Probably one of the best T-Shirt designs I’ve seen in a while! Click on the picture to see the product.
Another Value Village find (I look frequently, that’s my secret), this is a crazy little mug that looks like it’s about to topple over! It’s got this amazing blue/brown/green glaze and it’s surprisingly comfortable to hold. Huronia is known for it’s crazy glazes, and more for it’s interesting vases and animal sculptures. I actually love the looks of this moose, and would love to get my hands on it someday.
Art (“Art”) is a the centre of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” the film by street artist(s) Banksy, a screen version of his famed art installations that works on multiple levels, working mystery and comedy together, without ever really committing to one big singular idea.
The film’s conceit is that it tells the story of camera-man Thierry Guetta, who thanks to his cousin “Space Invader,” falls totally in love with the street art scene, and along the way documents and befriends Shepard Fairey (“Obey” and “Hope” signs guy) and Banksy, before turning into a street artist himself, “Mr. Brainwash.”
At the end of the film “Mr. Brainwash,” despite creating totally shallow and vapid “art” (Spraypaint Campell’s Soup can), becomes “more popular” than Banksy and Fairey after mounting a truly massive art show on a vacant CBS lot six months into his art career.
By the film’s last quarter, Fairey and Bansky’s admiration of Guetta as a cameraman (or “documentarian” as he bills himself — despite never making a documentary ever), turns into tragic disdain as he mounts a show with no meaning whatsoever, with art mainly created by a crew of talented, uncredited artists. Banksy quips that he used to encourage everyone to make art, but since suggesting that to Guetta, he doesn’t do that anymore.
Ultimately, if you couldn’t tell by the title of the film, this movie is essentially about “selling out,” “cashing in,” and the upside down world of the modern art industry. Guetta, who duped Los Angelinos (like Beck!) into buying designer/vintage clothes by turning a $50 bulk pile of duds into $5000 worth of hipster wear, unwittingly becomes the same sort of art savant shyster by the film’s end, bilking “art fanatics” into buying over a million dollars of impossibly derivative art at his first show (to be fair, the fans were attracted by promotional quotes from Banksy and Fairey).
On that level alone, the surface level, the documentary is pretty straightforward and just plain works.
But with a couple mysterious tricksters behind the film, you feel like you just can’t take “Exit” for what it is, which is why so many conspiracy theories have begun to emerge around the flick. Suggestions range from “Mr. Brainwash” being a construct/collaboration between Fairey and Banksy, “Guetta” actually being Banksy in disguise or the whole film being a construct my mind-melting director Spike Jonze.
The conspiracy arguments are fair, because the dramatic irony of Guetta’s journey is just too rich that it must be scripted. Banksy even obliquely admits it in this “Wired” article, where he comments on how Guetta more or less trespasses into the art world the same way he trespassed into the street art world as a videographer (which ironically, the original street artists trespass on private property to produce their own art. But I digress…)
Why would Banksy and Fairey construct a film/persona like Mr. Brainwash then? It could be a guilty reaction against their own hype/success, which has turned their art into crass commercialism (there’s a lot of “Obey” t-shirts out there).
Important clues from the film worth thinking about: Fairey talking about his “Obey” logos, which essentially don’t mean anything, then they are seen anywhere and are talked about and gain power, Banksy showing off his collection of counterfeit bills that he can’t distribute, the unreal awfulness of “Life Remote Control,” the plain suburban art collector with an original Warhol in her closet.
Either way, if the documentary is “real” or “fake,” the film’s message about the shifty nature of art celebrity and success doesn’t change, even if “Mr. Brainwash” is a sham. I think the creators of film want audiences to push back against all forms of art; both the hyped “celebrities” like Banksy and the unknown street artists imitating Banksy. By showing (or perhaps being) an elaborate sham, I think they simply want audiences to be more critical, and if anything, pay more attention to everything else BUT the elephant in the room.
As a post-script, I hope that Banksy never reveals himself… we’re richer having the mythology than just finding out it’s just some guy from some art school. To me, it’s like “Godspeed You Black Emperor!” and the mythology they built up: I never really ever want to see their photographs, or see them interviewed on Muchmusic or something, and whatever I have built up in my head about who they are will always be more interesting and gratifying than what they are: musicians.
During my last visit to “Twice Found,” one of my favourite modern/antique stores for browsing in the Annex, I was chatting with the owner who was extolling the virtues of Canadian pottery, and how she thinks we’re on the verge of a renewed interest in home-grown art.
Her particular interest was in Beauce, a company located in Quebec, and had many interesting pieces in her shop. One of the things I like about “Twice Found” is that they always have a wide range of pieces, I’ve previously found a vintage Arabia planter there, and I know someone picked up a set of Arabia mugs as a Christmas gift there too. However, as anybody trying to find decent Scandinavian pottery can attest: it’s hard to find, and usually when you do find it, it’s expensive and overpriced (thankfully at Twice Found they are a bit more reasonable).
That’s one of the big reasons why people are now getting into Canadian pottery: the work is just as beautiful as any other in the world (usually with a prominent Canadian twist), way more plentiful in this part of the world, and much, much cheaper!
So even though we left Twice Found with our first small German pot, I had a desire to discover and learn about Canadian pottery. I got my first chance the day after, during a routine rummage through Value Village, where I found these green mugs. They stood out amongst the usual crap in there, but when I spied the “Canada” imprint on the bottom, I thought it should at least give me a chance to do a little research.
After taking the mugs home, giving them a solid wash and removing the price tag, I found above the “CANADA” stamp a logo that looked like a crude mug drawing and a number. Apparently the style of the glaze is called “volcanic lava,” where something is applied to the glaze to make it bubble up and look like a coarse piece of rock. Very cool.
After a little search engineering, I found out that the mugs are made by a French company called Poterie Laurentienne or Laurentian Art Pottery (or just LP as the logo suggests). The company was based in St. Jerome, Quebec and was founded in 1939 by a Mr. Kominick. Apparently they changed their logo to a set of three trees later on.
From what I’ve seen online, they’ve made pottery of everything you can think of, from plates to cups to sculptures of snowmobiles and trains. Even if you can’t speak French, take a browse through this forum, where LP fans have posted up photos (and numbers) of the company’s designs.
It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every day is just bleeding into the last, a cycle of streetcar/desk/streetcar/couch/streetcar/desk/streetcar/couch that has been just wearing me out. In fact, it seems like life has been so large and so small all at the same time lately, and so I decided to get out of my head and just paint. The design is based upon a popular Kathie Winkle pattern, kind of interpreted in a folk/Concentric-circles-Kandinsky style, all freehand.
I think for the next step I’ll add more thick line patterns around each side and up and down the legs. Afterwards I think I’ll add white in the unpainted sections, as a sort of “negative” paint, which should dry pretty transparently and show the wood grain too.
The table is just an old IKEA table I’ve had for a while that I’ve always been meaning to stain a nice dark brown… looks like it won’t be matching my custom Horse fabric chairs anymore! Unless I maybe paint those white… nah.
Like most of my urban dwelling brethren, I’m pretty cut off from most mainstream Christian culture, especially culture born waaaay south of the border. Sure, downtown we love our Sufjan Stevens and Thrices, but most of the younger, young-ish and young-at-heart people I know are not really going to perk up when someone mentions “The Well.”
I don’t think it’s necessarily an attitude thing, nor a “we’re more sophisticated” type thing either… downtown, churches are more likely to be “plants,” store-fronts, locals, stuffy, alternative or traditional. Like our city, the church presence is very diverse.
But despite all that diversity, there’s not much in the way of Christian media in the core; there are hardly any “Christian” radio stations, there’s no “Michaels” (but we do have our Crux!), and most of all, we don’t have any mega-churches. And without that “large-group” environment, a lot of content, good and bad, passes on undetected. I think that easily explains why Rob Bell’s previous visit to Toronto was (by my impression) almost entirely attended by out-of-town 905ers and beyond.
OK, I’m way off topic here and I’m not planning on peeling back that thought any further for now.
So there’s this movie, “Fireproof,” which most people won’t look twice at, except for the fact that it’s probably the most popular, mainstream “Christian” movie today. Starring everyone’s favourite Evangelical punching bag, Kirk Cameron (yep, from “Growing Pains”), who plays a firefighter with a very Christian name, the very cheesy flick follows him as he takes on a “Love Dare” while trying to save his marriage.
“Rescue Me” it ain’t.
With a tag line of “Never Leave Your Partner Behind” (which you will of course hear in reference to fighting fires and in marriage), I won’t harp on the film too much, because it only cost half a million dollars to produce, and it ended up grossing over 33 million since its release last year.
Like I said before, it’s very cheesy, and at times the production can be amateur, but about halfway through the flick, it seems to get i’ts act together and become a real movie. Sure, it keeps mucking up it’s “Marriage is Fireproof” theme: love is a spark, fire threatens to burn your marriage down, lighting a fire = rekindling a romance; but despite my criticisms there, I will have to admit that this movie does have a great message.
At the heart of the film, it’s quite literally a lesson in love; there’s a “Love Dare” that Caleb takes, and yep, you can get a version of the love dare in book form. There’s speeches and long talks that feel like they’ve been born from a pulpit, and when Caleb’s dad discovers his unbelieving son lives near an old Christian summer camp, complete with firepit and wooden cross, you know that somebody’s going to be kneeling in front of it by the end of the movie. Even if they have a horrible “Georgia” accent (ahem, Cameron).
Despite my cynic attitude, there’s lots of things I enjoyed about the movie: It’s very “south,” with lots of drawl and male posturing, which at once feels real and down to earth, all the actors are more or less non-actors, which adds to the sincerity (Caleb’s mother actually looks like she could be someone’s mother. Much love to Ken Bevel as well, he was the best and most prominent non-actor in the movie, and he totally rocked it), and sometimes I wonder if all the cheesiness is intentional: giving couples who initially watch the movie together something to make fun of before they are truly bombarded by the sincere gospel message presented here.
Looking over the special features on the DVD, it gave me an extra appreciation that I wouldn’t have gotten just from the film itself. The outtakes show just how much fun they had shooting this mostly-depressing film, the moments where cast and crew pray before shooting every day is totally inspiring, and to hear about why the filmmakers took on this project were enlightening (basically they feel like marriage is under attack… however, it looks like they’re not going anywhere near the “gay marriage” issue here).
A point they make in the special features that I really appreciate, is that this is a film you don’t often see: It looks at people’s lives after they live “happily ever after” and before something “tragic and life changing” happens. It’s when the monotony of day to day life and unfulfilled dreams take root, and to the film’s credit, I applaud it for taking a realistic look at what that life experience is like.
So, if you’re a Christian, in a “Christian” marriage, or even have friends who are receptive to the gospel and maybe even having some marriage troubles, I would suggest “Fireproof” is worth a watch.
Other Interesting notes:
- Kirk Cameron, in lieu of payment, donated his paycheck to his favourite charity, Camp Firefly
- From what I can tell, pretty much everyone involved in the film is a volunteer
- Apparently Kirk Cameron refuses to kiss any other woman, even on screen, so in Fireproof, when his character does kiss his wife, its Kirks wife dressed up as the main character
- Every location the film shot at was provided without payment required
- Every “house” scene was shot in the same house
Maybe it’s the music industry, maybe it’s something private, or maybe it’s just rebelling against his youth, but whatever sparked it, it seems like David Bazan’s transition from Doubting Thomas to agnostic is complete.
Through his poetry, Bazan has always wrestled with the church, it’s believers and it’s practices, and that’s what has drawn so many people to Pedro the Lion over the years. And whatever Christian-related content that drew people in, Bazan provided just enough antidote to keep those listeners in check.
The band’s first record was released in 1997 on the so-called Christian punk record label “Tooth and Nail” in 1997. The “Whole EP” (say it out loud a couple of times) begins with a song called “Nothing,” which introduces the listener to a man who embraces philosophy over morals and rules. At one point, he says “It’s just not true, that there’s only one way.”
The EP then goes on to that character developing a drug habit (“Fix”), trying to kick it (the excellent “Almost There”), then seeing a friend who overcame his addiction thanks to “Mr. Hole-fixing man” (“Whole”). That album concludes with “Lullaby,” which has become an anthem for modern Christian life. I love this song so much, that I’m going to include some of the lyrics here:
Sun shines, and leaves blow and my hope like autumn is turning brown.
I know it seems like I’m always falling down.
And it does not matter to me, although it seems like it should.
It’s because I know I’m understood, when I hear him say…
“Rest in me little David, and dry all your tears, you can lay down your armour and have no fear.
Cause I’m always here when you’re tired of running, and I’m all the strength that you need.”
“Lullaby” is followed by an instrumental, “Hymn,” and it’s all over. Ever since I first heard this song almost 10 years ago, I still need that instrumental track to fully recover from “Lullaby.” Personally, I imagine the “David” here as King David, and how he would converse with God, but it’s easy to hear this and believe you are listening to some of David Bazan’s most honest, powerful and uplifting songs ever.
But ever since “Whole EP,” David has been fighting against that sentiment as hard as he can… I’ve read that in the past, he’d be playing his songs and people would be having intense emotional reactions, while he wasn’t feeling anything, and was uncomfortable with manipulating people like that.
With his next record, “It’s Hard to Find a Friend,” you can hear that instead of embracing this kind of cathartic narrative, he instead explores new stories and characters, like the memorable father and son exchange in “Big Trucks,” the man who finds out his girlfriend has been cheating on him in “Bad Diary Days,” and the guy who has a problem with natural beauty in “When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run.” But there’s still religious material as well, like “Of Minor Prophets and Their Prostitute Wives,” a retelling of the obscure Old Testament book Hosea. Then finally, the album’s finest moment, “Secret of the Easy Yoke,” featuring a man who feels unmoved and annoyed by his friends and their seemingly perfect devotion. However, by the end of the song he’s turned to “Peace be still,” a mantra of simple confirmation and encouragement.
(Yes, there was “Promise” originally at the end of this record, but supposedly Bazan was told to add an uplifting song to the end of the record, and on the re-release in 2001 was left off.)
In his next record, the EP entitled “The Only Reason I Feel Secure (Is That I’m Validated By My Peers)” he returned to the more introspective side of his writing, peaking with a beautiful rendition of “Be Thou My Vision.” From there things turned rather dark, with the warning of the powers of sex and power and murder in “Winners Never Quit,” a story of two brothers: the “good” Christian who is secretly bad (and murders his wife then commits suicide), and his “bad” Christian brother who is arrested while driving drunk and goes to jail. “Bad Things To Such Good People,” the final song from the brother in jail, describes the arrogance of his father and contains a somewhat controversial line: “All the while, the good Lord smiles and looks the other way.” You could interpret it as the Lord is simply forgiving both the father and the son in jail of their sins, or you could also look at it as the Lord is simply letting chaos reign in their life and doing nothing about it. (Starting to sound a little like what Bazan is saying in “Curse Your Branches,” right?)
Actually, for a good statement of where Bazan was at around the time of “Winners Never Quit,” check out this great interview here.
Then there’s the amazing rock record, “Control,” easily Bazan’s most distressing record, which tackles infidelity, global warming and modernization. While he was merely baiting his Christian listeners in “Winners Never Quit,” in this record he finally tells them to buzz off with “Rapture,” a song about an adulterous couple having dirty motel room sex and one screams out “Oh my sweet rapture, I hear Jesus and the angels singing Hallelujah, calling in me to enter the promised land.” Later in “Priests and Paramedics,” a priest at a funeral for the adulterous man gives his people gather a bitter pill: “You’re gonna die. We’re all gonna die. Could be twenty years, could be tonight. And lately I have been wondering why we go to so much trouble to postpone the unavoidable and prolong the pain of being alive.”
“Control” then adds a question mark in it’s oft-debated finale, “Rejoice,” which says “Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if everything were meaningless. But everything is so meaningful and most everything turns to shit. Rejoice.”
Following that, David seems content to slowly go darker and more skeptical, all kind of staying in this ambiguous Christian world viewpoint, like on “Achilles Heel” and the synth-only record, “The Headphones,” throwing in the occasional four or seven letter world to rankle his critics.
However, with his first full album under his own name, I feel like things are a lot different. Things are personal again, however, it seems like the sarcasm has been replaced with vitriol and anger. “Hard to Be” kicks things off with an indictment of the creation story as a Christian’s excuse for misbehaviour, and ends with his graduation from “believer” to “non-believer.” There’s “Bless this Mess,” which either celebrates the inversion of popular Christian parables (the wheat and the chaff, the candle under a bushel), or celebrates those who flaunt them. “Harmless Sparks” takes on pedophile priests and inserts a confession of his own doubt and it again conflicts with his family. “When We Fell” indicts the threat of Hell as motivation for belief. In “Bearing Witness” he’s sick of “making the pieces fit” and in “Heavy Breath” he reassures his God-fearing friends that life without him isn’t any different.
The album ends with “In Stitches,” which instead of reaffirming anything, seems to confirm David’s agnostic attitude. He’s still talking to his God, but like the entire album all along, it’s in the tone of talking to someone who has been betrayed by an ex-lover. (A common description of “Curse Your Branches” is that it’s David Bazan’s “break up album” with God).
I’ve been thinking about it, and to me, from a lyrical point of view, it seems like David has finally turned into the character he voiced in “Nothing” way back in 1997 on the “Whole EP.” Happier to go his own his own way, and giving up the struggle of belief.
I’ll admit that I don’t know David personally, and I don’t what’s really in his heart. For all I know that this is just a natural progression of his writing, and his relationship with God is his own business, so I don’t want to come across as judging him for what he’s chosen to believe. I don’t even want to go into the whole alcoholism thing either, despite it being such a large presence in his songs, because again, I don’t need to be judgmental of that (especially when I see my own struggle with that as well).
I guess after being such an intense fan, and hanging on much longer than a lot of my other Christian brothers, I don’t think I can hold David’s songs as close as I once did. I’m still totally in awe of his talent, and I’ve been forever changed by his writing, but “Curse Your Branches” seems to be the album at which when I have to keep his music out of reaching distance. It’s not enough that I can recognize that I disagree with much of what he has to say, because I’ve been to all the places he visits here. I personally want to move past those places, so while I appreciate and respect what he’s done, I can’t dwell in it like other albums he’s done.
However, part of me also knows that if I give up on him now, I might miss out on him coming around to the final “Lullaby” chapter in his records, which is just a too glorious prospect. Johnny Cash and Mike Knott worked in similar circles, so anything is possible, right?
(As a post-script, I know there’s so much more I could talk about here too, like the Christmas EPs, his relationships with other “Christian” artists like Damien Jurado, but this is sprawling enough already).
(As another post-script, is that I wanted to note that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform many times over the years: Opening for Low at Lee’s Palace, rocking out the Horseshoe a couple times with TW Walsh, playing Buffalo with Starflyer 59, another Buffalo set done completely solo at the Mohawk, a solo show at the Music Gallery, a solo show in Seattle at the Crocodile Cafe with Damien Jurado and Ben Gibbard, and his return to Lee’s Palace with a full band in tour for “Curse Your Branches.” Whatever he does, I’ll still continue to come out to the shows, because they are always powerful experiences.)
(As one final post-script, I have to point out something funny Matt McKechnie wrote about me on his blog, taken from the last Bazan show at Lee’s, “I saw my friend Tyrone (of Silver Speakers) standing stage left with the look of an awed child meeting Santa Claus.”)
So I managed to make most of my must-catch exhibits, and waiting till after 1 to go out helped, but I really should have just waited till after last call. This was the first time I did “Zone A” and while it would be easy to complain about all the idiots/jerks/whathaveyou out for the night, basically getting blasted, yelling at the top of their lungs and making fun of projects, I decided to stay positive and enjoyed myself, without getting too mushed in human traffic along the way. Here’s a few of my photos of the exhibits I saw.
Wasted Breath: Awesome. I don’t think those who were wandering by noticed they were moving.
Bay street midway: Popular, probably because it was a ride. The Seven Eleven nearby also had quite the draw.
Monopoly with real money: Nice, concept, but hard to watch for more than 5 minutes.
Lights at city hall: Probably the biggest and best of the night.
Big inflated silver bunny: Hopefully less of this next year.
Steel cage match at the bus terminal: Nice setup, lame wrestling.
Random band in the atrium: Noise, but a welcome break.
Massey Hall: Wonderful, but it must be so tiring for the performers.
The moon: Perfection.
Mercy and sausage: Wonderful way to end the evening out in Liberty village.
After getting home around 7 and sleeping to noon, I’m feeling pretty off, but overall it was a great night, and I’m looking forward to next year! If you want to weigh in with what you saw, leave a comment!
Generally, I avoid a lot of these big festivals in Toronto because they seem to attract mounds of people, and feature things that as a resident of this city can be easily experienced year round. “Taste of the Danforth” and other food festivals are good examples of this. For arts festivals in particular, I still think they are worth attending: you need to avoid the run-of-the-mill business that you can see anytime, and try to find the truly amazing/interesting experiences.
“Nuit Blanche” is one of those festivals that can be done a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way? Don’t bother to go to art galleries, especially the ones one Queen West, don’t wait around in line, and don’t waste your time taking photos with your point-and-shoot (you can find cool pictures on Flickr on Sunday). Avoid too many hype events, and avoid alot of “indoor” things.
As for the right way, my advice is to start late (past midnight), go with friends, map it out and walk efficiently, hit a park or two, and research beforehand! This year using the new iPod app looks pretty cool, and it’s free! And it should be halfway decent weather. So with that said, here’s a look at some of my suggestions for stuff to check out (Follow the links and you can read what they are). And keep in mind too, that when you’re heading to your “destinations,” you’re always going to come across some really interesting installations, so keep your eyes open!
Space Becomes the Instrument: I can imagine some pretty massive lines at Massey Hall for this one. I would check this out later in the night, say around 3 or 4am. Even just to be onstage at Massey, right?
Beautiful Light: 4 LETTER WORD MACHINE: I would definitely swing by this. The bigger the installation, the better!
Mobius: The four screen installation sounds like it would make for a longer stop, which I kind of like.
Drop Out: This is my #2 place of the night of my must-visit… the Food Jammers are serving Ice Coffee snow cones in the Hart House courtyard!
Wasted Breath: Marcia Huyer’s work is always breathtaking, and I’m always captivated by her inflated sculptures. I do have to admit, I’m friends with both Marcia and her partner-in-crime Rob, and I’m always truly astounded by their talent and creativity. This is my personal #1 place to stop.
Hey Apathy! A Dialogue with the City: I have a drawing by Mike Parsons hanging above my couch, so it’s safe to say I really love his simplistic, emotive style.
Dance of the Cranes: I just want to see this to see if they can really pull this off.
NITE LITE: It’s a giant Light Bright! And of course, no Nuit Blanche night is complete without a stop at Trinity Bellwoods.
City Sonic: The Cameron House in Motion: This has always been one of my favourite watering holes and place to perform, so I’m looking forward to seeing an exhibit there.
There’s also Les Rues Des Refuses, which represents rejected exhibits, who are still going to setup anyways. Coupe Bizarre is doing free hair cuts (but you get no say, and can’t see a mirror), and if you’re feeling up for it, I’ve heard the Renegade Parade is a fun time, marching around the city.
Have I missed anything, or do you have a renegade type suggestion? Let me know.