Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Seventeen

This one is not a journal but a scrap book. Built from the solid bones of an Ampad 22-156 computation book, it started out containing design notes for teapots but soon was given over to illustrations and photography culled from discarded New Yorker magazines. Some of my favourite illustrators are found here: Adrian Tomine, Lara Tomlin, Seth, and others. There are clippings of photographic work that has been far to good to be tossed out with the recycling. There are sad obituaries for both Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.

#17 is still ongoing. When space gets tight it is time to sharpen the scissors and eliminate the stacks of periodicals. Over time it is surprising how much of a sourcebook the scraps become.

Despite the terrible name, Ampad makes great books. If you are the type who keeps a laboratory, and you need to make notes on the progress of experiments - you know, diagrams showing how your genius takes form, vectors, equations, forces, chemical names, explanations and observations - you could find no better book than the 22-156. You could paste in an entire 8.5 x 11 inch sheet and still have a margin left - which is why these work so well as scrap books. They are sewn together, finished with book binding tape, but have no spine - and so there is no spine to break. Some gentle rough-housing and they submit and lie flat. They are not cheap - especially North of the border. They may not be available for much longer, either. As the Wiki tells us, Ampad filed for bankruptcy protection in 2005. Stationer's trivia: Ampad invented the yellow legal pad, beloved of lawyers.

Keeping a scrapbook always leads me to contemplate images and essentialism. I keep images because they hit me in a profound way. Being something of an image mechanic, I'm always looking for the essence that makes an image work. You can see me late at night, turning the pages, muttering: what is it? what is it? Damn you -  give me your secrets! Invariably these books hint that whatever it is that makes the image work, it is never exactly what you think it is.

Here is a list of the books.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pancho and Sal Pace

Pancho and Sal Pace. Musicians. Taken August 8, 2011

Also known as the Rio Samaya Band, I know of few other people who's lives have been so given up to the Music. Inspired by it, governed by it, constantly following it, drinking it, breathing it in and exhaling it as life.

While I set up they took out instruments and began to play. I was particularly struck by Manhã de Carnaval. The song was sad and tragic, filled with beauty and rhythm. I had to just listen. I may have set up the room for a photo shoot, but they instantly transformed it into a Brazilian café.

Pancho was born in San Jorge, Argentina. As a young man he moved to Europe. He told me he was fascinated by instruments and always wanted to learn how to play them. Which instruments? I asked. All instruments! he replied. He followed his ambition; to create music and use it as a way to travel the world. After touring many countries, he was a confident troubadour-style musician.

The biography on the Rio Samaya Band page gives more detail: "While playing with Gypsies in the South of France, he learned rumbas and flamenco. His compositions reflect these influences of flamenco and other folk rhythms. After years of exchange with other musicians, his original music has a wide diversity of styles."

"Sal, who was born in England and raised in Canada, met Pancho in Cuzco, Peru, and from then on together as a family and musical duo have established a name for themselves. Sal compliments the music with her vocals, accordion, shakers, chachas, bombo and guitar. They have a unique poetic style of translating simultaneously from Spanish to English."

You can see many of the videos from their concerts at They are presently touring India.

Here is an index of portraits.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Fourteen

This book is composed of rough, almost unpleasant craft paper. Two pieces of galvanized sheet metal make up the cover. I cut the sheets and put the whole thing together during a month residency at the Banff Centre. It was February 1997 and I was working on a contribution for the "Deep Web" project. The results are still available on this site. An Index of Possible Saviours is a collection of animations I made of the concrete poems of Canadian poet b.p. nichol.

In 1997 Web animations were a kind of Zoetropic machine. They played at erratic speeds, were made up of low resolution GIFs, and were generally quite tiny. These qualities became advantages for web pages delivering time-based poetry and text. I adapted some of my own work for the medium. Bloodwork: An Epigram to Anna Akhmatova is a dedication to the Russian poet and Birds of Good Omen for Sandra married slow progress of the text with the stop motion photography of Eadweard Muybridge.

I also completed an animation of Leonard Cohen's "Two went to Sleep." As neither the images nor the text were mine I didn't put it up. But, I still like it, and there is something in the way the text and the images repeat that links Muybridge and Cohen together.

I was in the mountains and it was desperately cold. Each morning I would awake in the inky blackness and walk over to the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building. Elk hunkered down in the thick snow and sometimes you would surprise one in the darkness. A magnificent but unsettling experience.

In 1997, when my month was done I left the project I copied my work onto a CD. A technician brought in two special pieces of equipment - each about the size of a desktop computer. The first was a dedicated hard drive the second was the CD burner. The process took all afternoon.

That CD no longer works and the word files on my computer from that time will not open. I have the pages of the journal to read and some letters in a box. Things fall apart. Time passes.

Does time pass differently for everyone? I think it might. For a while I asked people if they had a shape or a notion of how time passed. I asked because, for me, the year has always been a circle with the summer at the top. Christmas and new years are at the very bottom. Hence "the height of summer" or "the depths of winter." I tried to realize this notion by breaking the circle and swivelling out the lower half to make a sine wave. I thought that a web page that scrolled horizontally would contain this idea well. The page would scroll from left to right - like time itself. The project was hindered by the limitations of web browsers but I still have a desire to return to it one day.

Here is a screenshot of the beginning. Click on the image for a larger version.

Here is a list of the books.