Friday, February 29, 2008

Simon Starling "Cuttings"

Simon Starling opens tonight at the Power Plant in what is being called his biggest exhibition since winning the Turner Prize in 2005. The show features nine works including the Henry Moore Musselled "Infestation Piece", which the Power Plant commissioned a few years back. From 8 to 11pm. For more details visit


Update on the below story, from Todays Globe:

"OTTAWA, TORONTO -- A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," he said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign."

I wonder what we can expect if they get a majority government?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"The public's best interest"

A troubling story in the Globe today about "closet censorship":

"The Conservative government has drafted guidelines that would allow it to pull financial aid for any film or television show that it deems offensive or not in the public's best interest – even if government agencies have invested in them.......

“Would this committee put money into Juno? It might not want to encourage teen pregnancy. Would the government put money into a film with a dirty title, like Young People Fucking? Would they invest in something like Brokeback Mountain? They might not want to encourage gay cowboys to have sex together in Alberta.”

Robert Soucy, director of the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office, the branch of Heritage that determines certification for productions, said last fall that Ottawa wants to be more selective about the cultural products it helps to fund."

Read the full story here.

Robert Fontaine , Robert Rauschenberg

Because I like stories about things found in the trash, and because the current MU exhibition has me thinking about abandonment (of furniture, dogs) here's a story Robert Rauschenberg suing a gallery to stop them from selling work by an artist (who, incidentally won a Rauschenberg scholarship of $500 when he was a student) who finds castoffs in Rauschenberg's trash and then sells them, complete with letters of authenticity. The story (and possible subsequent legal trial) is loaded with interesting questions about copyright, authenticity, artists' rights, etc. etc.

Final Fantasy

The Torontoist has a story this week about how one of Toronto's hottest indie exports couldn't prove he lived in Toronto and had his medical card confiscated. Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett discovered that a hectic touring schedule outside of the country can lead to ineligibility of OHIP requirements, which require that the applicant be "physically present in Ontario for 153 days in any 12-month period", and be able to prove it.

In 2006 Pallett (as Final Fantasy) won Canada's inaugural Polaris Prize, beating out Broken Social Scene, Deadly Snakes, Metric, New Pornographers, Wolf Parade and others. He has also recorded and toured with Jim Guthrie, The Hidden Cameras, Royal City, Gentleman Reg, and Arcade Fire (he arranged the strings for their debut Funeral and follow-up Neon Bible).

Read his full OHIP adventure here.

Meg Cranston

Meg Cranston speaks tonight at Mercer, at 7pm. Not to be missed.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wagstaff, Ader

I made it out to only two of the 12 artist documentaries that were featured in Canadian Art's Reel Artist Film Festival this weekend. The first, Black White + Grey: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff by James Crump, was a fairly pedestrian look at the curator, collector, and one-time love of Robert Mapplethorpe. The film's premise - that Wagstaff has disappeared into obscurity since his death in '87 despite his enormous achievements in the field of photography - might very well be accurate (I can't find a Wikipedia entry for him, for example) but the film suffers from two many talking heads repeating the same thing, too little insight, and an overly conventional structure. It evens managed to make Mapplethorpe seem dull.

Here is Always Somewhere Else, Rene Daalder's documentary about Bas Jan Ader, the Dutch artist who disappeared at sea in 1975, fared much better. I initially feared that, being commissioned by Ader's widow Mary Sue Anderson, the film would aim to further the myth surrounding the artist, not debunk it. It does present their relationship as a charmed and tragic romance (she describes their first meeting: Ader lifted up his shirt and announced "I’ve got one of the five most beautiful belly buttons in the world") but does not attempt to whitewash over the artist's extra-marital affairs or middle-class existence. And if Anderson was overly involved in the editing one would assume that a scene involving a rat living inside a dresser drawer in her home wouldn't have made the final cut.

The death of the artist is also handled sensitively - mysterious, yes, but not a conspiracy. Anderson recounts that the first thirty-six months that he was missing were particularly difficult; because the artist had joked he might stage his death and not return for three years. But despite his body never being recovered and his boat (found a year later off the coast of Ireland) being stolen before it could be returned, no one interviewed supports the more outrageous theories that have cropped up since his disappearance (such as reported sightings of he artist, alive and well and living in Barcelona).

The film reveals lesser known aspects of Ader's life such as the fact that Jacqueline Kennedy purchased one of his works when he was in art school, that he had planned to shoot himself as an artwork until Chris Burden beat him to it, and that a negative review of one of his best known works (I'm too Sad to Tell You) led the artist to never discuss it again. The filmmaker provides context for Ader's practice and presents a large number of present-day artists that count him as an influence.

Daalder also provides substantial information about Ader's family. His father, a church pastor was a member of the Dutch resistance who helped a number of Jews escapes the Nazis. He was executed in the woods by German troops in November 1944, when Bas Jan was two years old. His mother wrote a book about her experiences during the war, and it contains several passages that seem like obvious precursors to some of the artist’s titles and text pieces. She also tells the story of being given fifteen minutes by German soldiers to pack up her belongings and leave the family home. She rushed through the house, throwing the family's clothes out of the windows into the garden, likely resembling the artist’s work All My Clothes, where he photographed his wardrobe scattered on the roof of his California home.

These revelatory finds may have made it impossible to resist the urge to read many of the artist’s works as reaching out to his mother, or grief-stricken cries for his father.As a simplification, though, I prefer it to the Afterall book The Search for the Miraculous by Jan Verwoert, which argued that Ader's work should be read as a detached investigation into romanticism, instead of a practice intrinsically wrapped up in it.

Young Marble Giants

According to Pitchfork, a reunited Young Marble Giants have signed on to perform at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona at the end of May. The influential band formed in 1978, and essentially only released one album - Colossal Youth from 1980, which was recorded in three and half days in North Wales and released on Rough Trade records (the West London label that is home to Belle & Sebastian, The Fall, Galaxie 500, Giant Sand, The Raincoats, The Red Crayola, Jonathan Richman, Arthur Russell, The Smiths, Television Personalities, Lucinda Williams, Robert Wyatt and Toronto's The Hidden Cameras and Royal City). The album was reissued last year as a three-CD set that included home demos and rare sessions recorded with John Peel. The band's influential sound featured brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham on bass and guitar, the untrained vocals of Alison Statton and Peter Joyce's Kraftwerkesque electronics, which were often created from homemade equipment. YMG met with little commercial success but have proved popular with musicians. Their songs have been covered by labelmates Belle & Sebastian, Adam Green and Galaxie 500, and by Hole. Kurt Cobain often referred to them as one his favorite bands.

The impressive Primavera festival will also feature Animal Collective, Cat Power, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, A Place to Bury Strangers, Mission of Burma, Public Enemy, Bill Callahan, No Age, Throbbing Gristle, and many others.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Final Reminder Memo

PINK SLIP A Naughty Office Party at Mercer Union
Pleasure before Business...
Friday, February 22nd
Doors 9PM
$5 cover before 11PM / $7 after
Note: Mercer Members get in for $5 anytime of the night. Just show your membership card.

We're warmin' up the photocopier.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Last month it was assumed that Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which had begun filming in London and was set to move to Vancouver, would not survive the death of it's star Heath Ledger. Some predicted that perhaps the role would be completed digitally, using CGI. The Ed Wood approach was another possibility (when Wood lost his leading man Bela Lugosi after shooting only two minutes of usable footage for Plan 9 From Outer Space, he promptly cast a replacement a foot taller and cloaked him in a Dracula-like cape). It turns out Gilliam plans to persevere, using the multi-actor approach of Todd Solondz and Todd Haynes. Solondz' 2004 film Palindromes featured eight different actors (of different ages, races and sexes) playing the main protagonist, Aviva, a thirteen year old girl. Last years Dylan biopic I'm Not There by Todd Haynes featured six actors (including Ledger) and one actress portraying Bob Dylan. Gilliam is set to tap Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp to complete Ledger's role.

A hole in the heart of Queen Street

A fire broke out at 5 a.m. this morning and spread through eight low-rise buildings, many of them historic, on the south side of Queen Street. The destroyed block, some fourteen addresses between Bathurst and Portland, contained Suspect Video, Duke's Cycle (a family business founded in 1914), National Sound, Preloved, Cosmos Records, and Old Times Antiques, among others. It seems likely that few of these stores will return once the rebuilding is over, and that the final stages of gentrification in that neighbourhood will be complete.

"This punches a hole in the heart of Queen St.," lamented city councillor Adam Vaughn.

Dorothy Podber, RIP

Dorothy Podber, best known as a co-conspirator for Ray Johnson and for an intervention with a stack of Warhol paintings, died in her East Village apartment on February 9th, at the age of 74. Described in a Ray Johnson documentary as “.. the wildest, most way-out, extraordinary creature who ever walked the earth," Parker was an artist and helped run the Nonagon Gallery in Manhattan, a venue best known as the live venue where Charles Mingus recorded "Mingus in Wonderland" and for being the first US venue to show the work of Yoko Ono. Her moment of infamy comes from an autumn day in 1964 when she arrived at Andy Warhol's Factory wearing a black leather outfit and accompanied by her Great Dane. Warhol was busy but she told Billy Name that she wanted to shoot some pictures. He gave his consent, assuming she wanted to take some photographs, and Podber promptly pulled out a pistol and shot a stack of Marilyn Monroe silkscreens right between the eyes.

Warhol later told Name "‘Please make sure Dorothy doesn’t come over here anymore. She’s too scary."

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's Gonna Rain Blood

Brian Joseph Davis, whose work often involves employing conceptualist strategies from the sixties mixed with humour and pop culture, presents "It's Gonna Rain Blood" at the Box Salon this Thursday, February 21st. The piece takes Steve Reich's early tape-loop piece "It's Gonna Rain" and applies the technique to the Slayer song "Raining Blood". "It's Gonna Rain" from 1965 and "Come Out" (from the following year, which I prefer) are among the composer's earliest works - both simple voice recordings; one a Pentecostal preacher and the other a protester beaten by the police who had to prove his he was hurt in order to get treatment ("I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them"). Reich applied the recordings to rudimentary but powerful two channel phase shifting techniques. The works have been cited as early examples of minimalism, ambient music and sampling.

BJD's thrash metal version (using the closing track from Slayer's classic 1986 record "Reign in Blood") takes place at 8pm at the Rivoli. Carl Wilson is also on the bill.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hirst, Rose, RED

Damian Hirst appeared on Charlie Rose on Wednesday to discusses his involvement with the RED auction which consists of U2's Bono inviting him out on his yacht, getting him drunk and having him agree to writing 100 personal letters to artists, begging their involvement. I particularly like the mention of his involvement in other auctions:

"Whenever I get asked to do an auction it's always a printed letter, you know, where they change the name, they don't really bother. So you give them an old drawing from the back of the studio and you hope they go away."


full interview:

Update: the Valentines Day auction raised over twenty million pounds.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ono vs Lennon

Earlier this week several sites reported that Yoko Ono was suing singer Lennon Murphy for trademark infringement, demanding that she stop using the name of her late husband. From Murphy's Myspace page:

"Yesterday I received notice that Yoko Ono had filed a law suit against me, asking for a cancellation of the trademark that I own for the name "Lennon." This could very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at, the one you all have believed in, may come to an end. I wanted to address the situation to all my fans because without you I am nothing and it's not fair to everyone who has believed in my music not to be properly informed of this pure bullshit."

Today the Ono camp clarified her position to Xeni Jardin at Boing

Dear Xeni,

A musician named Lennon Murphy is claiming that Yoko Ono has sued her and that Yoko is seeking to stop Lennon Murphy from performing under her name, Lennon Murphy. Both of these claims are untrue.

Several years ago, Lennon Murphy sought Yoko's permission to do her performances under her name, Lennon Murphy. Yoko, of course, did not object to her request. Subsequently, without Yoko's knowledge, Lennon Murphy filed an application in the United States trademark Office requesting the exclusive right to utilize the name "Lennon" for musical performances. Yoko's attorneys asked Lennon Murphy's attorneys and manager to withdraw her registration of exclusivity to the name LENNON for the trademark. Yoko also offered to cover all costs Lennon Murphy had incurred in filing for the trademark. But Lennon Murphy went ahead to register.

Yoko did not sue Lennon Murphy, but sought to stop her from getting the exclusive right to the name Lennon for performance purposes. For that, Yoko's attorneys, simply notified the Trademark office that Yoko did not believe it was fair that Ms. Murphy be granted the exclusive right to the "Lennon" trademark in relation to musical and entertainment services. As you can see, this is a very important issue for Yoko and the Lennon family.

Yoko says: "I am really hurt if people thought that I told a young artist to not use her own name in her performances and had sought to sue her. I did no such thing. I hope this allegation will be cleared."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sarah Peebles

The second in our series of music performances this season (as part of the Canada Council "Music in Alternative Spaces' program) is by Sarah Peebles and takes place on next Wednesday (February 20th) at 9pm. "Pollinator Series: Hive Study for room and solo performer" is a quasi-improvisational, quasi-chance performance piece/installation transforming the gallery space into a sonic honey bee hive featuring sounds of masses of bees recorded inside glass jugs and hives, cicada, and airplanes. Using material initially recorded over several days near Wellington, New Zealand at Lindsay's Apieries, Peebles mixes, layers, manipulates and projects these sounds together with the shoh — the Japanese mouth-organ which has made use of beeswax for the past 1,500 years. Bring your own cushions, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, etc. and roam, rest or nap in the space.

Arrests in Plot Against Danish Cartoonists

Today Danish police arrested an unspecified number of suspects in an alleged plot to murder one of a dozen cartoonists whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 sparked riots in Muslim communities around the world. "The purpose of the clampdown was to prevent a terror-related homicide," police chief Jakob Scharf said. The detainees are suspected of planning to kill Kurt Westergaard, who in September 2005 provided the newspaper with a cartoon of Muhammad wearing a bomb in his turban. Protests prompted by publication of the cartoons included consumer boycotts of Danish goods and the torching of Danish embassies. More than fifty people died in the ensuing violence.

Last week the The Museum of Danish Cartoon Art (!) in Copenhagen announced it was planning to buy the 12 caricatures, with the aims of showing them in an exhibition about freedom of expression. "If the library acquires them, we would like to show them together with media reports about the publication and the protests against it,” Museum director Ervin Nielsen said.

“We hope we can secure all of the works to preserve them for the future. The caricatures have become a part of Danish history,” Royal Library spokesperson Jytte Kjaergaard told The Art Newspaper.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Illegal Downloading

Last fall a number of TV and movie streaming sites were raided and shut down and bit torrent users are the new target. Yesterday I got a letter in the mail demanding that I voluntarily cease the downloading of copyrighted materials. If I fail to comply, I am warned, the media conglomerate in question will complain to my service provider, who will cut off my service. Letters like this are becoming more and more common (some demand a three-thousand dollar payout, to avoid a charges being laid) and, according to the BBC today, the draft of a new bill in the UK suggests that the country "will move to legislate to require internet service providers to take action on illegal file sharing."

"Technology that allows internet providers to monitor what content is being downloaded is becoming more effective, said James Bates, a media consultant working for the British government. "This is also likely to help accelerate the process of identifying pirates, and may lead to swifter disconnection, or prosecution."

This type of legislation is bound to be tabled for the US (especially if the Democrats - who are considerably more beholden to the concerns of Hollywood than the Republicans - take office in November) and Canada.

Dr Ferrell Sentenced today

For those following the story of Steve Kurtz of the Critical Art Ensemble, the first ruling in the case came today. Dr. Robert Ferrell, a University of Pittsburgh geneticist and friend of the artist, has been sentenced to a year of unsupervised release and fined $500 for providing Kurtz with bacteria for use in his art practice. Ferrell pled guilty last October to a misdemeanor count of “mailing an injurious article.” Family members and friends say this decision was due to his severe illness (lymphoma, a malignant melanoma and two minor strokes).

The case began as an antiterrorism investigation after the police saw laboratory equipment in Mr. Kurtz’s home after the death of his wife. Originally indicted under the Patriot act, Kurtz now faces trial on federal mail and wire-fraud charges. Suspicions of terrorism were ruled out and many believe that the charges are frivolous and are designed to save face after the over-kill of their initial investigation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Paul+WendyProjects just sent me this link to a short film called Sleeveface that combines the approach of Christian Marclay's album cover collages with the participatory nature of, say, Erwin Wurm's One Minute Sculptures. The Barbara Streisand drummer is my fave.

The site is here, with the 'instructional' film and a few examples sent in from readers.

Below: Christian Marclay

Shortlist Prize

Yesterday Toronto's Feist won the US Shortlist Music Prize for her album The Reminder. Now in its seventh year, the Shortlist pays tribute to artists who "haven't hit the mainstream yet" (I guess they haven't seen those iPod commercials).

Judge Gary Lightbody of Snowpatrol called The Reminder "the album of the year for 2007 or any year I can think of: It's modern and classic all at once. There are so many kinds of beauty in this record."

2007 finalists also included Montreal's Arcade Fire, Burial, Justice, LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A., Spoon, Stars, Wilco and Working for a Nuclear Free City. Cat Power took the award last year for The Greatest, and previous winners include Damien Rice, TV on the Radio, Sigur Ros and Sufjan Stevens.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pleasure Before Business

The Mercer Union "Office Party" PINK SLIP is slated for Friday, February 22, 2008 at 9:00pm. Visit the Facebook page for more information, a map to the gallery and pictures of Jason Bateman singing Afternoon Delight.

Sara Graham

New Systems Require New Structures by Sara Graham opens this Saturday at MKG127 (127 Ossington Ave). The exhibition features a new series of drawings and sculptures examining urban architectural systems. The opening runs from 1 - 5pm on the 9th of February, and the exhibition continues until March 8th.

For more information visit the artist's website or

Bern Porter

Ubuweb (the most plugged site on this blog, I suspect) just uploaded five rare books by artist, physicist and poet Bern Porter.

Porter was born in Maine in 1911 and died there 93 years later. He is best known for his books of Found Poetry, including The Wastemaker, The Book of Do's, Sweet End and Found Poems. The latter was published by Dick Higgins' artist book imprint The Something Else Press in 1972, who also published Porter's I've Left a year prior.

Porter himself was the publisher of a literary magazine called Circle and books by Henry Miller and the fabulous Kenneth Patchen. As a scientist he contributed to the invention of the television and worked on the Saturn V rocket and the Manhattan Project (which he promptly resigned from after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

He spent three weeks in mental institution in 1967 and ran for governor two years later, authored more than 80 books, was the subject of a massive FBI file, and knew Gertrude Stein, Anaïs Nin, Allen Ginsberg and Albert Einstein. Highly revered in experimental poetry and mail-art communities, he is the subject of a fascinating biography titled Where to Go, What to Do, When You Are Bern Porter: A Personal Biography. Written by James Schevill and published in 1992, it's long out-of-print, but used copies can be found fairly easily.

Porter died penniless in Belfast, Maine in 2004, having survived the his last few years eating at soup kitchens and art openings.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Art TV

New Art TV is a media production company based in New York City that focuses on video content about contemporary art. Currently the site has streaming video interviews with Martin Creed, Diana Thater, Daniel Buren, Richard Serra and many others, and video tours of exhibitions by Tracey Emin, Jason Rhoades, David Altmejd, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (many of them from the last Venice Biennale).

There's also a small performance area that features documentation of William Anastasi performing John Cage's "4:33" and Martin Creed (looking a lot like Martin Freeman of The Office) performing with his band.

Takashi Murakami

Last December, graffiti artists AUGER and REVOK modified a billboard advertising the Takashi Murakami exhibit at the L.A. MOCA. Their intervention was visible for less than two days, before the billboard was removed. The LA Weekly now reports that Murakami himself saw photos of the graffitied billboard online and thought it was "so wonderful, he had to have it for his collection". So apparently he arranged for it to be taken down and shipped to his studio in Japan.

The exhibition closes February 11th.