The newest phase
Welcome to issue nine of The Fine Arts Connector, your biweekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.
If you missed some of the recent UVic updates, President Cassels has now outlined the fall academic programming and the supports that will be available to faculty, staff and students, as well as the planned safe, phased-in approach to resuming university services and operations. Other updates also cover spring Convocation, the 20/21 timetable and the transition from the emergency response management structure to a more normal operating scenario.
As always, please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us connected in this difficult moment in history. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each week.
To Fish As Formerly: A Story of Straits Salish Resurgence is curated by AHVS alum Katie Hughes and XEMŦOLTW Dr. Nicholas Claxton (UVic’s School of Child & Youth Care) and tells the story of the SXOLE (the reef net fishery) through contemporary art, traditional knowledge and historical documentation. This exhibit features the work of seven artists: TEMOSEN Charles Elliott, John Elliott, Chris Paul, Dylan Thomas, Temoseng (aka Chasz Elliott) and Visual Arts alumni Sarah Jim and Colton Hash.
Also opening is TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing), by Visual Arts alum Maureen Gruben. “Tuktuuyaqtuuq” is the Inuvialuktun name of Gruben’s home on the Arctic coast (known in English as “Tuktoyaktuk”), which means, “Looks Like a Caribou”. In this exhibit, Gruben works with multiple facets of the animal to trace the caribou’s vast immaterial presence in her culture.
Both exhibits continue to November at Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates. Their new hours are 10am-4pm Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, plus noon-7pm Thursdays, with a maximum of 10 visitors to the gallery at a time. Please see the visitor safety statement on the Legacy website for more information.
“The weight of change should not rest on the shoulders of Black people”
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in the US, Maclean’s magazine recently asked Black Canadian writers to pen open letters to America addressing the recent upheaval and the task of confronting racism in Canada. One of the authors selected for this series is celebrated author, Writing alum and Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Esi Edugyan.
“The weight of change shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Black people—and indeed, it doesn’t. For true systemic shifts to occur, everyone has to recognize that the whole underlying structure is so irreparably broken that no one can afford to live like this anymore,” she writes.
“Idealism is not only for the young. Nor should it be left only to those who bear the greatest brunt of systemic inequities. Everyone must do the work. The pattern of outrage and forgetting cannot be sustained. This changes nothing in the long run. The work is never finished, in the way that the work of a modern marriage is never finished—it requires constant recommitment and vigilance, and a dismantling of archaic roles to avoid total collapse.”
Read her full essay here.
Edugyan was also one of three prominent Black Canadians—alongside poet El Jones and racial justice lawyer Anthony Morgan—featured on the June 10 episode of CBC Radio’s The Current.
“It seems like people are really waking up to the fact that this isn’t just a Black issue or an Indigenous issue, but that this is something that affects everyone and that we all should be outraged about,” Edugyan said in the interview.
How can we save our theatres?
Faced with a protracted period of time before theatres can be opened again—and then possibly only in a physically distanced manner, both on- and off-stage—every arts group is currently grappling with the reality of staying dark for an extended period of time . . . and the dire impact that will have on both arts groups and local economies.
Britain’s powerhouse cultural sector needs investment, not charity, writes celebrated director of stage and screen Sir Sam Mendes in the June 4 issue of The Financial Times. But while he may be writing specifically about the situation in Britain, his ideas carry weight across the water as well.
“The entire performing arts sector has mobilised to make a game-changing proposal: the Cultural Investment Participation Scheme,” he writes. “It combines the joint potential of commercial and subsidised ecologies to offer the government the genuine prospect of substantial financial return. In short, our offer is to treat the government as an ‘Angel’, using the same formula to return investment and share in the profit of successful shows, once those shows have earned back their initial costs.”
Could these ideas be applied here? Discuss!
Stream this book
Feeling the need for a bit of escapism right now? Check out Theatre alum Krista Wallace‘s podcast [Totally Fantastic Title], where she is currently offering a chapter-by-chapter reading of her fantasy novel Gatekeeper’s Key.
A writer, singer, actor and now podcaster, the Vancouver-based Wallace writes both short fiction in a variety of genres (“To Serve and Protect”, 49th Parallels) as well as long-form fiction. She also sings jazz in a big band called FAT Jazz, a duo called the Itty Bitty Big Band and narrates audio books for other authors.
Looking for some good company?
Don’t worry if you missed the recent conversation between UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers and Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman: you can still watch their online talk about reconciliation and creating art that makes people consider themselves differently in the archive for Good Company, the new series of casual conversations between Rogers and members of UVic’s creative community.
Also archived on that same page is Rogers’ chat with with Department of Writing Professor Emerita Lorna Crozier about poetry and the arts in the era of COVID-19.
The end is . . . near?
Sometimes longstanding courses have an uncanny way of colliding with reality. Case in point? The current Art History & Visual Studies film studies elective “The End: Apocalyptic Themes in Film” (AHVS 392).
While longstanding AHVS instructor Mitch Parry has been teaching it each summer since 2010, this is the first time he’s taught it in such dire circumstances—or online instead of in a classroom. But even though the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t represent “the end” per se, it has impacted society more than any other event in recent memory.
Yet despite all we’ve been collectively going through, Parry’s course still filled quickly and has a waitlist nearly as large as the maximum enrollment. Why the popularity of the apocalypse?
‘There’s kind of a satisfaction in watching the world end without having to experience it,” says Parry. “But as film is a photographic and narrative medium, audiences just love seeing something apocalyptic . . . that doesn’t actually involve anyone dying.”
As a subject, the apocalypse actually goes back to the early days of cinema (“There’s a Danish movie called The End of the World from 1916, which has beautiful lighting and good performances,” he says), which affords him a plethora of end-of-the-world scenarios from which to choose. This year, he’s limited it to nine films ranging from horror (Zombieland), comedy (Last Night) and science fiction (I Am Legend) to bleak futurism (The Road) and personal drama (These Final Hours).
All explore different ways in which the world can end: meteor (Deep Impact), excessive consumption (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), nuclear war (Dr Strangelove), economic collapse (Take Shelter), or simply experience an apocalypse without knowing what’s happening or why, as in the Canadian film Last Night.
“The fun part of Last Night is that the world ends at midnight Toronto time,” he chuckles, “which seems to imply that Toronto really is the centre of the universe.”
Yet despite a decade of popularity, Parry admits he was quite reluctant to teach the course at all this summer.
“I usually start the class by asking how many people think the world is going to end in their lifetime,” he says. “Back in 2010, pretty much everybody put up their hand, but it has dropped quite significantly in the intervening years—but now, it seems like a really rude question to ask. It feels like the elephant in the room.”
Describing the popularity of the apocalypse like “the myth of Cassandra: the prophet who isn’t listened to”, Parry admits he’ll be making some changes in his approach to the course this year. “It’s much easier to talk about the end of the world as an abstract thing than when it’s hinted at by current events. I think you have to tread lightly at times like this.”
Finally, as a veteran film professor, if the world was ending and he could only watch one more apocalyptic film, what would it be?
“Melancholia,” he says, citing Lars Von Trier’s 135-minute, 2011 Danish epic. “It offers no hope, which means no equivocation. The world ends at the beginning of the film, then we see how the end of the world affects these two sisters. Plus, it’s the single best representation of how I’ve experienced depression—the slow-motion opening, the dragging, monotonous endlessness of it.”
Now that sounds like an apocalypse.
Blowing her own horn
Just days before we all went into isolation back in mid-March, Klazek took a quick trip to Elkhart, Indiana, where the Vincent Bach trumpet factory. As a Bach Artist, she was participating in their “Artist Select” program, which supports their artists coming to personally try a lot of instruments at the factory—and to choose several to be sold in the local music store of their city, with a tag explaining that theyhave been hand selected by this artist, so that students in particular know what they are buying.
While she was there, Back produced a series of six fascinating videos, in which Klazek shares her journey as both a teacher/educator and performer, her exploration of different instruments, her musical influences and how she ended up knowing—after her first brass class—that the trumpet was her “voice”. Now having been playing professionally for over 30 years, Klazek’s journey as a professional musician and now Bach Artist is nicely encapsulated in this insightful video series.
You can also check out her first album, Songs to the Moon, which was recently added to Spotify (and YouTube as well), or watch her perform alongside her husband, fiddler Pierre Schryer, in the April 2020 COncert-VIDeo, a fun COVID project featuring a series of performances by Schryer and local musicians. (Klazek performs the Berber tune “A Ya Zain” 11:00 to 13:50).
Finally, please enjoy this performance by Klazek and seven trumpet colleagues across Canada as they perform Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium”, arranged by Matt Byrne.
Two 4 One for free
Just in time for Pride month, you can now stream the award-winning feature film Two 4 One—described as the first transgender rom-com—for free through to June 15. Just use this link.
Written, directed and edited by Department of Writing chair Maureen Bradley in 2014 and produced by Writing’s digital media specialist Daniel Hogg, the locally shot Two 4 One is a bittersweet comedic drama that sees a transgender hero fall into an unimaginable predicament.
When transgendered Adam helps his baby-crazy ex-girlfriend Miriam artificially inseminate, they wind up in bed together—and they both get pregnant. Now Adam must reconcile his identity and gender with his biological reality, grapple with his feelings for Miriam and try to figure out what it means to be a man.
Described as a “sweet gender-bender of a light comedy . . . sensitive, subtle and truly sure-handed” (Globe and Mail) and “genuinely funny and sensitive [with] clever and hilarious twists” (Calgary Sun), it stars Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Baroness Von Sketch Show), Naomi Snieckus (Mr. D, Carter), Andrea Menard (Moccasin Flats, Blackstone), Matt Baram (Seed, Carter), and Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, The Man in the High Castle).
The winner of eight international film awards—including Best Canadian Film (Victoria Film Festival), Audience Award: Best Feature Film (The Seattle Transgender Film Festival) and a Special Jury Prize (Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival)—Bradley’s debut feature film was ahead of its time in its portrayal of a transgender character.
“I’ve had tons of films at film festivals but I want to reach a broader audience,” she said at the time. “Living life as a transgendered man is not something most people know anything about.”
Reaching that wider audience is why she chose to write Two 4 One as a romantic comedy. “I’m a lapsed activist, and storytelling is a way of reaching people that’s easier than activism,” she explained. “When people laugh, they’re open and might take in new ideas, and understand ‘the other’ . . . . Humour is very subversive.”
Two 4 One is normally available for rental on the NFB website ($5.99) and iTunes ($4.99), among other platforms, but this free screening is a special event only available to The Connector’s readership until June 15. Enjoy!
Reengaging with art
When last we heard from current Art History & Visual Studies graduate student Ashley Riddett in April, she was working with Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery Arts Collective to create an online art-sharing platform and blog series called Challenge Crisis with Creativity, which has continued to post art in response to weekly themes.
Now, Riddett and a team of AHVS grad students are working with Gage Gallery to mount both a physical and virtual exhibit featuring the art contributed by the community during the COVID-19 outbreak. Challenge Crisis with Creativity: Our Community Coping with COVID Through Art will run June 23-27 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Avenue.
The exhibit will feature 50 pieces in a variety of disciplines selected from the 100-plus artists who contributed nearly 300 pieces to the online series, with a separate room featuring projections of the remaining work.
“The physical exhibit is not only a celebration of the leniency on social distancing, but also a celebration of how successful the project has been so far,” says Riddett. “And I’m a huge fan of inclusion and community-building, so the projector room will be a great way to include everyone.”
The pieces in the exhibit have been selected by both Riddett and fellow AHVS grad students Maria Buhne, Anahita Ranjbar and Amena Sharmin, as well as the Gage Gallery’s Gabriela Hirt and Tanya Bub. “We picked the ones we felt were really strong and resonated with the weekly themes,” she explains.
The exhibit itself will be physically distanced, given Gage Gallery’s long narrow space, with only two viewers at a time allowed into the space. “It will be challenging, but I think it’ll be worth it,” Riddett says. “And I’m sure people will appreciate feeling confident and safe within the space. We’re all coming out more but there is still that anxiety.”
For those not able—or ready—to visit the actual gallery, Riddett is drawing on her course experience to create a 3D digital exhibition for people who are unable to visit the Oak Bay gallery. “I did a lot of virtual exhibition walkthroughs as part of my AHVS undergraduate and graduate courses, so I have a lot of experience in it,” she says.
Riddett feels the Challenge Crisis with Creativity project—with its focus on artist and crafter recognition and community engagement—dovetails nicely with her own graduate research focusing on collecting oral histories of textile crafters in Nova Scotia (specifically rug hookers).
“The art we create today is going to be the art we admire and study tomorrow,” she says. “Art history is more relevant than people give it credit for . . . while this is an unfortunate time, it’s a great time to understand why visuals are so important. It’s important to look for new avenues to help and support people in the art world, and to get people reengaging again.”
AHVS grad student Ashley Riddett at her Gage Gallery exhibit
To be or not to be . . . solo
Long before there was the One-Man Star Wars, Theatre Inconnu artistic director and Department of Theatre alum and instructor Clayton Jevne created his One-Man Hamlet. Described by various reviewers over the years as “Amazing”, “Ingenious” and “Mind boggling”, Jevne performed this remarkable show for over 20 years and it truly is a wonder to behold. But this “thrift-store classic” certainly didn’t start out that way.
“In 1991, after three seasons of trying to make a go of establishing ourselves as a going concern in Victoria, Theatre Inconnu decided to close shop after a final—and, at the time, considered ‘audacious’—farewell production,” recalls Jevne. “Down to one member, the ‘company’ decided to create a one-actor production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, furnished with props and costume bits from local thrift shops. If the company was to go under, then let it go under in a truly bizarre fashion.”
But rather than scuttle the ship, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet actually had the complete opposite effect. “The production sold out and became the spark that ignited the company’s love affair with the Bard,” he says.
Theatre Inconnu was able to leverage the success of the show and launch the first annual mini-Shakespeare summer festival in 1991, which soon morphed into a major annual event and continues to this day as the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival—led by artistic director and Writing MFA alum Karen Lee Pickett—on the grounds of Camosun College. (In fact, 2020 would have been the Shakespeare Fest’s 30th anniversary, had COVID-19 not put it temporarily on hold.)
Between 1991 and 2008, Jevne’s One-Man Hamlet then went on to tour through four countries (UK, Mexico, US, Canada) and over 600 performances. Not bad for what was supposed to be the last kick at the cat!
In addition to having been the artistic director of Theatre Inconnu since 1978—where he has served as actor, director or designer on close to 100 productions—Jevne has logged close to 1,000 performances of solo shows across North America and Europe. Located right across the street from the Belfry on Fernwood Road, Theatre Inconnu is rightly described as “Victoria’s longest-running independent theatre” and has achieved legendary status locally, thanks to Jevne’s indefatigable leadership.
While his widely acclaimed One-Man Hamlet is available in book form by Ekstasis Editions, we’re presenting it here as a recording of the 20th anniversary performance back in 2011.
Even if you don’t know Rosencrantz from Guildenstern, you’re bound to enjoy it.