High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of creative writing and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
Nightshade By Taylor Basso
“What do you call a greenhouse with nothing growing inside?”
He asked it like some profound riddle. I peered into the cold dark greenhouse at the cracked pots and bags of old soil. Once it became apparent that Mike didn’t actually have an answer, I shook my head and brought the joint to my lips. “Save the deep questions for after we smoke this, okay?”
I pretended not to see the look Brooke shot me while I sparked the lighter. I recognized it as her “Simran, be nice” look. “My mom used to grow vegetables here,” Brooke said. “Cucumbers, tomatoes. She stopped after my brother was born. Watch the door, Mike, I don’t want Nightshade to get out.” Nightshade was Brooke’s cat, 15 years old with a long tail and with a tendency to wander.
Mike closed the door behind him. The three of us passed the joint back and forth in awkward silence as the muted house party thrummed in the distance behind us. This was Brooke’s version of Camp David, a play to unite her best friend and her new boyfriend, and so far it was failing. We weren’t warring, per se, things were just…chilly. Mostly from my end. I didn’t get the point of Mike. I didn’t see what he brought to the table. Brooke was amazing and funny and whipcrack smart. Mike was…a dude. In his group of friends, he wasn’t even the dude. He was Dude #3, faceless supporting cast in an anonymous posse of white bros.
“Do you have any brothers or sisters, Simran?” Mike asked. The way he asked the question was stilted and unnatural. Brooke must have told him to make nice with me. It’s funny how much you can pull from a single sentence. I should have been touched: I was important to Brooke and she wanted her important people to get along. Instead, I felt peeved because it implicitly put us on the same level.
“Two brothers,” I said, holding a cloud in my lungs. I passed the joint to Brooke and dove into my pocket for a pack of cigarettes. Both of them shook their heads. Mike said he didn’t want his father, the pastor, to smell it on him when he got home. I looked at the joint between his fingers and then back up at Brooke, incredulously. It was dark and she pretended not to see me.
Brooke always told me that one of her favourite things about me was that I couldn’t control my face. The first time she said it, I was in detention because I couldn’t stop scowling during Becky Ruiz’s French presentation. “This is an injustice,” I said. “Her accent was so fucking bad.” Brooke laughed and kept me company even though she didn’t have to, and Mrs. Lagos liked us so she let her. We spent the hour skewering Becky together. It wasn’t even detention, really.
It was always part of Our Thing, I thought, that we hated the same people. Hate isn’t actually the word for it – more that we lacked patience for stupidity and called it out where we saw it. Brooke was a no bullshit chick and I adored it about her. Now, in the greenhouse, Mike was halfway through stammering out some idiotic stoned screed about politics and Brooke was coaxing it out of him like his third grade teacher. “No, you had a good point. You were saying how money is sort of like this imaginary system. Simran, you listening?” I nodded.
“Yeah, like, what does money represent, you know? It’s pieces of paper and we say it’s worth like five dollars but it’s only worth that much because we say it is.”
“Money is guaranteed by gold,” I said. “Any amount of money just represents the same amount of gold at a mint somewhere.”
“Okay but like,” Mike said, “it’s also used to control us, right? Like you look at all the presidents and vice-presidents and stuff on it, they’re just there to remind you who’s in charge.”
“Do you know who the vice-president is right now?”
The question hung uncomfortably in the air. I smirked and looked at Brooke, who returned my gaze through the darkness. “Come on, Mike, let’s go inside,” she finally said.
I was taken aback. “We can finish this joint, if you want. I still have to kill this smoke anyway.”
“It’s not cool to ask someone a question to try and humiliate them. It makes you an asshole, actually.” Brooke pulled the door open. It dragged in the long grass and made a shuddering noise. She stormed out. Mike shrugged at me, took one last tug on the joint and followed sheepishly behind her. I was left there, hot-faced, groping in the darkness for something to say.
Moonlight spilled in through the crack of the door. I could hear the noise of the party louder now. Some drunk couple was on the porch, half-committed to a slurred fight. I stayed in the greenhouse for a while longer, smoking. On my last puff, a quick flash caught my eye. It was Nightshade, Brooke’s cat, poised in front of the open door. If she escaped, I thought, it would technically be Mike’s fault, not mine. He left the door open. I thought how upset Brooke would be if Nightshade went missing. The cat walked, soft footfalls, closer to the door. I was within arm’s reach, could close it if I wanted to, but I’d have to do it fast.
Taylor Basso is originally from Surrey, BC, and currently lives in Vancouver. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. His plays have been staged across the city, and his fiction work can be found online at Joyland and Plenitude.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
BAS is a monthly photo series at sadmag.ca. With a penchant for light erotica and general horseplay, the gang at BurnAfterShooting continues to brave Vancouver’s seedy underbelly, striving to push the boundaries of what can be considered tasteful and proper. For more by BAS, follow them on Instagram or check out their website.
Sometimes, film festivals speed by so quickly that there isn’t enough time to publish all of our content. Sometimes, the content is so good that we have to publish it later because we love it so much. This is some of that content.
The Vancouver International Film Festival can sometimes seem like a very pompous affair, with all of its line-ups and pass holders and fancy venues. It can be refreshing when all of the slow-burners are interrupted by a real wild card. Though, in the case of this year’s AAAAAAAAH!, directed by British filmmaker Steve Oram, I might not use the word ‘refreshing’, more likely ‘bizarre’. It was like Coronation Street but with tea-bagging involved. Or a Planet of the Apes directed by Tommy Wiseau. Whichever of the two you can visualize more clearly. In plain terms, the film was violent, graphic, and sexually explicit. The characters carried out their lives like apes, and I do not mean that metaphorically.
After acclimatizing myself to the bizarre grunts and phallic gore as best I could, I saw a very familiar story playing out onscreen. I was watching a family drama, albeit a deranged one. The matriarch of the family ditches her husband and instead gets freaky with a younger man, much to the dismay of her angsty, brooding daughter. While Mom has fun with her new suitor, the daughter seethes in the shadows, until eventually she falls in love with an equally despondent fellow. However, happiness can’t last forever. I won’t give away the final bit of the movie, but I will say that healthy familial boundaries are blatantly ignored by all. It’s enough to make you nauseous, to say the least. The characters’ ape-like behavioural patterns are purely shocking at first, but eventually become a sly critique on regression in society and perhaps a comedic version of primal patriarchy. Though, I really can’t say anything with complete confidence. I know there must have been a thematic direction within the film, but I was way too busy trying to forget the array of flaccid members and food spittle. This is not to say that it was a bad film, I just don’t know if I will ever get over it.
A film that I almost overlooked and ended up thoroughly enjoying was Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm. I bought my ticket late in the game and went to the mid-afternoon screening at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts rather than the evening one a few days earlier at the Rio Theatre. Even though I might have missed out on the late night atmosphere, Deathgasm was still a serious treat. A very bloody, campy, and obscene treat. Exemplary in its dry, tongue-in-cheek Kiwi humour, this cinematic gore-fest poked the perfect amount of fun at both cult sensibility and metalhead culture.
After the death of his mother, Brodie, moves in with his severely religious relatives and their bully of a son. While finding solace in the local record store, Brodie befriends fellow hardcore fan Zakk, and the two form a band. But when Brodie stumbles across a decrepit sheet of music and the two decide to play it themselves, death and terror reign down on their sleepy New Zealand town in the form of a demon-zombie apocalypse, until only their misfit group of friends are left to defeat the abounding evil. Howden directs the absurdity with skill, and uses genre tropes like low-fi special effects and hyperbolic character to his advantage. However, cult horror is notoriously misogynistic, and though this film tried to break from that pattern, it was not entirely successful. The film contained three noteworthy female characters, one being Brodie’s high school crush turned demon-fighting badass, another a low-ranking servant of hell who eventually usurps the head title, and the third a record store clerk who reads fortunes on the side. They operate in very different spheres and never interact with one another except during the film’s climax, and though they possess a certain amount of agency they still play a passive role in the film as a whole. I knew it was coming, but I still didn’t appreciate the genre sexism. However, apart from those few snags, Deathgasm was still a raucous bit of fun, presenting itself as a very clever addition to the cult canon.
I pushed my bangs to the side of my forehead again. Just like I’d done 10 seconds ago.
Everyone else went through this phase last year. But not me. I somehow missed the bangs-aren’t-cool memo. Now everyone sported stylish parts down either cheekbone and I was stuck in the death stage, with bangs too short to store behind my ears but too long to sit where they naturally wanted to fall.
I let go of my hair and turned my attention back to Julia.
“So?” I answered, voice a tad bit less casual than I’d hoped for.
“Sooo,” she said, glaring at me from across the cafeteria table. “I was supposed to go to Stanley Park today. After school. And now apparently the stratosphere is screwing me over. Feel sorry for me, jerk.”
“It’s not the stratosphere,” I said, adjusting my bangs yet again. “Weather happens in the troposphere.”
I was fidgeting with my hair so much I didn’t notice she was gone until I looked up a few seconds later to an empty table.
I frowned and resumed my lunch. What was her problem?
Then again, maybe a technical correction wasn’t the best consolation.
High school is the troposphere of life, Ithought. It’s where all the weather happens.
Jessica Schmidt is a grade 11 student at Langley Fine Arts school. She is not particularly tall, or particularly short, but she likes to complain about her height anyway. If Jessica could travel anywhere, she would take her whole family and move to Greenland—although she doesn’t know why she’s so attracted to that thought…maybe because she’s always felt more at home in ice and snow than hills and fields.
Jamie Smith is a Vancouver artist, educator, consultant, and events producer. Her mixed media paintings are inspired by her many travels and focus on the sediment of memory and experience. She is the founder of THRIVE Studio, a place for female artists to connect and learn, and the creator of ROVE, a Mount Pleasant Art Walk. More by Jamie Smith here.
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When I walked into the Cultch, the greeter immediately warned that the show would be between 100-120 minutes without intermission. I beelined for the bathroom, then to the bar. Not only do they serve beer (and wine) at the Cultch, but they’ll even let you bring it to your seat inside the theatre. This evening was off to a great start.
When the lights dimmed we made our way to our seats and were pleasantly surprised at both the set up and the size. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. When Ronnie Burkett emerged, dressed in all black, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. It seemed everybody knew and loved Burkett already. In his introduction he talked of his past work, which again, the audience seemed to know all about, then explained his objective with the Daisy Theatre. He wanted to create a puppet show for adults that was fun; a departure from his past work, which was decidedly darker.
As far as marionettes go, I’ve only ever seen Pinocchio and Gepetto at work. This was a change of pace for me. The opening number starred Dolly Wiggler, who would dance to music and peel off her clothing one item at a time, burlesque style. I didn’t know marionettes could move like that. I was laughing and in shock, looking over to my friend to confirm that she was seeing this. Her rhythm, as created by Burkett’s hands, which moved quickly without distracting him from the song he was singing, was incredible.
Funny for the most part and provocative throughout, Burkett had the audience laughing and cheering from start to finish. I laughed a lot, but I also cringed some. Especially when Franz was on stage talking too much–at least for my liking–of inviting starry-eyed audience members backstage and humping them from behind while they were distracted by smaller cuter puppet named Schnitzel.
From the applause, to the coos, to the shouts of encouragement everybody seemed to know from the moment the show began that this was a participatory event. The length, I would learn, varies because Burkett invites the audience to hoot, holler and applaud as a way of voting for which puppets or songs they would like to see performed. This was something I quite liked. Quickly it became clear that many of the audience members had seen this play before and were keen to see some of their favourite puppets return to the stage. At one point the lights came on and he looked into the audience for a volunteer. Burkett would settle on a man named Gavin, who would learn how to make a puppet play the piano while bobbing his head to the music–“he” being the puppet. Gavin would also go on to sing on cue and even take off his shirt.
It was a while before I was able to find the connection between these puppets, all telling stories or singing songs that had nothing to do with the others. In a way, it felt disjointed. I’d been in a gambling mood when I decided to see the show without first doing any research about Burkett or the Daisy Theatre, which I would realize part way through was a variety show. Even still, I struggled to make sense of why some of them were performers, while others were just there to tell stories.
In addition to Gavin, the highlights for me were without a doubt Jesus (yes, Christ) and Edna Rural. Neither sang or danced, but rather they talked to the audience. Jesus, who may actually have been performing stand-up routine, was dreading the holidays with his parents Mary and Joseph. His birthday is a tense time and his parents don’t approve of his girlfriend, he explained while weaving clever jokes, with even more clever biblical references into his story. Edna, a widow from a small town in Alberta, is an expert baker, and talks endlessly because she fears that if she’s quiet somebody will give her bad news. Everybody had a good laugh when Edna told the story of her pie crust made with dill, which of course was referred to as dill dough (read: dildo). I’m not a big fan of sex jokes. They’re popular and funny making me a minority on this one, but I can’t help but find them boring and a little too easy.
While I thought two hours was a little too long and the sexual references a little too frequent, I quite liked this play. It was smart, topical and funny. It was also sad, heartwarming and relatable. Burkett is quick-witted and truly a master of his craft. He brought each puppet to life with his voice and movement and that alone makes for twenty dollars well spent. The fact that no two nights are the same, has me curious as to who will grace the stage of the Daisy Theatre in the nights to come. In this regard, it makes sense that this is a show people come back for.
The Daisy Theatre runs until December 20 at The Cultch (1895 Venables Street). Tickets are available by phone at 604.251.1363, or online at thecultch.com.
It’s difficult to describe Vancouver-based cultural “badass” Amber Dawn in a single sentence–poet, editor, teacher, mentor, filmmaker, performance artist, and now award-winning writer, it might actually be easier to list all of the things she isn’t. She is the author of Sub Rosa (which received a Lambda Award in 2011), How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir (which won the Vancouver Book Award in 2013), and most recently, Where the words end and my body begins, a debut poetry collection which continues to draw outstanding reviews. One thing is certain: Amber Dawn is a literary force to be reckoned with.
SAD Mag was lucky enough to chat with Dawn about her teenage years to celebrate the upcoming launch our High School edition. Turns out, Teenage Dawn was every bit as cool as Adult Dawn, even if she didn’t know it yet.
Tell me what you were like in high school: would Teenage You get along with the person you are today?
I don’t think I’ve changed that much since high school. Back then I valued humility and kindness, and yet I was a badass who liked to kick holes in walls, still do. I coloured my hair red then, still do. I listened to Bongwater and Siouxsie and the Banshees then, still do.
Any strange high school hobbies?
Shoplifting. Food mostly, I was hungry. I became so good at stealing food, I’d steel foot-long submarine sandwiches for other poor students short on lunch money. For a while, It became a daily “thing” to see if I could nab a couple of foot-longs and a couple cans of 7 Up from the cafeteria.
What did you think you would become after graduation? Were your sights already set on becoming an (award-winning) author? Or did that come to you later?
Many kids leave the small community I’m from after high school. Most go to Toronto. But I heard that Vancouver was like Canadian San Francisco (and Toronto like New York). I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do with my life after graduation so I came to Vancouver before my 18th birthday to be a “Canadian San Franciscan queer hippy punk.”
What was your most mortifying teenage moment? If you could send Teenage You a letter (or maybe an instant message) about it from the future, what would it say?
I was bullied a lot. I could draw a great number of mortifying memories of surviving bullying. But all these years later, what truly darkens my memory are all the times I was a bystander to witnessing other kids get bullied. It took me a long time to learn about strength in numbers organizing. I wish I could have banded proudly together with all the other outcasts back then. This is what I would tell Teenage Me: build your army of misfits now. Love each other. Keep each other safe. And try smashing the system while you’re at it.
Find out more about Amber Dawn on her website. Stay tuned for more High School Q&As on sadmag.ca.
What do residents of comfortable first-world countries do when confronted with a massive and tragic refugee crisis? If my Facebook feed is any indication, they use it as an opportunity for posturing. One strain of internet argumentation rants and raves about the irreparable damage that bringing in a relatively minuscule number of refugees will do to our country’s social fabric, because Canada has obviously never allowed any foreigners in before. As loathsome and racist as this line of reasoning is, there is something no less annoying about people who appear to only post about the world’s catastrophic events in order to make sure that everyone knows what good and caring people they are. Can we ever truly understand the unimaginable horrors of war and genocide? And how can we help?
Trish Cooper’s new play Social Studies, playing at the Firehall Arts Centre until December 5th, both dissects and celebrates our attempts to do good. Val (Susinn McFarlen) is the kind of hippy-dippy mom who thinks that everyone who has cancer learns a valuable lesson from it. She turns saying Grace into a lecture about Western privilege and adopts a South Sudanese Lost Boy named Deng (Richie Diggs). His arrival to her family home coincides with the return of Val’s oldest daughter Jackie (Erin Moon), who is recovering from the dissolution of her marriage and is crestfallen to find a stranger in her childhood bedroom. The family’s younger daughter Sarah (Lili Beaudoin) is much more enthusiastic about Deng’s presence, possibly because her interest in Deng veers from the sociological (her social studies project about the Lost Boys functions as the play’s framing device) to the romantic.
Social Studies has a long running time, and most of its conflict only really gets going after the intermission. Yet the time we spend with this makeshift Winnipeg family pays off, as it gives the script the space to create fully realized and three-dimensional characters. Val slowly reveals the spine behind the drum circles, and shows herself to be a much more attentive mother than her daughters give her credit for. Sarah finds her role as the family’s speaker of uncomfortable truths, culminating in a hilarious and uncomfortable comic set piece when she comes home drunk and discloses what all the family members have been saying behind each other’s backs.
Beaudoin’s comic timing is consistently excellent, and she has strong chemistry with Moon. The script gets great mileage from contrasting Jackie’s entitlement and materialism with her mom’s altruism, and Jackie vocalizes unjust suspicions about Deng and scrutinizes him for holes in his story. But Moon’s committed performance makes the possibly unsympathetic character of Jackie completely believable and even loveable. Equally excellent is Richie Diggs, who fully inhabits the character of Deng. His entire body language transforms from ebullient and grateful at the play’s start to agonized as he realizes that his community’s tragedies have followed him to Canada. This transformation is breathtaking to behold.
First world problems, as one of history’s greatest hashtags has it, lack dignity. And while moving to Winnipeg may sound appealing at first, it has never solved anyone’s problems. Social Studies is at heart a sweet and funny look at the importance of empathy, with a heartwarming finish that may leave your eyes a little damp (just blame it on the rain). While it in no way sugarcoats the difficulty of sponsoring refugees, it makes a stirring case for the importance of doing so. Go see it, and then post about it on Facebook so all your friends know to see it too.
Social Studies is playing at the Firehall Arts Centre until December 5. Tickets and showtimes here.
High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of poetry and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
I am remembering the sacredness of sleepovers By Sarah Ens
I am remembering
the sacredness of sleepovers
and the holding of hair, holy in our hands
twisting braids too loose, taking care
with their undoing, over and over
like an anointing
our ritualized rating
of those poor boys, a sacrifice
until Ryan got a ten out of ten out of
nowhere so we started watching LOTR in slow-mo,
Spiderman backwards, I don’t know why
it was so funny, these things
we could control
and when Abby’s mom died
Abby lay on the floor in the basement at Meg’s
and her cousins lay beside her
like three fingers on one hand that said a-okay
Abby pulling the sleeping bag up
over her head, staying still
just like that
I could never keep vigil, I always
fell asleep only to be woken up
to choose which teacher to kill marry
or screw, shouting elementary school songs like
swears, like spells, I Am
Chiquita Banana shaking the walls of the spare room
and then sneaking our mothers’ vodka, the first time
we did puzzles all night before crumpling
to the floor to confess the way we felt
ourselves, the spaces we’d found that made
us feel ashamed
one time I threw a whole cake
on the floor at the end of an all-nighter
and we scrubbed and scrubbed
but the stain on the unfinished wood
just spread, reckless
and so full of feeling every night, catching
our new mouths on old magics
on baby feminist god-fearing poems
speaking together our scriptures in so
many pink tongues
and I wanted to soften the matted knot
at the nape of your neck, escaped from my attempt
at a French braid, you looking to me fuzzy,
blurred with tenderness, tangles
telling me that he touched you when you were
just a kid
I am remembering
how we pressed our shirt sleeves to our chins
how our eyes burned that dark room, I am reciting
the prayer that curled up from our growing lungs
and lengthened like smoke, stretching
up and up into safer sleep.
Sarah Ens grew up in rural Manitoba before moving to Vancouver to study Creative Writing at UBC. After earning her BFA, she returned to Winnipeg to write sad poems and surround herself with books and Mennonites as an editorial assistant at Turnstone Press. Her work has appeared in Poetry is Dead, The Garden Statuary, and Fugue.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
CATCHING UP WITH ANGELA GROSSMANN AND DREW SHAFFER – SEPTEMBER 2015
An artist interview by Sunshine Frère
It is a stunning September afternoon at the Thierry Cafe on Alberni Street in Vancouver. The melancholy music that Yan Tiersen created for the French film Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulin is wistfully resonating throughout the sunny patio where I have just sat down with artist Angela Grossmann. Her longtime friend and fellow artist, Drew Shaffer, has arrived from inside the cafe. Shaffer gently places a beautiful piece of cake, with luscious raspberries adorning the top, on the table for us all to share, and off we go, tumbling into the jiggery pokery world of Angela and Drew.
Angela Grossmann and Drew Schaffer recently exhited their work together in a duo exhibition called Jiggery Pokery at Winsor Gallery. The exhibition ran from October 15 – November 14th. This interview was conducted a couple of weeks prior to the exhibition opening. Grossman, who is represented by Winsor, was very much looking forward to showing alongside her longtime friend. The joining of these two sets of works in the same space, provided Grossmann and Shaffer an opportunity for their ever evolving conversation about art, language, game-play, memory and life to be experienced anew.
Angela: How I met Drew was that I rented my studio, which I am still in–it was above the Salmagundy shop store on Cordova. I would go by and it’s a friendly neighbourhood, but its really changed. Drew was the proprietor of the shop and we got to chatting. Though, we were never never allowed to just chat were we?
A: I’d walk by and I’d see a face through the window and he’d give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down if the owner was in.
D: So Ang would come in looking for photos instead.
A: And you!
D: Yes, she was looking for me, and images of stuff to do her work with. When I was first at Emily Carr we would do one of those class field trip type things, and once we went to Diane Farris Gallery and I saw her work there and was just amazed. So it was quite exciting because I knew who she was. She would come up and buy photos and things like that, and I thought, oh yeah, this is really cool! I don’t just have a shitty job right? It was a very interesting place in those days. Those types of shops are great places for people like us to find the raw materials to make the work that we make.
A: It was.
D: So, yeah, we both start from a similar place, we go and find something that inspires us that already exists and then talk to it, bringing it into being somehow. For me, generally it will become a 3D object and nine times out of ten for Angela its going to be something two dimensional. We use these found objects as a starting place, to start the dialogue. And sometimes it’ll be something very humble, I ask myself, why does this grab me the way that it does, and what is it about this particular object that is so inspiring? Is it the functionality of it? What is it saying to me?
Sunshine: Do you decide instantly always what you are going to do with the found object or do you sometimes hold onto it not knowing what it will be for?
D: Yes, sometimes its instantaneous, but more often than not things have to stick around for a while. I have this massive collection of old suitcases full of things like that…. I have this recall memory in my head of what all the suitcases hold. Suitcase encyclopedias.
A: You know, when I was in school, it was a going thing, you had to have an image bank. A bank of things, photos and images things you liked, images that made you think of things, whatever it was. And there used to be this incredible image bank at the Vancouver art gallery, that had been kept over a hundred years, but they got rid of it–I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, I’ve got my own image bank, but its not just images. It is full of things that I like, things that I respond to, my materials. But I don’t like to collect things for the sake of collection, I only collect to use them. Because I don’t like stuff hanging around. Sorry, I just thought I’d differentiate myself there. (chuckles)
D: I on the other hand do have a lot of stuff hanging around that I may or may not use at one point.
A: Exactly, I get very anxious about things hanging around…
D: Yeah, you’re more purist than me.
S: Do you purge more often Angela?
A: Yes, but not of things you would think, for example, I’d never throw out my old buttons, but I would throw out a pair of old gucci loafers, no problem. But my old buttons, bits and swatches of materials are all stuff I keep, but only for collage purposes. Because I think materials make me associate and associate is what I do. It’s the very nub of what I do as an artist. I’m an associate. (chuckles) When something is happening for me it is because I am able to make to make associations that day or in that work and can clearly see when it’s a great one or when it’s a forced one. You really learn how to associate. When you’re trying to go down those paths but it’s forced, you can tell when it is good or no good or when it’s great.
D: And, I as well as Angela do that with language. I’ll phone her up and say, I’ve got a pun, it seems to be a current that runs through my work and everything in my life. Like I call my brother up on Fridays and we trade spoonerisms back and forth. Sometimes their just sonorous, and they don’t really mean anything. But the best ones are the ones that can be read both ways and mean something, like the The Taming of the Shrew or The Shaming of the Trew. You know like that kinda stuff. And I see objects very much the same way.
A: Turn them upside down, turn them inside out, put them back to front, see what happens, see where it goes.
D: Yeah, because there is something there. Whenever you pick something up, there’s something there–you know, you know that it’s loaded somehow. You know that, that object or image has something for you. It’s the weirdest thing.
A: I love that. It’s loaded with possibilities.
D: It’s loaded with possibilities, you see that thing and you know right away that you gotta have that because there is something there for you.
A: I think that’s true for everybody that ever collects anything, not just with art.
D: Oh yes!
S: But all the potentials that are and were there for the object disappear once you connect with it as you are taking it in one particular direction.
D: Yes, its a fork in the road I think.
A: As visual artists all we do is associate and make these connections. Poets also, because all they do is use language to open stuff up and make connections and refer to things, its always referring to things, it’s never as it is.
D: Ang and I are not exchanging images and seeing each other’s work until we install the exhibition. We’ve been wanting to do something together for quite some time and now we are.
A: We first thought of doing something together that was theme based. Where we would both do work on the same subject. But this show has morphed and it is us both doing work at the same time instead. I’m not looking at Drew’s work and he isn’t looking at mine.
D: Those are the rules, that is the game plan.
A: That was the game because, I can’t do work about you, and you can’t do work about me. We’re just going to hope that in the show there is some kind of relationship there, as there is with us.
D: I am sure there will be.
S: How did the title for the exhibition, Jiggery Pokery, come about?
D: Ang came up with this name…
A: It’s not a word that I came up with, it exists…it’s sort of a bit higgledypiggledy, hocus pocus, jiggery pokery. I mean it’s all word play. The reason why I think it’s nice wordplay besides the fact that it actually means something, but also because it’s also associating sound with what we like. We like these associations… and that the sound, it …it tumbles out.
D: Yeah, it feels good on the mouth to say it. It’s really interesting because it dates back to the mid to late nineteenth century and it was a word initially used for subterfuge.
A: Like, “he’s up to some jiggery pokery over there!”
D: Yeah, its a little bit sneaky, I think it is a great word. But then that’s the first meaning and then there’s a secondary meaning that they started using in around nineteen twenty, where it started meaning to cobble things together. Like, it’s a bit of jiggerypokery that got the engine started. And you can also spoonerize it piggeryjokery. It was also really interesting, I discovered this American poet who used these archaic words and phrases and wrote these really cool poems, purely for the fact that they had great rhyming capabilities and their sonorousness. Once again, yet another level of what we are doing. I discovered this poet Anthony Hecht who uses phrases like jiggery pokery, he did some work with another guy called John Hollander. I was pretty happy when I discovered him. Anyways, one of the lines in one of his poems describes what jiggery pokery is and he explains it as: “using whatever you’ve got around to get the job done.”
A: Absolutely! We could quote that!
D: Yeah, its great stuff! A lot of the stuff that I’m dealing with is the seduction and abandonment of inanimate objects. I find that really interesting. You come across these things and they look so helpless and you can see a vestige of what they were to somebody at one time, but they’re no longer that anymore. In the fact that they’ve been discarded, they become, to me at least, so much more interesting.
D: I’m also really interested in how we choose to define ourselves by what we own. The general view of the object when desired is that it is hip. My general view is that it becomes more interesting when its not hip anymore or when its discarded. It’s not trying to prove itself anymore. I often turn the use of a functional object into more of a narrative or metaphor rather than a practical perspective. It’s a different kind of practicality I would say.
A: If I may interject here for everything that you’ve just said, I would reiterate that my own work uses likenesses of people who are long gone. So, they’ve got that echo of being familiar, but at the same time not existing anymore. I think I like to play between that which is still current and that which is gone, but what is it, that remains, that we have a connection to. What is the humanity that crosses over from then to now. So it’s all about that bridge.
S: The way you’re approaching the installation of the work is very much attached to the notion of game play, just like how you two approach your friendship. Drew’s objects will arrive at the gallery, Angela’s will arrive at the gallery and then the two of you will connect the dots on site.
A: It will be very fun, the thing is I have absolute respect for what Drew does, so I have total trust in whatever he does. I’m excited to show with Drew.
D: This is a great opportunity, and I’m excited too.
A: Drew and I have a lot of echoing in what we talk about and what we think about.
D: Both Ang and I are interested in fashion, people’s clothes and the items that they choose to wear to express their identities. On a small scale from a personal perspective and on a large scale. Because fashion moves at such a fast pace, the whole seduction and abandonment rate happens so much quicker. Things that are beautiful become almost instantly ugly. Because art has this hallowed niche, people are like ‘oh it’s art, its sitting on a plinth hanging on a wall and blah blah blah’, you give yourself more time to contemplate it, or to reflect on your relationship with it in a much more sort of hallowed way. Because that process happens much more quickly in fashion it doesn’t have that chance to be self-reflexive and because of that it is very interesting in retrospect. Certainly with Angela’s work when you look at the old photographs of people and the types of clothing that they’re wearing what they thought was really great at the time and of course these things come full circle and they become great again.
A: Yes, we’re interested in that sort of stuff. But who isn’t!?
S: Who isn’t indeed!
Special Thanks to Angela and Drew for the interview. The exhibition was a great one!
If you would like to see works in person, you can visit Winsor Gallery, they can pull out any remaining works from the show.