Posts tagged: Urban Shaman
I don’t recall which city we were in at the time, but Kristine was telling the story of how she grew up walking to and from school with one hand in her bag like she was holding a knife so she wouldn’t get hassled as a kid. I also believe this is when she first learned to mime, and that her time in the North End of Winnipeg was truly formative.
Gerry has said that East Hastings exists in every city, but spread out more. We were definitely talking about Edmonton. Maybe Lloydminster. Same holds true for Winnipeg. Maybe more so. My cab driver gave me a friendly warning that I shouldn’t go out after dark. Not where I was staying. Sure there’s lots of restaurants, but there’s also lots of bars. I remember my first night ever in Winnipeg. I was walking down Osborne after dinner. There was a large pool of blood outside the record store. It was during Fringe and a boy dressed up like a Friar with a wooden sword rode by on his bicycle.
I had lunch with Freya and then shared some office time in her studio above Parlour. Their coffee is just okay. The Sun Burger was great though. She says she’s been held up at knife point, but only once. Those are pretty good odds for this part of Winnipeg. She obviously wasn’t miming. There’s random day time violence from the hotel down the street. That guy who chopped up the body there and then turned himself in is an anomaly. The chopping or the apologizing is an anomaly? A chopped up body was also found in a nearby dumpster. Apparently it’s happened more than once. Pickton is supposedly still a mystery. Who was he covering for? The Greyhound bus madness is more of a faded memory. That bus was coming from Edmonton to Winnipeg. He worked at the McDonald’s by my house near Kingsway. The beheading happened on the stretch of the Highway near Brandon where lighting has been known to strike. Divya and I are going to be on that highway in a few days.
I walk up Main into the North End for a studio visit with Sarah. I walk past one fight though it didn’t look like a fair fight. Are you going to stay down the guy was saying with his fists clenched and arms flexed. The other guy was sitting flat on his ass on the pavement. First warning. Last warning. I wonder where he learned that warning system. Under the overpass I take my first right. I once helped move drywall into this warehouse space. An entire floor of spacious low rent high ceiling studios are not a rare thing in this city. The exchange is full of them. Every space has natural light. I leave from the back door down the alley and back under the overpass. I get yelled at just once. There’s two foot patrols on the south side of the tracks. A man collapses in front of them moaning and rolling around. Everyone moves slowly as if going through the motions. The radio blaring out of the social services centre is scratchy and distorted. Katy Perry sounds better this way.
Shawna and I wait for the bus on Main after cocktails at the Cookery and the opening at Urban Shaman. There was a lineup at the new restaurant down the street. We each have a fistful of change. Two forty five to be exact. These pennies have to go somewhere. A man with a black eye asks us for change. For a coffee. Sorry man. I usually don’t deny. I usually give change if I have it. But cabs are impossible to flag down in this city. The girl on the bus had a black eye too. She paid the fare for her self, her friend, and all the kids.
I was walking down West Pender on Monday and a guy dropped a five dollar bill. He was in a hurry. By the time I bent over and picked it up, he was already crossing Howe. I dropped off the bill the next block down on Granville. A man with a cardboard sign strapped to his head held out his hands. I didn’t read the sign. I know it contained the word FOOD written in black felt pen.
But there’s crime there, is the response I get every time I rave aloud about how much I love Winnipeg. I hear you can’t walk down the street. Of course you can walk down the street. You just have to share the street. Besides, there’s crime everywhere. Oh, she waves with her hand and with a lilt in her voice, it’s not everywhere, just in certain areas on certain streets.
The rain is still falling as I make my way to East 2nd for the third time in a day. I had gone to Catriona Jeffries for Julie Feyrer’s opening, but work is never seen at an opening. I have to go back to view and hear the work in the quietness of the day. To save time I should just stop attending openings all together. I never engage with the work and can never recall any of the conversations had beyond merely having them. But it’s in these pockets where faces can be paired to names and we still need faces to go with names. Openings are the messy intersections where work smashes into life for the precariats in this game and they are emblematic of symptoms I do not reject but which I also cannot accept.
When I step back out into the damp drizzle on a darkening afternoon I head over to grunt to check out Charlene Vickers’ Ominjimendaan/to remember. I am only there for a few minutes to be with the turtles. The show will travel next to Urban Shaman in Winnipeg and as there are no windows there I wonder which direction the turtle heads will face. But I’m not really thinking about this until sometime after as I’m back on the same block six hours later to see Justin Gradin and Justin Patterson do something together. The vagueness of most performance descriptions is a good trick when intentional, but some people really take it the wrong way. Both Justins have studio spaces at Dynamo and I only knew one of them until I am introduced to the other one during Feyrer’s opening.
Here at this performance opening nothing is ready an hour after doors open and Karilynn is already here and not wanting to stay so I suggest we head to the Narrow for a drink. Back into the rain I walk two blocks for one drink though technically I have a double. Once inside we run into Sasha and Lauren who are just coming from Gallery Fukai’s opening of Ian Skedd where they weren’t sure if anything was actually going on. I get the sense though they just can’t be bothered to talk about what wasn’t going on as their feet were wet and their jackets were soaked — though Lauren gets going a little bit when I ask her what she hates most about being back in Vancouver. I could have stayed for another double if I hadn’t made the trip to East 2nd with a purpose so I head back to the performance space — one of these open concept/loft/live/work/gallery/performance spaces that remind me of being 24 again.
The space is crowded now with bodies grouped into small islands and a looping projection of lulling waves on an empty beach that stays on for the entire night. I am no longer in a chatty mood so I hang back leaning against the makeshift wall and stare up at the corrugated steel ceiling that is making everyone so uncomfortably warm. I can hear a chorus of conversations around me that are more rising inflections than anything cognizant and I am not bored but I am suddenly exhausted. As I’m eyeing the exit, the performance begins and Justin P and Justin G appear in black hoods that look like gas masks with smoke stack looking snouts. Wires hang down their throats to pedals on their hips that are further connected to contact mics dangling from their hands. They start playing with garbage, activating, some would say, the perimeters of refuse. They pull staged scraps from a clean steel garbage can placed in the center of the room that could have been dirtier and less staged in its placement. I can see through the mask that Justin P has his eyes closed at times when he tilts his head back to project the bellows of distortion coming from his contact mic. He howls out the excess and howl is just about my favorite word in the English language. Justin G appears more methodical, more concerned with manipulating the mic against surfaces, and it’s their contrast in approach that keeps me watching. They stay close to the ground with their masks and their Made in Canada garbage can churning out this soundscape and something decent is happening, not mind blowing — that is not the point — but they are decent because they are doing and it doesn’t feel like wanking. The piece I feel is too long and it turns out to be only an excerpt of a longer work and album they are taking to Japan.
The lights come on and the girls behind the bar try to transform the MDF cubicle into a dance party, but the space clears and plans are made to head to The Cedar Tavern. My jacket hasn’t dried from earlier as I walk to Cedar Tavern with Warren who knows the way and doesn’t want to stay in the MDF cubicle any longer either. We’ve met a few times before but this is the second time we have a conversation about the art game and I once again get super worked up over the rules of the game. I cannot accept many factors of the game, but I don’t know if there’s a general misunderstanding that displeasure equals quitting and that playing only means compliance. Warren gives me a friendly warning that there will probably be people I have to introduce myself to when I get to the Cedar Tavern, but I save us both the trouble as I buy him a beer for walking with me and I split off.
It’s an alleyway speakeasy with an unfortunate art history reference but the works inside do not match that reference. There’s a small gallery space along the front with some forgettable paintings hanging on each wall and it becomes the only room in another wise crowded space that never seems able to hold anyone for long. Art showing is never half as interesting as art making, not even in its spatial correlations, and while this was even the subject matter of Feyrer’s show with the damning title, we all play along as the gallery space is where the value of the work occurs in exchanges unfolding.
I run into waves of people coming from Samuel Roy-Bois’ open house at Langara and the unanimous report was about the copious amounts of food from pigs in a blanket to a mountain of meatballs. I end up explaining to a Torontonian about the makings of a pupusa and he grew nostalgic for Jamaican patties. Zuzia joins the pupusa conversation as she arrives from Anza with Dawn, Jenny, and Mike. They were playing darts and doing shots and thought of me. She recommends a place off Nanaimo and Hastings for the best pupusas in town and I want to go there now. Aaron had recommended the place on Commercial, but I’m still researching the places on Victoria. It’s best when we can sustain conversations about other things, which is maybe the difference between having friends and having peers. I talk about the shapes of the alphabet with someone named John and we learn together that a “m” is the letter “h” doing a back bend. Outside the randomness of conversations is slipping and I run into Justin P again. I tell him I liked his show and I meant it. Those who are left in the middle of the night share good-byes and the rain is still falling as I make my way home.