Art & Culture Featured

Two published items

On Curating

I was honoured to be a contributor to a new online publication, On Curating, an independent international web-journal focusing on questions around curatorial practice and theory, published by Dorothee Richter. For the inaugural issue, the editors asked thirty-one curators a series of questions around what topics in curating they would most like to see discussed, about key resources online, and about exhibitions and peers that have influenced them.

I’m also very pleased to be included in Decentre, the latest book to be released by YYZ Books. “decentre is a book about artist-run culture that hopes to describe the breadth and quality of artist-initiated programs, projects and events, the issues we face in this milieu and how effectively we deal with them, that aims to both celebrate artist-run culture and demonstrate the vital role artist-initiated activity plays in the larger cultural scene.” I wrote about the future of artist-run culture as it relates to digital media and audience development.

I know these “what MK has been doing elsewhere” posts are not the most interesting… but at the very least, they keep everyone up to date! Hopefully I’ll post another opinion piece soon.

Art & Culture

Lead Into Gold

“…the majority of popular culture is worthless, anti-democratic, scelerotic garbage”, according to Stephen Moss, writing recently on the Guardian’s blogs. Mr Moss’ article is in part a reaction to a new report from Oxford sociologists that has determined that the cultural elite does not exist. The report suggests that there are actually four groups of cultural consumers, which Moss summarises as: “univores, who like popular culture; omnivores, who like everything from Posh Spice to Puccini; paucivores, who absorb little culture; and inactives, who absorb none (is that possible?).”

Moss’ article takes a rather extreme stance against all forms of pop culture, and revels in the notion that despite the research taking place at Oxford, there may still be those faithful enough to high art that they are blissfully ignorant that pop culture even exists.

While I consider myself an “omnivore” as defined by the report, I sympathise with what I believe is the underlying sentiment in Moss’ article – that in general, we don’t recognise and appreciate true quality enough of the time. However, in my recent trawling of “best of 2007” lists that multiply across the world wide web like mushrooms at the end of December, I found two pieces of work that, once and for all, firmly solidified the value of popular culture in my mind.

As the CBC’s “Best of 2007” list editors put it, Alanis Morissette’s parody of the song “My Humps” by Black Eyed Peas “…almost justifies its existence”.

Alanis, herself a pop princess (albeit with a more “serious” persona) takes lyrical gems (cough, cough) from the Black Eyed Peas like this:

What you gonna do with all that junk?
All that junk inside that trunk?
How’m I gonna get get get you drunk
Get you drunk off this hump?

…and makes it actually, almost, kind of — beautiful. The melody is memorable, and the parody is spot-on. It takes a “hit” that I never bothered to listen to, and recycles it into something infinitely more interesting, if even to simply take note of precisely how ridiculous the original lyrics are.

Peaches, another “popular culture” phenom, takes the whole parody of this one amazingly banal song to the next level, by applying her usual raw and raunchy treatment, but also folding in elements of Alanis’ parody.

What’s marvellous about Peaches taking the parody a bit further is that it picks up where Alanis left off. Alanis did a great job of laying bare the inanity of the lyrics of the original song. Peaches links the whole thing back to the inanity of daily life – our dumps, our humps. Perhaps there will never be a Top 40 hit about our dumps, or our shopping list, or taking children to daycare, or going to the gym and doing the same routine for the fortieth time. It makes one wonder why there is a song about “how’m I gonna get get get you drunk” at all, since that sentiment is about as interesting as my shopping list. Or perhaps even less interesting, depending on what I’m shopping for?

And so, Mr Moss, that’s the value of pop culture today, for those of us who fancy ourselves to be a bit more highbrow, or at the very least, “omnivores” by the standards of Oxford researchers: the best and the worst of it can be fodder for other artists to make bigger, more interesting statements. To turn lead into gold, as it were.

Hat tip to the CBC’s “Best of 2007” list, which led me to both of these gems. If you really want to get get get the original version of “My Humps”, you can click here.

Art & Culture

xxxboîte launch


If I was in Montreal tomorrow, I would certainly be going to this launch! It’s an event to celebrate the release of xxxboîte, a collection of critical writing and a DVD compilation of works celebrating the last 10 years of Montreal’s own new media and network arts centre for women – Studio XX.

First, the details:
Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Time: 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Location: Gallery Yergeau, 2060 Joly, (one block west of St. Denis, just up from Ontario) Montreal, QC

Kick off the 2007 HTMlles festival with a toast to the community that made it all happen. New texts from one of the four founding mothers, Kim Sawchuk, as well as extraordinary artists, Anna Friz, J.R. Carpenter, Michelle Kasprzak, and Marie-Christine Mathieu, and a DVD compilation that is part humourous, part touching, and all guerilla girl action – a true portrait of Studio XX!

Next, the reminiscing: I knew of XX for a long time, but my first real interaction with it was being invited to participate in one of their excellent Femmes Branchées events in 2003. That particular event was themed “Home“, and I presented my interactive piece Scrub, which explores eroticism and domesticity. Dr Perla Serfaty-Garzon was a perfect foil to my comedic performance (complete with featherduster and rubber gloves) in a housewife persona. Shortly thereafter I moved to Montreal, and became the Studio’s technician for a while, as well as being involved in several projects and participating on the programming committee. I have so many happy memories around the Studio and all the people that make up the XX community, which makes it a real honour to take part in xxxboîte and the 10th anniversary. Bonne fête et félicitations, Studio XX!