January 3, 2006

Powerful Women

Went with Karen to Tepoztlan today, a walk through the market, a hike up the hill to the Temple and back... Quite beautiful scenery, a very lovely town. I spent the first half of the walk trying not to rush, trying not to walk too fast in front of Karen. I am annoyed when I see men walking in front of their partners like that, I think what jerks.. But I am soooo guilty of just that. So I spend the beginning of the hike being frustrated at the slow pace, then slow down and try to change my attitude. Trying not to make the hike a personal physical challenge, and thinking that she was slowing me down. There is a man running up and down from the top to bottom, I think he does it three times by the time we have gone up once. I am slowly coming to appreciate the time that K takes to look at the birds and the view. So I try to be there with her and enjoy the walk, not compete in a race to the top. Fortunately, by the half way point, I am mostly there, and we are able to laugh about it. I want her to enjoy this as much as possible. I want to enjoy what she is enjoying and be with her. By the end of the hike down, my legs are shaking from the strain... That rubbery jumpy feeling that you get when you've been using the same muscle too much. Thank you, Karen, for going the distance with me.

Later, back in town, we have lunch at a restaurant that I went to when I was here in November, where they make nice salads. Beside us was an interesting mix of people. Interesting because it was hard to figure out their relationships to each other. There was a man about 28, a woman who looked to be about 20, a woman who seemed to be in her 40's and a young girl about 8 or so. My guess is the young man was the older woman's son, the younger woman her daughter, the young girl the man's daughter. I don't think the younger woman was his wife, they seemed to have more of an antagonistic relationship going. (What do I know) She was unusual in that she was wearing a lacy blouse without an undershirt or bra. You could easily see her breasts through the material. It is pretty unusual to see Mexican women dress like that. In fact, I'm writing about it because it's the only time I've seen a Mexican woman dress like that. It was a kind of 'turn you on/fuck you for looking' kind of dress. Definitely a look to drive men crazy. As much as it was a sexy look, I think the attitude that goes with that is what I like most. In my mind, she's taking on macho culture... and shoving it back, but maybe I'm totally not getting it. Maybe everything about that look is about working the macho angst and making people want you, a bit of a desperate act to be desirable.... I think what made my reading of the situation difficult was that I couldn't quite get the relationships at the table. If she was supported by the people at the table in the way she was dressing, or if she was trying to assert herself by exercising her power to upset them. What makes me think this is the way the mans leg was bouncing up and down with nervous energy. I couldn't figure out if he supported her or despised her, or maybe, if he was her brother, he was trying to deal with the dilemma of wanting her.

Anyways, I like dreaming about strong women, and whether she was in control or not, I don't know, but the possibility was there.

Jan. 5th, 2006 - New York City

photo: Karen Trask

Have flown to New York today to attend the opening of Penny's show Faking Death at the Jack Shainman Gallery tomorrow. The plane was an hour late taking off because there were so many security checks that people couldn't get to the plane on time and it was completely full. I'm sure it's because the security people know very little about what the boarding people need. They just do exactly what they're told and perhaps don't adapt very well to on the spot changes of plan. Very frustrating. We got to sit in the emergency row seats, and I like the idea of opening that big door... Although not necessarily in flight. The flight attendant asked about the Walrus magazine I was reading, and admitted he was a leftie, saying that it was pretty insane to be burning up all the oil... I kept thinking about how we were burning sooo much of it right at that instant. He was a genuinely good person though. Easy to see that sometimes. We ended up running running through to immigration, which was painfully painfully slow. To stand in line with a young couple from Fredericton who had been in Cuernavaca. That made it a bit easier, but more running. Pick up the bags, run run, make a mistake and stand in line for the fruits and vegetables inspection. pick up bags and run to the baggage belt and recheck the baggage. Arrive at the gate to find that the plane was delayed because it needed more cleaning.

The gallery is using my image for the advertisement in Artforum. It's strange to see the photo there. Can't say it feels like my work, but it is. I remember being there, taking the picture with Harry. I guess there's 100,000 of them out there or whatever the circulation is. I don't know what to expect at all, and it's kind of stressing me out.

After walking around looking for a jacket of some sort that might be appropriate for an opening, and not finding one, we passed a bunch of thrown out christmas trees on the sidewalk, and someone had put a card on each one "I died for Christ's sins" pretty clever.

There seem to be a few people here obsessively concerned with their style of living. I saw it in a guy crossing the street in front of me with a particular kind of stride and a cell phone glued to his ear. Everybody's very concerned with being seen. I kind of knew this about this city, and of course, it's why I'm stressing about what I should wear to the opening.

Jan. 9th, 2005

The opening was great, lots of people from around Canada showing up, nobody could remember the photo scene being brought together like that. Of course, it's fun to do it in a new place. It's a great looking gallery and I hope the show can either sell or tour... Who knows.

Saw many interesting shows in New York this time around. Tried not to see too much, which is a good thing. The barbed wire in a series of paintings by Ed Ruscha has me thinking more and more about what direction the photo series can go in. He revisited some older works, and painted the same scene, but with the time difference considered. It changes the work completely. Loss of hope perhaps, International corporations taking over local commerce in one...

We went to see work by Jon Kessler at PS1, pretty wild.This and other works seem to be so much about the point of view, i.e. the location of the viewer both politically and physically/visually are referenced. In Kessler's work, we are taken through a layered frantic video imagery. Full of spinning cameras and devices that hold cut out photos in front of the camera while it spins around, or while the cut outs spin around. Stacks and stacks of monitors everywhere. A houston control tower of electrical din. I think one of the best ones was a conveyor belt of hanging postcards of the skyline of NYC featuring the world trade centre. As the cards went around the conveyor, they would brush up against the camera, giving us the planes eye view of the flights into the towers. Not many people that I've seen have tried to imagine the event from that perspective.

Numbness caused by repetitive visual strain describes this work.

Other notable works at PS1 included James Turrell.

At 3:30, James Turrell's piece opens up. It is a largish hole in the roof of the building, with seating on hard wooden benches surrounding the space. You sit or lie on the benches and watch the sky color change as the sun sets. Very cool. I like the live feature.. How to incorporate the live ness of the world into the art seems to be something that works very well.

A lecture at the Kitchen on Saturday evening by the "Atlas Group" aka Walid Raad proved to be pretty good as well. He is an artist, and talks about how artists are making art. They go to art school, and listen to people talk about cultural theory and read from texts. They read articles written by non artists. They go to lectures by artists, who sit in a darkened room with a laptop and a glass of water, using a video projector to show documentation of their work, much like the one that Walid is making now. This is a form of art. I wish I could remember the details better. But the observations were ironic and critical.

One of the artworks is presented as a collection of facts about car bombs in Lebanon, and another a story of how a soldier filmed the sunset every day instead of his security area with the security cameras. Pretty funny, but what makes the work especially interesting is that you don't know where the facts end and where the fiction begins. He managed to keep the mystery alive through the question period at the end. One of the references in the work is the how the hostages in Iran were heterosexualized in their biographies/autobiographies by constant references to their wives. He mentions that this is important to maintain a heterosexual narrative because regardless of sexual orientation, men in captivity display a lot of homosocial or homosexual behaviour. In the eyes of a straight public, this behaviour needs to be channeled or ignored to maintain the integrity of the person or something like that.

On Friday, one of the few Chelsea galleries we hit was the Feigen Gallery, showing work by John Isaacs... It is hard not to be impressed by the quality of the workmanship, but the relationships between the works and what they refer to feel strong. Just before walking into the gallery, I was reading about how Ecuadorian fisherman are catching 300,000 sharks a year and finning them for the market for shark fin soup in China. Stupid. So, perhaps coincidentally, it fits with the polished leg of the hugely overweight person really well. Fitting well, however, ultimately doesn't sit well with me. I think it oversimplifies the relationships that are possible with the work. Reduces it to a dialogue about consumption and power too quickly, but the work goes beyond this. There is something unknowable pitched in when we have to relate it to the tree covered in shit and light bulbs.

harder to see here, but the tree looks like it's made from runny shit.


Jan. 13th, 2006

I am thinking that I'm not really getting to the point of this blog. I wanted the point to be to try to understand the work I am making, create a bit of context for it.

Jan. 15th, 2006

The photos in Art Photography are inspired by several things. One was seeing Francis Alys work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1997, another was from seeing Carolee Schneeman's presentation of her artwork at the Musee de Beaux Arts in Montreal in 2004 I think it was. That and taking 150,000 photographs of artists works, mostly in Montreal. And being here in Mexico, of course.

Jan.19th, 2006

The opening tonight for Art Photography at FONCA, a big pumpkin of stress is forming in my stomach. Going on TV this afternoon is adding to it. I hate the feeling of I could have done better. Maybe the god of articulate speaking will be kind to me today, but I doubt it.

Jan. 22nd, 2006

The opening went pretty well, actually the interview for TV was done in English, and it was much easier than I imagined, except that they made me sit on the floor with the work in the background. I'm so inflexible. Very happy to be supported by the people I've met here, and some I hadn't met before, like the people from the Canadian embassy and the Quebec delegation.

A few things emerged from getting ready for TV and comments of people during the show:

- the presentation of the work on the floor, in the style of a sidewalk sale is about bringing an element of the outdoors inside. It's also about creating an easy viewing environment, creating room for the a reading of the work that isn't too serious.

- there is an aspect of the work that speaks about isolation. I think the idea of an object surrounded by an environment in which it doesn't fit very well is an ongoing theme in many of the works I make.

- incorporating the viewer into the work by the use of the hand coming into the frame from the direction of the camera, obliges the viewer to take the position of the photographer.

- the themes of trying to understand masculinity via an examination of self. I want the viewer to take the position of a white middle class anglo man who is trying to understand the implications of that position.

- wanting the photos to have a sense of humour.

- exploring the idea of how copying something changes it. The paintings themselves may not be amazing, but once photographed, they assume a different status. The photography validates them somehow.

- I think I said earlier that I wanted to create a visual metaphor for the coexistence of the conscious within the subconscious. The painted space can be the subconscious, and the photographic space can stand in for the real. However, these are both constructions. The mechanical devices of the camera and the photographic print are both inventions and frame whatever is in front of them a certain way.

- the work is about shaking out the convention of how paintings are photographed. and attempts to counter the myth of the context free image. To show that the convention of the white wall is as much of a context as any. That the white wall signifies the gallery, possibly an elitist environment.


Cell phone story #2

Antonio was in Monterrey, and was looking for a place that had an espresso machine. He came across a bar with an espresso machine, but there was also a woman singing at a microphone. During the performance, Antonio hears a cell phone, and checks his pocket, but it's not his phone that's ringing. The phone keeps ringing and ringing. The sound seems to be everywhere in the bar. The singer finishes her song, and answers her cell phone.

Jan. 27th, 2006

Trying to get things wound up. Just finished painting a couple of metal signs for the exhibition in Tlalpan. I kind of like them, and I'm kind of embarrassed to like them. I don't want to think they're good, they're not really, but somewhere, I think they're kind of marvellous. You'd think I was making babies or something. It's that kind of uncritical enjoyment of something that you made. If I could only paint something other than hands, maybe there'd be some hope for me as a painter. I keep thinking that there's no way that I could make abstract paintings seriously. I'd make such a mess of it.

Music and painting seem to go well together. Have to get my playlists figured out. My listening consists of songs I could care less about, followed by one I might like, then an hour long program of Spanish lessons of some type. Yes, I leave my iTunes to play on random, but sometimes it's just too much. There's so much nonsense in there. Haven't heard the boxing bells for a while, but I'm sure they'll show up soon.

Last night a dog barking, barking at nothing it would seem, just on and on. Kind of a yelping, automatic bark. I couldn't sleep. Kept imagining different ways of killing a dog, but never came across one that I thought I could actually do. I went outside to see and see if I could shush it, or get some kind of recognition from it that it was bothering me. It turned out to be the female dog that had had puppies in the street just behind this apartment. I could hear the puppies whining from time to time up until a few days ago. They had been hiding behind the plants. I guess somebody must have taken them, because I haven't heard them for the last few days. So the dog was barking for her puppies. It seemed to be an unconscious bark, like it wasn't something she was particularly aware of, it was just coming out of her. I made a 'Sssssst' kind of sound. She looked at me, then kept on barking. I stopped thinking about killing dogs and went to sleep.

This evening (the 26th), went to an opening at the Tamayo, which was supported by the Canadian embassy. Robin Minard, a composer who's living in Berlin has made an indoor/ outdoor installation. Jeff from the embassy, who came to the opening last week, told me about this. Isabelle was there, too. At one point, we are out on the grass in front of the museum checking out the audio installation in the grass. I see a slightly older man standing there, he's quite tall. He looks up, looks at me and says "Buenos Noches" and shakes my hand. I say "buenos noches" back to him, wondering who is this guy?. Isabelle says, do you know him? He's the ambassador of Canada to Mexico. Ahhhh. Later I see myself in the mirror, the humidity has practically given my thinning hair an afro, and my jacket collar is flipped under on one side. I look like I just escaped from some institution. Nothing like setting a good example for Canadian art.

Jan. 28th, 2006

Packing up. I am thinking of how I might continue this blog thing. We'll see. Maybe I"ll get consumed by the reality of making a living and this will fall by the way, but I hope I can continue to develop the idea of figuring out what my work is. Yesterday, I made a presentation in my poor Spanish to the photography class at Esmerelda, and started off by showing artists who are part of my world, in Canada, and then talked about my work. It was helpful to see some of the themes that run through Canadian iconography, and see how they show up in my own work. Although it's a bit of a generalization, I'd say that trying to describe an idea of isolation and layering are part of the photographic vocabulary in Canada. Isolaton/Insulation. nice.

I also am trying to rebuild the discussion about the formation of masculine identity. In my own head and in general. It was alive at the beginning of the 90s, but seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit. Time to put it back on the sidewalk, if not the highway.

I wish I'd talked more about how supporting women and helping them find their strength is something that shouldn't be threatening to men. Men's and women's strengths are important, and we can have both. I'm looking for my female strength, I suppose. I love seeing strong women. Part of me feels free when I see one. Now if I could only walk the walk, instead of talk the talk.

Feb. 1st, 2006


On the plane back, I am wondering what encountering Canada will be like. Flying Air Canada from Mexico City to Toronto, there weren't so many people on the plane, and the first thing I noticed is that they closed the door to the airplane about 10 minutes early, and, as there was little other air traffic, we taxied straight to the runway and took off. We were actually in the air before the departure time. Then, the leg of the trip from Toronto to Montreal. The plane is seated early again, the doors close, but we just sit there for 15 minutes. The pilot tells us there is a lot of traffic, and there's no point in even starting the engines. Eventually we move to the de-icing bay, but it's not snowing or anything, so it feels as though we are moving there out of some kind of winter habit. I doubt this is true, there are probably bad icing conditions ahead, either way, we spend another half an hour at the de-icing bay. It seems the plane is full of 40ish francophone business men. There are only a few women on the plane. Beside me is one of the men. I say (in French of course) that Pearson airport is impossibly big. He just looks at me and says nothing, not a glimmer of recognition that I am speaking the same language as him.

When we are done with the de-icing, the copilot walks through the cabin, and looks out our window to check the quality of the procedure. I say to my seat partner that I hope we don't have to do it again. He just looks at me like I'm a complete fool. I really wanted to have some sense of coming home, but it's not going to be from this person. I am imagining why he can't talk to me. He seems a bit nouveau riche, judging by his anti-reflective designer eye glasses. I learn from overhearing a conversation, that he is from a small town somewhere out in the townships, and that it doesn't seem that they will be able to make it back tonight. He and his friends don't want to stay in Montreal. I imagine that perhaps he was on a business trip, and that he speaks limited English, and that the business meeting didn't go well, because he missed half of what was being said. He felt small. Maybe someone around him made him feel small. Now there's some bilingual anglophone beside him, wanting to blather on about something unimportant. Or perhaps I didn't look wealthy enough, and am just some city hick with corrupt morals and no class. Maybe he is claustrophobic, sitting in the middle seat of the three seat row, and pretending that I'm not there will allow him to survive the voyage.

In Mexico city it is not wise to plan to do more than one thing a day. You risk disappointment if not. I thought I was being ambitious to think of changing money, picking up a letter from the post office and renewing my drivers license and medical insurance card. I walked out of the house, and was done in 25 minutes. In DF, I'd probably have gotten to the platform on the metro station in that amount of time.