Halifax is an overall positive place for transgendered people, says Katie Brown, 24, who grew up in Halifax.
Halifax is an overall positive place for transgendered people, says Katie Brown, 24, who grew up in Halifax.
By Molly Segal
A new art exhibit in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s atrium aims to get viewers thinking about how the gallery includes or excludes First Nations peoples in the way it displays art.
Located in the entrance area by the main staircase that leads to the other exhibits, Nova Scotian artist Cathy Busby’s Atrium is an “institutional critique” of display practices in an art gallery, says the artist.
But you have to look twice to notice Busby’s work. Up the main staircase, enlarged silhouettes of artworks are painted on the walls in a variety of muted colours. Each silhouette corresponds to a display piece in one of the galleries either created by, contains imagery, or alludes to First Nations or Inuit peoples.
The 17 works exclude art that belongs to the gallery’s First Nations collection. Each silhouette is painted in the same colour as the gallery in which artwork originated. For example, one of the teal blue Atrium silhouettes represents A.J. Casson’s painting, Indian Reserve, also found in the gallery with the teal blue walls.
The Atrium paintings are one and a half times larger in size, but retain the same shape as the original work, a method which appeals to Busby’s background in minimal and contemporary art.
Busby chose the entrance and main staircase area of the AGNS.
“It’s at the “architectural heart of the building,” says Busby, who has been practicing art since the 1980s and was an artist in residence at the AGNS from Dec. 1, 2009 to March 1, 2010.
Her re-imagining of the gallery space and of the existing exhibits aims to get people wondering why these artworks were chosen. On Dec. 2, a write-up was put on the wall describing the work.
In the spring/summer 2010 edition of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Journal, Busby asks, “How do lingering racism, pain and confusion resulting from generations of colonization interface with display practices in an art gallery?”
Atrium doesn’t attempt to answer this question, but instead asks its viewers to consider how First Nations are represented in the gallery, when they might not think about this otherwise.
“I don’t know if it’s providing answers, but she’s asking questions and urging us to perhaps do the same or be more attentive as we walk through the space and look at works,” says David Diviney, curator of exhibitions.
Busby, who describes her art practice as “politically motivated,” makes art that works with the space in which, or on which, it is displayed.
By breaking down the boundaries the curated galleries create, she hopes visitors will notice the constructed nature of the art gallery as an institution, changing how the visitor views art from room to room.
Busby is looking at a historically marginalized group of people, says Diviney.
In Nova Scotia about 2.6 per cent of the population identified as First Nations in the 2006 census.
The 17 works Busby chose “could be overlooked if they weren’t highlighted in the context such as this,” says Diviney.
Over the past decade, Busby’s work has been cumulative. She links Atrium to her recent work, Sorry (2005) and We Are Sorry (2008), in which she used public apologies including then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology to First Nations survivors of residential schools.
“The assimilation project was about all First Nations people,” says Busby, who thinks the media event of Harper’s apology, though directed at residential school survivors, has allowed for discussion of the treatment of Canada’s first peoples.
Busby sees a connection between her early artwork on pain and her more recent work about public apology because “public apologies are at least in part about pain reduction.”
“Post-apology, what happens?,” says Busby who believes a cultural shift must take place in understanding First Nations and colonization.
Though Atrium isn’t directly related to Harper’s apology, Busby’s decision to examine how First Nations are represented in the art gallery stems from her interest in the treatment of Canada’s first peoples.
Atrium officially opened Dec. 2, and runs until the end of February. Busby will be working with guides who will be leading tour and school groups through the galleries.
By Max Leighton
On a long stretch of country road somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, a young man walked alone carrying a backpack and an old guitar slung over his shoulder. It was a dangerous thing for a young black man to do, alone and vulnerable in the pre-civil rights south.
There was no one in sight, and as he walked along, all he heard was the sound of gravel crunching below his feet and the distant call of a whippoorwill in the surrounding cotton fields.
He reached the only crossroads for miles and stood silently. As the minutes passed in the dark his heart began to race, his mind wandered.
Then a figure emerged: a giant black man in dark overalls. The young man could not see the figure’s face as his outstretched arm reached for the guitar now hanging loosely from the young man’s shoulder. The man picked up the guitar and after tuning it, began playing the deepest blues melody he had ever heard.
“When you take this guitar back from me,” the figure said, “you will be the greatest musician ever known. You will be loved on earth and remembered forever. But it will come at the price of your soul.”
He thought for a moment and then grinning, took the guitar back and continued down the road.
Robert Johnson is the king of the Delta Blues. He was the last of the great pre-war blues singers and did more for the cultural development of rock n ’roll and blues music than any artist ever recorded.
His influence abounds in the music of countless subsequent musicians and his songs “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Cross Road Blues,” “Hell Hound on my Trail” and “Love in Vain,” have been inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame for their role in shaping the genre.
Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Miss. in 1911. He was known as a highly intelligent young boy by most of his teachers and grew up reading constantly and practicing the jaw harp and harmonica.
At 18, Johnson married 16-year-old Virginia Travis, who died while giving birth to their only child. Broken-hearted and alone, he hit the road. Around 1930, Johnson moved to the Dockery plantation, a work farm where thousands of young black labourers gathered during the harvest season to fill their cotton quotas and earn what little money they could to survive the year.
At Dockery, Johnson developed his genius ability to adapt elements of the styles of other great performers and make them his own. He learned from fellow blues luminaries Charlie Patton, Skip James and Son House and studied the country, jazz and blues records of the day.
He left Dockery around 1930 and if the devil story is true, then Johnson would have met him around this time, perhaps on his way to Ruleville, Miss.
Johnson was a natural showman and likely played a role in the creation of his own legend. Faustian stories like Johnson’s exist in the voodoo tradition of West Africa, where the meeting point of two roads holds great spiritual significance. It was also a story espoused by one of Johnson’s heros, Peetie Wheatstraw, who told of a similar meeting with the devil and who later died in a violent car collision with a freight train.
Johnson spent the 1930s on the road throughout the Mississippi Delta. He reportedly ventured as far as St. Louis.
At this time Johnson was in a relationship with Estella Coleman, a woman 15 years his senior, who had a son, Robert Lockwood Jr., just a few years younger than Johnson who would later rise to fame in Chicago Blues scene in the 1950s.
Everything Johnson touched turned to gold. He performed alongside some of the greatest musicians of the Mississippi Delta including Will Shade of the Memphis Jug Band, Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson. He personally mentored legend Elmore James, who learned his slide guitar technique and iconic song “Dust My Broom” from Johnson, as well as Howlin’ Wolf and Johnny Shines, who at just 17 left his home to hop freight trains and perform with Johnson.
He only recorded 29 songs in his lifetime, during two sessions for Vocalion records; one in 1936 in San Antonio, TX and another the following year in Dallas.
In 1938, at age 27, Robert Johnson died. He had been playing at a country-dance outside Greenwood, Miss. and, never one to shy away from the company of women, he struck up a conversation with a woman at the bar.
She was the bartender’s wife. That night he was offered two bottles of strychnine-laced whiskey. Sonny Boy Williamson allegedly cautioned him against drinking from an opened bottle but, young and naïve, he eagerly downed both bottles and continued to play his set. He returned to his hotel room early that night, complaining of stomach pains.
After three days of agony, Johnson died alone in a little room above the bar.
The devil had finally come to collect.
Attracting visitors to Nova Scotia is key in the government’s plans when the tourism season opens in 2011.
Can cover songs be deemed original scores?
This was the focus of a lecture from English and cultural studies professor, Laura Penny, last week at Mount Saint Vincent University.
The 2011 Canada Winter Games are approaching, and test events are continuing around Halifax to establish which athletes will represent Nova Scotia.
It was a night when Celine Dions became John Waynes and Eminems morphed into Streisands.
Bras, Brains and Chick Flicks
By Brittney Teasdale
Money supposedly makes the world go round and it definitely keeps Hollywood in business.
Countless films are about money — making money, stealing money, wanting money, giving money and losing money.
Lesbians also bring in money for Hollywood. Most films portray lesbian stereotypes as butch dykes or hot sexpots with fake breasts.
What happens when a film incorporates both money and lesbians in its story?
This week, Ezra and I watched John McNaughton’s 1998 film Wild Things, our chick flick thriller, and Bound, directed in 1996 by the Wachowski brothers, our feminist neo-noir counterpoint.
There is no doubt that two people kissing, whether it’s two women, two men or a woman and a man, can be sexy.
But mainstream media have stereotyped lesbians as either butch or uber-feminine. Why can’t women, whether gay, straight, bi-sexual or transgendered, be accurately depicted in films? A large audience watches mainstream films, so these films shouldn’t distort reality.
Both Wild Things and Bound exploit the Hollywood idea of lesbians in different ways. Wild Things reinforces stereotypes about
lesbian sexuality, whereas Bound challenges them.
Wild Things is about two teenagers living in Blue Bay, Florida, who become involved in a circle of corruption with their high school guidance counsellor.
The two teenagers — Kelly, played by Denise Richards, and Suzie, played by Neve Campbell —pretend to hate each other on campus, while scheming to steal money from Kelly’s wealthy mother.
Richards and Campbell were both film industry sex icons in the 90s. Their erotic encounters throughout the film add nothing but insincere displays of forced lesbianism.
Kelly and Suzie accuse their guidance counsellor Mr. Lombardo, played by Matt Dillion, of rape. But, Suzie admits in court that they are lying — her confession is all part of their plan. The false accusations force Kelly’s rich mother to settle with Lombardo and pay him for the harm caused by Kelly’s accusation.
The settlement is $8.5 million — divided by three.
Kelly, Suzie and Lombardo are all involved in the plan to rip off Kelly’s mother and escape to the Caribbean.
Their happily-ever-after doesn’t happen, but I won’t disclose anymore.
The lesbian erotica between Kelly and Suzie is incorporated purely to shock and arouse the audience. The interaction between the women is similar to what you would see in a porno. Lombardo tells the two women to kiss, which ignites a threesome.
Later in the film, Kelly and Suzie put on an erotic show for the audience in Kelly’s pool.
After the women violently attempt to kill each other, they start kissing and groping. This scene is hyper-sexualized. Detective Ray Duquette, played by Kevin Bacon, videotapes them having sex from near by bushes.
The affair is a show — for the detective and the audience.
The film further harnesses the power men have to make women do what they want, emotionally and physically.
Where the men have sexual power in Wild Things, the women do in Bound.
In Bound, Corky (Gina Gershon) and Violet (Jennifer Tilly) initiate their relationship. Violet is married to Caesar, a man in the mafia. She wants out of her marriage and seeks solace in Corky, a lesbian who just moved into her apartment building.
Corky is skeptical of Violet’s seductive motives when they first meet. She asks Violet if she is really a lesbian. Violet answers that she is in a business relationship with Caesar that is not romantic.
The sex scene between the women is sensual, erotic, genuine and not objectifying. It shows Violet pleasuring Corky.
Susie Bright, a.k.a Suzie Sexpert, feminist sex educator and enthusiast, choreographed the sex scenes. Bright advocates for freedom of expression and was active in the feminist movement in the 1970s.
As the film progresses, the women’s relationship grows and they decide to steal $2 million from Violet’s mobster husband so they can run away together. They frame Johnnie, head mobster’s son, for stealing Caesar’s money.
After many people are murdered, they get away with the heist. The film ends with Corky and Violet sitting in their new pick-up truck, admiring their conquest.
Wild Things and Bound were both made in the late 1990s, but they depict lesbians in very different ways. A man in Wild Things seduces Kelly and Suzie, whereas in Bound Violet and Corky seduce one another.
Wild Things puts power into the hands of men and reaffirms female stereotypes, such as women who sleep with women to arouse men instead of for their own pleasure.
Next week Ezra and I will watch The Notebook and Away from Her.
After Andrew Shier finishes a shift working at The Keg Steakhouse, he usually likes to stay at the restaurant and hang out, relax and have a few beers. His easy-going attitude towards drinking and driving may change now that Nova Scotia’s Operation Christmas initiative is in full force.
On the eve of World Aids Day, black members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community discussed the double-oppression that they face.