Thursday, March 31, 2011

national poetry month begins tomorrow!

this year is the 10th anniversary of national poetry month in canada (and 15th anniversary in the united states), and as such i will be posting a poem by a canadian poet (or two) each day of april. you can find out more hereto quote john steffler, parliamentary poet laureate:
We live inside language, shape and share ourselves with it and use it to handle the surrounding world. In an atmosphere of job-talk, technical jargon, sales pitches, sound bites, bureaucratese and grocery-store chitchat we get mental asthma, we shrink to anaemic fragments. Poetry, with its fireman’s axe, comes to the rescue, opening doors and windows we’d forgotten we had, reviving words slumped in heaps in the basement of our mind, and those resuscitated words are oxygen in our blood. How good it feels to have depths and energy, to share in the hungers and insights poetry radiates. Poetry is language fully alive, excited language, which conveys and generates an excited experience of life. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

experts wanted

from malcom gladwell's blink (and i'm paraphrasing here):
The gift of their expertise is that it allows them to have a much better understanding of what foes on behind the locked door of their unconscious...The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don't mean that experts like different things than the rest of us -- although that is undeniable. When we become an expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is only experts who are able to reliably account for their reactions.
i know, i know - the word expert is loaded, even suspect. in fact, during university, the whole concept of being an expert (and related ideas such as mastery) were very much "interrogated" as being x-centric (and by x i mean choose your term: western, male, hetero, etc.) and an imposition negotiated by various avenues of power blah blah blah. today, there's a real sense (propogated by sites such as wikipedia, for instance, and the blogosphere - and yes, i appreciate the irony here) that "everyone's an expert" i.e. everyone's opinion about something holds equal weight. even though it doesn't. so we're uncomfortable with the idea. it may even offend us.

regardless, its roots are old - the 14c in fact, from old french - and that springs from the latin: expertus, (from experiri) "to try, test". the sense of "person wise through experience" existed as early as the 15c. expertise (16c french) in turn denotes "expert appraisal, expert's report".

some various definitions include:
  • a person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject
  • having or showing knowledge and skill and aptitude
  • having or showing or requiring special skill
  • skilled through training or practice

to become an expert means that one must have some experience with something, one must be an explorer, one must have intimate knowledge (a passion?) of and for a subject or activity. there's a full-person'd engagement with something: heart, mind, soul and body.

so here are my questions: what are you an expert on or about? or do you even consider yourself an expert? why or why not? does the idea of being "an expert" make you uncomfortable? why or why not? alternatively, do you know anyone you consider an expert on or about a particular topic? why? i'm curious.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

art, faith and integrity in the public square

this should be great. over the rhine makes beautiful, rich music and the panel topic should provide for some great discussion. greg has a lot of good stuff to say, and i know that val and karen are very much committed to working out this topic in their life and work. unfortunately, i won't be able to attend since i will be participating in the NextGen: Canada program. so if you go, take notes or something.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

my studio

as an artist who works in series, works with installations, and often uses collage (as much as a conceptual approach to artmaking as a medium), i have acquired a lot of miscellaneous bric-a-brac over the years. 



and yet, this is nothing compared to what my studio space was like in university (they gave me my own room to work in due to the sheer amount of chaos i generated in my allotted studio space). or the warehouse space i had while in calgary. i miss having room to really spread everything out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NextGen: Canada (bricolage)

the other essay i wrote for my submission to the NextGen: Canada program, and the one i actually submitted, was around the idea of bricolage:
Bricolage is the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. It involves incorporating items typically utilized for other purposes. It will inspire staff to create solutions for a problem out of immediately available objects. In today’s economic reality, the ability to creatively combine objects, materials, images, approaches and strategies will be a definite asset for the sustainability of museums, whether operations, funding or programs.
It also describes how people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities (especially sub-cultures). Objects that possess one meaning (or no meaning) in the dominant culture are acquired and given a new, (hopefully) subversive meaning. And isn’t this part of what we, as museums, want to do? To help people see the world anew? To see it afresh?
Alternatively, it means to fiddle. To tinker. To improvise. To blend. It is a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing, playing around. This approach to exhibitions, programs, events would lead to more playful, engaging opportunities, not to mention alleviating workplace stresses. This activity of playing and testing, and of embracing the provisional, contributes to the development of the following:
  • An intimate knowledge of resources
  • Careful observation and listening (looking for the best objects and ideas in the best combination)
  • Increased trust in one's ideas
  • Self-correcting structures (though with feedback) – asking the questions: Do these things fit? How?
Valuing “tinkering” and allowing systems and programs to evolve from the bottom-up, rather than implementing from the top-down, organizations will end up with something that is deeply rooted in the organizational culture specific to that organization, as well as the social and cultural context of that institution, and is much less easily imitated.
This will lead to and encourage more innovative and unique ideas, reflecting individual institutions’ own identity and staff and contexts, rather than simply importing various templates and merely inserting new information in the usual frameworks. This will create more buzz, more engagement, more investment in the museum’s various communities. Creativity attracts. It attracts visitors and supporters. It attracts investors.
This is, in many ways, how I imagine NextGen Canada. A place where various different and unique individuals get thrown together and, through their energy, passion and creativity explore, share and create new ways of seeing and doing museum work.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

NextGen: Canada (identity)

as part of my NextGen: Canada application, i was asked to write an essay:

Apply an abstract concept from an outside / alternative industry to the museum field. Describe its utility in a museum context. Connect your example to what you believe to be a tough issue facing museums today. In closing, address what motivates you to participate in NextGen: Canada. (Approximately 400 words)

only 400 words? and i have to trim down my resume to 2 pages? taking on the challenge to be succinct, thorough and passionate, here is the first essay i wrote:
A core idea or concept that informs everything I do is IDENTITY. Who are you? What do you represent or stand for? Establishing a sense of identity (you can also think of it as “branding”) is crucial in today's economic and cultural climate, as it informs how and what we do and why we do it. It is foundational and essential as everything we do will be an outflow of that identity. It is even more important for smaller institutions. The temptation to be something you’re not, or to do things that are foreign to you, constantly assails us.
It is crucial to understand who you are - skills, interests, passions, goals – both individually and corporately. That enables you to maintain focus and purpose without being swayed by emotions such as fear. It enables you to maintain direction without being seduced by “the latest x”. It will enable you to ensure that whatever changes, it is only of use if it enables you to maintain your vision – to be effective, and maintain integrity. It is crucial to operate from this position of strength. It will instill confidence in who one is, what one does, and how one does it. It will provide wisdom and guidance as we gain new skills and knowledge. It will help us better receive suggestions (i.e. critique), instruction and correction from others as our identity will not be affirmed by what we do, or are perceived; but by who we are and what we believe. And therefore, a greater sense of fulfillment.
In turn, this will create a stronger sense of community. If one knows who one is - their uniqueness - then it is much easier to share knowledge and skills, and share resources. Everyone does things in different ways, and towards different ends. We will choose to have the right things, and do the right things, in the right places with the right people. If one’s identity isn’t established, people and institutions attempt to be all things to all people, and will lose sight of the vision they were created to fulfill. We don’t exist to please others; we exist to serve others. It’s a crucial difference.
And this is why NextGen: Canada is such an exciting opportunity. It is an opportunity to grow. To become stronger. To be challenged. To be encouraged. To be inspired. And to meet others of the same spirit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

NextGen: Canada!

i don't post much here about my museum life, but i am currently the director/ curator at a small(ish) community museum. it's been an interesting 5+ years, and i am constantly learning new things about how to run a museum (and frankly, i wish the learning curve would plateau every once in a while). i basically oversee all the museum's operations, from programming and exhibitions to marketing and promotions, and from governance and grant-writing to strategic planning. i recently received word that i was accepted to the NextGen: Canada program. here's the blurb:
NextGen: Canada is a multifaceted learning and career development program offered in collaboration with the Alberta Museums Association (AMA), the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University (GLI@CGU), and the University of Alberta Museums.
As museums continue to grow into the twenty-first century, the next generation of leaders should have the latest and best skills at their disposal. NextGen: Canada is based on the GLI@CGU’s internationally respected Museum Leaders: The Next Generation program, but has been designed by Canadians for Canadians. The program is dedicated to providing a career development opportunity to exceptional museum professionals who have a desire to develop their leadership abilities, an ambition to build capacity within museums of any size or scope, and an aspiration to be directors or hold senior leadership positions in the museum sector.
i'm very excited, and honoured, to have been selected. there will be 19 of us, from all over canada - from the maritimes, prairies, central canada and the north - and from numerous types of museums and galleries. i look forward to learning new things, and developing my leadership 'tool-kit', but mostly i am excited about meeting 18 other individuals with passion, creativity and vision. you can view the announcement and PDF here. stay tuned...

Friday, March 4, 2011

bridgesongs 2011: ?rogress

my friend dave von bieker is involved with a little something called Bridge Songs, and has kindly allowed me to be a part of it by curating an exhibition around its theme. here is some information about the event, and a link to the call for submissions.
Bridge Songs is an arts experience including original music, spoken word, short film, an album release and two visual art galleries. We are currently seeking submissions of visual art and short film.
The Event Space will house a large gallery that can accommodate many artists across a range of backgrounds and experience. The Event Space is in the Cycle Building on Alberta Avenue. Dates for the event are June 17-19.
The Feature Gallery, spanning from June 17th to 30th in the Nina Haggerty Stollery Gallery, will be juried, based on artistic merit but also relevance to theme and cohesion with other submissions. Only 3-4 artists will be selected due to space limitations.  Both 2D and 3D work are welcome.
Artists are invited to submit to the either gallery or both. Those not selected for the Feature Gallery will have the option to have their work displayed in the Event Space instead.
This year's theme: ?rogress 
With every step forward and every tick of the clock we would do well to ask, “Is this progress”? 
Progress is variously defined as moving, walking or going forward. It advances. It implies growth and development, an advancement to higher stages, improvement – becoming better or more complete. It can also denote a journey of state or a circuit; especially, one made by a sovereign through parts of their own dominions. Lastly, it can also refer to the advance or growth of modern, industrialized society, its technology, and its trappings (which every good post-modernist knows is patently false).
To the hopeful, we are a world merging together into a glorious global village where walls fade in the morning mist of technology’s brave new dawn. Political parties, religious denominations and cultural stripes matter less and less as community and relationship and connectedness matter more and more.
To the pessimist the world is going to hell in a very large hand basket. The speeding information superhighway pulls us to frightening places and enables us to fight old wars with new weapons. Our very identities are no longer safe, as the reality of relationship is traded for the convenience of blurted communications mediated through well-crafted avatars.
Individually, and societally, progress often seems tenuous at best. We focus on two steps backward and forget forward moves. We forge new year’s fitness commitments only to laze and binge by springtime. We dig freshly into spiritual commitments that fizzle out and leave us wearied. We stare into the glaring eyes of habits that just won’t die.  We remain haunted by past regrets we cannot seem to shake. The “me” I don’t like seems to wake me up each morning, and the “me” I want to be seems to leave me in his racing dust.
Time is moving forward and we are aging, year by year. But are we growing? Is this progress? Future. Past. Dawning utopia. Impending apocalypse. The long lost golden age. I am building a better me. I am fighting my demons. This is all of that and more. This is progress.

deadlines are as follows:
  • Feature Gallery (June 17-30, 2011) submission deadline April 15, 2011
  • Event Space (June 17-19, 2011) submission deadline May 31, 2011
  • Short Film Presentation (in the Event Space) submission deadline May 31, 2011

for more information, or to download the call for submissions, please go here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

eidos, eidetic, eidolon!

i found a great word recently, courtesy of, and enjoyed the resulting etymological trail. the word was eidos (n): "the formal sum of a culture, its intellectual character, ideas, etc." as is probably self-evident, it's from the greek eidos (form, idea), and ultimately from the indo-european root weid (to see), which is in turn the source of words such as wise, view, supervise, wit, and eidetic.

interestingly, eidetic - which means both "marked by extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall" and "pertaining to the faculty of projecting images" was derived from the german eidetisch, and coined by german psychologist erich jaensch (1883-1940) circa 1924. it also hails from the greek eidetikos - "pertaining to images" and/or "pertaining to knowledge," from eidesis (knowledge), and again from eidos (form, shape), and the indo-european root *weid, as above.

eidos is descended from oid - suffix for "like, like that of," from greek oeides, from eidos, which is related to idein (to see), eidenai ("to know"; lit. "to see"); all of which are ultimately derived from the proto-indo-european root *weid-es, from base *weid (to see, to know). this root is also the root for vision.

vision hails from the late 13c. - "something seen in the imagination or in the supernatural", from anglo-french visioun, old french vision, from latin visionem (act of seeing, sight, thing seen), in turn derived from videre (to see) and from proto-indo-european base *weid (to know, to see).

this root has a plethora of derivatives: sanskrit's veda (i know); avestan vaeda (i know); greek oida and doric woida (i know) and idein (to see); old irish fis (vision), find (white - i.e. clearly seen), fiuss (knowledge); welsh gwyn, gaulish vindos, breton gwenn (all of which denote white); gothic/ old swedish/ old english witan (to know); gothic weitan (to see); english wise and german wissen (to know); lithuanian vysti (to see), bulgarian vidya (i see); polish widzieć (to see) and wiedzieć (to know); russian videt' (to see), vest' (news) and old russian vedat' (to know). the meaning of "sense of sight" is first recorded in the late 15c. vision's denotation of "statesman-like foresight, political sagacity" is attested from 1926.

by now, you're probably wondering where i'm going with this...well, hold on. all this talk of beholding, seeing, knowing, vision started me thinking about that other eidos word: idol.

idol, which from the mid-13c., denotes the "image of a deity as an object of (pagan) worship," from old french idole, from lay latin idolum (image - mental or physical, form). it was used in church latin for "false god". it was derived from the greek eidolon (appearance), later "mental image, apparition, phantom," and also "material image, statue," and again from eidos! its figurative sense of "something idolized" is first recorded in the 1560s. the application of its meaning as "a person so adored" is from the 1590s. idolatry (mid-13c.) comes from old french idolatrie, shortened from lay latin idololatria, from greek eidololatria (worship of idols), from eidolon "image" + latreia "worship, service."

so now i'm thinking about culture and its idols (and our idols);
the way we worship the things we see;
and the way what we see shapes what we worship;
and how what we behold becomes part of us; 
and how we serve those images, whether cultural or internal;
and how vision and "knowing" are inextricably and intimately linked together;
the connection of [internal] vision to the supernatural (perhaps even prophetic?)...

and that, my friends, is a deeply satisfying and engaging word search.