Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Living Man!

Some generous person has posted Robert Enrico's 1962 adaptation of Ambrose Bierce's An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge up on Youtube in it's entirety. If you've never seen it, nows the time.
The list of filmmakers it's inspired over the years is long and impressive, and the number of films that owe a direct debt to it are legion (Carnival of Souls, Lost Highway, Jacob's Ladder, The Thin Red Line and Donnie Darko all point like straight lines back towards it's haunting-and profoundly odd-structure.) I've often thought of it as a kind of lost companion piece to the equally renowned (and equally pillaged) La Jette.
The film won best short subject at the 1962 Cannes, but wasn't seen by most North Americans until 1964, when Rod Serling aired it as the final episode of The Twilight Zone.
Serling's series, in it's own right, is a veritable nursery for many of the last 40 years of genre film grammar. While plowing through a lot of the older episodes (on loan from the library) I've been astounded at how wonderful (and scary) many of them have remained.
Lynch especially, more than any other director I can think of, seems to have taken many of his enduring motifs from the series. These two scenes, perfect short films in their own right, are unmistakable nods to a specific episode of the series; the dread filled Perchance to Dream (episode 9, season 1) - as is the repeated image of the headlight-bleached street sign in Mulholland Drive.
It's not hard to imagine a very young Lynch sitting transfixed by Richard Conte's helpless descent into a world of seductive, lethal, and inescapable darkness-a darkness so utterly unlike anything on television at the time-and saying "That's the stuff."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

100 Views - 90

Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Open Letter to The Ministry of Casual Living

Dear MOCL folks,

In September of last year I submitted a proposal for a show of my photographs at The Ministry of Casual Living. It included jpgs of the images themselves, and my reasons for specifically wanting to show them at MOCL. Bonnie Gooden replied to my e-mail and graciously offered me a show in the third week of January. She told me that my show would be her last as minister of the center.

I then posted a notice about the show on my blog, with a link to the MOCL website, and contacted my printer in Vancouver to have the prints made. The show was to consist of two fairly large c-prints, hung side by side on the MOCL's movable wall. The prints were completed at a price of $365.00, including lamination and mounting, and then shipped to me direct from the lab and framed upon arrival (an additional $100.00.)

On January 2nd I sent an e-mail to Bonnie enquiring as to the specific start and end dates for the show, as I wanted to begin making the invites. I promptly recieved a reply e-mail from Catlin Lewis, saying that Bonnie was no longer the minister, but that they did have an opening near the end of January, and what kind of work did I do? A bit confused by this turn of events, I then re-sent my original proposal to Catlin and so recieved my second go-ahead for the show. At this time I also enquired as to the state of the space (if I would need to come in and paint, etc.) Catlin assured me the walls were just as I last saw them, white and (relatively) clean. We settled on Friday the 26th as an opening night.

In early January I recieved an e-mail from Jay Morritt asking me to call him so as to go over final plans for the show. When I talked to him on the phone, Jay claimed to have never seen or heard of the proposal, and asked me what kind of art I made. I briefly re-explained the concept and requirements with him and made a mental note to drop by the gallery and talk to him in person, just to avoid any more confusion.

On Wednesday the 25th, I stopped in at the gallery to introduce myself to Jay. Upon entering, I noticed that the movable wall panel my work was to hang on had been stripped and replaced with two bare pieces of grey drywall panelling, with a horizontal, nail studded seam running straight across it's center. I asked Jay if the wall would be puttied, sanded and painted in time for the show. He said it would. We then sat and talked for a bit about my proposal. We agreed on a time of 7:00 - 9:00 for the opening. When I was heading out the door, I asked Jay to call me if he needed any assistance with the finishing of the wall. I had the next two days off and could easily come in to help. He said thanks for the offer, and that he would call if he needed the help. I sent my invitations to the printer the following morning ($56.00) and sent e-mail reminders to friends and family about the opening.

On the day of the opening I called and e-mailed Jay, asking him when I could come and do the installation. I didn't hear back from him until around 5pm, at which time he told me that he had been busy during the day, but that everything was now ready for the installation. I headed up to the gallery with my work under my arm, my girlfriend and a curator friend from Vancouver in tow.

We arrived to find the movable wall exactly as it had looked three days earlier (two pieces of grey drywall panelling, nailed together at the center.) When I asked Jay why the wall had not been completed, he replied that he simply hadn't found the time. He seemed surprised, and slightly irritated, that I didn't want to go ahead and hang the prints on the drywall anyway. I asked him if it would be possible to come early the next morning and finish the wall, thereby getting the show up and running by the following night. He said he didn't think so, and that regardless, he really wasn't up to discussing it at the moment, having had a "very long day."

I'm a photographer, and photography is an expensive, risky enterprise. Film, developing, scans and prints are astronomical in cost, and make it financially difficult, if not outright impossible, to put together and mount a show while working for minimum wage. This show cost me $500.00 dollars in total, and I worked my ass off to cover those costs. Why spend so much money and time on something that is only going to hang in a tiny, out of the way gallery for a week? Because, goofy as it might sound, I actually give a shit about art, and about the culture that art exists in and contributes to. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that an artist run center, especially one as fiercely and excitingly independent as MOCL, should too. So, while I respect that the operative word in your establishment's title is "casual," I would ask that you consider this situation from my perspective and ask yourself how you would feel about the way things have been handled.

thanks for your time,

Jamie Tolagson

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don't miss what will surely be the smallest and shortest photography exhibit of the year, January 26th - February 1st at the Ministry of Casual Living, 1442 Haultain St. Victoria, B.C.
Opening is 7 to 9 on Friday the 26th.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"There are, Mr. Cuarón suggests in “Children of Men,” different ways of waking up. You can either wake up and close your ears and eyes, or like Theo you can wake up until all your senses are roaring. Early in the film Theo and the restlessly moving camera seem very much apart, as Mr. Cuarón keeps a distance from the characters.
Every so often the camera pointedly drifts away from Theo, as it does with the dead policemen, to show us a weeping old woman locked in a cage or animals burning on pyres. In time, though, the camera comes closer to Theo as he opens his eyes — to a kitten crawling up his leg, to trees rustling in the wind — until, in one of the most astonishing scenes of battle I’ve ever seen on film, it is running alongside him, trying to keep pace with a man who has finally found a reason to keep going."

-Manohla Dargis, New York Times.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A very short film about Stephen Shore here. I've always thought of Shore as this lone figure wandering around in the american landscape by himself, so it's weird to see him with a 20-something assistant now in tow, calling out meter readings to him as he peers into shop fronts and overgrown yards.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

100 Views - 89

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Francisco de Goya - Flight of the Witches, 1797-98

How could the 9-11 hijackers do what they did?

"The answer to this question is obvious - if only because it has been patiently articulated ad nauseam by bin Laden himself. The answer is that men like bin Laden actually believe what they say they believe. They believe in the literal truth of the Koran. Why did nineteen well-educated middle-class men trade their lives in this world for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of humans so fully and satisfactorily explained. Why have we been so reluctant to accept this explanation?"

-Sam Harris

Who is to blame?

"Everyone is being blamed, from the obvious villainous duo of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, to the inaction of Muslim 'communities'. But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. The cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance is of course religion itself, and if it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn't so."

-Muriel Gray

How would we be better off without religion?

"We'd all be freed to concentrate on the only life we are ever going to have. We'd be free to exult in the privilege -- the remarkable good fortune -- that each one of us enjoys through having been being born. An astronomically overwhelming majority of the people who could be born never will be. You are one of the tiny minority whose number came up. Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one."

-Richard Dawkins

“No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

-George W. Bush

Monday, January 15, 2007

Said The Shark (my friends Maya and Kim) have posted the first of three Super-8 shorts I made for their album release last year.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Recently finished:

William Faulkner - Light in August
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Jonathan Lethem - Fortress of Solitude
Sam Harris - The End of Faith
Fairfield Porter - Art In It's Own Terms

But who cares what I've been reading over the last couple of months when you can browse every book Art Garfunkel has ever read in his entire life here?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Interesting things happen when you take reality and monumentality and rub them together. For one thing, it becomes obvious that there is no such thing as a permanent sculpture--that it's impossible to immortalize oneself or anything else with a sculpture because a sculpture does nothing but decay. Even bronze and stone are not stable materials. The David was brought inside because acid rain was eating him. In fact, the more you start looking around with this in mind, the more obvious it is that nothing lasts forever. That your house, your car, tools, your own body. It's all falling apart, and humans spend a lot of energy fighting entropy but it's around every corner, in every vacant lot. Your skin cells are falling off your body and settling into every nasty corner of your house. Things change."

-Deborah Fisher

Boy, do they ever. My own aging process has made itself heard loud and clear over the last 6 to 10 months, like a song that's always been playing but whose volume has been suddenly and unexpectantly cranked. The hairline (in organized retreat for the last 5 years) has suddenly broken ranks and fled for the rear, leaving hundreds of wounded and dying on the bottom of the tub. The ears and nose have begun to sprout strange, wispy white hairs at random (it seems impossible that a hair growing out of one's nostril could go from 1 centimeter to half an inch in a single day, but I'm telling you, it's happening.) The beard is filled with coarse, thickened white cables (I can't bring myself to call them hairs, they are cables) and now these same cables are sprouting out of both eyebrows, looking for all the world like stray branches from some petrified white forest.
The result of all this is that I'm forced to keep a constant watch over my face and head, clipping and snipping away in the bathroom mirror like some weird form of human Chia Pet, lest these growths gain the upper hand and turn me into a canadian version of Jordy Verrill.
The fact that even the most archival of my photographs will only outlast me by, at best, 70 odd years is sobering as well. Compared to most sculpture, a photograph seems about as permanent as a piece of lint being carried by a storm over the middle of the pacific.
100 Views - 88

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Another Person's Photograph
Tropical Botanical Garden,
Big Island of Hawaii.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jesusland, now open for business.

"I tried to read the so-called good book some years ago and found it a litany of suffering, hatred, honor killings, scores settled and general nastiness — with the rare edict to be good thrown in — couldn’t finish it — if I want horror I’ll stick with Cormac, who at least is a better writer."

-David Byrne
E.J. Hughes - The Mill at Mesatchie Creek

Another favorite, for it's restrained sense of dispassionate reportage (Ed Burtynsky eat your heart out!), it's masterfully complex composition, and it's obvious similarity to another old B.C. artist's picture.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

E.J. Hughes - Farm Near Courtenay

Hughes, who passed away yesterday at 93, was as slow and steady as painters come. He produced, on average, less than a dozen paintings a year; and as legend would have it, only met his art dealer face to face 4 times in his lifetime. Like Emily Carr, the artist he's most often compared with, Hughes was obsessed with the B.C. landscape-specifically, Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley. But his paintings have a coolness-a once-removed quality-that is quite unlike Carr's work, and quite similiar to a lot of artwork that I hold in much higher esteem. A painting like the one above puts me in mind of Brueghel's Landscape With The Fall of Icarus, Rosseau's Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo, or even Ben Shahn's Handball. The flattened, almost democratic arrangement of space and subject matter, the naturalistic passages mixed with cartoon-like flourishes (trees! houses!) and the obstinantly bright colours-always masterfully countered at the last minute by a grey sky or a black sea- signal to me that Hughes not only knew what what he was doing, but was also keenly aware of what he wasn't doing (which is, I guess, the biggest difference between an artist who paints 'naively' and a naive artist.)
Hughes doesn't seem to have left much behind except his art. His wife passed away in 1974, he has no children, and he doesn't seem to have done many interviews. The following sentence is the closest I could find to an artist's statement:

"I have painted in the Cowichan Valley for fifty years and it is the most beautiful place on earth."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jeff Wall - Overpass

"Evaluation of quality is the core of the pleasure of the experience of art; the simultaneous pleasure of enjoying something intensely and of recognising that it is a good work. I always judge my pictures - daily, hourly, all the time. Even though it's disappointing to have to say "that one is not good", or "not as good as that one", it is still a pleasure to go through that process and experience a work afresh. Nothing has been as destructive to the condition of art as the idea that qualitative judgment is unimportant, and that art is important for cultural reasons. Art can only be important if it is good, because if it is good, it pleases us in ways we don't anticipate and don't understand, and that pleasure means something to us even if we can't specify what, exactly."

"If you are capable of making good pictures it’s immoral not to do so..."


Thursday, January 04, 2007

David Byrne has a blog, and it is pretty great.
Misunderstandings - Christopher Brayshaw, 2007.

I'm taking part in an online photography project with Adam Harrison, Christopher Brayshaw and Evan Lee entitled Four. One person posts, another responds, and so on, each photo being a specific response to the one before it.
Ideally, this will develop into a conversation about the nature of photography, with photographs themselves doing all the talking. A kind of mute 4-way dialogue, with the possibility of being grossly misunderstood only adding to the complexity of the conversation. That's the best case scenario anyway. Worst case would be a kind of ego-driven photographic pissing contest, with all thematic and contextual concerns thrown to the wind in an attempt to visually one-up each other.
With four egos crammed into the same room together for a year, I could see things getting testy pretty fast, but I'm still rooting for a best case outcome.
Stay tuned.

"...the idea came up again last night, in the context of one of those 70s musical supergroups where everyone onstage is locked in a complicated musical dialogue/argument with everyone else, Cream, Crazy Horse and Neil Young, CSNY, etc. (A better context might be jazz, a kind of "collective improvisation"). So, as I understand this project, it is a kind of collective research, creative mistranslation, willful misprision. A way of thinking back and forth in images, a creative call-and-response that could only work now, in this moment, with this medium."

-Christopher Brayshaw

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

100 Views - 87