Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Toronto’s Condoland and Cancer portraits – not necessarily related

Thursday, June 12th, 2008


I was in Toronto last week for a site visit to College Park, where I’ll be doing a project for La Nuit Blanche in October. The fog was ominous the afternoon I arrived, and late at night lightning lit the fabulous view of a purple and red lit CN tower outside my hotel window. I turned off all the lights and sat by the window for hours. My mother never let me do that as a child because it is dangerous, she said. She never elaborated, which is no doubt why I still harbour a slight fear that the lightning will pierce my window and frizzle fry me, zap my eyeballs clear out of my skull, or at least smash the glass and send me plummeting out the window (in this case ten stories high). I eyed the pool below, gauging my chances of landing in the water, should the unthinkable happen.

Toronto has surpassed Brooklyn in it’s outbreak of condoland conversions. Everywhere you look along the lake and downtown areas there are condo towers sprouting and when I say sprouting I mean looming – “reshaping the skyline” in one developer’s tagline, vaguely reminiscent of cosmetic surgery. At least in Williamsburg they are mostly small and less obnoxious, though certainly omnipresent.


More on that later, it is not the point of today’s story.

When I left my meeting with Toronto City Events planners and curator Gordon Hatt, I found myself at the start of a heat wave on the City Hall plaza with water fountains full blast and electric magenta flowers – it was a remarkably beautiful day, a surprise after the stormy night. Before I crossed the street to check out of my hotel, I encountered an installation of black and white documentary photographs in Nathan Phillips Square, featuring cancer patients and survivors, taken by the people that love them. The exhibition is traveling across the country (it left Toronto June 9), gathering new submissions as it moves.

The photos are accompanied by abbreviated stories about each person, showcasing the tremendous variety of cancers afflicting “38% of women and 44% of men during their lifetime” (Canadian Cancer Statistics 2006). The stories and images are alternately heartbreaking, stunning, funny, casual, erotic, and beautiful – reflecting the diversity of brave people who are their subjects, and their relationships to the photographers. I was choked up by the time I read them all, and almost missed my Airport shuttle.


Which brings me to the NYC marathon lottery. I still don’t know if I got in, but I’ve been training nevertheless, despite the heatwave. It’s just as much of a challenge as it was last year when I ran my first marathon in Atlanta, perhaps more since this year I’m coming off an injury. This time I plan to run to raise money for cancer research. Nothing to do with the portraits.

Obsolescence on my Mind

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

halifax duncan cove jillian mcdonald
halifax duncan cove jillian mcdonald

This week I was a participant in a conference titled Obsolescence and the Culture of Human Invention, organized by Halifax researchers Robert Bean and Ilan Sandler, at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Other participants and artists in an accompanying exhibition titled “txt” at Anna Leowens Gallery included David Clark of Halifax, Michelle Gay and Michael Maranda from Toronto, and Luke Murphy and Marcin Ramocki from NYC. California-based keynote speaker Katherine Hayles joined us at the end of the week to discuss code, language, hyperattention and deep attention, and her recent critical writing on transhumanism in science fiction. The transhumanists advocate taking any means necessary, including plastic surgery and sexual selection, to stave off death, disease, gender, undesireable characteristics, and other unpleasant human afflictions. This futurist belief system is championed in novels such as the very strange Mr. Boy.

My interest in obsolescence is in the rise of Free Culture proponents in the face of ever tightening copyright laws, and the obsolescence of past film and television viewing in favour of a more expanded digital cinema and participation-based viewing. I’ll post more on that when I get back to New York.

Although most of the conference daytime was spent indoors in near darkness watching presentations and discussing obsolescence, we took a magical field trip to chilly Duncan’s Cove where Robert cautioned us to stay clear of the ocean’s edge lest a rogue wave sneak up and claim us. Really. We found sponges, urchins, crabs, and mussels washed up along the rocks, some of which we had eaten earlier in the week.

~photos of the expedition by Michael Maranda

Popping the Running Cherry

Sunday, May 25th, 2008


I’ve been nervous about running on the road again, but this evening ran three miles (yes only three miles, but read on), including some hills.

This friend and this one both told me in the past two months that they were inspired by my running. What running?! I thought at the time.

As of this week, I’m back in the saddle after wickedly tearing my hamstring last June. Along the way I experienced some pain and more stupidity (my own), much physical therapy and a lot of strengthening in the gym, plus a little jealousy of Beckley’s upcoming NYC marathon. We ran our first together last March in Atlanta – excruciating and unbelievably exhilarating. I’ve never been in better shape in my life, which was pretty cool.

So I decided this week to prepare for the marathon anyway and if I can’t get in via the lottery maybe someone I know will drop out and I’ll take their spot. :D

Tonight I ran a meandering path in the lovely Qu̩bec City. The only thing missing was the sweet reward Рour traditional high five at the end.

Iceberg Envy

Saturday, May 24th, 2008


My dad sent me this postcard recently upon moving back to Newfoundland, the province of his childhood. I thought the image was a bluff. Apparently not. This summer we’re going to visit him there and I’m hoping the icebergs are still there, not to mention puffins, light houses, cod tongues, screech, blustery cliffs, whales, clams, fog, and other promises. Who needs the tropics – bring on the North, eh!


Friday, May 23rd, 2008

From my northern location I am surprised to discover that I cannot access my usual crack dose of web version TV episodes. Lost, for one, blocks those of us attempting to peek from non-American soil.

Speaking of Lost and obsession – if I wasn’t speaking about it I was certainly thinking about it – check out Lostpedia (spoiler warning).

While surfing to the tune of other distractions, I happily came across CBC radio’s archived Q podcasts, hosted by the smooth-voiced Jian Ghomeshi. Billed as “your daily dose of arts and culture”, Q is a boisterous programme. Contemporary art, music, sports, food, tv, pop-culture, science, books, design, sex – it’s chock full of all the good stuff. I dare you to listen to just one.

Calling all Zombies, from Québec

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

zombie masthead

Through June 4, I’m at La Chambre Blanche in the beautiful and rainy Québec City working on a website to provide info about and invite participation in my upcoming horror-themed smart mob performances. For example, Zombies in Condoland, a night long performance at La Nuit Blanche in Toronto. The masthead is the work-in-progress fruit of tonight’s labour.

I was at La Chambre Blanche in January 2002 for a similar residency. I fell in love with the city then and it remains my favourite Canadian city for simply walking around. Today I watched a thin sliver of orange sunset between the grey clouds and the horizon below my feet from the vantage point of the haute ville. Wandering the crooked little streets I found the windows as I remembered them – with open blinds showing every room filled with warm light, books, and gardens of potted plants. Maybe I’m romanticizing but either Canada really is amazing or there’s no place like home.

Superfan in Vancouver

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Third Avenue Gallery

My solo show in Vancouver opened at Third Avenue Gallery on May 1, and will run through May 31. Minutes by foot from Granville Island, Third Avenue was awash in pink from blossoming trees all last week.

Including work from the past five years which can best be described as culture-jamming, the exhibition also features 2 new videos, Superfan and Staring Contest with Brad Pitt. I finished editing the latter a couple of hours before the show opened, the video equivalent of hanging a wet painting. The sweat was dripping from my brow.

Third Avenue Gallery
Third Avenue Gallery

From the press release:
Superfan stars Jillian Mcdonald riding in vehicles with costars Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent Gallo, and Donald Sutherland. Despite their attempts at conversation, the trio of male leads cannot shake her concentration on the Superbowl game. Staring Contest with Brad Pitt finds Mcdonald and Hollywood’s leading heartthrob locked in an endless gaze of a familiar childhood game. In To Vincent with Love“Mcdonald inserts herself digitally into scenes from Vincent Gallo’s film Buffalo 66” playing the ingénue opposite his socially awkward male lead. In Me and Billy Bob, she digitally manipulates romantic scenes from Hollywood films starring actor Billy Bob Thornton, creating a soft critique of celebrity obsession.”

Thank you to Michael Bjornson and Camille Graham for all their support and hard work on the installation!

Third Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue GalleryThird Avenue Gallery

Dreams of the Coast

Friday, May 9th, 2008


I left the west coast 2 days ago, and I already have separation anxiety. Although it’s great to be home, Vancouver is a hard place to leave. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the dreamy mist and the moist rain forest? I watched these motionless ships for hours, with my father. They seemed to multiply while I slept nearby in English Bay.


Stanley Park’s old growth – some of the trees are 800 years old. Strangely, herons roost above the park atop more spindly trees, a mere 30 feet overhead. Parts of the city are bursting with blooming, twisting vegetation. Although we do have a weird overgrown weed-tree in our backyard, Brooklyn’s vegetation is depressingly sparse and neglected.

Ode to a Prairie town; and Doing it, bug-style

Saturday, April 26th, 2008


The Tribeca Film Festival’s screening 2 nights ago of Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg was delightful – particularly enhanced by his own live narration in Winnipeg twang, and paired with Isabella Rosellini’s hilariously funny Green Porno micro-shorts describing the bizarre sexual practices of common bugs. She plays the costumed male of each species as well as various hermaphrodites, and is subjected to all manner of physical trauma. The low tech effects are enchanting. Beckley and I agreed that these should be shown to kids, and also would work well in a gallery installation. Rick Gilbert, Green Porno‘s producer who I recognized from somewhere (Winnipeg, it turns out), told me they have been trying various configurations as they tour the work. Stay tuned for her second series featuring sea creatures!

Maddin’s signature blurry style of a bygone era in endless snow grace this documentary/travelogue of our shared prairie home town. Its highlights include a hockey match between historical hockey greats amidst the wrecking ball demolition of their beloved arena; a reenactment of Maddin’s childhood living room complete with dead father exhumed like a mound of dirt beneath the carpet; a steamy coming-of age in arena locker rooms and the subterranean levels of a public pool; and Golden Boy pageantry in the otherwise dull and fading Paddlewheel family restaurant.

My favourite line references the newly erected MTS building looking “like a zombie in a cheap new suit” where Canada’s iconic Eaton’s department store once proudly stood. I’ve been away from home for a long long time – thanks for the memories, however self-deprecating.

Attention Canadians: After Effects is 100% American

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Here’s some geeky info reblogged from Beckleyworks. Hopefully it will prevent someone’s afternoon headache. I tried to launch Adobe After Effects 6.5 Pro recently and was greeted with the message “KCHR Resource not found. Keyboard shortcuts will be disabled.” When they say keyboard shortcuts, they mean everything – you can’t even use the space bar or delete key. The short answer to a long search is that After Effects needs a U.S. keyboard and if like mine, yours switches occasionally to Canadian keys, the software simply will not understand you. Like when you ask where the Americans put your “runners”, they have no idea what you are talking about.