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Eyelevel Gallery is giving new kids on the art-grind a chance to shine. It’s been doing so annually for about ten years, since the Y-Level art show began. Several emerging Canadian artists—meaning they are in their last year of school or graduated two years ago—and similarly, an emerging curator, put together the installation-based show. “I chose three main themes,” said curator Noah Derek Logan, “communication, interpersonal relationships and language.”
One of the eight participating artists, Becky Welter-Nolan, shattered her comfort zone for the upcoming exhibit. She’s the opposite of a performance personality, but if you stroll by the gallery at dusk this month, you’ll see her and her boyfriend attempting to learn disco dance steps together. Welter-Nolan has never attempted the steps, which are written on disco vinyl. “It applies to life and relationships,” she said about her unrehearsed recital concept. ”You have to practice every day but you only have a certain amount of time to get that practice in.” All types of media will be used to demonstrate feelings of connectivity and relationships, including Skype video chatting, varnished tree stumps, a full-scale bus stop replica and poetry written with vinyl and acrylic. The show opens June 7, at 7pm and runs until July 7. The Y-Level publication will be released on June 16.
You know that cool feeling when you turn 30 and start to question everything in your life and have, like, a real neat sensation of panic and unease? Live Art Dance has clearly bypassed that shaky year and are instead celebrating their third decade of absolutely slaying at the contemporary dance game in Halifax with grace and aplomb.
Live Art announced their 2012-2012 anniversary season, which includes a Canadian premiere (Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s Henri Michaux: Mouvements, a one-night only event based on the India ink drawings of Belgian artist Michaux) and a world premiere (Lesandra Dodson’s The Trilogy Project, featuring new choreography commissioned by Mocean Dance, a solo by Susanne Chui and original score by Christine Fellows). The new season kicks off September 27 with Le Carré Des Lombes’ Dévorer le Ciel, where the Montreal company weaves together six dancers’ orbits to create “a moving constellation that reverberates with passion.”
The new season respects the classics with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Mixed Program, which includes an ode to Leonard Cohen by choreographer Jorden Morris, and looks to the future with Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance’s Gravity of Centre fusion of contemporary, hip hop and classical dance. Capping off the season is 3X3X3, featuring work from three up and coming choreographers from across Canada. See more info at liveartdance.ca
OBEY Convention takes over your whole life this weekend, your shopping bag is no exception. Expect it to soon be filled with goodies from the Crowd Control Sound & Art Fair (Saturday, June 2 in the Khyber Ballroom, 12-4pm) presented by OBEY and the Anchor Archive. Zines, records, art, crafts, everything DIY, an Invisible Publishing reading engagement with Joshua Tibbetts, Josh Salter and John Barger, Clocks & Daggers cassette label launch and a performance from inhumanly busy artist Lisa Lipton with spaceandtime and FRANKIE in the Khyber Turret room at 3pm. You might as well just post up big time with a snack and all that.
After a near-year off, a dramatic last-minute rescue and subsequent roaring success, the 2012 Atlantic Fringe Festival is open for plays! The fest runs August 30 to September 9. Get your business in by July 7 via this application.
Walking into the newest Art Gallery of Nova Scotia exhibit, SKIN: the seduction of surface, might provoke a twinge of a blush on your inner prude. Confronted with rooms full of pieces like torso-shaped rubber forms featuring a generous amount of hair and nipples, a likeness of a nude woman rendered meticulously in beads, a large work of layered paint evoking a smattering of wounds, a tasteful LMD (little meat dress) sewn from 50 pounds of raw flank steak (Jana Sterbak's internationally acclaimed Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, which over the course of the show will dry out and cure), an upholstered wolf pack peering coolly from behind jewels and mink stoles, a video of an artist laid bare, inside and out, a Royal Doulton-esque porcelain likeness of Ganesha and more, the viewer is meant to explore and interpret the many forms of skin.
AGNS chief curator Sarah Fillmore selected works from a wide array of contemporary artists (36 pieces in total, by artists Vito Acconci, Duke and Battersby, Shary Boyle, Michel Campeau, Cora Cluett, Evergon, Eliane Excoffier, Emily Falencki, Alexandra Flood, Till Friewald, Eric Fischl, Rebecca Fisk, Doug Guildford, David R. Harper, Attila Richard Lukacs, Sarah Maloney, Mitch Mitchell, Kent Monkman, Kathleen Sellars, Marion Wagschal, Colleen Wolstenholme and Janice Wright Cheney) dealing with surface, race, costume, sexuality. The sheer variety of mediums is exciting, if a tad overwhelming to process. Sculptures, photographs, video, textiles, and paintings draw the viewer in, but those pesky museum rules foil your desires to fondle. The AGNS has thoughtfully provided for your tactile urges, creating a "touch room" to accompany the event. While you won't be groping your fellow museum goers, you will get a chance to experience some of the exhibit through your own skin.
At times nostalgic and titillating, delicate and hulking, melancholy and joyful, the pieces create an altogether envelope-pushing exhibit that’s well worth you hauling your own bag of bones down to the gallery to experience.
The middle of anything can be an exciting place, a vantage point from which to look both backwards and forwards and to make choices about the road ahead. In the one-woman play Going On, actress Elizabeth Richardson braids together vignettes from her years in an intense Buddhist retreat with her early experience as an actress understudying Uncle Vanya and Present Laughter while on tour with Peter O’Toole. It is a meditative journey that converges at the middle point of “now” and hints at what is to come. Richardson is a gifted actress who quietly commands the stage. She brings to life several characters including a comically-cadenced O’Toole and her loving, worried mother who voiced some of my own thoughts about the rigors of the retreat. The scenes from Vanya and Present Laughter are both comical and pertinent to the theme of aging. Going On is an amusing and touching look into one woman’s journey on the road of life.
Jeremy Webb is a very good actor whose greatest gift is injecting the characters he plays with his own rakish charm. This charm is much in evidence in his new play Fishing (written by Webb and directed by Alexis Milligan) where he plays a middle-aged divorcee named Paul Fisher who looks for love on an internet dating site. The writing is light and funny and the show features a great performance by Stacy Smith as all seven blind dates and as Fisher’s foul-mouthed, tender-hearted boss. Though the momentum lags a bit in spots making the play seem over-long, it will no doubt gel and compact over time. The set is simple and effective and projections keep the show visually interesting. Fishing contains Webb’s trademark audience participation portion that had an unsuspecting woman become one of his blind dates. Smith and Webb’s off-the-cuff humour and the woman’s game participation was a real highlight.
In I, Animal, Daniel MacIvor’s newest work, we’re introduced to three characters: “Man in Scrubs”, “Boy in Hoodie” and “Woman in Prada”. Man is queer and black (Not gay and African American. It’s an important distinction for him). He’s dealing with questions about anger, death and love. Boy is inquisitive and angsty. His issues centre on death and friendship. Woman is privileged and a little shallow. She struggles with friendship and aging. These three never share the stage, have little in common, and presumably don’t know of each others’ existences, yet they are connected to each other, to us and to the greater world by their quest for answers to life’s big (and little) questions. The direct-address monologues perfectly capture the language of each character, and slowly draw us into the complexities of their lives. This play showcases MacIvor’s uncanny gift for unearthing universal themes from quirky, specific characters.
I know it’s kind of perverse, but I left This is Cancer feeling a little sorry for the disease. Well, sorry for the disease as imagined by talented funny-man Bruce Horak, who brings cancer to life as a gap-toothed, long-legged, lamé-clad lump. The premise of the show is that cancer believes himself to be beloved, and with all the T-shirts, events and websites with his name on them, why wouldn’t he? When he learns from the audience that he is actually despised, he leaves the stage in a huff with Festival Artistic Director Charlie Rhindress in tow. A very funny argument ensues outside the theatre space, and cancer grudgingly returns. (Probably the only time in history that that’s seen as a good thing!) Cancer is not funny, as Horak himself can attest since he has lost an eye and his father to it, but it is cathartic to laugh at—-and with—-it. Between the song and dance bits there are some very moving moments, making this show both entertaining, thought provoking and surprisingly uplifting.
“I’d read a book by R. Murray Schafer called The Tuning of the World, and I started thinking about how we live in a world where we’ve always had recordings spanning decades or recordings from all over the world. It’s amazing to think about living in a time when they didn’t exist,” says Sounding Selves curator Heather Anderson. The exhibit opens Thursday, May 17, 8pm at the Dalhousie Art Gallery (running to July 8) and focuses on our interaction with sound. Anderson has curated a group of video artists with pieces challenging how we listen and interpret what we hear.
Finnish artist Jani Ruscica’s two pieces, a video installation Batbox/Beatbox and a performance/installation piece Variations on a theme - duet for greater horseshoe bat and beatboxer, look at how we navigate our surroundings through sound. For the “Batbox” component, Ruscica talked to a bat researcher and “Beatbox” was made in New York with the help of beatboxers. The videos play in a call and response style, eventually interacting with each other when Ruscica played the beatboxers an interpretation of the bats’ call and asked them to improvise a beat. But recorded material, as compelling as it is, often has nothing on a live performance. For the opening reception, musicians Lukas Pearse and Geordie Haley will interpret a score made from Ruscica’s work.
Anri Sala’s video installation, Làk-kat (one of three pieces in the exhibition on loan from the National Gallery of Canada) looks at language acquisition by showing Senegalese children learning Wolof words. “You get a sense of the musicality of language and also how the words lose their meaning when repeated,” says Anderson. “When you learn a new language, you’re brought into a new set of values. It’s poetic and political.” In that same vein is Jana Sterbak's video installation Declaration, featuring a couple of amazing chairs and a reading of that French Revolution classic, the hit of 1789, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Some of the sounds in the gallery invade the space more fully, like Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay's audio installation The Return. Every 10 minutes, a recording of a remarkably high male voice will have you eyeing the exits and saying your final “I love yous” as the voice interprets an emergency siren. Nemerofsky Ramsay has chosen a singer from the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and is attempting to involve other angelic male voices, Sigur Rós’ Jónsi, Morten Harket of A-ha, Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons.
Need a break from the noise? Antonia Hirsch's video installation Tacet (Anthems of the Member Nations of the North American Free Trade Agreement: Canada, United States of America, Mexican United States) features “conductors sight reading musical scores of national anthems, but you don’t actually hear it,” says Anderson. “In terms of sound it’s a subtle piece—you hear the rustling of their clothing, the turning of a page, an intake of breath. Because it’s silent you pick up on the way the way a conductor picks up on a stately measure of an anthem.”
Jewellery artist Angela Grace Arsenault started her personal business only seven months ago, and she is already spreading Nova Scotian charm across the Atlantic Ocean. The talented Cape Bretoner was invited by DPA of Los Angeles to showcase her work at the Cannes Film Festival from May 16-27.
It sounds fancy shmancy, but preparing for the big week has involved a lot of work. Arsenault must bring 25 to 30 gift pieces to the festival, which will be displayed at her table in the gift suite. She is also creating several flashy showpieces for celebrities to wear on the red carpet. “It’s really exciting when I have time to stop and think about it,” she said. “I’m going to be in the studio working every day.”
Arsenault was in shock after receiving the email invite from DPA’s Nathalie Dubois, who is responsible for bringing Cape Breton purse designer Michique and Haifax’s Turbine to Cannes in previous years. By the way Nathalie, if you’re reading this, I am free in spring of 2013 and I can knit a fab scarf.
The invite-only event at the gift suite will feature 30 international artists, designers and businesses. A representative escorts celebrities through the suite, and the invited entrepreneurs present gifts to them. Rich celebrities don’t always accept the gifts, but Arsenault has made custom jewellery to present to two dapper gentlemen, and hopes they enjoy her work.
“I make custom fox cufflinks, and I have a copper pair made with Wes Anderson in mind and a silver pair for George Clooney,” explained Arsenault. Clooney voiced Fantastic Mr. Fox in the 2009 film directed by Anderson. “I’ve been trying to catch Anderson’s attention any way possibly using Facebook or Twitter. I heard from his PR rep he’s interested.” With this girl's luck, you’d think she was making custom rabbit feet.
Animals aside, when Arsenault returns to Nova Scotia, she’ll be off traveling again, but this time no passport is necessary. The jewellery maker is heading to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to scope out galleries to carry her work. She’s hoping the Cannes festival experience will help get her foot in the door, but I don’t think she’ll need it.
A new Nova Scotian myth has been born, thanks to the creative talents of Artistic Director Christina Murray, Movement and Scenography Designer Claire Leger and the Camerata Xara Young Women’s Choir. They have brought to life an original piece of choral theatre set on Brier Island Nova Scotia that blends together the stories of real-life, legendary sailor Joshua Slocum and of mythical Sirens. The young women of the choir portray the Sirens, creatures who have been transformed from birds to women and grounded on the island. Actor Alan Slipp reads adapted excerpts from Slocum’s diary that tell the tale of the sailor as a young lonely boy befriending (and ultimately betraying) the Sirens. But it is the music more than the spoken word that tells this story, and what glorious music it is. The choice of songs is eclectic, ranging from the traditional “Briar and the Rose” to the primal and haunting “Raising the Wind”. At times, voices cascade from the mezzanine and blend with others that are rising from below. The singers dance and move with effortless grace, making this a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to be present at the birth of a legend.
Maritime Museum of the Altantic, May 12 8pm
Even if a relentless diet of Titanic anniversary fare has filled you to the brim with tragedy, I urge you to go see December 1917: The Halifax Explosion. This beautifully constructed piece of theatre has been brought to Halifax by the members of the new graduating class of the Sheridan-UTM Theatre and Drama Program in Ontario. The class (along with director Meredith Scott) adapted facts and survivor accounts from two books to create a lucid and lyrical retelling of the tragedy. The first half of the play forms a kind of introduction to a large cast of characters and sets up the facts of the tragedy itself. In the second, post-explosion half, the fates of the characters are revealed. Movement and music are used to great effect, bridging scenes and beautifully representing the inconceivable death and devastation. I was also most impressed by the costumes and especially the makeup (Something I don’t notice often!). In the first half, the pale faces and accentuated facial plains were reminiscent of silent movies and in the second they became ghoulish, zombie-like death masks. Brilliant!
May 10th-12th at 8pm and May 12th at 2pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre
Slash tickets go on sale tomorrow for his July 31 show at the Cunard Centre, and if you’re wondering what the perfect gift would be for this guitar god, we’ll save you a little time and tell you it’s not a puppet. Darren Moreash tried that, and it didn’t go well. Moreash is a local puppet maker (www.darrionettes.com—and, yes, he does custom orders) who has a love of both inanimate little buddies and classic rock.
Moreash has made wooden likenesses of Gene Simmons, James Hetfield and Cherie Currie. But it was only Slash who freaked out about it. “A photographer friend of mine in Toronto was meeting Slash a month or so ago and asked me to make a Slash marionette and he’d get it to him,” says Moreash. “He held it up and Slash stepped back, my friend asked him if he would hold it for a photo, and Slash’s response was ‘Get that fucking thing away from me, I want no part of it.’ He was visibly shaken up and although he signed a bunch of stuff for my friend, he would do so only if the puppet was nowhere near him. Maybe Slash was having a bad day or maybe he has pupaphobia [fear of puppets, doye], who knows.”
It’s his loss, because for Moreash anyway, the puppets have led to happiness. “I (met) this girl at my work—tall, blond, 20 years younger than me—totally out of my league but I decide to make her one for Christmas. She’s a big Alice Cooper fan so that’s who I made. She loves it, it’s still hanging in our house, 10 years later. Yep, she married me. Since I’m not much to look at all I can say is power of the puppet, people, power of the puppet. She’s co-puppet maker with me, she makes the clothes and does most of the painting.” So get over it, Slash. The puppet was made with love.
I think it’s likely that a large portion of last night’s The Whimsy State audience rushed home to look up the Principality of Outer Baldonia on Wikipedia. (I know I did!) That’s because this tale of three men who formed a micro nation off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1948 is supposedly based on a true story, but is so far-fetched that it’s hard to believe. Well, apparently you can believe it. And veracity aside, it makes a charming play filled with characters who you’d love to raise a pint with. Graham Percy as the American lawyer who is the mastermind of the plan plays good-natured optimism to a t. David LeReaney and Sheldon Davis are the two grizzled Nova Scotia fisherman who get behind the dream. Their hilarious turns of speech were one of the many highlights of the show. The cast is rounded out by Karen Johnson-Diamond who does a memorable job as both a tempestuous Russian diplomat and a frosty secretary. Whimsy State is a lovely marriage of comedy and history. Highly recommended!