Sunday, January 31, 2010
Granville Island. A place surrounded by a large amount of bird feces, as well as a beautiful waterfront, was the venue location for the Push Festival's, "Clark And I." Unlike "The Show Must Go on," I did not experience any feelings of anxiety or fear as this felt like a more comfortable location.
I didn't understand its relevance, true there were moments it engaged me with humor or funny quirks- like the two recycling depot mascots who picked up the dropped cups. The ballad of sleeping was also entertaining, it depicted our four dancers on the ground rotating in a variety of sleeping positions. At two points the dancers engaged certain members of the crowd in their routine. It was not the same sense of all inclusive performance that "The Show Must Go On" provided.
The finish was great. It had a clear escalation, our four performers were joined by a whole group who joined in the specific dances. A ballet dancer even came out and re-enacted our performers dance as if to give the show a professional validity. It had energy about it. It had a voice. It had a poetic sense about him but it's message that I felt that "The Show Must Go On had already addressed. While Poetics was by far a more engaging and visually appealing as a performance in my mind it shared the stage with "The Show Must Go On" and this isn't for the better.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I arrived early in order to get a good seat. I was immediately captivated by the ambiance of the old building which used to be a post office. The shadowy entrance and dim lighting followed by the cascading dark drapes allowed for me to imagine a time long ago passed. As soon as I sat down, a gentleman, who I assumed to be one of the performers, came into the large, darkened hall gingerly carrying a taupe coloured, clay flower pot in the palm of his hand. I assumed that the flower pot was filled with water since he was carrying it with such care. Interestingly, he began to tune the flower pot by tapping on it and quickly comparing it to the sound of the other flower pots paintakingly positioned nearby. To satisfy my curiosity, I got up to look inside the flower pots and found them empty and not filled with water as I had assumed earlier. I continued to scrutinize the instruments and sat back down to wearily watch the audience members arrive.
Later, four middle-aged women arrived and sat down behind me putting an end to my boredom. In loud whispers, they eagerly discussed how attractive the men in the hall were while giggling like school girls.
Soon thereafter, the performance began with the quartet clapping in unison to the beat of 3, 1, 2, 3. To hear it is to believe it. I was in awe of their abilities. Their heads were bowed in concentration, nodding to each other once in a while. It was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, my admiration did not extend to their next performance which entailed the playing of monotonous notes on a mini synthesizer accompanied by the constant shaking of a maraca. The constant shaking of the maraca was mind numbing and I felt like I was being put into a trance.
The marimba performance came next and was slightly more entertaining. I just sat back, closed my eyes and imagined that I was in the Caribbean.
Their final performance involved steel pipes and drums. I was fascinated by the quartet's ability to synchronize their movements. Each performer had two percussion sticks in one hand and one in the other while playing both instruments at the same time. The sound was not unpleasant; however, it left my ears ringing and I noticed that quite a few audience members moved to the perimeter of the hall. I think they were conveying the same feelings I was.
The night concluded with the quartet teaching the audience how to clap. Not surprisingly, I failed miserably. I simply could not keep up with the 3, 1, 2, 3 beat.
All in all, it was not a bad night. I did not feel that any of the music was either "heartfelt" or "touching[;]" however, "raucous" is the perfect descriptive word for a night filled with diverse sounds that I had never been exposed to before.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Knowing im a sensitive flower I decided to focus on something about the play aside from the plot. Thankfully Nevermore was a beautiful display of costumes! Its style reminded me of the opening of the recent rendition of Sweeney Todd, although this may not be a fair comparison because I left the theater about 15 minutes into this movie as well. The only colours in the show were black and a grayish-beige mostly used as highlights. The lighting was often dark just lighting enough to see the narrators or characters. Often the lighting shifted to red, bringing its dark symbolic connotations but also a sense of colour to the play. The costumes were delightful, the women sported over sized stylized hats, corsets and amazing wired skirts with beautiful accents. The men sported a variety of suit vests or large wired coats and eclectic Top hats. In someways the costumes made it more comical and less realistic, which i appreciated, and in other ways they accented the narrative aspect of the play. Each character, and narrator, had a specific costume which they remained in throughout the play. You can check out a few pictures of costumes and videos here if you are so inclined: http://www.artsclub.com/20092010/plays/nevermore.htm
Another thing I rather appreciated about Nevermore was its use of space and movement. The stage itself was divided horizontally about half way by a giant screen running the width of the stage. This screen was a series of scree doors opening at three points, It was used to delineate physical and emotional space. It was wonderfully integrated into dance and song numbers or as a way of seeing Edgar's fears, nightmares or ghosts, sometimes it was also a demonstration of another room or a hallway which allowed us to be clear of the protagonists physical isolation from others. The actors also portrayed their isolation and artistic quirkiness in their movements. Many of Edgar's family were depicted as inspired but odd nonetheless, this is particularly true of Edgar who we see as a gentle hearted soul whose isolation darkens him. All the characters dance in a particularly angular manner much like they are wind up toys. I also noticed that all the female characters stood with their feet shoulder width apart while the male characters stood with their feet together. I'm not really too sure what this did but I felt it was intentional.
It was certainly a bit dark and dreary for me, in fact the story was downright depressing. Yet, i felt the visuals(costumes, space use and dance) were strong and enticing. Although at times it seemed the songs were highly repetitive the music was fitting and intense in its structure as well. The concept of dreaming and reality were deeply integrated into the play portrayed by the songs, the use of the screens to show Edgar's nightmares and the apparitions of his dead mother and other figures of death. The audience received it strongly with almost everyone on their feet at the end. It was a much more traditional approach to theater than The Show Must Go On would prove to have been later that evening, and one on an aesthetic level that i enjoyed much more.
Still the show must go on. There even were a few humorous moments, but they were inconsistent and infrequent. The show ended abruptly, never quite suggesting anything tangible. Or maybe it did. Maybe The Show Must Go On went completely over my head, and did more than just play with the idea of crowd interaction and who the real performers are. As a concept, the idea is interesting; the actors force and draw off the performance (whether it be singing, clapping or cheering) of those watching them, creating a mood separate of the norm, where the players dictate a work to the watchers. This play seems to pull that off, but for the most part, it simply isn't very much fun to watch.
What hurt the play most was what it was trying to achieve; a lack of structure. I would think that the only way this sort of idea could work in practice would be a higher quality of performance. The audience showed up, singing happily when given the chance, clapping along to motivate a particular scene, laughing when required. The problem was that it all felt more for our own entertainment, rather than to improve the play. We sung John Lennon word for word because, well, if we didn't we would be sitting silently listening to Imagine for 5 minutes while the 'real' actors hung out in the green room. By the end, I felt as if I had paid performers to force myself to make my own fun. If that was their intention, mission accomplished.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Show Must Go On was my second performance of the day. It was the last showing of this performance. As the performance started I was mixed with a sense that wanted to "figure out" the direction it would take and a more passive side that wanted to resist categorizing and just be open to the performance. The crowd was not full, and some seemed unable and unwilling to engage other were bobbing around to the music. Some people walked out midway through the show, one man shaking his head as he went. The following song to his exit was the John Lennon skit.
I am not an artist. I am not a dancer. I enjoying watching these events, but at times i have difficultly relating to them. Singing however is another story. I had already been mouthing along the words to all those songs we know. When all the lights went out and Imagine came on the audience ( who had taken an active role so far) went silent. As the song progressed the voices began to rise together. I/we began to sing louder, which echos the sense of community the songs speaks about. For me Imagine has always been a triggering song based on its message. It was overwhelming. The fact that I was alone also was insightful. Had i been there with my close friends i most likely would have censored myself less from the beginning. Being there alone with strangers on either side I kept my voice quiet, like others had, until i heard the other voices and we slowly louder and confident. I realized then that I had been quiet in the beginning for fear of intruding on someone else's experience only to realize that was the experience. The sound of a group of unique individuals coming together and creating something impermanent but meaningful in a space in a way that can never be re-created as not all the individuals will be in the same place at the next occurrence, each performance is unique, not just to the performance but due to the audience.
I only wish it had not been the last night, I would have liked to see the show again, purely to see the dynamics of another audience and its choice to engage. Would anyone get up and dance? or would only a few? would everyone? How many people would leave? What would it mean to other audience members? The show wasn't what I had expected but then I hadn't known what I was expecting. I believe the way I explained it to my partner was I didn't know if mostly triggered from the experience of being in the performance or if i was delighted at the refreshing perspective of something i didn't see coming. In the end it didn't matter how many people left or chose to engage or not engage with The Show went on anyways.
The Push festival’s “The Show Must Go On” was a show unlike any other I have ever been to. I have a weird quark about me that I do not like to hear show reviews, or have any sort of preview before experiencing any performances. Therefore, the performance I was about to see Friday night would be one that would turn out to shock and awe me. Being involved in the dance and acting scene growing up, I have been to multiple plays and ballets. None of this would prepare me for what I was about to witness. The lights go down. Immediately I’m expecting them to go back up again and the show to start. Instead, the music begins to play. Okay, the show will start after an introduction song. (man its dark in here). After about another four minutes in the dark it dawned on me.... This IS the show! It was not for a couple of songs that actors on the stage actually began to make any sort of movement. Later would I find out from an inside source that, in fact, many of these people were more or less inexperienced members of the performing community. Their skills included things such as: ability to shake leg fat at amazing speed, boob jiggling skills, belly fat jiggling skills, terrible ballet skills, incredible tongue movement skills, staring contest skills, and rapping skills. This show was definitely a love it or hate it piece. I counted a total of five people that actually left mid-performance (never to return), and a standing ovation from approximately half of the remaining crowd. In the crowd, we laughed, we cried, we sang, and we waved lighters. The performance captivated the audience and challenged the conventions of art. Although I started out as a bit of a skeptic, the show ended up winning me over with its intriguing work of blending the lines between the audience and the performers. Keeping an open mind is a necessity, but all in all, I think this was a very powerful piece with very intense moments. It is a must see for all members involved in the performance community. However, there were times where songs could have been shortened to ensure the audience wouldn’t accidentally lull off to sleep in the pitch darkness and soothing sounds of John Lennon.
Overall, I am glad we had to see this performance for class because it would not have been something I discovered by myself. I enjoyed what I saw and what I listened to; it was as though I was just chilling in my room listening to good music. I do not know if there was a theme between songs, or if there was an underlying reason why three Beatles songs were played. Perhaps it was a self-indulgent endeavor by the writer. I also believe the slow exchange between songs was deliberate, because if it was intended to be a smooth transition it would have been done on one CD. These are just more things for me to think about, and probably you too.
Friday, January 22, 2010
photo: devlin fenton
Thursday, January 21, 2010
We started the walk by touring around her studio building. She took me through a hobbit sized door to the roof where you can view the city. Looking over East Van...I noticed how diverse and unique this part of the city is. After we ascended the stairs, we took a walk around the outside of the building. It is sort of an odd shape so that there are many little alcoves. The ground is gravel strewn and the building is old and shabby. Some of the walls are covered with colourful graffiti art and text.
We walked up to Commercial and saw a street artist doing chalk drawings on the sidewalk. His focus seemed to be the Virgin Mary. We dropped a couple coins in a hat next to the drawings.
One thing in particular I noticed about Commercial is the types of restaurants they have there: I have never seen so many places to eat that cater to vegetarians and vegans in one area before.
We walked by a random park on our way to get coffee. There were people sitting on the grass with their blankets spread out neatly in front of them. They were selling an assortment of books, jewlery and trinkets. Their wares were placed in neat lines on their blankets. We passed by without buying anything and wondered if any of it had been stolen.
We continued on to Turks, a mostly unremarkable coffee shop except that it has delicious coffee. My sister ordered an Americano, while I opted for tea. We sat awhile by the window people watching. There was an assortment of artists, bohemians, and contemporary hippies that strolled by.
We left Turks and realized we were hungry so we headed for Havana's. I've been here before and anticipated the freshly squeezed orange juice with my meal. They have really good food here. The atmosphere in the room is shabby and exotic. The walls are covered with years memories as seen by the layered engravings of names, dates and phrases on the walls. There is an art gallery in the back that we take a look at before we go. The paintings were of faces and were Cuban themed; there was even one of Fidel Castro. They seemed dark to me.
After lunch we returned to the studio. The loading bay was covered with random stuff and seemed to be used as a sort of share shed. A couple of artists were picking through the stuff as we walked back into the building. We returned to my sisters studio to finish off our walk with a Granville Island Winter Ale. That's when I remembered that I had a camera with me. I've always been horrible about taking pictures.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
It's more relevant to next week's discussion (Phelan and Reason). But there ya go.
"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
Street is considered by most a public space where area residents are able to come together to garden, chat or just spend some quiet time studying a book or nature.
East Hastings" is an instrumental track by Godspeed You! Black Emperor on F♯A♯∞ released on June 9, 1998. Arguably their most iconic track, It is just under 18 minutes long and comprises four distinct movements, each individually named. They are "'...Nothing's Alrite in Our Life...' / Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)", "The Sad Mafioso...", "Drugs in Tokyo" and "Black Helicopter". The track takes its name from a poor area in Vancouver, British Columbia and focuses on the settings in East Hastings.
I actually recommend that you listen to the music with out watching the cheesy pictures, because the song is re-creating the story of DTES for you.Sadly I can only find two of many clips regarding the dtes from this album, but if you listen to all the clips you get an interesting medley of instrumental story telling as well as recorded sound from people, stores and sermons from the dtes.
I am going to post a link to a you-tube video of a picture medley done to the first of these songs inspired by Vancouver's own east hasting street and downtown east side: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9USJgkruTw (east hastings)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aLjup934Rk&feature=related(dead flag blues)
This is another example of a narrative song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor that works in local stories and voices at the beginning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7eo8tGJUIc and part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vpzge_WaT8&feature=related
and another example of narrative song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0fiNI3XZO8&feature=related
I know a lot of their songs are long but just listening to the first few minutes in most of the songs gives you a pretty good idea of their style of narrative. I just thought this was interesting in regards to how we were talking about how Cities perform and as a performance medium i feel its approach brings something unique and valuable that we as people can connect to. If you like this check out their song storm, its an amazing example of instrumental story building, and its my favorite.
While not directly relating to performance proper (as we conventionally use the term), I thought this bit of information I received today something to think about in relation to Peter's closing comment yesterday about the significance of performance to culture, and culture to a city, to Vancouver. After 53 years of operation, Duthie Books (its remaining store located on West 4th) announced its closing today. Here is the official statement from the Duthie family. The usual suspects are cited, market-cornering book chains, imminent ebooks, and a transitioning readership in general, but to me underlying all this is a cultural neglect. Independent bookstores in Berlin (factoring in these recessive times) are thriving. The same is true of London. It gives pause. The closing of Duthie's is not just the loss of the most discerning bookstore in Vancouver, it is a nudging reminder that when we do deservedly question the legitimacy of "Port Moody - City of the Arts," we need not at the same time vigorously pat our cultured Vancouver backs.
Carrall to Cordova—September 30, 2008/January 13, 2010/August 7, 1971: Thinking, again, about the social groups left behind when host cities harness their particular urban aspirations to abstracted messages of Olympic inspiration: if human bodies can be engineered—via equipment vested or drugs ingested—to go “faster, higher, stronger,” then why can’t the places those bodies reside? This question was in part what informed my experience of local artist Althea Thauberger’s September 2008 site-specific performance event Carrall Street, in which she threw a one-night live art spotlight (quite literally) on a contact zone in the city that runs a scant six blocks—from the red brick buildings of historic Gastown, through the strewn hypodermics of Pigeon Park, to the gleaming real estate offices of Concord Pacific on the north side of False Creek—but that in that distance maps a fraught and polarising social history relating to the ethics of livability and the politics of development in Vancouver. Thauberger is known for performance based video and photographic works in which she collaborates closely with different social communities (Canadian soldiers and tree planters, US military wives, linguistic minorities in Northern Italy, conscientious objectors in Germany) to explore the dynamics of group consciousness and state control. For Carrall Street, Thauberger worked with community groups with varied interests in the area (housed and unhoused DTES residents, local service organisations, artists and theatre directors, politicians and city planners); together, they created both scripted and improvised scenes of social interaction in which the roles of performer and spectator, local denizen and curious passer-by would deliberately blur on a stretch of streetscape cordoned off and brightly illuminated like a film set. For me, the piece’s plainly visible fictional scaffolding, and the highly telegraphed orchestration of its “scenes” (I was “interviewed” by two very manic “real estate agents”) threw into relief the different performance publics (between business owners and low-income residents, artists and activists, tourists and addicts, security guards and the street homeless) that are daily negotiated at a very local street level. In the process, Thauberger brought out in ways often obscured by abstract policy discussions relating to the proposed revitalisation of the area, the historical connections between this particular street’s past (as a tavern-lined, working-class byway connecting Vancouver’s old port to Chinatown), present (as a thoroughfare traversed on one end by visiting tourists and local hipsters negotiating both the tack and trend of Gastown, and, on the other, by the homeless, addicted, and mentally ill citizens of the DTES), and future (as a showcase street targeted for a controversial clean-up and beautification in advance of the Olympics). Whether Carrall Street’s latest incarnation as a high-profile “Greenway Project” is designed to stimulate the economy of the area, as officials contend, or simply to provide more pleasant direct access from Gastown to the downtown portion of Vancouver’s famed pedestrian seawall for Olympic tourists and the affluent new residents that will hopefully follow in their wake, is open to debate. But along with the restoration of Pigeon Park’s concrete surface, the painting over of graffiti on adjacent walls, and the installation of new benches and tables, the erection of high-powered street lamps is probably a clue as to who is winning the contest between social engineering and the protection of civil liberties. And on view at the just-about-to-open SFU Woodward’s we have two new public art works that, like Thauberger’s piece, remind us there is a history to such contests: Stan Douglas’s photographic “Abbott and Cordova, 7 August 1971” (on permanent display in the interior courtyard of the building); and Ken Lum’s text-based “No Way” (on temporary display on the building’s new Audain Gallery Hastings Street façade).
Victory Square, Hastings and Cambie—now/forever/never: “Cities of the dead are primarily for the living.” (Joseph Roach)
Monday, January 18, 2010
This past saturday I took my friend to go see the Canucks play the defending Stanley Cup Champions (Pittsburgh Penguins) at gm place. I couldn't help but notice all the Go Canada Go advertisements. Upon entering and leaving just about all sky train terminals you are met with billboard after billboard of Olympic Advertisement. In particular, down town is really getting into olympic mode. Just an addition to Melissa's post earlier ..
In an effort to cut down on the amount of visible shopping carts in the Downtown East Side during the Olympic Games, a wonderful program was started between the City of Vancouver and the First United Church. This pilot program provides storage containers for homeless people so that they may secure their belonging (for free) and access them anytime throughout the day or night (they simply have to remember their number and provide their name). This program eliminates the problem of guarding their belongings, a problem for many people using shelters and a source of anxiety and violence in the community. The service is free and is located right beside the First United Church on Main St (shown above). This is an example of a program created to make the homeless population less visible to tourists during the games but if continually funded could greatly benefit them long term. I discovered it on my Downtown East Side walkabout.
Tonight I took a walk Downtown before and after a concert I attended at Venue. I was compelled to take a picture of this monstrous Canadian flag that I see everyday before and after work... it's hard to miss, and I find it injects a Canadian pride that was not there before in the city. Well, at least it lets tourists think we are THAT proud to be Canadian. Clever strategy, Olympic Committee. Go Canada Go.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Last Saturday a minor cat bite on my left hand resulted in five days of scheduled intravenous antibiotics sessions at Vancouver General Hospital’s Emergency. During my walking/transiting to and from each day, I tried to record the “speaking” I encountered, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. I then intertwined it with a short description of my personal place in this city. What does de Certeau mean by "to walk is to lack a place" (103)? I have no definite conclusions.
I live in East Vancouver [“You seem the type.”] on East 10th[“That’s such a pretty street and no traffic.”] just around the corner from Commercial, not far from the Skytrain station [“Get’s a bit rough there at night? Little more ‘hobo’ than ‘boho’ on that end of the Drive. But East 10th is nice.”] with my partner, and an otherwise lethargic cat, who last Saturday bit my left hand [“Is it tracking? Cats have this bacteria called Pasteurella. You better come to emergency.”]. I live near the Skytrain station, and therefore the 99 B-line [“Lady! Lady! Don’t buy a ticket. This is the free bus. Just go to the backdoor. No one checks. I don’t want any money. Can you buy me a hot chocolate? With a large you get a free Nutri-Grain Bar at Macs.”], which stops at Willow, a few blocks from Vancouver General [“When did they start announcing ‘Willow/Vancouver General Hospital’? Fuckin’ Olympics. Find it yourself before. DRIVER, BACKDOOR.”]. I used to live in Kitsilano [“Kits? Really?"], nearer VGH [“Welcome to this heavenly hotel. Got a smoke?"], but I had neither a cat bite, nor even a cat then [“This is your first time here? Okay, can I see your Care Card? Just a second. Sir, she is going before you because she does not require a room. You need a room, sir. Please sit down. Sorry, this place.”]. Prior to Kits, I lived downtown on Haro, around the corner from Robson, closer to St. Paul’s than VGH [“Somebody help me. Somebody help me. Somebody help me. Can you help me? I was at St. Paul’s. They won’t help me. They wouldn’t help me. They took my clothes. The nurses did. It’s true. This is bullshit. The junkie nurses took my clothes. Somebody help me.”], but again I had no reason to visit [“Guess Ted Nugent was right. Cat Scratch Fever? Nugent? You’re too young. I’m going to put in the IV now. It’ll be easy. You have great veins. I mean the veins we usually see in here are collapsed.”]
While walking to Red Door on South Granville from West Broadway to 14th last night I noticed what appeared to be flags of different countries painted on the concrete pavement. My initial thought was that it was some kind of promotion for the Olympics. I also thought perhaps it was a creative attempt to celebrate Vancouver as a multicultural, multi-ethnic city. Whatever the reason, I was intrigued enough to take a photo of every single flag I walked by. It was kind of fun trying to guess the country of each flag (...I failed miserably) but I had to stop after about five blocks or I’d end up on the Granville Bridge to downtown. I decided to make a collage with the ones I did capture and this was the result:
(I realize there are a couple of duplicates but I wanted to make a complete square =P)
Well, my predictions were wrong. After some online research I discovered it is neither a City nor VANOC promotion for the Olympics but a $250,000 marketing concept called FlagWalk implemented by Yaletown and South Granville business groups. Hit hard by the recession, South Granville and Yaletown businesses took advantage of the Olympic hype and partnered up in hopes that the idea will attract more attention and business from locals before the games begin. There are more than 450 decals, as they are called, placed in alphabetical order representing 80 countries participating in the Winter Olympics. Spanning a distance of almost 4 kms, FlagWalk creates a walking route connecting Yaletown and South Granville for tourists and spectators coming to Vancouver. The expectation is that they will be curious and follow the flags, which will take them through some of the city’s most unique neighbourhoods and lure them to specific business districts. So while it is a way-finding tool, it is very much a marketing tool as well.