Things of Desire Issue #9

October 16, 2008

A tip of the hat to you lovely ToD readers! Looks like we arts lovers will have to band together more than ever after Tuesday’s election results, and there’s no better place than here to know how active the Canadian visualĀ  arts scene is. So sign up to subscribe, if you haven’t already, by shooting an email to thingsofdesire@gmail.com. Also, if you’d like to write for ToD we are now looking for one or two more writers who are willing to work for free and blogzine glory. If you know anyone, or would like to lend a hand yourself, please just send an email. Enjoy!
—Mike Landry

By Mike Landry
An image from Daniel Barrow's "Every Time I See You Picture I Cry."

An image from Daniel Barrow's "Every Time I See You Picture I Cry."

Winnipegger Daniel Barrow‘s stories begin, simply enough, with a visual image. But, when that first idea is so odd it’s not long before he ends up with a film featuring a garbage man creating a phone book with personalized portraits and who is being stalked by a serial killer.

Such was the plot in his now finished and much acclaimed work, Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry. His latest work in progress is no different. I Have Never Felt Sexually Attracted to Anyone At All started with the image of someone reverse waxing themselves.

“I just had the image of a very slim nubile hairless body lathered with Vaseline grabbing a cat blanket from the backseat of a car and then burnishing their body and peeling it back to reveal hair,” says Barrow. “And I just developed this idea that this could be a way someone could commit suicide if they were allergic to cats.”

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The F Word

October 16, 2008

By Stacey Ho
Don Lee, Banff Centre

Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, Lesbian Park Rangers. Photo: Don Lee, Banff Centre

The sixties and seventies saw the rise of two major trends in North American art. With the rise of second-wave feminism, mostly white, middle-class women began to explore issues of gender and power, seeking agency from predetermined social and economic roles. Concurrently, this era saw the rise of video technology, so that, for the first time, moving pictures could be produced and distributed cheaply, outside of commercial television channels and large studios.

The F Word, at Vancouver’s Western Front, brings together these two trajectories, looking at women who used video to explore gender, performance and develop a critical methodology. The show includes contemporary as well as historic pieces, such as Lisa Steele‘s 1977 The Ballad of Dan Peebles.

“It’s Lisa when she’s younger,” explains Candice Hopkins, curator at Western Front. “She’s holding this picture of her grandfather, almost like she’s channeling him in a way, in a frantic or sensitive way. She channels memories of him and speaks in a monologue for sixteen or seventeen minutes about this man. You get a sense of a bit of a troubling relationship, of abuse and loss. An incredible performance.”

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Life on Marrs

October 16, 2008

Marrs' green table made of ash, horse chestnut and found steel.

Marrs' green table made of ash, horse chestnut and found steel.

Furniture was always a very parental concern to me. It was something I was to keep my feet off of, my dirty fingers away from and not to be poked with a fork. I never really understood how being a grown up suddenly made furniture fun. Then again, my parents never owned anything like the genius that comes from Graeme Marrs‘ shop.

For three years Marrs has been running his own company creating contemporary craft furniture. His work is driven by a strong sense of creating things by hand, which need to be created by hand. He uses old and obscure techniques that cannot be easily replicated en masse.

“The biggest reason for me doing things by hand is that there’s a certain element you can’t mass-produce,” says Marrs. “I’ve always felt imparting time into an object adds a non-tangible element to it. When someone touches something I’ve spent hundreds of hours on they get that back in some way.”

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Temporary Architectures

October 16, 2008

By Mike Landry
Susan Dobson captures the glory of downtown Guelph's Sears.

Susan Dobson captures the glory of downtown Guelph's Sears.

Photographer Susan Dobson used to live in the suburbs. She was a commuter and lived by her car. Now, living in downtown Guelph, she’s come to reject that way of life.

As a result, much of her work has dealt with the suburban landscape and environments. Her latest series of photographic works take box stores as its subject, with Dobson digitally blackening the buildings to create a dark box. In particular, it was the Sears building in downtown Guelph that drew her to the project.

“It’s just a box, a very long elongated strip. And it almost becomes a barrier between sky and parking lot,” says Dobson. “I found that was an example of the most banal architecture I had ever seen.”

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Empty Orchestra

October 16, 2008

By Mike Landry
A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

Maiko Tanaka’s earliest memories of karaoke involve late nights, laughter and adults acting shockingly un-adult-like. Tanaka and her brother, unable to sleep from the noise, would sneak to the stairs and watch the scene below through the banisters wondering what was going on.

Her parents had immigrated to Canada from Japan, and had brought their love of karaoke along with them. Young Tanaka was introduced to the strange Japanese country-sounding songs by other Japanese immigrants crooning in her living room. Her new exhibition Empty Orchestra, which she co-curated with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival art director Heather Keung, examines the impact of karaoke from her home to her neighbourhood, across generations and borders.

“I’ve been doing [karaoke] since high school—probably 300 times. I can’t get enough of it. It’s really the most fun communal activity you can do with your friends,” says Tanaka. “I also love shameful pop music.”

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Making Real

October 16, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of Eli Bornowsky's untitled abstract dot works.

One of Eli Bornowsky's untitled abstract dot works.

Eli Bornowsky isn’t sure if the next week is going to be fortuitous or bad, but he sure is stressed out. The Vancouver artist is presenting 10 new abstract works at Blanket Contemporary Art Inc, as well as opening a show he curated at Or Gallery.

Both shows deal with the artist’s conviction towards a particular kind of subjective experience. It’s an experience he feels abstraction does quite well.

“It has to do with thinking about your sensing, thinking about your thinking, and experiencing your experience,” says Bornowsky. “It’s also a difficult experience, which I find challenging. And that challenge is important for looking at art.”

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