Contemporary Art with Blass, Amer, Mutu

by PenRei

Now, I am someone who is fully willing to admit that I don’t really understand contemporary art. There’s something about its abstractness that I just don’t get. Often, the message of the piece is completely lost on me. If I’m in a museum, I’m either:
a) standing there looking at it trying really hard to come up with an interpretation
b) looking at it and pretending that I’m thinking so that other people around me don’t think I’m an idiot

On March 24th, I decided to take a little trip to Montreal for a much needed change of scenery and to visit a few friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. Dr. Digital took me for grilled cheese at Lapin Pressé. We caught up over his mocachino and my grilled cheese à la guyère and onions. Most delicious indeed! It was really great to see him again after about a year. It’s great having friends that you don’t need to see often, but that you can pick up right where you left off as soon as you meet.

Between my breakfast with Dr. Digital and before meeting up with Ctwister, I decided to venture into the Museum of Contemporary Art. They had three exhibitions: Valérie Blass, Wangechi Mutu, and Ghada Amer. I had completely different opinions for each exhibition.

To be very straight-forward, I didn’t understand a thing with Valérie Blass. I could read up on her work and then write about it, pretending like I was really smart, but I respect you (the readers) and myself too much for that. Her exhibition consisted of many different types of sculptures. What did they mean? I have no idea! If you’d like to know more about this artist, click here.

Valérie Blass

The second artist at the exhibition was named Ghada Amer. I did not enjoy her works one bit, at the exception of Revolution 2.0. Everything else was just not what I considered art, but could easily be debated as art… but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Revolution 2.0

Revolution 2.0 by Ghada Amer

Ghada Amer is an artist that mixes brodery and paint on canvas as her main art materials. What I enjoyed so much about Revolution 2.0 was the sense of movement in the piece with the brodery, the second movement created by the use of colours, and thirdly that you can tell approximately where the explosion is coming from, but you can’t pinpoint the exact location. I found the piece to be well thought-out and executed. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to it, but I examined it as an instrumentalist piece, in which the forms and lines themselves made into art.  Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the rest of exhibition. Since I have been typing this entry at work for the last 5 days during my lunch breaks, I will not post an image of another exhibited work because it is of a pornographic nature. So let’s save me from getting fired for looking up what can be considered artsy pornography, and also save the eyes of any readers who happen to be reading this at their job. If you would like to see more works from Ghada Amer, click here for the artist’s website. Many are included in the Paintings section as well s the Drawings & Prints.

First of all, the main reason why this exhibition upset me was the fact that there was no warning prior to entering the area that there was pornographic content in the following art pieces. As a result, I was viewing the exhibition alongside a mother and her two 6 to 8 year old children. I overheard them talk and the youngest had a lot of trouble understanding what she was seeing, as well as asking why the women in some paintings were in pain (remember the reference of sex being naked wrestling in the eyes of children? oh the innocent!). I strongly believed that a sign with a warning of adult content should have been presented at the beginning of the exhibition. PLUS, you had to walk through the Ghada Amer exhibition to get to Valérie Blass, so you can’t even skip it to view the other artist if you wanted to. I found this to be incredibly irresponsible on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal. They are allowed to show pieces called art with pornographic images, but they are a family museum. I feel bad for any parents who brought their kids into the exhibit not knowing what to expect. Moving on!

In my eyes, the works of Ghada Amer presented are not considered art (at the exception of her works similar to Revolution 2.0). In my opinion, in order for something to be art, there has to be a well thought-out play of colour, light, shape, form, lines, movement, cultural significance, or meaning. Seeing images straight out of a porno magazine of women masterbating and eating each other out was not the case. If I really wanted to see that, I’d open a porno mag, not go to a museum in the company of children. You could argue that her ability to master the craft of broidery is what makes it art, but I would have been far more impressed if there was some originality behind her works, if she presented women in sexual acts without exploiting them. It really looked like she copied images out of her husband’s (or her own, let’s not judge sexual orientation here) magazine.

After that lengthy paragraph, I can not deny that a lot of works we consider as art today were once considered to be pornographic at the time. Many of the depictions of the goddess Venus/Aphrodite are of her naked and in some compromising position. However, I feel like these are art because thought has been put behind the lines of her body, the way the scene is lit, and the story it tells.

The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel, 1864


The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, 1486

To be quite honest, I could go on forever between the debate of what is considered pronographic and what is considered art. The truth is that the definition of art is so open to interpretation that a red circle on a blank canvas is considered art. I can only leave you to form your own opinion.

The third artist I saw was named Wangechi Mutu. She had 2 scultptures, 2 installations, 1 mural (if that is what its called) and 6 collage works. To be quite frank, I did not understand anything except for the collages. Perhaps if I had joined a a tour group I would have been a lot more enlightened by the works, but I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next tour guide’s shift to begin.

What I enjoyed so much about Wangehi Mutu’s collages was her portrayal of women and

Wangechi Mutu

In Killing Fields Sweet Butterfly Ascend by Wangechi Mutu

beauty in her works. Mutu cut out eyes, noses, ears, mouths, and other parts of the body (legs and hands) who on their own are seen as beautiful. However, once she puts them together on the canvas, all of these singularly beautiful traits look strange and distorted together. I interpreted that the image of beauty in women is itself distorted. She occasionally mixes the images of human shape and beauty with metal and manmade objects, perhaps to indicate man’s desire to constantly change what is natural.

The truth is, there is no way for me to really explain the works of Wangechi Mutu since there were no explanations next to the pieces. I’m also sure that there are images and symbols related to African culture, that are unfortunately lost on me. What is important though is the fact that I found her images evoking enough for me to lookup more information about her works, her culture, and her life. Despite my lack of knowledge towards Mutu’s culture, there was still something in the pieces that I could relate to: it carried something universal. One day, I would really like to see an exhibition of her collages and see the progression of her career through the various themes she presents.

I will leave you with this last piece by Wangechi Mutu.

Happy Friday (I can’t believe this took me a week)!

Double Fuse (detail-left), mixed media on mylar, 2003

Double Fuse (detail-left) by Wangechi Mutu, mixed media on mylar, 2003

Thrifty times and theft talk

by Nomes

So today is a day off, one of many this week, wherein I fill my days with auditions, friends, basking in the precocious sun and trying to ignore that nagging fear that the world will end in mere centuries with this weather situation as it is. 27 degrees in March? Beach days and rooftop patios in March? Straw hats in March? Sweating in a cardigan in March? Scary.

That being said I decided to go shopping thriftily for required apparatus (such as work clothes… let me tell you, finding a black vest is a preposterous thing). One thing I have needed ever since my previous two pairs suffered degradation followed by destruction, due to my shoving them in my overstuffed backpack and landmine ridden purse: a new pair of sunglasses. Today was the day for them… so off to Winners I go. I could write a song about how much I love Winners but let’s not get too creative.

So I get there and find the sunglasses racks of discounted wonders for me to rummage through. A few pairs in, I realize they are cheaper than I expected (!) but that this would prove to be the hardest decision I make today (…first world on holiday, problems). So I spend what seems like several hours (but was probably more like 5-10 minutes) sifting through many pairs until I find the perfect one… and it’s 100$. Wait. What? But the other ones were around 13-17 dollars! Where did YOU come from? CURSE YOUR BEAUTY! And on and on it went until my silly undecisive mind settled on a lovely pair: cheap and by a favourite designer of mine. Perfect. I proceed to the cash, get some healthy alternative snacks for that evening’s cast party festivities, and have a nice chat with the cashier about the affordability of these glasses and how I’m an idiot and can’t insert my credit card chip properly (struggle!!!!).

As I am exiting, the sensors go off, but I’m pretty sure they went off a few seconds before I walked by them and it was just as a group of ladies walked in so..anyway, ignore. Besides, I ain’t got no sensors on my lentil chips, cheese grater and sunglasses! And those sensors go off at anything: no one even checks anymore; I’ve given up a while ago, running back to the cash to make sure it wasn’t me.

So down to the grocery store for some vegetables, I go. Here’s where I start texting my friend as I walk through the aisles, trying to be aware of a. my conversation. b. sweet produce sales and c. other shoppers. So I grab a cheap cucumber and pause there to finish my convo, with cucumber under arm, sunglasses in hand (so as not to have them be CRUSHED in my purse, like its predecessor) and texting underway….

Out of the corner of my eye I see a woman approaching. Thinking she wants to get at the dates right beside me, I look up only to see her look straight at me and have this conversation with me:

Lady (looking pleasant if wary): “You know you’re gonna get caught one day.”

*My inner confused thoughts: Uuuuh, like being in the way while texting? …. does she mean that cucumber I’m holding?..what the….. Oh my sunglasses?*

Me out loud: “Umm, these? I paid for these. I just didn’t want to put them in my purse so they don’t break.”

Lady: “I saw when the beeper went off.”

Me: “No I definitely paid for these… I have the receipt in my purse if you want proof.”

Lady (still very much disbelieving): “Oh I don’t need proof. It’s not my store. “

Me (as the lady starts to walk away): “Ok. I didn’t steal these… I’m not that stupid.”

Lady: *unconvinced and disapproving look whilst walking away*

Me: “……………………………………………………….”

This is my life.

And after that I felt, of all things, GUILTY! Like somehow I had done something wrong!!! What!?!?! Holy jeebus.

Looked around the store a bit, distracted as heck and kind of half looking for her so I could give her a piece of my mind. But then I decided that I don’t want to give her more of my time…. which ironically is what I’m doing now by writing this down…. hah!

Got to the cashier at the grocery store and I just had to tell her what had happened; to relieve my guilt, I guess. In any case, I feel better now.

Strugglebot Nomes-out.


Beep Went the Crazy

by PenRei

It has been 48 hours now and the beeping won’t stop. It just won’t stop! Every 1-2 minutes, something beeps near my unit and it’s slowly driving me insane. It might be faint, but the sound is so encrusted into my brain that I can’t just ignore it anymore. I had a maintenance guy come over last night, but he didn’t know where it was coming from. He told me to fill out an official work order today so that he could have management’s permission to look around and maybe knock on some of my neighbours doors to see if it’s coming from then. I did this morning, but NOTHING has changed. It’s still driving me crazy! And I don’t need to feel crazy while I’m resting at home and getting over the worst cold I’ve had in years. I can even hear it while I watch tv. Ugh! Why can’t they just make it stop?! I can’t even sleep properly because of the beeping. Earplugs can only do so much!

Sticky Rice: My Ultimate Comfort Food

by PenRei

For many people, comfort foods while being sick or upset include:

  • Mac ‘n cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Chicken potpie
  • Meatloaf
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Anything chocolate
  • Ice cream

I definitely agree with this list, but there is one food that comforts me more than anything else: savoury sticky rice. Mmm mmm mmm! So good!

Having grown up with a Chinese mother, Chinese food wasn’t only for special occasions in my house. In fact, when it came to the homemade stuff, it wasn’t referred to as Chinese food, but simply as food. Lucky me for growing up with the delights of two food cultures in my house (my dad’s pretty good too).

Zong Zi

Zong Zi

But on to the subject at hand. Sticky rice! There are two kinds available: sweet and savoury. The sweet kinds that I know usually contained red bean, lotus, and occasionally peanuts. The savoury ones often have pork, egg, chestnuts, or many other varieties of deliciousness. In Chinese, it is called Zong Zi (粽子).

Since I love sticky rice so much, and an entire country loves it a well, let’s find out where they came from. Food journey time!

Zong Zi are usually eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated between late-May and mid-June pending the lunar calendar year.  It is a celebration of one of China’s most famous poets, Qu Yuan (屈原), from the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States period (from about 475 BC to 221 BC). During this period, China was in fact comprised of many countries who were in a constant state of war for reasons of expansionism, resources, wealth, and politics.

Qu Yuan was born in an aristocratic family in the Chu state. He served as the chief assistant to the king. He carried out political reforms, set a

Qu Yuan Portrait

Qu Yuan Portrait

strict legal system, and gave full opportunity to the able. These decisions of his were met with strong opposition from the aristocrats. (R) Qu Yuan had tried to warn his king of the growing menace of expansion from the Qin neighbours, but the king did not believe him due to a plot derived from the Qin to bribe the king’s brother into speaking ill of Qu Yuan. As a result, Qu Yuan was exiled from his state. It was during his exile that he wandered the countryside and wrote his poems still known today.

The day the Qin army took over the capital of the Chu state, Qu Yuan, having loved his country so much, threw himself in the Miluo River and died along with his country. According to legend, villagers raced out on the water to try and save him, but were too late. They then splashed their paddles and beat their drums to keep the fish and evil spirits away from Qu Yuan. They also threw rice into the river to nourish his spirit, helping him passover. That night, Qu Yuan’s spirit visited one of the local fishermen and told him that the fish were eating the rice, thus they had to wrap the rice in silk to protect it. Eventually, the silk was replaced with bamboo leaves.

In another version, the fishermen were throwing rice packets into the river to distract the fish away from his body so they wouldn’t eat it. I’m not sure which version is the true one, but either way, that is where the idea of rice wrapped in bamboo leaves come from.

Jolly Rancher, Where Art Thou?

by PenRei

So I have now officially been sick for a whole week with a very slow progression to better health. Unfortunately it hasn’t been fast enough. For a cold, this virus is kicking my ass… and then some.

Perhaps some of you out there will be familiar with the dilemma I am about to share. It often happens that when I am sick I crave very specific foods. These foods might not be the best thing for me based off of nutrition, but my body physically rejects the idea of any other kind of food with extreme nausea. Therefor, until that rejection subsides, I will ingest the food my body chooses.

Last weekend, that food was Jolly Rancher candies. Not just any! Oh no! Specifically, I wanted the soft (but could accept hard) green apple and watermelon

Green Apple Jolly Ranchers

Green Apple Jolly Ranchers

candies. Starbust was unacceptable; it had to be Jolly Rancher. During one of my hazier moments (and being unable to sleep), I decided to venture out to the stores nearby to buy a bag of Jolly Ranchers to slowly devour while watching the 4th season of Battlestar Galactica (borrowed graciously from Johnny-Be-Good). I went to No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, a Rexall and two corner stores. NOTHING! I couldn’t find one bag of Jolly Ranchers. The closest thing I could find was a bag of soft tangy mixed flavoured Jolly Ranchers. That wasn’t at all what I wanted! Worst of all, none of the flavours were green apple.

If I really wanted to, I could have gone out even further to other stores nearby. Alas, my energy levels were wavering and the warm comfort of my bed was the only thing that could save my weary soul. I decided to head back home and settle for some Campino soft candies and Vitamin C halls (my throat was too soar to handle any kind of citrus, so I was lacking that extra Vitamin C punch required to up my immune system).

Luckily, I remembered that Nomes would be over in about an hour. I texted her with her mission: bring me some Jolly Rancher candy. She accepted her mission. I prayed that her luck would be better than mine since she was coming from a different area of the city.

After a short not so restful rest, I heard a key slide into the lock of my door. Hark! ‘Tis the sound of Nomes coming through the door filled with good spirits to cheer me up and maybe even a bag of goodies. Alas, she couldn’t find any Jolly Ranchers either. ‘Twas as though the city had been emptied of them simply to spite me during my time of need. I thanked her for her efforts and resolved to opening my bag of gummy Campinos (which by the way, aren’t very good, kind of like overly artificially flavoured marshmallows). Very unsatisfying!

Soft Campinos

Soft Campinos