Friday, June 25, 2010

"this is not true" (June 22, 2010)

I found this posted around Queen Street West and Bathurst. Quite enjoyed it.

Update: it seems that the links to civil rights for activists that I posted in the previous entry are now more or less useless, since police have been given new authority to make arrests in or near the G20 "security zone", so that means bad news for anyone "who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search".

Mayor David Miller is also chiming in on the stupidity of the decision to hold the G20 downtown. He says he's not blaming the Prime Minister; if that comment is sincere, I suggest he takes a look at the riding map I linked to in my last post.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Police (City) State (June 23, 2010)

If you're unfortunate enough to be living in Toronto right now, you'd also have to be living under a rock not to know that a major gathering of political leaders is taking place this coming weekend. Yes, the G20 is coming to town, and as a consequence a lot of other regular city dwellers are being advised to either get out (if possible) or hunker down. Those of us with Internet connections are also receiving regular updates on how the summit will (negatively) affect our daily lives.

Above: portable barriers were stacked on many street corners in the downtown area.

Thankfully, the Internet snarks have been out in force, eagerly documenting the various varieties of "FAIL" that have been committed directly and indirectly by the federal government (let's face it: they did the planning. it's a fair cop--pardon the pun).

Above: on Front Street, what appears to be a surveillance device--or possibly a Claes Oldenburg interpretation of the CN Tower.

These include--to list only the most obvious--the now-infamous "Fake Lake", the fence, the hyperbolic trajectory of security costs, the obvious lack of discussion on certain key areas of policy, and the ridiculous decision to locate the summit in the heart of Toronto's downtown--one that will undoubtedly generate more unexpected costs for the city (though it will have no impact on current Conservative support in Toronto, as this helpful map, by Nick Boragina, shows).

Above: at Front Street and Blue Jays Way, the sculpted baseball fans on the Rogers Centre appear to be mocking Stephen Harper's security arrangements.

Meanwhile, some people are still arguing that the G20 will bring in tourist revenue. Not likely, but perhaps businesses can recoup some of their costs via the seething horde of journalists that will descend upon the area over the next few days. There are also plenty of cop-and-doughnut-shop jokes to be made here.

The photos in this post were taken yesterday as I biked around the downtown perimeters, checking out the fence and taking a look at the rumoured masses of police just hanging out in random downtown areas. It's not every day the city goes into lockdown (thankfully), and I had to satisfy my curiosity and try to grab a few souvenir pictures.

Below: corner of Windsor & Wellington Streets.

It's clear why some folks have coined the name "Torontonamo Bay", while even the mainstream media are describing the arrangements as "Fortress Toronto". And yet I've heard numerous anecdotal reports of areas where security arrangements were obviously bound to fail.

Above: "free media"...

Below: A stereotypical target is shielded by the fence.

Of course, another thing that we're expected to expect during these kinds of events is activism--or as it's usually described, "protest".

While biking back uptown from the security fence, I encountered this march (below) moving slowly along College Street. In these pictures, protesters outside the University of Toronto decry environmental abuse by corporations and G20 governments. The U of T has been shut down for the duration of the summit, after being designated as a corral for protests (the original site had been Trinity Bellwoods Park, much further West on Queen Street).

There's been a predictable amount of media coverage whipping up--as per usual--a discursive frenzy over the expected Violence of Protesters; in many news articles the implicit connections are made between security procedures and 'precautions', activist events, and arrests that have been made for unrelated, illegal activity.

Of course, "if it bleeds, it leads", and nowhere is that clearer than in mainstream reporting of anti-Capitalist/anti-globalisation activism. This is important because it is a part of the complex of factors involved in representation of political agendas, and affects the potential interpretations of wider audiences (and, I would argue, their receptivity to new or different political ideas).

Along with an overwhelming (and visible) police presence; physical barriers such as fences, roadblocks and check-points; and the presence of weapons such as water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets, fear-mongering media coverage helps to construct a situation in which legal and legitimate dissent is seen as a 'threat' (to property, especially, and more abstractly--to a way of life or to 'order, to one's political values, to the regular functioning of the city, and so on). Violence is so expected that it's framed as (or implied to be) somehow 'different' when a protest is 'peaceful'.

Interested in photographing the G20 summit this weekend? Here are some tips for photographers regarding the legal technicalities; it's important to know your rights if you're planning to go into and area that is heavily policed, and where photographers are already known to have been harassed by security forces (I was lucky--I only felt myself on the receiving end of suspicious glances). You should also know your rights if you participate in any kind of protest/demonstration or action.

If you're looking for more information about activist events, and/or for some alternative/independent coverage of the events, check out the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization page, and the Toronto Media Co-op; there's also an interesting guide to the G20 for activists. You can check out--and post to--the Twittersphere, where the hashtags #G20 and #G20report are the best with which to label your summit-related tweets, though with the latter tag you'll want to stick to serious comments relating to police action, security, and information relating to activist events (take a look at other tweets to get a sense of what's appropriate); and you can also send your feedback to well-known local blog, Torontoist.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Look Busy (June 7, 2010)

Pasted to the outside wall of the former Big Bop building at Queen Street West and Bathurst. I took this recently while out for a walk. For me there's something hilarious about this guy (in particular) thinking that looking 'busy' is going to somehow get him off the hook with Jesus. I get the sense that the speech-bubble was added after the skeleton figure, although I could be wrong.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Hardcore (February, 2003)

Just a short amusing post with a "thought of the day"... what happens when you buzz off all your hair?

I haven't done this for a few years now. The first time was after I had had my hair dyed dark purple (I actually wanted black... don't ask), and when after a few weeks I grew tired of the fading eggplant look, I decided to cut it all off with the result shown below.*

Thank goodness I'm not wearing those frames anymore. But as for the hair, it's interesting how firstly, people's perceptions of you change when you denude your scalp; and secondly, how the 'buzzed look' is differently interpreted according to how people 'read' other aspects of your body or physical presentation. Those seem like two halves of a coin, the latter informing the former.

For example, how is it interpreted when you identify/present as a man and shave or buzz your head, as opposed to when someone of another gender does it? What about racialised bodies--is there a difference in interpretation according to skin colour (not necessarily positive for white men--think of skinheads)? What about for those identifying as women? Do people make the assumption that without hair we must be Radical Queers or Punk Anarchists, or do they also see us as possible cancer patients? What about clothing, how does it change things if I am wearing a pair of khaki pants and a hoodie vs. a long black dress?

*Note: I was lucky, I discovered, in that my head was the right shape for baldness. Apparently one never knows what kinds of lumps and dents and all manner of wonkiness can be hidden by the hair on one's head. And yes, it can be odd-looking (as awkward as when I had purple eyebrows, I'm sure).

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Raku (April, 2001)

These pictures were taken during a Raku firing at Concordia University's VAV (visual arts) Building, on René Lévesque Boulevard in Montréal. I shot them with my Minolta SLR and scanned in the prints.

Above: Raku cans wait under ventilation hoods.

Taking a few steps back and beginning at the beginning, I should mention that apart from photography, ceramics was always my favourite medium and I took several courses during my two years of BFA studies (At NSCAD and at Concordia). I don't know what it is about ceramics that I love so much, but certainly my pyromaniacal tendencies were satisfied by it (if nothing else!).

Raku is a form of glaze firing. For the uninitiated, the ceramics you use in everyday life (dishes and plates and cups, to name a few items) are all glazed, because glaze keeps the still-porous clay from absorbing what comes into contact with it (food or liquid, for example). Before being glazed, ceramic "greenware" (unfired/raw clay pieces) is fired once in what's called a bisque firing, a low-temperature bake that hardens and strengthens the clay so that it is much less easily broken. The "bisque-ware" is then glazed: glaze is often applied liquid and allowed to dry. Then another ("glaze"-) firing takes place during which the glaze vitrifies, fusing with, and creating a protective layer over, the clay.

Outdoor Raku kiln, with gas pipe attached at right:

Raku firing is a unique glaze firing process that involves a low-temperature form of reduction . Reduction firing requires some form of combustion (flame), and usually takes place in a wood or gas kiln. The process involves strategically cutting off the oxygen supply to the kiln, which causes the fire to draw oxygen from the clay body and glaze, causing a chemical reaction that produces a wide variety of glaze effects (especially at high temperatures). In Raku glazes, this process often creates a fascinating metallic look.

Waiting for the kiln to heat up:

The Raku process involved an outdoor kiln in both the contexts where I participated. A gas kiln is heated outside, and when the Raku ware is glowing hot and the glaze is molten, the lid of the kiln was lifted and the pieces were removed with tongs and placed in metal trash cans containing sawdust, with relatively airtight lids. At NSCAD, we were encouraged to lift the lid after a few seconds and toss in another handful of sawdust to increase the reduction effects (in theory; the real reason was that this trick often produced a "fireball" that belched from under the lid of the can). At Concordia this was considered too much of a hazard (*cough* sissies *cough*).

Shifting the cans to a spot underneath ventilation:

When the red-hot ceramic pieces land on the sawdust, they ignite it, creating flames that require oxygen. The lid of the can prevents air getting in, and thus the flames take oxygen from the glazes instead, creating a reduction environment in the can (hence the fireball).

After about fifteen minutes, the cans are opened and the still-hot Raku ware is carefully removed with tongs.

The Raku pieces are dunked in buckets of cold water to cool them, and to help rinse off the sawdust, soot and other detritus. Unglazed clay body will usually have turned black at this point, from the smoke and soot of the reduction process.

Finally, the freshly glazed Raku ware is left to dry and cool on the grass near the courtyard.

Raku is the perfect firing in which to participate if you love smelling like woodsmoke at the end of the day. There's also something deliciously visceral about creating objects in this way. It's all chemistry and physics, in a very hands-on, immediate and aesthetically exciting experiment, and a great group activity in which everyone has a part in helping create something unique.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Kitten Snuggle (June 7, 2010)

Since today I'm incapable of typing very much (due to back and arm pain), I decided to share something cute and cuddlesome that works well without much commentary. A more substantial post will follow when the tendons in my arm and hand do not feel as if they are violin strings stretched over the bridge of my wrist. Hence my cats--Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy--and their combined cuteness.

They love to cuddle up together when they are asleep; they have done since I got them, when they were about nine weeks old. They were born to a stray, their mother an oddly slim and rare orange female, I believe she must have had some Siamese in her. It shows up in Mr. Bingley, with his lithe muscled cat physique and his habit of 'talking' to me demandingly when I am occupied (usually at my desk).

Nothing to see here but Cute. Moving along...

The don't just curl up together--sometimes they sleep in very odd positions, so completely at ease that the one is sprawled or slouched snoozing over the other (above, notice Bingley's head is barely visible).

I love it when they lie together in a tangle of legs, each cat's fur barely distinguishable from that of the other, the pearly-pink pads of their feet winking out like soft wee buttons.

There's something quite touching about the way they so often seem to want to lie close to one another (except in the hot weather, when they retreat to cool and shady positions under the bed and in the closet). Sometimes they lie apart on the bed, but with feet just touching, as if to reassure themselves of each other's perpetual presence--as two halves of a whole.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Archi Rossi Walls (May 19-21, 2007)

In Florence in May 2007, Juliet introduced me to this unique hostel near the heart of the city. I have quite a few pictures of the inside, but one of its most interesting features was the decoration on the walls in the stairwell and upstairs hallways. These had been painted white, and then, over time, covered with graffiti by the hostel's guests. I'm not sure if they originally intended for this to happen (and encouraged it), or if it was an accidental development that was wholeheartedly embraced by the owners and staff of the hostel. Whatever the case, the 'writing on the walls' (as it were) reflects a diverse array of international affiliations, of which I've shown examples in pictures below; and some of the graffiti was, needless to say, pretty creative.

In spite of the evident diversity, I was still pretty surprised to see my own home town showing up so specifically, above a door frame...

...complete with Friesian cow--delightful. Next is an obvious shout-out to a certain demographic of Canucks, in the form of a reference to a song by The Weakerthans, a Canadian indie-rock-punk band from (you guessed it) Winnipeg:

Classic. However, it wasn't half as good as what's in the next picture, a 'collaboration' between two different travelers--one called Colin, the other whose name is not quite legible--both of whom have strong feelings about Scotland (zoom in for a better look):

And thus, "passion" is replaced by "deep-fried pizza". Note the slight mis-quote of the lyric to "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon, just above and to the right.

Lastly, one of the reasons I so enjoy these kinds of public art projects is that I can actually contribute something, without guilt. The drawing below is what I left on the wall outside our dorm room before we left. Note my incorporation into the drawing of what is apparently the Spanish word for "monstrosity".

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