Monday, March 08, 2010

Michael Turner on Expanded Literary Practices in Vancouver: Nikki Reimer

Michael Turner presented a short curatorial talk and slideshow at KSW this afternoon based on his "to show, to give, to make it be there": Expanded Literary Practices in Vancouver, 1954-1969, on at the SFU (Burnaby) Gallery till March 13.

I was one of the event organizers so am unable to give an unbiased or even a complete report, distracted by such concerns as chair placement, drinking water, impromptu donation jar, and some serious technical challenges, which Turner handled ever-graciously, but I did want to touch on it briefly because I think it's an important work. The SFU show encompasses work by bill bissett, Tom Burrows, Judith Copithorne, Stan Douglas (whose inclusion references the past-future, or perhaps the future-past) Maxine Gadd, Gerry Gilbert, Ray Johnson, Roy Kiyooka, Gary Lee-Nova, Glenn Lewis, Malcolm Lowry, Michael Morris (whose 1966 The Problem of Nothing is above), Al Neil and Ian Wallace, many of whom Turner mentioned in his talk. I urge anyone in the lower Mainland to check out the show while it's still up.

The gist of the show and the talk is material culture or the expanded literary practice, what we might today refer to as multi- or inter-disciplinary, or what in our own time might encompass digital media. Turner mentions the e-book and the online platform in his show catalogue, noting how in 2009 "(s)ome authors took this further, expanding their readings to include projections, singers, actors and props. Stagings such as these were met with bemusement by arts commentators accustomed to more traditional forms of presentation...What is conspicuous about the bemused response is that it reminds us of a time when expanded literary activities were encouraged, not indulged." That time is the "fifteen-year moment (1954-69) in Vancouver's cultural history, a time when visual artists, writers, dancers and filmmakers transcended disciplines to engage in new forms of composition, new modes of production."

Many Vancouver writers and artists from the period in question were in the audience today: Judith Copithorne, Renee Rodin, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah. Copithorne noted how at the time it was considered "dangerous" to go beyond the boundaries of form, as they were doing, and that much of their work received hostile reactions from what was then the mainstream. Turner also mentioned that the academy at the time wasn't changing (fast enough) to suit the new hybrid activities, which makes me wonder a bit about the hybrid activities of our own moment (Blogging, Tweeting, Podcasting. Might there be a show fifty years hence on Facebook poetry?)
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Another excellent archival resource of Vancouver Art in the Sixties is called Ruins in Process. A beautiful collage-like work of art itself, it includes essays, interviews, and digital archives of artwork, film and ephemera, expanded literary practices, all.
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Nikki Reimer wrote a book of poetry, which will appear in print very soon.

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