A Word / Nuit Blanche Saskatoon

This week’s A Word is all about Nuit Blanche Saskatoon: Sean Shaw, who’s one of the main individuals behind this project, and I chat about artists and events that will happen as part of the first NB Saskatoon this month. I’d suggest following them on various social media, as well as their website.

Some of the things mentioned on air, such as artist profiles, can be seen at their Facebook page, and you can follow them on Twitter at @Nuit Blanche YXE. They are still looking for volunteers, too, and you can get involved here.

You can listen to us talk about some of the participating artists and some of the ideas that shaped the festival here.


Now, this is shaping up to be a very active Fall in Saskatoon: my Fall Arts Preview was supposed to be published online at Planet S today, but that may yet happen before the end of day. If not, you’ll get it in a blog post here.

However, something I want to mention that happens this Saturday at paved is a screening of work by the Bent Light Collective. You may remember Heidi Phillips, when she was on the show a few weeks ago with Rhayne Vermette, mentioning this, and it happens this weekend.


And last but not least, Park(ing) Day is happening again on 20th Street, and everything you need to know about that is here.


A Word September 10 Amanda Dawn Christie

This week’s radio show can be heard here: this is an engaging conversation between myself and Amanda Dawn Christie, whose exhibition Off Route 2 will open at paved this Friday, and she’ll also be performing Requiem for Radio: Pulse Decay at 7 PM that same evening. We talk about a variety of ideas that inform and influence her work, from the space between performance and narrative and how it seems some governments are more interested in tearing down than building up.


Besides her opening reception, there is also what’s being called the Riversdale Arts Crawl, which starts at 5pm.  Galleries include 330g, Green Ark and The Storefront. BlackFlash Magazine is also launching its fall issue that evening.

Warrior Woman

I was chatting recently with a fellow cultural worker (anonymously: organizations that cite “critical dialogue” in their mandate, like an art department or artist run centre, can be exceptionally Stalinist and reactionary to dissent). We were bemoaning the disparity in many artistic organizations between a genuine engagement with a site, and fluctuating narratives of a place that directly challenge comfortable, current ones, and the half assed political glad-handing we usually see in these spaces. To paraphrase Lori Blondeau, an Aboriginal artist of local and international renown, some organizations simply check off that box of “Aboriginal engagement” and demand some cash for this strenuous effort.

These discussions – or arguments, if you will – can be overt, and often pervade an environment but are rarely officially acknowledged. It’s like a billboard that owns precious public space – also within our heads and public discourse – that we’re often unaware is being “occupied”. That’s why it seems appropriate to bring so many “outside” ideas into a discussion about Mary Longman’s billboard project Warrior Woman, on 20th Street: this isn’t in a “white cube” gallery, some restrained classroom or a gelded academic space. It exists in the real world. Warrior looks out on a literal site of history and argument in Saskatoon, with some being privileged (gentrification), some being ignored (those displaced).


Longman is also an art historian, so her words are exact: “The concept of Warrior Woman began as a memorial for my late mother, Lorraine Longman [and] evolved into a larger theme of Indigenous Genocide in North America. Lorraine’s legacy was the earned title of, “the toughest chick in the hood.” Having survived regular beatings in residential school, that culminated in a severe head injury at the age of 8, she was left with a life-long disability of grand mal epilepsy and premature dementia and could no longer attend school or work in her adulthood”.

Warrior Woman embodies the activist notion that the personal is the political, and the memory / history of her mother is the base of it, but “[with] the billboard, Lorraine’s image and legacy is transformed into Warrior Woman, the Indigenized version of the Americanized Wonder Woman. Her fight now becomes one of justice and transparency of Indigenous Genocide in North America (1492-1888). She becomes the voice for the millions of Indigenous people who were slain by Spanish, British, American colonial armies and settlers who were driven to inhumane acts by their greed of acquiring gold, land and scalping payments”.

It’s a contemporary stance, with a PMO spending taxpayer money on a New Yorker ad selling tar sands, but dismissing any inquiry into missing / murdered Aboriginal women. But hey, that’s just kissing cousins to an art school that claims LG award winning artist Ruth Cuthand as “faculty” to make themselves look better, ten years after she’s worked there. To return to the beginning of this piece, the arts community is often as filled with duplicity, denial and self-serving propagandists as the PMO they hypocritically decry, when it comes to issues of race and representation (both in the gallery behind the scenes).

Longman’s Warrior Woman reconfigures Wonder Woman: and (ahem) exposing my comic book geekiness, her golden lasso was supposed to force whomever was in its grip to tell the truth. It’s amusing to think how that power could play in the current political environment. The simplicity of the image is perfect for a billboard, in its candor and forcefulness.

The military helmets that flank her resemble Conquistadores (left) and the British Empire (right), and both hang on projections that suggest graves or death, appropriately. She raises “the tightly clutched red campaign ribbon with white tips, in the hope to raise awareness and bring justice to all those that perished” in our genocidal histories. This hopefulness is an echo of how Lorraine, “despite her painful youth and hard life” was “tough and…feisty until the day she passed”.

When I reviewed the exhibitions at Wanuskewin, and the play between older and more contemporary works, the string that tied them together was an insistence of the place of Aboriginal artists within the larger national imaginary. I’m curious to see how the upcoming Mendel 50th Anniversary will “write” history, as well. I hope it will touch on the forced famine, germ warfare, manifest destiny, residential school or genocide that is part of Canada’s history, that imbues Longman’s work, but that might make the political delegates and other institutional gatekeepers “uncomfortable.”

This factors into Warrior Woman, as Longman states it’s “a long-overdue memorial to all the Indigenous men, women and children who unnecessarily died only because the color of their skin.” Along with the shows at Wanuskewin, or Sympathetic Magic (at the Mendel), this summer has been a summer of dissenting narratives that speak a truth and require inclusion in “our” history.


A Word September 4 2014

This week’s radio show can be heard here: I mention a variety of things, from Paula Cooley‘s exhibition at the Affinity Gallery to a summary of shows that are soon closing at the Mendel, and some teasers about upcoming things, like Amanda Dawn Christie at paved and Park(ing) Day. The images below are from Paula, and another from the exhibition at the Mendel of the Canadian Group of Painters.


Two events of note, centered on those shows, are Troy Gronsdahl’s talk on the 13th and a talk on Sunday, September 7 at 7 p.m. with Irene Faber, Head of Collections, Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam Jewish Community Centre. This will be at 715 McKinnon Avenue.



A Word August 28 2014 Heidi Phillips + Rhayne Vermette

This week’s episode is a conversation with filmmakers / artists Heidi Phillips and Rhayne Vermette, in town from Winnipeg working on a variety of projects, and they’re also facilitating a workshop at paved this upcoming weekend. I think this may be one of my more enjoyable conversations in a while on the A Word. I don’t say this to disrespect past guests, but where else can we talk about history and photography and other more “intellectual” issues, and also talk about the inherent problems of filming Great Expectations with an all feline cast?

You can listen to this week’s show here. And the image below is from Heidi Phillips.


Now, something else I promised I’d mention, since we’ve got a theme of female filmmakers on this weeks’ show, is the campaign that Thirza Cuthand is doing to help pay for her graduate degree. Here’s a link to her GoFundMe campaign. Thirza has made some of the more engaging video works I’ve seen, often dealing with issues of identity as manifest within race, gender and orientation, and considering the salaries that are paid to others in academic spaces whom seem to see their roles as prophylactics to any ideas of relevance or creativity, you should send this artist some money.

Her words:

Thirza Cuthand is a Cree Lesbian Video Artist who was accepted to do her Masters at Ryerson in Media Production.  Like a lot of Status First Nations people, she had a slim chance at being funded by her reserve, Little Pine.  Unfortunately since post secondary funding for status First Nations was capped in the 80’s, less and less eligible applicants actually receive funding. Thirza ended up being 9th on the waiting list for funds, and is now in the position of trying to pay for books and living on her own.  She’s applied for student loans but is unsure she is eligible for it since she was unable to pay back a small student loan from one summer session in 2001.  She is now maintaining a gofundme campaign and hoping to keep afloat for the fall semester, with the possibility that in January funds will become available for her schooling.

That’s all for this week, though I will be adding a review (that will also run in Planet S) of Mary Longman’s billboard project on 20th in the next week or so. My review of Troy Gronsdahl’s curatorial project Sympathetic Magic can also be seen at Magenta Magazine, and my long overdue piece on ReWilding Modernity will be running in this Fall’s Hamilton Arts and Letters.



A Word August 21 2014

This week’s radio show can be heard here, and there’s a number of things I mention but also , of course, a few that I forgot. Firstly, that which I mentioned: there’s some images at the end of this post of Mary Longman’s billboard project on 20th Street, and as I don’t have a date as to when it comes down, I suggest seeing it as soon as you can. Ania Slusarczyk‘s exhibition opens this evening (Frances Morrison Library), and Bruce Montcombroux’s closes (Art Placement). I had a chance to finally step into the gallery at AP and see Bruce’s work, which is interesting and playful. I include this image as, in conversation at the gallery, it was pointed out that the wooden “sticks” pierce the wall fully, linking two pieces together. Thanks to Levi for letting me take a picture in the space.


Secondly, I must mention this exhibition at Unreal City: Jessica Edwards,  Joe Toderian  and Luke Warman will be exhibiting there, and the reception is this Saturday. You can check out the event on FB here.


Thirdly: the information to contact Ric Pollock regarding his fundraiser to facilitate the tour of his work is pollockric(at)yahoo.ca or 306-220-2233.

Lastly, the project I only briefly mentioned, as I said it would be more effectively shared online, is the project that the poster below references. This is the “Axenet’ i T th’al – Frenge [a] Patuanak Community Collaborative Art Installation Project. Axenet’i Tth’al -Frenge is a proposed community collaborative art installation project that combines unique aspects of the heritage and ingenuity of the Denesoline trappers of Patuanak with the aesthetic aspects of fringes in Denesoline garment design. The project produces an aesthetic merge of two significant aspects of Denesoline life and history–the unique lynx trap and the familiar garment fringe, in the creation of an environmental installation produced collectively by community members.
Axenet’i Tth’al -Frenge is a community collaborative art installation project that combines unique aspects of the heritage and ingenuity of the Denesoline trappers of Patuanak with the aesthetic aspects of fringes in Denesoline garment design. The project produces an aesthetic merge of two significant aspects of Denesoline life and history–the unique lynx trap and the familiar garment fringe, in the creation of an environmental installation produced collectively by community members”.

Now, I’m just giving you the words from Michèle MacKasey because I may be chatting with her and Manuel Chantres later this week, and will be able to speak about it more clearly. But this is something to keep on your radar, as well.

Frenge poster2

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A Word August 14 2014

Oh, its an unusual episode this week: I play some Mountain Goats, and I actually defend the University of Saskatchewan in light of the ill researched and significantly skewed article at rabble.ca regarding the “selling” of Aboriginal Art.

Yes, check to see if Hell has frozen over, please. Or, as I say, we don’t need to invent instances of inappropriate and ethically questionable behaviour at the U of S, there’s a number to choose from…

Here’s this week’s radio show: Enjoy. The image below is from Bruce Montcombroux.


Two exhibtions at Wanuskewin

Saskatoon is Treaty 6 territory, an “agreement between the Crown and the Plain and Wood Cree, Assiniboine, and other Indian tribes at Fort Carlton, Pitt and Battle River. The area agreed upon by the Plain and Wood Cree represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta”. But to many – like the PMO – their history of Saskatoon excludes this. It’s telling, what’s excised, in our social capital narratives (a fancy term for lies we tell ourselves about where / how we live). People have visited Wanuskewin for thousands of years, and that’s a good thought to hold as you visit the two shows I mention here.

Its a site I should visit more frequently: both in my role as art critic from hell™ and as a citizen of Saskatchewan. The gallery spaces are (in a technical / formal sense) excellent, and with the recent run of curated exhibitions by Felicia Gay, we’re seeing significant artists and works in those spaces.

Selected works from the U of S collection, highlighting Aboriginal artists, occupies the larger gallery space. There’s also a two-person show, Oskun, with Adrian Stimson and Michel Boutin. Stimson’s Buffalo Boy persona has offered truth through humour, and Michel’s work also dances in the political sphere. I first encountered Michel’s work in Great King Rabbit, an amusing and horrifying take on power and propaganda. Being a Métis artist, Boutin is familiar with the exclusiveness of “official narratives”, as much as Stimson.


The works in the collections show have “traditional” artists, like Norval Morriseau, but doesn’t shy from the political. Several works speak to contemporary issues.

Allen Clarke’s gestural painting is titled The Way it is – Isn’t It? It’s the Kelly Block fostered stereotype of the wealthy, crooked Chief who dispenses bits and pieces of his largess to the “serfs” on the rest of the reserve (Block is well known for her focus on legislation re: “accountability” on reserves, whilst being part of a gov’t whose re election slogan could be “RCMP have found no basis to prosecute”). When chatting with the curator, the issue of site – as to whether this piece would be “controversial” if shown on the university campus, came up. Not all sites are as considered as they should be…and the U of S is often in that category, sadly.

Gerald McMaster’s Making a Buck, with sports / business logos, reminds of the recent controversy re: the “Redmen” logo here. The double standard brings to mind a project facilitated by Leanne L’hirondelle, with “contemporary” sports logos like the Atlanta White Devils (with KKK garb), Imperial LandGrabbers, Cleveland Honkies and Vatican City’s Pope ‘n’ Pedophiles. Suddenly not so funny, when your group is being stereotyped, hmmm?


It’s a large show, and that’s a quick taste: but its ironic that in the “collections” show the works dealing with contemporary issues are strongest. This paradox continues, as Boutin and Stimson, in Oskun, are taking a more introspective, backwards – looking view about “here.”

Felicia’s words: “Oskun (Ō skun) is Swampy Cree for bone…. [The] work is located in the realm of the Plains economy and land, whether it is the utilization of the buffalo or agricultural practices…[the artists] utilize the institution of history relaying it to visual signifiers that point out historical narratives and at the same moment connects to our present socio-political reality.”

Oskun explores “bone” from various stances. In Bones #1 by Stimson, they’re the detritus of shameless plunder. Its a warning echoed in his small “nuclear” landscapes, that speak to current ideas of terra nullius, where resource extraction trumps all with no eye to the future. Boutin uses actual bones, in several works that possess an almost religious bent: the blistering satire of Great King Rabbit is muted in these works, but still strong. Convergent Histories is an example of this: you could call them landscape, but the sites aren’t a Group of Seven pristine site ready to be raped – ahem, I mean, realized to a Petro State ideal. It’s a history I cited earlier, where people and their nations have lived here for thousands of years. The crosses and the animals – whether living, like the bird, or existing as markers, like the skull, in Four Crosses for Four Corners, also speaks to an “ownership” of a place, but that privileges neoliberal notions of “property”. Its more indicating a legacy, an older narrative, and that the ancestors are buried here, and their bones are here, to prove this.


Both exhibitions work well in terms of the history that has been written, erased and rewritten, in this contested site of Saskatchewan. The value of the works, to steal Felicia’s words again, “lies within the insistence to be included in the Canadian national imaginary.”



A Word August 7 2014 – Lisa Baldissera

Here is this week’s radio show: its a conversation with Mendel Chief Curator Lisa Baldissera, and we talk about her exhibition Convoluted Beauty: In the Company of Emily Carr. As with our previous conversation that focused on her curatorial project ReWilding Modernity, we touch on a number of different issues, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed talking. I suspect that I’ll be asking Troy Gronsdahl to return to the A Word, to pick up some ideas from his exhibition at the Mendel that intersect with some of Lisa’s points regarding history and narrative.

You can listen to it here.

There are two things that are happening this week worth noting: one I mentioned on last week’s show, and that is the Emma Auction. Everything you need to know about that can be found here.

Another is an exhibition at the University of Saskatchewan, in the Gordon Snelgrove gallery. Rarely does anything of worth happen there, but there’s a show up right now that has some lovely and engaging works.

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Isa Lausas has works that are photographic and digital, and the reception is this evening. You can see more of her work here.


Now, I had promised to do some follow up regarding this story at rabble.ca, regarding an allegation of the “selling off” of Aboriginal artworks. There’s a few things I can add to that story, that indicate pretty clearly that the writers at rabble were not being as clear with their facts as they could be, simply to have a stick to beat the university with, and whereas I would never prevent anyone from pointing out the many ways in which the University of Saskatchewan is a bullying, problematic environment, this one is a bit inappropriate.

You can listen to a conversation with Kent Archer and a prominent donor here, on Saskatoon Morning. Its worth noting that the works were NOT ever part of the collection, and the reluctance of various departments and the original proposed donor to take them after they were declined.

I contacted rabble, to ask who the individual is that is quoted in the article, from a letter to the editor that the Star Phoenix declined to publish, and have received only a response from an editor indicating “the coordinator for this series who will be better able to address your question… is away on vacation for a week, but will be able to reply after he returns”.

I can’t help but wonder about how, even though its clear the TransformUS process was flawed from the start (Eric Howe’s excellent article, and his first hand experience speaks clearly to this), that some tenured faculty seem less concerned about instances of genuine of racism at the U of S, as I spoke of here, than in trumped up situations that are half understood and malign people that don’t deserve it. Perhaps this is just a variation on a code of silence, since it would complicate matters to consider that the TransformUS report, put together by their fellow tenured faculty, has deliberate lies that perfectly encapsulate genuine institutional racism.

Considering that this is a rare opportunity to derail TransformUS and see genuine change at the U of S, it would seem to be a good idea NOT to embellish and malign with half truths and confused “facts.”

A Word July 31 2014

I mention a number of events and openings that are happening in the city: from Emma International to the current and upcoming exhibitions at Art Placement. One of the things I mention is the call for submissions from PAVED, and all the information about that is here.

I completely forgot to mention this event, on 20th at the Storefront, so mea culpa: it happens this Thursday evening.

A brief note to add: there’s been some media noise about this story, at rabble. Like many, I don’t doubt, based on past actions, that the university might make such a decision, but I also have a variety of sources at the University of Saskatchewan who are more than happy to provide me with information whenever that place embaresses itself (a fine example would be the times I’ve cited TransformUS reports, with self serving lies and other acts of incompetence).

None of these sources mentioned this incident to me, but I’ve reached out to rabble to get more information, and should be able to update my listeners / readers soon.

You can listen to the show here. The images below are from the current Framers exhibition at AP: works by David Dyck and Karen Polowick.

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