Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Bits: The Evolution of the Wychwood Streetcar Barns


The Wychwood Streetcar Barns

Interior of Barns after conversion. Image courtesy of Artscape.

There is often an esthetic conundrum in seeing the building in midst of talks for its restoration. While essential to community growth and diversity, not to mention a city’s heritage, the interiors of derelict buildings can be the most inspiring portions of our city.

Such was the case with the Wychwood Ave, now the under the title of Artscape in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their development, conversion and subsequent unveiling this past fall was exciting enough. Witnessing a compelling portion of Toronto history restored instead of yielding to the wrecking ball was a huge triumph for its supporters and the surrounding community.

Exterior of Barns after conversion. Image courtesy of Artscape.
The fate of these barns, used for repair and storage of TTC streetcars for the better part of the 20th century, was precarious at best. The four buildings, constructed between 1913 and 1921 looked curious from the outside, resembling rural Ontario more than they did any urban centre. The concrete floors boasted odd corridors that ran underneath floor level to facilitate streetcar maintenance, lit naturally by skylights spanning the entire length of each structure. While these details were all an urban explorer’s delight, it was a stagnant venue otherwise.

Come the mid-90s, the Toronto Transit Commission, who held the property under a long-standing loan from the city, were developing alternate plans for these 20th century relics. Allegedly prompted by legal issues surrounding a streetcar crash in 1995, the TTC was looking to sell the property that they deemed to be in surplus of their operations.

Moving swiftly, a request for a demolition permit was submitted in the summer of 1996.
In March of 1998, however, the City Council voted to deem the site as part of the Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties. Come summer, the decades-old loan was recalled and the title of the property was transferred back to the City of Toronto.

Artscape became more officially involved in community meetings in early 2000. Director and CEO Tim Jones recalls one blizzard-like evening in which Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc chaired a meeting held in a church basement.

Batman Graffiti - Interior of Barn Space pre-construction - Carolyn Tripp 2003
“We arrived early and set up about fifty chairs and I thought to myself, ‘nobody’s going to come in this weather.’ Maybe we should have scheduled it another time.”  The meeting’s attendees soon filled the room, and it became evident it was going to be difficult for everyone to be heard. “There was lots of passion, lots of finger-pointing, and a lot of opinions flying around that night,” Jones recalls.

It was apparent at that point that whatever the fate of the barns, the community cared deeply about their history and development. The Artscape organization, who have a history of restoration and development in Toronto, was eventually nominated to conduct a feasibility study in favor of an arts-based multi-use development for the site. In June of 2001, a city council motion was passed to officially partner them with the City of Toronto to begin planning a vision that included community input as well as structural assessments to see where the barns stood in terms of actual repair – another point of dispute over those who preferred to see them torn down.

According to Jones, the Wychwood Barns initiative was curiously the first project in which they had encountered NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) in regards to the development of the site. “The opposition was definitely in the minority. A lot of curious rumours were spread, but opposing viewpoints should always be taken into account. As an organization, Artscape had no vision for the site, only the mandate to develop it based on community input.”

In response, various community members galvanized the need for public awareness into the group A New Park. The year 2002 saw the Artscape/City of Toronto feasibility study completed. The barns were deemed salvageable, and there was an open call for anyone interested in developing the site to make proposals to the city. A New Park’s prerogative at that point was public outreach. “One of the first things we felt we needed to do was to make sure that the larger community around the Barns knew what was going on and what a treasure this building was,” emphasizes Vid Ingelevics, a founding member of A New Park, as well as an artist, professor, and city resident, “…(we felt) the barns being a centerpiece of the new development within a new park had enormous social value.”

Fundraising and events began in earnest, including public tours and an photography exhibition, Industrial Strength, which saw Sheridan, York University, OCAD, and Ryerson students called upon to photograph the space. A then student at Sheridan College, I was intrigued by the proposal and made the trip downtown that summer to receive what was to be my introduction to Torontonian history and urban renewal.

View from under the floor - Carolyn Tripp 2003
There was a large group of us set to photograph and spend time in the still derelict barns. We were even requested at one point to hop through a broken bit of fence on Christie Street so the few opposing residents on Wychwood Avenue wouldn’t be able to see us enter the buildings. The ceilings dripped and large plants had been making their way through the concrete foundations. This project also presented the opportunity for the final group of us to exhibit our photographs along St. Clair the following autumn.

Ingelevics and the New Park Committee members were entirely satisfied with the community’s response “(The exhibition) galvanized a lot of support for the project… As people became increasingly aware of how much had already been lost and what an opportunity the barns offered us tide began to turn towards saving them.”

After design charettes and countless proposals were made to the city, the task of developing the Wychwood Barns went to Artscape in late 2003. This has resulted in a vibrant space that supports local initiatives. Ingelevics remembers the opening day being incredibly poignant for all of those involved, “The first day of the Saturday morning farmers market in the barns in November 22, 2008, was really something special. The Barns were packed with people from all of the surrounding neighbourhoods… Shopping, talking with one another. It was just as we imagined it years ago.”

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Article originally written in 2009.

#OccupySesameStreet Favourite


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nuit Blanche at Xpace Cultural Centre - TONIGHT

My installation in the front, K-Town Karaoke in the main space.


Untitled 8bit installation at Xpace Cultural Centre, Ossington Ave, Toronto.







Monday, September 12, 2011

Viva Voce at the Blackwood Gallery opens this Wednesday

Exhibition brochure for Viva Voce.



Viva Voce at the Blackwood Gallery, including work from ASM Kobayashi, Denise Thomasos, Jessica Valentin, and other Art & Art History Alumni. See a preview of the work here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

RIP Jack Layton

Hallowe'en costume, 2008. Photo refurbished in honour of Jack Layton,
former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada whose lengthy
battle with cancer came to an end August 22nd, 2011.
 



Sunday, July 31, 2011

KOTV extended cut with Snuff Crew remix of "Still On About Keith Cole"




Here's an extended cut of the footage we shot with KOTV last month. Feat. Snuff Crew's mix of "Still On About Keith Cole".

Monday, July 11, 2011

To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? Review in Magenta Magazine

Just reviewed the most recent group show at the Power Plant Gallery in Toronto, To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? featuring artists Andrea Carlson, Annie MacDonell, Erin Sheriff, Jennifer Rose Sciarrino, and Kevin Schmidt.

"Powerful, desolate, and largely uninhabited, a lot of the landscape remains a question mark to the majority of Canadians and Americans, except in art, photography and film. In images portraying the more remote areas of our Continent, we’re typically subjected to either painting that had its day during the turn of the last century, or shocked by the magnitude of our impact on the environment north of the 60th parallel as seen on Planet Earth or The Nature of Things.


The five artists in the show To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong - three Canadians and two Americans - take the North American landscape and use it to develop vastly different conceptual pieces. Kevin Schmidt’s ongoing landscape-based video and photography work takes us to a tree trunk painted to look weak, as though it had been hollowed out to serve as a view-finder for the landscape beyond..."
Read the full review here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vazaleen Teaser Filmed with KOTV!



To donate to the charity: Queer and Trans People Living With Cancer started in Will's name - Go to the www.the519.org website and scroll down to the link at the bottom of the page. Indicate in the message portion that the donation is for Will's fund.





Street Furniture: Attack of the Charette

Originally published on EyeWeekly.com
Street Furniture: Attack of the Charette

Analyzing the aesthetic rationale at the street-furniture exhibition in Toronto City Hall yesterday was trying at best. This was especially true when I took a Mayor Miller quote into account that these new street furniture structures were meant to, “improve… elevate and celebrate Toronto’s urban beauty.”

For Jonathan Goldsbie of the Toronto Public Space Committee, Miller’s statement falls terrible short of the bike post: “For the most part, [all of the designs here] simply have no interest in the viewing pleasure for the public.”

This design charette included proposals from Astral Media, Clear Channel and CBS, but only one company will be given the contract to build. Although the victim of our design conclusions is often the dreaded advertisement, Neal Panchuk of the Zeidler Design Team for Clear Channel pointed out, “How else are you going to pay for them?”

Good point, but that simply points to a lack of municipal funding, which is really at the heart of the city’s need to contract externally in the first place. Panchuk, a resident of the city, aptly defended his team’s design pointing out various niceties that he, as a resident, would like to see on our streets.

“Public bathrooms in parks, proper poster boards, more flower planters… All of these things are good for a city to maintain, and that’s what we’re hoping will happen with our Clear Channel proposal.”

And what of other details the public might benefit from, say, above street level? Designing street lamps to reduce light pollution always seems like an overlooked idea, and they currently aren’t on any company’s agenda. Only one mock-up (Astral) includes thin, sleek lamps that look as though they were an afterthought.


Image courtesy of the Torontoist.com
This is perhaps less of a concern as opposed to bus stops and on-street advertising, but last time I checked, lamps were still integral to any city space. And yes, they count as furniture.

When I mentioned their inclusion in the Astral models, Panchuk explained, “We haven’t put them in there because it wasn’t part of the [city’s] initial request. Besides, there’s only so much you can design before the quality becomes compromised.”

At what point does that quality become compromised? Apparently, it’s when at which the design team is awarded the contract and city starts making their real demands.

“This is only a fraction of the many things we could do with streets and sidewalks,” explained Panchuk. There are apparently many things on the table post-win that the public won’t get or comment upon until the designs actually hit our streets.

This charette is simply meant to give examples of a much larger beast, and smaller details like lamps and bicycle posts are left biting the dust, one might conclude, because they’re just too small to slap ads anywhere on their surfaces. And while I’d like to retain some optimism for more fresh ideas come construction time, my doubts still remain.



Sol Lewitt 1928 - 2007

Image courtesy of MOMA.
Originally posted at EyeWeekly.com
Art: Sol LeWitt 1928-2007
Carolyn Tripp
2007

The American-born artist Sol LeWitt, 78, died due to cancer-related complications on April 8.

One of the true pioneers of The Geometric, LeWitt enjoyed an impressive career that was born out of 1960s Minimalism and spanned the next four decades. His transitions from one medium to the next were seamless, including his endeavors in sculpture, photography, and his much-lauded painting installations.
Out of his work in the Toronto area, one such piece that falls into the painted category is LeWitt’s project at Pearson International Airport. The work entitled, “Wall Drawing #1100, Concentric Band” has lines shaped into a pattern bend into the shape of an airport skylight, poised above one of the incoming gates.
Much of his work was just as site-specific, including his more recent showings at the Art Gallery of Ontario, who exhibited his work at Swing Space and in the Shape of Colour exhibition.
Considering LeWitt’s considerable stature, it’s curious to consider that the artist also remained press-shy. Curator David Moos of the AGO agrees: “He never did public lectures, and was never a rabid self-promoter.”
Rather, Moos — who worked with the artist on a number of occasions — insists that the work is of such a caliber that there was little need for excess promotion.
Moos explains that this is also part and parcel of LeWitt’s strong artistic philosophy. “So many artists have to be out there, selling their work, networking, being generally social, but [LeWitt] never operated that way.
“1960s Minimalism was a launch-pad from which LeWitt developed his work, but he was also one of the most popular artists who effectively removed his work from his own personality and persona. As much as his work is about process, so too we see the work being absent from the artist’s own personality.” Logically, declining interviews and distinctly lacking public eccentricities would be part of that equation.
Logic and rhythm were also essential components of LeWitt’s work, as Moos explains. “He was very rational in his approach to every piece, especially as it related to his work at both the AGO and Pearson Airport.
“Equally intriguing were his ideas of free-association, however, as he also created work in processes that involved several professionals after an idea had been conceived,” says Moos about the manner in which LeWitt’s wall paintings were applied, and at the AGO’s Swing Space in particular.
“Pieces were often for a team of artists to complete, many of whom had worked with LeWitt before…. making his ideas that much more radical,” Moos adds. “When he began these sorts of endeavors in the ’60s, the idea of a painter was still applying oil, with a brush, on a piece of canvas.”
And in many instances, it still is. But as compelling as the Swing Space work is both as a process and a finished piece, it too is temporary. The installation will remain only until the current gallery/building renovations are complete.
This is where one can find the context in which LeWitt’s work remains truly timeless: it may be conceived again, without the artist present, in a different space, should an institution acquire the rights to do so. The artist specifications survive, and so too do the individuals that worked with him so closely to ensure their execution. So conceivably, LeWitt works can continue to be installed according to his specifications for years to come. And while art history always mourns the loss of a giant, this last, subtle gesture wins as the most profound.

Knock Knock, 2007

Knock Knock
12 Burnfield
Curated by Silke Schnellhardt
feat. artists Jon Sasaki, Seth Scriver, Ken McKerrow, and Jeremy Bailey


Originally published at EyeWeekly.com

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Titled after the set of most annoying jokes the history of time, the weekend art expose Knock Knock employed humour in ways that more than redeemed itself from its all-to-familiar title. 

Including performances by Jon Sasaki and Jeremy Bailey, this show took place as a weekend exhibition at 12 Burnfield in the home of curator Silke Schnellhardt.  The show’s motivations succeeded on many a level including work that engaged the audience outside of a rudimentary gallery space.

The employment of clich├ęs can often be excused if one has the insight to hire them to explore new territory.  This was certainly the case in the work exhibited by artists Jon Sasaki, Seth Scriver, Ken McKerrow, and Jeremy Bailey.

The evening started off on dizzying note as Sasaki’s performance took place in the back yard.  While the audience viewed, “Safety Last” a film in which a man bravely climbs a twelve-storey building, Sasaki resolved to climb up one storey of the house in twelve “death defying” rounds.  The final (and twelfth) entrance into the second floor window included a polished somersault into the bedroom above.  Sasaki’s work was also featured in the kitchen.  In a poorly paced voice, the computer recited a collection of Meta and Anti Jokes, designed to extract maximum wincing from the audience.

A performance by Jeremy Bailey, unknown to many at the time, was simultaneously taking place and intensified as the opening continued.  “It was very difficult for me to keep a straight face during his performance” remarked Schnellhardt of Bailey’s “drunk” behavior, “but that only made it more enjoyable, knowing that people honestly didn’t know what to make of it at first.”  Bailey’s performance continued in his maudlin makeup and striped art-uniform shirt for quite some time, falling into both people and the garden furniture.  Schnellhardt was clearly pleased with the social awkwardness the situation brought forth, something that is always difficult to pull of convincingly in a jury of your peers.

Inside the abode, the viewers had to get down on the floor to watch Seth Scriver’s animated rat in action, dutifully playing a guitar and staking his claim in the wall space.

More works by Sasaki, Bailey, and McKerrow, could also be found inside, including an odd audio piece by the latter that spoke to you while you were on the toilet. 

The use of humor in art, Schnellhardt writes, is often ignored in much contemporary discourse and academic writing, and has historically been dismissed by popular intellectuals.  Hopefully though, with more shows of this nature, humour and humorous artwork can be considered just as valuable a process in revealing a meaningful gesture.  It also succeeds in setting itself apart from the sterile notion that ideas should be dismissed in our visual vocabulary simply because they seem so immediately appealing.

Knock Knock took place May 25-27 at 12 Burnfield.



Monday, July 4, 2011

Jeff Adams, 2007

Jeff Adams
Originally published in Eye Weekly.com, City, 2007

            “You wouldn’t apply the same sentence to J-walking and, say, murder,” says Jeff Adams in relation to the suspension handed him by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), “But in a way, that’s what it feels like.  The sentence handed down to me was far too severe.”

            The suspension in question was the result of a test stating that there was a presence of metabolites in his sample.  However, the drug in question, cocaine, was only present in the catheter, marking the first time in Canada that an athlete has been suspended from play when the drug has not actually been present in his system at the time of the test.

            When asked if he thought the CCES was trying to make an example out of him, he simply shook his head, “I really don’t know, but they’ve certainly put me through an extremely difficult time.  Thinking past myself, I hope I can be an effective example for other athletes.”  However, that doesn’t make his present situation easier, or even more believable.

            “I know the story of the actual contamination is strange,” he confessed, “but that’s what actually happened.  I could make another story up, something more (superficially) plausible, but I’m sticking to this one. It’s the absolute truth.” 

            The story in question that Adams maintains was the reason for the catheter happened last year at the now-closed Vatikan bar, the current spot of Vogue nightclub. Adams contends that during the night he was speaking to several people and enjoying an evening out with friends.  Like any club, it was dark, but he spoke to various people throughout the evening, including a girl who insisted on sitting down with him to talk.

            “Now, I knew this girl was using (coke), but she actually seemed sweet.  People tend to want to talk to me when I’m in a wheelchair anyway…” Like a sort of forced empathy? I suggested. “Exactly! And it’s fine to a certain point, but with this woman in particular, the conversation was getting a bit much.”

            After trying to back out of the situation gracefully, citing that he was tired and wanted to end the conversation, she got offended.  “And then I had to back-peddle and apologize.  I thought I had offended her.”  The woman’s solution was to force cocaine into his mouth to help him wake up, so to speak.

            “And as bizarre as that sounds,” Adams explains, “that’s exactly what happened.  I guess in this woman’s mind, she thought she was somehow helping me wake up.  I don’t think she really understood what she was doing.”


            The CCES later questioned him as to why he didn’t call the police when he found out what the substance was, “I don’t know her, and I haven’t seen her since the incident. And besides, why would I want to create more trouble for somebody I don’t know? It’s my issue now, and I’m just trying to deal with the outcome as best I can.”

            When he gave a urine sample for the CCES, the trouble began.

            “First test A comes back, and then you get your funding taken away,” Adams continued, “and that’s actually based on inconclusive evidence.  It’s not like a regular judicial system.  As soon as the first test (of two) is submitted, you’re already assumed guilty.”

            In terms of the validity of the second test, Adams verifies that there was dispute over a “mathematical problem” cited by the CCES.  They made what Adams cites only as a “mathematical error,” (also a term used by the Centre) on the second test.  It was then resubmitted to their labs for reanalysis, and only then were the results found to have a positive presence of metabolites.

            It’s just one of many inconsistencies in the CCES statements and findings over the past couple of weeks.  “If the first test was initially an error than what else have we yet to find out?” Adams concludes, “The entire process is done internally, within the organization.”

            This includes no outside arbitration, testing, or support.  And in fact, after test A was concluded, Adams said he was given a strange document entitled, “I Tested Positive?” which advises athletes that find themselves in the same circumstance to go to the CCES immediately and tell them what happened.  Absent is the advice to lawyer-up, which Adams did only after presenting his story to the CCES.

            He found out later that the author of the document, David Letch, is also an arbitrator for the CCES.  In short, there is no chance for external intervention or perspective.  They test, they advise, they prosecute, and they sentence.  They have the power to do all of these things if an athlete is found to have a positive sample.

            Adams cites dismay at their treatment of athletes in general.  Even athletes who have problems aren’t treated with respect.  “Nobody is given counseling, there’s no mechanism in place that would actually provide anybody with support.  It’s just kicking them to the curb when they should be helped.”

            Adams is remaining positive, however, citing that he hopes that he can be an example of how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should play into the Ethics in Sport code.

            “Currently, they do not recognize the Charter.  If they did, the major difference would have been me not being suspended until the test results were conclusive.” Adams also believes that there would be room for more third party intervention. “The Government of Canada needs to have an active roll.  They fund the CCES, but they don’t make it hold up basic rights?”

            “But if I can help bring those rights to the table,” he adds, “that will be more important than anything I’ve ever done on the track.  This is about athletes taking either a two-year hit, or a reprimand.  There’s no in-between. The rules have to be changed.”


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Since this article was published, Adams launched an appeal of his two year suspension. The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland found that he could not be held responsible for what was deemed an assault on the night in question. Find out more about Adams' struggle and career here.

Images from cbc.ca.

Doors Open, 2007

Grandeur, Grace, and Repairs

Although the Jack Layton endorsed fundraiser for St. Stephens-in-the-Fields certainly helped, this parish has a long way to go before it can truly declare itself out of harms way. Condo development’s harms way, that is. Their on-going community initiatives, however, are still going strong, including their seasonal out-of-the-cold initiative and their community breakfasts that take place every weekend.  The room in which the breakfasts are held (the west wing) also happens to be the oldest part of the building that survived the fire of 1865. All other portions were added in the proceeding decades.

Light fractured by the intricate stained glass windows on the parish’s east side falls on their most impressive feature: the Ryder Pipe Organ. This piece has a compelling history on its own, having been acquired from another Toronto church and installed to its current placement in 1906.  If you want to hear it in action, you’ll have to drop by as organ masters Ross Trant and Robbie Beaumont will be having a go at it during Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Garth Hudson wanted to have a go at it…” laughs the parish’s Sexton Jim Sutherland, “but as an instrument, it’s terribly unreliable.  Beautiful, but unreliable.”  Sutherland also mentioned that Daniel Langlois was involved in attempting to use the chapel for its acoustic niceties, but that plan too fell through when it was realized the organ couldn’t be played on a constant basis. “It’s worth the wait though,” Sutherland adds, “It’s a very impressive instrument.”

With any luck, enough interest will be generated in the space to prevent St. Stephen’s from having to sell.  Maintenance is obviously key, and one can only hope that it won’t fall victim to what appears to be this municipality’s trend of neglect-and -demolition.

Bonus Trivia: Any wonder why it’s called “In the Fields”?  When it was built, it was situated in a, well, a field.  The church was at the end of a path that led to University Avenue.  Yep, it was a country church. Yee-haw.

Also in Need of a Tune-Up:

The Church of the Redeemer celebrates 119 years of gracing the corner of Bloor and Avenue Rd with its elegant, stone structure.  It too has a pipe-organ and the impressive stained glass, but something I always found peculiar about this building was the pulpit.  It features a sculpted wooden panel, commonly refered to as a “reflector” or “canopy” that forms a kind-of halo behind the orator’s head, gently bends towards the congregation before him, much like the curve of a speaker.  This is old-fashioned acoustics at work, and while the church now has an electrified sound system, it’s a treat to see an instrument such as this still on display.

This church remains unique also in its choice as a venue for many a musician.  The likes of Bjork, Emily Haines, and the Great Lake Swimmers have all used it as a place to hold rock and roll court.

Sadly, this church is in need of a few repairs as well, and has also started an initiative to raise awareness about its structure and plans for its future.

Grace is the Word 

Don’t forget to check out the Hare Krishna Temple, north on Avenue if you’re still in the neighbourhood. Other venues of interest include St. Michael’s Cathedral on Bond, St. Paul’s Basilica on Power, or going north up to Sheppard to visit Toronto’s “greenest” church, St Gabriel’s Passionist Parish.

Where do we go when we die, Mommy? 

Well dear, wherever you go, do it in style.  The Toronto Necropolis, Chapel and Crematorium is part of Toronto’s finest in the business of that particular inevitability.  The leaves are out, so take a pleasant stroll through their grounds which dip into Rosedale Valley, part of the beauty of the west bank of the Don River.  The gorgeous chapel (on a hill!) at the ground’s entrance boasts a High Victorian Gothic design with the Crematorium below.

Also: Visit the Distillery District tunnels at Building 35. The stores up top may seem a bit frou-frou, but don’t let that deceive you. These underground curiosities are open exclusively for Doors Open, so get going.

“And the award for the best-place-where-you’ll-get-slapped-with-a-hefty-fine-if-you-visit-on-any-other-day goes to…”

For all those transit lovers, here’s your chance to have a look at the long-abandoned Lower Bay Station, located, you guessed it, just below one closer to ground level. For those of you who took the Bloor line when the TTC was in repairing mode earlier this year, you might remember that some of the trains ran through, but didn’t stop at this station. I was in transit bliss to be able to see the station, even from the train’s windows. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what transit looked like before the TTC started selling their wall space, but here’s your chance. Not an ad in sight. And if you want to see where all those cars are repaired, take a jaunt up Bathurst to the TTC Harvey Shops. This one-story piece of masonry glory will perhaps assist your appreciation of public transit complexities.

And speaking of horses…

Make sure you stop in to one of Toronto’s finest small presses, Coach House Books, located behind the street-front properties on Huron. It hasn’t been used as an actual coach house since the 1940s, but it’s still a great place to visit if you want to see where the draft dodgers slept, or where Michael Ondaatje drops in when he has a minute to catch up with the long-time, devoted staff.

If buildings aren’t really your thing, get yourself down to Queen’s Quay and take a walk along the docks.  There’ll you’ll find the last of the Queen’s fleet, the Empire Sandy.  Built in England and used in the Second World War, this ship has served in the North Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean.  It’s also the cause of some understandable envy within the Spadina Quay docks.  It won’t be in action for Doors Open, but once it sets sail, it’s impressive to watch, and entirely worth an extra visit to the docks to see it happen.

On land, but also boat-related is the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse, located past the west end of Queen’s Quay on Fleet Street.  Along with St. Stephen’s, this too can boast an age older than our country’s constitution.  Built in 1861, this joins the proud but few remnants of the Toronto that saw Tom Thumb impress astonished crowds and witnessed Jenny Lind perform to packed audiences.

Make sure you check out the St. Lawrence Hall on King Street. Now a venue for music video and television shoots, this building was not exclusive to the beautiful voices and the little people. It also housed meetings of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

June Callwood vs Belinda Stranach, 2007

Originally an Eye Weekly editorial, 2007.

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That's Enough, Belinda.

As we see the cheap tactics of Stronach hog the spotlight in what we hope is her political curtain call, we can’t help but consider other women that are more worthy; both of our attention and of the feminist moniker.   This week, we’re in need of a better example, and preferably one without the advantage of the silver spoon.

Enter: The Honourable June Callwood (1924-2007)

As she stated this past March in one her last public appearances at the Jane Mallet Theatre, “If you see an injustice being committed, you aren't an observer, you’re a participant… you can’t pretend that you aren’t a part of what’s happening in front of you.” 

This statement referred primarily to social injustice against which she fought over her decades-long career.  However, for the sake of comparison, let us adopt a wider interpretation and refer it to Callwood’s own initiative to become a respected public figure.  This initiative included leaving her modest beginnings in small-town Ontario to become a reporter for the Globe and Mail at the age of eighteen, all of this in spite of never having received a formal education.

The pressures and tribulations of any professional woman indeed are noteworthy.  When you model your career as being a feminist and a champion for the less fortunate, name-calling and accusations are also part of the equation.  It didn’t make Callwood’s efforts any less complicated, but her treatment, however unfair it may have been, was never a road-show, and never an excuse for complaints.

Callwood’s career wasn’t just another model of success and charity, but the very figure in modern Canadian history against which all examples can arguably be set.  Called everything from a “racist” to a “nuisance” she handled it with grace and professionalism, from which anyone can learn.  Contemporary political figures, of course, are no exception.  So we say: respect well deserved.  (Exit Stronach.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kristen Roos: Brand New Ghosts

Article catchup! 

From time to time, I'll post articles here that have previously existed in print. This essay is from the Newfoundland Sound Symposium's  exhibtion catalogue in conjunction with Kristen Roos' work The Micro Radio Project.

Kristen Roos: Brand New Ghosts

The basic human need to feel sound as opposed to be treated to a passive, treble-inflicted listen can be observed most often at the afternoon rush hour. Regardless of the tune, the almost unbearable levels of bass and vibration leave the passengers of these tiny mobile discos lost amidst a common yet indispensable catharsis.

Sound Artist Kristen Roos manages a more ambient and sophisticated approach to bringing this kind of visceral sound to the masses. Through public installations like 2007’s Nuit Blanche project, Roos presented this primal urge to turn our equalizer presets up to ten with added subterranean intrigue.

One warm autumn evening saw thousands rushing down several flights of stairs underground to the Lower Bay “Ghost” Station of the Toronto subway system. At the bottom, they found a dimly lit stretch of the abandoned line with a string of subterranean cars parked on either side. Equipped with internal subwoofers, they became grand alloy whales washed up on the tracks, booming and vibrating from within to an unsettling degree.

Already made familiar by our own stories of hauntings, the abandoned venue had a healthy injection of new life and meaning to its history. Amidst the rattle of the tactile transducers vibrating nuts and bolts to simulate construction noise, there was no discernable melody, just the impression of pattern and repetition with supernatural components. That is to say, the piece not only referenced the evocation of the supernatural by way of Zimbabwean tribal rhythms, an on-going inspiration in Roos’ work, but very much seemed haunted in and of itself. A brand new haunting, as it were.

One doesn’t so much observe Roos’ work as encounter it. These audio experimentations go beyond intriguing into the realm of necessity. Effectively, the specificity of the installation quickly sidesteps “art observed” to deftly become “art universal”.


For my Spacing review of Kristen Roos' Nuit Blanche project in the Lower Bay subway station in Toronto, click here