This week, the corrupt, dapper, and extremely talkative former political organizer dragged the party into the spotlight with a series of startling revelations. Two of the biggest: that former PQ transport minister Guy Chevrette had a hand in the fixing of a contract for highway repaving; that a friend of Chevrette’s had demanded a $100,000 bribe to get Cloutier an audience with the minister.
The Walrus Foundation is pleased to announce that The Walrus magazine has received twenty-three National Magazine Award nominations for our work in 2012. Our contributors were nominated for fifteen written, five visual, and three integrated awards. The winners will be announced at the thirty-sixth annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 7 in Toronto.
“We want to congratulate all of our nominated contributors, without whom we couldn’t produce The Walrus magazine,” said co-publishers John Macfarlane and Shelley Ambrose. “As The Walrus celebrates its tenth anniversary year, we remain committed to the public square, and to providing a print and digital forum for the country’s best writers, artists, and journalists to bring their talents to Canadians.”
The Walrus won the 2006 award for Magazine of the Year and has won more National Magazine Awards since its inception than any other publication, including fifty-nine golds, thirty-six silvers, and 202 honourable mentions.
The Walrus congratulates all of our nominated contributors and staff members, listed here:
Louis Cuen Taylor celebrated his fifty-ninth birthday earlier this month. Nothing special for most people. But for the Arizona resident, it was the first time he could enjoy his birthday celebration as a free man in more than four decades.
Taylor had been released from prison days earlier, the latest in a sorry list of Americans who have been found to be wrongly accused and convicted of murder by arson—often on the basis of faulty, so-called scientific evidence. “Junk science” in the courts is an issue I explore in the latest issue
of The Walrus, focusing in part on bad arson evidence.
Like Taylor, a Saskatchewan man named Leon Walchuk was sent to jail after being found guilty of setting a fatal fire in 1998. Unlike Taylor, he remains in prison. Expert testimony convinced a judge that Walchuk’s estranged wife, rendered unconscious during a fight with him, died of “death by fire,” in a blaze he deliberately set in their prairie farmhouse. But leading fire scientists—including one who was hired by the federal government, after the Innocence Project at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School filed an appeal to the justice minister for a review of Walchuk’s case—have pointed out serious flaws in the initial arson investigation. Full text & comments
Why do we cook? The obvious answer—because we must eat—is less obvious than it once was. There are chefs who can marry flavours and master techniques that we can only dream of, and corporations that can consistently deliver food more cheaply and conveniently than we ever will. So, on a practical level, there are some very real arguments for not cooking.
Of course, most of us instinctively know that we lose certain things when we outsource our nutrition—nutrition itself, for one. And studies show that as we spend less time in the kitchen, we seem to spend more of our time eating, and we eat a lot more. We also spend more time watching other people cook: on television, on YouTube, and on all those supersaturated food porn blogs.
But if you’re not in the habit of reading up on changing food consumption habits, and you’ve somehow avoided reading those monthly headlines about the obesity epidemic, or if you’ve never heard of Michael Pollan—the author, most famously, of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and now of the newly released Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation—you may wonder why it is anyone’s business whether or not the food you eat is warmed in a neat microwaveable tray or simmered messily on a stove.
Before I had children and a husband (I was going to say before I had a decent paying job, but I work for a magazine in Canada, so there really is no such thing), the arguments for cooking seemed fairly plain, and they had nothing to do with health. It was a cheap way to eat well; I could feed myself and my friends a better meal than I could afford to buy in a restaurant. I did have plans to splurge, one day: my roommates and I kept a glass jar for stray loonies and called it the Lotus Fund, after Susur Lee’s fabled first restaurant, on a desolate block of houses in downtown Toronto. But it closed before we had collected enough coin; the only thing I ever ate from Lotus were the peppery nasturtiums I pinched from the window boxes outside. Full text & comments
The former mayor of Montreal gave quite the performance: at times passionate, eager, and wounded; at other times sounding incredibly naïve, despite insisting that he is not naïve in any way.
Tremblay is a former provincial cabinet minister who became mayor of Montreal after the city’s 2002 merger with its suburbs. It was, and remains, a time of financial turmoil. He started his day at the commission stating that he had not been involved with political financing, and asserted there was no way his Union Montréal party had skimmed 3 per cent from construction contracts that his administration awarded.
During testimony this week before the Charbonneau Commission, Frank Zampino, the former number two man at Montreal’s city hall, admitted that vacationing with former construction boss Tony Accurso on the latter’s yacht—a luxurious vessel with four king-size cabins and a six-person Jacuzzi—was maybe an error in judgment. As it is said: You think?
Tuesday was a day of denials, dissembling, and contradictions. Yes, Zampino was buddies with people like Accurso and disgraced engineering firm magnate Rosaire Sauriol, but no, he never let those ties influence which companies won public service contracts. Yes, his family had holidayed on Accurso’s yacht, aptly named The Touch, back in 2005. But no, he never thought to come clean about that because, unlike another vacation on the yacht two years later, his buddy wasn’t with him at the time.
No, Zampino insisted in repeated denials, he didn’t know anything untoward was going on regarding collusion at city hall while he was in office. But yes, he acknowledged having seen at least the conclusions of a 2006 internal report about that very problem.
Reservations were required on the final day of service at Pots N Hands in Morris, Manitoba. When the diner served its last meals on April 13, locals in the town of 1,800 packed into the restaurant’s red vinyl booths and left bouquets of flowers and bottles of wine on the counter. Around noon, as co-owner Matt Rietze circled the restaurant offering hugs to loyal customers and asking how was the special—chicken salad with almonds and apple—three young guests arrived in bright clothing with fuzzy, rainbow-coloured tails attached to their waistbands.
It was a sign of support for Rietze and his partner Dave Claringbould, a gay couple who have shut down their restaurant after just five months because of homophobia. Initially, Pots N Hands was so popular that it had to turn away customers on busy nights, a rarity for a rural area. Some residents knew the owners were gay and didn’t mind, but as word spread around town, a whisper campaign began to derail the business. Regulars cancelled standing reservations, and Rietze and Claringbould became the targets of homophobic slurs. People would call for large reservations, then never show. One customer even asked if they could “catch something” off a plate. Full text & comments
Wednesday, April 17: At long last, Frank Zampino, the former second-in-command at Montreal’s city hall, has taken the stand at the Charbonneau Commission. In an impeccably tailored charcoal grey suit, the politician whom previous witnesses have described as the “most powerful man in Montreal” lives up to his reputation as a sphinx, inscrutable and calm as he answers questions without missing a beat, even when pressed about his alleged associations with the city’s Mafia.
CBC NewsBernard Trépanier denies his nickname, “Mr. Three Percent.”
In the wake of a recent news story that corruption in Montreal has cost taxpayers as much as $500 million dollars, the Charbonneau Commission resumed today after a two-week Easter break. Up first: Bernard Trépanier, otherwise known as Bernie to the Max and Mr. Three Percent, a former municipal party fundraiser who has been mentioned in testimony time and again. Trépanier, who allegedly had a habit of skimming 3 percent off the top of infrastructure contracts, is an old style, almost avuncular politico who has been well-coached by defense lawyers. He continues the testimony—filled with memory lapses, denials, and contradictions—that he began before the holiday.
Once Trépanier is finished, Frank Zampino and Gérald Tremblay have both been subpoenaed to appear in the hot seat before commission head France Charbonneau. Zampino, the former second in command at Montreal’s city hall, is not expected to say much, given that he faces criminal charges in connection with a land deal in the city’s east end.
Tremblay, the former Montreal mayor who resigned last year, is another story altogether. His departure came amid questions of what he knew and when he knew it, and at least one colourful image of a party safe so stuffed with cash that it would not close. Since then, Tremblay, who was a provincial Liberal industry and commerce minister before entering municipal politics, has clamoured for a chance to publicly tell his side of the story. Of course, if he really didn’t know anything, as he has steadfastly maintained, that in
itself is a bit of a problem. He was the guy in charge, after all.
In 1979, American experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer came to a feminist film conference in southern Ontario, hoping to screen her seven-minute film, Multiple Orgasm. Had things gone as planned, her audience would have watched eight female orgasms through close-up shots of women’s faces and vulvas. Instead, a woman representing the Ontario Censor Board marched up to Hammer and threatened to confiscate the film if she tried to show it. Hammer took the stage in response, then spent her allotted time recounting in detail the erotic stories she had masturbated to while making the documentary. The censor board couldn’t take her spirit—a spirit that Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox attempted to present last weekend, in “Brave New World,” a retrospective of selections from Hammer’s eighty films.
As she writes in her 2010 autobiography, Hammer! Making movies out of sex and life, nudity, sexuality, and bodily exploration have always been important subjects to Hammer. Nearly forty years ago in Oakland, California, at her first screening of a set of Super 8 films in a pop-up lesbian café, she watched woefully as nearly all her audience members walked out in disdain. It wasn’t the frolicking nude bodies with antler headdresses that offended them, nor the fact that her subjects were co-opting a Catholic ritual and baptizing themselves—after all, this was the ’70s, a decade after hippies across North America had abandoned societal restraints like monogamy and organized religion. The problem was that some of the films included images of men, and the separatist feminists in the crowd were simply uninterested in watching them. The one couple that remained till the end of the final film told Hammer they’d stayed because they had boy children. Full text & comments
Produced by eqhdRoberta Bondar on the Art of Ecology at The Walrus Talks the Art of the City
Last fall, the Walrus Foundation hosted the public at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario for a lively and engaging conversation about the future of our cities and the nature of urban living in Canada. Among the speakers that night were chef Jamie Kennedy, director Deepa Mehta, and astronaut, neurologist, and photographer Roberta Bondar.
Bondar focused her talk on ecology. “I found myself really missing the sound of a bird when I was in space. I missed seeing life on the planet,” she said. She went on to share several vivid pictures of trees, many of which she photographed in cemetaries. “[Trees] provide us with emotions, they provide us with protection, they provide us with all kinds of things that human beings cannot do,” she continued.
Since Bondar spoke at the AGO, the Foundation has hosted another Walrus Talks—in Calgary, about performance—and will soon return to Toronto for another public event. On Thursday, April 4, the topic will be Canada’s sustainable energy future, the challenges of energy production, and our collective impact. Guests include the National Post’s Andrew Coyne, Investeco Capital’s Andrew Heintzman, and the University of Calgary’s David Layzellon. Visit our Eventbrite page to purchase your tickets today.
Walrus TV is produced by eqhd. Watch more Walrus Talks and original documentaries inspired by Walrus articles at walrus.ca/tv.
Waiting for the Barbarians, published in 1980, is South African author J. M. Coetzee’s third novel. At the outset, the text gives its reader few precise details: the date, unspecified; the place, a settlement on the frontier of an unnamed empire; the narrator and main character, simply “the Magistrate.” But, as reviewers at the time noted, a universalized South Africa emerges off the page: the book is an allegory of apartheid.
About two years ago, Russian director Alexandre Marine approached South African theatre veteran Maurice Podbrey with the idea of adapting Waiting for the Barbarians into a play. Marine was subsequently invited to Cape Town, where Coetzee—the 2003 Nobel laureate in literature—was born, grew up, and later taught. The play premiered in the city’s leafy southern suburbs last August. And now, a few months later, the production has come to Montreal, where Marine and Podbrey have both spent a great deal of time.
The story begins with the arrival of a representative from the capital. There is unrest, the audience is told, among the barbarians living on the Empire’s edges, and concern that the tribes are uniting and arming themselves. The representative tortures prisoners to extract confessions; the Magistrate is implicated when he enters into a confused relationship with a barbarian girl, then journeys to return her to her people. Fear takes hold and the society breaks down. Forces are sent to “sweep the barbarians from the valley and teach them a lesson they and their children and grandchildren would never forget,” but the soldiers give up, return to the settlement, then withdraw altogether. In the end, the Magistrate is left to preside over an all-but-abandoned town. Full text & comments
In the first three paragraphs of Thomas B. Morgan’s 1960 Look profile of Brigitte Bardot, the writer refers to the actor’s “magpie hairdo,” her “girl-woman earthiness,” her rich father, her promiscuity (his inference, not hers), and her refusal to embrace a traditional motherhood role. He calls her “the sassy kitten,” puts her in a category alongside French wine and small cars, and resents her for being so wildly popular. One rather important detail is missing from this heap of vitriol: her name.
The garish similarities between Look’s 1960 piece and Esquire’s 2013 profile reveal a disheartening lack of progress in between. Male writers have had decades to remedy themselves, but still write jejunely about women, accentuating one isolated, exploitable trait (attractive, rebellious, sweet, rude, slutty, rich) for the sake of producing more easily understood subject matter. Until they learn (or at least try to learn) how to write about female subjects in a way that does not purposefully weave paternalistic generalizations into every paragraph, I propose a moratorium on this stagnant approach to literary writing. Let’s allow women to write about women for a little while. Maybe then we can swap the prevalent illusions of femininity for realistic portraits of women as complex human characters.
I’m not saying that women are better writers than men, and I’m not saying all men lack the will to rise above stereotypes in their work (do you hear that, comment section?). I’m saying that something needs to change in the way literary profiles are written and the way the lives within them are handled, and that this would be a good step toward smoothing out what is currently an unbalanced gender structure in literary journalism. Too often, the privileged male writers whose bylines dominate the publications we read fail to write about women in a way that doesn’t simplify female existences into condescending phrases like “sassy kitten” and “bombshell.” Full text & comments
It’s a common enough pattern. When asked about their childhood, medical school students speak warmly about the wonderful pediatrician, the caring family doctor. Young writers cite the complexity of the characters in Austen, the simple elegance of Hemingway, or the adrenaline of Kapuscinski. Teachers talk about their teachers. And so it is with Catherine Banks, who taught before she became a playwright. To be sure, she was influenced by Tremblay and Fornés, but those names aren’t mentioned before the school teacher who never criticized her early poetry, or the instructor of a six-week playwriting course who first asked her to write in dialogue.
Inspired by, and structured around, Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” It Is Solved by Walking is Banks’ second Governor General’s Literary Award–winning play. (In 2008, she was awarded the prize for Bone Cage). The newer work was praised by the jury for creating “a singular and inspired love story that is also a meditation on the need to give full expression to the complexity of one’s inner life.” Banks is now at work on two projects: Miss ’n Me, a play borne out her love for the music of Missy Elliott, and an adaptation of Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley. She grew up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and now lives in Sambro, a fishing village outside of Halifax.
Has your understanding of it changed over the years?
It’s a very beautiful poem. For a long time, I was just at surface level—I read it as a series of images. And, actually, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I read what Stevens wrote about the poem being a collection of sensations. I was amazed by that. It sent me back to the poem, and I started thinking about the sensation resident in each one of its thirteen stanzas. That was the beginning of It Is Solved by Walking. Full text & comments
Writing about hockey in Canada is a daunting task. For one, the game and country are so inextricably intertwined, so much a part of each other, that any sort of disentangling work is fraught with peril. For another, these things have been examined and studied as closely as any other subject in our country’s history. The literature is exhaustive; there is very little ice left for the rookie to skate on. Full text & comments
On Monday, Algerian prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal said that the terrorists who laid siege to a Saharan natural gas facility last week were from Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Canada.
According to Sellal, Mokhtar Belmoktar—a militant Salafist who is known to have fought in Afghanistan in the ’90s—orchestrated the “botched” attack on Tigantourine gas plant. Nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers at the plant were kidnapped. Twenty-three captives have since been killed, and some hostages are still missing.
Stephen Harper’s office announced that it hasn’t received proof of Sellal’s assertion that two Canadians were among the twenty-nine militants killed by the Algerian army’s rescue mission. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called the claim “completely incomprehensible,” though Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told CBC News that more than fifty Canadian passport holders “who have either left the country or who have attempted to leave the country to engage in some form of violent jihad or… activism leading to violence.”
Also this week, in East Asia, North Korea said it would carry out a third prohibited nuclear test, despite financial and food sanctions imposed by a UN security resolution. The tests are supposedly aimed at perfecting a tiny nuclear warhead that will be light enough to reach the country’s “sworn enemy”—our neighbours, the United States of America.
Chief Theresa Spence ended her six-week-long, liquids-only fast yesterday, but vowed to continue fighting for First Nation treaty and non-treaty rights. Spence agreed to eat solids after Liberal and National Democratic Party allies signed a thirteen-point declaration committed to addressing Canadian Aboriginal concerns, including: improving education and housing infrastructure, tackling violence against Native women, and implementing the United Nations declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples. Full text & comments
In the late summer of 2005, Toronto’s celebrated garage soul combo the Deadly Snakes gathered for ten days in a rural Ontario cabin to record their album Porcella. Though nobody said so at the time, each of the band’s six members knew that it would be the last time they made a record together. It was still more than a year before they’d play their final shows, but even in the cabin each young man knew already what he would eventually admit to his bandmates: touring and sharing a stage wasn’t fun anymore, and they feared losing the friendships that had been the band’s core since its inception a decade before.
There are hints of the Snakes’ coming end throughout Porcella, a rich and moody album larded with sadness and resignation. Yet each member of the group recalls the time spent in the cabin recording the record as a blissful interlude. Singer/organist Max McCabe-Lokos says of the Porcella session, “It was one of the best times of my life. I loved it.” The atmosphere of satiation and constant practice in the cabin, he maintains, worked magic on his musical ability. “The things my hands were doing, that I didn’t even know I could do, by the end of it, were amazing. I was doing stuff that I didn’t even understand how I was playing.” Piecing together an album whose lyrical themes dealt with emptiness, regret, and the dread of growing old, the band drank fine wines and spirits and dined every night on huge and sumptuous meals.
It’s the prosciutto, though, that first comes to mind when any ex-Snake talks about the recording of Porcella: McCabe-Lokos acquired an entire leg of cured pork as the session’s icon of excess. He hung it directly over the mixing board and left a knife nearby, allowing anyone passing to cut a piece for himself as he wished. Engineer Josh Bauman recalls he began each morning by wiping up the puddle of pork grease that had dripped onto the cover of the mixing board overnight. Full text & comments
Bios of the author and screenwriter Susin Nielsen typically begin with some variation on this sentence, cribbed from her website: “Susin got her start feeding cast and crew muffins and bologna sandwiches on the award-winning television series, Degrassi Junior High.” What they omit is that prior to her time on Degrassi, she was an assistant on what she describes as a “horrible, horrible, schlocky, B, B, B, straight-to-video, slasher, booby flick called either Night Shift or Graveyard Shift.”
Nielsen, though, didn’t cater for long. She started writing for Degrassi during the show’s second season, and has since written for several other television series. She has also published three children’s books and three young adult novels. In November, her latest book,The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, was awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language children’s literature. Praised by the jury for addressing “the effects of bullying in a realistic, compelling and compassionate way,” and “exemplifying the adage ‘There are two sides to every story,’” the book tells the story of thirteen-year-old Henry as he and his family try to build some semblance of a life after a school shooting—one in which his older brother is seemingly the villain. Nielsen is now at work on her fourth YA novel. She lives in Vancouver.
How did the idea for The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen arise?
I’d been reading Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, and he sets one of his characters in the very real circumstance of Columbine. He mentions that one of the killers had an older brother and that just really stopped me in my tracks. I realized I had never thought about the surviving sibling in a situation like that, and what it would be like for them.
Where did you go from there?
I started writing random bits that would occur to me—just Henry’s thoughts on different things—as a way to get his voice. It was a building block process.
Was this book harder to write than your previous two YA novels? Did writing the story as a journal present any particular challenges?
I get rose-coloured glasses after they’re done, but this one was probably the most challenging. My first two books were also written in the first person, but I could talk about things as they were happening. You can’t do that in a journal. You have to write [largely in the past tense] and, yet, keep the momentum going and keep it well-paced. Also, I was dealing with a much darker subject than I’ve dealt with before, and still imbuing it with a lot of humour.
Why young adult fiction? Why focus on the teenage experience?
It’s just such a great time of life—an egocentric time with a lot of first experiences. On the one hand—and I don’t say this with any disrespect—you think you know it all, you think you’re much more mature than you really are. But, of course, there’s a big part of you that’s still a child. And the world is opening up so rapidly, especially these days. Full text & comments
Trailer: “A Sorry State,” directed by Mitch Miyagawa.
In 2009, Mitch Miyagawa pitched The Walrus on writing about the practice of governments issuing apologies to help right historic wrongs. The writer and filmmaker was, quite literally, at the nexus of the story: his biological father was interned during World War II along with 22,000 other Japanese Canadians, his stepfather’s family paid the Chinese head tax, and his stepmother was the third generation of her family to be educated in a Canadian residential school. Given that each of these groups has received an official apology from Ottawa (in 1988, 2006, and 2008, respectively), Miyagawa has perhaps the most apologized-to family in the country.
Now, three years after “A Sorry State” was published (as the cover story of The Walrus’s December 2009 issue), Miyagawa has turned his essay into a documentary film of the same name. It premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on TVO.
In the film, we meet some of the characters that were introduced on the page: Miyagawa’s children and father, his stepfather and stepmother, and Roy Miki, a leader in the movement for Japanese Canadian redress. Interviews draw out the varying opinions on the meaning of these official apologies. Haunting footage of Aboriginal children in residential schools and testimony from survivors remind us that some things are in fact irrevocable—and of the deep truth underlying overused and banalized phrases like “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words.”
On the phone from Victoria, Miyagawa summarizes the conclusion he reached while working on the project. “Apologies really need to be about beginnings rather than endings,” he says. “It has to be about the start of something new, following through, acting and creating change.”
The real concern here, of course, is insufficient reflection—not learning from the event we have apologized for. It’s a thought that was perhaps best expressed by the late historian Tony Judt when, in another context, he wrote “official commemoration does not enhance our appreciation and awareness of the past. It serves as a substitute, a surrogate.”
Analysts deduced that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted regime may be on its last legs, and that their strongest ally, Russia, was “waking up to the reality” yesterday, after overhearing the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister address a Kremlin chamber. “There is a trend for the [Syrian] government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Mikhail Bogdanov told the assembly. Today, Russia denied that its stance was changing, and said that Bogdanov’s statements were taken out of context.
The US, joined by many European and Arab nations, has recognized the legitimacy of the opposition Syrian National Coalition. Canada, however, has not. This week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird travelled to Morocco to explain the Harper government’s preconditions for official recognition. Meanwhile, Ottawa has pledged another $15 million in humanitarian aid for refugees escaping Syria, bringing its total obligation to $22 million.
In Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi is forging ahead with a constitutional referendum. The opposition has pulled out all stops to defeat passage of the Islamist-backed draft constitution. The National Salvation Front has organized rallies, and bought TV ads, while unionized workers have declared an independent city, all to urge Egyptians to say “no” to the document. Voters will cast their ballots tomorrow.
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and leader of that country’s anti-apartheid movement, is in hospital and responding to treatment for a recurring lung infection. “Madiba,” as he is reverentially called, is a Companion of the Order of Canada and an honorary Canadian citizen.
In Ottawa, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the country’s anti-terrorism law after two men challenged its motive clause, which states that terrorist activity is committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.” The men said the law inhibits freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of association, and that it “would legitimize law enforcement action aimed at scrutinizing individuals based on their religious, political or ideological beliefs.” Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin rejected their appeal, writing, “While the activities targeted by the terrorism section of the Criminal Code are in a sense expressive activities, most of the conduct caught by the provisions concerns acts or threats of violence.”
Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley presided over a hearing in the robocall scandal that could see the results of the last federal election invalidated in a half-dozen ridings. Lawyers representing eight voters and six defeated NDP candidates argued that a series of misleading and harassing phone calls deterred voters from casting ballots in May 2011. James Duggan, acting on behalf of the NDP, urged Mosley to hold MPs from the Conservative Party—which won all six ridings—liable for the alleged suppression campaign. The court is extending hearings till Monday. Full text & comments
San Francisco-based poet Julie Bruck was born to American parents in Montreal. The life experiences of being an anglophone in Quebec, an assimilated Jew in Protestant Westmount, and more recently, a Canadian in America have, she says, positioned her as an outsider, looking in on society.
Bruck’s perspective lends eloquence to Monkey Ranch, her third collection of poems—and this year’s winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language poetry. The book offers concise-but-revealing sketches of the fascinating animals that human beings are; the poems strip our familiar, daily encounters down to their peculiar bones, revealed through Bruck’s witty, considerate, and sometimes heartbroken vision.
When did you start writing poetry?
In my early twenties, I was studying visual arts and art history. I took one fiction class and realized that I was terrible at it. I was really interested in those little lyric moments—catching and magnifying small things through language. So I went to a poetry class, and I loved it. In the end, it was not very different from visual arts—I was still putting a frame on things and thinking visually, but in language.
How do you pick the moments you write about?
I think the moments pick me, in a funny way. I get drawn to a particular incident or a moment, or the language I encounter on the street—bits of overheard conversations, a line on the news, something curious or provocative. Engaging in language helps me forge some kind of understanding. I like to say that I was born bewildered, and that writing is how I create some order in what I’m seeing around me.
So you’re processing through your writing?
What I think I’m doing is transcribing the movement of mind as I undergo an event. [My] poem “How to Be Alone” came about because of this crazy language in a parenting manual about how to put a child to sleep. The line in the manual was, “There is no more today,” which I found terrifying. But I’m not interested in these poems just being transcriptions of what happened to me. A poem about letting a child cry itself to sleep can be about any paternal or maternal feeling of powerlessness. I hope I’ve made them solid enough that readers can own them. Full text & comments
Quillcast is a podcast and video series from Quill & Quire featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with authors and publishing insiders.
In the third video of the series, freelance book designer Michel Vrana discusses the creative process behind one of his favourite covers, for Sarah Selecky’s short-story collection, This Cake Is for the Party.
Vrana, who moved to Toronto from Montreal a year ago, has focused on book design since 2009, creating memorable covers for award-winning titles such as Tamas Dobozy’s Siege 13 (illustration by Allan Kausch) and Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues.
Quillcast is produced with media partners Quill & Quire, Open Book: Ontario, and Open Book: Toronto, with support from Toronto Life. This project is generously supported by the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund.
This week: Egypt’s turbulent passage to democracy encountered further obstacles. Protests continued in Cairo, after President Mohamed Morsi refused to cede the supreme powers he granted himself on November 22. Seven people died and over 600 were wounded in new violence between pro- and anti-Morsi factions. Secular opposition groups believe that Morsi’s assembly will push through a constitutional referendum that gives Islamist groups extra power. Protesters have refused the president’s offer to dialogue, demanding that he delay the referendum and immediately restore a judicial check to his power.
In a Q&A published by Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, announced that the company—well known for having outsourced jobs overseas—will reboot domestic production of its computers next year, investing more than $100 million (US) to bring the Mac back to America. Asked about the obligations of a US company to be patriotic in the era of globalization, Cook added ”I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job, but I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs.”
During last month’s US presidential election, Maine, Maryland, and Washington all passed laws approving gay marriage by popular vote. This week, Washington became the first of the three states to put its new rules into effect. Hundreds of same-sex couples began collecting their marriage licenses on Thursday.
“It’s been a little hard to let it absorb and soak in. I’m so used to myself as somebody who will never really make it. I’ve spent my life working on the margins, and I’ve gotten used to that. So this is weird. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Linda Spalding is on the phone from Petaluma, California, a town sixty kilometres north of San Francisco. She says she loves her annual visit there during winters, and that she’d planned this particular trip before her big win of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. Petaluma is now providing a richly deserved break from a whirlwind of readings, interviews, and general attention for her novel, The Purchase.
“The margins is all I’ve known,” she continues. “I’m a bit old to change my way of thinking about myself. But I’m trying. I’m swearing that I’m going to become a diva any minute.”
From what I can tell during our conversation, the sixty-nine-year-old Spalding has a pretty remote chance of becoming a diva. I soon learn that while she’s grateful for the accolades, she has a healthy perspective on major literary awards and what they mean for Canada’s writers.
“Certainly in the short run, it’s going to change things a little bit. People are really responding, which is fantastic,” she says.
Spalding understands intimately the pressure Canadian writers put on themselves to win prizes, seeing it both in herself and her writer friends. (Not to mention her husband is Michael Ondaatje, who is no stranger to literary accolades.) She notes that the burden here far outweighs that of our southern counterparts, simply because of the vast difference in market scale. The all-caps LITERARY AWARD is a one-in-a-million chance for American writers, and while Canadians may have an easier time collecting individual honours, they’re much harder on themselves as a result. Full text & comments
Last winter, two rock musicians, a composer, and a filmmaker holed themselves up in an oceanside cabin in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Their mission was to render a snowstorm in guitar chords and drumbeats.
The filmmaker was New York–based Jem Cohen, who is known on the art house circuit as an urban auteur and photographer. His documentary work typically explores street life and the homogenization of civic spaces. He had visited Nova Scotia numerous times during the prior decade, and filmed a series of quiet, breathtaking moments while he was there. Cape Breton in particular had astonished him.
“Beneath this beauty, there is a good deal of isolation and fierce independence,” Cohen says. The project, he explains, became “kind of a collage, and kind of a ramble—because that’s the kind of thing I like to do.”
In Wreck Cove, Cohen needed a soundscape to help turn his ramble into something meaningful. The musicians were punk rocker Guy Picciotto of Fugazi and drummer Jim White of Dirty Three; the composer was T. Griffin of the Quavers. “I want a deep, internal ocean-heartbeat rhythm,” Cohen told the trio.
The ultimate result is We Have An Anchor, a stirring montage of Cape Breton’s history, folklore, and literature, presented through multiple projections of 16 mm and HD footage. The film’s score captures what Cohen perceived as Nova Scotia’s regional quality, pulling from Cape Breton traditions, with Scottish and Irish music at its heart (Nova Scotia is, of course, Latin for New Scotland). For his part, White replicated the mute, bass tones of a bodhran—the traditional Irish drum comparable to an Iranian daf—on his kit, drawing from cross-fertilized Eastern and Western traditions. All three musicians retained their assorted amps and pedals, honouring their own punk/post-rock roots. The sound spectrum they created ranges from the hymnal to the heavy metal. Full text & comments
Earlier, Palestine Liberation Organization spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi told the Toronto Star that she was disappointed, but not surprised, by Canada’s opposition to the vote. “For the last few years the Harper administration has taken a shrill and hostile tone which is seen by the Palestinians and the Arab world as being blindly in support of the occupation,” she said. “We know the Canadian people do not think that way.”
News broke on Monday that Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has been appointed to lead the ailing British economy as the Governor of the Bank of England. George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, praised Carney “as quite simply the best, most experienced and most qualified person in the world to do the job,” while Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, simply, “his loss will be felt.” Carney starts work in London next July. He already has his work cut out for him: inflation in Britain is high, as are fears of another recession, and the financial district is in disarray. Full text & comments
As an expert on the Italian Renaissance, Ross King is sometimes asked this baffling question: If he could go back in time, would he rather have dinner with Michelangelo or Leonardo? Deeming the former a “lugubrious, paranoid individual,” and the latter a “kind, witty courtier,” the bestselling author says the answer is obvious. King’s insight into da Vinci’s personality, and his revealing account of the turbulent political backdrop against which the master painted one of his greatest works, anchor his most recent book, Leonardo and the Last Supper.
Last night in Ottawa, King received his second Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language non-fiction, for writing Leonardo. (His first, in 2006, came for The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism.) Born in Estevan, Saskatchewan, he now lives near Oxford, England.
In Leonardo and the Last Supper, you’ve cited everything from the Bible to The Da Vinci code. Was it extensive reading?
It was. I spent more time on this work than any other of my books. I found out that Leonardo bought a Bible in the autumn of 1494, when he was starting work on The Last Supper. He wanted, literally, to get the gospel truth of what had happened between Jesus and his disciples. So it behooved me to follow in Leonardo’s footsteps and read the gospel as well. I had to investigate many of the things Leonardo had investigated 500 years earlier, including existing versions of The Last Supper.
I’m inevitably asked whether the person to the right of Christ is a male or female figure—a doubt cast by the conspiracy theory in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I’ve tried to convince people that the figure is St. John—not Christ’s wife—who has crashed the supper and elbowed an apostle out of the way.
How much of this book is your own speculation or inferences?
I think speculation is inevitable when you’re writing about history, especially when that history is more than 500 years old, and the record is scanty. It’s necessary and I think it’s warranted. But it’s important to let the reader know where there is a gap in our knowledge, and then propose to fill the gap using logical inference. We simply don’t have all the evidence and records needed to state things categorically. Full text & comments
In “How to Read a Masterpiece,” her 2009 article for The Walrus, Marianne Ackerman appealed to Nigel Spencer for help understanding the craft of Marie-Claire Blais, one of Canada’s most celebrated—and most challenging—writers. “Let it wash over you,” the veteran translator, author, and professor of English advised her. “Like body surfing, let the waves take you. Don’t try to touch bottom, and you won’t hit the rocks.” Spencer has translated four novels in Blais’s current cycle from French to English, and is now at work on her latest instalment, Le jeune homme sans avenir. This evening in Ottawa, he will receive his third Governor General’s Literary Award for translation—for Blais’s Mai at the Predators’ Ball (Mai au bal des prédateurs). He lives in Montreal.
You were born in England. When did you learn French?
In England, we had about half an hour of French instruction a week, so I had a lot of catching up to do when I got here in grade five. Maybe that helped me. French was always my best subject after that. Like a lot of anglophones in Montreal, I could write literary essays in French, but I couldn’t order a hamburger until I got a summer job where I had to speak without translating first. You know what it’s like if you’re learning another language—when you start dreaming or thinking in that language, then you know you’ve made it.
How did you get into translation?
I’ve always enjoyed fooling around with language. Way back in the early ’70s, I did some translations for my own pleasure; I think the first book was a manual on filmmaking. I translated some poetry, again just for fun—I found myself doing it in my head as I read it. Then, I read a play by Marie-Claire Blais called L’île. I enjoyed it, translated a bit of it, and sent it to her. She replied, “I really like this, but somebody is already working on the book.” She suggested some other things for me. And now we’ve made it to this novel cycle of hers.
Why were you drawn to Blais’s writing?
The way she plays with stream of consciousness and shifts voices, but makes the voices quite identifiable. I think that appeals to my sense of style and tone.
Can you describe the challenge of translating a 328–page book that’s written as just one paragraph, with maybe fifteen or thirty periods?
The sentence structure in English and French is sometimes radically different. When you’re dealing with a sentence that’s, say, fourteen pages long, it’s like taking Lego apart and putting it back together. Then, you’ve got to fix the joins and make sure that the voices transition and the inner and outer consciousness works. You change times, you change characters, and so on. Full text & comments
Julie Trudel has held two solo and several group exhibitions in Montreal, Quebec. She received an MFA from University of Quebec at Montreal.
Why did you pick painting as your medium?
As an abstract painter, I work with colours, without restrictions. It’s what I have the most fun doing.
Can you describe your piece that has been shortlisted for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition?
It’s a diptych—with two circular round paintings. I’m interested in colour systems and charts, and I was working with the colours used in printing: cyan, magenta, and yellow. I poured it out drop by drop.
Why focus on colour?
Colour is such a basic element in painting. There’s a colour wheel, with well-developed colour harmonies. I’m trying to avoid the usual mix of colours to achieve a visual effect that hasn’t been done before.
What works have inspired what you’re doing today?
Contemporary painters, who explore the new possibilities of paint without working with a paintbrush. Bernard Frize, a French painter from the ‘80s. He made very interesting paintings using liquid paint. Also, François Lacasse from Montreal. I’m inspired by optical art, the way colour would work in the ’60s and ’70s—painters like Bridget Riley. Full text & comments
This week: Marty was (temporarily) blocked from entering Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, because Marty is a horse. Calgary’s Grey Cup committee chairman, Fletcher Armstrong, had wanted to ride a horse into the hotel’s lobby to repeat an infamous stunt from the 1948 Grey Cup. Management initially denied the request, citing safety concerns for staff and guests, but eventually yielded to pressure from the media (see below) and Stampeders fans. The Stamps and the Toronto Argonauts will battle for the 100th Grey Cup this Sunday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
Next week: Toronto’s mayor, football enthusiast Rob Ford, may be forced to resign and banned from competing in future elections when the verdict comes down on his conflict of interest hearing. The mayor has been accused of soliciting donations for his football foundation using the city’s letterhead. Justice Charles Hackland is expected to deliver his decision Monday morning.
In northern British Columbia, Wet’suwet’en Nation members have asserted their right to make decisions about their traditional territories. The Unis’tot’en clan has evicted natural gas pipeline surveyors from its land, seized their equipment, and blocked their reentry. The Globe and Mailreported that the clan has been against plans for numerous pipelines that would cross their territories, including the Pacific Trails Pipeline and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway.
CTV’s Don Martin logged a complaint about Canada’s political leaders. He made public a video showing Minister of State Maxime Bernier being spoon-fed answers as he prepared for an interview on infrastructure funding. Martin called it a sad state of affairs when experienced ministers agree to be coached on simple topics, allowing their aides to “ram fibs as facts” down their throats, and enabling “mind control from the centre.”
A Liberal leadership candidate, however, may have benefitted from some coaching a couple years ago. In 2010, while being interviewed by French-language television network Tele-Quebec, Justin Trudeau commented that Canada wasn’t doing well because “it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda.” Those comments were rebroadcast by Sun Media News yesterday afternoon. Trudeau apologized from Vancouver earlier today, saying he should have clarified that when he said Albertans, he meant Stephen Harper.
Egypt’s president brokered peace for the Middle East. Mohamed Morsi, in liaison with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and officials from Turkey and Qatar, negotiated a ceasefire in the latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestine. The agreement arrived too late for at least 105 dead and 850 wounded Palestinians, and five dead and over sixty wounded Israelis.
Meanwhile, a Postmedia report speculates that Canada’s involvement in the mediation could have been undermined by our unflinching “pro-Israel stand and abandonment of previous Middle East peace initiatives.” Against the background of peace talks, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird attended a fundraiser in Ottawa, where he told the guests that a “litany of hatred” would not affect Canada’s support for Israel. The Conservative government had earlier refused to call for an immediate ceasefire, choosing instead to support Israel’s right to defend itself.
Corri-Lynn Tetz lives in Montreal. She received a BFA from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, and is currently an MFA student at Concordia University.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
It’s the first way I connected to art as a kid. My grandma was a painter, and I remember that just always being around, and her paintings being around, and I remember seeing her brushes and smelling the oil. I didn’t really know artists could do other things. As I started painting, I just became more and more compelled and obsessed with meeting the challenges and finding solutions. It takes so much time to be a good painter that the idea of starting something else seems really difficult because I feel like I have such a long way to go in painting.
Tell us about your influences.
They’ve changed a lot through the years. In my early twenties at art school, I was interested in early abstraction. Then it moved towards classical painting. There was a time when I was interested in the symbolists, and recently I’ve looked a lot at Michaël Borremans and Wilhelm Sasnal, both of whom are figurative painters.
When you look at your work, past and present, do you feel there are any reoccurring themes or obsessions?
Bad photos and awkwardness, and absence and presence. Looking over my work from the last year, there have been several references to nostalgic utopias. It wasn’t something that I really started thinking about, but it just kept popping up. I have all this work that appears different, but when it all fits together I can see this connection. Full text & comments
Isabelle Arsenault’s artwork for Virginia Wolf (text by Kyo Maclear) has won her this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s literature (illustration) in English. Arsenault studied graphic design at the University of Quebec at Montreal. In 2004, she won a GG for Le coeur de Monsieur Gauguin, her first children’s book in French; she has been a finalist twice more since then. She lives and works in Montreal.
How did you become a children’s book illustrator?
After I graduated with a graphic design degree, I had assignments as an editorial illustrator for magazines and newspapers from around North America. Then I had my two children, and decided to leave the editorial field and focus on children’s books. I have been drawing children’s books for five years now.
What do you enjoy about illustrating books for children?
I enjoy my freedom to do whatever I have in mind without any constraints or requests from an art director. Also, I like working on long-term projects rather than day-to-day drawings that are due on short notice. For magazines, I would only illustrate a specific topic. Now I get to draw the whole story, based on my vision. I feel more like an artist than an illustrator.
How does your relationship with Virginia Wolf’s writer, Kyo Maclear, affect your artistic freedom?
Kyo is an artist herself, so she visualizes her stories. But she is also able to give full freedom to my ideas. When I first read the Virginia Wolf manuscript, I was shocked, because I felt like I could have written the story myself. I later found out Kyo was inspired by my artwork while writing it. After we had published [our 2010 book] Spork together, she wanted to work with me again, so this script was custom-made for me. Full text & comments
Painting and photography courtesy of Nicolas RanellucciSi je tue un canard, je te donnerai les plus belles plumes (If I kill a duck, I will give you the most beautiful feathers), acrylic on canvas (152 x 152 centimetres).
Nicolas Ranellucci graduated from the Université du Québec à Montréal in visual and media arts. His work is represented by Galerie Dominique Bouffard; he lives and works in Montreal.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
One day I was doing graffiti with my friends, having fun, vandalism and everything, and I got into a bar and there was live painting. I discovered that we could work on a canvas and create a universe. I really got excited about it. The next day I bought canvas and paint and brushes and I started to have fun. And then I was pretty much serious about it.
What are your influences?
My influences are mostly from the Renaissance and from the Middle Ages, from Italy. But the whole history of painting is quite an influence for me. Part of my work is to recreate details from old school masterpieces.
What challenges you, as an artist?
An artist who challenges me, maybe God? No, probably all the artists from my generation, I think that’s the best answer I can say about my challenges. Full text & comments
Philip Delisle received an MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University, and a BFA from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
I like the flexibility of painting, and the speed with which I can make changes. I work towards a plan, but I like to follow tangents. With painting, I can change direction and transform a canvas in a matter of hours.
What’s your creative process?
I work from photo collages that I make myself. They are a starting point for painting. I build upon the images as things occur, so the final piece doesn’t look much like the photographic source.
Do any themes come through in your work?
The idea of self-reference keeps coming up in my work. Whether it’s painting myself painting, or painting my own paintings, or writing, it’s always there. It’s my way to investigate what I do and why I make things. Full text & comments
Betino Assa lives in Montreal. He received a BFA from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and is currently an MFA student at Concordia University.
Did you always want to paint? How did painting become your chosen medium?
I did printmaking in undergrad, and I was experimenting with different methods of printing—copperplate, aluminium plate, engraving on Plexiglas. That led me to keep the ink on, paint on the surface, flip it, and consider the whole plate with the paint as my final image. I experimented with several colours and, basically, painting was the natural extension of this print process.
Tell us about your influences.
They come from different parts of the art world. I’m very interested in architecture and in film. It’s always different combinations or different works by different people.
Whose works have challenged you?
I’m challenged by my own work, in a way, by my ideas. If I want to do something, how do I do it? What’s the point of doing it? There’s always this justification of my own work.
What unifies your work, past and present?
I’m very interested in narrative and in developing a story with characters and reoccurring themes. And this is actually a big part of my work: it’s not just one image or two images that are maybe connected, but there’s a story that floats. Full text & comments
The United States’ Director of National Intelligence revealed this week that he had no warning his chief of staff, David Petraeus, was under investigation by the FBI. Petraeus is scheduled to testify today about an attack in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The former general resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency after a bizarre series of events: Petraeus had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, who then sent anonymous, harassing emails to Florida socialite Jill Kelley, who also received a shirtless photo from an FBI agent. The sordid mess is best explained by this Gawker flowchart.
Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has also sent scathing letters—but to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, to remind them of the PM’s unfulfilled promises to improve education, implement treaties, and promote economic development for Canada’s First Nations. In his letter to Harper, Atleo decries “the federal government’s broader legislative agenda, which has the potential for harmful impacts on First Nations, including changes to environmental regulation, fisheries and criminal justice.”
Meanwhile, Ottawa is topping up its $5 million advertising campaign for responsible resource development with another $4 million. Past Natural Resources Canada ads have promoted pipelines, safety measures like double-hulled oil tankers, and changes to environmental laws. NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian says it’s problematic that the government has cut the environmental assessment process, and is now spending millions to “convince Canadians that this is a good thing.” Full text & comments
Jenna Faye Powell lives in London. She received a BFA from Western University, and an MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.
Tell us about your work flow.
It’s a cumbersome, time-consuming process, but also satisfying. I build miniature dioramas, photograph them, and spend hours filtering through hundreds of pictures. Then, I project a photograph on the canvas, and finally paint.
What inspires or influences you?
Just strange day-to-day things. For the last few years, I’ve been obsessed with Wes Anderson movies. I feel like we have a similar aesthetic—really awkward and beautiful colour pallets—and both deal with whimsical subject matters that can sometimes come across as offbeat or spooky.
Your work that’s been selected for the RBC short list comes from your Welcome to Chesterfield series. What can you tell us about it?
This fictional city of Chesterfield was invented to contain my obsessions and the narratives I’ve been interested in over the last few years: domestic architecture and colour, middle-class lifestyle, what it means to grow up in the suburbs, and the strange, sublime things that can happen in suburban territories.
Is there anything that surprises you about this body of work?
I invented Chesterfield to get away from reality and autobiography. I was making some paintings off of imagery from where I grew up in Sarnia, and I found myself tangled in Sarnia’s histories and stereotypes. But, I realized that you can never get away from the autobiographical. All those things slowly crept back into these paintings and, in the end, Chesterfield is really just a reflection on my history. Full text & comments
In the past five years, a combination of rising energy prices, awful weather in key grain-producing regions, and bad economic and agricultural policies has plunged the world into a food crisis. The Arab Spring of 2011 began with street demonstrations about food prices, and ultimately foreshadowed a new and dangerous phase of human history, in which we consume more food than we produce.
Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas investigate the problem in the December 2012 issue of The Walrus, now available on national newsstands. (Read an excerpt of their cover story, “How to Feed Nine Billion,” here. For full text, download The Walrus App for iOS devices.) In this video, produced for Fraser’s feedingninebillion.com, the University of Guelph geography professor describes a four-part plan to solve the crisis.
Paintings and photography courtesy of Vanessa MalteseBalaclava, oil on panel (58 x 46 centimetres).
Vanessa Maltese lives in Toronto, Canada. She has a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design University.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
I wouldn’t say that painting is the only medium I work in. I also work sculpturally. I used to make paintings where I would build sculptures and then make still life paintings of them. But now I find the paintings are informing the sculptures. They go hand in hand for me.
Tell us about Balaclava, the work selected for this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition short list.
At the time I was making this painting, I was collecting textiles and photocopying them at Kinko’s. I would crumple them up and lay them out on the flat surface. I was exploring how the pattern defined a movement or a mass that may or may not exist underneath it. Then I imagined the pattern as a fabric that could be stretched over the surface, like a canvas. I’ve cut holes into the surface, and you can see through into whatever’s beyond the stretched fabric. The name came after the fact, because it looks like a mask you would slip over your face.
Whose works have challenged you?
I’ve been fascinated by Richard Tuttle. He’s interested in some of the things I’m interested in, like the frame, and where and how things are hung in the gallery. His scale is similar to mine: very small, very modest. Something you can hold and turn in your hands. He’s amazing. Full text & comments
David Hucal lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He majored in painting during his BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph.
Why did you choose painting as a medium?
Painting has the ability to confound us as viewers. It is a confounding medium; it can be elusive and slippery, hard to pin down and unpredictable. For me as a viewer and maker of paintings, traditional oil paint on canvas remains interesting.
Whose work interests you?
Michael Conrads in Germany, and Sam Windett and Gabriel Hartley in Britain, who incorporate figuration, abstraction, and representation in interesting ways. They border on the quotidian but are still very inventive in the way they use imagery.
What about work outside of visual art?
I read a lot of fiction. It’s a wonderful way to view the world. Fiction is an escape from what I do. But in a roundabout way, it’s also connected to what I’m doing as an artist—creating an account that’s half true.
What are you reading right now?
Slaughterhouse Five. Someone left it in the studio at school. I put it in my satchel, and I’ve been reading it on the bus. Full text & comments
Art courtesy of Aleksander Hardashnakovuntitled 23 string piece 2, canvas string and enamel on canvas (122 x 91 centimetres).
Aleksander Hardashnakov lives in Toronto. He is the co-founder of Tomorrow Gallery. His work has been displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and Clint Roenisch.
What are your influences?
Everything influences me. I am very impressionable.
How does theory inform your work?
I think theory in some way, shape or form, influences everyone and everything. I don’t ignore it and I don’t pay much attention either. I’m sure it seeps in or can be imposed by viewers. Most of the time when I am making a painting or drawing, I think about average things like what I should eat for dinner later, or what colours would go nicely together. I also think most of the things I make don’t immediately crystallize. Inevitably, over time a web of ideas or theories will emerge.
What themes or narratives have you conveyed through your work, perhaps without actually thinking about them?
I think it’s probably better for my work to continue to think about things I am not actually thinking about without telling you what I think I thought I was thinking about.
What do you think this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition short list says about where painting is in Canada right now?
Painting and photography courtesy of Colin Muir DorwardGrievance Calculator, oil on canvas (180 x 163 centimetres).
Colin Muir Dorward is an Ottawa-based artist; he was born in Edmonton in 1979. He holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and is currently an MFA student at the University of Ottawa.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
Painting offers a chance for a slow-burning career. Many painters do their best work late in life, and that seems like a nice carrot at the end of a stick to chase after. I’m better at endurance-based activities, and painting is a bit like that.
What are the recurring themes in your work?
The work I’m doing now is similar to what I was doing badly during my undergrad, which is trying to tell life stories. Then, I was attempting the biggest stories, like love and death, but I stopped because I was terrible. Recently I’ve been doing that again, but focusing on smaller, more mundane stories—simple ideas like getting hungry, or wanting to go for a run, or the frustration of not doing something properly. You can’t necessarily see that articulated in the picture, but it comes through in the work’s sensibility.
What do you think this year’s CPC short list says about where painting is in Canada right now?
Maybe we don’t have to reference the Group of Seven any more, or address what they’ve done. I think that Canadian painting has always been a lot about the land, and now some very good art comes out of approaching the land in different ways. Full text & comments
Elsewhere in the world, Michael Ignatieff predicted the death of parliamentary politics at the BBC’s annual Free Thinking Festival. The former Liberal Party leader later emailed Postmedia News to explain: “loosening of the party whips may be necessary to keep our democracy from suffocation.”
Stephen Harper proved that he has more important things to do than wait around for foreign election results. The Prime Minister visited India this week, to finally close a uranium export deal that had been stalled since 2010. Harper referred to India and Canada as lovers from a Bollywood film (“they know they are meant for each other, but they have obstacles to overcome”), hoping to compel further trade through a Foreign Investment and Protection Agreement. The effort was to no avail. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads a minority government, and is having trouble pushing economic reforms through his parliament.
Indian obstacles aside, Harper is on a roll: the PM has been busy promoting Canada internationally as a resource-rich country, and pushing for a controversial trade agreement with China. Some say Harper has a vision for Canada; the Boston Globe reported it might be world domination.
Painting and photography courtesy of Katie LyleWhite Night, oil on canvas (41 x 30 centimetres).
Katie Lyle lives in Vancouver. She received a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, and an MFA from the University of Victoria.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
There’s a real connection between your body and your hand and the paint. There’s an immediacy to painting—the connection between you and what you’re making—that appeals to me.
Describe your practice.
There’s this history of images that people have stockpiled. And so, as a representational painter, my greatest challenge and interest is to try to take all of those images, then filter and rework them.
Does theory inform your work?
For me, it’s just about knowing as much as I can about the conversations that have happened and the research that has been done, but at the same time separating myself from it and working with my own experiences. Full text & comments
Paintings courtesy of Andrea KastnerDemolition, oil on canvas (183 x 152 centimetres).
Andrea Kastner lives in Edmonton. She received a BFA from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and an MFA in painting from the University of Alberta.
Why did you make painting your chosen medium?
It’s the most magical, delicious medium I can find. I enjoy the process the whole way through, from the underpainting to the end.
Tell us about Demolition, the work selected for the RBC short list this year.
You see this building that was a business and also a home, which is being torn down. It was painted from a photo I took of my old neighbourhood in Montreal. Half of the building is gone, and you can see through it to the sky beyond, and into the different rooms and the staircases. It’s this surreal image, but it’s from everyday life. At the bottom of the painting is a pile of garbage from a garbage excavation series I did. It’s about how you can observe something you would never usually look at in your daily life and see the secrets people have hidden behind the facade of the way they live.
What do you think this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition short list says about where painting is in Canada right now?
I was overwhelmed at how good the other work was. I’m happy to live in a country where painting is so varied and where people get so good at it.
Whose works have challenged you?
Greg Curnoe’s. He did all of these detailed paintings of his bicycle and things that were in his drawer. He paid attention to the little things in daily life, and that feels like the sort of artist I am. Full text & comments
Artworks courtesy of Jordy HamiltonPainting Painting 49 Hat to Block the Sun, oil and acrylic on linen (152 x 122 centimetres).
Jordy Hamilton lives in Vancouver. He received a BFA from the University of British Columbia and Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and an MFA from UBC.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
Painting isn’t really my chosen medium. I make paintings, but painting figures into my practice as just one part of it. The last three exhibitions I’ve been in included some painting, but they were more installation based. They involved sculpture and photography and appropriated video.
What guides your work or unifies it?
The basic thing that guides it is this desire to understand positions and desires, like artistic desires or political desires.
Does theory inform your practice?
As a painter, I think it’s impossible to avoid theory now. Every painting is a kind of theoretical proposition. As an artist, you inhabit positions that have theory, and so it seems essential to deal with it.
Tell us about the work that’s been selected for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.
There’s mono printing and some staining, and different types of processes of chance that happen on top of each other. It hopefully produces something surprising, but also something compelling. It maybe speaks to the history of painting or the history of image-making more broadly. Full text & comments
Thomas Chisholm lives in Victoria. He received a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax, and an MFA from the University of Victoria.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
I identify as a painter because my work really focuses on the interaction of illusionistic space in the painting and the relation to the physical space of the painting’s display. Since the Renaissance, one of the concerns of painting has been creating space and working with that illusionistic space. And so, for my investigation, it doesn’t make sense to approach it with any other medium.
Are there any limitations to painting?
I don’t think so, it’s more that you draw your own limits and work with those. Particularly now with digital and performance-based practices, you can do almost anything and call it painting.
What are your influences—current and historical?
American West Coast artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell. And German painters—Blinky Palermo, Gerhard Richter—have also had an influence. Historically, I think my practice is based in some of the ideas that came out of post-abstract expressionism. They’re really working with space and removing everything else.
What about works outside of visual art?
A lot of fiction has had an impact on my work. I’m thinking specifically of Haruki Murakami, whose novels challenged my understanding of sequence and finality. Full text & comments
Painting and photography courtesy of Ahbyah BakerDripshape 25, gouache on wood panel (41 x 41 centimetres).
Ahbyah Baker lives in Vancouver. She received a diploma from the Kootenay School of the Arts in British Columbia, and a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
The medium itself is very accessible. The materials are simple. You don’t need a lot to achieve what you want to do. The minimal aspect to it—it can be very clean.
How has your work progressed?
I used to be more of a representational painter. But, over the years, I stripped away a lot of what I felt were the unnecessary elements. I got to the point where it was almost just purely formal—composition, line, and colour.
Whose works have influenced you?
Agnes Martin, Morris Louis. Whistler was a huge influence in the beginning. They all share that kind of paring down—that watering down of the medium. For a while, I was really attracted to Carl Andre and the idea of just using the natural beauty in a material. I found that really intriguing and wanted to somehow incorporate it in my own work. Full text & comments
My name is Ms. Anh Dri, and I’m honoured to be speaking here at Great Ideas: A Conference about Solutions, Not Problems. I’m here on behalf of the Legitimate Rape Reduction League in Toronto, Canada. This is a very special day for the LRRL, marking both the twentieth anniversary of our organization and the fifth consecutive year that Toronto has had fewer than ten reported sexual assaults.
It’s an unbelievably low figure, I know, and one that all of you have been trying to emulate, with little to middling success, for two decades now. I’m here to remind you that Toronto’s model of Legitimate Rape Reduction requires a certain moxie that none of your governments have yet summoned. It requires vision. It requires courage. It requires severely limiting the rights and freedoms of half of your population.
To recap: in 2012, the issue of Legitimate Stranger Rape came to a head in Toronto after a series of high-profile sexual assaults. At least one rapist was breaking into the homes of sleeping women, while a downtown park became a site of fear and dread, and a woman was brutally murdered while walking home from work one night. Standard responses—such as increased police presence, and terrified women restricting their activities—had little effect. And so, a group of female lawyers, anti-violence activists, politicians, policy makers, and rabid, feminazi man-haters joined together to form the LRRL.
In early 2013, the LRRL proposed a simple solution: a curfew for men. Every male person over the age of thirteen would be legally required to be accompanied by at least one female person over the age of eighteen when leaving his home between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Full text & comments
Hello, friends. Welcome, strangers. This website you’re visiting is the new online home of the Walrus Foundation, the charitable non-profit organization that publishes Canada’s most-honoured magazine, The Walrus. Here you will find stories from our newest issue* surrounded by the foundation’s many other activities. Watch Walrus TV, listen to the Walrus Podcast, download Walrus Ebooks, check out our national event listings, peruse our digital projects—learn about our mandate and support its goals.
This launch marks the end of one development phase, and the beginning of another. In the months to come, we’ll be adding several features to TheWalrus.ca that were beyond the limits of our old dirty content management system. Follow The Walrus on Twitter and Facebook for announcements of new bells and better whistles as they happen.
There will be bugs. We will seek and destroy them, though we’d be happy to have your help: please report any errors to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, great thanks are due to John Piasetzki, the Toronto web developer who built the back end of this project—and contributed many good ideas to the front. This work would not have been possible without Ryan Chong, the consultant who helped me develop its framework in late 2011, or past and present interns and volunteers including Alan Wu, Alina Konevski, and Daniel Murphy.
* Complete magazine and blog archives will return shortly: we will replace our back issues and posts as we work our way through nine years’ worth of broken links, missing artwork, and faulty HTML. We are keeping our old site, walrusmagazine.com, alive in the meantime.