Neighbouring Queen West galleries Erin Stump Projects and Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects have unwittingly teamed up to bring us the perfect summer mix: tropical colour gradients and beautiful boys.
'Tropical Contact High' is an immersive, collaborative installation by Susy Oliveria and Lauren Hall. The duo has literally set the stage for this exhibition by transforming the gallery space into a superficial beachfront film backdrop: the floors have been painted a sandy beige, the walls feature ribbons of sea blue variants and every outlet powers a sickeningly sweet tropical fruit air freshener. Additionally, Hall and Olivera present their works on artisanal plinths wrapped in stock posters of beach sunsets and framed at their bases by starbursts of coloured, glittery sand.
Lauren Hall’s hanging planter worlds are the perfect summation of the au courant thirst for sparkles, neon, kitshcy craft and cacti. Her layered sand works are at the same time powerfully nostalgic, recalling both my childhood dirt collection and a corked bottle of psychedelic, swirling sand that sat on the windowsill of my childhood bedroom for ages.
Susy Oliveria’s collage sculptures never cease to excite me. The artist’s established interest in natural elements and landscape transfer easily to the beachside, where she’s experimenting in exciting ways. Oliveria is best known for building three-dimentional forms from two-dimensional photographs; but for this exhibition, she’s relying less on representational quotations and is testing out a more abstracted, geometric language. Additionally, Oliveira plays with the boundaries of collage in , which is a photograph of the sun through cutouts. It’s a seamless collage of paper and light.
At first, Shauna Born's exhibition at Katharine Mulherin feels a cold, quiet counterpart to 'Tropical Contact High'. The small format portraits rendered in everyday Bic pen seem to bring one's temperature down somewhat; until you look more closely, that is. Politely named 'Galore', the exhibition features a selection from the artist's All The Boys I’d Like To Fuck series. Each delicate, detailed and sensitively rendered drawing is a thus meditation of desire and sex. The portraits reveal a particular fetish for hair that references Steven Shearer’s metal heads and Kris Knight’s ethereal pretty boys. Both shows are literally hot and should not be missed.
Sometimes what’s great about Toronto is the ease at which one can escape it. What’s better than jumping on to the ferry and leaving the cars, smog and streetcars behind for a day or evening on the Island? Frisbee, snacks, sand, beers, cold lake water and boats.
On Saturday, June 30, The Good headed to Whippersnapper's New Traditions festival on Toronto Island. Our day began with a rendezvous at Dundas and Spadina, where the heat of the city was dense and loud. After darting our bikes between lines of stalled, spewing cars and riding through a string of concrete parking-lots as possible, we arrived at the ferry docks to find a discouragingly long line of thirsty, weary city dwellers. The tone for the rest of our New Traditions adventure was set shortly thereafter by a kind couple who offered us a pair of extra ferry tickets. Gleefully, we bypassed the waiting masses and caught the next ferry to Hanlan’s Point.
I’d not been to the Island in over fifteen years, which became an apparent sin in my mind as soon as we landed on its shore. It’s another world on the Island, and the collective exhale was audible as our ferry fellows dispersed along the various footpaths. Interestingly, I’d recently learned that my grandpa built a house on the Island in the 1940s; and his grandfather was the caretaker of Hanlan’s Point. This close-at-hand place, made closer by this personal history, seemed strangely foreign and unknown.
The festival grounds were idyllic, divided into two perfect halves: the Artscape site amongst the trees and the sparkling, sun-drenched beach. The forest was the home of the main stage, an imaginative construction made from wood and reflective materials that animated the music program, which featured a range of artists including The Elwins, Nick Teehan, Maria Bonita & The Band and Wilderness of Manitoba. The Elwins, in particular, won me over with their 1960s British boy band vibe, and I imagined setting the lot of them up on an epic dream date with mine and Caroline’s current girl band crush, Best Coast. I knew they were keepers when they busted out their cover of Beyonce’s Countdown.
Daydreaming about boy-band-girl-band-love-magic in the grass didn’t stop us from getting serious about the face painting, grilled corn and cold beer also on offer; nor did it prevent us from spending far too much time lying in the direct sun on the beach, where there was a second stage. Over the course of the sunny afternoon, the beach stage was graced by such talents as the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, The Roofhoppers, the The Slocan Ramblers and Lido Pimienta, whose haunting voice we know well from her springtime performance at the OCAD U Student Gallery.
The beach was a dream that I’ll always recall. We were a happy group of artists, poets, musicians, dancers and clowns who played freely between the soft sand, brilliant sun and sharp water. We drank secret beers, ate too much trail mix and took naps. There were shanties, sculptures and even a floating white-cube gallery space that set sail at sundown.
The dark night is a string of bright moments: the harmonies of Wilderness at dusk after a hot, salty dinner of sausages, coleslaw and locally grown salad greens; a heart-stopping swim in the blackening lake; following the lively beats of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra from the main stage to the moonlit beach for fireworks; a candlelit Geodesic Dome; dancing under the stars to the amazing new sound of the homegrown Ark Analog; and being fireside with Flamencos Del Norte.
We were returned by chartered ferry to the mainland sunburnt, exhausted, happy and sure that this was a the start of an epic New Tradition.
Vanessa (with amazing pictures by Caroline)
Toronto’s all rainbows this weekend. HAPPY PRIDE!!!
The Bike Biennale was a success! Few of our wares were actually sold, which is a shame when one considers that we’d accidentally and fortuitously coincided with the massive Trinity Bellwoods Yard Sale. That being said, we all had tons of fun, looked great and ate heaps of quality ice cream! Thank you to the brilliant Amy Pettifer for inspiring the event; and thank you to Take To The Sea, the OCAD U Student Press, Antonio Lennert and Lucas Murnaghan, Matt Moreland, Marta Chudolinska, Chloe Bisaillon and a handful of others for participating! A huge thank you also to all of those who came out to show us support, including Shannon Gerard, Zach Pearl and Isabel Gertler. Here’s to bikes, ice cream and local love always.
I’ve got a thing for vintage books, especially ones with cheesy covers, fabulous retro fonts, and irresistibly enticing tag lines like “Nothing would stand in her way - not her friends, her children, her church - not even death itself!” I started collecting these beautiful yellowed books full of romance and murder, tragedy and lust at a book market in Bangkok and have continued to scour the one dollar bins at used book stores ever since. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some of these stories by the pool this summer.
A week from Saturday, on June 16, Caroline and I are hosting a Bike Biennale! What’s that, you ask? Well, it all began in England with my brilliant friend, Amy Pettifer. Amy and I I met as Stewards for the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. Soon thereafter she coordinated a Bicycle Biennale event in the UK, which was meant to be a community level, grassroots version of the high profile, international art event we’d been a part of. She invited makers and artists to gather together on their bikes after having transformed their bike baskets into market stalls and/or gallery spaces. The pop-up event critiqued the exclusivity and economy of the art world, whilst also promoting cycling, buying local etc. Amy is flying all the way from London to Toronto for a visit next Wednesday, and it made sense to plan a Toronto event in her honour since Caroline and I share the philosophies cycling and creative community implicit in the Bicycle Biennale. Amy, welcome to Toronto!
For months Vanessa has been asking me to make her a hip hop mix. I’ve been into the hop for a long time now, so the task of making a single definitive mix was, well, impossible. I needed a focus, so I chose to make a three part mix of a lot of the hip hop that got me obsessed with the genre in the first place.
My love for hip hop happened early on. It was the summer of 1995 and I was going away to summer camp for the first time. I was allowed to buy three tapes before leaving and so I went with my mom to HMV (or was it Sam The Record Man?) and bought “The Sign” by Ace of Base, Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” and “The Score” by the Fugees. I distinctly remember listening to The Fugees, whom I had discovered on the Much Music countdown, while driving away from the city in a bus full of girls. I was blushing because of all the swearing on the album but couldn’t press the stop button. I still have that very cassette and I still play it. It’s funny to think of myself listening to it at the age of ten.
The next big moment in my early explorations of hip hop took place while reading an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio in a teen magazine a little later in the 90s. In the interview, he was asked what his favourite band was and he answered “A Tribe Called Quest.” As I had a serious Leo crush at the time (who didn’t?) I took it upon myself to find out who this “Tribe” was; the rest is history. I am forever grateful to Leonardo DiCaprio for introducing me to Tribe. I think for most people who’ve got love for the hop, it began with A Tribe Called Quest. They are the gateway drug to hip hop.
One of my oldest and dearest friends Chloë used to make me hip hop mixes in high school and they were the GREATEST. It was Chloë that got me hooked on Mos Def, Blackstar and The Roots. Once we acquired fake IDs, we started frequenting Andy Poolhall for hip hop Tuesdays, where all the best breakdancers in the city would go to bust a move. We went to shows together too; The Roots, Common, Rythmicru, Madlib. A lot of of those shows were at The Reverb on Queen and Bathurst (RIP). We even took the fateful greyhound to NYC together for the Rock The Bells festival. I’ll never forget listening to Brooklyn by Mos Def, while rolling into Bucktown on the subway with her.
At University, it was Dave that really matured my palette for the genre. In first year he left a hip hop mix outside my res. room door after we’d been talking music in the cafeteria. I put it in my discman and went on a jog. I generally dislike running, but that day I didn’t want the run to end. We’ve been exchanging mix cds for almost a decade now. It was Dave that introduced me to West Coast hip hop through People Under the Stairs and The Pharcyde. I can’t listen to Black Moon, Camp Lo or Erik Sermon without thinking of him. To this day he’s still exposing me to “ill shit.” Just last week he brought over his new record “Relax” by Das Rascist for me to listen too. The tracks he picked out as his favourite were most definitely the best. I’m convinced the man should be a producer, or make a Ken Burnz documentary on the history of hop.
I grew up listening to hip hop. The genre has shaped the way I feel about cities, about graffiti, poetry and music. I hope these mixes get you hooked on the hop V-dawg! You can listen to the mixes here.
P.S You may notice there aren’t any chicks on this mix, which isn’t usually the way I role. Don’t fret, I’m working on another mix of dem fly girls! Stay tuned.
Read “this place sucks” written in the dust that’s settled on an empty storefront window in the lower level of an ugly condo development on Queen Street West. See our sticker on the left.
This past weekend, Caroline and I rolled out our first phase of our Queen Street West sticker campaign, which was sparked by the recent openings of both Loblaws and CB2 on Queen Street, west of Spadina. The gentrification of the once bohemian strip is certainly not a new phenomenon; but as the big-box stores encroach further and further west, and as small storefronts like Comrags jump ship, we can’t help but feel that all is almost lost. Of course, we can’t stop ugly, cold condo developments from moving ahead, and we can’t dissuade tourists and neighbours alike from frequenting Teaopia; but we can speak out against the changes that we were too young to fight against at their beginnings.
I’ve been working my way through The Life and Death of American Cities by local legend Jane Jacobs, and the chapter on the self-destruction of diversity rings so true to me after considering the decline of Queen Street West. The chapter meditates on the fragility of areas that realize success for being mixed use. We all love those neighbourhoods that incorporate different types of people and business, because they feel safe, inclusive, fun and interesting. Of course, any area that becomes marked as a hot spot and begins to attract outsiders is widely acknowledged to be on the brink of collapse as rents are bound to rise and corporate tenants are sure to push out the independents that gave the area its winning character in the first place.
And so, it seems, we’re witnessing a suicide. Queen Street became too hip for its own good; and without the protections and regulations appealed for by its longtime residents and championed by thinkers like Jacob herself, Queen West, like Yorkville and Yonge Street before it, is sure to become a memory.
Queen West, you died too soon; and we’ll never forget you.
This spring, I caved and bought myself a (very expensive) Toronto-made Fortnight bra. It may seem like I’m revealing too much by writing about my underwear; but this bra is magical and I need to tell everyone about it. If I change the underlife of one woman, it’ll be worth the overexposure.
I didn’t want to make this purchase online, so I headed with resolve to Fortnight vendor The Future of Francis Watson in Parkdale (fittingly, the Fortnight studios are also in Parkdale). If you’ve not been to this spot, you’re missing out. The storefront houses many covetables including Toronto’s own Pomp and Ceremony bow ties, Karen Walker sunnies and private label goodies. The bras waited for me in the shop’s back corner, a vision of blue, beige and black silk. I spent half an hour trying on different styles and sizes before settling on an Ophelia, which, coincidentally, would be one of my favourite names if it weren’t for its inevitable and unfortunate shortening to Fifi.
If I may take the liberty to exaggerate slightly, the bra has changed everything. I’ve spent the last decade wearing either ill fitted underwire bras or unsupportive training bras, and I’ll never go back. When I wear my Fortnight bra, I feel like I’m one step closer to being the perfumed, cigarette-smoking, lipstick-and-slip-wearing, bonified woman that I thought only existed in Hollywood classics or Mad Men.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, I found myself soon thereafter at Toronto landmark Honest Ed’s. Low and behold, I stumbled upon a bin of high waisted, yellow lace, boy short underwear for the totally reasonable price of two dollars! That’s right, a toonie. My bargain boy shorts are the perfect partner to my very nearly bespoke bra.
Ballet used to be a big part of my life. From four to seventeen, I danced two to three nights per week at the very least. I spent most of my dancing days at the Pia Bouman School of Creative Movement in Parkdale; but when I decided to get moving again, I switched it up and enrolled in a class at the National Ballet School on Jarvis Street.
My teacher, Robert McCollum, known affectionately as Ballet Bob, is every bit the legend the precedes him. I’d heard about his methods and character from a number of former students, including my friend Jen, who’d practiced under him during a number of summer dance workshops on the east coast. Ballet Bob is as skinny and as elegant as a slim cigarette. He teaches in rolled jeans, loose t-shirts and socked feet. His long face and toothy smile is positively dramatic, like his personality. On my first day in the class, I was chuffed to hear him proclaim loudly during a barre exercise: “Vanessa, I’m in love with you!” He falls in love a lot during one class, and it elevates us all.
With each class you learn something new about Ballet and about Bob. For example, as Bob was finishing the recently published Apollo’s Angels on the history of ballet, our class learned that ballet began in Italy and that the first incarnations of the art form utilized the upper body almost exclusively, due to the restrictions of courtly dress. We’ve also learned that the frappé is the best defense against shin splints because it’s the only exercise known that can strengthen the shin muscles. Who knew? I was even more surprised to learn that Bob came to ballet late, as an eighteen year old. He trained intensively as a young man in New York City, where he spent evenings playing piroette and balancing games with his dancer roommates because they couldn’t afford to enjoy the city’s nightlife. Romantic, right?!
Our class is sizable and composed of all types; but Bob pulls us all together. He knows us all by name, which is remarkable, and we all worship him for it as it shows his attention to detail and his passion for teaching. I’ve always been turned off of adult level ballet classes because it’s never felt important. By that I mean, it’s hard to feel motivated without a performance, exam or try-out in sight. Class with Ballet Bob is different. We’re all working hard to improve and to be our best because he’s watching and waiting to fall in love with us.
I saw Modeselektor for the first time in Japan three years ago. My plane touched down in Osaka, a place completely foreign to me, and I commuted directly to a Radiohead concert. It was my first time seeing the band live, and so I was too distracted and impatient to give a shit about the opener, Modeselektor. My indifference was shaken as soon as the lights grew dim, the crowd began to cheer, video projections animated the space and the floor vibrated with mind-blowing beats. I had never witnessed anything like it. That night, in Japan, my unrelenting obsession with Modeselektor was born.
It’s hard to describe Modeselektor’s music to anyone you doesn’t know it. It defies genre. Although it’s classified as techno, it’s not quit that. Neither is it straight up electro. It’s sophisticated, intense and unbelievably dancey all at once. The song “Rusty Nails”, on which they collaborated with Aparat (Modselektor + Aparat = Moderat) still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it (and I listen to it a lot). Their remix of Bjork and Antony Hegart’s “Dull Flame of Desire" is truly unbelievable; and “Berlin” from their latest album, Monkeytown, is the greatest party-jam of life. Video projections are integral to the live performances. Modeselektor works closely with Pfadfinderei, whose videos have been displayed at the Centre Pompidou and at the MoMA, to produce custom projections. The seamless combination of music and video makes for an all body high when witnessed in person.
Last month, I took the bus to Montreal, where Modeselektor was playing at The Metropolis. Though I was disappointed that they’d decided against playing a show in Toronto, I wasn’t surprised. Only a handful of people showed up to see them at their last Toronto show at Mod Club. Seriously, WTF!? Though I’m not one to bash Toronto, my experiences at shows as of late would lead me to believe that the local crowd has a penchant for less than awesome party behaviour; and so, I’m glad to have seen my favourite act in Montreal, where everyone was dancing, cheering, whistling and seemingly just as excited as I was.
Let me back this point up with an example. Last weekend, I saw James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) DJ at The Hoxton. He spun one of the most creative sets I’ve ever heard, and yet the crowd was stiff. The majority of people were standing or bopping a little, with the exception of those shoving their way to the stage. I have no problem with wanting to get an upfront view; but there are ways to work the crowd and to move through it without elbowing anyone. To boot, beer bottles were being dropped all over the floor, which seemed lazy and obnoxious considering the intimate size of the venue; and it took a whole lot of will-power not to scream at the creepy guy in front of me, who stood like a brick wall, blatantly inspecting the ladies’ bottoms in front of him. Half way through the set I gave up my spot in the middle of the crowd and moved to the very back of the bar, where other fans were dancing appreciatively to the amazing tunes, away from the bullshit. And although I ultimately had a great time, I couldn’t help but compare the fun Montreal crowd to the infuriating Toronto one that night.
Don’t get me wrong Toronto’s nightlife can be a blast. You can find a satisfying dance party at Cold Tea, The Gladstone or The Boat (to name a few); but I think Toronto’s nightlife needs to mature. Our big venues for live music are crap, and the monthly dance parties like Turning Point or Chronologic often fill up before doors even open because we’re all so desperate to dance!! Our club district is a joke, and as far as I can tell no serious techno or house scene exists here. The city’s nightlife isn’t just isn’t a part of our everyday culture, yet. The club scene is more about getting drunk than it is about dancing to decent music. Montreal is known to be more European than Toronto, and the local nightlife certainly brings our shortcomings to light.
To get a better sense of a Modeselektor show, watch this trailer from their latest tour. This time round they added neon lights to the mix. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
With the next to nothing that’s currently in my chequing account, I’ve literally just opted to buy art instead of food; but what could feed me more than this collage wonder (above) by Melbourne based artist Minna Gilligan?! I mean, LOOK AT IT!!
I wrote a love letter to Minna this past week after having looked longingly at her collages online for months. Of course, when one writes impossibly cool people, one half expects to never hear back; and so I was thrilled to receive an appreciative, sunny response from Minna not one day later that also included some love for The Good: “I just checked out your blog! How beautiful! :) :) :)” (blushing). The two of us then began a fun exchange regarding prices and available works. It was nearly impossible for me to settle on one out of the many available (see below); but ultimately, I was drawn to the sincerity, seriousness and romance of the work pictured above. With just a few elements, Minna ties love, magic, friendship, fate, innocence and doubt into a seductive knot. To see more of her work, check her website or browse through ROOKIE (obsessed).
Thank you, Minna! Let us know if you’re ever in Toronto! x