile in the wake of the indentured servitude that was / is  the TFW program….

The next few episodes of the A Word will be returning to event listing format, but I do hope to talk to Allison Moore, whose exhibition Video Terrarium opened last week at paved, in the next while. It may be the first interview I’ll do with the A Word that is across the Atlantic….

Looking ahead: 330 Design Group will be hosting its annual open house later this month. I’ll mention more about that next week, but their poster is below.

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Stronger Than Stone : some thoughts and ideas

This is a piece you’ll find in the March / April 2015 CARFAC Newsletter about the Stronger Than Stone Conference in the Fall of 2015. There’s also a piece by David Garneau in that issue. CARFAC SK doesn’t put their newsletter online (though you can find copies in a variety of spaces, from Art Placement to SCYAP): so it seemed appropriate to make it available online at the A Word. At the above link for STS you can read participant biographies and other relevant information. This exhibition was also on display concurrent to STS, and at times factored into the conversations. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Stronger Than Stone took place over four days in Calgary and Saskatoon, with a multiplicity of speaker and performers: it is sheer impossibility to give anything more than a taste of what happened over the two days at Wanuskewin, but many of the speakers raised issues that will resonate to a person in Saskatoon or Saskatchewan, as well as our larger national imaginary. Monuments have power not just physically, but in what they represent, as markers of ideology. They are material manifestations of ideas: and “ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?[i]

Wanuskewin was an ideal site, with its historical implications, a monument in itself: Rebecca Belmore, on the second day, spoke of recognizing the difference between monuments that are, and those that are “manufactured.” Ashok Mathur recounted the preceding Calgary days. He gave just a tease: how we “walk backwards into the future” within multiple “locals” here and elsewhere. He mentioned Jimmy Durham’s keynote address, reiterating how monuments in the Americas are testaments to colonial violence. Even something as superficially politically “neutral” as a dam invokes “economic plunder”, brushing against the current debate of resource extraction and Keystone. Mathur cited the overly simplistic binary of white / indigenous, affirming greater complexity in our “locals”: and then the speakers began.

Gregory Scofield’s use of language was evocative, with a tenderness and brutality. His words did “make sharp your teeth where I am most tender” in entrancing the room. Speaking of memories both personal and political, his words provided an aural match to WWOS: whether “punching bag woman” or “holding up the walls woman” or “all 69 years lost in a policeman’s report” being succinct and sad, but also with “she wore her blanket like perfume / she got raped here on this blanket / the man who did it was federally licensed” offering anger and indictment as well.

Sunday’s first panel was What the Land Remembers: Can it teach social history? There was an entertaining argument over the Cypress Hills: contested histories of place are more complex than the naïve settler / indigenous stereotype, as these sacred sites are important to Lakota and Cree. Adrian Stimson described territorialism as a colonial sentiment of “ownership” declaring instead that “we are all responsible for the land”. The land was spoken of as a library of stories, with “different perceptions of the same environment” – as you could look outside the window at Wanuskewin, and consider how to “approach the world in different ways and…expand the ways we come to know the world.” An amusing joke was that in the oral tradition of history, when confronted with people asking about spelling and capitalization, to dismiss it as a “white” problem, as writing invariably led to codification and control.

This led very well into the next panel: Mother tongues: How does language shape public space? where James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson cited “language” as a space for a legal battle between a Eurocentric paradigm and a First Nations one, where language “creates a forest of words of deceit” (its refreshing to encounter lawyers like Henderson, who can “see the forest for the trees”…). Henderson elaborated how universities (and other institutions that more often manufacture alibis than foster change) have a methodological / entomological obsession that’s irrelevant in “Indigenous knowledge systems”. He lamented the “great amnesia” after the 1981 constitution regarding the recognition of Aboriginal rights, and how, again the importing and forced application of Eurocentric systems are not “integral” to the discussion, but more an enforcement of status quo (This was a recurring sentiment: that “monuments” that are “approved” already have a space “carved out for them”, and to attempt to “carve out” other spaces, or occupy pre existing ones, is “aberrant” or “criminal”).

Another point made by Marianne Nicholson and Paul Chaat Smith is that, unlike the Eurocentric tradition, there is, here, “a sacred language that has never been secularized.” Again, the site of Wanuskewin provided a subtle yet pervasive voice, as “you can learn more deeply from the spirits when the snow falls” echoed at the end of the first day, as we walked outside.

Rebecca Belmore began the second day with a performance blending some of her familiar tropes of endurance and action with ideas specific to Wanuskewin. The series of actions she performed outside intimately involved the land, and had a brutality and force that was reminiscent of The Indian Factory. Belmore’s work demonstrates how good performance art combines politics and presentation in an un-paralleled manner. The panel immediately following was appropriately titled Paper-Scissors-Stone. Propositions / Provocations for new forms of public.

Voices from the “floor” were also strong: Jeff Thomas (a respected figure whose interrogations of monuments is lively and ongoing) related an anecdote of being stopped by police while working in Brantford, a reminder of the danger of dissent. Luke Thompson posited that monuments should do something “real” – but perhaps, in Thomas’ experience, is they’re very “real” markers of power and exclusion. In the Paper panel Thompson was delightfully critical of “approved” monuments: specifically how their relation to history and memory is not just exaggerated but more about stifling disagreement or difference. Those whom are served by “approved” monuments are often blind to them, as they’re not the ones being spoken at, or spoken over.

The afternoon saw several animated conversations: from K.C. Adams talking about her Perception series that was in response to the comments made by a mayoral candidate in Winnipeg (succinctly demonstrating Winnipeg as Canada’s racism capital) to Ruth Cuthand’s jovial – but fierce – declaration that “I am not the Indian you’re looking for.” Perhaps the most relevant aspect of Ruth’s talk was her relating of her experiences being part of a jurying process for public art in Saskatoon that resulted in Tony Stallard’s excellent “Land of Berries.” Cuthand’s point was that the “settlers” on that jury (all very academic) wanted to exert inappropriate control over what words / language Stallard might choose to illuminate, from his consultations with local Aboriginal artists / activists.

Elwood Jimmy (on both of Monday’s panels) asserted how there is no “tool kit” and there shouldn’t ever be one for artistic initiatives within communities. The artists he worked with for the Dewdney Avenue Project (Terrance Houle, Edward Poitras, Rebecca Belmore) all approached the ongoing colonial presence in that neighborhood with its RCMP detachment in unique ways. This continued thoughts from earlier, where he spoke of Regina as the “most colonial of cities in Canada outside of Ottawa” and how during his time in Regina there were two serial killers focused on Aboriginal women (the current version of the racialized violence implicit to the “colonial project”).

This idea of contemporary responsiveness to colonial forms and frames was the basis of Adrian Stimson’s presentation regarding the collaborative work Spirit of Alliance. Installed last fall in Saskatoon’s Riverdale area, it’s alternately a subversive – or more accurate – response to the federal government’s interest in erecting monuments to the War of 1812. Spirit presents a moment that illustrates the variant groups that united to fight in 1812: its more about this Saskatoon, and how descendants of that “alliance” still live here, both Aboriginal and Settler. Stimson spoke of the extensive consultations with the White Cap Community, and the various stories encapsulated in Spirit (from references to the Treaty of Ghent to the use of petroglyphs, speaking to the multiple “locals” in Saskatoon).

Rebecca Belmore offered some fascinating thoughts regarding her work Trace, installed at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. She talked about working in “controversial spaces that you know are problematic” and the difficulty of making work that “lives well in that space that you also feel comfortable with, as an artist”. There is an understanding of the necessity for artists to put themselves in critical spaces to be relevant, but this also was a point that befitted the last few hours of Stronger than Stone: how shall we make monuments now?

Steve Loft, in his comments on the closing panel On The Road Ahead: Towards a Framework for Better, or Best, Practices, reframed the idea of monument to apply it to himself, with his histories and experiences bringing him to this moment built upon his lineage and past. The idea that “monument” must be a fluid term, to allow for old agendas and dogmas to be broken was well encapsulated by Steve’s personal example. But Candace Hopkins, in her powerful closing comments, chose to directly speak of what “the road ahead” might truly mean. I paraphrase liberally from her insightful and incisive declarations: In the road ahead, we will be free – a new problem, perhaps. In the road ahead, we will beware of official histories. We will beware of oily money. We will have the courage to speak public secrets to make them known. We will move from a place of resistance to a place of ownership. We will continue to take on the necessary and impossible tasks.

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[i] This is a sentiment from Joseph Stalin, which may be heavy handed but feels appropriate when confronted with some monuments and their ideological suffocation of dissent.