Friday, August 31, 2007

Loud is the New Quiet

If you like your electropop overlaid with sheets and sheets of distortion, check out A Place To Bury Strangers. Comparisons are being made to My Bloody Valentine (the wall o' noise), Jesus and Mary Chain (the distortion, the drum machines, the vocals) and Joy Division (mostly vocally). Listening to it now for the first time, I'm remembering pushing my way to the stage of the packed MBV Opera House gig, trying to see what their effect pedal set-up was.

Their just released debut is already makin' waves at Pitchfork and a slew of music blogs are also salivating over them (which might just be an indicator of just how much power Pitchfork wields in the indie scene).

Update Sept 4:
More on the influence of Pitchfork: four days after the flurry of blog accolades that followed the Pitchfork review, A Place To Bury Strangers has signed a recording contract with Chicago's Highwheel Records. They begin work on their full-up LP in December.


One of the programming highlights of the last few years at Mercer Union was the exhibition "Reason to Believe", by Quebec artist collective BGL. They are returning to Toronto for an exhibition at the Koffler Gallery which opens next week. Curated by Mona Filip, the exhibition is titled "La senteur de mes mains/ The Marks of My Hands" and runs from September 6th to November 25th. A free shuttle bus departs from 100 McCaul at 6:30pm on the 6th. The artists speak at 7pm, followed by the exhibition opening. Not to be missed.

Image: Need to Believe, detail, 2005.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I've received a number of questions regarding the site, which was blogged about here back in April. The site is ran by four artist/curators; one in London, one in Vienna and two who recently relocated from Tokyo to Berlin. The site receives no funding and is managed as a labour of love. It receives 9000 visitors a day and is updated about ten times a week.

Friends o' Mercer who have been featured recently include Diane Borsato, Laurel Woodcock, Kristan Horton, Derek Sullivan, Germaine Koh, Paulette Philips, Jon Sasaki, Risa Horowitz and Kelly Mark.

Record Sale

It was announced today that Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted platinum skull sold for the asking price of $100 million, making it, I believe, the highest priced artwork by a living artist.

The buyer is an as-yet unnamed investment group who will allow Hirst to retain a share in the piece, and for the work to travel.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hilly Kristal, RIP

After losing a battle last year to keep the club alive, CBGB founder Hilly Kristal succumbed to lung cancer today. He was 75. The influential club in the Bowery district of NYC ended its 33 year run on October 13th, 2006 with a final performance by Patti Smith.

Performers Needed for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Project

McKendree Key, an installation artist based in Brooklyn, New York, is creating a performance event for this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, taking place from 7:03pm September 29 until sunrise September 30, 2007.

For her Nuit Blanche project, which will take place in Zone B – the neighbourhood around Dundas & McCaul - Key requires the assistance of 20 people who would participate in the performance.

The project involves walking, climbing stairs and lifting household objects; roles will be assigned according to strength and ability. Unfortunately there is no monetary compensation for participation; the reward will be the opportunity to work with a professional artist and participate in this unique event.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please contact:

Michelle Jacques, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Curator, Zone B, at

Monday, August 27, 2007


In honour of the black Google -, a search engine that proposes we could save 750 Megawatt-hours a year if the Google search page was black instead of white, Mercer Hall tries out a new look.

three quarters of a grand tour, installment 1.

earlier this month and with the help of countless airplanes, boats, taxis, trains and trams, i was able to see practically everything there was to see at documenta, sculpture projects muenster and the venice biennale. before embarking on this trip, i told myself i would be rigorous and disciplined. i envisioned myself in bed by 11pm and up no later than 7, ready to grab a quick breakfast en route to a gallery of some sort. i stuck to my plan... consistently got 8 revitalizing hours of sleep, with the exception of one night in venice that was entirely restless because i was convinced that my hotel room was haunted. i won't get into the scary details.

below are a few reactions, in no particular order.

mike kelly, for his project in muenster, turned a small courtyard near the train station into a petting zoo. i arrived slightly before opening, because my en-route breakfast only took eight minutes instead of the ten minutes i had allocated. but i was glad it played out that way. had i opted for a second danish, i would have missed feeding time entirely, and there is little in this world i find more charming than watching animals eating food.
this piece crossed my mind again while deplaning at gatwick airport on my return journey. going through customs, there were numerous signs informing people that there would be extra screening for those who had visited farms in the past 14 days. it occurred to me that patting mike kelly's animals might have qualified as a farm visit. i decided to try to fly under the radar, but then i realized that i was wearing the same shoes that i had on in muenster, and maybe there would be sniffer dogs that would detect hay residue or something...
luckily that was not the case.

below is an installation shot of people snapping up Felix Gonzalez-Foerster posters in the USA pavilion in venice. the woman in the foreground rolled her posters up and wedged them into the baby stroller in the background. i believe it was hers. most people just rolled them up and left, convinced that carrying a huge cumbersome tube around all day in the scorching venetian sun would be something they wouldn't mind doing.

below is a garbage cart about five minutes away, filled with the evidence of changed minds.

very reminiscent of euan macdonald's subterranean CN tower from toronto's sculpture garden, or for that matter kippenberger's metro-net ventilation pipe in muenster ten years earlier; guillaume bijl has constructed another proverbial 'tip of the iceberg' to suggest something huge and unwieldy beneath our feet.

bijl seems to understand that expensive, absurdist, faux-archaeological spectacle such as this works wonderfully in the context of the crowded, noisy, A.D.D.-inducing scavenger hunt that is muenster. sadly, it is a context that wreaks havoc on quieter, more meditative pieces such as jorge pardo's pier, herman de vries' sanctuarium or dan graham's oktogon für münster, but that might be a good reason to return next year when most of the art, but all of the crowds have left.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Four new books I'm lookin' fwd to:

"Learning to Love You More" consists of written and visual responses to Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher's 'assignments' on their website of the same name. Available September 20th.

"Selected Standards" by Euan Macdonald is also out in September, though I can only find a French press release for it. The short description is "Free associations between jazz songs, drawings, and aerial photographs of LA" which sounds good enough for me.

"Martin Creed: Complete Works" is a title I've waited years for, given Creed's habit of numbering each of his works, making it difficult to sweep away a few bad early works when the time comes for a comprehensive catalogue raisonne. Before this title (apparently out the 1st of this month, but I haven't seen it yet) there were only two unsatisfying slim volumes available.

"George Maciunas: The Dream of Fluxus" by Thomas Kellein
Just picked this up today (thanks JH). I'm hoping it's a solid bio, unlike its main predecessor, Emmett William's "Mr Fluxus", which was billed as a "collective portrait" which meant anecdotes from a variety of sources were thrown together with no regard for the reader and, it would seem, no editing whatsoever. It was repetitive and lacking any real insight (worse still is his recent, posthumously published "A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts & Fictions"). The dustjacket blurb for "The Dream of Fluxus" promises "the funniest and saddest episode in 20th century art", which is quite possible with Maciunas as subject matter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

36 Little Plays About Hopeless Girls

This funny but frightening play summarizes the most pathetic (and endearing) qualities of twenty-something Queen Street girls. The simple and whimsical cardboard props allow the flurry of trendy girls in vintage dresses to shine. The acting is overly dramatic at times, but the sentiment is just right.

36 Plays About Hopeless Girls (written and directed by Aurora de Pena) is on at the Tranzac Club August 21-26 at 9pm nightly. $10 at the door.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New David Shrigley LP

In 2005 David Shrigley released a book of song lyrics and drawings in the format of a gatefold LP, called “Worried Noodles (The Empty Sleeve)”. It was easier not to make the record, he noted.

Now, like a tribute to a non-album, Tomlab Records reports a 3 LP set (or double CD) of songs based on Worried Noodles will be released on October 23rd. Also titled “Worried Noodles”, the collection includes tracks by Liars, David Bryne, The Dirty Projectors, Trans Am, Toronto’s Final Fantasy, Grizzly Bear, Franz Ferdinand and Deerhoof (who earlier this year invited Shrigley to design the cover for their latest CD).

With almost 40 cuts it’s bound to be a little hit and miss, but if any of the tracks approach the charm of the few recordings Shrigley has done himself (like the very odd b-side to Novelle Vague’s Come On Eileen), it’ll be worth having.

Pictured: the original book, without music.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Royal Art Lodge Print

Paul and Wendy Projects is a new Toronto-based publishing venture that kicks off with it's inaugural publication this week - a print by The Royal Art Lodge. Stamped and signed by all three members (including Marcel Dzama) and produced in an edition of 75, the print is selling for $250 CDN. I don't expect they'll be around for a long time at that price. I'm buying one and you should too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Art-Book Fair and Sale

On Sunday August 19th at noon ('til five) Mercer Union is hosting a Book Fair that will feature independent publishers, galleries, booksellers, artists and authors including Art Metropole, Bookthug, Bywater Brothers Editions, Coach House Books, Parasitic Ventures Press, The Art Gallery of York University, Mercer Union, Instant Coffee, YYZ and others. From rare books to brand new books with some heavily discounted titles available.

Contact for more information.

Vic Chesnutt

One of my fave singer-songwriters, Vic Chesnutt, recorded his latest album at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal with members of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra and Fugazi. His last major collaborative work was the fantastic “The Salesman and Bernadette”, recorded with Lambchop. If the few leaked tracks are anything to go by, “North Star Deserter” is gonna be excellent. It’s available August 27th from Constellation.

Clark and Michael

Man, I hope the word webisode gets retired soon, but these shorts by Michael Cera of Arrested Development and the forthcoming Superbad (and still living with his parents in Brampton, apparently) are pretty funny. It's a fairly straightforward premise in which two friends (the circumspect yet sometimes petulant Cera and the generally obnoxious Duke) set out to pitch their script to the networks. The opening sequence with the kids wide-eyed in Hollywood is hilarious as they dance for the camera and marvel at the Walk of Fame Star for Cuba Gooding Jr.

Cera's co-stars from Arrested Development (David Cross, Tony Hale) have short cameos.

Friday, August 10, 2007

So It Goes: Tony Wilson, RIP

A return to the obituaries: Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson died today at the age of 57, after a year-long battle with cancer. In addition to founding the influential Factory Records, Wilson was a television personality and owner of the popular Hacienda club in Manchester. He was responsible for the careers of some of the more interesting post-punk bands, including Joy Division/New Order, A Certain Ratio, ESG and, er, Happy Mondays.

Pitchfork has a short bio and some video clips at:

Pictured: Wilson and Steve Coogan, who portrayed him in the Michael Winterbottom film "24 Hour Party People".

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Diaz, Archive, MKG127

Jean-Luc Goddard seems to have made it through the day, so our fingers are crossed. Here's a few things to consider doing this weekend if you're staying in town:

A Sculpture show at Diaz Contemporary opens tomorrow and runs until September 1st. The exhibition features many artists who have shown work at Mercer, including James Carl, Alison Hrabluik, Kristiina Lahde, etc. and looks really promising. For more information visit

Lahde is also exhibiting "Paper Cut" at Archive Inc. Gallery, which opens Saturday 4 August 2007 from 2 to 4pm.

At MKG127 the second part of the inaugural exhibition of Michael Klein's new space on Ossington called Happy Birthday/Friendly Greeting. Above image: Micah Lexier and Christian Bok's incredible window text. For more information visit