Join a collective!

Because work, school and life aren’t busy enough, as evident by a complete lack of activity on your blog, you should join a collective. No seriously, trust me – I joined one and it has been great!

Continental Shelf is a writers’ collective formed by some feisty University of Victoria undergraduate writing students.  Why that name? Because we’re on the edge; the edge of our writing careers, the edge of academia, the edge of western Canada, and also because of books!

Last night at Solstice Cafe, Continental Shelf orchestrated its first public event, and it was a fabulous time.

Sean Michaels from Said The Gramophone read two excerpts from his debut novel Us Conductors. Jo, from the collective, led a fantastic interview, touching on what drives one to write and the phase shift form writer to novelist. Munro’s was there selling copies of the beautiful book, and Sean got busy writing inscriptions. Lastly theremin art-pop band Cleopatra & the Nile finished off the night with a performance encompassing a backdrop of black and white films, projected off a reel, while the duo channelled haunting theremin and synth sounds.

Also don’t be fooled by Solstice Cafe’s website – they’re licensed for more than just beer!

For me the highlight of the night, other than camaraderie of course, was Sean’s commentary, and yes I’m paraphrasing, on the cacophony of thematic interrelationships that drove the creation of Us Conductors. For me it was a glimpse into the magic actions, and interactions, that engenders something greater than the whole, pulsing electricity, that overcomes the many barriers and ultimately creates art.

 

Albums of the Year

I’m a huge fan of music – listening to it, not making it. With the exception of An Artist I Admire post featuring Zoe Keating, music has not enjoyed much of the spotlight here at exploring-art.com. Primarily this is because exploring-art is about investigating my less developed interests in the arts. That said, I feel the need to highlight my favourite albums of 2011.

Album of the Year: Kiss Each Other Clean

I am an Iron & Wine fan, but to me Our Endless Numbered Days stood out as the epoch of his achievement. Kiss Each Other Clean is at least on par with Our Endless Numbered Days, and it’s musically very different. It is a beautiful thing, dramatically different yet aesthetically alike. You’ll be left wondering why isn’t there more? Left wishing there were more, and yet you’ll be pleased to play it again.

Canadian Album of the Year: Land & Sea

I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah’s; I learnt of her in the early 2000’s living in Toronto, and I haven’t stopped buying her albums. With Land & Sea, an ambitious double album, Sarah shows off her spectacular vocals, as well as her meticulous compositions and arrangements. This album is one of my favourites, but why is it not at the top of the heap? Since it’s not the performance or the production, I suspect that it may be some of the lyrics that hold it back from perfection. But let’s not forget that Sarah is seen here towering over Feist for Canadian album of the year- No small achievement! For lovers of instrumental collections, I’d highly recommend Sarah Slean’s String Quartet Part II, it’s wonderful.

Underrated Album of the Year: Ceremonials

With headlines like, “More is Less”, I feel Ceremonials was unfairly treated in the press. I must admit after the single Shake it Out, the rest of the album wasn’t what I was expecting… but it grew on me, and now it’s a regular on the home stereo as well as my iPhone. With this album Florence and the Machine progress towards a sound that is more choir inspired and less modern bass line and alternative driven. The resulting sound is slightly reminiscent of the 80s, and more specifically, the Eurythmics; however, the music maintains its own identity, and more crucially, it is an evocative and enjoyable album.

Christmas Album of the year: Michael Buble Christmas

One of my wife’s nephews gets credit for this recommendation. He is a wonderful singer in his own right and performs in a number of High School ensembles. I’m not a Buble fan, so I was a bit of a skeptic. As it turns out Michael Buble Christmas is a fun, upbeat, and musical album which carries the possibility of  winning over even the biggest scrooge. Merry Christmas!

RIP: Steve Jobs

My Dad called me at 4:47pm yesterday and I didn’t answer as I was in my hair dresser’s chair. He was calling to tell me that Steve Jobs had died. My Dad isn’t an Apple convert much to my chagrin. He always viewed them as too expensive starting back with the original Macintosh in ’84, when we had an Atari instead.

I admire Steve more than any of his contemporaries in the modern technology industry… it’s not just the beautiful products his company puts out in which he has been instrumental… but he is more broadly an inspired individual.. look at his Standford address:

Look at his rebel ad narration:

But perhaps most startling, most unique is this…

He was the CEO of the world’s richest technology company, and he still took the time to answer customer emails… including one of mine. RIP Steve, you were a rebel.

Artist I Admire: Bill Cunningham

Okay, so I realize this confirms that I have been living under a rock. Also I realize the fact that I don’t have cable or satellite television is no excuse, as Bill Cunningham is a newspaper man, but alas I must admit I’d never heard of him until I saw Bill Cunningham: New York (great film!) on iTunes the other night.

Here is the trailer:

As discerned from the film here’s what makes Bill so admirable, in no particular order:

  1. He wouldn’t even consider himself an “artist”
  2. He is abashedly eccentric
  3. He is completely devoted to his craft
  4. He isn’t in it for the money, in fact he turns it down as he feels it would cost him his freedom
  5. He has been practicing his craft for years
  6. His photos are beautiful (IMO)
  7. He is using old school technology
  8. His attention to detail, ownership and passion of the whole process from the subject material to the photographs to the the page layouts is inspiring

Lastly what makes him truly admirable is that he’s a poet and philosopher on many levels, fashion, politics, photography, culture; He had a great quote in the movie “It is as true today as it has ever been; He who seeks beauty will find it”.

Book Review: Bing Thom Works

Let’s open with this axiom, art and more specifically architecture is culturally specific. The art and by extension the architecture that resonates most strongly with you is likely created by someone with a similar perspective or cultural background to you. This opening is a pre-emptive defence for my next statement, which is Arthur Erickson (deceased) is my favourite Architect. Why? His pioneering of indoor – outdoor, green roofs, commitment to multi-use, and commitment to his art for the purpose of social change… I know very northwest coast, which is at least in part why I look at his body of work and sigh a heartfelt sigh of creative ecstasy… it is a poetic response to the living conditions that have emerged in our corner of the shared, little, pale blue dot.

But this post isn’t about Erickson, it’s about Bing Thom and more specifically Bing Thom Works a gorgeous new coffee table book published by Douglas & McIntyre regarding the work of Bing Thom Architects.

Of course there is a relationship between Bing Thom and Arthur Erickson. Thom worked for Erickson for many years and might be referred to as Erickson’s protege, which is in no way intended to insinuate he doesn’t or didn’t have considerable talents unto himself before or after working for my favourite Architect.

The book is beautiful, itself being a piece of art. The plates featuring the architecture of Thom and his associate Architects are breathtaking. The cover is curiously a soft cover, hard cover hybrid with only a sliver of a photo taking up a quarter of the front and back and the spine… perhaps symbolizing that the book is only a glimpse into the works of his firm and that for any architecture to be truly understood, it must be experienced.

In addition to the beautiful photos the book also includes engrossing site plans, elevations and floor plans.The weakest point of the book is the actual text; however, there are still gems to be found here. The essay on being a “Master Builder”, the motifs on the client relationship and inspiring pieces on using architecture to literally improve the living and social conditions of neighbourhoods all jump out and resonate with this reader, despite not being written with the same flourish as, say, Seven Stones by Edith Iglauer.

All together, Bing Thom Works is a beautiful coffee table book, ready to inspire anyone with an interest in the built environment. It will both help a reader to better understand the limitless capacity of human creativity to shape the human consciousness, spirit, and sense of community as well as engender an appetite to learn more on this critical subject.

Artist I Admire: Zoe Keating

I admire Zoe Keating’s music as much as I admire her story.

I stumbled upon the music in a morning iTunes search for something new. First I found One Cello x 16: Natoma and then I quickly picked up Into the Trees as well.

What makes the music so noteworthy? It’s lyrical without words, modern yet timeless, it is a passionate, beautifully orchestrated dance of dark and light themes. More pragmatically it is one artist playing her cello into her computer multiple times and then creating wonderfully layered, complex and moving compositions.

What is her story? Passionate about the cello, professionally she went from clerk, to web programmer, to professional musician, the last of which was done without a big marketing push from a record label. She was discovered by one fan at a time through iTunes and other avenues. For more read this inspiring Mercury News article.

Spectacular!