suitcasetour

Name:
Location: Canada

Beginning February 26th, 2005, the McCleave Gallery will commence a cross-Canada tour encompassing the work of many different artists across the country. The project will deal with the theme of Trade and Exchange, and will function as an art relay in which Michael and Adair will travel from east to west, collecting and displaying suitcases along the way. At the end of the tour, there will be a show at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City from September to October 2005, that will display all of the suitcases accumulated during the trip concurrently.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

view of dawson from the moosehide slide


hike to moosehide


hike to moosehide
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
michael, daddy, and this woman named sydney who was staying at daddy and blair's b&b. the rockslides were somewhat scary

tay, margie's awesome dog


adair with valerie's suitcase


suitcases at the kiak art camp

hannah, val, and the kids

final suitcase unloading


End of the Road

Dawson City is a place of deprivation and excess. In a town whose continued frontier status is both imaginary and real, the deprivation often comes in relation to basic services, such as internet access (down city-wide at least three times since we’ve been here) and the excess often comes in relation to alcohol. The stench of old booze and cigarette smoke pervades the town and many of its inhabitants. I got a job at the first place I applied, a hotel called the Bunkhouse, less than 24 hours after arrival. Labour practices here seem so casual/sketchy that when I was 10 minutes late on my third day of work, my boss was really happy that I showed up at all.

Since I’m leaving to go back to Toronto in a week, it’s a little late for first impressions, so I’ll just outline some highlights and lowlights.

The Klondike Institute for Art and Culture, where our show will be in September, is fantastic, and it makes me really proud to have the project displayed there. Mike Yuhasz, the director of the ODD Gallery at KIAK, is incredibly kind and supportive.

We live in an awesome beige trailor with broken windows, where I currently sit, eating cornchips and listening to Reg sing “The Boyfriend Song” (god, Toronto seems so far away). The trailor is staff accommodation for Michael’s job at the Riverwest café (which pays almost twice as much as he was making in Halifx for the same job) and costs us $250 a month. It is totally deluxe compared to the crappy hostel campground where we were staying before. We live in a lovely little neighbourhood, across from a hotel where we use the payphone, and near Hannah Jickling, Michael’s long-lost twin sister. Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny. We have a really nice roommate called Erin, who has a shaved head, it reminds me of my shaved head days.

Daddy and his friend Blair came and visited the first weekend we were here. We went hiking to Moosehide, a nearby village where First Nations people were resettled after being displaced when the goldseekers entered Dawson. There was a beautiful grave yard there, with these graves called “spirit houses,” which consist of a picket fence around the area where the body lies, and sometimes actually a little house. It seemed inappropriate to take pictures. Afterwards, we went out for dinner at this place called Klondike Kates, where we had morel mushrooms. The mushroom picking industry seems incredibly lucrative, as you can make over a grand a day if you find a good patch, and also totally sketchy, cause it’s all under the table. We met this really sweet guy called Shane, who was staying with Hannah, who would go out picking and just come back totally black, covered in soot from working in the burns all day. Margie, Katherine’s roommate, spent about a week in a mushroom picking camp, where she said that wolves hounded the camp at night, and people carried guns. This is the sort of place where stuff like that happens.

I am ridiculously homesick, craving city concrete and smog. I’m flying back next Tuesday, which I am really looking forward to, but also dreading, because of the upcoming five-month separation from Michael. But ultimately, I know that it will be OK, we are both going to have such important and interesting experiences in the upcoming months. I kinda think of the perma-long-distance-relationship as a generational reality, one which totally sucks in some ways, but which is also positive in that it really reflects our lives and times, and the kinds of choices that are right for us.

I was incredibly hung over this morning, for the first time since New Year’s Day. The morning was horrible, as I woke up just in time to throw up and force myself to eat a muffin on the way to work, which started at 9, leaving Michael curled asleep in bed. Last night we had a goodbye potluck for Shane, which escalated into a full night of rollicking festivities. Following my sometimes horrible tendency to layer pot on top of several types of alcohol, I basically couldn’t stand by midnight, and stayed home to read A Passage to India when Michael and everyone else left to continue drinking at the bar. This desire to really push myself over the edge is something I have noticed in the past year, it’s almost like I want to get sick at times. This had previously really confused me, because for a lot of people that desire is about the need for release, to be uninhibited, but I’m not a very inhibited person in my life in general, I tend to do, say, feel and think what I want. Just before I passed out last night, I had a sort of revelation, the truth of which came back to me when I was mopping floors and feeling incredibly nautious this morning: I think that I do this because I want to enter the dream world. That’s a huge theme that runs throughout my life, is the desire to be elevated to that world of fluidity and transformation, an often frightening surreal place of endless possibility. I think that this is a fundamentally spiritual desire that I have been neglecting for a long time, and it’s something that I know will play a much bigger role in my life in the years to come. For now, this realization has totally eliminated my desire to get intoxicated, and it’s confirmed my thoughts about how significant this project has been in terms of personal transformation. I believe that for Michael, it has really changed his relationship with the tangible world, giving him a sense of empowerment in terms of shaping his own life that wasn’t there before. We were talking the other night about the types of events that define people’s lives, and how that changes so much as history rolls on: this totally idiosyncratic project has been a major turning point for us, just as significant as events like a wedding or a graduation, which society considers to be important markers of the process of living. On that emotionally satisfying note, I’ll sign off. I hope to meet you all back in virtual space for the 2006 tour, for which we are already preparing.

Love,

Adair.

Ministry show opening


Ministry show opening
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

nice ass hole (was later changed to "nice ass ho")

this was a fantastic public art intervention done by local someone on our window lettering

Adair putting up letters on the Ministry window


the ministry yard


the ministry yard
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Victoria and the Ministry

As we took the ferry from the mainland to Vancouver Island we couldn’t help but notice that things on the island definitely had a different pace to them. I little slower, more relaxed, kind of similar to the Maritimes in some ways, more outgoing and outspoken personalities. It was refreshing to be able to talk to any passer by on the street without getting treated like I was a total lunatic or something.

The Ministry of Casual Living was a fantastic venue to hold a group suitcase show and was probably the most artist-run an artist-run centre could be. The space consisted of a small room with a wall that could be easily moved with the exhibition side facing towards the front window, the Casual Living side facing the back, where the Minister (who was Issaac at the time) kept all of his clothes, his alarm clock, and a fold out bed to use at night when the space would transform from an exhibition space to a living space. Perhaps it could be used as both simultaneously, this was all fairly negotiable according to the situation, which actually was as casual as it could be for such a venue.

The opening was fantastic. They had a beautiful backyard that we used to put out the beer and refreshments etc. The front was crowded with people which gave good use to the window space that was essentially the best way to see the whole set up from the outside. This made good use later to viewers who could pass by the window and see the exhibition after hours from street level. It also gave few creative folks the opportunity to play with our vinyl lettering that we had carefully set up on the front window. Adair and I found it so appealing that we decided to leave the new rendition of our title up. There’s sometimes when it is more fun to play with how the public directly responds to your work. I found that this was an excellent opportunity to directly play games with our audience instead of blaming or trying to stop what they were doing or where they were trying to go with the work. It is letting go of that control that is something that I can see as an exciting and engaging way for a curator to connect with an audience. We were told a story of a previous minister of casual living who got married using the same front window, with the bride, groom, and judge inside the gallery, and the families and friends seated outside, viewing the ceremony through the window and listening through a set of outdoor speakers.

We were once again very lucky to know some very generous people in Victoria to stay with. Between staying in Kelly Jazvac’s living room, and in a tent on my dear friend Ali Donnelly’s living room floor (to accommodate for Adair’s cat allergies), we did pretty well for ourselves, managing to save just enough money to get a few minor repairs done to the van, get a ferry ticket and plenty of gas to get us through the final leg of the journey to Dawson City.

Talk to you all soon somewhere in the cyber-north.
xoxo,

michael.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tsawassen ferry from Vancouver to Victoria


Twawassen ferry view
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Femke's suitcase


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Brittania from the outside


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Brittania again


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
For a while, that little girl on the right had this sweet deal going on where she'd take a strawberry from the bowl, take a single bite of it, and then put it back. Then her dad noticed.

Another suitcase


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
Femke asked people to bring their own suitcases for the opening, this one was of tapes of top-20 radio in various cities around the world.

The Gallery Project at Britannica Library


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Vertigo members


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

V-town

For some reason I was anticipating that Vancouver would be a really stressful week, but it turned out to be totally awesome. We stayed with Eddie and his family in Langely, which is the edge of the ‘burbs, but the daily drive into town was not nearly as taxing as we had expected. Sometimes I think about Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver as representing different historical periods: Montreal is a city of the past, a place whose high-water mark has come and gone, leaving a beautiful decaying shell, inhabited by an increasingly anglophone population of jaded hipsters. Toronto is in the present, just coming into its own, you get the feeling that the city is thriving and more alive now than it has ever been. Vancouver is the future, a distinctly postmodern cultural mix full of talkative hippies with mainly ugly architecture, and a close relationship with nature. Out of everywhere we’ve been so far, I think I’d like to live here the most.

We arrived in the city on the night of my 22nd birthday, the evening of which was spent watching Six Feet Under with Eddie, which we became totally addicted to during the week. We ended up renting all of season one on DVD, and watching like 3 or 4 episodes a night. Man, HBO really knows how to suck you in. Cause we were so hooked we didn’t end up going out much at night, but that was fine as I am increasingly realizing that going to bar is way less fun since I have developed an unfortunately high tolerance for alcohol. So watching high-quality TV and eating peanut M&Ms seems super alluring.

Femke’s choice of the Brittania library for the opening was fantastic, attracting several people who were just visiting the library, and had never heard of the project. There were lots of kids, including this really cute little girl who took a single bite out of a whole bunch of strawberries, and then put them back on the tray. Lindsey Barton (with whom I went to highschool) unexpectedly showed up at the opening, and we had breakfast with her and Rob Keogh the next morning at this too-cool-for-school brunch restaurant called Hatch near Broadway and Main. Afterwards we went to MEC, where I convinced Michael to spend a bunch of money on really nice clothes.

One of the highlights of the week was visiting the AJHJ program at the Brittania school, and showing the suitcases to a whole bunch of people from around 16 to 18 years old. They paid a lot of attention to Shelley’s dildo collages, which really made me think about how different types of work can serve to broaden an audience base in unexpected ways.

Unfortunately the week was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to see any of Vancouver’s galleries, it’s weird, even though we’re working on an art project all the time, our exposure to the larger contemporary art world is often minimal. But I guess that stuff will always be there, for when we choose to reimmerse ourselves in it. I’m finding that as the trip progresses, I’m feeling increasingly emotionally detached, because we are both always seeing fantastic new things, and having stuff constantly break and go wrong. I think that only once I settle down in one place for a while will I really be able to think about this trip and the impact that it’s had on me. But I guess that once I do get to settle down, it will be in Amsterdam where everything will also be totally new and different, so a period of being somewhere familiar and processing what’s happened is far away in the distant futures.

Love,

Adair.

Gallery Vertigo


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Me looking like a goofy idiot


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Jen's kiss bandaid


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Vernon day (also Adair's 22nd birthday)

In a Halifax’s Venus Envy I once stumbled across a pin that said ‘one day, when we least expect it, an army of grey-haired women will quietly take over the world’. In Vernon we were lucky enough to fall upon what may be the beginnings of such a fantastic endeavor. Located right in the heart of the beautiful Okanogan Valley, Vernon seemed to be a paradise for retirement and summer tourism. It was Adair’s birthday the day that we arrived, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner and a Bed and Breakfast, which was nice for a change to not feel like we were parts to a living-room obstacle course.

Gallery Vertigo was fantastic. Our hosts were extremely warm and welcoming, an attitude that many artist-run centres find it very challenging to maintain. It is a new centre, consisting of a few studios, an exhibition space, and a small office. Visiting these spaces have always seemed very personal to me, like visiting ones home, and have always reflected the personality of those involved. Judith Jurica, the woman who organized the event with us, was also fantastic and hospitable, treating us to pizza and refreshments. It was a surprise to see a gem such as gallery Vertigo exhist in a place that was pretty much surrounded by suburbs and a small downtown area. In a way it gave me this strange, unexpected hope that such wonderful places could exhist and run completely independently despite their surroundings or support from local people or organizations. Being in such a new centre that was still putting everything together was inspiring, and made me appreciate what dedication goes into actually starting up an artist-run centre.

This also made me realize what a narrow audience many artist-run centres have, many consisting of people within a very specific age bracket, or specific alternative lifestyle. It was very refreshing to see something different here, and sort of brought me out of my shell in a way, reminding me that there is much more out there than bubble after bubble of young, hipster art crowds scattered across this vast country of ours.

Much love to you all and stay tuned for more BLOG’s coming soon…

xo,

michael.

Adair bathing sprained ankle in Lake Louise


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Jen assembling her tent


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

More suitcase interaction


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Banff 'Other Gallery' Opening


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Banff

Banff – a country within a country.

With an extra tidbit of isolation, a majestic landscape, and slightly different security and policing codes, it really felt as if we were entering a completely different country as we stopped briefly at the gates of the Banff National Park answering questions like “How long are you staying here?” and “What is your business here?”. Yes, indeed we were now in what seemed like the Switzerland of Canada, fairly neutral in conflict, incredibly expensive, a place where self-motivation and obsession for extreme perfection both occupy and distract us from the less ideal parts of life elsewhere.

Being finally inside the postcard image that has generated so much anticipation and expectation to practically every corner of the world, we soon found ourselves setting up a show at the similarly majestic Banff Centre for the Arts at which we were to set up a group show of all of the suitcases in the Other Gallery (a small space next to the Walter Phillips Gallery). We decided to set up the suitcases differently, in a way that they were closed and lined up together which seemed to emphasize the interactive element a little more, as well as creating a more sculptural look to the suitcases themselves. The timing for the opening was perfect, as a new residency had just begun, bringing a diverse spectrum of artists from all over Canada and abroad to the show. The ready access to the staff and technicians for help with set up kind of took me by surprise, further punctuating the utopian setting that we were in.

We ended up staying at Jen Hutton’s house, which was this fantastic cabin right in Banff on a street called “Muskrat Street”, like all of the streets in Banff, it was strategically named after a wild animal, perhaps to enhance our experience in such a rugged place. It was such a pleasure to see Jen again, in a setting that was strangely campus-like, except perhaps for the over-achiever of an obsessively active and adventurous lifestyle (just replace tweed jackets, fancy calculators, and pocket protectors with stylishly excessive outdoor equipment). Jen’s suitcase was extremely successful in displaying the irony of this hybrid of style and practicality. Her suitcase was highly interactive, asking each viewer to pitch a tiny tent which could be assembled easily with the company of a slickly designed instruction book, a plug in florescent light, a log book, and even some very pretty party ribbon to tie to a nearby branch to mark where you were when the tent was installed.

All in all, I must say though, despite the over the top rustification of GAP, Roots, and Holt Renfrew stores, it was a fantastic time and a stunningly beautiful area. We were fortunate enough to get to Jasper, see the Columbia ice fields, and be in the good company of Jen and many of her wonderful friends from the Banff Centre.

Until next time, lots of love,
xo
Michael.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kelly at her opening


Kelly at her opening
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

More fine art department


Michael and Writing-on-Stone


Janet Cardiff's suitcase again


Lethbridge opening at the Tongue & Groove


More Lethbridge opening


More Lethbridge opening
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Suitcases at opening


Suitcases at opening
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Lethbridge fun

I must say, as an Ontarian, the majority of my provincial stereotypes were directed not towards stupid Newfies or mystic British-Columbians, but against Albertans. You know, they’re big on beef farming, they don’t have gay marriage, Stephen Harper is from there, not exactly my type of place. In light of this, I was REALLY pleasantly surprised by Alberta, where we have encountered thriving art communities, and which has the largest variety of beautiful landscapes of any province I’ve been to. The wonderful people who I’ve meet here say that a lot of these stereotypes are a reality, and that I’ve mostly interacted with the 10% of the population that are different. I guess in a way this is the case everywhere: Mike Harris got elected in Ontario, and George Bush in the States, but communities of intellectuals and artists from those places are often able to insulate ourselves from the reality of dominant politics in the regions where we live, simply by choosing our friends, choosing the right places to work, to hang out, to shop. Ironic that in many of our personal interactions with friends and colleagues, we are sheltered from the very politics that are the object of our social critiques.


Lethbridge has a distinct but undefinable American-suburb feel to it. I think that in part, this might be due to the really wide streets, bordered by large shady trees and fresh-looking houses, and the feeling of wealth that pervades the mostly empty downtown. On the first night that we drove into town, we miraculously found a Japanese restaurant within 10 minutes, where you could sit in these cool traditional-style booths. Kelly’s opening the next night was at a local bar called the Tongue & Groove (apparently this refers to a style of flooring), which has a nice relaxed atmosphere. The opening mostly consisted of a table near the door of the bar, where various people would come and sit for a while.

Our gracious hostess was Mel Miller, who knew Michael from photo classes at Guelph, who lives in a house owned by – get this – Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. To brief anyone who is not familiar with these names, they are basically two of Canada’s most famous contemporary artists, who do pretty fantastic sound and sometimes video installations. By random chance, they just happened to be around for the first two days we were there, getting their stuff ready to be moved somewhere else, and giving us a weird and totally unexpected “brush with fame.” Unbelievable – internationally famous artists also have to deal with mundane things like packing their old stuff up in boxes! It’s not all just fancy openings and glossy publications after all!

Lowlights to the week included seeing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which sucked, and being in a mutually awful mood the day we left, which is probably because it had been a full moon the night before. Seeing Starwars Episode 3 was an ambivalent-light. Highlights included hanging out with Mel and Kelly and their kids and Kelly’s friends Laura-Leigh (sp?) and Paul, going to see the mountains at Waterton, driving to Calgary to get new packs at MEC, and visiting the sandstone formations at Writing-On-Stone. These beautiful forms are sunk below the rest of the surrounding land, and have a very safe and warm feeling to them. There are First Nations drawings in various places on the site, and the one that we saw was called “battle scene.” What was strange about it was that despite the feeling of ancientness in the way that it was “curated” – a big metal cage preventing anyone from getting close enough to graffiti it, an instructional plaque talking about its history – it was done only about 100 or 150 years ago, and all the little stick figures are holding rifles, which omit streams of bullets. The plaque says that it was a battle between two First Nations peoples, the history of which was told by Chief Bird Rattle around the 1930’s, when he came back to visit the site. Being in such a serene, peaceful place, and seeing a giant rock etched with the image of a battle between people being progressively displaced off their lands, using weapons sold or given to them by those at the root of the displacement, was a pretty haunting experience.

Love,

Adair.

Meeting outward bound in Moose Jaw


Outward Bound


Outward Bound
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Prairie highway


Prairie highway
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Brief Moose Jaw stop

On the way from Regina to Lethbridge, we made a short stop in Moose Jaw to show the suitcases to an Outward Bound group, this outdoor alternative school for people in the last couple of years of highschool, which has a big focus on outdoor tripping and leadership stuff. The connection to them was through Scott, Michael’s older brother, who did a teaching experience practicum with them earlier in the year. They had done an art unit before we met them, and had made us these really great acrylic paintings about various aspects of Canadian identity and things they’d seen on their trip, which included a statue of Terry Fox, lots of landscapes, and a giant Tim Horton’s cup silhouetted against the sunset, among others. Hanging out with them really made me think about what I must have been like in highschool, and how that’s a time in our lives when we have a really different mode of social interaction than most people. The group leaders were really nice and enthusiastic, and seemed like they would be pretty good mentors at a time in life when you were figuring out a lot of stuff about who you are, who you want to be, etc. I also find these outdoorsy-type programs and camps in general to be really interesting because they teach outdoor survival skills that will never actually be practical, unless you have the means to get to a wilderness setting, or industrial capitalism collapses (unlikely) and we’re all catapulted back to the stone-age. But I guess that really it’s geared towards building self-esteem, which is obviously important. Anyway we had a great visit for a couple of hours before we took off towards Lethbridge, and they left to try and make it to Winnipeg that night.
xoxox
Adair

OAO opening


OAO opening
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Michael and Rob Bos


Michael and Rob Bos
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Michael in OAO office


Michael in OAO office
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Rob and Tyler in the boardroom


Regina, city of flatness

Rolling into Regina with a cardboard window and a pair of tired eyes from lack of sleep and too much driving was a relief knowing that it was going to be a somewhat permanent and safe location for us. Rob Bos of the OAO kindly greeted us at his lovely house that evening where we stayed for the week in Regina. Perhaps it was contrast to our experience in Winnipeg, but we got a generally good feeling from Regina right away.

Staying with Rob was a great way to quickly get acquainted with the Regina Art community, which seemed quite small, yet very supportive and open to visitors. Artistic Regina consisted of one artist-run Centre, a public gallery, a few museums and larger galleries, a small undergraduate art program and a tiny MFA program at U of Regina, and a small gallery, which Rob owned and ran, called the Art Projects Gallery. The combination of these with what seemed like a fairly supportive Saskatchewan Arts Council, resulted in a surprisingly active art community for a small city of 175,000 people (or so).

Our opening with the OAO was very appropriate, beginning the evening with a presentation and suitcase exchange ceremony by the OAO and the McCleave Gallery at the Regina Public Library Auditorium, followed by a reception at the Office Art Office in the nearby Macro Business building. The choice of these two locations was brilliant for a project that itself seemed to be captured in time, referencing a specific era in office culture. The Public Library auditorium was equipped with high tech electrical curtains, theatre style seating with padded flippy chairs, and a built in sound system. The 1960’s style office building that housed the Office Art Office was perfect, with neighboring offices such as Insurance Agencies, and Child Psychologists, etc., as well as a communal secretary who sat in the front lobby taking messages and pleasantly greeting us as we arrived. All of this was perfect for a city that seemed to be in a very Archies-esque, Riverdale time zone. Many ‘down to the basics’ type places and things, such as ‘unisex’ barber shops, vintage antique shops, and many old up-kept automobiles including a 1970’s Chevy Limo that was parked two doors down from Rob’s house.

Each of the eight OAO officers carried a suitcase with them between the hours of 9am-5pm, wherever they went. This made each suitcase that we had accumulated thus far on the tour available for viewing on a ‘by chance or appointment’ basis, resulting in 9 suitcases being simultaneously shown all around the city.

There was a fair amount of activity going on in Regina at the time. An excellent exhibition of Bill Burns’ Safety Gear for Small Animals, at the Dunlop Gallery, which was excellently located in the Regina Public Library. The night after the opening with the OAO, there was an opening at the Neutral Ground artist-run centre, followed by a music show by Wax Mannequin at the Art Projects Gallery, where Rob had previously given us a tour of his studio the day before. The OAO managed to set us up with a one hour radio interview about our tour at the community radio station with Margaret Bessai for her weekly show in a series called ‘the way we work’ about artistic process. The Neutral Ground also provided us with a workshop with Adam Hyde, who also taught a workshop at the Dutch Institute for the Arts, on streaming media called ‘the streaming suitcase’. This further sparked my interest in the DIA, which seems to have a fairly egalitarian approach to institutional education with an entire MFA program in public art.

It was at this workshop where Adair and I met Jen Hamilton, who teaches at the University of Regina. After the workshop, we met her and Chris who told us about their experience with break-ins in Winnipeg where they briefly left their car in broad daylight to get an ice cream cone, returning to discover that everything was cleared out of the car, including all of Chris’ climbing gear! Jen and Chris invited us to a housewarming party in Pense, SK, a small town outside of Regina. It was great to spend some time outside of the city in the flat, windy prairies that we hadn’t really spent much time in outside of Regina. We also found ourselves particularly charmed by the people that we met in Regina, even after only one week.

After a farewell to Rob and his wonderful girlfriend Claire, and a Farewell potluck style staff appreciation luncheon with the OAO at Stacey and Jason’s (of the OAO), where we presented to them a trophy for outstanding business practices, we hit the road towards Lethbridge, AB, to fuel our endless appetite for suitcase art.


xoxo,

Michael.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

One Great City...


One Great City
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
...indeed it is.

MPV renovations


MPV renovations
Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
Our semi-repaired window after the robbery in Winnipeg.

Friday, May 20, 2005

One Great City...

After another lengthy drive through a seemingly infinite North Ontario and a rain storm in the flatlands of Manitoba that hit us like a wall, we arrived in Winnipeg a little early with little to no previous knowledge of the city outside of the lyrics of John K. Sampson (of the Weakerthans). Stopping at a rather slick looking café for a while, we collected ourselves over a coffee, which (after endless hours of driving) has become very much a regular part of my diet. Relieved to have found a place to stay for the evening at Bart’s friend Page’s place on Westminster and Langside, we proceeded with our regular routine of bringing all of our expensive new camera’s, laptops, and electronics into the apartment. Lucky enough to find a parking spot right outside the front window of the apartment, we naively figured it would be no problem to leave the van there as we were leaving early the next morning for Regina, SK.

After a yummy dinner of tofu, broccoli, and peanut stir-fry with rice, we headed to the living room to relax a while longer. I quickly glanced out the front window to check on the van, which appeared to be fine, while talking to Page about how crazy it would be and how completely screwed we would be if the suitcases had been stolen. This talk went on for a while, as I began to feel that I should probably bring them in after all. Exhausted Adair, who was relatively disengaged from the conversation was in the corner making a mix CD for her friend Chris, realized that the blank CD’s were left in the van. This is where our good friend she met our good friend Luther, whom at the time was in the midst of a little Saturday evening adventure of his own…

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Incident at Westminster and Langside

My name is Luthor Alexander and on the night of May 7, 2005, I had decided that I wanted to walk to the Sherbrook Inn beer vendor to purchase a six-pack of Molson Dry.

I left my apartment at 75 Young St. on the corner that connects to Westminster Avenue at 9:55 p.m. this evening and upon approaching the next street, Langside, while strolling along Westminster, I noticed that traffic had seemed stranger than in the past.

As I crossed Landside St., I stepped by a dark clothed couple in their late 30 to 40’s with quite a load under their arms. One person in peculiar, the lady of Indian decent, had big square eyewear on, and seemed to be in a rush. This woman passed, I seen that she had black, shoulder length hair and behind her, a van with a broken passenger-side rear window.

I thought to myself, “Why on Earth would this couple’s van have a smashed window on their car? And why is it that they are not going into the building this van was parked in front of?”

I continued to walk along Westminster to my destination in wonder and thought that just maybe when I past back this way I might have an answer.

Walking into the Sherbrook Inn at 10 p.m., I entered into the lounge, having a look at the VLT’s that few people were attending to. I stopped in front of one gaming machine near the end of the row and scanned over the screen, “Wow, one credit still not played.” I dealt the hand and viewed my cards, glanced to see just which game was being dealt; Joker’s Special. I had only two cards to worth playing: 1 King, 1 Joker. I pressed the deal cards button and viola, nothing short of an ace high. Not even one pair. I left the room, scanning over the drunken crowd of locals and made for the vendor.

There my destination was complete for the $6.90 six-pack of Molson Dry that I left my apartment for.

As I was stepping out of the vendor, some guy in his late teens just dropped his 12 pack of bottled Budweiser and was drowned in the brew he just bought before me. The folks in the lobby laughed at him and so did I. It was really funny to watch as it was one of those rare moments where time seemed to become slow motion. First the slip of the wrist, then the bottles hitting the floor, and finally, “Pop!”
His beer was now spraying his leg like a fire hydrant.

I made my way back down Westminster Avenue and past Furby St. when I was thinking that the guy who had just dropped his beer a minute ago will probably get it from his friends on the fact that he had broken practically all the beer they pitched in for. I had a look back and seen that they were all pretty loaded and didn’t really sense what happened. “Oh, well”

Walking with my six of Molson in hand and approaching Langside again. I seen two dark figures with luggage sneaking around the corner, scurrying. My question to self early didn’t really match what I was just witnessing. I continued to walk and passed the van and seen a lady crossing the street toward the van. I stopped and wondered if this was her vehicle that was parked and not the couple that seemed now, a bit suspicious.

“Excuse me, but is this your car?” I ask.
“Yes.” Adair replies.
“Your window is smashed and is being ransacked by that couple over there” I inform.

Adair observes in disbelief of what the damage the van has undertaken.

I indicate the location of where these now crooks headed towards. A yard behind Helen’s Grocery on the corner of Langside and Westminster.

Just as I had pointed in the direction of the burglar’s path, the house door behind Helen’s Grocery slams shut and we both nod in affirmation that this must be where they are headed.

We both agree that the police should be involved and make plans to act upon the new situation that is drawn before us.

At this moment in time, it was 10:15 p.m.

I comforted Adair for ten to fifteen minutes until her friend Michael arrived, and then dropped my purchase off at home to grab my wallet and cell phone.

Thereby upon my arrival back to the scene on Westminster and Langside at 10:40, Adair and Michael have found the stolen luggage behind Helen’s Grocery in the lot of the neighbor’s house, underneath a porch deck beside the grocer.

A police car arrives not the one we were waiting for, but good enough for information as to what actions to take on next. There we, Me, Michael and Adair are instructed to inform the police department directly and reference the incident number giver over the phone.

After a few words, we part ways and bid each one another farewell.

That made for an interesting evening on a rather lazy Saturday for myself.
__________________________________________________________

After a long wait in the Winnipeg Police Station, realizing that the police were practically useless to this situation, we returned to Pages, where she had called her mother who kindly offered us the use of her garage for the rest of the night. When arriving back at Page’s apartment, we checked a number of the many dumpsters in the neighborhood to see if our remaining missing items (a guitar and two hiking backpacks full of all of our clothes) were discarded there. Accurately figuring that we had already used up all of our good luck with finding the irreplaceable artwork stashed underneath a neighbors deck, and almost seeing the entire collection of suitcases thus far vanish before our eyes, we considered ourselves lucky to have found what we did and hoped that the burglars were people that were really in need of their new booty.

So with an endless debt to Luther Alexander, we headed further into the prairies the next morning with a broken window and next to no clothing or footwear, but still every single suitcase in tact and almost completely unbroken.

Until we hit Regina…

xoxo

Michael.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Michael next to the Marathon sign


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Adair next to the Marathon sign


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Out the car window


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
We saw lots and lots of tiny towns like this. We also recently got a digital still camera, and you will notice that the quality of our images has drastically improved.

Passing through Northern Ontario

The Trans-Canada Highway is its own metaphor. Though I could (justifiably) wax postcolonial-poetic and compare it to a giant scar running across the raped landscape, a seemingly infinite road stretching across a gargantuan country is in itself the most eloquent expression of the romantic tragedy of conquer and domination. Being from Toronto, when I first heard about the Trans-Canada as a kid, I imagined it looking sort of like the 401, due to its grandiose name and all. Quite on the contrary, several hundred kilometers ago it turned into a lonely two-lane road, winding its way along the starkly beautiful northern shore of Lake Superior. We got out of the car this afternoon and crossed the train tracks to get to a white stone beached, with no sign of buildings or other people in site. We took off our shoes for a brief wade in the freezing water.

My paternal grandfather grew up in Sault Ste Marie, and I went to visit my great aunt Betty once there as a young kid. However, I remembered virtually nothing, so it was interesting to return now and to try and imagine what growing up there in the thirties would have been like (probably pretty crazy). We both noticed that it and the area in general up here have a way bigger First Nations presence than southern Ontario, as well as a more significant francophone one. After the Sault, gas prices climb steadily to almost a dollar as you progress through tiny towns like Marathon, built around a pulp and paper mill, and Wawa, which has no apparent industry but lots of giant painted sculptures of Canada geese. According to the lady who runs the Thunder Bay Old Country Inn motel where we are staying tonight for $67 (fake wood paneling AND institutional-style white painted large brick walls, nice), this whole region is dying, towns shrinking as people move away and don’t return. You can definitely feel that here: it’s a total ghost town. Maybe it’s the city’s intense isolation that makes it seem so acutely creepy, but whatever the case, the absence of people walking the streets feels like it’s from deaths, not just emigration. Here, the frontier is slipping backwards, slinking south towards the luxury and industry of southern Ontario. What still remains is a city filled with tangible absence. Miraculously, after walking around the empty downtown for a while, we found a bizarre gym/ “health food” restaurant, where we could order veggie egg noodle wraps and that awesome fresh-mixed frozen yogurt.

Driving to the prairies through Ontario is an excellent way to realize exactly what a huge country Canada is. This region has such a harsh and inhospitable beauty that seeing it has made me consider for the first time how incredibly frightening arriving here must have been for Europeans during first contact. It’s been instructive to try and imagine their perspective, how it was easy for them to construct the First Nations peoples as evil and debased in light of the fact that they inhabited this terrain which was so opposite to the crowded, corrupt, disease-ridden valleys and floodplains of the Old Country. Often, it’s way harder to understand this kind of extreme historical racism than the complacent white supremacy in which we all participate now. On one hand, this is a good thing, because we shouldn’t be teaching ourselves to identify with historical racism, but in another way it’s bad in that it lets us as white people view our own attitudes as being totally separate from, say, the KKK, when decolonizing your mind needs to be a continuous process of self examination and transformation.

After the rocks and trees of Northern Ontario, passing into the flatness of the prairies makes me feel strangely unsafe…

Love,

Adair.

all our stuff outside my parents' house


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.

Chris and Adair


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Originally uploaded by michael and adair.
Goodbye dinner with us, Chris, and Vanessa at Lahore Tikka House on Gerrard Street.

Pearl's fantastic daughters

At Natalie and Shelley's opening.

Shelley's band at Kitchener opening


Kitchener week

I’ve met a few people from Kitchener/Waterloo, and actually coming to this city made me think of them in a quite different way. It’s a pretty crazy place: extreme seediness underlies a thin crust of wealthy gentrification, couched in a mix of butt-ugly concrete architecture and ye-olde charm reminiscent of the town’s Mennonite heritage. When we were setting up the suitcases in the student-run Artery Gallery on King Street that Natalie chose for her opening, sketchy guys came to stare through the window on several different occasions. At night, big groups of kids – like, REALLY young kids – roam the street downtown, making noise, throwing stuff, chasing each other around, getting pizza, etc. The fancy restaurant where we ate dinner with Natalie, Shelley, and their friends the night of the opening was on the outskirts of the city, hidden under a concrete parking garage. Overall, you get the feeling that there’s a lot more criminal activity going on here than meets the eye.

Shelley’s band Samsara played for the opening, which was fun despite being alcohol free (a condition imposed by the city of Kitchener when they donated the space). A few people from Guelph drove over for it, including Rosie and Ben, and Pearl and her kids. It’s nice that the U of Waterloo art program has a gallery located downtown, it’s much more accessible to the public than Zavitz at Guelph, which is only viewed by the university community. From Natalie and Shelley’s descriptions, the Waterloo art program seems pretty insular, conservative, and heavily painting-oriented. In general, we had MFA programs on the brain for much of the week. After being advised by someone in Montreal not to go to Concordia until they finish restructuring their new media program, being disillusioned with NSCAD and their increasing design focus, being worried by the rash of recent staff resignations at Guelph, hearing that the UBC program is overly academic, and seeing a lot of bad painting on the previously promising UVic website, where should Michael apply for grad school? Maybe outside of Canada is the best option, but what about cost, or missing out on making connections in a Canadian context? Oy vey… maybe it’s best to wait until the academic landscape seems a little more tempting.

On the whole, this week we felt pretty removed from the actual city of KW, as we were still staying in Guelph at 127 Grange. This feeling was doubled by the fact that Natalie’s not actually from Kitchener, just came here for her MFA and is excited to be heading back to Montreal. Though we felt somewhat guilty for neglecting Kitchener as a stop on the tour, it was really nice to spend the extra time in Guelph, to catch up with people who we hadn’t seen in a long time, or hadn’t spent enough time with when we had the opportunity. Getting to know Nick’s roommates and particularly Ryan better was a particular highlight, as was spending time with Mel and with Judy who I went to high school with, and who’s having a baby (yay babies!). The two weeks spent in this region flew by, making me realize what a ridiculously short amount of time a week actually is. The night after we left, Karl and Emily and Ryan and Lisa and Nick all slept over at my parents’ house in Toronto, and I ripped a tendon in my left foot as we were running stoned along the Danforth (I didn’t feel it then, but I definitely feel it now). A couple of days break here and we’ll be heading off into the more unknown portion of the tour. It seems like we’re both less and more than half done.

Love to you all,

Adair.

Michael doing the Artery installation

Artery is the student-run gallery in Kitchener/Waterloo.

At the Guelph farmer's market


Michael and Pearl in her studio