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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The film is named The Farewell in English. In Chinese, it’s called 别告诉她, which would more accurately translate into English as ‘Don’t Tell Her’. My friend, in positively reviewing the movie, said: “You know an Asian girl who went to art school and then made this movie.” He was absolutely right. Bitchily, I thought, yeah I got that from the commentary that the translated English film title is probably supposed to make.

Still I couldn’t feel as ironic about seeing it as I would have liked to. I watched it twice, once on my laptop alone and stoned in my bedroom, and once in a trendy independent theatre with my mom. This was the Asian movie of the year; “like Crazy Rich Asians,” my mom said loudly in the theatre, and I told her to hush.

We were accompanied in the middle of downtown Vancouver by middle-aged white women with heavy eyeglass frames and sons with Asian girlfriends. I studied them and knew that they were thinking, “That girl must feel more affinity toward me than toward her own mo...

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dear Katie,

Year-end ‘lists’ (I can’t resist the scare quotes!) have always struck me as inherently optimistic. I also find that reflecting on beloved content from the previous year reminds me of all the media I wished I’d engaged with — books left unread, tabs reluctantly closed, screenings missed, and exhibitions that ended before I got my shit together! (TBH, I often find that reading other people’s year-end lists inspires FOMO.) 

In the spirit of confronting insecurities, then, I should admit that I’ve been binging Gossip Girl. I’ve been watching the series as I recuperate from surgery. While it’s possible that painkillers are dulling my senses, I also think I might be rekindling a love for teen dramas (kinda exciting!). Speaking of which, have you seen Euphoria? I haven’t, and I wonder if it might exist on a special sublist of series I’ll low-key regret not watching in 2019, because their appeal is so intrinsically bound to the contemporary moment.  

Year-end lists often seem to...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Susanna Jablonski is a Stockholm-based artist working with sculpture, moving image, sound and music to test the boundaries of materials, time, and human experience. She considers the tensions of interpersonal relationships in the collective, as mediated through objects, nature, historical consequences, and human-built systems. 

Jablonski is a frequent collaborator of artist and filmmaker Santiago Mostyn. And together with performance artist Cara Tolmie, she organizes an ongoing series of Listening Sets as part of their joint research project “Gender of Sound,” which hosts work by artists that supports a practice of close listening with the participation of an audience (encouraging those with all levels of experience or enthusiasm for music). The project gathers these voices in a collaborative effort to find a language for articulating the myriad ways we listen, hear, and process all dimensions of sound and music, the collective impacts, as well as political and cultural associations. 

We...

Monday, November 25, 2019

Debby Friday is one of the most dynamic and multi-faceted performers I have been able to engage with. Her performances are electric, aggressive, and arresting but that is only one of a few mediums at her fingertips. A self-described experimentalist, her creative and intellectual palette spans wide, ranging from performance, writing, sound theory, and audio-visuals.
We crossed paths years ago in Ottawa through a mutual friend. Although the encounter was brief, it has been wonderful to witness the evolution of her creative practice since then. From the beginning of her DJ days in Montreal to the leap into recording and producing original work - her dedication to herself is clear.  
Our conversation took place on an early mid-September afternoon as back-to-school energy was in full swing for both of us. The multi-disciplinary Vancouver-based artist is heading into the final year of her master’s program, an MFA in Interdisciplinary studies.  During my time with her, we spoke about Death Dr...

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When I started reading about Ayesha Singh’s work, I was also reflecting on utopia in relation to localized aesthetics and ‘global’ migrations. I had just visited Jonas Meskas’ posthumous exhibition, Let me dream utopias, at Rupert in Vilnius and circled in the exhibition essay: “‘Real utopias,’ Mekas claimed, ‘may only be found within one’s small closed village evoked with the specific mouth muscles of one’s mother’s tongue.’” In our interview, Singh and I never got around to asking each other the name of our ancestral village, but I think (and I hope) we felt the pulse of the ghost muscle linking her art practice with my own critical/ curatorial inquiry. Ghost muscle, to say something of our tongues’ twisted, even if no longer taut, entwinement with the colonizer’s language. We spoke about art in English (and extensively) but we delivered our jokes and glances in Punjabi/Hindi. Like our parents, we lived in the tight corset of British Colonialism and post-colonialism, but the digitali...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Karen Asher picks me up from my parent’s house in the suburbs. We decide to go to Rae & Jerry’s for our interview. Rae & Jerry’s is a relic of 1960’s postwar Winnipeg, a steakhouse still dimly lit and covered in red velvet and wood panel. It sticks out like a sore thumb on the city's Portage Avenue with its long, covered driveway originally used for valet service. Once the epitome of fine dining, Rae & Jerry’s now sits somewhere in between a high class experience and a tongue-in-cheek joke. 

I’m going to be speaking with Asher about her most recent exhibition, Class, at Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. In the past, Karen worked primarily with still photography. In her website bio, Asher describes her artwork as an exploration of “her obsession with stress, absurdity and the catastrophe of everyday life.” Most of her work features the figure shot on square, medium format film. Her subjects vary from her partner, Kevin, to strangers she meets on the street, to friends piled...

Monday, August 12, 2019

Look up any image of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and you’d likely see him donning some form of shades. I ready my phone call with Moumneh, I’m curious what he looks like so I search up for his photo online. As the phone rings and he eventually picks up, I thought about sharing my observation with him. I wondered if he had shades on as we spoke. I couldn’t picture him without it. I don’t ask, instead, I’m caught in his voice and in our conversation.  Something he said later in our chat about cracking open a proverbial door for his audiences during performances and allowing them to make up their own experience resonates with the shades’ visual obstruction. With his now ten-plus years project Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH), what Moumneh offers to audiences eludes all prescription. You come at it from where you are at and meet it how you see fit. Even as personal and political as what he results with may be, Moumneh is merely a messenger.  

At the time of our conversation, it was in b...

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

  

Andrei Tarkovsky's seminal 1979 film Stalker was produced in the late Brezhnev era of the Soviet Union, and centres on the journey of three men to a forbidden location called the ‘Zone’– the product of an extraterrestrial visitation, purported to manifest the deepest desires of any person to enter it. Every empire has an end, an exhibition at Toronto’s Franz Kaka, juxtaposes the work of Jennifer Carvalho and Jenine Marsh to explore the material sensibilities and conceptual dialogues of their art practices through the lens of the film. Together, Marsh’s sculptures and Carvalho’s paintings summon the themes and visual languages of Stalker; its mysterious ‘Zone’; and its investment in time utilizing what Tarkovsky referred to as the “long take.” 

Like the ‘Zone’ of the film, a site of antagonism and obsession, the artists play with the anxiety present in zones of indistinction and estrangement. Both Carvalho and Marsh consider through the lens of Stalker that science fiction is an i...

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Its weeks before the opening of his one-person exhibition at the Frankfurt am Main upstart gallery HUSSLEHOF and I’m in correspondence with Cudelice Brazelton over email. He tells me things are coming together, it’s been a bit confusing but productive nevertheless. This sounds familiar. Brazelton has told me this before. The part about things being confusing. Reading his email, I try picturing him in this setting of confusion. As if I could somehow redirect this momentary fog toward some reassuring clarity. Months prior, in another conversation, Brazelton earnestly reflected on the tonal shifts in his material selection. Where he once seemed fervent to let the viewer into some part of his world, to render bare his vulnerabilities and worries without hesitation or varnish, he describes his current outlook on his work as ‘solemn’ and maybe even ‘confused’. ‘But it’s not a bad thing’, he adds with a knowing sureness. The feeling of confusion can no doubt be an aversion but for Brazelton,...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I am sitting in Toronto artist Steven Beckly’s light-filled studio surrounded by the work he lives with like I have many times before. Only this time, I get to ask him about them and his broader practice. In May of 2017, I saw an image of two arms linking on a giant billboard in my neighbourhood. It was by Steven as part of the CONTACT photography festival and was immediately invested in his work. A couple of months later, I went to the Toronto Art Book Fair at Artscape Youngplace and met him for the first time. I told him I loved that image and picked up a couple of issues of his unbound zines. He asked if he could photograph me so I left him my contact information. We quickly became close friends and he has since become a mentor to me.

Steven’s work carefully straddles various forms, including photographs, artist books, sculptures, and installations. He is interested in the paradoxical nature of love and desire, of light and darkness. We discussed his relationship to research, place,...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

flickering light, water over film skin. the sound of the wind on the water, coloured like a sunset or a redness that comes from the heat. you are absorbed by the light of the day walking through the window, travellers. you watch her hands linked together like an old tree, the house shaded by soft limbs of cedar.

she looks at the corner of the room, the sounds of insects and birds chirping. wasp body floats in the water, full of shadows and plant debris fallen from the sky. follow the grain of the wood with the blade of the axe, making a sound for punctuation. to live your own life, to have your own reasons and faith in them: she looks at you with the bells chiming, she says, foxes, wolves, bears, they are all different in the wild.

Melodic and irregular, the sound of bells invokes the opening and the ending of Ralitsa Doncheva’s short film “Baba Dana Talks To The Wolves” (2016). Interwoven with other ambient sounds, they form a richly textured soundscape which includes both sheep bells a...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I first met Arielle Twist IRL, in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal last fall. She was touring for the launch of her now released book and running a writing workshop at a café. Read any of Twist’s poetry and you’ll feel your heart strings being tugged, it’s raw and poignant. She has major auntie energy: knowledgeable and assertive, paired with cutting eyeliner comparably sharp as her wit. A group of us sit in a circle, scribbling responses to her deeply profound writing prompts,

“What part of myself did I have to kill to exist in a colonized world?”

In her newest collection of commanding poetry, Disintegrate/Dissociate channels human vulnerability, sensuality and the reflections of rebirth and death. Her work stands grounded in opposition to colonial violence that continues to undermine sex, gender, and sexuality. As she states: “the post-colonial world is of filth and fire, but racialized LGBTQ2S+ continue to persevere as the apocalypse persists.” In landscapes leached with white settler ideology, sh...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

first encountered Heather Rigg’s curatorial work for An unassailable and monumental dignity at Contact Gallery in 2017, and was blown away. It reframed images of Black masculinity in the public sphere. Each work sparked off one another in a way only a strong curatorial vision can create. Rigg grew up in Victoria, BC and relocated to Toronto in 2008 where she received her MA from Ryerson University’s Photographic Preservation and Collections Management (PPCM). She worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of that program, then as Programming Administrator for the Contact Photography Festival. In July she was appointed Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography. Last year, Rigg initiated the project space ma ma, with long-time friend and collaborator Magdalyn Asimakis. Recently at a Gallery 44 opening I overheard someone say about her: ‘she’s such a firecracker’, and I’m inclined to agree. Rigg is an exciting new voice in curati...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I think of HaeAhn Kwon's assemblage works as solutions to open-ended questions. How might we tweak our surroundings to bring light to the things we take for granted? How do our surroundings shape us, our bodies, and the way we behave? How can one inflect change, or make the best of a situation, with minimal means? Or as the artist asks: “How do incongruent parts come together meaningfully to suggest an otherwise?”

Working in drawing, sculpture and installation, Kwon's practice largely revolves around the idea of “the makeshift” -- a word that aptly describes the haphazard site of art production, the art object that emerges both from chance and necessity, and the daily labour of making-do. The makeshift, as she describes it, implies operating creatively within (and despite) material limitations, and having to navigate barriers through efficacious improvisation.

In a recent work titled Pissbox (2018), two shoe prints embedded in a yellowed block of gypsum cement allude to a bodily presence...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Loosening, rethinking, and altering the ways we navigate space and relate to one another are Misael Soto’s bread and butter. The Miami-based artist is currently working on large projects situated in public space, rooted in a practice that has continuously intervened in the systems that govern the everyday. Daily life is often riddled with unexpected and often contradictory phenomena that usually go unnoticed and unquestioned: construction street signs, scaffolding, and crisis-averting equipment are all obvious indicators of change—sometimes even threats —yet their ubiquitous and quotidian deployment eases potential anxieties, certainly staving off the urgency that required their invention in the first place. In a moment heightened by polarizing politics, many artists are looking to the nature of relations and relationships between people. Soto considers the challenges of our time through the interpellation of architectures, machines, and symbols of the public sphere.

The artist’s recent...

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