Posts Tagged 'Vancouver'

Whoa Nelly!

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The preternaturally brilliant Nelly César performs “Fossil” in “Diffractions of the Local” at Vancouver’s Back Gallery Project.  Photo by Roman and courtesy of VANDOCUMENT.

My latest VANDOCUMENT review is online.  I had the privilege of covering a wonderful show at the Back Gallery Project called “Diffractions of the Local”, celebrating the work of seven Latin American artists who live and work in Vancouver: Gabriela Aceves-Sepulveda (Mexico), Nelly César (Mexico), Carlos Colín (Mexico), Guadalupe Martínez (Argentina), Manuel Piña (Cuba), Emilio Rojas (Mexico), and Josema Zamorano (Mexico).

Check it out!

VANDOCUMENT: Creating a Vivid Record of the Thrilling Artistic Present

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I’m always a sucker for a well-conceived project, started by passionate, talented people, which has the aim of building community and supporting the creative work of others.  That’s why I am now contributing to VANDOCUMENT, the six-month-old brain-child of local arts photographer Ash Tanasiychuk.

VANDOCUMENT is a collective of photographers, videographers, and writers who are endeavouring to capture the exciting vibe of Vancouver’s arts scene in images and words.  The aim is both to generate interest, awareness, and support for the art-makers in our midst, and to create a vibrant archive that tells the story, if only anecdotally, of the creative surge Vancouver is now experiencing.

My first contribution to the VANDOCUMENT collection – a review of Nicole DesLauriers’s smart, ambitious take on the fin de sicle absurdist play Ubu Cocu, by Alfred Jarry – is now up on the VANDOCUMENT site, for your reading pleasure.

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Show-Up

The Unplugging

Show-up, people. Just fucking-show-up.

Tonight, Yoo-Mi and I were privileged to attend a performance of Yvette Nolan’s smart, gripping new work, The Unplugging, at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Revue Stage. The play, set in post-apocalyptic Canada, explores the emotional need for community, the compulsion to generosity, and the go-to sustainability of traditional ways of living.  It also illustrates the dangerous ways in which these virtues are challenged by the venality of a culture that has convinced itself that survival is a zero-sum game. The dialogue is tight, the production simple, direct, and effective, and the acting (by Jenn Griffin, Margo Kane, and Anton Lipovetsky) stunningly superb. By all rights, the 198-seat theater should have been packed.

Instead, there were twenty of us comprising the audience.

Continue reading ‘Show-Up’

Skins and Steel: a First-Person-Plural History of Calypso Culture in Vancouver

Skins and Steel

All the important stuff on this blog seems to happen in the comments, rather than in my original posts, which anyway have been few-and-far-between of late; and it was in a comment that I mentioned Vanessa Richards’s brilliant show Skins and Steel, which premiered for a two-evening run in November. It is being reprised for a special one-night performance at the Vancity Theatre tomorrow, Thursday, 23 February, as part of Black History Month programming. I urge you to see it.

When I wrote about Skins and Steel, the focus of my discussion was a brief film that plays midway through the show — a “remix” done by Vanessa of a 1960’s era CBC documentary about her parents’ interracial marriage — that fit into a theme of mixed-racedness I had been exploring. I mentioned the stage performance itself only in passing, promising to write a more complete review. Sloth being what it is, that fuller assessment never happened.

The show is no longer fresh-enough in my mind to present a review, per se; but here’s a thumbnail sketch. It traces the introduction of Afro-Caribbean dance and music to Vancouver. The Afro Caribs were a drum-and-dance calypso ensemble, founded in Vancouver when Rudy Richards (Vanessa’s father — and the guy soaring in the photo above), Felix Assoon, Clyde Griffith, and Ron Rogers came from the West Indies in the mid-1950’s to study at UBC. They are now approaching their 80’s, but they perform with a sassy verve that gives a nice sense of how the exoticism and expressiveness of calypso rhythm may have caused an stir, as the staid, monocultural 1950’s had only just begun to give way to a new era of cross-polinated art. The audience is also treated to performances by the great singer and dancer, Thelma Gibson, whose presence exudes that rare mix of elegance and joyfulness that has somehow evaded recent generations, and by steel pan virtuoso Kendrick Headley. Vanessa smartly pulls the melange together with narrative and film clips, including a fascinating segment in which she connects the dots between Vancouver’s dance scene and the seminal New York choreographer, educator, and company director Katherine Dunham, in large part via Ms. Gibson’s brother Len. The show is both personal and fascinatingly revealing of an aspect of Vancouver’s cultural history that is neither well-known nor broadly celebrated.

Go see Skins and Steel — and report-back here to give your impressions. You can offer the review I failed to write.

Postcard to a Stranger

Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Fuse, i want to be alone (with you), Postcard to a Stranger

The Vancouver Art Gallery hosts periodic late-night parties they call “FUSE”. In addition to the ongoing fare of the current exhibitions, VAG brings in musicians, dancers and other performance artists; and there is usually an element of participatory art, as well. At the FUSE party around Halloween, for example, the guest-involvement piece had professional make-up artists from the Vancouver film industry creating gruesome wounds and fantastical face-paintings. At the most recent FUSE, entitled and themed “i want to be alone (with you)”, the project involved the writing and receiving of postcards to and from another guest, assigned at random.

Continue reading ‘Postcard to a Stranger’

Enjoy Your Stay

Peace Arch US - Canada Border Crossing
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The US – Canada “Peace Arch” border crossing, south of Vancouver, has always been a slightly Kafkaesque experience. In fact, until I got a second, “clean” passport (in which I don’t allow visa stamps from the Islamic Republic of Anywhere) and the new passport card, I used to be routinely “orange carded” upon entering the States, requiring interviews with various INS morons about my activities in countries they couldn’t pronounce or find on a well-labeled map.

My favorite television commercial from the Olympics nicely parodies the experience of crossing into the US from Canada.

My experience going the other way has always been different. Sure, Canadian Border agents are probably no smarter than their American counterparts, wear essentially the same uniforms, ask the same questions, and have the same concerns and jurisdiction. But there is a marked contrast in tone. The same questions asked accusingly by the American officers are asked politely and without any sense of prejudice by the Canadian officers. Going south, one is essentially told, “Okay, we’ll let you enter the US.” Going north, the tenor of the message is, “Welcome to Canada.”

This is a story of a northward crossing.

Continue reading ‘Enjoy Your Stay’

Golden Olympics

Logo of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

A week before the start to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, I had the temerity to wonder whether the experience would be fun for the city and its visitors. At the time, there were few tell-tales to be seen on the city streets. Now the games are concluded and I have absolutely no difficulty declaring them a resounding success.

VANOC put on a superb show, not only for the world’s best winter athletes but for Vancouver as well. The experience was inclusive, inspirational, and delightful. Much has been made, and will continue to be made, of the economic costs and benefits that go into hosting an Olympic Games. That accounting will play-out in the years to come and the ultimate judgment cannot be predicted with any certainty, one way or the other. But only the most Grinch-like observer, pushing an ulterior agenda, could say that these games were anything but marvelous.

Continue reading ‘Golden Olympics’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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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.

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

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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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.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

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

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

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

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

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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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