Tag Archives: culture

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A guaranteed fix to fire up the economy

I’ve heard it said before that the manufacturing required for WWII turned around a soft, lagging economy. I heard it described as equivalent to producing tens of thousands of vehicles and then dumping them into the middle of the ocean. It was the activity that sparked the momentum.

Hmmm.

I’ve also been learning about the perils of people on social media not understanding the art of reputation management. One of my professors told me Larry Page of Google believes everyone in the first 20 years of the internet should be granted an online amnesty from everything they’ve posted about themselves. Thus, no employer would be allowed, by law, to creep you on social media and then discriminate against you based on your personal texts i.e. revenge porn.

Hmmm.

This gives me an idea. Why don’t we purge the World Wide Web of all content? Not structure, but all the content.

Imagine the work required to re-build relationships and websites. There would be jobs for everyone and we could re-build it better since we are starting from scratch. The economy, an insane entity that wants to constantly expand or fall into crisis, would have plenty of expanding to do. People’s reputations would start from a clean slate once again.

Maybe we can do this every dozen years or so until we evolve past the need for an ever expanding monster called the economy. Maybe this will help stunt urban sprawl as everyone will be too busy getting rich in cyberspace.

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Verizon vs Bell, Rogers & Telus: What side Canadian Artists should support.

This is an easy answer – all Canadian artists and cultural workers should support opening the market to international telecommunication companies just like Verizon.

And now comes the fun part – explaining why!

For artists and Canadian culture in general this is a terrible sanction to have on us during this emerging period of online productions. Think about it – with data being so expensive in Canada and so comparatively cheap everywhere else in the world, our ability to produce and consume digital work is handicapped. We’ll put less work up, and we’ll watch less and the work that is up there has less production value, making us a bit of a laughing stock internationally.

Look at this way – throughout history artists have usually been on the trailing edge of technology as it become more affordable. Now with the massive economics of mobile devices, artists are finally right there on the vanguard of innovation – except in Canada. We simply can’t afford to be as nimble, innovative and productive as the rest of the world.

Why? Because Bell, Rogers and Telus have been lying and manipulating us in order to maintain a monopolistic strangle hold on the tiny Canadian market and leave us with the some of the highest rates in the world for internet, text messages and data transfer. I know this is not exactly news to most people, but incredibly many people out there are still sympathetic to these big three players because, apparently, they will believe whatever commercials and lobbying messages are put on the TV by the people who they are paying money to watch these commercials and lobbying messages on TV.

Below is a summation and rebuttal, point by point, of their main points throughout recent years, as seen on TV:

1. People illegally downloading movies are causing more strain on the system so that’s why prices are high.

That’s like saying if your neighbour is watching a lot of TV, your cable bill will go up.  Or lots of people are mailing books to each other that they stole from their local libraries, so stamps will increase in price. Usually something being used used more frequently usually results in it becoming cheaper – no matter the content being downloaded, someone is still paying for that bandwidth.

Also, look through these companies Business packages. They tend to espouse how fast and growing their networks are – but when dealing with their retail service, then suddenly they need you to pay more for less. Neat trick.

2. The internet is growing and becoming faster. It’s expensive to keep up these standards so that price is reflected in our bills:

You may be surprised to find this out but in fact the internet is very fast and rather boundless by it’s very nature – what you are actually paying for is the technology and marketing these big three companies use to actually slow down the internet to various levels and sell it back to you with caps on the speed and amount you can download.

3. They have internet packages that are very reasonable for the amount people use them:

No they are not reasonable. If I go above my monthly cap, then I have to pay $10 per Gigabyte – 10 FUCKING DOLLARS! – per gigabyte. Most people don’t even know what a gigabyte is so these telecommunication companies will get away with this exploitative and unethical behaviour. And frankly, it is nobody’s business what I use my internet for any more than it is what books i read or what kind of music I listen to. But my point here does apply to being an artist who uploads many photos and other media to websites, and this hampers that.

Now the really evil part – Bell, Rogers and Telus are adjusting their internet packages so that it is very fast for everyone but lowering the amount of data you are “allowed” to use. This means people will literally be able to race to their caps faster and thus have to pay exorbitant fees ($10 per Gigabyte!!!!) based on the small print of their contracts, which also have steep penalties for breaking contracts early or even for not returning the low-quality mass-produced modems they supply. For example, the modem we have is probably worth about $80 retail. If we do not return it when we cancel their contract, we have to pay $800. When they get the modem, they’ll just dispose of it.

4. Bell and Rogers are Canadian – we should support Canadian businesses!

Keep this is mind: Bell and Rogers are also international companies and would in a heartbeat trade places with Verizon. All of these companies are the same and view you the same way, so you should treat them the same as well. What is important here is that if companies like Verizon are allowed into our market, the price for data for people like you and me will drop considerably.

The disparity in access to available networks in North America becomes even more ludicrous when you consider the fact large corporations are enjoying international free trade agreements, but we as individuals are not benefiting.

5. Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide better Customer Service.

Anyone who is Canadian and does not work for Bell, Rogers or Telus will agree that these companies have been terrible to their customers and only very slightly, begrudgingly better since more competition seems to be looming on the horizon.  For most of us, we’ve talked to each about this and shared our revenge fantasies of someday seeing the demise of these companies.

In conclusion, there are changes coming. The CRTC has, finally, made a ruling to limit the contracts, alleviate unreasonable roaming and other charges and provide some price relief. Not sure why they have not stepped in before to help protect citizens, as that is supposed to be their job.

In the meantime, my family and I have switch away from the evil three and gone with an ethical re-seller of Bell (you cannot escape the reseller status of all independent telecommunication companies in Canada. They are all re-sellers of Bell’s bandwidth because our government allowed Bell to become a monopoly over many years).

Someday, we hope to completely free and clear of purchasing any services from Bell, Rogers or Telus, and so should you.

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[Podcast #9] Interview with #hamont Heritage Activist Graham Crawford

Listen to the Audio Podcast here (also available on iTunes)

I had the honour and pleasure of interviewing Silver Jubilee Medal recipient Graham Crawford at his HIStory & HERitage Museum storefront space. Crawford is a hero to some and a thorn in the side to others with his outspoken views on city business and priorities. Retired from a very successful run in the corporate world, he perhaps is the best example of the methodical and intelligent activist who vexes the myth of the malcontent and uninformed activist that seemingly is applied to anyone who speaks out in this community.

When I first moved to Hamilton, Ontario three years ago, Graham’s storefront window full of “culture jamming” images and commentary was an intriguing and accessible point of entry to learn about this city in transition. During this interview, I try to get an overview from Crawford on what makes Hamilton architecture so special, some of the current problems with the political leadership and where Hamilton is going next.

The interview goes for an hour and a half, and could of gone on for another hour and a half. I hope you enjoy.

(Bonus: Fellow Silver Jubilee Recipient Matt Jelly art included below)

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FEAST: gourmet food meets art project crowdfunding

As the event announcement states: “FEAST hamilton is a new community micro-funding event and is looking for Artists Project Proposals.  FEAST  (Funding Engaging Actions and Sustainable Tactics) is a series of community dinners and micro-funding events that bring people together with the aim of supporting local projects through funds raised at each FEAST event.

Jen and I went and it was a really fun event – and I learned a lot about how artists present and saw how some strengths and weaknesses influenced the final vote. I’ll talk about those in a sec. I took some photos, posted below, and I apologize for my name being in the bottom right. That was an oversight from a new process.

Grazyna Ziolkowski
Artist and ceramic art studio owner Grazyna Ziolkowski presents her work in support of working with kids and growing beans.

Each one of us received a list with six artists names, who would be presenting projects we could vote on at the end. Aside from costs, the entire funds raised went to the artist and the organizer’s anticipated $500. The actual amount ended up being just over $800.

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Audio artist Marco D’Andrea presents his project at FEAST 01. It was a very cool vintage equipment sound installation in a car and presented at the “Electric Eclectic Festival”. I may go.

It was fun sitting with some new people and even a couple of the artists. This sort of format and social funding in the arts here has not happened before and there was an excited buzz in the air, and an excited rumbling in our stomachs as the food was in the next gallery over. Tickets sold out for this, and I think this sort of format has a very bright future within the arts community. OK, I know it sounds like a cheesy quote from the Hobbit, but I really got a  “jolly fellowship” vibe from the whole thing.

Andrea Carvalho
Hamilton Artists Inc Director and FEAST 01 co-organizer Andrea Carvalho explains how things work. 10 Minutes per presentation. That’s it. No questions.

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What we noticed about some of the proposals is that there never a complete “who, what, where, why, when” picture of the projects. Even if you don’t have confirmed place, you should specify a date and place that is the goal of the work being supported. There was some nice overviews of some studio work or other successful projects, but no “and this is exactly what we are going to do with it with the money you give us”.  In terms of the audience judging this, that seems worthy and genuine but it’s too broad.

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It’s was of no surprise to me that Chris McLeod won – he has a great deal of work done on a crazy-ass steampunkish bicycle power water purification contraption. He stated he wanted finish the machine with some specific materials. He was going to take it to festivals and concerts so people would be able to connect to our use understanding of water. That was a the clearest, most demonstrable and destination / time-frame specific proposal of the night.

Jon Grosz
Jon Grosz

I must admit I was imagining my own proposal and what I would say and show in 10 minutes. They say they’ll have two a year, and I suspect it will be even more popular – especially to present. I hope I still get a chance and would think more events like it should pop up on the landscape. Hopefully.

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It was interesting that two of the names on the list were representing a collective of artists. Jon Grosz showed us the work of his colleagues.
Chris Fergusan from HAVN
Chris Fergusan from HAVN
Congratulations Chris McLeod!
Congratulations Chris McLeod!

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The last days of Sanford Avenue School – a raw video walk around

It was a cold and windy evening…

This heritage worthy building we fought for is now in mid-demolition and I am not sure how much longer there will be any structure left. It really was suddenly cold and windy, but I felt the urgency to document this last stand of one of the last of the great Barton Village classic buildings.

This is pretty raw footage of me walking around the building. I do make a brief statement at the beginning, but this is for reference for … future use. Hopefully, we’ve made a difference overall in Hamilton for other communities going forward.

Sanford Avenue School was a very special heritage building, built in 1932 during the great depression. One of the gems of a notoriously poor neighbourhood, this is the sort of structure that is attractive for a very wide range of opportunities including a college, a community centre or health facility. Despite well documented flaws in the public consultation process and the demolition / heritage process, the HWDSB, the City of Hamilton and then the Government of Ontario failed the future interests of  the Barton Village community and allowed the first 100% steel framed building in Canada to be sold as scrap. No public interest from developers was allowed to be entertained.

For the record, below is a list of  trustees who voted to allow Sanford Avenue School to be demolished, and not to allow any alternatives to be presented by private or non-governmental organizational interest. Also included on this list of “Heritage & Community Shame” are the City and Provincial elected officials without whose express support and approval this tragedy could not have happened.

At the time of this posting, there is no secured funding or concrete plans for any development of the site into a park, soccer field or Recreation Complex expansion.  The most frustrating part for most of us? There would of been enough room for all of this if they had agreed to re-arrange parking instead of demolishing this beautiful structure that would have served nicely economic tool for revitalization. There is a need for new leadership in Hamilton, and the following elected officials should not trusted with public office again:

Ward 3 Councilor 

Bernie Morelli

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Chair

Tim Simmons

HWDSB Trustees:

Bob Barlow

Todd White

Lillian Orban

Wes Hicks

Jessica Brennan

Karen Turkstra

Ray Mulholland

(Former) Liberal Education Minister

Laurel Broten

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friend, fellow heritage activist and Photographer Joanna St. Jacques

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See also http://hamiltonsusualsuspects.blogspot.ca/?m=1 for more photos and discussion

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[Podcast #5 / Interview] I talk with HWDSB Trustee Tim Simmons about Sanford Avenue School

This is a phone interview with Hamilton, Ontario’s school board chair and my local Trustee Tim Simmons, who was gracious enough to give his full attention to a blogger wearing a citizen journalist hat. I was impressed with his willingness to confront the issues and to attend the community meeting next week.

Podcast #5 is available here and on iTunes. This episode is 31 min 45s.

I voice concerns and ask Mr.Simmons questions about the decisions and process that has led to the likely imminent demolition of Sanford Avenue School – a beautiful 1932 historic building in my neighbourhood. Apologies for the poor quality of the phone recording – we do the best we can with what we have. There is nothing scandalous here, but lots of revealing insight into the process and even a sense of hope and common ground, I believe.

Buildings like these are an artist live / work loft dream come true, and many other people find this structure equally as appealing for many other uses – including developers who have not had a chance to propose a plan to save the building and incorporate local community goals.

You can find out more about the state of crisis of this structure on my original blog post here.

If you are reading this before Dec 4th, 2012 and you live in Hamilton, particularly Ward 3, then please consider attending the Wever Hub special community meeting that day at 6pm at Cathy Wever School to voice your opinion. It’s important, especially for future generations in the community.

Christopher Healey

In defense of the “dumb critic”

I was taught in my studio program at Concordia University, a “dumb artist” avoided all formal knowledge, academic history or current trends in art making. Their work was the supposedly unbiased and untainted from this oppressive preconceptions and something genuine and pure was created from this isolation.

Though this definition and examples of it are surprisingly hard to find via Google, it has always nonetheless been a fascination for myself as an approach and years later when I started to do my video and blog reviews of exhibits and trends, I decided I would invent the approach of the “Dumb Critic”.

Specifically, this is a deliberate method of engaging an exhibition (and /or interview with an artist) without any research or familiarity at all. The review must be conducted as soon as possible upon arrival of the Dumb Critic.

I believe this is extremely valuable as feedback to the artist or gallery, as their work has an unfettered connection through immediate impression and without defined preconceptions, such as statements of work or curatorial essays, suggesting an interpretation for the audience. It is more firmly relevant to our time in art history to operate critically within the same context as most art work is viewed by the general public – a sudden confrontation defined by a short amount of time to articulate an overall impression and then broadcasting it to the world.

This approach is tied in to my philosophy of rejecting high production standards if those standards delay or prevent contributions of art documentation / art practice to the general public, for the greater good. It is a rejection of high production standards and design as substitution for meaningful and substantive content. It is a question of the problem of the public and it’s relationship to the visual arts, and vice-versa – there is almost a fear, a intimidation, a judgment of whether the visitor to a community gallery space understands the work, and by understanding you have read the texts associated with the exhibit and previous aspects of contemporary art history. That there is a right and a wrong answer.

So arriving in a gallery and being confronted by an exhibit that is strange and bewildering in it’s unfamiliarity and presence outside any expectations is a valuable and savoury experience for me, and I believe is a way of approaching art that relates most directly with the majority. The majority does not mean it is the right or only way to engage something, but in a cultural communications approach it is a valuable insight to have.

So this concept, this rationalization of being a Dumb Critic frees me to see more exhibits and meet more artists and other arts professionals, and in turn allows me to offer this experience to my audience. I ask dumb questions fearlessly, and propose interpretations that are completely off-the-wall compared to what was clearly written in the catalog or press release. This is a resistance to bowing to the pre-conceived notions of the artist, the curator and the space and trying to see the work as it is, truly alone and without pomp, even if it is only for a little while. Most artists tend to appreciate this very much – at least the ones who are interested in research and truth and play.

Then there are the rigid, formulaic ones who are career ladder climbers and don’t like a lateral turns of thinking of how to approach things in their industry. An example is when I attended an art and technology conference recently and made sure I read nothing about most of the lectures I attended (and live-tweeted about) – including one called “laser-based collaborative space”. I was dreading this was going to be project management software or something but it was, awesomely, actually, about actual lasers and hacker collectives. When I jokingly mentioned that to another artist, he sniffed “you didn’t read anything about the lectures? that’s novel.”

I enjoy reading, listening and researching (duh), but it is just as valuable sometimes to do this afterwards. Here was an artist who is confined by his preconceptions, perhaps unaware of his insecurity to approach the strange and fantastic for the sake of it being strange and fantastic. His rigidity and his literalness, for me, define much of this industry and it’s barriers for a wider participation.

For me, the rejection of the Dumb Critic is related to the rejection of blogs or tweeting over a paper catalog or commissioned academic essay. One is to satisfy funding requirements, establish credibility among peers and create professional opportunities within a set of expectations – the other is a way to dialogue about seeing and experiencing art without worrying about all that other stuff.

I guess that is novel.

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Secret art from the archives: cubicle farm panoramas sneaked from a cheap cellphone, 2009

I worked at an IT sales company for a little while and it was as uncomfortable as you might imagine it was. While I was there though I decided to do a photo series on this environment, but there was a strict “no photo” policy and many who would gladly volunteer to report any deviant behaviour by a fellow employee. To make matters more difficult, cell phone cameras in Canada had to (by law) make a “click” sound when taking a picture so you could not sneak around a gym shower or otherwise take a photo without people knowing about it. I figured out a loophole though – if one was on a phone call, then one could take photos at the same time without any audio alert. So I happily took photos while phoning a large U.S. Financial firm’s automated customer service line. Seemed appropriate, but this created another problem – the cellular signal would disrupt every monitor and computer speakers in proximity with very noisey distortions.  Amazingly, I was still able to conduct my project to completion, and no one was the wiser.

My cheap cell phone had this panorama algorithm that auto-stiched three photos together – even if they were not lined up properly, which was awesome because this is allowed for much more creative visual exploration. I’ve been playing with present day panorama apps for my iphone, but they work too well in way by forcing the user and the pictures together as seamlessly as possible. For this reason, I wish I still had that old flip phone!

Below are the results of my unannounced artist residency.

Religion is not culture

Sometimes there is a story on newspaper websites I like to read that involve a major organized religion – and those stories always have hundreds of passionate comments from all spectrum’s of faith and atheism.

Usually, essentially, the non-believers blame religion for oppressiveness and intolerance and the sympathizers for the organized religion respond with how much their faith has contributed to culture and civilization.

However, this argument is based on an erroneous assumption and is not accurate – religion is like a great artist in that it steals ideas, talent and artwork and claims them as its own.

Continue reading

Ten quick tips for posting art PR via web and email

10. Remember to always add the physical address of your event at the bottom of the posted PR even if the address is somewhere else in the site or the template design.

This makes it easy for others to copy and paste the complete info and also the eye tends to look at the bottom for all even details, so this is a great opportunity for location branding.

9. Add social media links to your community presences on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, even if they are just text links. Many people prefer information from you this way instead.

8. Highlight in bold the names of the organization or entity presenting the event and the name(s) of the artist(s).

7. Put a quote in. If you want to make a claim (i.e. this is the best and most original art show ever) then it tends to write and resonate better as a quote from the artist, curator or director. Media and people look for “an expert” or notable in this part – the quote should never be the first or second paragraph. If it is the fourth paragraph then your press release is probably too long.

6. All crucial information (who, what, where, when, why) needs to be in plain old HTML text – not flash or a graphic. There is no arguing this point if you would like any kind of internet search to find you.

5. Use an image you don’t mind being posted and shared on other websites and blogs. Attribution, not copyright, is the new currency for artists in social media. Publish your work in the commons or perish in your walled garden.

4. 500 words is a decent size and optimal for searches and sharing. If you can, make sure the title of your release is in a <h2>header tag, usually size 2,3 or 4 </h2> and *not* bold. Search engines look for the official titles of your event in these tags.

3. If you are sending out an email then make sure you have a web page version as well that links up.  It’s ok if the email is very basic and / or without an image as long as long as it has a link to more info. Also, make sure you have your full website address in the release. It also provides a place to link to for people who want to share your image – this is the essence of social media marketing for arts and culture. It is very surprising how many PR emails I have seen without these links.

2. Add a social bookmarking link or button if you can i.e. addthis or shareit. You want people to be able to list your information on websites like digg and delicious instantly. Plus, it is a another direct path for people to share your info to social media galleries.

1. Purely social media PR works really well for events and over the long-term, but for the art world especially it is important to at least have a modest print presence as well for a show that runs more than a day. For example, of Facebook event guests who confirm attendance you can usually depend on around 20% actually showing up. The event info then tends to get “buried” in the stream of event announcements and attendance drops off considerably.

I welcome any other tips and suggestions for our industry, these were just on the top of my mind this morning  – don’t forget to submit your PR / subscribe to artprwire.com :)

The definative list of the different types of galleries

Ever wonder what are the different types of galleries are out there? Are they all the same? What do they want? What can you expect? Why are there more questions so far than answers?

Museums – the artwork in a museum is not for sale. A museum only sells parts of its own building to very rich individuals. To qualify for your art to get into a museum, you usually have to ensure you and your society are long gone and your work has been looted by a far away civilization.

Rental and Sales Galleries - some museums and public galleries will also have a space for work to be rented to corporations. This provides a valuable opportunity to appraise sensitive people’s art while earning minimum wage.

Art Consultants -These individuals act as the middlemen between a stable of artists and art collectors and collections and often rent galleries for their own exhibits. They are direct descendants of fur, spice and opium traders and can be identified by their bright and flamboyant clothing.

Commercial Galleries – They likey your art, they selley your art. They will pay you whatever they think you deserve. Now shut up and smile for the camera.

Nonprofit Galleries – Selling work is not the primary concern… filling out applications for grants and funding is. Nonprofit also means retirement for young artists and curators and hipsters if they can score a job and squat in it … forever…..

Co-op Galleries – If a hundred artists paid a thousand dollars a year to me, I could have a job at a gallery getting them to run the gallery for me … oh, and they could have a show every three years.

Rental Galleries -Bad artist? Got cash? Like Celine Dion? No problem! Rent a space and live the dream. Then get out.

Window Gallery - Free, accessible, low-maintenance 24 hour public gallery spaces behind glass. Added bonus of easily exaggerating the number of people who actually noticed your work in the haze of drudgery that is their lives.

Projection Gallery – A regular and shifting projection of art work out from or into somewhere. Perfected in Toronto by adding corporate sponsorship and calling it “nuit blanche”.