PechaKucha #9: Verge

A couple weeks ago I went to PechaKucha Night Calgary #9: Verge. I’m going to give you a rundown on the things that really excited me during the talks:

Jasmine Antonick of Beakerhead

I am really excited for Beakerhead. I love projects that bring arts and science together; in the past few years I’ve become more and more interested in science as another way (like the arts) to have my mind blown. Now I just need a project! Engineers, let me know if you have room for an artist.

Arts Factory and King Edward School

Reid Henry from CADA and Stephen Schroeder from Calgary Arts Factory spoke on the King Edward School project and Arts Factory. Both are projects to create more arts space, both exhibition, workspace and workshops. I am very excited because there’s such a lack of workshop space in Calgary, and I really miss having a shop. I’m also excited about the opportunity for skill-sharing between arts disciplines in Calgary and the idea of a materials bank in the Arts Factory.

Dr Paul Fedak

I love learning about totally on the edge medicine. It’s so fascinating! I hear about a lot of this sort of thing (including HeLa) via the amazing Radiolab, which if you don’t listen to, do.  I had seen Anthony Atala’s TEDMED 2009 talk on the subject of regenerative medicine, and it’s just absolutely mindboggling, so it was realy exciting to see a Calgarian talk about the work he’d doing in the feel.

All in all a really good PechaKucha.

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!

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.

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.

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):

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!