Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Herstory of Punk in Ottawa

As part of the She Wants an Output exhibition, I organized a series of events that included a panel discussion on October 5th and a night of performances on October 6th, 2017.

The panel discussion took place in the Alumni Association Reading Room at the MacOdrum Library on campus in conjunction with a reception for the exhibition. The panel was comprised of artist and musician Mary Anne Barkhouse, musician and arts administrator Keltie Duncan, and writer and curator Julia Pine, while I acted as a moderator. Prominently featured in the exhibition, Barkhouse and Pine spoke about their experiences in the punk rock scene in Ottawa in the late '70s and early '80s, while Duncan, who is currently in the band Bonnie Doon, brought the panel up to the present.

Similarly, on the following night, a series of performances established a continuity between the spirit of the past with today's practitioners. Setting the mood, DJ Jas Nasty played a selection of records featuring punk women throughout the night.

Steve Bates and jake moore presented Trilogy x:y:z, a performance consisting of three sound-based works drawing from their histories in punk and post-punk music, art, DIY culture, anarchist and leftist politics. Steve Bates is an artist and musician living in Montréal, His work has been exhibited and performed in Canada, the United States, Europe and Senegal. jake moore is an intermedia artist whose primary medium is space. She works at the intersections of material, text, and vocality to make exhibitions, events and other kinds of public interventions. She gained early art and life experience as the singer in the all-female punk rock band, The Ruggedy Annes, out of Winnipeg. The Ruggedy Annes are featured in the MATRAX compilation, a key document in the She Wants an Output exhibition.

Bonnie Doon closed the night with a fiery set. They are an Ottawa-based post-punk foursome drawing inspiration from spooky beaches and pizza joints. Dooner Nooner, their debut LP, is out now and available at finer record stores. Bonnie Doon melts faces with waves of controlled dissonance and unabashed wolf calls to the moon.

Friday, September 1, 2017

She Wants an Output

For Carleton University Art Gallery's fall programming, I curated an exhibition running from September 1 to October 29, 2017 in Carleton University's MacOdrum Library entitled She Wants an Output. The exhibition looks back at the history of the 1980s punk music scene in Ottawa, through the work of two women who were involved in it: Mary Anne Barkhouse and Julia Pine. The oppositional shout of punk rock was sounding throughout the world at that time, including in Ottawa. A small but vibrant community sprang up here, inspired by the DIY attitude and political consciousness of the movement. Women were key players in the scene, but their story has seldom been told.

Mary Anne Barkhouse, pelage II, mixed media, 1999. 

Restless Virgins were a first-wave punk rock band active in the Ottawa music scene in the early ‘80s. Notably, its bass player, Mary Anne Barkhouse, went on to a celebrated career as an artist. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Barkhouse’s pelage (1999-2000), a work composed of four appliquéd blankets, reminiscent of the button blankets used by First Nations of the Northwest Coast for ceremonial purposes. Each blanket represents a stage in Barkhouse’s life and her development as an artist. Three of the four blankets are on display. The pelage II blanket makes reference to the ten years between 1975 and 1985 when she played, toured and recorded with bands like Restless Virgins.

A selection of items in the She Wants an Output exhibition.

Accompanying Barkhouse’s work is an eclectic selection from Julia Pine’s collection of zines, flyers, records and other ephemera from her “punk days,” when she was involved in the small but vibrant scene as a musician, producer, writer and community organizer, from about 1978 until 1985. The selection will include documents from a project that Pine co-produced with Colleen Howe in 1985: the MATRAX compilation cassette, which featured thirteen all-female bands from Canada, the US and the UK.

Pine’s collection points to the central role women played in the exceptionally diverse local scene and highlights their strong commitment to progressive ideas that were, and continue to be, far from the mainstream.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cultural Engineering: Flow Chart

The Cultural Engineering project was launched over two years ago, and each issue has showcased artworks that were commissioned by SAW Video as way to chart the Arts Court redevelopment and document its transformation. Each issue has also offered artists a chance look at the Arts Court from new perspectives. It’s easy to imagine that flow charts were used for project management on this ambitious infrastructure development. If a flow chart is a diagram of the sequence of actions in a complex activity that helps to illustrate a process, then one that traced the course of the Cultural Engineering project in retrospect would undoubtedly reveal a complicated and perhaps contradictory trajectory: one that might double back on itself just as much as it might pursue an oblique angle down an unfinished path. Like all endeavors that are meant to be democratic, Cultural Engineering has been subject to change, depending upon the individuals who have been invited to contribute to it.

Cara Tierney, Melt in. To Spring, digital video, 2017.

Going with the flow of the previous issues of Cultural Engineering, the final online installment features two new videos by Meredith Snider and Timothy Smith, as well as a third video by a guest artist. In her video for this issue, “Culture Lives Where?” Snider poses two questions to people in the vicinity of the Arts Court (“What is culture?” and “Where does culture live?”) and the results are as diverse as the people who participate. In “Past & Present,” Smith animates archival photographs in order to propel the viewer back to the earliest years of the building’s history, capturing the flow of time and offering fascinating glimpses of the transformation of the site, and you might say its political fortunes. The guest artist for the ninth issue, Cara Tierney, connects and mixes several separate events into one powerful montage that suggests positive change is going to come for transgender rights, but only because of persistent pressure. Tierney and the other artists in this issue offer evidence that we can effect change as much as we are affected by it. Link to the ninth issue here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Intimate World of Josef Sudek

My review of "The Intimate World of Joseph Sudek" at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from October 28, 2016 to February 26, 2017 is on newsstands this summer, appearing in issue 142 of Border Crossings. The exhibition offered a retrospective introduction to the entirety of Josef Sudek’s career: from his early photographs that are marked by the Romantic Pictorialism that was conventional at the beginning of the 20th century, to his later, more experimental and idiosyncratic works that he produced up until his death in 1976. The exhibition was divided thematically into nine sections and these, placed in a roughly chronological order, underscored Sudek’s individualistic pursuit of his artistic vision. An early photo (Veteran’s Home, c. 1922-1927) featuring a disabled war veteran absorbed in the contemplation of a bottle he is holding could act as a metonym for Sudek’s career: He cast himself as an outsider whose singular focus revealed worlds within worlds.

For the complete review, check out Border Crossings 142, available at the finest bookstores, newsstands, and libraries near you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Research Residency at Artexte

In the spring of 2017 I am beginning a research residency at Artexte in Montreal on the work of Jayce Salloum as alternative media. Jayce Salloum has made a career out of interrogating the complicated nature of representation and the power of images and text. His career has also intersected in an extraordinary way with the history of artist-run centres and arts collectives. Salloum has continuously and ingeniously addressed the public through various channels, including performances, photographs, installations, postcards, stencils, mail art, bookworks, magazine projects, and videos.

A page of Jayce Salloum slides in the Artexte archives.

Considering Salloum’s work as a form of alternative media, I will be particularly interested in studying Salloum’s publishing activities in artist’s books and magazines, which offer a unique lens through which to bring the history of artist-run centres and artists’ publishing into focus. One goal of this residency is to underscore the manner in which Salloum’s work presents an alternative to the mainstream media’s representation of war, the nation state, and the nature of conflict, while highlighting the importance of artist-run centres as platforms for alternative views. Link to the Artexte page about my residency here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cultural Engineering: Wayfinding

Wayfinding is a term that is used to designate various architectural features or design elements within a building or a built environment that help people to navigate their way through a space. Such items, including signs that lead you to the washrooms or to an information kiosk or map, are especially important in large complicated environments like the Arts Court.  In the second issue of the Cultural Engineering project, Rachel Kalpana James humorously invoked through a series of guided meditations the labyrinthine nature of the Arts Court building and the myriad organizations it houses. The redevelopment will give everyone involved another crack at designing a wayfinding system.

Meredith Snider, Hard To Let Go: I Put My Blindfold Back On, 2017, digital video.

In their own way, the three videos in the eighth issue of the Cultural Engineering project offer signposts to the redevelopment of Arts Court. Meredith Snider’s video, “Hard to let go: I put my blindfold back on,” documents a performance by Lily Koltun that functions metaphorically as a guided tour of the Arts Court in the midst of its renovation.  Tim Smith’s video “SAW Video January 2017” provides a portrait of the physical space of SAW Video contemporaneous with the date in its title. In a different vein, guest artist Awar Obab’s video is an important reminder that with success artists can lose sight of their original intentions and ultimately lose their way. It also serves as a caveat that arts organizations can lose their way too, as they grow into institutions and become less flexible and less responsive to the immediate needs of their communities. Link to the eighth issue here.

Friday, November 25, 2016

SKETCH Fundraiser for SAW Gallery 2016

I am happy to be participating in this year's SKETCH Fundraiser for SAW Gallery. I have donated one of the works from my Sticky Fingers series, "Hey Hey Now (Sway)," to the silent auction. It's the twelfth edition of SKETCH, Galerie SAW Gallery’s ever popular holiday fundraiser, with more than 150 participating artists. This year’s edition of SKETCH includes a spotlight on 1980s contemporary Inuit art, and signed photographic editions from Magnum Photos featuring artists from around the world.

Michael Davidge, Hey Hey Now (Sway), 2016, digital print.

All proceeds from this special edition of SKETCH will go toward Galerie SAW Gallery’s expansion within Arts Court in 2018. The new 15,000-square-foot SAW will include expanded galleries, a new international research and production space, a new archive and library, an expanded multidisciplinary venue and a renovated courtyard to accommodate festivals and screenings during the summer months. SKETCH is the first fundraiser that will kickstart the capital campaign for this transformative project. Since its inception in 1973, the artist-run centre Galerie SAW Gallery has supported politically and socially engaged art, focused on the performance and media arts. The expansion is an exciting new chapter in the gallery's long history as a catalyst for the arts in Ottawa.