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Posted on July 5, 2011 by Kath

Ghost River Theatre’s Reverie

Ghost River Theatre’s Reverie was all that it promised to be in the first act. The music was amazing throughout; I’d totally get the album. And the style of the production worked well with the minimal storytelling during the first act. The concept was fully explored and there was the right amount of exposition. You knew what was going on but you weren’t having your hand held. it really brought the seriousness of what’s gone down in the middle east home; it made it something that could happen here and was very poignant given the recent election and how that made me, at least, feel. The special projection equipment totally shone in how they used it to create effects like an elevator ride and a night out drinking in the city. I also loved the way it was totally obvious that the show was set in a contemporary Canadian city but you were left to decide which one. The acting was great, particularly by

Unfortunately, the second act didn’t come together as successfully. It felt like a lot if exposition rather than exploration of the ideas. The structure of what did happen in the second act, story-wise, was kind of confusing. However, I’m so not a fan of dystopian fiction of almost any kind (I had to read Brave New World in University and almost gouged out my eyes in frustration), so I am pretty biased.

The technical awesomeness – a huge part of the choreography was how everything worked with video projections on moving screens – was absolutely mindblowing and wonderfully integrated into the show. And the music was absolute fabulous. I hope you caught Reverie!

Posted on May 21, 2011 by Kath

Kernel Memory @ Stride

USB Acorn by Laura Moore. Photo credit LauraMoore.ca.

Today I went to an artist talk by Laura Moore at Stride about her show, Kernel Memory. It features marble acorns (and a pine cone) that have been scaled up massively and have male USB ports on their caps (and the top of the pinecone).

It was an interesting artist talk. She started by discussing a previous work where she carved marble electrical components – capacitors, resistors – and set them in the floor on rebar wires. She had them in groups of a few, and said that it was really interesting how people only would look at sets that were of like 3 — they wouldn’t “join” a pair. For me this was one of the most interesting works because I love the idea of relating to those electrical components as “beings”.

She also showed other works where she had carved marble versions of phones and other electronics, I think mostly real size. Then she started thinking about nature and technology and if an acorn had a USB stick, what would it plug into. Acorns (and seeds, and eggs) really are the “usb sticks” of the natural world … holding programs encoded in DNA.

She also had drawings that were made by the process of creating the work. I guess the idea that the oak trees that would grow is a creative process and wanting to record the creative process that made these acorns might be an interpretation for that … personally I didn’t need them. They weren’t unclear, but I didn’t think they added a vital dimension to the works which stand on their own.

 

 

Posted on April 8, 2011 by Kath

Malcolm Gladwell, MRU’s Ideas Series

When I heard Malcolm Gladwell was in Calgary (from Shannon Bowen Kelsik), I was very excited and I was very lucky to be able to get a ticket.

Gladwell talked about what sounds like the premise of a new book to me — he spoke on expert failure, so when you think you know more about a situation than you really do and you ingnore additioanal info that goes against what you were expecting and therefore make really, really bad decisions. The examples he gave were Fighting Joe Hooker, a general for Lincoln in the Civil War, and the bankers who were putting all of the money into the mortgage market prior to the economic meltdown.

One of the best things about the talk for me was the question portion. Something I’ve been repeating to everyone since I heard the talk was a comment about possible solutions, which was that the war in Iraq wouldn’t have happened if the US had Question Period. That was so great to hear, and Gladwell is an absolutely wonderful storyteller.

One other thing he talked about was Blink, and some learning he did about structuring his argument. He said initially he was going to give a story where snap decisions were very useful (the story about the kouros) and move through his argument to an example of snap decisions going horribly wrong, to question their validity at the end (the story about the police shooting). But he said people read the beginning and made up their minds that snap decisions were great. He was apparently mortified when one of the CEOs of a bank that went under had gotten all of his staff to read it.

And just for fun, here’s a short little clip from Gladwell on income inequality. He’s such a great storyteller!

Posted on February 27, 2011 by Kath

Catalyst Theatre’s Nevermore

Photo Credit: Catalyst Theatre

So a in February I got to see Catalyst Theatre’s Nevermore at Vertigo. Again I’m late actually posting about it, but since the show’s been touring for a while and I hope will continue to do so … I am OK with that! (If you go to the Catalyst site, check out the promo video in the right hand column).

I can’t even talk about it without babbling about how great it was. The show is if Nightmare Before Christmas were live and about Poe. That is really all that needs to be said. I went alone, but I have a particular friend who I so wish lived in Calgary because I think she would’ve freaked out about it.

The only quibble I have is  that there were some choices with how it was acted that were sort of … grating … particularly some high pitched noises, but I get where they were going with it.

Nevermore has been touring for a while. Seems like they’re done now, but it’s amazing so if you haven’t seen it, definitely put a change monitor on the Catalyst page so you know when it’ll be playing in your area!

Posted on February 5, 2011 by Kath

Absurdesque (& 2011 Rodeo Wrap Up)

I got to see Absurdesque on Sunday! (I love my new theatre job!) I’ve had a really great time at the High Performance Rodeo this year and since I’ve been remiss in blogging about any of it, I thought I’d do a round up.

I went to: Swallow-a-Bicycle’s Freak Show (Thurs Jan 6), Compagnie Drift’s Soundmachine (Thurs Jan 20) and Theatrelabor’s Absurdesque (Sun Jan 30). I really wanted to see Catalyst Theatre’s Nevermore (which is of course still possible — and happened and I’ll post about it) and Snowblower, which I missed because it was cold that week and I’d frozen myself easrlier that week for DemoCamp and didn’t want to do it again.

I liked that Freak Show was both performance art and theatre at the same time. In some ways the tone wasn’t completely my bag … sometimes I found it sort of silly-sexual and I go in for absurd more than silly. But it was a really interesting format and I loved the use of the bowels of the EPCOR Centre for the tour. The first skit-tableau we saw was a “tribulations of pregnancy’ skit and I thought that was really entertaining. I also liked the Alice In Wonderland monologue (love Alice In Wonderland). I was there alone but with a group of friends I think it would be really hilarious and would love to see more theatre in this format.

Photo: Compagnie Drift / High Performance Rodeo

I was really glad I got to see Soundmachine. I thought the idea of “hearing the unhearable” but sometimes I thought the sounds weren’t … investigating the meaning of what they might be hearing? You know? So that became hard to get out of it and it was sort of whimsical experimentation with sound instead of hearing the unhearable. It was still really fun though, and the singing techniques and live sound mixing with recorded instrumentals were quite interesting. I also loved the singing and wished I understood the French. Another reason I may have not been as impressed by the connections between the sounds and the “unhearable” is that I had recently been listening to a Radiolab episode mentioning that people had recorded what sounds the electrical activity in mice brains make. Which really is sort of hearing the normally unhearable, and is awfully hard to follow with made up sounds.

Last Sunday I went to Absurdesque, by Theatrelabor.  I like shows like this that are hard to follow, though I haven’t seen a lot of classic absurd theatre. I think one of my favourite sections of Absurdesque was when one of the actors got on the table and was reciting what sounds like something from a theatre textbook on absurd theatre. It’s always interesting as you’re watching absurd theatre to navigate between how your life is absurd and then back to life being not absurd, really. It’s absurd but only to a certain extent. And so I think I find it … poignant, but also absurd and funny in and of itself.

I did end up getting to see Nevermore! I loved it and am planning to post about it later today.

Posted on January 29, 2011 by Kath

Wine With Art Jan 2011: Sandra Vida on Clive Robertson’s Then + Then Again

I’ve been having a bit of trouble with Clive Robertson’s Then + Then  Again at The New Gallery. The show is a retrospective of Robertson’s work in artist-run culture, much of it in Calgary, and it’s presented through foam-core mounted info-blocks and recorded materials. Documentation. Of course I wasn’t in Calgary’s art scene for any of the actual events, so for me it’s hard to take in as an art show. I can’t read all the panels or watch/listen to all the work.

It’s not that I don’t accept documentation as art, but I think this exhibition is presented more on the side of documentation than documentation-as-art. You really do need to read all of the text to know what’s going on. It’s a self-history more than documentation of a process or performance-based work.

That said, I think I have found the way to enjoy the exhibition: go to the talks. I went to an opening night talk where Robertson spoke, and the talk tonight with Sandra Vida. As someone who is very badly versed in Calgary’s ARC history, it’s been a wonderful crash course that you can’t get from the exhibition itself because the exhibition doesn’t have the side stories or the evident rivalries. At the talks, usually there were one or two people in attendance who were also part of Calgary’s ARC culture when it was nascent, and the back-and-forth and extra tidbits were amazing. That’s what you really need to see and what really can get you energized about ARC culture in Calgary and making sure it keeps happening (not that there’s danger of the ARCs here falling off the planet) and what makes one want to be involved up to your eyeballs. Must get on that.

[The video is a trailer from when the exhibition was mounted in 2007 at several galleries in eastern Canada]

Posted on December 5, 2010 by Kath

CivicCamp3D and #yycdata

I have another post in the works but I was just at this so I thought I should attempt to work with the momentum.

Today I went to my first CivicCamp! It was very exciting, and I’m really glad that the Getting-Things-Done experts in that organization can be available to offer advice. That’s where ideas I have fall apart; I’m just never sure how to spread the idea and get others to help me. I have a project I want to get going which would be an occasional space / time for artists to test their works in progress (it was inspired by the Calgary Science Centre‘s Prototypers — how had I not found their blog before?!). I haven’t done a good job of getting it off the ground because I don’t really know where to start and then I don’t try the things that may or may not work. I’m hoping to set that aside and just bite the bullet and start getting it out. Let me know if you want more info or have suggestions for me or are interested in the idea!

It was really great to see Nenshi come and give us a pep talk and let us know that there will be civic engagement fairs (online and in person) in January (I think?). That will be really awesome (and help with the homework he gaves us, which was to get someone who’s not engaged with city life engaged).

I went to the Open Data breakout group lead by Grant Neufeld with Shawn Kao, Mark Zaugg, Kirsten YB, and a few others (if you were there let me know how to get in touch now!). We had a great discussion about what needs to be done — continued support and use of the open data provided as well as demanding more and liasing with the City as well as citizens on the topic. After CivicCamp3D, I did manage to go to the Open Data Day Hackathon (see #yycdata). Lots of use were not programmers — in which I guess I include myself with my patchwork of skills / background.The crowd was different at the afternoon session as it had been disseminated previously in general but most of the people in the discussion group couldn’t stick around.

I chose the open data group because I think the possibilities for creating art experiences that can transform how Calgarians understand the city would be really supported by artists having access to live, open data about the city. What we have right now — mostly maps or parks and stuff and bus schedules — isn’t particularly inspiring, but when we have another layer to mash, it’ll be great. We could also use unofficial data to start off with. Here’s the current selection

The discussion was great, gave me a lot more detail about the issues and the reasons we have the data we have. We talked about some of the apps we wanted to see — particularly Art Proctor‘s Arts & Culture app was discussed at length and made into a subgroup, and a “Why isn’t my street ploughed” app was discussed. We all committed to coming up with app ideas on #yycdata.

My initial idea was a “Will I miss my bus” app. DJ Kelly pointed out that we need the GPS system that’s coming to the buses before we can really do it, which is true, but I was thinking of implementing it using the GPS / locational info from the phone. Obviously it wouldn’t be as accurate as it will be with the real data, but given your current location, would it be possible to guess a likely current route the rider’s on (and allow them to choose if there’s many possibilities, which would be likely), use expected stop time / trip time from time point to time point, and the expected departure times of the connecting bus (which the rider would need to pick, or a set of connecting routes they could use), and then see if they’ll make any of the connections.

… Then again it might be simpler to wait until the GPSes are on the buses, but I’m not sure how long that would take.

There are some links and resources I’ll be looking at while I’m finalizing the rest of my ideas (I had a few other inklings):

Another idea would be to mash up the restaurant inspection sites with a map of the city and urban spoon reviews (which wouldn’t require the data that’s really been released), and maybe an app for donating to charities that help the homeless in the city whenever you walk by someone panhandling? That would not require any data at all, really. If it exists already let me know!

Also, I found some experimentation sites and tools for creating mobile and web apps. Some of these are more advanced than others:

Note about linking: I decided to link mostly to twitter accounts because looking at websites, some were election-based and some were pretty far out of date, so I thought twitter accounts were more relevant.

Posted on November 28, 2010 by Kath

PechaKucha Night #6

Photo Credit: EventBrite

I went to my first PechaKucha Night this week: PechaKucha Night Calgary #6: One. It was presented by CADA in the John Dutton Theatre at the Library. Speakers included Wil Knoll, Brooklyn Fink, Bee Kingdom Glassblowing Collective, Patrick Finn, and Cory Mack.

As I mentioned I haven’t been to a PechaKucha Night before, so I didn’t have a reference for that. The talk was held in the library in conjunction with One Book One Calgary. Aritha van Herk, who wrote Mavericks, which is the book they chose for One Book One Calgary, was also one of the speakers. Because it was in the library, the talk was free, which they normally aren’t in Calgary.

I liked the talks overall. I don’t really like the theme — one of the ideas with the theme was apparently that it should be open, but it wasn’t very unifying. That’s not such a big deal necessarily, but I kind of think it’s nice if you have a theme to let the talks inform one another in the different ways they address the theme and I didn’t find that was normally the case. Some of the talks were very tightly related thematically but not all. In some cases, the theme became a mantra. Sometimes it worked and it meant something and sometimes not. Sometimes the rhythm of the repeated “one”s made it very difficult to understand the talk itself. For Cory Mack, she was basically reciting a poem, and the rhythm of “one” repeated so many times worked in harmony with that and lead you through the poem, helping you to hear it. For Aritha Herk’s talk, I felt that repeating “one” so often took me out of the talk and made it harder to get anything out of it. It actually impeded how able I was to follow her words. Since it was sort of focusing on men doing laundry as part of their Maverickness in Alberta, I thought it would have stood better without the repetition and if I could focus on the idea of men doing laundry and how that relates to the “Maverick” idea and how it relates to life in Alberta at the time she was talking about. I haven’t read Mavericks. I saw the show at the Glenbow one afternoon though … but when I heard that was the One Book One Calgary I was turned off. I should love Alberta more, but I sort of don’t like the idea of thinking of ourselves as “mavericks” … it seems to glorify ourselves.  Same with thinking of ourselves as “incorrigible”. Not an informed opinion at all on my part, but there you go.

On a more positive note, I really enjoyed three of the talks. I thought Brooklyn Fink’s talk about transsexualism was very interesting and informative and made me want to research it more, because I find the different ways hormones and genes and other factors effect our brain chemistry very interesting. I was watching a Gabor Mate talk on youtube about addiction and that was much less about genes and in-utero factors than Brooklyn’s talk, but I found them similar because they were both different than how we normally talk about these issues.

Another one that was really interesting was Patrick Finn’s talk on his courses at the UofC on Love. The course sounded very interesting and a great approach to student engagement at the university. I also think it’s interesting that students have to attend arts events and participate in culture in Calgary. Wondering if I could audit the courses … I was also interested because I remember the Student Engagement Survey that was the catalyst for the creation of these courses and some discussion around it while I was working and in Arts Co-op at UBC, so seeing how other universities responded was interesting on that level.

Finally I did like Wil Knoll’s talk on Hackerspaces in general (with reference to Protospace in particular) — great coverage of hacking, and of the rules of making such … I guess inherently anarchic collections of people work. My husband is a mechanical engineer and I’ve roped him in to helping me with art projects before* and he and his best friend are starting to get into building robots and just bought an Arduino and I think a social space like Protospace would be a great resource for us. I get him out to an Open House or a Tuesday yet! So basically the point of that was hackerspaces are exciting because they offer endless possibilities of making insane things.

*I got him to make it so I could control an air conditioner and a heater with an Arduino (reading a thermister) and a laptop grabbing temperatures from an RSS feed.

Posted on November 5, 2010 by Kath

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

On Friday October 25 I was lucky enough to go to a performance by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at Theatre Junction Grande. It was part of the Fluid Movement Arts Festival and I co-curated one of the other events, Spark, so I got some comp tickets. The show was absolutely amazing! I don’t see a lot of contemporary dance, so one of the great things about being involved in the Fluid Fest was getting exposure to an artform I don’t see much of. Now that I’ve seen Cedar Lake, I’ll have to see more dance events in Calgary. Especially ones showing work by such cutting edge choreographers.

The show had three pieces / acts:  Sunday Again choreographed by Jo Stromgren, Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue choreographed by Crystal Pite, and Frame of View choreographed by Didy Veldman.

Photo Credit (Sunday, Again): dancingperfectlyfree.com

From the chats I’ve had with people since seeing the works, it seems like most people were drawn to Crystal Pite’s work, which was really emotionally moving. However, I think my favourite piece was  Stromgren’s Sunday Again. It was kind of opaque in what was going on, and there seemed to be many layers of complicated narrative that were partially made clear. I like that kind of thing, so I was drawn to the puzzle and the possibility inherent in the lack of explicitness in the scope of what Stromgren was trying to communicate. I think that was really intentional; it was kind of like Last Year At Marienbad for me, and that’s my favourite film. The dancing was gorgeous and the set and costumes were varied but very reduced, which allowed for some of the fluidity in exactly what may have been happening.

The music was all Bach, and there was a great variety of pieces used. The choreography was very contemporary it seemed to me, so that was both a nice contrast and worked well together because the choreography was very aristocratic and had varying serious and very playful parts, and it explored the odd, constructed reality of a tennis club that was infused with Bach. Not that they listed to Bach, it was just like the medium of their life.

The other pieces were very striking too. All in all an amazing evening, especially as I got to catch the Artist Talk with Benoit-Swan Pouffer!

Posted on October 6, 2010 by Kath

Robyn Moody on “Life in the 2 Field” at Truck Contemporary Art

Last Thursday I attended a talk at Truck Contemporary Art. Robyn Moody spoke about his exhibition, Life in the 2 Field. He talked about his other work as well and then moved on to addressing this exhibition. The exhibition puts the gallery space into the “2 field”, which is an animation term for a drawing surface that’s much smaller than normal so that when it’s projected, all the mistakes of millimeters from one frame to another are amplified, and so the wines are wavy and shakey. The gallery space is outlined with black cords that vibrate and there are two windows which frame moving scenes. If you are viewing the windows straight on, the scene is complete, but you can easily see how everything is moving (all of the motors are visible), and if you move at all the picture in the window breaks.

Life in the 2 Field, Robyn Moody

Photo Credit: Robyn Moody

It was really interesting because my experience of the exhibition was dominated by one specific sensation that has a lot to do with how I’m hardwired, not just the exhibition. I am fairly high strung, and I tremble a fair amount. So the constant movement of the dark lines on the white walls of the gallery was too much for me — it was like the room was vibrating at the same frequency as me, and that the harmonics were going to make me explode or something. It was really unsettling and the only way I could ignore it and spend time in the show was to pay attention to the motors and the workings of the show. They were interesting, and their movement wasn’t overwhelming — it was logical.

Why I find this so interesting is what Moody was saying about what it the show meant. He conceptualized the “2 field” as a sort of magical world where we can believe what we want to believe, but the workings are obvious for the sufficiently curious.  He did this because he sees the world going into a new dark age of human thought where we just believe thing and critical thinking is decreased (His reference was Jane Jacobs’ A Dark Age Ahead). He cited ideas like homeopaths as an example of the uncritical view that bothers him.

Why I find this so interesting is because my reaction is basically opposite to how the show’s supposed to function. I don’t think this means the work is unsuccessful and I think it could be successful for someone who’s less tightly wound. Also it does sounds nice, the fun wavy lines, the room breaking free of its arbitrary bonds of space and logic and dancing. But I was basically looking at the logical inner workings because they were logical and didn’t move around on me so much. They were quieter and easier to deal with; the “fun, exciting, magical” movement was just bordering on the harrowing for me, something to studiously avoid if possible.

That was basically one of the main reasons I wanted to go the artist talk — I knew that my perception of the show had been very much shaped by me, and wanted to get an idea of what it was like for other people. I chatted with an infant speech researcher, Stephanie Archer, after the talk, and she was saying she has the same problem when there are more than 2 sounds on in a room. So maybe my being more of a spatial thinker made the visual movement and cacaphony more of any issue. It’s also interesting because the movement makes a huge difference. Busy and strange static images have never made me feel like that.

Meanwhile