CANADA, MY HOW YOU’VE CHANGED: Shine A Light at the National Gallery of Canada illuminates landscapes dramatically transformed

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky, 1990 (© NGC)

“Shine A Light, Cast A Shadow”

Canada is known for its tradition of depicting resplendent and majestic landscapes but the inspirational legacy passed down by artists like those in the Group of Seven aren’t echoed by the contemporary artists featured in the National Gallery of Canada’s show of new acquisitions.

The vignette of Lawren Harris’ North Shore, Lake Superior, as seen from the Gallery’s water court and framed by rose granite walls, shares with us a vision of the Great White North as a pristine place. Now the more North you go the more you experience the impact of global warming. The Inuit populations located in Northern Canada are the canaries in the coal mine of climate change. The situation is dire and artists in Canada have responded.

I entered the Shine A Light exhibit at a different point each time and each time I was confronted by works that overwhelmed me with a sense of dread. Artists used to celebrate this land. Now artists like Edward Burtynsky, David McMillan and Isabelle Hayeur scatter themselves across the globe to photograph how human populations are manipulating, extracting and polluting their environments often beyond the point of no return.

Edward’s work is by far the most familiar. His command of composition is always breathtaking, even exhilarating because of the scale of the photographs. They suck you in. They are cinematic making you feel a part of the terrain. He places you at ground zero, he’s like the Weegee of the environmental crime scene and you can’t look away.


Isabelle Hayeur, Death in Absentia II, 2011 (© NGC)

David McMillan and Isabelle Hayeur are lesser known but have equally challenging content. David photographs Chernobyl and Isabelle the dead waters of America. The discombobulating viewpoint of Isabelle’s photographs drown you. David’s work brings back the ghosts of the cold war, the stuff of children’s nightmares and threats of nuclear winters. Glasnost saved us from a global moment of disaster but nuclear technology was still devastating for many Russians. His work provides a document of disaster that irradiates how our modern material culture is forever stuck in some plastic purgatory that’s going to be hard to get out of.


David Hartt, Awards Room at the Johnson Publishing Company Headquarters, Chicago, Illinois, 2011 (© NGC)

The content of David Hartt‘s photography in Stray Light, also about location documentation, is aesthetically more palatable, you could even say seductive. Instead of cold war ghosts you feel a guilty sense of nostalgia for that time before the OPEC crisis, a time when North Americans thought there was no real harm in living large. The video component of Stray Light takes us into the building of the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) former home of Ebony Magazine. As the video transitions smoothly from room to room, accompanied by the lush music of jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell, because of what I witnessed en route to David’s work I can’t shake off a sense of foreboding.

The African sculptures made of wood and stone seem confined in the plastic fantastic world of JPC. People move in and out of the scenes hedged in by office structures that conflict with the softer movements of their bodies proceeding through the space. Watching the final moments of the iconic Ebony in it’s place of conception is like entering a crypt in a necropolis that lures you with its beauty. It feels like the oxygen is going to be sucked out of the building and eventually the space will become a time capsule shrink wrapped for the archive and searching for its final resting place.

Geoffrey Farmer, Leaves of Grass, 2012, Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York (© NGC)

My initial response to Geoffrey Farmer‘s Leaves of Grass was “this is obscene.” After more time spent with the work my response was still “this is obscene.” His process (a team spending countless hours cutting and pasting), the content (17,000+ cut outs from 5 decades of Life Magazine) and the final presentation (100+ feet of archivally problematic paper, grass and glue) illustrate the absurdity by which we hold on to the past. We collect, categorize and create hierarchies of meaning that allow for justifications of all kinds. We trap ourselves in a constructed story from which we can no longer budge. Leaves of Grass is an absolutely breathtaking piece but as stunning as it is, the work is suffocating. There is too much to take in with no place for the eye to rest; a well executed entanglement of wicked questions. Do our strategies for classification make perfect sense? Are they nonsense? How do they really help?

Junk culture. That is what we are left with and this is the legacy that many of the contemporary artists in this show are trying to illuminate.

David Armstrong Six, The Radiologist, 2012 (Courtesy of the artist and Parisian Laundry. Photo: Matthew Koudys)

The shadowside of Readymades

“Combining found objects with a variety of materials – plaster, plywood, steel, rebar – his sculptural explorations merge the raw and the readymade into aesthetically intriguing and ambiguous compositions.” (sited from Shine A Light catalogue)

David Armstrong Six continues in the tradition of the readymade but Duchamp and the Dadaists weren’t working at a time when people had to be concerned about an impending environmental crisis. Bricolage takes on a different meaning when we are at risk of burying ourselves alive in a rubble pile of our own making. Maybe ‘l’art pour l’art’ is no longer enough to redeem the materials.

An Te Liu, Aphros, 2013 (© An Te Liu. Photo: Dustin Yu)

This is the question that An Te Liu seems to be trying to tease out as he works with casting the materials that accumulate from our post-modern predicament with packaging. Arranged like collection of Brâncușis, the five pieces are beautiful to behold but lack the life force that Brâncuși’s pieces, made of wood and stone, exhale. Rendered in ceramic and metals they give the impression of impotence like the materials they reference, materials that will persist in the environment without the capacity to be generative.

From the room with the David Armstrong Six’s readymades and An Te Liu’s towers you can look out across the Donald R. Sobey Family Gallery and view Luke Parnell’s Phantom Limbs from above. Here yet another graveyard is encountered. The 48 wood carvings laid on the ground are made to represent the homecoming of the ancestors when the Haida Repatriation project succeeded in having ceremonial objects and human remains returned to Haida Gwaii from private and public collections. Luke gave each carving a different expression. Contained under cases of plexi some look understandably pissed.

The Shine A Light catalogue, arranged alphabetically with each artist’s name, ends with the work of Lawerence Paul Yuxweluptun and a 2 page spread of his painting Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky (see above). This work hasn’t been publicly viewed for nearly 2 decades. Now seems like the requisite moment to bring it out again to remind us that in those 20 years we haven’t transitioned forward with many solutions. Instead we see a global trend to become more entrenched with ‘pie in the sky’ ways of living. Suffering with the collective trauma of watching our world come to the brink of disaster do we brush off our artists as Chicken Littles? Because the sky is indeed falling, our ozone layer is literally breaking apart into pieces.

large abstract drawing of large round shapes in a dark background

On the back wall of the 2nd floor is The Arsenal, a work by Jutai Toonoo. It is a large scale oil stick drawing of T cells. He created the work at a moment when he was trying to understand the pathology of the cancer his mother was stricken with. The helpful T cells fight against viruses, bacteria and diseases.

Our material culture is replicating faster than stage 4 cancer. It metastasizes in places as topographically different as Chernyobyl, Nunavut and India. The micro T cells, as the subject of Jutai’s work, are metamorphosed into a macro landscape that covers a large expanse across the Gallery’s wall. The allied cells shine like a phosphorescence glow in an inky black sea. After the challenging content of Shine A Light his work highlights hope. We are in need of an arsenal of solutions to push back the chaos. Encoded in the DNA of the planet are the cellular memories that can transform a landscape in crisis.

Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

INUIT IN OTTAWA: Foodland Security, A Taste of The (Edible) Arctic & How To Do Away With Cultural Prejudice While Having Fun!

Antique image of Inuit family, mother, little child and father with traditional clothing Iñupiat family from Noatak, Alaska by Edward Curtis, 1929. Creative Commons. 

Systems Thinking as the Solution. 

The recent #Sealfies hashtag campaign that has trended in response to Ellen Degeneres’ call to arms against the seal hunt demonstrates how out of touch the dominant culture is when it comes to making an informed evaluation regarding people’s (often necessary) lifestyle choices. When communities live off the land they must apply a sophisticated ‘systems thinking‘ approach in the way they engage with the spaces they inhabit because the systems – seasonal, migratory, biological and social – interact and are relational to each other. Disregarding them could result in a community perishing.

The Western approach tends to ignore the systems. It’s why we have developed a taste for out-of-season strawberries on demand and been lulled into thinking ‘Vegan Leather’ is an environmentally sound option. Advertising is the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that makes us feel good about our consumer choices.

While Ellen, one on hand, galvanizes her audience against animal cruelty, on the other hand, she is one of the faces of Cover Girl Cosmetics, owned by Procter and Gamble. Enough said.

As the saying goes ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken’.

On March 18 in Ottawa local members of the Inuit community staged a demonstration with a stylish twist – a fashion show. The cat walk was the steps of Parliament Hill and the show raised awareness about all the ways seals are utilized in Inuit culture – from food, to fuel, to clothing. Even the bones get used as tools, children’s games and art. When it comes to the life-cycle assessment of the products that are derived from the seal the Inuit perfected the cradle-to-grave approach thousands of years ago.



Above images by Barry Pottle as well as image below left.  

The American (& unfortunately Canadian way) is to service one system – the economy – at the expense of all others. We see this represented in the food that has become symbolic of North America’s culture – burgers, bagels and pizza. This is a culture represented by food that is fast, cheap and easy and often processed using factory farmed meat and GMO wheat. It’s all about the dough. And we can’t seem to get enough.

“Avoid Cultural Prejudice”.

Signs held up at the protest promoted seals as a food source that is local, sustainable, and not genetically modified. Westernized foods need to be flown into the region from the south resulting in inflated prices that make healthy eating inaccessible. People are quite literally starving while fossil fuels pollute in the process of distribution.

Food that is fresh, healthy and whole is deeply satisfying because along with the nutritional value it offers emotional sustenance. When Inuk artist Barry Pottle set out to document Inuit food production for his project Foodland Security he also documented people’s responses to ‘country food’ from the North and the way it makes them feel. For Urban Inuit living in the south it connects them back to memories of family, friends and home.

“Country food means maintaining the good health that I was brought up with from birth. It means that I get to eat the freshest and purest forms of vitamins, minerals, and nutrition. If I don’t eat it, I get weak and sick.”

“The satisfaction of eating country foods cannot be described. There is a spiritual and cultural charge that comes from eating country food – especially caribou.”

“Appreciation is always expressed to the hunter who harvested the catch, and to God when receiving country food, while eating, and after.”

Needless slaughtering by those living outside of the community for the sale of skins on the global market is a tragedy that should be addressed, as it perpetuates the devastation of the very ecosystems that nurture an environment where the seal can thrive. It also supports a larger system that strips Indigenous peoples of their right to self-determination. Living off the land is very different than taking without being thoughtful of the gifts nature has provided.

Approaches like Ellen’s tend to take the patronizing know-it-all stance without much actual investment in the community she is negatively impacting with her words. Another approach would be to get a sense of the culture! Starting today, Thursday, April 3 until April 7 the Edible Arctic Festival is on at the Museum of Nature and on Monday Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is hosting the gala Taste of the Arctic at the National Arts Centre.

Click here for the full Edible Arctic Schedule and here for details on Edible Arctic After Hours Party this coming Saturday night.

Barry Pottle’s Foodland Security photographs will be displayed at the Museum of Nature for the duration of Edible Arctic Festival.

For more information in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s A Taste of the Arctic click here.

black stroke

Sanitizing the Kill.

Sign Change.org’s petition against Procter & Gamble’s animal testing here. Animal cruelty in the beauty and hygiene industries is executed behind the closed doors of the laboratory. This technique sanitizes the kill. We think it’s not happening because we can’t see it but everyday billions of dollars are poured into industries that are intentionally and needlessly causing long term suffering to animals. IF we are speaking of systems, this one is archaic and everyday we support it with our dollars.

Cited from Change.org:

You’re funding and supporting animal testing every time you purchase one of these brands owned by P&G.

Cosmetics: Anna Sui, CoverGirl, Dolce Gabbana, Max Factor, Olay
Deodorants: Old Spice, Secret, Sure
Hair Care: A Touch of Sun, Aussie, Clairol, Fekkai, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Hydrience, Infusium 23, Lasting Color, Loving Care, Men’s Choice, Natural Instincts, Nice ‘n Easy, Pantene, Pert, Physique, Rejoice, Sebastian Professional, Ultress, Vidal Sassoon, Wella
Fragrances & cosmetics: Anna Sui, Baldessarini, Boss/Hugo Boss, Bruno Banani, Christina Aguilera, Dolce Gabbana, Dunhill, Escada, Giorgio of Beverly Hills, Ghost, Gucci, Helmut Lang, Herve Leger, Lacoste, Naomi Campbell, Old Spice, Puma, Valentino
Laundry and Cleaning: Ace, Ariel, Bold, Bounce, Cascade, Cheer, Comet, Dawn, Downy, Dreft, Dryel, Era, Febreze, Gain, Ivory, Ivory Snow, Joy, Mr. Clean, Swiffer, Tide
Oral Care: Crest, Fixodent, Gleem, Oral B, Scope, Whitestrips
Sanitary Products: Always, Prilosec OTC, Tampax
Shaving Products: Bran, Fusion, Gillette, MACH3, Prestobarba/Blue, Venus
Skin Care: Clairol, Clearstick, CoverGirl, DDF, Fekkai, Gillette, Max Factor, Noxzema, Ohm, Olay, SK-II
Soap: Camay, Ivory, Safeguard, Zest
Companion Animal Products: California Natural, Evo, Eukanuba, Healthwise, Iams (www.iamskills.com & www.iamscruelty.com), Innova, Karma, Mother Nature, Natura Pet Products
Food and Beverage: Folgers, Home Cafe, Millstone Coffee, Pringles, Torengoes
Paper Products: Bounty, Charmin, Puffs
Diapers and Baby Care: Luvs, Pampers
Batteries & Electrical Goods: Braun, Duracell, Gilette
Drugs & Health aids: Actonel, Align, DayQuil, Fibersure, Metamucil, NyQuil, Pepto-Bismol, PUR water filtration system, Sinex, Thermacare, Vicks

black stroke

Click here to read about how the economics of fashion has created a system of production that is polluting waters around the world but doing irreparable damage to China.

black stroke

 

MATERIAL GIRLS: Quebec Designers Basma Osama & Marie-Jose Gustave Romance Their Media

Large grouping of white bowls and plates

When one of my favourite Quebec Designers, Tat Chao, introduced me to the work of Basma Osama (Ceramik B.) and Marie-José Gustave I was struck by how loyal they both were to their material of choice. These women are faithful to their muse!

Basma’s silky white work is easy on the eyes. Her bowls,cups and dishes evoke a handsome elegance which I am sure makes the food caressed inside look all the more tantalizing. But the real stunner is her piece The Letter No. 1. Assembled with over 1000 pieces of hand-thrown porcelain it is without comparison!

Small organically shaped white porcelain shapes placed into 3 panels of wood hanging on a wall

“Inspired from a handwritten personal letter, Letter No. 1 carries a language that goes beyond visual perception. The elements of this language aim to reach, to call out to the reader and invite interaction. Emotions and thoughts come through two simultaneous rhythms: a linear rhythm, punctuated by spaces that allow the content of this letter to physically place itself. And the rhythm of curves, unique to each element, give each sign its meaning, as words often do. The shapes of these organic elements, coming out of the wooden support, act as the conveyors of meaning. The support, made of local walnut wood, supports the text and underlines it as a language sign.”

Close up of small white porcelain shapes placed into holes in wood like pegs
Small organically shaped white porcelain shapes placed into 3 panels of wood hanging on a wall

Basma was lead to  porcelain because of a need to “work with a refined type of clay” as well as desire to “submit to its whimsical character.” Her loyalty to porcelain? “Because I love it! I meticulously craft it and work on its texture, and it gives it back, every time!” Her muse is as faithful to her as she is to it!

When asked what is special about this material as opposed to other materials she has worked with she replies “I like its texture, its density, its colour, the way it behaves in the kiln…and the way it reasserts how humble I have to remain when I use it.”

And when I inquire if there is a romance she has with the material she emphatically answers “Yes, a huge one! One of many years, many events, many stories and I would not exchange it for any other clay!”

White plates, bowls and saucers
Upclose image of corrogated cardboard wrapped and stitched together in a pillar form

Beautifully blurring craft and design.

Marie-José Gustave’s objects and furniture merge design with craft. She says that she has always been inspired by and has a passion for craft. This led her to master in clothing production as well as to develop a skill set that includes sewing, knitting, and weaving along with paper molding. But her love affair with cardboard came from a more practical encounter. Upon moving to Quebec from France and wondering what to do with all the boxes that remained as evidence of her transition she began to experiment with the material that had now taken up residency in her new home. The boxes never left and instead motivated her to create what is now a strong body of work that shows the beauty of this humble material.

Pillars of cardboard sticted together and hanging in store window

I have always adored the textural richness of cardboard. I have used it in my own art practice so it makes sense that I would gravitate to Marie-José‘s work but what I found fresh was the way she manipulated the cardboard. That is what ultimately seduced me. She has taken this material to another level and has prototyped a new way of thinking about cardboard as a valid choice of material for decor and design. “I love the challenge of diverting the material to make it soft and flexible, find its transparency, shape it the way I want.” She definitely has a lover’s touch!


Above images provided by artists Basma Osama and Marie-José Gustave. Image of Marie-José by Stéphanie Lamy.

See Basma and Marie-José‘s work Thursday through until Sunday at Toronto’s Interior Design Show. They are located in the Studio North Section (Booth SN20) and are featured as part of a collective of Quebec Designers QC DESIGN.




Images of QC Design at IDS’ Studio North by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

MASHUP STYLE: Jack Your Body Dancers Rocking Second Hand

Dancer posing against a wall

“OUR TOXIC ADDICTION IS SLOWING DESTROYING OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERWAYS” GreenPeace

Shop till you drop…dead?

In the aftermath of Boxing Day blowouts it’s a great New Year’s Resolution to take time to consider how fashion impacts the planet.

GreenPeace recently launched the Global Detox Campaign in an effort to inform people on how the garment industry, especially in places like China, is turning “public waterways into private sewers.”

According to GreenPeace 320 million people in China are without access to clean drinking water, 40% of surface water is considered polluted and 20% of the urban drinking water is contaminated.

Quote regarding how toxic chemicals are in 2 thirds of garments

“BEAUTIFUL FASHION DOESN’T HAVE TO COST THE EARTH” Greenpeace

The campaign sparked an around-the-world protest against companies like Zara, Victoria Secret, the Gap and Adidas some of which have now agreed to “detox”.

These toxins don’t just end up the water. New clothing is often sprayed with formaldehyde to protect against mildew and to keep fabrics wrinkle free. We then absorb the toxins through our largest permeable organ – our skin – via the clothes we wear.

With our purchasing dollars, especially during those Boxing Week Sales, we vote ‘YES’ for the continuation of harmful systems unless we opt to change our habits and the way we engage with mall culture and consumerism.

RECOMMENDED READING: The River That DID Run Red 

Necessity (mixed with creativity) is the mother of all invention (and prevention).

One way to change is to rock Second Hand Style.

Group of dancers in bright colours in front of grafitti wallThe gorgeous dancers from JACK YOUR BODY – Emily Law, Kristine Flores, Ashley Perez and Jasmyn Fyffe –  demonstrated, on the MIXED BAG MAG #MashUPStyle shoot, how to re-mix used clothing. I met JYB dancer Jasmyn Fyffe, when she modeled at a prior shoot and I was inspired by her ability to take cast offs and make them fresh. Many of us do this out of necessity as a way to save money but as we become more engaged around the issues of environmental protection re-using, up-cycling and swapping become great ways to assert our fashion sense while remaining true to the cause.

Profile of woman with long hair and patchwork jacket
Female dancer in a crouched posed against a wall
Woman holding a necklace in between her teeth and grimacing
Female dancer kicking up one leg in a pose
Profile of a young woman
Female dancer jumping up in a pose
Young woman leaning against a wall looking back at the camera
Female Dancer doing a handstand on one hand
4 young women posing against a wall

 

On the subject of Second Hand Style, Street Culture and Re-Mixing Emily Law (co-choreographer of JACK YOUR BODY along with Ashley Perez) explains that for the show:

“we attempted to costume each section with vintage clothing as much as possible. The majority of the cast owned a lot of second hand clothing, so it was not that challenging to find great retro pieces. Creating this show gave me a chance to wear some of the retro clothing I have been collecting! 

Analogous to using authentic clothing pieces from each era, we used classic ‘vintage songs’ specific to each time period. By creating to these songs we are giving them a second life just like the clothing.”

In Street Culture fashion and music riff off each other in a constant creative conversation. Just like DJs who re-mix retro beats to make them fresh the clothing is also about taking the best of the past and making it stylistically relevant to the present. Perfect timing for a world in need of more sustainability (but sexy) choices!

4 young women posing against a wall
All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

“Jack Your Body is a high-energy dance performance that pays homage to American street dance culture. The cast poses, struts, waacks and jacks their way through soul train, paradise garage and other iconic street dance scenarios. Issues of race, gender and social status come into focus during this dynamic dance piece that explores the evolution of underground social dances from the 70s-90s.”

JACK YOUR BODY runs until this coming Sunday, January 19

Tue Jan 14 9:15pm
Thu Jan 16 9:30pm
Fri Jan 17 5:00pm
Sat Jan 18 2:30pm
Sun Jan 19 7:30pm

WHERE: Factory Mainspace on 125 Bathurst St, Toronto
HOW MUCH: $15, purchase tickets here

Follow on Facebook and twitter @Mixmixdance and join Facebook Event Page

Get involved with GreenPeace’s Global Detox Campaign by signing their the Detox Manifesto and tweeting your support. 

Women in zombie makeup protesting chemicals used in fashion

 

GETTING INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT IN KENSINGTON: Courage My Love & My Memories of Christmas Past

No matter how cold it gets Kensington Market is always rocking the Reggae beats and juicy coloured apparel!

My maternal grandfather imported goods from Asia. I have inherited laughing Buddhas from China, beautifully carved wooden animals from the Philippines and a small mother-of-pearl table from Afghanistan or maybe it was Pakistan? That fact changes each time my great aunt tells me about its origins.

My grandfather’s office, a converted garage off the side of the house, was a place that as a child I knew magic existed. I would travel the world from the safety of his lap. The room smelled like sandalwood and his shaving soap. For a kid it was this cozy place that nurtured my desire to explore the entire world when I was all grown up.

Christmas time with grandpa was all about grab bags full of realistically writhing wooden snakes and finger puppets, tiny glass animals and strange candy.

And there is only one place I have found that totally embodies my grandfather’s spirit. As I walked off the snowy Kensington street into the warm lit space that Courage My Love ALWAYS is I missed my grandfather and those childhood Christmases with his grab bag full of surprises.

So if you are looking to stocking stuff in the most unusual of ways with weird, wonderful and low environmental impact purchases get to Courage My Love to snatch up their gift baskets, tin ornaments and upcycled goods. There are also beads and buttons, kimonos and kaftans, vintage leather goods and most likely a Panama hat somewhere in the mix!

The perfect antidote to the mall, Courage My Love is a place where magic still exists!

(Miss you Grandpa Nelson. Much love. XXO. L.)

“Kensington Market has been a market and a community in Toronto since the late 1800s. It has developed its unique character fed by waves of immigrants from all over the world and still feeds the city in various ways. The crowded streets host tourists on patios taking in the sights, food shoppers, artists, suburban sightseers, and in the 1980s the old houses on one of the market streets, Kensington Avenue, took on a new life as Jewish food and clothing businesses moved out and a mix of Portuguese food shops, Asian cafés and vintage clothing stores took over. The first vintage clothing store was Courage My Love in 1980.” read more about the history of Courage My Love…








SCOTIABANK NUIT BLANCHE 2013: Let French Curator Ami Barak UpCycle Your Experience

Man smiling while speaking at a podium Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Re-inventing the wheel – what Duchamp’s Ready-mades, Ai Weiwei and Toronto’s cyclists have in common.

Man smiling while standing at a podium “In 2013, we will celebrate the centenary of the Armory Show, the International Exhibition of Modern Art that was organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories, New York and is considered as a breaking point, crucial in the history of modernity. Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place goes to Marcel Duchamp’s cubist/futurist style Nude Descending a Staircase. The same year, Duchamp installed a Bicycle Wheel on a chair in his studio and this is considered as well as the starting point of the intrusion of “Ready-mades” (found objects which Duchamp chose and presented as art) in the art world. The idea was to question the very notion of Art and the artistic attitude towards objects. The objects found on the street, chosen by the artist, will take an aura of art object within the frame of the art institution. We now live in a century where objects exist in the museums and the exhibition spaces. If we take the objects back to the street in the context of an event like Nuit Blanche, while allowing the artists to treat and handle them as referenced works of art, we hope to close the loop and reconcile the public with the status of the ubiquity of the object. ~ Ami Barak, Visiting Curator for Nuit Blanche 2013 on “Off to a Flying Start”

While listening to French curator Ami Barak speak at this week’s Power Plant lecture regarding his curatorial choices for Nuit Blanche I couldn’t help but think of one of this city’s advocates for cyclists and how she’s probably excited for all the focus placed on bikes this year.

Taking it to the streets.

Woman with long hair sitting on bike that has a basket in front of brick wallYvonne Bambrick is a woman about town – on her bike. An Urban Cycling Consultant she has also worked in the capacity of Community Animator for the Centre for Social Innovation, the first coordinator for the Kensington Market BIA and is the current Coordinator of the Forest Hill Village BIA. She knows our community and our city’s streets well and can often be found quoted in the press about the problems Toronto faces as it expands without a clear course of action for the people in this city who choose bikes over cars.

“In addition to the significant lack of on-street bike infrastructure, one of the biggest issues for those riding bikes to get around the city is the condition of the roadways. Years-old utility cuts and potholes are a major hazard on some of the most heavily used routes. This terrible road surface is often found in the already difficult to navigate space between the doorzone and streetcar tracks on most of the East-West routes – this creates an even more dangerous scenario for even the most experienced riders.

Above image by Yvonne Bambrick for The Urban Country Magazine.

Toronto’s Arts Festivals seem to have a knack for intuitively selecting themes that are timely – Luminato’s choice for its 2011 production of 1001 Nights and that year’s focus on Arab performers and writers helped expand the dialogue around the Arab Spring immediately after it happened. Ami’s choice for installing Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles at City Hall corresponds well with Ai Weiwei’s current exhibit at the AGO that speaks to human rights abuses by the Chinese government but perhaps unanticipated, although certainly important, is how Forever Bicycles speaks to Toronto’s recent issues and the rights of its citizens to have their concerns regarding cycling acknowledged by our government.

Speaking about Forever Bicycles Yvonne says “It’s such a thrill that it is on the doorstep of City Hall. I can’t think of a better place for it to be! Hopefully it sends a message and is not just seen as a structure made of bikes – that it resonates with people at city hall as relating to current issues.”

photograph framed in a bike wheel on wall with window to the street on the right Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Deconstructing the object by displacement.

Also an artist, Yvonne’s own bike inspired and politically motivated work was on display recently at the Hashtag Gallery on Dundas Street West. Yvonne snaps the city at street level then uses deconstructed bike wheels as frames – an interesting way to open up dialogue around the issues.

A photograph of graffiti with words Fancy Eh and framed in a bike wheel  Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Duchamp’s removal of an object from its familiar state and his presentation of it as an objet d’art was one of the actions of modernity that domino affected us into a century of change. The referential impact still reads as contemporary into the 21st Century as exemplified in works like Yvonne’s as well as those selected by Ami for Saturday’s big event. Thanks to Ami the dislocation of both objects of motion and objects of rest can be seen this year at Nuit Blanche – Toronto artist Bruno Brilo’s Familia, Garden Tower in Toronto by Tadashi Kawamata, Tortoise by Michel de Broin, Melik Ohanian’s El Agua de Niebla and Pascale Marthine Tayou’s stunning presentation efficiently titled Plastic Bags.

large sculpture made of many bicycles interconnected together with the two towers of Toronto City Hall in the backgroundAbove image by Yvonne Bambrick

The ubiquity of bikes.

For Ami, this idea of the “répétition du même objet” and how objects repeated over and over change the meaning is important. For Yvonne “speaking to this idea of repetition, I think that at this stage in Toronto it is too hard to ignore that so many people are choosing bicycles and that they are everywhere! You can’t ignore that much of the voting population and that how the city functions with regards to transportation includes bicycles.”

Woman and man each on their bikes with the Toronto City Hall in the backgroundAbove image by Yvonne Bambrick for Dandyhorse Magazine.

Come Full Cycle.

Ami’s choice of placing Ai Weiwei’s 3,000+ interconnected bicycles in front of City Hall may just become, for Toronto cyclists, a symbolicist act for contemporary Toronto.

For more information on how you can be a part of the movement to make Toronto a more bike-friendly city Yvonne recommends Cycle Toronto. “They are a city-wide cycling advocacy organization who are working year-round on improving conditions for people riding bikes in the city.”

More resources can be found on Yvonne’s website or follow her on Twitter @yvonnebambrick.

Image of a woman riding bike in city street in front of building with post-modern architecture. Family dressed up warm for fall weather in wet street standing with their bicycles

Young couple riding bikes during fall on city street Above 3 images by Yvonne Bambrick for Dandyhorse Magazine.

For more information on Ami’s curatorial statement for “Off to a Flying Start” check out the Consulate General of France’s initiative Paris-Toronto and Nuit Blanche.

FYI – If you missed Ami’s talk this past Monday you can hear him again Saturday afternoon at 2 pm at The Power Plant along with the other Nuit Blanche curators – Patrick Macaulay, Ivan Jurakic and Crystal Mowry.

Click here for more information on this event.

Every which way, by Kim Adams. Photo by Steven Martin, courtesy Museum London. (Image via Dandyhorse Magazine.)
Every which way, by Kim Adams. Courtesy of Diaz Contemporary. (Image via Dandyhorse Magazine.)

 

 

 

 

 


U ROCK: And a Tale of an Antidote to Unilever’s Dove Campaign Part 1


Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

“Be strong. Be confident. Be real. BE YOU.”

On Saturday at Kitchener’s Bloomin Earth Festival on my way to see friend Dona Geagea’s Beyond the Jar table I discovered this really fantastic line of children’s clothing. Super sweet second hand tees embroidered with these funny little monsters made from scraps of other second hand clothes.

Image of child sized t-shirt with funny monster stiched on the front I love inventive up-cycling. I also like to see snazzy alternatives to the brand name kids’ clothing lines that in many cases have been touched by the modern day slave trade – other children paying the price so North American kids can wear trendy but cheap attire.

Not really in the market for shopping for kids clothing though I moved on but not without first noticing U Rock’s handmade greeting cards as I was grabbing for their deets.

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Baby's onesy with stitched funny monster on the front and the words I think I rock. Just like the little creatures on the tees and  baby onesies the one-of-a-kind cards were adorned with these humourous characters that were too adorable to pass up. Perfect for the little monsters in my life, my 4 yr old niece (“I am 4 AND ¾s Auntie Leah!”) and 8 yr old nephew, the message was exactly what this proud aunt wants to say –  “I THINK YOU ROCK!”

The reason I decided to share U Rock on MIXED BAG MAG was that after the launch Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” Campaign a few weeks back I was pissed that yet again, in some manipulated branded effort to promote self-esteem in females, the “message” still implied that our self-worth is tied to our level of physical attractiveness. HAVEN’T WE ALL HAD ENOUGH?! More on that later in my Part 2…

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

I had just come from spending a week looking after my young niece and enjoying watching her grow into her unique little self. I shared in her excitement when she learned 16 new words in 1 day. Determined and focused, I adored watching her take pleasure in her victory. She was confident and up for the challenge even if it meant struggling with some unknowns. It was joyful moment for this auntie to participate in but then comes the worry. I know what it is like to be female. As much as the world has changed it hasn’t. I want to spare her the years of agonizing over her appearance, of stitching her self-worth to whether or not someone thinks she is beautiful on the outside.

I am already crying for that moment she caves on the inside and her light is blown out by some stupid comment that drowns out all the good ones from her mother, her grandmother, her aunt. It’s a hard road to get back on once you get knocked off.

So when I read the story of U Rock I thought this is branding done RIGHT. Sorry Dove! Your message is just not that authentic. But Megan Goos comes from a personal place and when I started to talk to her young daughter Bianca (a budding entrepreneur and creative kindred spirit) you could tell this mom has done well! Her daughter has a strong light burning and she was confident in sharing with me the products she designed for U Rock – pins made from bottle caps and her favourite bead combos as well as necklaces. You can sense her self-worth is already meshed with what she can bring to the table as a creative human being. Again, you just want to find a way to keep that fire lit as it was refreshing to speak to a child not afraid to explore her own creativity.

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

“The story of U ROCK

Once upon a time there was a girl most would have labeled a super nerd – glasses, braces, preppy blouses tucked right in and buttoned all the way up. Of course, she had no choice about the braces or glasses, but the rest of her appearance was designed by fear. She would rather have worn rainbow sock with plaid pants, pink and red when it was still called clashing, or a homemade polkadotted neon trenchcoat. But she dressed safe, for fear of what others may think of her.

After she grew up a little she realized it was rather tiring keeping all this awesomeness buried inside. While trying to work out her “real” self with her younger brother he (intentionally?) played devils advocate with every item she expressed like for. Growing weary of her younger brothers tormenting she said “well I don’t care what YOU think. I think I rock!”

And to this he said, “fine, just put that on your shirt!”

So in early 2007, UROCK was born to help others like herself, build confidence in themselves.

Don’t try to be something you’re not, just to impress people. Don’t act a certain way just because someone told you to. Be who you really are – because who you really are is probably really awesome!!

Be strong. Be confident. Be real. BE YOU.”
(cited from www.ithinkirock.wordpress.com)

By nature we are consumers – we require food, clothing, shelter – but it is good that more and more we have choices that allow us to vote with our money and make purchases aligned with our values, saying NO! to Unilevers of this world.

I applaud Megan for her amazing ideas and for the record – Bianca, I think u rock!

Find U Rock on Twitter @urockrecycled, Facebook and Etsy as well as the U Rock Website.

U Rock header that says U Rock and that's all that matters!

How many slaves work for you?

There are at least 27 million slaves worldwide. That’s roughly the combined population of Australia and New Zealand.”

MIXED BAG MAG challenge: Find out how many slaves you employ in your lifestyle by taking the Slavery Footprint Survey. I took it and my lifestyle employs 23 slaves too many.

Find out more on the Made in a Free World website.

“1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields. There are fewer children in the entire New York City public school system.”