The Mark diaries

 

October 24, 1991

WINNIPEG: Mark[1] told me today he was HIV positive. We were in his car; he was giving me a ride to a radio interview about the Evy book[2]. We stopped at a gas station so he could fill up, but when he got back into the car he didn’t start it, he just kept us sitting there beside the pumps. “I just got some bad news,” he said. “Though you probably guessed.” It was a quarter to nine: the morning rush was still on, and people in the gas line were honking. I had no idea what he was talking about. Continue reading

Hugh Hanson Davidson: evergreen

 

Composer, arts activist, arts patron, philanthropist, music advisor, music critic,  traveller, raconteur, spiritual seeker. Born May 27, 1930, in Montreal, died Victoria, B.C. July 14, 2014, of complications following heart surgery, aged 84.

 

The qualities that people loved about Hugh were his generosity, his gregariousness and his gratitude for the joys of a life in art. They spilled onto you as a kind of blessing: he was the genial uncle who could always make you feel better. Uncle Hugh, not just to the family, but to us all. He was always happy to do what he could to increase the store of beauty and goodness in the world. Continue reading

The crisis in criticism.2

So can anyone be a critic?

When I was on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts, the country’s chief arts grant-giving agency, close to two decades ago, it was occasionally suggested that we should put “an ordinary member of the public” on each of the peer juries that had the job of saying who should or shouldn’t get grants.

It was an idea with the smell of democracy about it—the general public, after all, was theoretically the intended audience for the work that was under adjudication. Wouldn’t it be useful to hear the voice of the potential consumer? Wouldn’t that help to balance out the special interests and the artsy theorists more interested in experiment and new directions than box-office success? Continue reading

The crisis in criticism.1

 

1: The critic is dead—long live the critic

 We have seen a great deal of public hand-wringing in recent years over the so-called death of criticism. In an age of instant access to the Internet, it seems that everyone’s a critic.What does it matter that you can’t spell, can’t construct a sentence, and quite often don’t know what you’re talking about? Your words are in print on-line, and that in itself seems to invest them with a miraculous credibility. Who wants to think about anything in depth when 140 characters—reductionist thinking in a virtual nutshell—is all you need to get an audience? Who needs critics?

Good or bad, all this? It depends.

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Mavor Moore: made in Canada

 

January 6, 2007: VICTORIA, B.C.: We gathered here today to say goodbye to Mavor Moore, who died just before Christmas. I was privileged to be one of the people he wanted to speak. When his wife Sandra asked me for a title for my little talk, I sent back a note saying: what about “From Thaw to flood: defrosting the soul of a cold country”? She e-mailed back: “Cool.” Continue reading

Independent scholarship in the arts

Opening article for the inaugural edition of The International Journal of Independent Scholars (ed. Guy P. Buchholtzer), 2010.

 Taking Emerson’s famous Harvard address On the American Scholar as his touchstone, the writer draws on his experiences as an author and activist in the area of the arts and cultural policy to make the case for validity of the work of the independent scholar who chooses to work outside the traditional academy. The advantages and disadvantages of independent activity and academic affiliation are examined, and the writer concludes that  “we have more in common—those of us outside the academy and those within its walls—than is sometimes allowed.” 

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Edouard Lock: showman or shaman?

A presentation to the Royal Society of CanadaNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, November 19, 2004

© Max Wyman

In the late 20th and early 21st century, dance has been shaped by a few great artists with the vision and the audacity to exploit and explore the possibilities of the artform in a new fashion. Two of them have spent their careers working in Europe: Pina Bausch, who is German and works in the area of neo-expressionist theatrical modernism, and William Forsythe, an American also working in Germany, whose interests lie in expanding the expressive potential of classical ballet. A third is Canadian: Edouard Lock. Continue reading

Ron Longstaffe: savouring the aha moment

 

July 7, 2003: Ron Longstaffe died of cancer at the end of May after a horrendous hospitalization following a femur fracture that happened when he was putting on a leg-brace. He was 69, which is not much of an age these days. He was an uncommon man, not least the way in which he straddled the worlds of business, politics and the arts with such ease.

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Bill Reid: reluctant figurehead

Some days, Bill Reid’s Parkinson’s is so bad he can’t get anything done. This cool November day in 1984 is one of his good days. I pick him up at his apartment on Point Grey Road and drive him to his studio on Granville Island, where he shows me his current work. “There are so many things I have to do, and so many people are after me for this and that, that I decided to hell with all of them, I’ll make a frog.” Continue reading

Milton Wong: doing good by stealth

Milton Wong and I were born in the same year, and lived most of our lives in the same city, yet we didn’t have more than a passing acquaintance until we were into our mid-50s. Do I regret that now, or do I see it as a necessary progression toward the meeting that really initiated our friendship? I hover. We had both been on a lifelong journey to discover what interested and motivated us most. Perhaps we needed to wait until we had reached a tentative conclusion or two and were ready to talk. Continue reading