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June 2006

Kenjii alert - and other art notes

Got a late note from Decypher Cru about an art show by Kenjii Toyooka June 1st (8 pm) at Shanghia restaurant on Somerset, here in Ottawa. I'll copy it below:

This is a quick heads up about the vernissage for DeCypher affiliated artist Kenji Toyooka's latest art show, All Ways.  By now many of you will have seen Kenji's work - among many other things he's the person responsible for the DeCypher Cru website and our logo - so you already know that he is an amazing artist who is progressing in leaps and bounds, so I am forwarding you an invitation to see some of his latest work.
All Ways is a series of painted portraits depicting some of the couples and groups in Kenji's life that exude a certain sense of permanence and painted in a variety of styles.  The vernissage (opening night party) will take place tomorrow, Thursday, June 1st, at 8pm at Shanghai restaurant (651 Somerset, just east of Bronson).  Shanghai is a funky and delicious little spot that steps away from the typical Chinese restaurant atmosphere and is well loved both for their excellent food and their strong support for Ottawa's artistic community.  The vernissage will include music by local DJ CPI.  Kenji's paintings will be up at Shanghai for the rest of the month and you can see more of his work at .
His art looks interesting (follow the link) and it should be a good party, they're a fun group.
I was at a "Soiree Videos de Danse" tonight, at Alliance Francais on MacLaren. Six videos were shown by Izabel Barsive, a friend of mine from Ottawa (and Corsica), and Tommy Lawson from France. Some silly, some serious, some a little confusing. The programme was in French, not one of my stronger skills, so I was a bit at a loss, but they were all mostly dance with little dialogue, and very enjoyable. A talented pair. I would have stayed for wine and nibblies but there was a question period after and Tommy's answers were very complete. In the other official language - I suppose I could finally learn French a bit better, but there never seems to be any spare time for the semi-retired.  I'd had a bite earlier anyways at The Oak on Bank, a pint of draft and a pint of water and quesadillas. It was a hot afternoon of picture taking - I was at the TechWall talking with Dazer first, as he workd on his big mural. Met a young guy new to the city too, with a camera and interest in graffiti. So I gave him the 10 minute history lesson. Then I drove to the House of Paint - under the Bronson/Rideau River bridge. A lot of pieces, some good, nothing really great. A lot of random tags on them too. My pics still to be scanned and uploaded - patience.
Coming up Friday - World Beats and Eats at the Mercury Lounge, this month for the Third Wall Theatre Company. Music by Emily Jones and then Chris Rockwell, eats by Shwarma Palace and Savana Cafe, live art by John Gap.  7-10
Also 7-10 there is the opening of a photography exhibit by James Erdeg at La Petit Mort Gallery - 306 Cumberland.  I'll squeeze them both in I guess - the busy artistic life of a former Quality Assurance manager. Who'd of thought. And of course listening to Blackalicious and then Jurassic 5 as I type.
Almost forgot, the Ottawa Art Gallery on Daly has an open house this weekend of their collection, part of Ottawa's Doors Open.
A good source for some of these things is the ArtEngine mailing list - sign up and get notices a couple of times a week. And add your own events to it too. Ottawa X Press is helpful too, with the added entertainment of Savage Love.

Singles stuff

Wednesday at Woody’s on Thursday went well the other week. These gatherings started off years ago when a friend that worked in a deli up the street started asking some friends (that she'd met as customers buying coffee) to join her for a few beers and munchies after work on Wednesday's. It was mostly people from the law offices (not lawyers, they're too cool for this) or Bell telecommunications employees or others from the area. We'd go to shows together too, and party sometimes. Mostly singles, some couples also. We'd try various restaurants on Elgin, but always came back to Woody's, in spite for the food. Having to send back wings that were still pink and moist is not good. The coordination of our gatherings was taken over by a new person, that also organized an Utne Reader discussion group every month. Thursday's were better for him, so we changed. And stuck at Griffins for a while - so Wednesday's at Woody's was on Thursdays, and at Griffins. When they redecorated prices went up, decor was too cold looking, so we moved back to our regular haunt. The chef had changed at Woody's (or maybe they just hired one for a change) so no-one has been ill. Meetings now have some Utne types as well as Mensoids, so it's an interesting gathering.

It was raining (again) by the time we finished up around 8, one of our unofficial leaders (President of The Price Club) was parked right across the street but said he was going to just take a peek into Big Daddy’s Crab Shack before going home to sew up the seams on his boat tarp. An exciting evening for sure. I went over to do the same about 15 minutes later and the place was packed. He waved a beer at me from the other side of the room with a sheepish smile – he’s succumbed to the social scene once again. Many of his club members, plus a lot of other singles. Late 20's to whatever, us more mature ones all looking (and acting) younger than our years. Some call it a meat market - depends on your frame of mind when you go there I guess. A lot know each other already, so just socialize. So I stayed for a couple of beers –met a bunch of new people. Eventually the rain had stopped so I could do my enviro-fitness thing and take the bus home.

That Friday was Barry Owen's party at La Contessa. It was a big success. Some of the new guys and gals from Big Daddy’s were there, joining the huge Price Club contingent. Bigger room, more tables, faster bar setup, great music. Which meant the dance floor was usually packed, and the extra tables mostly empty. He’ll use more of the second hall next time I think. Barry organizes these every few months, as well as Mingleworks the first Wednesday of the month, at the Clocktower pub on Bank. He runs all sorts of cruises and golf trips in the summer, and ski trips in the winter, so uses these get-togethers to promote his packages. A mix of singles and couples, very relaxed, a lot of fun. He has an email list.



I was at Contact, the Toronto Photography Festival, last week. As usual, it's a great collection of photographer's work from not just Toronto, but around the world. There are over 175 exhibits at various galleries, restaurants, shops, and public spaces.  It's even bigger than last year (which may not be all a good thing). I saw a lot of sites over a space of 5 days - some great, a lot good, some lame. Of the over 60 venues I saw, I could recommend maybe 20.

I believe the process for Contact is that an artist finds a venue, shows them some of their work and convinces them to exhibit it as part of Contact. Then they pay a fee of several hundred dollars and agree to host an opening day party at the venue. I think that means the entries are not really juried, and for some that showed. One venue, a dress shop on Queen W., had two large prints on a wall by the door, vaguely grey pictures of Kennebunkport Maine in the fog. Or could have been Toronto Island. I didn't even notice them at first, I caught them in the corner of my eye and at first thought they were just fabric covered panels. The artist is described in the brochure as examining "loss". I agree. Some I saw were thought provoking, such as the composite images of semi-nudes by John Oswald at the Edward Day Gallery on Queen West, photos of Burlesque Dancers by Michel Mersereau, at Kaleidoscope Gallery, and some very well done B/W prints, on a sepia toned warm paper, by Brian Anderson at Latitude 44 Gallery. Both of those in the Junction area. The Junction BIA (Business Improvement Association) did a great job of coordinating the exhibitions in their area, complete with signposts outside each venue.

Some artists suffered by the venue choice. One in the Junction area had six little prints in the window of an antique store, hidden by some sale items leaning against the store front. Some are evening only, in a bar, some are in restaurants where you peer over someones lunch table. Great exposure for the patrons, but not for a casual drop-in, so you ensure you're there off-peak hours. I was there during the week, usually after lunch, and as a bonus got to talk with several of the photographers themselves.

The Contact catalogue was not available until a few weeks before contact started, and when I called in advance from Ottawa I was told they could send me a copy, for $10. I wanted to scan through ahead of time and plan as to when to be in Toronto, with locations marked up. The catalogue has maps with numbers that relate to catalogue entries, but you then need to go through to confirm the show is open that day, and also to mark the street address on the map. While is is a May festival, some shows are on for only a couple of weeks in May, some even start in April, or finish in June. Luckily, my sister was nice enough to pick one up and send it (almost free), but there seemed to be a pile in every venue, free for the taking. Lots of money for publishing, so maybe a cheaper mail out would help. There were different "views" of the catalogue available on-line, by exhibitions or programs, but I prefer an actual catalogue to browse through, and carry to add notes on sites I like.

Finally - there is an on-line survey, but it's mostly oriented to checking off various boxes - where you heard of Contact, overall rating, household income - no space for free-form contacts.

I'll list the locations I liked below, by catalogue number, with a few comments.

Num   Exhibit                                         Artist                        Comments
2        Conjuring Cricket                       Michael Phang            
6        Global Fusion                                15 various artists       Some good, but too many artists
15      Datascapes                                 Joan Fontcuberta        Googlegrams
26      Triophoto                                    3 artists
55      Liebe                                          Jonathan Forsythe
79      Letters                                       Stephania Aloise         More other good artists in the back
88      Being in Africa                           Nancy Ceneviva
89      Time Waves                               Gera Dillon
92      Candied/Royal Perspectives     Michel Mersereau/Janis Rees
93      Various                                       Brian Anderson, Mark Furman, Marilyn Lightstone
96      Theatre of the Street                Simon Willmns
114    Prize Winning Photographs       Chris Gergley
118    Imaging a Shattered Earth         Edward Burtynsky, etc.
140    Hoops                                         Greg Majster
148    Director's Design Competition    Various students
150    Tasty                                          Various                       Lots of images
158    Ship Wreckers                            Tomasz Gudzowaty

Edit - May 27 - I sent a note to one of the galleries in the junction, Latitude 44, with some feedback expanding on the above note. Rather than retype the whole post, I'll just append my note here.

·         It was great to be able to talk to many of the artists when I dropped in – I realize it can be long days for some to be there, but it was appreciated.

·         Some of the venues had a lot of great art. Some only a few, and some mediocre work. It would be nice if there was a minimum number of pictures at each place. I’m not sure if all venues should be juried or not – it would help the quality, but can be time consuming and tends to impose standards from a panel of “official” artists

·         Some venues had at least 6 artists crammed in, with only a few from each. If there was an overall theme, fine, but sometimes it looked like it was just done to share the $450 fee. Maybe the fees need to be adjusted some way depending on artist’s popularity/bank balance, or grants be made available.

·         I’m from out of town and wanted a catalogue ahead of time to check out when and where to go. I called and Contact would send me one, but it was $10, a little steep considering the huge piles I saw at each venue. Might be better to drop the mailing cost a bit in the budget. There was info online, but the various “views” of it were hard to sort through. I prefer a hard copy to mark up.

·         Speaking of marking up the catalogue – maps only have venue numbers on them. I prefer to do a walking tour of an area, but that means using the catalogue to check out each venue number, see if it’s open, and then check out the address – and scribble all that on the map. Then use the catalogue to make notes on shows that I like. I have no idea if there’s a better way to manage that process, I just thought I’d mention how I use the catalogue. Maybe next year I’ll figure out a way to integrate the process better with my Treo PDA.

·         Restaurants as a venue can be a good and bad thing. It means lots of exposure from all the patrons, but if I’m just there to see the pictures and they are all above the tables, I need to return when it’s quieter. Otherwise I’m leaning over with my hand in someone’s salad plate.

·         The online survey had a series of multiple choice questions, but no place for comments. I realize free text is hard to categorize, but I think it still should be collected and looked at somehow.

·         There’s a show opening here at the Ottawa Art Gallerythat has a podcast available, a collection of all the artists describing their approach to their art and a description of their exhibition. A little long at 50 minutes for a single podcast, but an interesting concept they are trying. Have you considered using podcasts for Contact? Maybe initially for the feature shows, just for The Junction portion. For a specific gallery with a lot of images it could be like an audio tour, but even a collection of 5 minute bits from each artist in a geographical area (Junction, Distillery) would be helpful.

·         The Junction part of Contact was very impressive. Most of the work was very interesting, several of the artists were there, and I like the street signs outside of each venue. Sorry I missed the kickoff. 

Working Families

I sent a letter in to the local Ottawa Citizen recently on this, it didn't make it into print yet so I thought I'd post a version here:

To their credit, the Conservatives have so far delivered a budget that while much criticized, is pretty much in line with what they campaigned on, so should come as a surprise to no one. A main thrust is to increase their support among middle class “working families”.

But I am getting a little tired of the continuing repetition of  that phrase working family. I am semi-retired, and single, so since I don't fit the phrase I’m in the crowd sitting on the fringes. We have the apparent misfortune to perhaps be a pensioner, or unemployed, or childless, or just single in


. Or what about a working family of two highly paid professionals, pulling in $300k a year? While not suffering financially, are they also being whooed as a working family?

Of course every party is eager to claim that they are the only one that working families should listen to, that their vision is the only true way. The NDP in particular have for years waved this banner, with an even narrower and I think more antiquated focus on the working class as blue collar workers, trudging off to work with lunchbox and visions of the triumph of solidarity. I’ve asked for clarification of the phrase from the NDP, to see if they still include those of us on the fringe. The only response so far was another funding request, so I suppose I still am welcome.