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The Cultural Olympiad

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Cultural Olympiad
Mar 8th, 2010

Cultural Olympiad continues during the Paralympic Games with daring dance, thoughtful theatre and awesome art.

The beat goes on for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad throughout the Paralympic Winter Games, which will fill 10 exciting days with athletic and artistic firsts starting March 12.

The Cultural Olympiad kicks off its Paralympic programming with the world premieres of two highly anticipated plays. Spine, which debuts March 12 at the new SFU Woodward’s complex on West Hastings Street, is a mind-blowing piece of multimedia theatre from the creative team behind the comedy hit Skydive. The play follows Realwheels Theatre founder and actor James Sanders as he flies away from his body and wheelchair — perhaps from his whole identity — into a virtual reality world.

Soul game

Cultural Olympiad
Mar 8th, 2010

Raphael Saadiq dishes about his youth, music and video games.

Growing up in a heavily musical household, it’s no surprise how deep rhythm runs through Raphael Saadiq’s blood.

“My mom sings in church choir; my dad played guitar and we always had instruments around the house,” says Saadiq, born Charlie Ray Wiggins, from his studio in Los Angeles. “The neighbourhood was full of music. There was always music on the corner and someone walking around with a guitar. Having a band and entertaining was the biggest thing you could be doing.”

The Grammy Award-winning musician, producer, fashion maverick (and now video game designer) started making sexy, soulful, rhythm and blues hits in the late 1980s as lead vocal and bassist for the multi-platinum record selling trio, Tony! Toni! Toné!

After topping charts with the trio’s old-school hits, including Feels Good and Whatever You Want, Saadiq has made four solo albums and produced music for mega-legends like Stevie Wonder, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, Lionel Richie and John Legend.

“I pretty much like to work with people who are sure about who they already are; I never like to tell anyone what to do,” he says.

The Cons of Consumption

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 22nd, 2010

Winnipeg curator provokes a closer look at the environmental, social costs of our collective appetite.

In the art world, where a diamond and platinum-encrusted skull can sell for millions of dollars, it can be easy to lose perspective. So how does Winnipeg curator Milena Placentile reconcile her critical view of consumption with the big money that sometimes drives her industry?

She says it’s all about choices.

“My practice, very specifically, is oriented around non-commercial endeavours and ephemeral practices, like performance. Everything I do as a curator is about social and political engagement and bringing audiences and artists together,” she says.

“While there are curators who are definitely interested in large-scale biennales and the way the art market shapes people’s careers and vice versa, that’s something I’ve regularly struggled in opposition to.”

This vision shines through in Placentile’s curated work Consumerism – I shop therefore I am? which is now online at the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edition (CODE) online gallery Screen 2010.

Artists Face Off

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 22nd, 2010

Art competition inspired by the Olympic Games heats up.

When Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) sent out electronic invitations to an upcoming group show, contributing artist Jonathan Middleton made a few small changes to his invite before passing it along.

“I systematically replaced the curator’s title with my own and made it look like I was just forwarding it along from the gallery,” says Middleton, who changed the original title, An Invitation to An Infiltration to Strange. The first time I've known of a piano with four legs… (Hey! I keep falling down!). The infiltrated title is a line from a 1950s British radio comedy called The Goon Show. It refers to a scene where the main characters are duped into stealing a piano from the Louvre Museum in Paris.

“I thought it was an interesting analogy to working in a group situation with one goal of subversion,” says Middleton. “We might end up subverting ourselves instead of the institutions.”

Body Politik

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 22nd, 2010

Art and anatomy intertwine at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Visceral Bodies exhibit.

Art and science are converging at the Vancouver Art Gallery as multimedia work from 20 contemporary international artists explores images of the human body.

Presented in conjunction with Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man, a collection of his 16th century drawings of the body, Visceral Bodies explores representations of the body over the past two decades.

Using photography, sculpture, painting, video and a variety of other media, the exhibition features interpretations of the human body and includes work by both national and international artists.

“The exhibition is an opportunity to reflect as a counterpoint what Leonardo was all about,” says curator Daina Augaitis.

“The 16th century was really the first moment they were studying the body and contributing to art and science and a lot of our current beliefs stem from that basis. I think artists today, and for many decades, have been interested in reassessing those beliefs.”

The exhibit, which is roughly grouped intro three sections, includes work from artists including Mona Hatoum, Kiki Smith, Shelagh Keeley, Marc Quinn and Wim Delvoye. 

Ghost stories

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 11th, 2010
Otherworldly art installation Tracing Night takes audiences on an eerie journey.
Visual artist Ed Pien is scared of ghosts. “But I don’t think they exist,” he says. “If I was left alone in the darkness, I’d be scared — not of wild animals, but of the ‘other’.” Growing up in a household where supernatural spectres were used to frighten and set boundaries, the Taiwan-born, Toronto-based artist developed a fascination with creatures from other worlds. “Even if ghosts aren’t real, they’re still here. We talk about them, we use them in stories to scare kids and I think there’s a need for us to have this sense of other.” Pien says he is particularly interested in finding out why human beings have a need, and an inclination, to be afraid of these unknown otherworldly apparitions. “I haven’t found that out yet,” he says, taking a break from installing a different piece in Saskatoon. “I’m interested in the idea of ghosts, not in the sense that they frighten us and are mysterious, or that you get a cheap thrill from them.” Pien has been exhibiting throughout Canada and internationally for 20 years and has held numerous teaching positions at art schools across the country.

Explosive material

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 11th, 2010

Society’s fascination with terrorism and violence takes centre stage in Don Ritter’s Vested.

When Berlin-based artist Don Ritter bought the heavy-duty green army vest used in his installation piece Vested, a German man behind the counter asked what kind of gun he owned. But this particular piece of military equipment wasn’t bound for the shooting range. Instead, it became the central aspect of Ritter’s daring interactive exhibition that will get its Canadian debut February 4 at Great Northern Way Campus (near the Olympic Village Vancouver) as part of CODE Live, an 18-day exhibition of interactive digital art installations. In Ritter’s piece, a participant dons the modified vest, which has been loaded with batteries, infrared sensors and a red detonation button and is tracked around a large dark room by two eerie green spotlights.

Posters get provocative

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 11th, 2010

Citywide art project challenges perceptions of public property.

Vancouver’s rainy grey streets will be getting some colour from a public poster project that will see billboards, transit shelters, Canada Line transit stations and SkyTrains swathed in thought-provoking art.

Intended to encourage passers-by to think about the use and function of public space, Endlessly Traversed Landscapes was curated by Canadian artist Natalie Doonan and will appear across Metro Vancouver from January 22 to March 21 as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

The project’s title references an essay by French filmmaker, poet and theorist Guy Debord, who discusses “endlessly traversed postcard landscapes” in reference to the picture-perfect realities crafted by public advertisements.

Each piece will be deliberately placed in a location based on the context of the image.

Avant-Garde Legends Join Forces

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 11th, 2010

In Ikons, two master artists collaborate on a high-tech, and very west-coast, sculpture and music experience.

Ikons is an interactive art installation that has been a long time coming. For nearly three decades, Vancouver performance and visual artist Eric Metcalfe and legendary American composer, trombonist and intellectual George Lewis have been skating around the same circles, waiting for the right time to collaborate.

It seems that right time is now.

“In early 2007, George approached me and asked me if I’d like to work on a piece with him for the Cultural Olympiad. I said I’d be delighted to,” says Metcalfe, who is a Governor General award-winner in visual media arts as well as the co-founder of the influential Western Front artist-run centre in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. “I really enjoyed this project. It was very exciting, because I took it in a direction that, quite frankly, has gone far beyond my expectations.”

Re-imagining Iraq

Cultural Olympiad
Feb 11th, 2010

Virtuouso Iraqi oud player joins renowned Iranian tar player in this celebration of Middle Eastern culture.

Rahim AlHaj is re-imagining Iraq for the Western imagination. The renowned oud player, composer, two-time Grammy nominee and 2009 United States Artists fellow says he is using his music to bring Iraqi culture to Western audiences. Images in the mainstream media depict Iraq as place of destruction and war and suffering, he says. “Iraq is always present in our heads and our eyes. When we see it on television, it’s all about war and destruction and terrorists.” On the contrary, he thinks that the deep roots of Iraqi culture and music can bring great beauty into the world. His instrument, the oud, is a pear-shaped, short-necked string instrument that has been played for thousands of years. “There are misconceptions about Middle Eastern culture, specifically our [Iraqi] culture. So I find it so important to stay here to educate people about this kind of music that’s rooted very deep, in thousands of years of history.” AlHaj will be performing with Iranian tar player Amir Koushkani on February 19 as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.
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