Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Billy Bob and My Devotion Hit Rock Bottom

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

…momentarily at least. I can’t make promises in matters of the heart.

I’m tempted to put this in the “Horror” category. It is a sign of true friendship when your friends call to report the love of your life has crossed a line. I have very good friends, but some things I’d rather not know.

jillian mcdonald

I was alerted today not only by CBC Radios’ Q Facebook group but by myriad friends in Canada, the UK, and the US that my special someone starred in a new bad boy role today, and not in a good way. Bad boy is one thing – grumpy is another.

With heavy heart I report Billy Bob Thornton, interviewed on CBC’s Q today, has slightly fallen from my favour. I guess it was only a matter of time – 2009 marks seven years after Mr Thornton first set my heart aflutter.

The interview is here if you care to watch. I can’t bear it myself so I won’t embed the video. Note Mr Thornton “lumps” Canadian audiences into the descriptor “mashed potatos without gravy”, and then walks out on his own performance sans southern charm and with his fellow band members left to fill in the blanks, themselves as lively as zombies – the slow kind. Jian Ghomeshi, our host, doesn’t know what to make of the crew’s uber-melancholia.

The thousands of comments floating around on Facebook, Q’s blog, and Youtube, to name a few, grasp for explanations: drugs, depression, Hollywood arrogance, doomed acting career, “band as celebrity vanity project”, rudeness, etc.

For my part, I believe if BB had called me all those years ago, he might be a happier man today. Just sayin’…

Zombies vs Vampires in Malmo: May 2009

Friday, March 27th, 2009

jillian mcdonald zombiejillian mcdonald vampire

MALMö, Sweden
Calling all prospective Zombies and Vampires for a performance deep in a Swedish forest, after nightfall.

Zombies vs Vampires (working title) is an artwork where groups of the two “undead” monster archetypes – local people as actors – enact horror film scenes in the woods at night. Audience members make their way along the path in complete darkness. Interested actors need not be professional but must be comfortable in the woods and the dark, serious, and available for auditions, rehearsals, and the performance (all in May).

In popular film lore Zombies and Vampires have their own iconographies and characterizations. Rotting zombies moan as they stagger slowly, clumsily, and unconsciously. They don’t sneak and they travel in groups. They have only one goal – to catch and consume the flesh of the living. Despite being terrifying, they are neither resourceful nor clever and are imminently expendable.

The elegant vampires slink and pose with agility as they move. Catlike, they are very flexible and thirsty. Perceived to be sexy, beautiful, exotic, and mysterious, they have a rich and immortal life and feed off human blood.

Both archetypes bite their living prey and the two rarely if ever appear together in films.

Auditions begin May 6th and the performance will take place in late May. Contact Jonna Ölund jonna [at] lilithperformancestudio [dot] com for more info!

I Had My Facebook Portrait Painted by Matt Held

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

matt held jillian mcdonald

Listening to the archives of my favourite radio show, Q, today I caught an interview with authors Lianne George and Steve Maich, whose book The Ego Boom talks about “The You Sell”. Advertisers and marketers no longer tell us we’re not good enough / beautiful enough / thin enough and therefore need their products to become better, but rather affirm we are perfect the way we are and nevertheless need these products to maintain our perfection. Because kids are taught that everything they do is special and excellent, narcissism and a responsibility-deficient culture suffuses the generation.

An article titled, Enough About Me. Like My Portrait? Appeared in The New York Times a few days ago, suggesting that Hollywood figures who commission their own portraits are narcissistic, though they sometimes feel guilty or awkward about displaying the results. But is everyone who has their portrait painted a narcissist, in an age where we can and often do take any number of photographic portraits, and even Photoshop ourselves into perfection?

I don’t consider myself a narcissist, although I appear in a lot of my own artwork. And although I’ve known many musicians, writers, and artists I have never before been the subject of any one else’s artwork, poem, story, or song. To the best of my knowledge. Which is probably a good thing. Unless you count Mike Peter’s Stolen Kisses, which I would count except that the subject is arguably not me, but rather the character I play in my video, Screen Kiss.

A longtime proponent of participation-based artwork, particularly when the participant gains something in the process in a generous gesture by the artist, I read with interest some press about painter Matt Held’s Facebook portrait project earlier this month. I joined his Facebook group, “I’ll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held”. Held’s portraits in general are absurd, unlike the typical Hollywood portraits – there’s self-assured Angie in a blue fun fur bird-monster suit; bald Ardalan licking a larger-than-life pink ice cream; and wide-eyed Jessica drinking a glass of wine bigger than her head. But more that that, his project opens up portrait painting to ordinary people, his “friends” – real and virtual. At the moment I’m writing this, the group has 2,100 members, most of whom – unless Matt donates the rest of his life to the project – may never see their portraits. Somehow I got lucky – you can see my portrait above and the original photo avec Billy Bob tattoos, below.

Visit Matt Held’s website for more info, and join his group quick, while there’s still room.

jillian mcdonald billy bob tattoos

Williamsburg Odyssey

Monday, February 16th, 2009

DIY Brooklyn

Marcin Ramocki’s new documentary, Brooklyn DIY premieres at MoMA in New York on Feb 25th.

From the press release,
Brooklyn DIY is a long overdue examination of the creative renaissance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Home to underground warehouse parties, anarchistic street creativity, and artist-run galleries and performance spaces, Williamsburg gave birth to one of the most vibrant and rebellious artistic communities to arise in the 1980s, permanently changing the city’s cultural landscape.
Featuring interviews with a host of artists and neighborhood characters, Ramocki’s film captures life in a utopian universe made by artists, for artists alone with its inevitable decline in the face of real estate development, gentrification, and the post September 11 market collapse.”

Brooklyn DIY features interviews with the likes of Joe Amrhein, Mike Ballou, Ken Butler, Don Carroll, Lauren Cornell, Matt Freedman & Jude Talllichet, Jillian Mcdonald, Aron Namenwirth & Nancy Horowitz, Ward Shelley, and other artists and developers.

Details here.

Shivering in the Bronx

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

My solo show, Shivers, went up at The Bronx River Art Center last week – and runs through March 14. Visit if you dare! I’m showing video and photo work related, as usual, to horror films. There is a brochure essay by guest writer Erin Sickler, available at the gallery.

jillian mcdonald sparkling
The Sparkling is an interactive video installation from 2007. Special thanks to Josh Rose and Andy Mueller for programming and electronics assistance.

jillian mcdonald apparition
The Apparition is from 2009 but features footage shot in 1997 and forgotten until now.

If you’re like Billy Bob Thornton, famously phobic of antique furniture (not to mention in denial of your love for me which is another story entirely), you probably won’t like these haunted chandeliers.

There’s one in my studio right now and it’s freaking me out.

SCREAM in Saskatoon

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

scream billboard

In Saskatoon at the moment it is minus twenty-seven degrees Celcius, a temperature that deserves more than a tiny number in order that you can savour it, contemplate it, or at least try to fathom it. Luckily we humans have very little capacity for recalling pain which is why, in the words of my undergraduate art school professor Sharon Alward, people can live in extremely cold places like Winnipeg or Saskatoon year after year without going insane*. While minus twenty-seven degrees Celcius is reason enough to evoke screams in many people, it scares neither me nor Jo-Anne Balcaen – my billboard project collaborator and friend from Montréal. Jo-Anne and I were actually born within hours of one another and grew up separately in Winnipeg**, but that aside is another story of which I will spare you the details. The daunting temperature also doesn’t scare David LaRiviere, director of Paved Arts who facilitated and helped tremendously to oversee our two-person show.

Scream opens January 16th – come see it if you dare. There will be screaming. You have been warned. The billboard is silent but it requires 3-D glasses – available at the gallery.

scream billboard

From the press release, “Scream is a two-person video installation and collaborative billboard presentation. While Jo-Anne Balcaen studies the scream from the perspective of ecstasy, Jillian Mcdonald approaches the same subject as a device in horror films. The exhibition project arises from the affinity that the artists recognize in each other’s work, and is thus culminated from an ongoing, long-distance creative dialog.

Jillian Mcdonald’s video work entitled The Screaming challenges the horror movie genre’s damsel in distress by inverting the power dynamics and charging the scream with a potency that overcomes any would-be menace…. Jo-Anne Balcaen’s Screaming Girls appropriates famous film images of teen-aged girls enraptured by rock ‘n’ roll performance. Stripped of sound, Balcaen’s subtle manipulation of this familiar pop adulation becomes a study of mass hysteria, oddly foreign to any kind of rationale that Beatlemania may have once produced.”

*Keep in mind these are select few people, you may not want to attempt this yourself.

**According to Wikipedia, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Winnipeg was −47.8 °C (−54.0 °F), on December 24, 1879. The coldest wind chill reading ever recorded was −57.1 °C (−70.8 °F), on February 1, 1996. I was not alive in 1879, but I’ll point out that the last winter I lived in Winnipeg was 1996.

Zombie Scare

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Zombie Portrait Jillian

I realized today that I might be scaring people away from my website with the zombie portrait that currently fills the home page. It’s not very Christmasy, but then again, if you don’t like zombies, what are you doing here?

Then again I don’t like zombies, they scare the crap out of me.


Friday, December 19th, 2008

Snowed in today due to cancelled transportation, I’ll take the opportunity to mention belatedly a few artworks seen recently. Despite the inconvenience, there’s something romantic about snow days. Perhaps it’s my inner Winnipeger who remembers the pleasures of tunneling endlessly through the snowbanks of my youth, blinking hard to melt eyelash icicles, and the sound of the most delicate puddle-ice layers breaking softly beneath muffled feet.

Here are three enchanting artworks I saw recently:

#1. Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool at P.S.1, image below, is a one-liner that does not fall flat once you discover the magic secret. Visit it before Sept 2009, and make sure to take the top view first. If you’re like me you’ll be tempted to slip into the clear blue, and sink deep to the bottom.


More about the artist here.

#2. Børre Sæthre’s Stealth Distortion (…must have seen it in some teenage wet dream), image below, is also at P.S.1.

Borre Saethre

This installation could do without the rooms of “smoky mirror, plexiglass, and bare light bulb” peep show palace theatrics that are disjointed from the crown jewel, but the wizard behind the curtain is a foggy creature quite sublime – is there or isn’t there a unicorn in the room?

#3. Kelly Mark‘s The Kiss, image below from Platform Gallery in Seattle, was at The Aqua Hotel in Miami during the art fairs.

Kelly Mark

Installed cosily in a closet, the quaint TV bodies glowed cooly pink from their twin bubble glass faces barely touching, and I couldn’t help but feel I’d walked in on some lucky teenager’s 7 minutes in heaven. If I peeked another minute they’d have turned like Dave from 2001, caught and blinking innocently out from his space helmet.

2001 Space Odyssey

Stolen Kisses – I love a surprise

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Mike Peters

My work in the past few years has been as much about fan subcultures and audiences as about the films they love. Fan fiction – where fans create new scenarios from familiar narratives, thus subverting them – captivates me.

I had dinner with friend and performance artist Carrie Dashow the other night and she slipped me a DVD that said “Play Me” (Alice in Wonderland style)- very sneakily I might add. I dropped it into my computer the next morning to find a fabulous surprise. One of her Purchase students, Mike Peters, made a video response to my work Screen Kiss following a recent lecture I gave. It is quite wonderful. What’s that quote about imitation and flattery?

Above is a still from Steal a Kiss. You can see a few more stills on his website – click on “Projects”, but sadly not the video itself. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. Mike if you’re reading this – put the video online!


Update: Dec 20,
(originally posted as a comment from Mike Peters)

“Thank you, Jillian. I’m glad you liked it. Steal a Kiss is now online. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the server hosting my original site, but the video is on youtube. I’ll be working on a new web page in the near future. Until then…. for your fans:

Thanks again. Love your work.”

Bust out the Zombies

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

October’s issue of Bust magazine has a nice article about my zombies, by Molly Simms. Click the image below to read a larger version online. It took hours for the photographer to take the photo, which means I am extremely un-photogenic, as are lenticular images – one of which is in the background. Someone give that boy a medal.

jillian mcdonald bust magazine