John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Extra! Hear the News: Missives Broadsheet and Broadcast!

MISSIVES in Vancouver

Extra, extra, read all about it! The newspaper boys’ cries promoting the next big event are true: Missives, a free broadsheet organized by UK artist Patrick Staff and Vancouver based Writer and Curator Robin Simpson is now being distributed to a number of locations in Vancouver and Toronto utilizing Xtra! newspaper boxes re-designed by Staff, each painted black and draped with chain appliques (derived from Tom of Finland drawings that were also incorporated into Staff’s project).

This newsy, for one, is excited about this. Hi there, I’m Jorma Kujala, a Master’s Candidate with SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts’ MA Program in Comparative Media Arts. I am currently completing a practicum with the CAG, and the distribution and maintenance of Simpson and Staff’s reused newspaper boxes is one of the projects I am taking the lead on. Keep your eyes peeled to this blog site, I am looking forward sharing my insights with you about life at the CAG, and together we can explore front-of-house and behind the scenes nooks and crannies of Vancouver’s foremost contemporary arts gallery!

The Missives broadsheet is an extension and companion to a series of screenings in Vancouver (February 12) and Toronto generously supported by the British Council in Canada, and programmed by Patrick Staff and Robin Simpson. I was happy to help out at last month’s screening, as it allowed me a chance to see the films and mix with a great crowd of cinephiles. The appropriated screening location, like the newspaper boxes, retained hints of past uses. For me, the editing equipment scattered about the edges of the Cineworks Annex screening room and the faint smell of darkroom chemicals closed the circle between the past life that created celluloid stories such as those being screened and their current “final life” broadcast to our contemporary audience.

Works screened included Mirha-Soleil Ross’ Gender Troublemakers (1993), Xanthra Mackay’s Rupert Remembers (2000), James Diamond’s The Man from Venus (1999), Mike Hoolboom’s Frank’s Cock (1993) and Gwendolyn and Co.’s Prowling by Night (1990). The Man From Venus, a 4:00 black and white film from 1999, was particularly captivating, in part for its brimming, free-flowing dialogue of one person’s struggles for acceptance and understanding. Its edgy, experimental format, filmed in Vancouver’s downtown periphery, left me twitching both from its rapid-fire monologue, and its theme of life on the edge of humanity. Engaging with this young person’s dialogue and footage of him navigating life on the same streets I incorporate into my urban routine left me wondering if I, or perhaps you, had ever run into him – “… push me, hold me, let go of me, help me, help me…” – and more importantly, how I, or you, would have reacted had we met.

The other film I connected with offered an entirely different, yet equally captivating, personal journey. Rupert Remembers, a 23:45, colour film from 2000 offers Rupert Raj’s personal tour of people, places and spaces pivotal to 70’s and 80’s trans culture in Toronto, and indeed the rest of Canada. His wistful thoughts and reflections, recorded mostly with hand-held cameras, opened a genuine, honest and welcoming view into communities that many have difficulty accessing. I am very appreciative of both films for allowing me to enter their discussions, and offering me my own moment to pause and think… that is, when I wasn’t busy hustling and schlepping drinks from behind the bar!

Yes, from my vantage point serving drinks from behind the bar, the capacity crowd for the Missives screening certainly maximized all the carpeted, lounging floor space, leaving the rest of audience to occupy the periphery seating and standing area. The absorbed conversation by the audience throughout the evening certainly demonstrated the importance of engaging with stories, issues and politics raised by this screening, leaving us volunteers and staff to ever so gently nudge everyone towards the door as the screening wound to a close! I hope the Toronto screening is equally well attended, and generates the same, or more, positive dialogue as that brimming forth from our Vancouver event! And remember: you still have time to check out Patrick Staff’s The Foundation installation, continuing at the CAG until April 24th.

– Jorma Kujala