Spring arts preview

Bryhanna Greenough takes a look ahead at some of the offerings coming to town.

Annie Pootoogook

There’s plenty of art coming out of the North these days that has nothing to do with soapstone carvings of polar bears and sled dogs, and although Anni Pootoogook may be among the most northerly of the northern—Baffin Island’s Cape Dorset—for this exhibit you’ll have to leave any notions of what constitutes Inuit art at the door.

Using pencil crayon outlined in ink, Pootoogook renders ordinary Inuit folk in their jeans and sneakers, chilling in living rooms, watching Saddam Hussein or Peter Mansbridge on TV. A kid plays Nintendo. A big stereo system fills up a room, a Quartz brand clock looks as if it’s been just stuck to the wall, Playboys, a couple watching porn in bed… Pootoogook makes her point: her people are part of an increasingly homogenous international community.

Many of these works come from a tough place. In “Man Abusing Partner,” a woman is on the bed screaming, and he’s coming at her with a 2×4. As in a piece of lumber.

It’s dark. It’s messed up.

Another image shows a family sound asleep in a tent. A Coleman stove, a cooler, tarps, foamies, peanut butter—these are all included as part of their experience. But you can also see the big stitches holding the tent together, the rocky earth where the tarp ends.

The stories running through Annie Pootoogook’s images are at once personal but reflect broader circumstance. It’s as if she’s saying ‘This is how we live.’

Annie Pootoogook: Drawings of domestic interiors and outpost camps reflect the disparate social, economic and physical realities of today’s Canadian North, addressing issues such as alcoholism, domestic violence, suicide, depression & drug addiction, The Rooms, 9 Bonaventure Ave 757-8000 (Ends June 1)

Alternative Worlds

If you’re fed up with Newfoundland’s unforgiving environment, you have to check out Peter Bell’s Alternative Worlds. Even though the works were completed in Newfoundland, you won’t find any stunted spruce, jagged cliffs or that particular dark shade of green in this exhibit.

You know that green I’m talking about.

Bell came to Newfoundland in the early 6os—himself fed up with the cold and gray weather—built a series of geodesic greenhouse domes in Outer Cove where he and his wife grew orchids. In this sanctuary he’d translate the interior, stock them with jungle plants and ponds full of goldfish—reflected in these silkscreen prints.

Revel in the bright colour and bounteous plant life while taking in the generous views of goldfish mouthing bubbles on the water’s surface.

Peter Bell, who left for the UK in the 80s, will be returning to our formidable land to introduce us to “Alternative Worlds.”

Peter Bell’s Alternative Worlds: The Rooms (Opening reception Fri, Mar 14 at 7:30pm / Discussion w/ artist on Sun, Mar 16 at 2 pm)

Eastern Edge Video Series

Video art. What is it? No one really seems to know.

But Eastern Edge Gallery is trying to get people talking about it.

As part of this series, Eastern Edge Gallery has wrangled a guest curator from every province and territory in the country. Once a month, one will be coming here with a program of contemporary video work from their region.

In a nutshell, while cinema generally aims to entertain, video art plays with the limitations of its own medium and your expectations. So you’re more likely to experience video art as part of a gallery installation than at film festival.

The upcoming screening is with guest curator Lulu Keating from The Yukon. She’ll be bringing five works by five different artists that explore their land and themselves.

Stone Bruise, a video by Dan Sokolowski, is explained as: “A surreal trip up the legendary Dempster Highway. Linked by a road and a battered windshield, hand processed/tinted 16mm images flow past the viewer in an ever changing mosaic of landscape, form and colour.”

The monthly video series will also function as a starting point for discussing innovations in the world of new media. Technology-based installation, YouTube—all sorts of possibilities are out there.

By creating a regular venue for video work, Eastern Edge Gallery is hoping more local interest in new media will develop, which could eventually mean more support for a stronger new media contingent in their own gallery.

Upcoming screenings:
Eastern Edge Video Series w/ Lulu Keating (YUKON) Wild and Wooly – Films from Yukon’s Northern Edge including animation, drama, documentary & experimental, The Rooms Theatre 739-1882

Eastern Edge Video Series w/ Tim Dallett (SK) showcases some of his work which focuses on “live cinema” hybrids of video, sound, installation and performance, The Rooms Theatre 739-1882

Eastern Edge Video Series w/ Mille Clarkes (PEI) hopes to explore the history, context, potential, virtues and vices of new media by exposing it to new audiences, The Rooms Theatre 739-1882


What if Native Americans had been motivated to invade Europe back in the time of the Crusades? What if Wonder Woman had been around for the Acadian Expulsion?

New Brunswick artist Mario Doucette asks these questions and more in his upcoming exhibit “Histoires”.

In the series Doucette conjures up epic scenes of war, and touchstones of comtemporary popular culture are set free within them. It’s a kind of video game world, or even a kind of Playmobil kingdom.

In “Croisade”, the sword-wielding crusaders take on loin-clothed natives who’ve arrived in canoes to attack. In another work, unmistakeable Red Coats have a curling match on a frozen pond while a village burns.

Doucette explains, “I try to understand the hideous complexities of the human condition while, at the same time, looking at the world from a child’s point of view.”

Histoires: Mario Doucette’s (Moncton, NB) recent body of paintings depicts historical battles between opposing nations and explores two alternative, imaginary outcomes, Eastern Edge Gallery, 72 Harbour Dr 739-1882 (May 3 – Jun 14)

Solid State

Montreal break dancing crew Solid State are making their way to St. John’s for this year’s Festival of New Dance.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to catch one of their sold-out shows at the Montreal Fringe Festival. It was one of those shows where you walk out high and hungry for more.

For the Festival of New Dance, Solid State will perform “Take it Back”, a 50 minute show where they ask the question “Why don’t we dance in couples anymore?”

Cross-pollenating breakdancing with old-style swing dancing, the ensemble tries to figure out a partnered dance for our generation, a generation of solo dancers. The result is a playful exchange between partners where there’s no clear leader. The dancers explore individuality, boundaries and trust.

It’s more than an expression of hip hop, and more than a mere demonstration of athleticism and acrobatics.

Here’s a video clip from “Take it Back”:

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Solid State will perform at the 18th Annual Festival of New Dance running from June 17 – 22. Check website for details: www.­neighbourhooddanceworks.com

6th Annual Screen Arts Festival

Holy Heart High School is organizing a show of short films created by high school students from across Canada. Films from O’Donnel, Gonzaga, Holy Heart, Bishop’s College and Holy Trinity High School are representing the home turf.

What young filmmakers may lack in experience can be made up for in technological intuit. Coming of age at a time when technology rules, they can maneuver around programs like Adobe Premiere as if that’s what they were born to do. No doubt through experimentation and play they’re discovering new ways to use their tools.

Check out this next generation of innovators.

WEDNESDAY, Mar 19 at 6:30pm
6th Annual Screen Arts Festival: A festival of film & new media by high school students across Canada & locally, $1/$2, MUN Inco theatre jenniferscurlock@esdnl.ca

John Steffler

Although Parliamentary Poet Laureate is a lofty title, don’t think for a second Steffler hides away in some official government tower writing poems about nothing.

At the bottom of his resumé, Steffler lists past jobs: farm hand, janitor, carpenter, deck hand, library clerk, shoemaker, substitute teacher…

He has been called a ‘people’s poet’. He’s really lived and he’s really worked, and his poetry is cobbled using the language of everyday speech.

Driving from Stephenville in the late October
dusk — the road swooping and disappearing ahead
like an owl, the hills no longer playing dead
the way they do in the daytime, but sticking their black
blurry arses up in the drizzle and shaking themselves,
heaving themselves up for another night of
leapfrog and Sumo ballet

(From “That Night We Were Ravenous”)

Corner Brook is Steffler’s chosen home and Newfoundland—the land, the weather, the people—are all part of his poetry. Of Newfoundland, he writes “nature is rowdy and naked, and people fit right in.”

Read his biography and check out a couple poems at: www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/steffler/index.htm

John Steffler will share some of his poetry at a free reading on March 14. The following day as part of this year’s Pratt Lecture Series, Steffler will present “The Uses of Poetry,” exploring its value in today’s world.

Poetry Reading w/ Parliamentary Poet Laureate John Steffler, free, Petro Canada Hall, MUN Music (Fri, Mar 14 at 7:30pm)

Pratt Lecture Series: John Steffler will be giving an oration on the theme “The Uses of Poetry,” where he will explore the special value of poetry in contemporary society, free, MUN Inco Centre IIC-2001, parking area 18 (Sat, Mar 15 at 8pm)

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