We Pay, They Play. What’s So “Gift Economy” About Notional Space?


Notional Space, the name we give to our living room when it is transformed into a place of community, is a gift economy project. Our aim is to provide a place where the people who are building community – artists, activists, nonprofits – can come together with those who are hungry for community and eager to support those working toward a more beautiful, meaningful, just world.

Frequently, this takes the form of “house concerts”, where you have a chance to see and hear outstanding performers representing a wide variety of musical genres. So I’ll discuss the gift economy dynamics in that context; but this analysis applies to any of the pay as you wish events we host.

What’s the diff?
Many people wonder: what’s so “gift economy” about these events, when they are paying a “donation” to be in the audience? How is this any different than any other commercial performance, where one buys a ticket to hear the music? It is easy to overlook the distinctions; and it’s easy to see this as just another exchange of money for service; but this is to miss an important dynamic in these evenings.

Continue reading ‘We Pay, They Play. What’s So “Gift Economy” About Notional Space?’

Picking the Right Fight

ISIS Ebola

The Prime Minister and Conservative Party are beating the war drums in Ottawa today, offering a motion on the floor of Parliament to have Canada supply warplanes in support of the US mission against ISIS. A vote on the resolution will pass sometime next week, enjoying the support of a broad majority of Canadians. It will commit more than 600 Canadian Forces, six CF-18 fighter-bombers, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft to a six-month “limited mission” of air combat. The cost of this war has not been estimated; but Canada’s seven-month air war in Libya, which involved similar force and equipment commitments (650 personnel and 7 fighter jets at the mission’s peak) cost Canada $347 million.

ISIS is hardly the only source of bad, scary news these days. The ebola epidemic is on-pace to kill more people than ISIS ever could and has the likelihood of a much broader global calamity.  By all accounts, the international response has been way too small and way to slow. Canada’s contribution to “humanitarian and security interventions” addressing the ebola outbreak total a mere $5 million, although Canada pledged last week to spend up to an additional $30 million. The United Nations and World Health Organization have estimated that it will cost nearly $1 billion over the next six months to fight the spread of the epidemic.

Here’s an idea for Canada: take all the economic and military resources we are so ready to spend in Iraq and Syria and deploy them against the ebola catastrophe. Canada could exercise real leadership in this fight, thereby re-establishing its moral credibility on the global stage and demonstrating that it chooses its international engagements thoughtfully. Continue reading ‘Picking the Right Fight’

Ben Brown: Improvising His Way to Clarity

Photo by Harley Spade

Photo by Harley Spade

Ben Brown is a Vancouver treasure.  He is the brilliant drummer of JUNO award winning Pugs and Crows.  He is an in-demand session player who has played with fabulous emerging artists as well as illustrious established musicians.  He is Composer-in-Residence at the Western Front.  He is the mastermind and instigator of Music and Movement Mondays, a boundary-crossing improvisational exploration of music and dance.  He’s also a lovely guy.

And one more thing: he’s the subject of my recent interview on VANDOCUMENT. Check it out.

Hey Kids, Let’s Put-on a Show!

Anjela Magpantay, Carmine Santavenere & Jamie Taylor in Sarah Faye Bernstein's Apartment(PLAY) – Photo by Harley Spade

Anjela Magpantay, Carmine Santavenere & Jamie Taylor in Sarah Faye Bernstein’s Apartment(PLAY) – Photo by Harley Spade

Director Sarah Faye Bernstein produced a one-week run of a terrific play (the title of which was all-but-undisclosed) in her apartment, with superb performances from Anjela Magpantay, Carmine Santavenere, and  Jamie Taylor, and excellent technical work by Daniel O’Shea, Annie Therrien-Boulos, Nancy Tam, and Clinton Ackerman. Bernstein’s energy, discipline, and willingness to work outside-the-lines seem to represent an important and promising trend in the city’s emerging art scene. With access to proper venues limited, more-and-more young artists are availing themselves of unconventional spaces and producing their own shows.

My review is up on VANDOCUMENT. Check it out.

Eight Ounces Half a Pound: a Sculptural Exploration of Vancouver’s Racialized Labour History

Eight Ounces Half a Pound - Access Gallery - cell phone snap by MBJ

An exceptionally smart show is currently running at Access Gallery in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Work by Guadalupe Martinez, Katherine Soucie, and Tommy Ting take-on Vancouver’s racialized labour history, as well as the relationship between industrial labour practices and the rapidly evolving post-industrial urban context.

My review is up on VANDOCUMENT. Check it out.

Spatial Poetics XIII: WeMix

photo by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

photo by Noriko Nasu-Tidball

The thirteenth annual edition of Spatial Poetics, a series of curated performances pairing artists from different disciplines in collaboration, was just presented at The Western Front. My review is up on VANDOCUMENT. Check it out.

Hot Choir in the City



My review of a recent, largely inaudible concert by Jenny Ritter’s two great rock & roll choral ensembles, Mount Pleasant Regional Institute of Sound (MPRIS) and The Kingsgate Chorus is up on VANDOCUMENT.  Check it out.

Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the Miami Dolphins NFL bullying episode brings the evergreen topic of the idiocy of manliness back into focus.


Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.


Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.


America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the re-election of President Barak Obama has done nothing to turn America away from its recent ethos of small-mindedness.


Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.


Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.


Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprinted in frustration that a dumbass nonevent brought down David Petraeus, the most brilliant, influential, deeply flawed military strategist since Harry Potter.


India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?


Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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