Posts tagged: Western Front
It’s been over a year since we did this, but a year doesn’t feel that long. We’ve both been busy, she says. We start at Waterfront, crossing the water to Presentation House. I have been meaning to see Slavs and Tatars for weeks now, but Cherie needs to eat lunch first. She is excited to show me the market at Lonsdale Quay when she learns I have never visited. I have never made the time to go anywhere but up and down Chesterfield Avenue. After a fish buttie for me and a tamale for her, we make our way up the hill and up the stairs. Cherie is really into stopping and smelling the flora all along the way and I have only ever done this once, when no one was looking.
I only want to buy the catalogue for the essay on craft, but I know I will not have time to read it until next year, so I will wait for the book sale. I’m into what I’m seeing, but I have to avoid the text on the walls as it loses me rather than bringing me in. I wonder if I am just being difficult, but I have to trust my gut on this one. As we wander down the hill, Cherie echoes that the connections are not clear in the show, and I think back to our earlier lunch conversation about knowing we are not normal.
From seabus to the Canada Line to roadbus, we are walking down Main Street to CSA. Chris has to turn on the projector. Low cost operations and high priced projector bulbs finding common ground. A wall work and another wall work by Angus Ferguson warms up and the perspective of the branches tumble me in. I wonder why he chose to create a moving image over a still one, it couldn’t just be for the fog? Or could it? My favorite part is the frame he uses for his collage and I am glad to see mysticism anytime anywhere.
Coffee break at Gene’s and onwards to Western Front. I had stopped by the opening very briefly last week en route a dog walk with Zoe and Sailor and had not made it past the folding chair. The motion sensor dance party sticks out for me in this arrangement, which looks and feels like a private basement back yard. I have picked up a lot of paper today, but I can’t read any of it yet. I wonder how far off I am.
Down the hill, whereas last time it was up the hill. Getting smart with the flow of urban planning. Do __ Enter welcomes us in and there are other visitors inside grunt gallery. This is always note worthy. I like the backroom with the re-purposed photo enlargers by Emilio Rojas, Guadalupe Martinez, and Igor Santizo. Archive Fever is spreading like wild fire! They have re-created a dark room atmosphere for current times and I like it a lot as a means to communicate new images about old ideas.
A quick jaunt down to Great Northern Way and there’s an opening at Equinox that floods the area with crisp white shirts and white hairs. The walls appear higher in the back and the space overall appears better for viewing works with some semblance of privacy. I found myself drawn to the Ben Reeves after looking at the Jack Shadbolts. I don’t know what this means about me. I thought there was one more gallery down here, but all we find is a giant victrola with a Star of David inside so we move on.
Back off East 2nd at Gallery 295, more photo enlargers have been re-purposed, this time by Scott Massey. Lenses have been fitted into an object that is more interesting than its output. The photograph would have served the object better if mounted and arched over rather than forced onto the wall. It’s time photography came off the wall. I like this peacock object a lot, like in a fetishistic way, and the gallery sitter is happy or maybe surprised we get how it works. Cherie gets into a conversation argument debate with him about art and how we talk and write about it. I abstain from comments. We make it out alive and pop briefly into Catriona Jeffries. The dolphins above are definitely my favorite part. The lights are too bright to watch the video all the way through, but the L shape of the benches suggest something more casual so I sit back and try to be casual, but I feel like walking some more.
Walking down the flat part of Main, we run into Justin and he is on his way to Equinox. He is so polite in front of Cherie it’s adorable. We are not going to make it to any of the other galleries today, but I thought for some reason 236 E Pender was partially open. I was wrong. No matter, over a plate of chicken wings, I learn that Deirdre was one of Cherie’s first students and my sense of time and space squeeze together before pulling itself back apart to take a breath. I don’t want to forget where I grew up, but it is strange I don’t miss it. Cherie, along with Ted, are the only two people I ever talk about this with. There’s a lot of us who leave, but it seems so resolved for most.
You can just drop me off at that green house over there.
Bottom to top, or the way I watched it, top to bottom, and back up.
I wonder how long she can read for?
A green highlighter moving across a very specific time and space.
I would hire those movers.
This part of the book is good:
Roots move rhizomatically.
Weeds move insidiously.
Weeds will take over, unless you pull them out at the root base.
Roots are harder to move the longer they stay.
My Mother: Demonology, A Novel was my introduction to Kathy Acker. This was in 2002, 9 years after the book’s release, and 5 years after Acker had passed away at the age of 50. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it then, and I doubt I am really getting it now. Reading through sections of the book again today, Acker’s voice, or more specifically, her multiplicity of voices continue to detonate every bridge she crosses, imploding literary history and structures of power from inside out and exasperating the parameters and orifices of cultural contexts past the brink of sense, sensuality, and sanity. Since 2002, I continued to read Acker over the years, although her prose never became a favorite or even an influence, but I could never stop myself from picking up those spines off the dusty shelves of coastal bookstores.
I bring this all up again as I spent part of this past Friday in the depths of the Western Front archives watching their 1977 recording of Kathy Acker reading in the Grand Luxe Hall. Reading excerpts from then forthcoming novels, Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec (1978) and Kathy Goes To Haiti (1978), and a long poem, Raw Heat (?), for an unnamed roommate who set her poems to songs, Acker would have been 30 years old, and on the surface (save for the round, tinted glasses), she appears near unrecognizable from the image of the hardcore punk of her later years.
It’s the difference from then and now that strikes me the most, especially coming off recently watching this trailer for Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker (Barbara Caspar, 2009). This later Acker is the one I’ve become familiar with, the hard-edged platinum blonde draped in piercings and tattoos. She had her armor, you could say, but in 1977, in Vancouver, sitting crossed-legged on a cushion on the floor, sporting a short brown shaggy haircut and a single long earring, she is wearing a t-shirt that I believe is referencing her New York contemporary (Robert) Ashley Productions that reads “If you’re not weird, get out!” She looks and sounds about 16 years old, and behind her tinted lenses, she carries her vulnerability, an open innocence and therefore carries the naivety of her characters, flirting between lucid control and tease. Re-reading Acker, one of the great satirists of power, through this lens of vulnerability gives her texts another layer, a depth that I won’t admit to understanding, but just knowing it continues to draw me in deeper than ever before.
Last night, the latest edition of Western Front’s Past is Prologue featured a new work in progress by Project Rainbow. The screening focused on the dance history of the Front, specifically Jane Ellison, who is perhaps the least known of the remaining owners and who has been around for just as long. A video work of Ellison’s early movement work was screened, as well as a video by Paul Wong and performed and choreographed by Steve Paxton (Asteroid, 1978), along with some recent interviews with Ellison and Eric Metcalfe. In their stories, the appearance of an old familiar name caught me by surprise, and that name was Linda Rubin.
Rubin was named as having started a formative company called Synergy, and she is named on the EDAM Dance website as Peter Bingham’s first dance teacher as well as Ellison’s website, but after the screening, not a whole lot of other people knew much about her.
So, I did some primary research:
Rubin was a graduate of the Vancouver School of Art in the 60s and began developing an improvised vocabulary through movement that was directly influenced by the happenings of that era in the art world. After art school, she decided to pursue dance and went to study technique with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham in New York, staying on and dancing for numerous companies including Deborah Hay alongside the likes of Paxton.
After a few years, Rubin returned to Vancouver and started Synergy, teaching classes that combined technique with the creative in The Farmer Building on Granville St. She would leave again to take intensives from Anna Halprin down in San Francisco, and when she came back, she was hooked up through her art school days and became a fresh tenant in the then newly formed Western Front building.
Teaching and holding events in the space that is now EDAM, Rubin brought up contact teachers from San Francisco and ran Synergy like an underground lab. In the early 70s, Anna Wyman was the most visible dance company in town, and Synergy was its polar opposite. Synergy stayed in the Front for a while before moving out due to competing noise levels from the Luxe above, and Rubin continued teaching in various spaces for years with a dedicated following before moving to Saskatoon to start a family.
I knew Rubin from when I served as President of the Board for Mile Zero Dance in Edmonton, where Rubin moved to shape the dance and movement curriculum for the University of Alberta’s theatre programme. She was often consulted for notes by nearly every independent production in town, and she also went to everything and was always generous, but insightful and efficient with her time. She never rested for too long on the ego, especially her own, and as it turns out, she has maintained an archive of her career and peers and can recall dates and names with lightning accuracy.
Rarely if ever has a screening led me to track somebody down, to find out more about them, and value them even more as a human being who was already influential to my understanding of art and mentorship. The past is a prologue, and having Rubin in my past is a great reminder to how the rest of the story can unfurl.