Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Blog II: "Vancouver Postcard"

Photo: Granville Street at Robson 1959, Fred Herzog

There has been much talk over the last two weeks about the "electrifying" Olympic atmosphere in downtown Vancouver at night, especially concentrated on Granville St. and Robson St. I have spent several nights navigating my way home (from various Cultural Olympiad events) through these streets and have found nothing remotely electrifying about overwrought aggression, machismo, and homophobia. I guess this could be countered as incidental. But I find there is a consistent tension here that permeates, always ready to surface in the world's most livable city. Close the liquor shops at 7:00pm - keep it at bay. I do not know exactly how to articulate it other than to direct this post to Elizabeth Kadetsky's "Happy Valley Postcard," in which she writes of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania:

"Happy Valley is wholesome according to press ratings: in 2008, the town was ranked the second safest metropolitan area in the country by one ratings group, and the safest small city by another. Over the last twenty years, arbiters ranging from Psychology Today to Forbes to CNN have also ranked it among America’s least stressful places, its smartest places and the best places to start a career or business. In 2007, it was named the number one “single” city based on its percentage of unmarried people, and Rolling Stone even gave its music scene honorable mention. Dominated by its university economy, it has always been more or less recession-proof, hence the actual origin of its name. Even the frats here sometimes extol things other than Animal House-style reckless living: Tau Phi Delta, a hunting and fishing frat; Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish frat; Alpha Rho Chi, an architecture frat. [...] The place of happiness seems to be an American trope, making it all the more unsettling when unhappy things transpire there, undermining our innocence and belligerent mirth." (emphasis mine)

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Right Performance for the Wrong Audience

For many, the Olympics start and end with the beginning and finish of each event, but others celebrate throughout the Games, and take in everything the event has to offer. The Cultural Olympiad has done a fantastic job of giving people venues for celebration, and the performers at these shows have risen to the challenge tremendously.

Going downtown, or to Surrey's Holland Park, or Richmond's Ozone always gives the option of seeing some sort of free show, sometimes sporting huge names like Our Lady Peace, Deadmau5 or Sam Roberts, while also featuring less known talents like the Arkells or Les Breastfeeders.

I attended the free Deadmau5 concert at Livecity Yaletown, which was, sadly, all ages. As a result, the majority of the twenty thousand-odd people in line were skipping high school to be there. After cutting in line (because it was either that or go home!) I made it in with my friends, among eight or so other thousand lucky fans. Apparently Deadmau5 is a big deal, but I'd only heard one of his songs at that point, which I listened to the morning of.

This brings me to Les Breastfeeders... a punk-rock band from Quebec who put performance before music with unfortunate results. For them, at least. Their band consisted of a few guitarists, a bass player, a drummer and a singer. Oh, and a crazed man in half a fur coat with a tambourine. He didn't sing, but ran the stage, leering at the audience and waving his instrument, while dousing himself with water. The poor guys got booed off stage, despite putting on an energy-fueled performance leaving everything out there. They were peppered with bottles and pop cans before finally giving in and politely walking off.

The problem, of course, was that the rave crowd from high school wasn't up for French punk rock. The performers did a great job doing what they do, but it wasn't what the audience wanted. It made me hope that the other dozens, maybe hundreds of live performance acts travelling from all over Canada to Vancouver are greeted with more respect and dignity, and that the promoters know where to place them to get the right show to the right audience.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Granville Street: Performance Space

For those of us that do not have the time or money to attend "real" events and pavilions for the Vancouver Olympics, there is Granville Street. As soon as you depart the Granville Station you have arrived. Most of the street is blocked off, the police are stationed at every intersection and a wave of people move up and down creating a street fair/marti gras atmosphere. The general hustle bustle vibe carries you down the street in a wave of energy and good cheer. The regular "don't make eye contact" routine of the downtown Vancouverite is abandoned as strangers cheer for Canada and welcome other nations. I could not help smile the whole way down.

On the night that I was there, mini performances popped up as I walked up and down. A group of Russians played the drums and sang a Russian Folk song. A man dressed in a white unitard cross country skied down the length of the street. Groups of Canadians clumped together to cheer a recent victory. A seemingly endless stream of people jumping up and down on the plywood platforms supporting the lantern trees. The police telling a man he couldn't carry his girlfriend on his shoulders. A man, on his own, running down the street yelling "B.C. buds the best". And as I walked, I felt bright and awake, ready for the next mini performance to begin.
So if you get a chance to experience Granville street during the games, take it, it's free.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mysterious Inukshuk Man

Like Sylvia, I too noticed the vast amounts of inukshuks constructed along Creekside. It was hard to miss; there were hundreds of these creations, and even more spectators enjoying them and taking photos. While I was there, a man was in the middle of the rocks creating one of these impressive inukshuk towers. I took several photos, and naturally because I had enjoyed these creations I looked for his tip box. Among the long stretch of various inukshuks, barely visible, sat a small unmarked margarine container with a Canadian flag sticking out of it. As I approached it ready to drop in my ninety cent contribution, I was somewhat taken aback. Within the margarine container sat a single toonie and a single loonie. Hundreds of people were taking photos and admiring the creations, and here were three dollars for this man’s efforts. I have to admit, his tip box was barely noticeable among the rocks. But seriously, three bucks?! I began to wonder why he didn’t bother to make a more noticeable tip box. Was this the man who had made all of these Inukshuks? Why had he done it? It seems that money wasn’t the main motive in making these rock towers. Or maybe it was and he didn’t make the donation box more noticeable because he didn’t have the proper license to make money off of it. I tried googling these inukshuk creations, but there were no hits. So many questions, so little answers. This event really started me thinking about our course of Vancouver as a performance, and the motives for the performance this mysterious man had created.

Monday, February 22, 2010

performance in media

Some of you may have heard the headlines about Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette's mother dying at VGH this weekend. This has been all over the media which to me brings up an interesting debate on the ethics of media. The media is taking a respectful stance on the story but they are still broadcasting this. Is it ethical to broadcast this kind of information? It happens all the time, peoples personal lives and relationships all over the news.

It would seem to me if I was in the situation i would feel exploited. This brings up the question of ethics in media. In the case of this they made Joannie into a hero which was at least a positive portrayal but the question remains is it ethical.


Here are a few pictures of Inukshuks and Olympic torches that people have built along Creekside (near Science World). I was amazed by the number of statues that were constructed using the stones, rocks and sometimes moss along the water. The closer one
walked to BC Place the larger the number of torches and Inukshuks. I don't know if this was a competition or if anyone was welcome to build but I have to say some of them appear extremely authentic.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reflecting on Push and Audience Obligation.

Does an audience owe anything to a performance? When I attended "Nevermore", two audience members seated beside me left at intermission because they were not enjoying the show. Is this rude? Is performance like an ill fitting shirt to be returned because it does not please? I certainly agree that the audience has the right to walk out but at what provocation? While "Nevermore" was not without its flaws it was not offensive, aggressive or even that dark. They simply didn't like it and left without seeing the end. I am fairly sure that the actors didn't notice and if I hadn't been sitting right beside them I wouldn't have noticed either. So why was I so bothered?

Any professional performance is sometimes years in the making, months in planning, weeks in rehearsal and a significant investment of capital. When you attend such a performance, you are not only enjoying a bit of theatre but supporting a community of artists dedicated to producing art. Do you not owe a certain amount of respect to the culmination of such an effort? I suspect you already know what I think on the matter. Yes, you do. Now, if you are unable to continue watching because you are offended or you are ill, I cannot fault that. This was not the case, however. I take the stand that leaving because you are unimpressed is just as rude as answering a phone call, talking during the performance or any other number of agreed upon transgressions. Just because the end result did not live up to your expectations, you should still respect the artists who endeavored to create something magical, even if they failed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Required Reading for Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Neurotic Citizen by Engin F. Isin (abstract):

"Over the last three decades we have witnessed the birth of a subject that has constituted the foundations of a regime change in state societies: the neoliberal subject. As much as neoliberalism came to mean the withdrawal of the state from certain arenas, the decline of social citizenship, privatization, downloading, and so forth, it also meant, if not predicated upon, the production of an image of the subject as sufficient, calculating, responsible, autonomous, and unencumbered. While the latter point has been a topic of debate concerning the rational subject, I wish to argue that the rational subject has itself been predicated upon and accompanied by another subject: the neurotic subject. More recently, it is this neurotic subject that has become the object of various governmental projects whose conduct is based not merely on calculating rationalities but also arises from and responds to fears, anxieties and insecurities, which I consider as ‘governing through neurosis’. The rise of the neurotic citizen signals a new type of politics (neuropolitics) and power (neuropower). I suggest a new concept, neuroliberalism—a rationality of government that takes its subject as the neurotic citizen—as an object of analysis."

The Simpsons do Vancouver!

The Simpsons had an Olympics episode!!

Marge and Homer are part of the USA curling team, and Lisa gets a crazy addiction to collecting Olympics mascot pins...


Jay Malinowski, from the band Bedouin Soundclash, wrote a song about the downtown East side as part of his new solo stuff:
"Narceritos", from the album Bright Lights and Bruises.
It's not just that I have an insanely school-girl-esque crush on him, but the song is definitely worth checking out. A review I read about it had an issue with it being too "dark"... eyeroll.

Jesus Christ Can Answer Your Prayers Via Text

I came across an interesting journal article last week. Titled "No more SMS from Jesus: Ubicomp, Religion and Techno-spiritual Practices", author and urban ethnographer (I think that is the right description) discusses the use of technology - more notably, mobile technologies - in religious practices.

In Finland, one of its mobile service provider offered text messages from the Saviour himself, promising to answer to any prayers you might have wanted to text to Jesus Christ. The service was shut down, but there continues to be a huge crossover between religious practices and technologies (ie The Vatican has a text messaging service and records podcasts). Is this exploiting religion and spiritual practices?

I could argue that yes, these types of "techno-spiritual" practices exploit religion and the people who follow. As a person who has grown up with religion, shouldn't I have faith and hope when I pray, instead of the instant gratification of an answer from Jesus, via text?

During the PuSh Fest, if anyone attended The Passion of Joan of Arc at the Christ Church Cathedral, you will probably remember the technical problems the show had with playing the movie. The projection was not a problem, but for some reason, the film was not playing as it should have been. It was hilarious to hear and see the orchestra start and stop due to some technical glitch.

Now, despite the strange text messages you could receive from the Good Shepard and the technical glitch, I thought that bringing technology into the church for this show was genius. It was strangely appropriate. Church acoustics can be pretty fantastic and that large organ, looming above, was effectively used. Further, theatre and church can share very similar rituals and practices. There is an altar/stage with a priest/actor performing from a script. And for the most part, a traditionally passive audience sits, watches and interprets. Joan of Arc was a great show and definitely a highlight of the Festival.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reflecting of Push and Performance

What is theatre? A basic performance only requires a space, an actor and an action but is that theatre? For those of you that didn't see Best Before, it was an experience in virtual reality, giving each audience member control of a small bouncing dot and requiring them to make decisions about the fate of that dot. There was some actual live action performance spliced in but the real show was the interface between audience and technology. Certainly the creators went to a lot of trouble to make it feel like theatre but is a bunch of people sitting is room together, playing a video game theatre?

Many friends of mine play online games such as World of Warcraft, in which they interact with other people, create elaborate characters, go on missions and experience intense emotions regarding victories and loses. However, I think most people would agree that this isn't theatre. So what is it about Best Before that pushes it beyond a mere video game? Perhaps it is the fact that we are in a theatre, experiencing it together and reacting to each others presence. Perhaps it is the people controlling the experience or the dramatic interludes. Or maybe this isn't theatre at all but a kind of performance art. I'm still not sure.

One of the things I admire about the Push Festival is it's commitment to putting on shows that blur the boundaries. Most of the shows I saw, including Best Before, were difficult to define. Theatre is a type of performance but not all performances are defined as theatre. A guy simply standing, showing slides and talking about his trip to China. Theatre? A guy projecting his family album in a bunny suit. Theatre? A collective video game. Theatre? In all these cases, I'm not sure what to conclude. However, I tend toward a more permissive view. If theatre is to challenge and engage it must arrest and this is rarely achieved in your tradition plot driven play.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I found these sings on Friday around 4 pm leaning against the art gallery, void of any apparent owners.

the bay protest and the capitalist reaction

I was at the westin bayshore hotel saturday morning waiting around for clients at the spa when i heard the hotel was on security lock down. No one in, no one out. This was because some angry protesters were coming towards the hotel (which has all the vanoc committee people and dignitaries and fancy pants staying inside it). These were the same protesters who earlier that morning had broken the windows at the bay, splashed red paint and overturned mailboxes.

Being incredibly anti-olmypic I was actually at the time somewhat entertained by this idea. (Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have to go through airport security and not be able to take my own lunch to work everyday because of the olympics? I work 14 hr shifts until the olympics are over and can only eat at the cafeteria once a day but am still not allowed to bring my water bottle to work because of security. Working in the hotel industry currently my guests are all olympic- competitors, sponsors, families, dignitaries, vanoc members etc etc... not only can i not escape the olympics I cant have an opinion about them at work. and I couldnt take time off work during the olympics because that was cause for termination. oh olympics.... you are not my friend) Having said this I went down to the Bay around 3 pm on saturday to survey the damage. All the paint was washed away by the time my boyfriend and camera showed up at 330 and most of the windows fixed. This lady, however, was there and she was an employee of the Bay as I understood it. Note her sign in regards to the actions of the protesters. (Ironically I feel that VANOC vandalized many of our communities such as DTES let alone the provincal budget but it digress)

Now im still anti-olympic but slightly less grouchy about it. The olympics are here, and so it is too late to make changes for 2010. It is not too late to raise awareness to the issues and change them for the future communities. Because deep down its a beautiful concept but its the manner in which the olympics operate which is the problem they devastate parts of the hosting communities and make other parts of them rich. The "world" is here, its the perfect time to raise the issues and deal with them in a positive and progressive manner. Having those protesters break a bunch of public and corporate property (however much their damn the man methods may have been rebelliously delicious) makes all protesters look like vandalizing "douchebags". And even though deep down a part of me dreams of going "postal" on my vanoc work place in the forms of long soap box style rants about consumerism and corporate propaganda for product placement at the cost of the local communities during the hours and hours im there surrounded by 2010 propaganda I understand that violence like that dosent help the cause, it just makes those protesters and those in opposition for valuable reasons who want to fight for change look like jokes. So from here on out im being a happy protester.

one more note about protesting. Friday there was a big anti-olympic protest at the art gallery. I wasn't able to get any photos but another group came out to protest the protesters. They had these signs that read " You say Protest we say Party!" They were advocating celebrating the 2010 olympics and having a "party" while the world was here, having fun with the games and such. Interestingly enough they were mostly older people, all well dressed, I saw lots of expensive name brand clothing on a majority of the people I saw - they clearly upper middle class. Interesting to look at the ages and demographics of the protesters, it tells you a lot of social values in this city.

Vancouver 2010, where everyone is a consumer

These are some pictures from Burrard street and Granville street I took on Saturday while waiting for appointments at my work. It seems that all the store fronts and some hot dog stands are doing their best to take advantage of the olympic marketing angle.

The olympics are something I have always thought of in capitalist terms, go into any sky train and be bombarded with coke and mc donald ads. Or walk downtown everyone who shops at the Bay gets a reusable (bonus points for this)"Visa - Go World" bag (all points lost for being a walking advert). The message I take away from this is that I should drink coke, eat at mc donalds and spend lots of money on my credit card, im sorry what did that have to do with sports?

Anyways I left out the major sponsors because we have talked about it a bit before but also it makes me too angry. But also because the window displays are more creative and possibly ridiculous. Walking around downtown lots of things were being given out for free and many more things were being advertised for free on people. The windows of clothing stores showed "olympic spirit" by depicting people in lines for events, winter sports, canada's colours and gold medals out of various products.

A particular favorite olympic moment of the day was overhearing a couple talking while waiting in line for free vitamin water say "they dont have the flavor you like and its starting to rain, can we get out of here?" and the wife replying " just a few more minutes were almost at the front, besides its free". I understand that as a capitalist society we value things that are free because everything is ranked in value based on price. Yet it is so ridiculous to see people stand in the rain for over 15 minutes to get something they dont really want for free. Ah everyone is a consumer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Streets of Downtown Vancouver continued...

I forgot to post the pictures of the PETA protest on my previous blog. I added a couple more pictures for everyone's enjoyment.

The Busy Streets of Downtown Vancouver

My curiosity got the better of me and I headed to Downtown Vancouver this afternoon to see the sights and hear the sounds of the 2010 Olympics. I was astounded by the number of people that were there. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that from Stadium Skytrain Station to the Banana Republic Store on Robson would there be so many people. The streets were packed with people young and old sporting clothing from an assortment of countries; the majority being from Canada.
The first thing I noticed was how friendly and warm the ambiance was and how clean the streets were. I'm sure Vanoc would not have it any other way.
In order to cross the street, everybody had to squeeze in like sardines in a can and to think that we had the main thoroughfare to walk on, not just the sidewalks.
Some of the pictures include Olympic snowboarders using a trampoline as their stage to do their tricks in front of the Canada Post building. To say the least, it was entertaining to watch the three guys do their front flips, back flips and twirly things (I have no idea what they are called).
As mentioned earlier, being curious about the entire event, I went to The Bay to see first hand if there was any leftover evidence of yesterday's riot. I was not surprised to see that the glass had been cleaned up. The only evidence of the uprising was some paint on a fire hydrant and on the concrete floor below the glass display windows. Continuing northward on my journey, I noticed a gentleman standing motionless holding two tennis racquets. His face was painted white and he continuously stared at the concrete floor. Perhaps when one of you looks at the picture you can figure out what he was trying to accomplish.
During my very tiring walk, there were quite a few performers stationed on the streets: skip rope jumpers, magicians and comedians. Being that I am so short, it was hard to see much less take a picture but I will post some of the pictures of these performers anyway.
Along 700 block of Granville were the LunarFest displays to showcase diversity in Vancouver. The artwork was absolutely marvelous.
Lastly, as I was leaving to go home, I noticed two protests that were going on at the Art Gallery. The first was for the release of Iranian prisoners and the second was for PETA, the latter being the most popular since a few of the protesters were naked.
All in all, it was an interesting day; however, I don't think I will return to the area until the Olympics are over.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pumping up for the Olympics: Flame and Freebies

When I heard the Olympic torch was coming through our little city of Belcarra I was quite surprised. Turns out they squeezed us in the 5am slot. Haha. It was a struggle to drag my butt out of bed in the wee hours that no man should have to endure. My family and I climbed in the car and drove down the street half a block. Why walk when you can drive right? Turns out the entire city turned out to cheer on the start of the Olympics.... all 150 of us. But seriously. Belcarra has under 800 residents, so I’m estimating nearly a quarter of everyone came out for the festivities. And what wondrous festivities they were. It was great: lights were flashing, girls were dancing on vehicles driving by, music was playing, people were handing out free Cokes and free Canada flags, everyone was cheering. A good time was had by all. It was totally worth getting up at 5am for. OK everyone, lets go back to bed. Oh wait. That was just the sponsors? Damn. Another seven minutes goes by of numerous amounts of police force on motorbikes, police force inside vehicles, and what seemed like fool proof amounts of riot control. I literally think the security outnumbered the citizens in Belcarra standing by. After all the flashing lights and free stuff from the sponsors, I hate to say it, but the woman carrying the torch was borderline anticlimactic. She walked up to the crowd, smiled, had a few photos taken, and then the whole crew packed up and drove away. But don’t worry, the mayor of Belcarra came out with good news: there would be free coffee and hot chocolate at the town hall. So naturally, I moved on to the next venue that promised free stuff and stocked up. Turns out drinking free coffee at 5am when you plan on going back to bed after isn’t worth the freebee.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Olympics Torch Relay

The teachers and the students at the school where I teach walked to Trout Lake to see the Olympics Torch Relay. Needless to say the place was filled with cheering people. You could hear the crowd from a great distance away. Here are some of the shots that I took. I took the pictures in a hurry because there were a bunch of people continously blocking my view and security was adamant about keeping us on the sidelines. I apologize for the blurry pictures.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Best Before

"Best Before" was a play all about choices and consequences. It may sound really deep, but the entire theme was wrapped in a silly, interactive video game. Each performance of this play is unique to the audience watching it because the members of the audience were responsible for the actions of the "actors". If you haven't seen this play or read about it, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'll explain. Each audience member got a game controller and there was an enormous screen opposite the audience. Each controller controlled a little dot on the screen that was representative of each audience member. The controllers could move the dot, make it jump, make it fall back to its original place and make it bond with another dot ("marriage"). The choices that you made in life affected what happened to the dot and its physical representation (e.g. the more money you had, the taller you were). The actors on stage would ask a question (e.g. would you like to be male or female?) then they would designate one side of the screen as one answer and the other side as the opposing answer. This question would affect whether your dot could later become pregnant for example. The life of the dot was from birth until death (some point around 100 years). With each decision that the dot made, there was a trademark charactersitic that was given to the dot. For example if the dot went to jail for illegal use of drugs, then it got horns. I really enjoyed this play because I was a fun and interactive way to drive home the theme of consequences to our choices. If you have the chance to see it, I would recommend it.

The Richmunshuck!

Joan Of Arc

This performance was by far my favourite of the festival. While it was as interesting as any of the other performances I saw, it had the added bonus of occurring in one of the more beautiful indoor spaces Vancouver has. The aspect of space in this performance, was for me, the most interesting aspect of the show. It was more than just simply the conflict between the message of the film and the venue in which we were watching; it was the way the two different aspects of the performance worked together, one old and one new, to create something different than just the sum of their parts and how this reflected itself in the way the performance attempted to re-purpose the interior space of the church.

Clark and I initial review

Beginning with the monotonal, sadistic opening anecdote relating the death of an infected puppy as it smacked into a brick wall, Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut was different. And nothing says different like a narrator dressed in a bunny outfit, sometimes head on, occasionally narrating head off. The performance was clearly designed to have no fourth wall, which became apparent from the moment that the narrator took a picture of the audience in the opening minutes of the play. This spectacle, the audience watching the bunnyman, and the bunnyman watching us, and the displaying of our picture on the screen set the tone for the voyeuristic aspects of the performance. There was never meant to be a fourth wall. An audience member, as I occasionally did, could peer into a booth and watch the bunnyman's technical assistant flip switches to cue video, music, or other displays. We could watch him focus or rip away a picture from the projecting lens on the table. And the voyeuristic aspects stretched beyond this, as the narrator leads one to believe that one is viewing the picture's of someone else's family. People you don't know, and before now, never cared about, pop up in front of you. But now, somehow, you do care about these people. The bunnyman relates the story of their existence sometimes through anecdotes, and other times by displaying their lineage. But what is clear, is that this is a family. Maybe like yours, maybe not. And then, suddenly, there is a revelation. This is not the Green family that we observed distantly but attached. This is the bunnyman's family. And perhaps he is more than just a man in a bunny suit.

Life on the Big Screen

The idea of life as a performance is both reaffirmed and challenged in the multi-player video game of Best Before, an interactive game show that requires the active participation of live audience members and their gaming avatars. A video game programmer, video game tester, flagger, politician and guitarist make up the panel of staged actors who regulate the game. The programmer functions like a god, giving and granting choices to audiences throughout the game. The flagger indicates time with an LED traffic light and constantly tracks the age of the audience’s gaming avatars.

Equipped with a video game controller in hand, audience members are essentially given a second chance to "live life" as they please through the lives of their individually assigned videogame avatars, which in this case, are identically shaped and sized jellybeans visually differentiated by color. Pre-established choices set by the programmer limit what you can do with your avatar; the challenge merely lies in how adventurous you want to be. You can have intercourse at age fifteen, become a pothead at age twenty, and undergo a sex change at age thirty, all with a simple push of a button. The game even gives you the option of investing in the stock market and buying a house.

Some choices evoke moments of laughter while others evoke shock or even horror. Whether to have an abortion is one such choice posed that caused awkward laughter followed by a moment of silence and shock in the audience. Suspense and laughter ensues as pregnant avatars indecisively jump from one side of the screen to the other as the flagger counts down the time remaining.
As soon as you are given a choice, you have five seconds to navigate your avatar and make up your mind. Time constraint plays a big factor in the show's connection between real and imaginary life. Some moments will compel you to stop and wonder, but time bars you from thinking too long to simply enjoy the game.

An avatar’s elimination is inconsequential to the lives of the other avatars and hence there are no real winners or losers in the game. In the real world, it takes more than a repeated set of choices to dictate the course of our lives. We also add meaning to our choices. Best Before’s videogame executes this theme by explicitly de-emphasizing it in the choices we make to our avatars’ lives. This irony is played out perfectly in the so-called election of Bestland’s “leader,” which is as relevant and meaningful as all the other choices we make in the game (hint, it isn't the least bit relevant). The elected leader does not have any more control over themselves or the game than any other avatar. In my particular session, the leader dies prematurely from an unexpected gun raid, but society continues on as normal. So what is the point of a game that has no winners or losers? Perhaps that is the question the actors want the audience to take home.

As a whole, Best Before was delightfully entertaining during, and thought-provoking in retrospect. Energy spent on constantly trying to locate my avatar on screen and being pushed around by other avatars definitely tested my patience but did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the show. The panel of actors occasionaly paused the game to share their personal stories and add depth to the show's theme. However, it was my personal interaction with the game and my entertaining adventure as a blue and red jellybean that made the experience for me. I went into the theatre not knowing what to expect but I walked out with a smile.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The show should have gone on..

Initially I had to constantly keep telling myself to keep an open mind about the performance I was going to see. Having heard nothing about the performance or what it was about, I went to the performance completely unaware of what I was about to endure. Even the location seemed to be an issue for me as I really didn't want to drive my car down but am not a fan of public transit. After coercing my dad into driving me and Sylvia down, I realized that the area has definately undertaken a significant change. Yes a couple of blocks up you can still see the poverty and homelessness that engulfs the area but the new Woodwards building definately struck me as something to be admired. I don't remember it but as a kid my mom used to take me shopping at woodwards constantly therefore it brought me an explicable feeling of comfort by being there. I felt like I was taking part in a historical event as the thursday Jan. 26th show was one of the first to be shown in that space. It was definatly cool.

As the show commenced I felt a sense of giddyness as the crowd was quite young and I recognized many faces as students from SFU. Everyone seemed to be anticipating a good time, therefore I decided to share in their giddyness. When the lights turned off and the music started playing all I could think was that I was paying to see a show in the dark and that the whole show better not be all in the dark. I love music and the songs that they chose brought me a great sense of nostalgia and a smile to my face. The crowd seemed to be enjoying it as well as many started singing and dancing during numerous songs. I even partook in some of that singing without even thinking about it. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. There was the occasional song which I thought could have been left out or that was too repetitive and neverending. I even enjoyed the dj and his stack of CD's which I initially didn't think was part of the show. I just thought since the building wasn't quite finished, they didn't have better equipment to use for the show. I found myself counting down the CD's to see how many songs were left and was actually sad when I saw their was only a couple left. The hour and a half was over so quickly it definately left me desiring more as I didn't want it to end. It turned out to be my favourite show that I got to see, and I felt that even though it was extremely testing the norm, I wanted to bring my friends to see it so they could experience the same feeling of memories.

Clark and I and The Passion of Joan of Arc

My Push festival experience was different each night I sat through a particular show. From the spectacle performance of The Show Must Go On to the Passion of Joan of Arc, each show left me feeling different emotions.

After having seen The Show Must Go On, I quickly realized while watching the Passion of Joan of Arc that it was going to be a completely different performance. I found the crowd to be significantly older than the other shows. The Passion of Joan of Arc was creatively an interesting performance to watch however I wouldn't say it was my favourite of the shows I watched. It was definately well done, just not something that I would for myself consider highly entertaining.

Clark and I Somewhere in Conneticut was definately more entertaining than The Passion of Joan of Arc however I found Clark and I somewhat lacking in substance and overall message. I have to admit, my initial attitude towards the viewing of Clark and I was poor. I was frustrated that it was friday night and I had chosen to go see this performance that as far as I knew was about a guy in a bunny suit with a microphone. Viewing a show with someone is always more fun and to top it all off my usual show viewing buddy Sylvia wasn't watching the show on the same night. Getting there and seeing the intimate stage set-up helped however, making me feel more at home. Also, Adam from our class showed up, making things better as I now had someone to talk to.

In my opinion the performance itself wasn't the worst I've ever seen. It was definately creative with its funny moments and witty phrases. As it wasn't completely a narrative the issue of plot progression wasn't hard to follow. I pretty much guessed right from the beginning that the photos were actually his as he seemed to have a certain fondness for them which wouldn't exist if they were truly strangers. I found the idea of finding picture albums in an alley really cool and the idea of finding their origins a good one as well. I think no having specific names for the personalities detracted from my overall comprehension. For me it was overall an entertaining performance with several questionable parts: such as the nudity. Really? Did we really need to see that?

Monday, February 8, 2010

vancouver olympic village 360 picture


By the way...
Does anyone know why Ahhnold is carrying the torch? What does he have to do with anything?

Best Before: the end of the night

Best Before, more play than a play, proved to be a great night out (I should also mention that I am in love with The Cultch).

I read a few reviews before going, so I knew the basic premise of the piece: everyone in the audience gets a controller, and "lives" through an avatar (my mom's response when I tried to tell her about it: "Oh is it based on the movie?!"...), and is given various life changing options. With the touch of a button, the players select the desired sex, occupation, political views, family and other such choices. Paralleling the video gaming world, Best Before seemed to place an emphasis on our own reality, and the connected reality of our avatars. Obviously understanding that Bestland was make-believe, I was still very cautious, especially at the beginning, in making smart choices. For example, I stayed away from heroin and teenage sex, but as the game went on, I let loose and ended up owning firearms and committing suicide at age 78. Whereas the original concern surrounded jobs, a weight on money and the legalization of marijuana, my focus shifted to being the center of attention in the zoom shots and avoiding prison (aka sticking around for longer). At one point, I ended up bickering with my boyfriend because he was real-life mad that I cheated in the race and caused us to get disqualified, so he went and married someone else!

Without any real actors on screen, on stage, or in the audience, it was a collaborative effort to function as a society in Bestland, and the gameshow-esque presentation was entertaining and enjoyable. However, even though I was more attached to my avatar than to the players in other video games, there was nothing other than a good time that I took away from the night.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Passion Of Joan of Arc

Upon realizing that "The Passion of Joan of Arc" was playing during the PuSh festival, I instantly knew that I wanted to watch it. Having been brought up Catholic and possessing a rudimentary knowledge of what happened to her throughout her life, I wanted to learn more. The performance was amazing, emotional, heartfelt, etc. There are not enough descriptive words to illustrate my feelings throughout the performance's entirety. I was enthralled by it from beginning to end.
The setting of the performance was at Christ Church Cathedral in Downtown Vancouver. In my opinion, the PuSh festival could not have picked a better venue for this particular performance. Once I entered, I was overcome by a sense of peace, a feeling far removed from those that Falconetti, the actress portraying Joan of Arc, expressed throughout the silent movie. The vaulted ceilings, dark rafters, dimmed chandelier lighting and wooden benches gave it a Gothic feel which matched the antiquated film to perfection. I have never been a fan of silent movies; however, this one was the exception. The actors' (especially Falconetti) powerful expressions pulled at my heartstrings and left me with goose bumps and a longing to reach out to her during her most difficult times. Falconetti's eyes, radiating anguish and sorrow, filled the screen. Her tears, large and mournful, appeared to drop from the screen and onto the hardwood floors of the Cathedral. The accompanying orchestra, singer and pipe organs which played in unison with the silent movie brought the film to life. Each musical note, whether it be instrumental or vocal, matched Falconetti's anxiety, self-doubt, hesitancy, and finally, the acceptance of her impending death. I could not help but notice the pungent smell of anxiety that arose from those audience members that were within my surrounding area. Every one's eyes, including my own, were fixated on the screen, not moving, their faces revealing, what appeared to be regret and distress. At times, I was so transfixed by what was going on in the movie that I completely tuned out the music. My only focus was Falconetti's pain and the words that were on the screen communicating the actors' words. In the end, the movie felt so honest and genuine that I left the Cathedral mourning the loss of a heroine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

So Percussion Review

"So Percussion". I admit the title did not stand out to me from the list of performances available, and the only reason I chose it was because the ones I wanted were sold out and this was the only show that fit into my schedule. The performance was in the evening and I recall being quite exhausted upon arriving and thinking to myself, man I hope the music will be lively and dynamic so I can stay awake! However, Like Sylvia, I arrived not really knowing the least of what to expect. I had arrived exactly on time and it was a full house. As a result, the best seat I could find was one with a view that was partially obstructed by a big white pillar and next to four women who wouldn't stop talking and chuckling during the performance. I really liked the overall seating arrangement, though. Because there was no mounted stage, chairs were placed in a 360 degree formation around the instruments, which effectively positioned the performance space in the center. I thought it might be a customary arrangement for concerts in general, but I don't attend concerts regularly so it was something I took note of.

I wasn't there early enough for the flowerpot jam, but was there in time to witness their brilliant clapping session. Who knew clapping could be a skill? Not I. Initially, anyway. The beat was simple: 3,1,2,1, but imagine clapping to that consistently for ten minutes straight, commencing and ending in perfect unison. It is not an easy feat, as I would later realize when the quartet would involve the entire audience in a clapping session at the end of the show. The level of the performers' intensity and concentration was equally matched in their next performance piece, which was a 15 minute progression of repeated 4 note sequences on the synthesizer. As for the musical piece itself, however, to be brutally honest, I found it to be dull and uninspiring. I admit I am not a huge fan of synthesizers to begin with. I grew up as a piano player, so the synthesizer always came off sounding unpleasingly artificial to me. The next piece, the marimbas, was probably my favorite in the entire show. Entertainment-wise, it was a long stretch from the sleep-inducing synthesizers. The music was something that could be used in a Disney movie and really reminded me of my childhood. These marimbas were one of the bigger ones that I have seen, and I was in awe of the quartets' quick hand movements along the instrument. Once again, they demonstrated a difficult mastery of playing in unison with minute accuracy. These two components, unison and accuracy, are so important in a musical collaboration. A single discrepency in rhythm to the trained ear, even just for a millisecond, can offset the integrity of a performance for that single moment, which can look very unprofessional. Having attempted a few musical collaborations myself in the distant past, I can really appreciate the execution of this performative aspect in all their musical pieces.

Although I did not walk away from the show with my heart brimming with emotions, I did walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for the musical arts in general. Seeing the quartets' devoted passion to music also made me somewhat miss playing the piano. That being said, really good music is something I would want to listen to over and over. However, as much as I respect the talent and integrity of the quartets, given the chance, I would not choose to sit through any part of "So Percussion" a second time.

SFU Harbour Centre

Just a few pictures taken from SFU Harbour Centre. As you walk in you'll find a bunch of contractors making additions to the facility. However, these are not renovations, everything you see in these images are going to be taken away after the olympics are over. (including the new "hardwood" floors.)

These pictures provide us an example of one of the many ways in which the city is getting ready, and performing, for the olympics.

More to come...

Ashley and I Somewhere in Granville Island

The best part of PuSh shows is usually the relieving moment when I realize that someone else from my class is there. At Clark and I, I luckily bumped into Ashley after wandering down to the playhouse through the mostly empty, dark and wet Granville Island. Anyone else think the place looks like something out of Roger Rabbit? Like a really seedy cartoon?

SPEAKING OF RABBITS... I don't really like rabbits. Big ones are worse. I'm not scared of them or anything, but I am now. Clark and I seems to play on the idea of realities, and what is important in a story. Throughout the performance, layers of truth are stripped away, and by the end, we are left with a version of the story much different from what we initially believe to be true. It really was quite brilliant. Uncomfortable, yes, and perhaps not altogether as entertaining as, say, The Show Must Go On (although some funny moments were present), but still very well done. Actually, scratch that. It was more entertaining than The Show Must Go On.

Humour is important in keeping the audience in the play and with the Rabbit. We absolutely must empathize with this character, because if we don't, we would be quickly seriously creeped out. He is likable in the pathetic sense; he clearly is crossing a line and disrespecting the family of which he is engaging with, but he does so in a way that we feel sorry for him most of all. Despite his candor, we cannot and should not trust him. As the levels of truth are stripped away and facts become questions, the audience cannot know if anything the Rabbit is saying is true. Which family are the stories about, his, or theirs? If his, why use another's names? If theirs, then how was he able to match up the pictures so well? If he could, you would think he would have the memories and moments that the other family did. Even so, the moments are shown to be forced and faked. By the end of the play, nothing is true and we are left wondering what the Rabbit was trying to prove. Perhaps he is trying to show that nothing is real and everything can be imitated. But to what end?

Clark and I and Me...

These are more or less the thoughts that I took down in class on Monday, but I'd like to share them anyways, and this will probably develop into my critical review (though I was toying with the idea of writing the review from the point of view of the Bunny Man, hmmm)

A story about stories (about stories...), and it begins with a story. Just a half-prepared stage and the voice of a stranger. The response to this story varies: 'awwww', 'hahahaha', 'oh that's horrible'. Then the rabbit appears, a behind-the-scenes moment where we see him set the stage up, meticulous and fumbling at the same time, this rabbit won't quit until the set-up is PERFECT. This is important. We might be confused, curious, annoyed, or bored, but this rabbit sure cares about this performance. We are thrown into a clever family-tree biography in which actions, feelings, and colors are used to replace the names of a family we don't know, a family we can only care about if the rabbit cares. The next hour and half is a story told from many angles and through many types of technology, but all of the effects aside, this is just a story about a lonely, obsessive artist who finds beauty and interest in what others have considered garbage, and I relate to him.

The dog story. 'Weeeeeeeeeeee'. Although this story didn't need to be included in the performance (in that it had sufficient narrative backbone without the sick little shepherd), I found that this anecdote was the main aspect of Clark and I... that's stayed with me in the week following. In the spirit of the performance, I retold the story, to the best of my recollection, to my roomate, with no introduction or context. I explained it to him afterwards and encouraged him to find someone to tell it to, to the best of his recollection. The idea of a story being told, then retold from memory, then retold again and again, really intrigued me and the poor pup with the green stuff coming out of his butt was the key image I took away from the Bunny Man's performance.

As a whole, despite the show's interactive nature and 'live-ness', I felt like I was watching an independant-film-style documentary, or even reading a personal narrative novel. I was following along in my head the way I would while reading, imagining the characters and events being shared by the Bunny Man. My favorite image (in my head) came near the end, when he spoke of his lawyer floating in and collapsing, then described eating his anus. 'I cooked it a little first, for fear of food poisoning, and because it was a butt.' Great line. What made this performance for me was the inclusion of all the various storytelling techniques: photography, anecdotes, staged/scripted scenes, videos, all helped build this story of a dangerously curious man. If he had simply stood there, telling his story with no aides at all, the words might have still be interesting but the audience would have likely been bored out of their skulls.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clothing Optional: Overdue thoughts on Poetics

I'm going to try to avoid commenting on the venue, on my journey there, or on the experience of seeing the show alone (yeah okay, lonely, but also kind of thrilling). Instead, I have some thoughts on the show itself, the themes it presented, and how it relates to a lot of what Phelan has been saying about performance.

Poetics: a ballet brut was very much a performance of the body. Acknowledging each others' bodies, the audience's bodies and the energy of their own bodies, the performers' movement and interactions expressed their identity and their visibility. I was reminded of Phelan's points on metonymy and how rather than erasing dissimilarity and negating difference, the body is metonyminic of self, of character, of voice, of 'presence'. She claims that through this visibility and availability, the performer disappears and represents something else (150, last week's article). In Poetics, the performers' bodies (and the clothes they wore, where they stood, how they interacted with each other) not only represented their identities, but expressed their possible social statuses, life roles, relationships and gender.

The PuSh Festival site says of Poetics: "Intimate one moment and operatic the next, these seemingly mundane gestures build to a surprising conclusion that is delightfully unhampered by its performers’ complete lack of formal dance training."
The very unprofessional yet charmingly intense dance moves (which also consisted of finger-dancing, chair-dancing, and sleep-dancing) was goofy and fun, and definitely danced all over the audience's funny bones. Oh my goodness, cheesy.
Anyways, through the purposely awkward and repetitive dance moves, the show also raised a question of legitimacy and authority regarding the performance.
Not only was the dancing repeated by a professional ballerina, pointing out the original performances, but the audience's own performance was also reflected. One of the curtains revealed a mirror theatrical setup, making the real audience aware of their own actions and interactions ("Wait, so can we take pictures too?" said the lady beside me)...

Phelan said "Great art accumulates relevance and meaning as it moves
beyond the control of its creators; weak art decides in advance what the piece is about" (571, from week 5 readings). I think that Poetics has definitely left the grasp of its creators and left the audience with room for conversation, making it great (and hilarious) art.