Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sachiko Murakami - Brad Cran FTW

Brad Cran, Vancouver Poet Laureate, did a very admirable thing yesterday, speaking out against VANOC censorship and speaking up for the arts. Given that the Laureateship (?) is a joint project of the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library (who have shown quite clearly how they, custodians of knowledge, deal with VANOC censorship), and the Writers Festival, I was surprised and pleased to see him get a little dissident.

From his blog post:
“The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC.”
I do find this to be an unjust attack on free speech but more importantly it shows that VANOC is misrepresenting Vancouver. Vancouver is the most politically progressive city in North America with a strong history of political activism which most Vancouverites are proud of. Rather than finding a way to celebrate these important attributes VANOC has gone the other way and tried to suppress them. As George Woodcock teaches us: our freedom as a city is a tradition that should be protected and we should not underestimate an attack on that freedom whether symbolic or otherwise.
and why he will not be participating:
As darkly comic as much of this is, I am still not anti-Olympics. For this reason I made two suggestions to an Olympic organizer. The first was that a Canadian poet read one poem each night on one of the celebration stages. The second suggestion was that they somehow incorporate Al Purdy’s great Canadian poem “Say the Names” into the celebrations. Both of these suggestions were rejected and I in turn declined their offer to publically appear during the Olympic celebrations.
Go Brad Cran!
Sachiko Murakami wrote The Invisibility Exhibit. She lives in Toronto, far from Sumi, Miga AND Quatchi.


alex. said...

I wonder if he could have used his position to say something ambiguous, or just something factual. Such as this piece he wrote for Geist about the history of women being excluded from the Olympics. Would reading this at an Olympics event be "anti-Olympics"? Or would it just be reading an honest record, with a different emphasis? I don't know the extent of the censorship he would have been under -- what is anti-Olympics, is everything vetted beforehand? I'm not positive withdrawing is an effective protest gesture. Everything is so crazy here now that I think a lot of people won't know that he withdrew; they just won't witness his participation. But, it is good to hear a little of his side of things, trying to get writing heard during the Olympiad and how that was shut down. Maybe he should read a poem at one of the many anti-Olympics protests... Legalities?

Ray said...

Brad's article, I think, suggests that even in withdrawing he makes a statement visible.

Boycotting the 1968 Olympics during US Civil Rights struggle was a live question, but when Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the platform to salute black power, it strikes me that Brad's move is one among many gestures that the Olympics makes visible.

Lemon Hound said...

Thanks Ray, good point.