Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Olmec Heads

Breaking down in Villahermosa in Eastern Mexico near Veracruz, may seem like a drag, but it also has a silver lining. Villahermosa is home to a really large collection of Olmec heads as well as a massive collection of lesser known Olmec sculptures. These sculptures are massive and heavy and are the oldest monuments in pre-hispanic Mexico dating from between 1200B.C.E. and 600CE. . Figures range from representations of monkeys to dolphins and holy men living in caves. Surprisingly, many of the figures reflect modernist principles of simplicity and abstraction.

Many of the heads are 8 feet tall or more and were buried beneath the jungle until found.

Fat Cat

One day when I was teaching my son how to read, I had written the word Fat and Cat on the blackboard in my office at SEED in Toronto. I surmise that some of the students at the school had seen these words written on the board. The next morning the words FAT and CAT were spray painted on the wall at the end of our street. Our son instantly read the graffiti, and the rest of the tags placed at regular intervals along our usual walk to work.


I'm not sure what to think of the new reality tv series ArtStar.
In this reality TV competition, 8 artists are chosen from a group of over 30 possible ArtStars. The winning ArtStar will receive a solo show with Deitch Projects in New York.
It will be interesting to see how the judges justify their choices. Contemporary Artists work in such a huge range of media, that a balanced view of what constitutes good art, or a good artist will be a rare commodity. The Idol franchises limit their judgement to a small collection of musical genres and judgement on talent often depends upon the ability to hit and sustain a range of notes. Such ojbective criteria ceased to exist in the visual arts about one hundred years ago . ArtStar may finally illustrate how subjective the act of judgement has become. Of course the TV series will finally be judged by its ability to attract viewers and market share. One can only wonder if this kind of show would be better defined as Art itself, a kind of culture jamming.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Poetic Terrorism

Gunhead by Paul Richard James

Perhaps old news for some, but the Critical Art Ensemble
has bee prosecuted for "art crimes" for using biological material in their art. These biot-tech projects draw attention to the growing use of genetics for art and of course- in our lives.
As well, the ATSA
has been working under this growing umbrella genre of "terrorist art" by taking the term coined by Hakim Bey,- "Poetic Terrorism" -to the streets of Toronto.

Guns and Art

Chris Burden "747" from 1973

One can only wonder how Chris Burden would be viewed in today's "counter-terrorist obsessed" world, if he performed such a "piece" today. Of course he was one of the first artists to see self-mutilation as art. His Shoot from 1971, in which he had an assistant shoot him in the arm from five metres away has been taken up by body modification fans today. What do you think? Terrorism as art!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A beautiful image of an angel that visionary Artist Kai Wolfram drew in charcoal on his wall in Chelem, Mexico in the Yucatan. Kai was hallucinating at the time and suffering from heat stroke and left this gift for his landlady Saint Petra.

Rockin Rodney will be missed

Another great talent, Rodney Dunn has died.
I met Rod at the Ontario College of Art, probably around 1988. He was a bundle of energy then and already a sensational artist and obsessed with music and comic books. His work seemed to have a tongue in cheek fan boy quality to it. You will be missed Rod.

Slingshots Posted by Hello

Art + Tax on the Cover of Anarchist Studies Journal

Slingshots by Art + Tax is on the cover of the recent issue of Anarchist Studies, Volume 13, No.1, 2005, published by Lawrence & Wishart. Unfortunately, the painting itself has been removed/stolen from the wall where it was originally installed at Queen & Niagara in Toronto. The painting had been there for the past two years, following the theft of the previous image by Art + Tax. You can order a copy for 20 pounds from the website.

Former Krug Factory Site (Winter) Posted by Hello

Former Krug Factory Site Posted by Hello

Chesley Walk

A meandering asphalt path runs through the Chesley riverside park, past the red brick building, past the thick brush with the twisted tree, and up a hill towards the trails. On the rivers edge near the brush, our Great Dane, Tyrus, tail wagging, walked out with a live beaver in his mouth. As the asphalt gives way to the more natural trail, lined with rotten leaves and the wonderful aroma of decay, there are the sounds of woodpeckers and an old barn, aged dark brown and housing a family of skunks. Before the small bridge lies the ruins of the furniture factory, a tell tale remnant of industry and entropy. A reminder that everything decays, be it leaves or iron. There is enough there to weave a wonderful story of lives now completed.
Across the bridge lies a decision. Up to the left below the old railroad bridge or to the right, a longer trail leading up and over the hill to the cemetery. The path to the cemetery, we all must take at one time or another. Cement structures line both sides of the path, hundreds of them peeking out from the forest floor, extending in fairly straight lines as if part of a neolithic monument. Someone has placed large heavy boulders on top of many of these structures emphasizing this thought. In Britain, such stone markers signify ley lines or energy lines beneath the earth.
Sometimes these lines extend for hundreds of miles. These structures however, mark the foundation of the old factory with many of the old timbers and planks now overgrown. If one looks well enough, old shovels, bottles, mattress springs, and tools start to come to life from beneath the earth.
Further down the trail the sound of the river becomes louder only to quiet as you climb the steep hill to the cemetery. The rows of gravestones above the hill speak of the history of this small village, names like Krug, Johnson and Emke repeat for eternity. Past the tall trees lining the small cemetery road there lies a grave dedicated to a young boy who died at thirteen years of age, not that long ago, a hockey fan. A reminder of how fragile and cruel life can be. Clasped hands reach from above to those below, carved from limestone and aged green and brown. Through a further line of trees and beyond the cemetery is the narrow railroad bridge with its dizzying height and spectacular view of the river as it winds its way towards McClure’s Mill built by William Elliot in 1886. From this height the submerged lumber and long forgotten trees can be seen nestled in the sediment below.
The path to the left leads below this bridge, past more foundation stones and until recently, past the remains of an old work truck perhaps sixty or seventy years old, rusted and in pieces. A storehouse of forgotten memories, a playground for children, but I trust the fear of liability has removed it for eternity, the victim of modern paranoia and progress. This path dotted with purple periwinkle winds its way up and onto a road which leads over a small narrow bridge and one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The Mill sits, leaning precariously on a beam of wood, as the river calms just before a small damn. Two swans and their constant companion, a Canada Goose, swim gracefully in this calm water. Around the front of the mill, basking in the sun, lie the mill cats, sometimes up to ten or twenty of them unamused by the old Amish man unloading his buggy. A little further past the mill, past the cows and the more independent cats, you will find me standing, wondering!