Sounds Good

If you’re looking for an auditory adventure this weekend, there are two events involving faculty well worth attending: Friday night’s MISTIC concert and Saturday night’s Site & Sound installation.

First up is MISTIC. The final event of the School of Music/Open Space collaboration with Seattle-based sound sculptor and inventor Trimpin on the (CanonX+4:33=100) piano-based sculptural installation, the MISTIC concert promises to be both a fascinating and entertaining evening.

Preparing to get MISTIC: (from left) Darren Miller, Andy Schloss and Steeve Bjornson. Photo: Kristy Farkas

MISTIC—or, Music Intelligence and Sound Technology Interdisciplinary Collective—will feature Dr. Andrew Schloss and UVic students putting into practice the “unique methodologies” they’ve developed over the course of the (CanonX+4:33=100) exhibit, as they “perform” the installation as one enormous musical instrument. (Last Saturday’s exhibit discussion by Darren Miller focused on the “compositional opportunities and challenges of writing for a Trimpin installation,” so it’s bound to be quite the night.) Remember, these aren’t really pianos anymore, more a series of deconstructed and enhanced piano-based constructs into which the MISTIC performers can plug their computers in order to create their own unique style of music.

Open Space says it best: “Created by one of the most stimulating and inventive forces in music today, Trimpin’s installation will skew your everyday assumptions about sound and technology and engage your senses of perception, surprise, and joy in an extraordinary and intricate audio-visual experience unlike any other.”


The MISTIC concert starts at 8pm Friday, April 27, at Open Space, 510 Fort Street. Tickets are $15 or $10



 for Open Space members, students & seniors

Then on Saturday night, it’s the Royal BC Museum’s quite literally fascinating sounding Site & Sound installation. Dubbed “a unique festival of all things auditory,” Site & Sound features an impressive lineup of musicians, poets and sound artists who will be performing after-hours in and around the various RBCM dioramas and displays.

Will new Visual Arts associate professor and sound artist Paul Walde be in the submarine? Will the Victoria Phonographers Union—featuring concert manager Kristy Farkas—be in the old town? Will flautist and School of Music alum Kathy Rogers be in the rainforest? Will Victoria Poet Laureate Janet Rogers be in the longhouse? Will spoken word artists Missie Peters and Dave Morris be riding the wooly mammoth? You won’t know if you don’t go!

All of the nine participating artists and groups have specially crafted sound for this event, which will provide a unique way of experiencing the RBCM. In addition to those already mentioned, the other performers are sound artist Tina Pearson, bluegrass duo Garrett Tompson and Shanti Bremer, Chinese group the Victoria Gum Sing Musical Society and local performance artist Peter Morin, of northern BC’s Tahltan Nation.

Whatever your taste in musical expression, it’s a safe bet you won’t hear either of these two shows again!

Site & Sound starts at 7pm Saturday, April 28, at the Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street. Tickets are $15.

In The Flesh—now on video!

Click on the link to watch Lynne Van Luven discuss In The Flesh

In advance of the Sunday, April 29, local launch of the new essay collection, In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body, co-editor and Associate Dean Lynne Van Luven has now done a video talking about the finer points of the collection. “We have writers writing about the womb, the penis, the ass . . . how they feel about their inner organs,” says Van Luven. “We don’t have a complete body in this book, because we only have 20 writers—but what we do have is a really unusual take on being human.”

Featuring the cross-Canadian likes of writers Taiaiake Alfred, Dede Crane, Candace Fertile, Julian Gunn, Margaret Thompson, Brian Brett, Lorna Crozier plus Van Luven and co-editor Kathy Page, In the Flesh offers a series of candid essays that allows each author to focus on one part of the body, and explore not only its function and meanings, but also the role it has played in his or her life.

The local launch starts at 2:30pm on Sunday, April 29, at the Fernwood Yoga Den, 1311 Gladstone. Van Luven, Page and Gunn will be on CBC Radio One’s North By Northwest arts & culture show on the weekend of April 28-29 (show airs 6-9am Saturday & Sunday), and Van Luven will also be on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with Sheilagh Rogers on May 21, with a repeat broadcast on May 26.

Published by Brindle & Glass, copies of In the Flesh will also be available at Sunday’s reading.

U + M = Winners!

Monday Magazine‘s 10th annual M Awards were handed out on April 24 and—no big surprise—a number of Fine Arts faculty and alum were once again among the winners and shortlisted nominees! (Handed out annually to the movers and shakers in Victoria’s arts and cultural scene, these reader-voted awards were actually started back in 2002 by a pair of then-Monday editors with mighty UVic connections: Fine Arts communications honcho John Threlfall and Writing sessional instructor Alisa Gordaneer—both of whom are also UVic alumni.)

Congrats go out this year to Writing prof Lorna Crozier, whose Small Mechanics won “Favourite Book of Poetry”, as well as shortlisted nominees Carla Funk (whose Apologetic was up against Crozier in the poetry category) and Digital Media staffer Dan Hogg (for “Biggest Supporter of Local Film”).

No surprise that a number of alumni were among the winners, too, given our faculty’s ongoing presence in the local arts scene. Big-deal Writing grad Esi Edugyan‘s Half-Blood Blues swept the “Favourite Fiction Book” category (forget about the Giller or that still pending possible Orange Prize—Esi can retire happily now that she’s won an M!), and fellow Writing alum Jeremy Lutter was named “Favourite Filmmaker” (for his recent Victoria Film Festival award-winning Joanna Makes A Friend).

The UVic-heavy Ride The Cyclone

The Department of Theatre also figured prominently in the winner’s list, led by Ian Case, the just-appointed director of our own University Centre Farquhar Auditorium, who was named “Biggest Supporter of Local Theatre” (no doubt for his work with Intrepid Theatre, Victoria Shakespeare Society, William Head on Stage, and Giggling Iguana’s Craigdarroch Castle shows). Britt Small picked up “Favourite Director” in a co-win with Jacob Richmond for their Ride The Cyclone remount; Ride The Cyclone—which starred a number of Theatre alumni (Rielle Braid, Matthew Coulson, Kholby Wardell and Sarah Jane Pelzer)—also picked up “Favourite Overall Production”.

Theatre prof Brian Richmond was shortlisted in the “Favourite Director” category (which he lost to his son, Jacob) for his 2011 Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—the star of which, Meg Tilly, also picked up “Favourite Performer”. Former Theatre student Melissa Blank was also shortlisted in that same category, for her performance in Theatre Inconnu’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. (Inconnu is run by Theatre grad and sessional instructor Clayton Jevne.)

Janet Munsil

Finally, the Victoria Fringe Festival won the oddly named “Favourite Non-Music Event or Festival.” The local Fringe is run by Intrepid Theatre, which is itself run by Theatre grad and noted playwirght Janet Munsil (and, until last month, Ian Case). The Victoria Fringe is a regular showcase for Phoenix talent, graduates and students both, including the likes of Fringe gods TJ Dawe (undisputed king of the solo monologue) and Charles Ross (of One Man Star Wars / Lord of the Rings fame).

Winners receive a Phillip’s growler bottle, to be filled (and refilled) with their brew of choice; shortlisted nominees receive the warm, inner glow of a job well done and a hearty round of applause for their continued efforts to keep Victoria’s arts scene healthy and thriving!

Do BLINK

Two of the most exciting annual events in the Fine Arts faculty are coming up shortly—the yearly Department of Visual Arts BFA and MFA exhibits!

First up is BLINK, the BFA graduation exhibition. Running April 20 – 27 in the Visual Arts Building, you can see the work of more than 40 emerging artists. Opening Reception runs 7pm to midnight on Friday, April 20 (dress is semi-formal), and $15 catalogs will be for sale at the door.

These are just a few examples of the variety of work that will be on exhibit. Whether or not you can make the opening, do stop by and check out the work. The exhibit is open 12-5pm Monday to Friday, 1-4pm Saturday in UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

Anne J. Steeves, Costume for Embodying the Pilgrim at Chartres

After that comes the 2012 MFA Graduating Thesis Exhibition. Running May 4 – 12 and featuring the work of the seven graduating Master of Fine Arts students, each artist in this exhibit has a drastically different approach to making art, as reflective of the various nature of contemporary art practice in the world at large.

Join Steven Brekelmans, Heather Carey, Jessica Karuhanga, Dong-Kyoon Nam, Sasha Opeiko, Anne J. Steves and Matt Trahan as they explore the role of the artist as it relates to their various work—sculptural, painting, drawing, fabric or material exploration.

Steven Brekelmans

Just as the other Fine Arts departments have their own graduating recitals, concerts, theatrical performances or readings, this is the chance to see what Visual Arts students have been achieving during their time in the various programs. Always fascinating, always engaging, these two exhibits are definitely highlights of any academic year.

The MFA exhibit runs Monday to Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday 1-4 pm in the Visual Arts building, with an opening reception starting at 7pm on Friday, May 4.

Both shows are free and open to the public, of course.

 

Authors, Authors!

Esi Edugyan accepting her Giller Prize last year (Tyler Anderson/National Post)

Perennial headline-maker Esi Edugyan is back in the news this week with word that she’s now on the shortlist for Britain’s Orange Prize, the prestigious writing prize for fiction by women. One of only six finalists—down from 20 on the longlist—Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is proving to have real staying power, given its recent nomination for the UK’s Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction as well.The Orange Prize comes with a £30,000 purse, while the Scott nets a sweet £25,000.

For the Orange Prize, Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is up against Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies, Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles, Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz, Georgina Harding’s Painter of Silence and Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. (Patchett won the prize in 2002 for Bel Canto.)

For the Scott Prize, Edugyan is once again up against Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, who was earlier among her competition for the Man Booker Prize (won by Julian Barnes), the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award (both won by, deWitt) and the Giller (which Edugyan took home). Other competitors include Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, Andrew Miller’s Pure and Barry Unsworth’s The Quality of Mercy.

The Orange Prize winner is announced May 30, while the Walter Scott Prize winner will be announced June 16.

Lorna Crozier (Gary McInstry)

In other related Department of Writing news, poetry professor Lorna Crozier will be the featured guest at a special Canadian Club evening celebrating arts and culture on April 18, as a way of honouring National Poetry Month. Rightly dubbed a national treasure, the much-lauded and much-published Distinguished Professor will be speaking and reading at this special event, which will also feature music by singer Tim Kyle and pianist Bob LeBlanc. Socializing starts at 5:30pm on April 18, with dinner at 6pm. Tickets are $35, and you can call to register at 250-370-1837.

In other National Poetry Month news, Crozier and Tim Lilburn (as well as sessional instructor Patrick Friesen and Malahat Review editor John Barton) were mentioned in this Vancouver Sun piece about the state of Canadian poetry. And noted alum Billeh Nickerson was profiled in the Sun for his new (and timely) collection of poetry, Impact: The Titanic Poems.

Associate Dean and busy editor Lynne Van Luven will be launching her latest creation, In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body (Brindle & Glass, $24.95). Co-edited by Van Luven and Kathy Page, In the Flesh features contributions by the likes of Taiaiake Alfred, Dede Crane, Candace Fertile, Julian Gunn, Margaret Thompson, Brian Brett, Lorna Crozier plus Van Luven and Page themselves (among others).

Described as “an intelligent, witty, and provocative look at how we think about—and live within—our bodies,” In the Flesh offers a series of candid essays that allows each author to focus on one part of the body, and explores its function, its meanings, and the role it has played in his or her life.

The local launch happens at 2:30pm Sunday, April 29, at (appropriately enough) the Fernwood Yoga Den, 1311 Gladstone. Van Luven, Page and Gunn will be on CBC Radio One’s North By Northwest arts & culture show on the weekend of April 28-29 (show airs 6-9am Saturday & Sunday), and will also be on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with Sheilagh Rogers on May 21, with a repeat on May 26.

Writing alum Yasuko Thanh is getting good attention for her debut collection of short stories, Floating Like The Dead. She also appeared on North by Northwest—you can listen to the podcast of that interview here—and was profiled by Adrian Chamberlain in the April 22 issue of the Times Colonist, which you can read here.

Finally, the rumour mill confirms that Giller-nominated sessional instructor and short fiction writer John Gould is involved in creating a new Victoria Writers Festival. Details are slim at the moment, but it’s being organized by Gould and local writers Sara Cassidy and Julie Paul, who describe themselves as “a collective of writers who deeply miss the International Literary Arts Festival that was the highlight of spring in Victoria for many years.” The debut fest is slated for October 12-13 at . . . Camosun College, whose English department is sponsoring it.

The Other Avatar

Sometimes making it big in pop culture can get in the way of good information. Case in point? Doug Jarvis’ upcoming Fine Arts summer course, Avatars and Information Agents—which is hampered by association with the recent James Cameron movie Avatar (and, to a lesser extent, the popular anime-influenced TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender).

What will your avatar look like?

But to hear Jarvis tell it, avatars aren’t solely the realm of sci-fi spectaculars—they’re already a part of our everyday lives, which is the whole point of his course. “When it comes to popular culture, there’s lots of movies where humans have other representations—Avatar, Surrogates, The Matrix—and then there’s the representation of you that appears on Facebook,” he says. “That avatar is—or could be—an idealized version of you, but it’s connected to you, because it’s got your name on it. So people are already using these vehicles, these entities, in all of sorts of different ways—strategically, for promotion, whatever. I just want to explore this terrain.”

Doug Jarvis is the ideal instructor for an arts and technology course like Avatars and Information Agents. As an artist who is interested in conceptual strategies for the artistic production of perceptual and pseudoscientific devices that question technology as a human attribute, his art practice incorporates sculpture, drawing, performance, digital imaging and the internet to render the experience of being a sensory agent in the world. He is a founding member of both Noxious Sector, and the Second Life avatar performance art group Second Front. (And you may have seen his interactive installation, Ectoplasmic Scream, in the lobby of the Belfry Theatre during their recent SPARK Festival.)

But while that may sound complex, he insists the ideas of avatars and information agents are not. Avatars, he says, are merely “the object or image you use on Facebook or in a game world” while information agents are “more like your Google identity: your social insurance number, your telephone number, your Google preferences . . . all the bits of data that represent you in a mediascape or an informationscape.” Social media, online gaming, college and university all require us to create some form of unique digital profile to participate in a virtual or information space, explains Jarvis; we create these avatars and information agents to act as our “second self,” a collection of identities that represent us in the multiple dimensions of digital culture.

And what will happen when you send it out into the world?

In other words, most of us are fully immersed in the world of avatars and information agents. “These data bits are out there functioning on your behalf already, whether you like it or not,” says Jarvis. “It’s not a new idea, but it’s about how these things can be mobilized. It’s in your best interest to be aware of them. They’re being created already, so why not learn how to inhabit them, humanize them? How do we, in this administrative society, keep filling out these identity forms but do it to our own ends, and not just to be compliant citizens?”

When it comes to the actual course work in Avatars and Information Agents, expect a lot of hands-on action. During the first week, students will explore the use of avatars in popular culture and mythology, design their own avatars, learn about what they are, then print them out and have an art show of everyone’s avatars. “After that, it’s about teasing out what your relationship is with that avatar,” says Jarvis. “We’ll take it on tour, spend some time with it, get to know it, put it in some situations like Second Life and Facebook, and create a travelogue using Machinima. Then the students will have to determine its fate.”

And don’t worry if your computer skills aren’t exactly on the programmer level. Since it’s a hands-on studio course, Jarvis promises it can be understood and enjoyed by anyone in any discipline—business, economics, theatre, psych, history, visual arts, whatever. “It’ll be accessible enough for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience working on computers or design programs that they’ll still be able to do it. But we’re going to go further than just the basics.”

Doug Jarvis plays with interactive images in his "Ectoplasmic Scream," seen here in the lobby of the Belfry Theatre

Course work aside, Jarvis also feels Avatars and Information Agents is just a good 21st century survival primer. “We all know your identity can be stolen, but what does that mean—what part of your identity? It makes you reflect on what you’re actually comprised of
. . . it’s all those things that are going on in this digital culture information space that you hear about. But what I’m trying to suggest is that we can learn about this a bit more from these two directions where we consciously put out other versions of yourself—other personas to culture jam the identity space—and then use the information agents like your personal artificial intelligence.”

“Avatar is a very popular term,” he says by way of conclusion. “But there’s no culture around avatars—so is it time for avatar studies in this day of neuroscience?”

FA 346Avatars and Information Agents with Doug Jarvis runs 10:30am to 12:20pm Monday to Friday, June 7 to June 29, in room 103 of the Fine Arts building. It is a 1.5 credit undergraduate course open to second years and above. Click here to see the Calendar listing.