learning platform at rmooc.ca

MOOCing forward

We’re working hard to transform our reworks site into an active Massive Open Online Course focussed on Art and Reconciliation. This will be a no-fee, non-credit course whose purpose will be to create a learning and sharing platform where all participants can become better informed on the various histories, contexts, and politics that surround the topic of Truth and Reconciliation. Our particular lens will be on artistic practice, and one of our major contributing events will be an ongoing arts residency, with twelve participants coming to Kamloops to work in the Thompson River University visual arts studios, for a four-week program. More on this soon, and we hope/plan to have these artists contributing dialogue to this MOOC, through their own posts but also through various forms of video and photo examples of their ongoing processes.

Check back soon for the full-on development of this site, including sign-on details. Oh, and because of the nature of the project, folks can sign in (and out) at any time and there is neither a fee nor credit assigned to the MOOC. It’s expected, though, that profs and students who are participating in for-credit undergrad and grad courses at various institutions can use this platform to develop ideas, potential research assignments, and fruitful dialogues they can bring into their existing courses.

More soon….

Gei Shagyrl: Commemoration

Originally blogged at artistic-inquiry.ca

Oppenheimer Park, downtown eastside, Vancouver. Uncharacteristic bright sunshine, and warm, middle of Februrary. Around the perimeter of the park are 88 red balloons, weighted to the ground and tied off with bright red envelopes.This is in the middle of Chinese New Year, the year of the snake. It is the day after the Memorial march for the missing and murdered women. This is in the heart of what used to be the hub of Japanese Canadian community before internment. Many moments, many histories, colliding and colluding. Read more…

Peter Morin and Bo Yeung, performance

For those of us who were able to stay to the last day of the incubation, we were privileged to see a powerful performance by participants Peter Morin and Bo Yeung. Beginning in front of the former residential school, the performers asked the audience to stay behind a well-defined perimeter as they made a number of gestures and voices toward that particular history. It’s so hard to describe, and any such description does a disservice to the actual performance, so I’ll forego saying more and let folks view the video instead. It’s viewable on the right hand footer side of the reworks main page, or you can see it here:

Reflections on Collaboration

Image: Sophie McCall leading a discussion on collaboration outside Algoma University, formerly Shingwauk Indian Residential School.

Participant Naomi Angel blogs about attending the Forum at tracingmemory.com:

This past weekend, I had the honour of attending Reconciliation Work(s) in Progress: An Innovation Forum in Sault Ste Marie. It was a challenging, inspiring, and hopefully, productive event. Instead of conference presentations, the event was set up as a series of roundtable discussions where participants could have conversations about reconciliation (or conciliation as some participants preferred) and the role of art and artists in the process. On Saturday, most of the academics packed up to leave and the artists stayed behind for the “incubation” period. They were charged with the task of working through many of the points of conversation (and contention) that were raised throughout the few days of the event.

Sometimes writing a dissertation can be isolating. It can feel like you are busy creating relationships with books, instead of with people. The event in Sault Ste Marie encouraged connection and collaboration, as well as dialogue and art practice as a way to engage reconciliation. I’m looking forward to following the progress (and process) of the talented artists participating in this event. If you want to follow it too, check out ReWorks, the online site for the project.

In the meantime, I am left with the feeling that reconciliation is an act of creation.  It is about new conversations and discussions, about creating new archives, producing artwork, dialogue and new relationships. The event in Sault Ste. Marie was not only about creative collaboration, but collaborative creation as one way in which the process of reconciliation can move forward.



Photo: Ashok Mathur

The Reconciliation Works in Progress symposium and artists incubation has ended, but I am still vibrating with ideas, new and old friendships, possibilities. Even though the events are complete, people seem to remain charged. Returning to our respective homes, the energy seems to continue—a buzz rippling through social media and day to day conversation. I keep hearing from folks in Vancouver who’ve been following the dialogue across Facebook, Twitter, art and poetry circles.

Stay tuned for more images, discourse and dialogue. The organizers are working to build out phase 2 in order to share more of the amazing work / thinking going into and coming out of the gathering.

The post post-incubation? appeared first on REWORKS.

performance as an act of intervention – part two

Victims suggest innocence. And innocence, by the inexorable logic that governs all relational terms, suggests guilt. Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. AIDS and Its Metaphors, ch. 1 (1989)

… performance has participated in shaping ourunderstanding and experience of AIDS……theatrical practices as instances of various cultural moments – in all their multiplicity and even contradiciton… ACTS OF INTERVENTION; Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS by David Román (Introduction, 1998)


an excerpt from WHAT’S IT LIKE? – EXCERPT ENTITLED; Does This Giacometti Make Me Look Fat or ART IMMUNO DEFICIENCY SYNDROME – written and performed by David Bateman

I get tired of the excessive minimalism cluttering the stark white walls of the post pre-middle modern wing, so I wander away form the posing as straight, poly amorous bisexual couple with the autistic grand daughter in the black and white room and then I see them again in the Giacometti gallery 

 And I ask the woman if she would be so kind as to take my photo beside The Walking Man sculpture

She politely agrees to do so, and when she is finished I thank her and say,

“Does this Giacometti make me look fat?”

She smiles a quizzical smile and walks away

I wasted my best joke of the day on her.

But that was my aim.

I wanted to see how she would respond, so I said something peculiar to her to see what her reaction would be.

I can be such a rude, manipulative bastard sometimes.

It’s great fun.

But there are also times filled with great tenderness and serenity, mostly when I’m all alone.

For example, I daydream about having all of the drinking glasses in my white IKEA kitchen cupboards in perfect order.

I imagine them all standing in a row in a beautiful white cupboard.

And then I begin to imagine filling them all with water while they are still in the cupboard

And then setting up lighting in my kitchen with soft lighting on them.

And then photographing all of the gorgeous glasses

And the photo comes out this stunningly beautiful study in shades of grey and black and white

And I call the photo (pause) Whistler’s Cupboard,

and for those viewers unfamiliar with the original title of the iconic American painting Whistler’s Mother – Arrangement in grey and Black No. 1 – located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (pause) France)

I subtitle the photograph (pause) Water! – and do a series of prints in color with a blue tint for a more (pause) ‘populist’ sensibility

And then one day I go to a gallery where my photograph is hanging

And the couples from (pause) Chicago, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Saskatchewan, Toronto are standing in front of my photograph

And they just stand there and stare at it

She is wearing a loud print skirt and a plain yellow blouse.

He is wearing a pastel sports shirt and plain brown trousers

They look like a modernist diptych tableau vivant come to life

I squint and their bodies in front of the photo begin to look like a collision between Jack Bush (slide) Peter Max (slide) Jules Olitski (slide) and a fabulous silk floral arrangement form the home décor section at Walmart

Through this haze of strained commodified modernism I hear the people begin to speak

(woman speaks first)

It’s just a picture of water glasses. Anyone could have taken that. I wonder how much he got paid for letting them hang it in here.

He should have paid them. Can you buy the art in this place?

No dear, I don’t think you can. But I’m sure there are some lovely postcards in the gift shop.

We should have gone to the gift shop first, then we would have known where the good stuff was.

But we would have missed a lot of interesting things.

What good is it just hanging here all the time? It should be for sale.

Well, if you could buy it, wouldn’t you think that one of the farmer and his wife would have sold by now. It’s very famous.

I read the brochure. That’s not his wife.

What are you saying?

That’s not the farmer and his wife. That’s his daughter.

That’s just stupid.

Well I read it in the brochure.

She looks old enough to be his wife and she’s very homely. And he’s no Rock Hudson himself. Very strange shaped head, but quite life like. I don’t like it.

It’s a good painting. I still find it hard to believe Rock was gay, even though he got the AIDS. I mean, anyone can get it now, right?

[American Gothic slide} I don’t like it so much.

It captures a real sense of those two people as hard working farmers.

I don’t see why you can’t be a hard working farmer and attractive at the same time.

That’s not a nice thing to say, and if you can’t say anything nice [interrupted]

I know, I know, and then don’t say anything at all.

They look like very pleasant down to earth people

They look boring as hell. And if that is his daughter then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Well you really don’t know much about art do you.

And neither do you.

I know what I like.

I know what I don’t like, and I don’t like what you like.

You liked that one of the diner.

Yes, I did. I did like that one. The people in it are quite nice looking.

You can barely see their faces.

You can see enough to tell that they’re good looking.

I heard that the guy who took that photo of the glasses died of AIDS.

Where on earth did you hear that?

When you were in that room looking at all those flowers that look like vaginas I went into the next room and two very feminine gentlemen were standing in front of it and I overhead what they were saying. I think one of them might have been crying. He kept saying how beautiful the glasses were and how the water looked so clear and pure and how it was some kind of metaphor to illness.

Well what on earth was he crying about?

Feminine men get very worked up about AIDS sometimes.

Well I get thirsty looking at that photograph. It makes me thirsty. It certainly doesn’t make me cry, and if he died of AIDS, that photographer, well, it was his own damn fault…


performance as an act of intervention – part one

 “… I oppose the global project and I believe in another kind of global eccentricism project that comes from within, from the bottom up, that is ‘cooked’ on the streets and that organically emerges out of it. You know, the migrations of people throughout the world; and that kind of global project is almost opposite to the one imposed by the master minds of globalization, right?”

Guillermo Gomez Pena

“And what in the hell did Puccini know about the identity crisis of a Japanese Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904 anyway? What in the hell did he know about butterflies? What in the hell do I know about the identity of a Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904? I am a middle aged white Canadian faggot. I have the ethnicity of a loaf of Wonder Bread. My forefathers are the Man from Glad, Mr. Clean, and Jack Daniels. How on earth do I position myself within a fragmented postmodern narrative about an innocent Geisha and Popeye the American sailor man?”      

from Lotus Blossom Speical; Metamorphosis and misidentificaiton in Madama Butterfly by David Bateman

Larissa Lai
Butterfly’s Borders: Gender, Geography, Fantasy and Experience in David Bateman’s Lotus Blossom Special

Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly begins with a mock marriage.  This type of

marriage supposedly belongs to Japanese tradition, at least, in the imagination of the

librettist. The callous American sailor Pinkerton, eager for a temporary Japanese wife

marries the naïve, fifteen-year-old Butterfly in a contract that binds them for nine

hundred and ninety-nine years, “but with the option, at ev’ry month, to cancel the

contract.” Both are ecstatic at the union, but for Pinkerton, it is a frivolity, while for

Butterfly, in spite of her relatives’ admonitions, it is deadly serious. The opera’s tragedy

turns on the misunderstanding between play and reality. This is indicated in the very

opening of the opera, with Pinkerton and Goro observing the mobility of the walls of the

house in which Pinkerton and Butterfly are to be husband and wife. The walls and ceiling

“come and will go, just/ as it may suit your fancy.” Pinkerton calls the house a “fairy

dwelling,” which, Goro observes “Springs like a tow’r from nowhere.” Like the fairy

house, Butterfly, for Pinkerton, is a toy (“the age/ of playthings”)  to play with until he

marries “a real wife from America.” To Butterfly, who, in the logic of the opera, inhabits

only the world of play, the marriage is serious and solemn. Those who live in fairyland

experience it as “real.” Tellingly, while showing Pinkerton her treasures, she throws

away her pot of carmine (the stuff of artifice) but keeps the very real dagger her father

used to commit suicide at the Mikado’s command some years prior.

The opera draws a frame around Butterfly, her house, and indeed, Japan itself. It

is self-aware, but it is not self-reflexive in the sense of seeing it’s imperialist

misrecognition of Asian women. It lays the error of reading at Butterfly’s feet. She can

not see who she is. Pinkerton might be callous, but because he is American (and real) and

she is Japanese (and therefore of the imagination), he cannot be expected to stay with her.

In the logic of the opera, Butterfly’s tragedy lies in her own misrecognition of both

herself and her lover.

Of course we, as good postcolonial readers think we know better. We understand

that Madama Butterfly is a racist, imperialist imagining of Asian femininity. In the

context of American imperialism in Asia, if one thinks of its military bases in the

Phillipines, or more pointedly Vietnam (which is what makes the newer rendition of the

opera, Miss Saigon, so appalling) the international political context in which the opera

circulates is racist and offensive. The right-on stance of contemporary race politics is to

read the opera as a bad Western race fantasy, and move on to produce other, better

representations. However, in recent years, as myself and others have discussed elsewhere, 

the difficulty of producing “better representations” that do not get consumed in a newly

Orientalist way, has shown itself to be difficult if not impossible.

David Bateman’s performance piece Lotus Blossom Special, then, takes on a

slightly different strategy. He re-engages the narrative of the opera to show us something

about whiteness, masculinity, camp and queer sexuality. In so doing, he reveals that these

may in fact be the real subjects of the original opera, and not Asian femininity at all.

Puccini may have been more conscious of this than his audiences, if the framing is any


Days of incubation

It’s been a fired up few days, our group of artists meeting, contemplating, performing, creating, here at the Rework(s) in progress incubation. So much to say, to write, to move with poetry and image, but still such unspoken spaces. Here, a few images from our Monday afternoon gathering, where Leah Decter took the piece she’s been working on with Jaimie Isaac, who couldn’t join us this time as she’s just had a baby!, entitled (official denial) trade value in progress, a project where folks are encouraged to comment upon a Stephen Harper statement denying the existence of colonialism in Canada. These statements are sewed into the fabric of several Hudson’s Bay blankets, a palimpsest of history and that which has come before us.

(official denial) trade value in progress, outside Shingwauk Hall

official denial, a closer look

official denial, under the maple tree, Shingwauk

Global Tourism at Plymouth Rock



The modern American tourist now fills his experience with pseudo-events. He has come to expect both more strangeness and more familiarity than the world naturally offers. He has come to believe that he can have a lifetime of adventure in two weeks and all the thrills of risking his life without any real risk at all.

Daniel J. Boorstin quotes (American social historian and educator, 1914)

“Times have changed,

And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.”


“If today,

Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.”



 “In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.” 


“…The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today…”


SNOW GLOBE the final purchase

lyrics from Anything Goes by Cole Porter


Opening day of reworks

Poster on Queen Street, downtown Soo

History in the chapel

The first afternoon and evening of the reworks gathering, off to a stunning start. Couldn’t get by, though, without first noting how the more things change, the more, well…. This is a movie poster from a somewhat dated film (and concept) found on Queen Street in the downtown of the Soo. Saw this while wandering with David Garneau (our keynote tomorrow), Steve Loft (one of our curatorial organizers) Ayumi Goto (fresh from finishing the written component of her comps only yesterday), and Robinder Sehdev (who some of you will have seen published in Cultivating Canada).

But that is the small of it. The large is the site we’re on, and we have Don Jackson, a tireless worker and organizer here on the Algoma campus, to thank for the tour he gave our group members this afternoon. As always, he was engaged, articulate, and passionate about his work. And as always, a pleasure to have here as such a foundation. That’s him at the pulpit (or almost) regaling our crowd with some of the histories that came to shape Shingwauk. A reverse shot looks out at the street on a beautiful fall day, framed by a church entrance that has seen many histories pass through its doors, undoubtedly.

We finished off the tours and then moved to talks and performances that told further stories of the land and its people. A powerful way to start to comprehend a lot of the pasts that create our presents, formational in their intricacy, and sometimes ugly detail.

We close in a short bit with a celebration. A launch of the Reconcile This! issue of West Coast Line. We’ve had the online version up for a while but this is the first display and distribution of the hardcopy version, wonderful of design and powerful of content. This truly allows us new ways of considering those pasts and how they might develop our futures.