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

WP_20140817_002 WP_20140817_003 WP_20140817_005


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.

WP_20140805_001  WP_20140805_002

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.

168_DD141  168_KP141

Ricochet / Sean Weisgerber

Several years ago, when Jeremy Hof won the RBC Painting Competition, some damned his work as sculpture, and thus “ineligible” Frankly, the history of art is often the friction between that which is currently “endorsed”, and that which fractures it: when something becomes the mandate, in art schools and academia, it can become banal taupe. Real art acknowledges the past, with an uneasy confrontation of its failings.

This applies to the works of Sean Weisgerber, in the latest Artists by Artists at the Mendel, titled Ricochet, in two ways. Weisgerber was long listed for the RBC award last year (only the second ever from SK). The more exciting correlation is that the three works he’s presented could be described as painting, or installation, or sculpture, (even an element of craft and furniture), or simply making art with form and space as your concerns, and not worrying about stifled academic pedants.

Thrill is the first thing you’ll see as you descend the stairs: running floor to ceiling, the piece seems to grow out of the wall, the flat black extending out horizontally onto the gallery wall proper. Weisgerber’s works are physical: wormy or antennae-like spikes, moving out from the surfaces, somewhere between an organic growth and a viral infestation. His palette is restrained, privileging form over colour. In Electric Mud, the monochromatic tentacles seem almost industrial, in their clean delineation between black and white: and they seem to spill out of their frame, in a Cthulhu worthy manner. Unlike many works that play upon sensual aspects, I’m not interested to touch these: in fact, the textures seem alive, and a bit aggressive…

At the end wall, far right, is Hot Bloom: it’s the piece that pushes the strongest against assumptions of painting, and the obsession we still have with either the illusion of 3D picture box space (painting as a “window”) or Monet’s assertion of how its just gobs of coloured paste on a flat surface, or Greenberg’s “purity”. You’ll also bang your head on it, if you’re not careful. The work projects outward, on what could be described as a grey, metallic tongue, that is as much part of the work as the “boxes” it proffers out to us. The wooden cubes (three, increasing in size as they move out from the wall, towards the end of the projection) have more of the dark feelers coming out of them, pointing upwards (like a plant, growing, perhaps, or a fungus, due to their black/grey, almost moldy, globby look).

Sean Electric Mud   Sean Hot Bloom

Ignore the works by the “mentor”, Marie Lannoo, as I’d echo a local painter that if you’ve been to the Toronto Art Fair, you’ll see others doing the same thing better. The brief statement on the wall acts as either challenge or entitlement, depending if you looking at Weisberger’s engaging works or Lannoo’s trite ones. I propose ignoring it, as it seems to suggest that, too, privileging the art above words.

Weisgerber’s art acts as an adjunct – perhaps a contemporary voice – to the painted works upstairs and the questions of history and abstraction therein. These works act as a punctuation mark, a closing, perhaps, to that larger conversation.

A Word July 23 2014 Darren Copeland + SL IV

This week’s episode of the A Word marks the end of the generous (and appropriate, in my opinion) coverage of Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival, for which CFCR 90.5 FM deserves praise, your donations and for listeners to purchase a membership. They are one of the main spaces in the city for cultural coverage, and considering the station runs on the blood of volunteers, this makes it even more notable and praiseworthy.


Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival begins tonight, this Thursday evening, and runs until Saturday night. The person I chat with on this week’s show, Darren Copeland, will be performing with Ashton Francis that final evening, and we have an enjoyable conversation about his work and some of the ideas behind it. Many of these ideas surfaced in conversations with Shawn Pinchbeck or Peter Fleming, also performers at this year’s SL, and you can still listen to those shows online. This week’s episode of the A Word can be heard here.


Street Meet 2014: some thoughts, some pictures


The panel discussion that happened as part of Street Meet II was unexpectedly engaging: it was, in many ways, and to quote several people, the antithesis of the stilted, smug conversations that happened at MAIMBY (amusingly, one of the participating artists in SM 2014 described that – MAIMBY – as “horseshit”). It was led by Keeley Haftner with Sterling Downey, Melissa Proietti, Indigo, Sirvis, and Laura Hale.

Regrettably, it wasn’t as well attended as one might hope: whether this was due to an exhaustion with discussions regarding public art, or other reasons (there was significantly less support from aka, this year, and I regret to say that this incarnation of SM was sometimes a shadow of its previous self…), several excellent points were made.

Perhaps one of the linchpins of the intelligent nature of the discussion was that issues of class, disenfranchisement and gentrification were all on the table. As well, one of the panelists wasn’t an artist, which helped to keep any conversations from moving into irrelevant territory, willfully forgetting the “public” in “public art.” I don’t believe the word “education” was used once.

I’m not interested to give a larger synopsis of the panel: it was smart and funny and honest, and I don’t feel the need to take a scalpel to a cadaver to find out what went wrong, like I did with MAIMBY. But I do want to pass on a few excellent points that were made.

One of the artists commented that when you see more of an imposition of “art” in an area, instead of involving the community, its of the same sentiment as how “you can enjoy this [artwork] until you can’t afford to live here anymore, and then you’ll just have to move out.”

That’s a sentiment that many who have seen themselves displaced from 20th Street, in Saskatoon, can agree with. This also played into considerations regarding structured environments as the only place to “experience” art, and how its very clear that some social classes are not welcome in these sites. The debate about the use of the term “graffiti” vs. the term “mural”, and the mainstreaming of the idea of public art in ways that may geld its original intent and content were also touchstones of conversation.

One idea that came up at MAIMBY that was spoken of at SCYAP, where SM’s panel occurred, was the ephemerearllity of public art. Laura Hale’s piece, which lasted barely any time at all, served to break the tradition of the “object” and exists solely as the “experiential memory.” The image at the top of this entry was taken at the end of the first day it was installed. Hale personified the more relaxed, less “Modernist” approach, as she was amused that when the stacked ice was knocked over by one member of the public, another unknown one (or more) re assembled the piece into a new form.

In this manner, aspects of ownership, or lack thereof, where iterated: “Once its done, you walk away from it and its no longer mine.” Even the privileging of the conversations with the larger public during installation, over the object itself, served to remember the “public” in these endeavours. Some other ideas – such as the roles of Google Street Art, making some pieces more accessible than desired, and taking the “joy of discovery” out of the process, were considered and argued about, in a respectful manner.

The various images below are from the three day festival. The top image is from the aforementioned panel discussion at SCYAP, and all the rest are from the walking tour of Street Meet Artists, and a few of the participants in the SM 2014 talk / tour. Some works – like the seated figured in the back alley off 20th – are still there, while others are long gone.

The last stop was a personal favourite, hence the plethora of pictures from that: I enjoyed it not just for the variety of “official” languages on the Emergency Public Art Kit, but also for the choice of site, with the detritus of the failures of past public art projects in this city. Others are Laura Payne, with her video installation in the SSO window space, a work by Indigo, and a fellow SM 2014 Talk / Tour participant, on four legs.

I should also add that the same day I decided to post this entry, this story was in the Star Phoenix, and it reiterates some of the ideas that make public art worthwhile.
















Summer Fest II: even more about Sounds Like IV

This is the second of the two episode focus on Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival (many thanks to CFCR 90.5 FM for their support), and features some audio from Myriam Bleau, some information on workshops and a conversation with Peter Fleming, PAVED’s keynote artist.


The show can be heard here now, or you can listen to it tonight on CFCR at 6:30 PM.