Stride: Fire, Brenda Draney and Jewel Shaw

Image via Stride Gallery Website

Fire is an exploration of … fire, and what it means in different facets, both destructive and cleansing.

For me, it was a bit lacking on  engagement. There were some prints which were damaged-looking, as in both physically damaged and emotionally, and they included words that suggested damage to a child and hiding and fear. The second area of work was comprised of drawings, which were strung along in a kind of web. Some were unfinished drawings of people, copies and works-in-progress in several stages, and other materials (see photo, which is from the Stride website, for a close up of part of this portion of the exhibition). This part I thought was more interesting – there was something to start piecing together – but I thought there wasn’t kind of deep enough you could go with specifics. The suggestion of pain, loss, and rebuilding is one thing – and those are certainly things fire does – but I didn’t get any new insight, new corner of fire to explore in a way I hadn’t though of it before, or being taken farther down a path of an idea of fire than I had been. Fire is such a powerful and longstanding symbol in terms of signifying “a time to murder and create” that with this show, I am left thinking “yep, that is what fire does”.

Reading the essay, the stories are very personal, and the essay is quite interesting in how it discusses the fires in the pasts of the artists and their families, but I don’t get the point of focus that makes it personal and engaging from the work itself to the same degree I get it from the essay.

Arts Champions Congress

Another in the backlog of stuff I wanted to post about! In the past few weeks I’ve been having some interesting conversations with various people in the arts community about it, so now that it is a few weeks on I can include those discussions.

The sessions I attended were: Keynote by Ben Cameron, 500 000+ Budget Roundtable, the afternoon plenary session, the “Arts Marketing Collab-lab”, a panel discussion on talking about the value of art, and closing remarks. And I made a stop at the We Should Know Each Other lounge at the Legion. Which was awesome cause I have never been to the legion before.

One of the things that I got out of it was that it was a way for CADA to ask us what we need them to do that’s not.give us more money, and based on the roundtable in the morning and the Arts Marketing Collab-Lab. I think those things could be very helpful, because CADA, I think, could help arts orgs in the city work together much more effectively. They have our contact information and the “in” to get us to help each other that I think cold calls between us – or germinating conversations. AND Just recently I did get an email from CADA setting up an Arts Marketing Network meeting – so if you’re in arts marketing, make sure you come. There’s also an Artist Netowork meeting which I hope I can make it too.

I think things like this are potentially great for building community, and possibly bypassing any cliqueyness in the various communities, but it’s really important that we as a community give it a fair shake.

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.



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!

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!

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.