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Inside a secret society
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issue no. 22: secrets
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CHANG EN-MAN November 10 2016 - February 11 2017
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letter from the editor Can I tell you a secret? Magazines make me mad. Let me explain. While I love reading them, thinking about them, collecting them, and most of all making them, the state of the publishing industry, and the general public’s lack of interest, gets me riled up. An example? I found out today that Mayfair News is shutting down. The beloved store at Granville and Broadway was a treasure trove of rare magazines, a haven for those looking for something unique to take home and ponder. Its closing is a loss for the city, but the folks walking along Broadway are probably too busy playing Pokémon Go to notice. Mayfair’s demise comes not so long after the Chapters across the street turned into an Indigo, and its massive second-floor magazine section became an American Girl (no, seriously). SAD Mag is a tiny independent publication that works hard for every cent, using the money raised to put on more community events and print more volumes. This is our passion project, our side hustle; we do it because we love it, and yet sometimes in the thick of the daily grind I lose my way. But hearing about Mayfair actually renews my resolve—anger turns into stubbornness, into a screaming promise to keep making our weird little magazine (printed locally, by the way) and finding the few stores left willing to sell them, to champion them. This issue, Secrets, is certainly worth championing: Meredyth Cole dissects The Secret; Helen Wong profiles some of Vancouver’s best-kept musical secrets; April Thompson talks with a secret society; Megan Jenkins interviews an artist who secretly hides pieces around town; and so much more. The work that our contributors and friends put into this thing reminds me that magazines are worth making, even as layoffs occur and stores close. I could go on about the beauty of the printed word and the cultural value of a publication such as ours. But really, that’s a secret only you can unlock. —sara harowitz, Editor in Chief
editorial staff Katie Stewart Co-Publisher & Creative Director Michelle Reid Cyca Co-Publisher & Production Manager Pamela Rounis Co-Publisher & Lead Designer
contributors to sadmag.ca Hannah Bellamy Katherine Chan Meredyth Cole Paula Duhatschek Nana Heed Calvin Jay Sagal Kahin Monika Malczynski Cole Nowicki
Sara Harowitz Editor in Chief
Robyn Humphreys Art Coordinator
Kyla Jamieson Editor of Poetry & Prose Kristin Ramsey Copy Editor & Proofreader Megan Jenkins Web Editor Sarah Bakke Web Editor
Ljudmila Petrovic Shannon Tien Helen Wong
on the cover
on the back cover
Jane Q Cheng P.40
Decode our mantra for 2017 at sadmag.ca/secrets
The word “secret” was written 112 times in this issue.
Photographed by Reece Voyer
board of directors Maryam Bagheri
Todd LeBlanc Audio/Visual Coordinator
Sean Cranbury Megan Lau
Jackie Hoffart Co-host,Creator & Editor
Pamela Rounis Co-host
sadmag.ca | firstname.lastname@example.org | Instagram @sadmagazine facebook.com/sadmag | twitter.com/sadmag What are you hiding? #SADSECRETS
Pamela Sheppard Daniel Zomparelli
Icons by Kenneth Ormandy
Agro Cafe Alex Waber Alice Fleerackers Becki Chan Fawkes & Holly Kristin Cheung MET Fine Printers Pat Christie Poetry Is Dead Presentation House Shanda Leer
SAD Mag is published two times per year by the SAD Magazine Publishing Society 1-3112 Windsor St. Vancouver, BC V5T 4B1 Distribution coordinated by Disticor
ISSN 1923-3566 Contents © 2016 SAD Mag All rights reserved.
MAR IA CE NTOLA
B I L LY- R AY B E L C O U R T
April Thompson is a Vancouver curator and writer. Her interest lies at the intersection between contemporary art, postmodern geography, and spatial politics. Her work seeks to establish meaningful constellations between visual artists guided by a larger critique of social structures. She has a devotion to The Hills and will engage in an extensive episode breakdown if prompted.
When Cole was 10 years old, he sold his soul to the devil for the ability to have sex with Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Not Angelina Jolie from the movie adaptations, but the actual pixelated video game version. Besides being lonely and soulless, Cole is a writer and designer based in East Van whose work can be seen at colenowicki.com and on Instagram @portraitsofbriefencounters.
Maria is an illustrator-designer hybrid who believes in building community and inspiring discussion around creativity and innovation. Maria’s secret is that she genuinely enjoys waking up at 5am—we couldn’t figure out why, either. You can find her online at mariacentola.com or on Instagram @mariacentola. For this issue of SAD Mag, Maria illustrated Rachel Burns’s story on the seven deadly sins for the modern age.
Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and is reading for an MPhil in Politics (Political Theory) at the University of Oxford. He holds a B.A. (Hons.) in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta. He was named by CBC Books as one of six Indigenous writers to watch. His biggest secret is that he literally cannot get anywhere on time.
08 10 12 14 15 16 18
The Secret examining truth in this self-help phenomenon About Love by Meaghan Rondeau Sexual Healing removing shame from sexual education Hamatsa the inner workings of a secret society Leon Bridges photographs of a breakout soul star On Strumming Oneself exploring female masturbation Taco Time Vancouver’s relationship with fast food Tex-Mex
Dispatches exploring Canada
The Golden Keys a global concierge society
House of Cards the art of tarot reading
The Disposable Camera Project
26 27 28
Work It coming out of the closet and onto the dance floor Back Room Deals a store with a secret room of Indigenous carvings Vancouver Underground the city’s best-kept musical secrets
42 46 48
Art by Madeline Kloepper Oops, I Did it Again seven sins for the modern age Skin of the City learning to skateboard as an adult Copycat the appropriated art of Jane Q Cheng Vancouver is for Lovers a makeout map of the city Stash how Vancouver keeps its weed
Art by Jennifer Ashton
Sacred by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Art by Tristesse Selingery
The Saddest Love on dating an addiction
Silent Graffiti an artist who hides his work in public Don’t Tell My Dad the satisfaction of falsifying Wikipedia entries
Tight Hooks secrets of a trans man
Mystery Show songs from a secret room
Confessions the psychology of secrets
Oblique Strategies by Anna Wilkinson
Unlocked on keeping a disorder secret and finally letting it out
It’s all film, baby! True story. All of the photographs you see in this issue (and every issue) were shot on film or Polaroid and have not been digitally manipulated. We believe that the world is rough around the edges, and there is beauty in that imperfection. We hope you do too. SAD Mag is an independent Vancouver publication featuring stories, art and design. Founded in 2009, we publish the best of contemporary and emerging artists with a focus on inclusivity of voices and views, exceptional design, and film photography.
DISPATCHES illustrations by cristian fowlie
CA B I N I N T H E W O O D S layers, and coffee pots. The chill in the air seeps through woollen garments; rest is found far enough above the frost line that it always feels a bit like Christmas has just passed.
Buried in the North Shore Mountains are countless trails fit for the hobbies and leisure activities that Lower Mainlanders desperately bide time for. The range is vast enough to house dozens of hidden spots with ease. I imagine two groups of hikers wandering nervously up the same derelict path, both hoping that the other is about to veer away from the overgrown trail and divert into the woods towards their own small paradise.
The climb to the cabin is not for the view-driven hikers; it is not to be confused with a leisurely stay at a chalet in Whistler, for example, though both A-frame boroughs offer a certain isolation that city folks long for. This trek is for the secret masochists among the off-the-cuff athletes—the ones who don’t just need a journey, but a struggle, a mountain to climb, before reaching the destination. This air of mystery comes at high caloric cost.
This cabin’s trailhead, engulfed by brush, is accessible only by darting across the Sea to Sky Highway. The heart thumps from the initial dash, and will continue at this pace through the first leg of the trip, which, thankfully, is difficult enough to deter most casual hikers, and thus lead to a private oasis.
Once the tired explorers are settled and armed with whisky, the ever-present cell networks necessitate the costly streaming of Iron and Wine, which echoes into the dark. In the morning, silence holds the mountainside until the birds rise, and they in turn wake the hikers. And so, they pack out anything that could signal the path they took in, and mentally prepare themselves for the dash across the highway back to the car. —megan jenkins
The cabin was constructed by teenagers decades ago and kept in standing shape by a giant of a man that hiked toolkits and slabs of wood up the mountainside to rebuild the ailing structure over the years. Now, the modest building sits dark and still until adventurers inhabit the space for a few days at a time. Upon arriving, the wood-burning stove is immediately draped with wet socks, sweaty
TH E YU KON The British-Canadian poet Robert Service famously wrote about the “spell of the Yukon,” and visiting the territory makes his words abundantly clear. The history of the region is rife with secrets—the promise of hidden treasure beckoned tens of thousands up north for the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896, and the vast wilderness offered refuge for those on the run: draft dodgers, war resisters, slaves looking for freedom. Charming oddities abound here. In Dawson City, you can order a “sourtoe cocktail”: a shot with a mummified toe in it. The toe must touch your lips, but swallow it and you’ll face a fine of $2,500 (after all, mummified toes are hard to come by). In 1996, over 20 witnesses claimed a UFO sighting over Fox Lake near Whitehorse. The Yukon’s capital city is located at historic Mile 918 of the Alaskan Highway—drive to the next closest big Canadian city and you’ll be in Edmonton. The bounty of the Yukon is no secret to the First Nations communities who have lived here for thousands of years. In fact, evidence suggests the oldest remains of human inhabitation in North America are in the Yukon, dated 25,000 to 40,000 years ago. Today, it’s the expansive wilderness, the dance of the northern lights, the endless stretch of summer beneath the midnight sun that beckons travellers up north and keeps locals loyal to their home. It’s discovering what has been claimed the world’s smallest desert in Carcross—sand dunes that are remnants from the last ice age—or being delighted by the fresh charcuterie plate and warm cookie you’re given on the Air North journey up. (The airline was named the world’s second “most loved airline” by Fortune magazine after surveying over 70 companies.) It’s the fact that what many see as an inhospitable landscape actually bears some of the warmest hospitality of all. As Service aptly puts it: It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, It’s the forests where silence has lease; It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It’s the stillness that fills me with peace. —kristin ramsey
B LACK E CH O COFFE E There is certainly no shortage of coffee in Yaletown (or anywhere in Vancouver, really), but it can all start to taste the same. There is a place, though, and one of the best, in fact, that is hidden from view, to be stumbled upon by chance, by mere luck—unless you know where to look. Nestled inside a Mainland Street clothing store, which is itself found down a narrow and bare hallway, sits the glorious and humble Black Echo Coffee. The apparel shop, Global Atomic Designs, was founded in 1998, but it was only about two years ago that Black Echo became part of the customer experience. Roasting the coffee beans in butter, Black Echo serves up cups that are savoury, sumptuous, decadent. This isn’t your everyday cuppa joe, nor should it be. It’s clandestine and it’s special. “We are a clothing store first and foremost,” says general manager Warren Wong. The impetus for Black Echo was simple: Wong was “tired of the coffee options in Yaletown.” Take that, Starbucks. It was in the beach towns of Nha Trang, Vietnam where Wong came across butter-roasted beans. French travellers have set up cafes along the beach there, serving this type of coffee made with espresso machines imported from Europe. The concept impressed Wong, who calls it a “modern take on an old boys’ club.” As such, Black Echo gets its beans from the Vietnam Central Highlands and has them roasted in Nha Trang. Each creamy pour of butter espresso is a mug raised to a side of Vietnamese food culture less familiar than pho, though equally as deserving of our attention. The clover stamped on each Black Echo to-go cup is like a secret handshake, a cheeky wink between those in the know. —sara harowitz
It is often more fun to mock something than to champion it. And when it comes to The Secret, there is much to ridicule. For starters, The Secret is a self-help book, a genre so earnest it virtually begs for derision. Like most books in its category, this one’s concept can be whittled down to a single sentence, yet manages to occupy nearly 200 pages and retail for almost $20 CDN. An Australian television producer named Rhonda Byrne released The Secret in 2006. The essential idea is that thinking deeply and passionately about something you desire will “manifest” that thing in your life. I am tempted to simply list the ridiculous things about this book, and, even better, the film version, which is essentially a 90-minute-long PowerPoint presentation, complete with intertitles and cheesy graphics. The guest speakers’ names and job titles appear on screen as they speak, things like “author” or “physicist”—one is simply listed as a “visionary.” One actually says, “you can tell the difference between bad feelings and good feelings, because one makes you feel good, and the other makes you feel bad.” The Secret is utterly hilarious, from the conspiracy theory underpinnings to the phony stock photography, but all of this is well known. Terms such as Vision Board and The Universe—terms that grew out of The Secret—have been so relentlessly mocked that they are now bywords for a certain type of privileged, scattershot spirituality. I find this all gleeful and hilarious, but what it’s hard to admit is that The Secret is also really, really compelling. Ridicule is often a way to release tension, to lessen the pressure on a fear of the thing under fire. Think of little boys throwing sand at girls they have crushes on (or vice versa). Some things are just funny—but when something stirs up the kind of vehement scorn that The Secret does, there has to be more going on. I started watching the film to gather material for this story. After 20 minutes, I wanted to believe. When I listen to pop music, I often have an image in my mind of the people behind catchy songs. I envision scientists in lab coats engineering the melodies, devising ways to make them stick in our heads. It’s the same with The Secret: every aspect of the film is designed to indoctrinate. The “experts” modulate their voices in ways that produce a trance-like obedience. Most look like they could have been cast in a soap opera: so relatable and unthreatening is their attractiveness, so luminous their fake tans. The desire to believe in silly, wild, and unsubstantiated things is so strong that it can be frightening, so we choose instead to make fun of it and the suckers who believe in it. When something hits close to home, it stings the most. The Secret was a success because it preyed on particularly human needs: the yearning for exclusivity and the desire to do as little as possible. These impulses, why we buy lottery tickets and rely on apps to choose partners for us, are innately human, and, like so much that is intrinsic to our species, can make us look really, really stupid. To feel better, we draw attention to someone who looks more ridiculous than us, like an emotional magic trick: if we can draw the eye to someone else’s silliness, we can carry on unnoticed. We create the illusion of superiority. The real Secret is this: if you believe it or you make fun of it, you still want it to be true. As a book or a film, The Secret is negligible. As a pop culture phenomenon, it is immaculate. Whether or not she understood it at the time, Byrne crafted her book in the image of human folly. This, more than any comedic value it might hold, is why The Secret is so endlessly derided. Believers and dissenters alike are reacting to the same thing: the startling truth of how little we know about our world, and how intensely we want to believe in its design, its fundamental benevolence. I, for one, want to believe that I have agency, that The Universe is mine to govern as I wish. The alternative is terrifying. But when I am confronted with people who have accepted this delusion, who believe in The Secret, I see an even more frightening version of myself. So I make fun of these people, these so-called “visionaries,” not because they are particularly funny, but because I don’t want to admit how close I am to being them.
ABOUT LOVE words by meaghan rondeau illustration by eva dominelli
That’s your sister? is something we both get all the time You’re total opposites No: we’re total We are the halves that make the whole each one made out of all that the other is missing
Late one night at the lake my sister and I left the cabin crunched a while up the gravel road parked ourselves on the outskirts of the halfhearted light from the spiderwebbed bulb that spotlighted the townsite’s pay phone and talked
Being at the front of a room is a rare relief It sweeps all the shards of my mind into one place, translates me into my entire self for ten to twelve minutes The more messed up I am the more I love it My reading the day she left was flawless
Peter and Larry, her cats (both female) have been living with me for over a year After she left I didn’t know what to say to her so I sent her a letter from the cats Larry wrote a hyperactive purple list of things she loved with the pen control skills of a toddler Peter black-penned an irritable diatribe in precise caps I was safely nowhere in the whole thing I even had them take turns on the envelope
She came back to Vancouver a month ago I didn’t want her to When she was gone I didn’t wonder why did she cancel why didn’t she answer is she coming where is she who is she with what is he doing with her doing to her why does she keep lying to me blowing me off ignoring my emails what does that status mean is she drunk is she safe is she alive
Her drinking had bothered me for years but I didn’t know about the cocaine I suspected the escorting, intuition based purely on an inexplicit status on Facebook, intuition I felt heartless for trusting
We talked for years that night The stars hung still Time was not a factor Mosquitoes should have been a factor but were not It was a Saskatchewan miracle
Many a therapist has lamented my disinterest in linear narration On March 7 of last year she left for a recovery centre would have been settling in on the Island as I read poems to the people at the launch of Room issue 38.1 She had promised to be there but by then we were well past the point where I believed anything she said
Every night I fall asleep with little Larry lounging across my chest and Peter snuggled in beside me Can you tell your sister about love Patty the counsellor prompted me during a conference call eleven months ago I sat in my living room and tried despite hyperventilation and tear-blindness and Larry stumbling back and forth across my lap to articulate the effects of my sister’s addictions while she and Patty sat in a small room and listened with their phone muted so I wouldn’t be distracted by reactions
My fridge is collaged with photos of the golden age of grad school photos of my nephew, my friends’ kids letters and drawings from former students but for six months every time I made dinner went to the kitchen for a snack or added something to my grocery list my eyes shot straight to the contact information of her treatment facility
I’m not good at it I replied hysterical, terrified
I do not, have never experienced life as a line
That was the best I could do at the time
Our parents were asleep She was 16, I was 24, but it had felt like sneaking like rebellion, to ease the door shut, turn and walk away from tension we had always known but could not yet name, to claim the road the night sky and the light, distance and closeness
Anna it’s like this There’s an image in my mind of that night at the lake and if you’re not in it then it’s just me just me by myself out there
SEXUAL HEALING Removing shame from sex education
words by cole nowicki illustration by priscilla yu Everyone on TV gets “the talk.” Usually it’s a stumbling, awkward, five-minute well of comedy that has been returned to so many times, it’s drier than the bird vagina in the metaphor the fictional parents use when talking to their fictional kids about sex. I’m not a fictional person, and neither is my dad, but the only “talk” I ever received was him telling me to keep it in my pants––a pithy lesson that surely would’ve netted a few laughs from a studio audience. Unfortunately, my family’s— and whole generation of family’s and classroom’s—Al Bundy–like aversion to open, honest discussions about sex has led to a lot of confusion and frustration. Kristen Gilbert, director of education at Opt—a sexual health clinic in Vancouver—teaches people of all ages about human sexuality. She talks to students across British Columbia about puberty changes, conception, sexual decision-making, birth control, identity, values, and consent, and teaches parents and adults how to talk about these subjects with children and among themselves. She is providing the in-depth lessons I wish I’d received. “I had a parent ask me once, ‘Since many people have a powerful shame reaction to talking about sex, don’t you think that means we shouldn’t talk about it?’” Gilbert says. “I think he was suggesting that we have some type of instinctual or natural urge to avoid discussing all things sexual. But I disagree: shame is learned.” She argues that we start kids on this path when they’re young, even with childish song lyrics like, “Heads and shoulders, knees and toes,” which essentially refuses to acknowledge that there is anything between the shoulders and knees. “If we do name those parts, we call them a silly or vague name (like the private parts, or ‘down there’),” she says. “‘Genitals’ is a perfectly fine word— not a swear word, and no child has ever been injured by learning to say it. You would never teach a kid to call their nose a ‘sniffer’, or their elbow an ‘armbender’. Teaching kids that their genitals need a code word just teaches them that those are bad or shameful places.” That, unfortunately, made a lot of sense. We essentially grow up following a sexuality-shaming lesson plan. But is it possible to unlearn? If the lead detectives on Bones have a primetime make-out scene while my Dad and I are in the same room, we both still cringe (for me, mostly because I’m watching Bones). But
Gilbert believes we can get past the shame; besides going from school to school, she is also working on other ways to cut it off at the root. “We offer a great workshop at Opt called the Askable Adult,” says Gilbert. “The parents and caregivers who attend learn about how to connect with the kids they love, and open up the conversation about bodies, and choices, and sex, and pleasure, and all the things you want to talk to your kid about but don’t know where to begin.” Instead of waiting for the perfect moment (which, realistically, does not exist), Gilbert suggests mentioning “sexuality regularly and conversationally; model that healthy relationships include discussions about bodies and pleasure and choices. And practice what we call the ‘neutral mask’—that facial expression that says, ‘Sure, we can talk about this—I’m interested and engaged,’ instead of the face that says, ‘This is going to be awful.’” Though it might be acting at first, it will eventually build a strong and tightknit relationship between parent and child—making the latter far more likely to listen to the former’s values and lessons when it comes to sex. Getting that connection is key, because as Gilbert explains, “if we teach people that they can’t talk about sex, they will also learn that they can’t ask for information or help when they need it. For children this can mean that they are unable to identify when they’re being touched inappropriately, and they will not know how to ask for help or know who to talk to.” I am still jaded by the state of the sexual education I received as a kid, and wouldn’t wish my subsequently awful, awkward, and overall uninformed sexual experiences on anyone. Thankfully, Gilbert sees a positive shift coming for the future. “This is may be a grand pronouncement to make, but I think that the current generation of school-aged kids are going to be completely different kinds of adults than you or me,” she says. “Because they are growing up in a cohort where sex education is the norm, there will be fewer gaps in their knowledge, and they will be more prepared and skilled to engage in discussions about sex with their own kids, and with their clients, students, or patients.” And while she certainly likes her work, she has a dream: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could retire early because no one needed me to come draw a penis on the board for them anymore?”
IN DEFENCE OF KEEPING QUIET The inner workings of the Hamatsa Secret Society
words by april thompson archival photography In matters of governance—of the self, family, or society—secrecy has come to be synonymous with deception. We demand utter transparency from our politicians, from community leaders. Look at any given election season to witness how the issue of secrets can hang over a campaign, this standardized fear of truths being disclosed. But these are a certain kind of secret—a kind that has lost the dignity and power of what keeping them really means.
Perhaps this slowed education progression is much like the art of keeping secrets itself. We amass them in small portions throughout our lives, and the older we get, the more they contribute to an intricate web of self-awareness. On the surface, a secret seems to be about gaps or holes in what is visible to others. But ultimately, a secret is a kind of knowledge whose magic dissipates once it is explained.
“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”
Outside of the mainstream models of governance that have come to dominate our societies, secrets and secrecy are an immutable part of maintaining faith and connection. Visiting the studio of Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief and master carver Beau Dick offers a different take on secrets. Sitting among the fresh residue of cedar bark and blocks of partially carved wood, it becomes easier to understand the dignity of withholding.
— rainer maria rilke
The Pacific Northwest Kwakwaka’wakw secret society, the Hamatsa, has long been the subject of outsider scrutiny. In the late 1880s, the anthropologist Franz Boas, in the usual classificatory method, systematically packaged the Hamatsa under the label of “the cannibal” component of Kwakwaka’wakw society. This notion of cannibalism has sustained an undeniable magnetism toward the myth and secrecy of just what happens within this tightly knit group. In Kwakwaka’wakw potlatching, the Hamatsa dance tells the story of a man-eating giant spirit who is called upon and tamed by the newest member of the Hamatsa being initiated. When asked to speak to this myth and symbolic rituals, Dick replies simply and calmly that the art of deception is powerful to many secret societies. While outsider fascination with the Hamatsa may revolve around this question of cannibalism, the secret society goes far beyond what is enacted in public ceremony. It is “magic beyond entertainment,” in the words of Dick, and it relates to an exclusive right and privilege bestowed on certain benefactors. Dick has earned his position as a greatly respected elder component of the Hamatsa. When discussing his initiation and how one adjusts to the responsibilities that come with being a member, he explains that it is paramount that each person be given a chance to prove himself. People can be initiated into the society, but if they are simply going through the motions to keep ritual in place, their positions become empty. Kwakwaka’wakw culture puts a great deal of trust in the abilities of the Hamatsa, and Dick warns that “as a Hamatsa, you cannot make mistakes.” Being a part of the secret society goes beyond acknowledging and understanding its laws. It revolves around the experience of a feeling; it is about honouring a connection to the supernatural, to the spiritual. In short: the inexplicable. For these people, the acquisition of knowledge remains sacred. As Dick reflects, “the impact of colonialism contributed to the underground movement of the secret society” and the need to maintain external opacity toward the Hamatsa. There is an astounding alternative relationship to secrecy at play here. It seems to be predicated on holding faith toward the governing abilities of an exclusive group, the components of which have each undergone intricate processes of self-awareness and internal understanding. In this initiation process, in which a Hamatsa seals the bond between various realms of meaning—the underworld, the heavens, and the in-between—a lifelong commitment is forged. It is not simple to comprehend all of this, and Dick emphasizes the importance of patience in slow learning. He remembers his younger self, hungry to learn at the feet of his uncle; yet the knowledge was bestowed to him only in partial amounts, drawing out the process to ultimately yield a much more complex understanding.
Schweig & Cohl, St. Louis. Bob Harris Wearing Kwakwak’awakw Dance Regalia at the St. Louis World’s Fair. 1904, cabinet card. University of British Columbia Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, Digital Programs and Services, Uno Langmann Family Collection of BC Photographs. (#UL 1732)
LEON BRIDGES: BABY, PLEASE.
words by alison sinkewicz photography by brendan meadows set creation by danny vermette
styled by leila bani make up by jon hennessey hair by tania becker
To sing soul, you need to need something. Tenderness, a boy, a girl, to get it on—you just have to have it. At 26 years old, Leon Bridges knows what he wants. On Coming Home, his Grammy-nominated 2015 breakout album, Bridges yearns, simply, to be around his darling; to get her a bit closer, to be a better man for her. Sticking to the tried-and-true playbook of soul grandfathers like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, Texas-born Bridges croons and longs classically for his baby, peppering his cries for love with the soulfully ubiquitous “woos” and “oohs.” Bridges didn’t invent the style, but like falling in love, it feels new every time. And baby, we want you, too.
Ilford FP4 Givenchy shirt / Roden Gray Pal Zileri suit / Nordstrom BoutonniĂ¨re / The Flower Factory
ON STRUMMING ONESELF Exploring female masturbation
words by serena leilani shipp illustration by ester field This is mine. Melt me to the sheets; send me to the scratched stars; slip me into tomorrow. No one can take this from me. The feeling swells within, legs paralyzed in pleasure. Busy little fingers know just what to do. Open mouthed, silent. This feeling consumes me. I forget to breathe. I breathe heavy. I spiral into myself, gasping. I am focused and curious, pleased to know I can so easily extract this amount of pleasure from and for myself. Talia swished her delicate hand through the air, as if casting a spell. I sat on the edge of her bed, trying to count the many rings on her pixie-sized fingers. And her stick-andpoke tattoos… four, five, six dots patterned like ellipsis; faded black ink looping like rings on her pinkies. “Like this,” Talia had said, silver bracelets tinkling as she demonstrated the tight, circling movement with her finger. The conversation had gone from books, to boys, to masturbating, and suddenly she was sharing secrets about her personal experiences with pleasuring herself. I was blushingly shy on the topic, while she was all smiles and sincerity, discussing her clitoris as if it was a commonplace topic. “Right,” I’d replied, trying to sound confident, sassy. “Simple as,” gesturing my own tentative hand through the space between us. I lay back on her bed, a colourful pile of pillows, trying to act as if this “common knowledge” hadn’t just altered my sexual reality. How had
I not known this? Why had this delicious truth been kept hush-hush my entire adolescence? Talia moved on as quickly as she had arrived at the topic. But all I could think about was what I was going to do when I was next alone. Years of orgasmless teenage sex had me craving climax in a deep and selfish way. What’s your name? Lilikoi. Passion fruit. Maracuyá. Call me what you like. It’s all the same to me. Describe yourself: Well-rounded. Thick-skinned but easily opened. A little bit bitter, sour, even, but those who eat me often say I taste sweet. Outside, smooth skinned, waxy almost. And inside, I am slick slippery, nearly impossible to pinch between two fingers. Almost like jellyfish jell, or frog eggs spewed in the tangles of river plants. You can chew my seeds (crunchy, bitter, black) or swallow them whole. It’s all the same to me.
Be there in the morning when you wake up.
My first orgasm occurred hours after Talia had so casually described the basics of female self-pleasuring. I biked home that evening, thinking, my-clit-myclit-my-clit as I rubbed rhythmically on the bike seat. I’d touched myself before, sure. But only palm to holy crotch, feeling the warmth it emitted, like some breathing, secret aspect of myself. Not knowing what to do, really, once I got down there, my fingers explored the way any adolescent fingers would: up and around and side-to-side. Tingles, aching pang, self-turn on, clitoris enraged, horny like three years of sex with boys and still no orgasm. I went to bed that night, head full of new knowledge, eager to touch myself just right, to bring myself to climax. But I had a boyfriend, and he sort of lived with me, and I sort of lived with him. I wanted so bad to be left alone with my body. To find these buttons for myself, so I might then teach him.
Some say I’m the embodiment of abundance— He followed me to bed, me all, “Oh, I’m pretty Goddess of Fertility!—and it’s true: I carry my tired tonight,” pretending to nod off. Him all, seeds inside me, each individually incubated in embryo-fruit-goo. I’ll be ready to reproduce “Sure, sure, I’ll read to you from this book I just got.” And he read chapter one from Wade Davis’s when I crack open, seeds and glop oozing into The Wayfinders. Scenes of voyaging canoes, of wetsome nice topsoil somewhere. But isn’t it that way wet oceans, scenes of discovery and exploration and with all fruit? visiting new lands. To be honest, I heard no words. I was concerned mostly with his voice staying loud enough to cover the rustling of the sheets and my irregular breathing. Put your throbbing finger on that button. Take yourself to bed. Just lie there, hold yourself. Because it’s you whom you must love. Explore yourself. Fall And that’s how my first orgasm occurred: secret and hiding and entirely mine. in love with the details of you.
TACO TIME Vancouver’s relationship with fast food Tex-Mex
words by michelle cyca illustration by graeme zirk Why are there no Taco Bells in Vancouver? This is a question that has fascinated me—a fast food aficionado and Vancouver native—for many years. I like everything about fast food: it’s consistent and salty, and you barely have to exchange words with another human being to get it. The Paleo diet confounds me because I am dead certain that a caveman would rather be eating a Two Cheeseburger Combo than his charred haunch of elk or whatever.
“authentic food and friendly service!” I guess you could say the food is authentic: I mean, I’ve eaten it, and it was definitely food. Taco Bell, on the other hand, hails from California (also the birthplace of McDonald’s)—the creation of a veteran and hot dog stand operator named Glen Bell. Its Wikipedia page is extremely long, and notes that the first Canadian location opened in 1981. For a few short and golden years, you could even order draft beer there. You can’t anymore; you also can’t go to a Taco Bell in Saskatchewan, PEI, or Newfoundland.
“I guess you could say the food is authentic: I mean, I’ve eaten it, and it was denitely food.”
Last year, my friend Kristin Cheung told me a secret: there are no Taco Bells in Vancouver because McDonald’s brokered a special deal with the City of Vancouver during Expo ’86 to ban its competitor from opening restaurants here. For some inexplicable reason, this rumour thrilled me. Learning a weird historic fact about your hometown is exciting—like hearing about something cool your parents did before you were born. I seized on this secret immediately and began repeating it to everyone, without question.
That said, not all fast food is created equal. A&W fries are better than Wendy’s, but McDonald’s makes the best of all. Teen Burgers are better than Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers. Burger King is an abomination, and so is Arby’s. You should never get anything hot from Dairy Queen, and you should only get chicken at KFC. If you put a McDonald’s cheeseburger in your fridge and eat it cold the next morning, it’s still good—trust me.
As it turns out, the back-door deal between Ronald McDonald and Expo is probably apocryphal: Reddit has a thread from 2012 disputing it, pointing out that many other fast food franchises owned by its parent company Yum! Brands are easy to find in Vancouver: Pizza Hut, KFC, and (formerly) A&W. It’s also true that you can drive to the suburbs and find Taco Bell in Surrey, Coquitlam, Langley, and Maple Ridge.
Despite my sophisticated palate, I have never eaten at Taco Bell. For much of my life I naively assumed it was the same thing as TacoTime: you know, the way that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Canada is called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in America. In fact, though, they are very different. For one thing, TacoTime serves tater tots with salsa in a dish called Mexi-Fries. But even more importantly, it’s Canadian: the first TacoTime opened in Lethbridge, Alberta by a man named Jim Penny (probably not Mexican). (This fact surprised me until I remembered the tater tots.) The website also claims that it builds its company on
Maybe Vancouver didn’t need Taco Bell. We had TacoTime, our own Canadian franchise, delivering tacos and quesadillas of dubious Mexican veracity to the masses. Even when I’m passing through the suburbs now, I don’t bother to find Taco Bell. As soon as I realized there was no intriguing reason for its scarcity, my curiosity evaporated. But it was replaced by something else: a newfound affection for TacoTime. Like in a Taylor Swift song about a guy realizing he’s really meant to be with the girl in the bleachers, I realized that I’ve always loved tater tots with salsa.
Kodak Portra 400
THE GOLDEN KEYS A global concierge society
words by paula duhatschek photography by jourdan tymkow at work. They also have to deliver a presentation at a regional Les Clefs d’Or meeting, write a time-sensitive exam, and have their application package voted on by the organization’s regional members. If all goes well, their file gets passed on to the National Board for final approval. As McDougall says, with a degree of understatement, “to be a member of the Clefs d’Or is quite involved.”
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a concierge is a bit of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. You may have a vague sense of where they work (expensive hotels) and what they do (restaurant bookings?) but when pressed, it’s hard to describe exactly who they are. In search of an answer, the best source of information on the subject is the website of Les Clefs d’Or Canada, the national chapter of the Union International des Concierges d’Hôtels. Here, the site helpfully and colourfully describes a concierge as “part Merlin, part Houdini”—someone who can and will do anything a guest asks of them so long as it is “morally, legally, and humanly possible.” And if a request is not within that realm—well, they’ll at least keep it under their lapels. Discretion is, of course, among the society’s core values.
There is a reason for this. It is very important to Les Clefs d’Or that they choose the right members: there is not a lot of turnover in this industry, and they like to keep it that way. Of course, one might imagine that part of the motivation for this exclusivity could be to retain industry gossip in the hands of those who can keep a lid on it. After all, any gathering of concierges seems like it could naturally devolve into an aural smorgasbord of gossip. Again, however, discretion rears its tasteful head. McDougall says that most meetings of Les Clefs d’Or are geared towards professional development, and the only secrets that spill tend to involve new restaurant recommendations. “Even though we’re trustworthy individuals, we still keep it close to our chests,” he says. It is also likely that part of this discretion is a natural side effect of scandal exhaustion—there just isn’t much that experienced concierges can share with one another that will cause any degree of surprise. Fair enough. When you’ve seen a man die in front of you at work (a true story for McDougall) it is no exaggeration to say you have pretty much witnessed it all.
As an organization, then, Les Clefs d’Or (French for “The Golden Keys”, and yes, members do wear keys on their lapels) toes a line between professional association and Skull and Bones club, boasting the best concierges around the world in its ranks. It is not a secret society, exactly, so much as a society that is privy to a lot of secrets. After all, concierges handle the bookings, dealings, and legal-or-not desires of those who can afford to drop hundreds of dollars a night at a premium hotel. “I hear shocking things all the time. People tell me their secrets, [and] I kind of let it waft over me,” says Jarren McDougall, chef concierge at the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver and regional secretary of Les Clefs d’Or Canada. “Secrets that have been told could ruin people and their relationships, and that’s certainly not what we want.” Consequently, Les Clefs d’Or does not accept any old yahoo off the street with a hospitality gig and a $50 application fee. Instead, membership into the organization signifies years of demonstrated professional service.
Still, a few highlights: the time he had to get a guest’s passport from Alberta to British Columbia overnight; the time he was invited to join a guest in a sexual encounter (he politely declined); and the time he was bribed $100 by a teenybopper to disclose the location of her favourite celebrity (who wasn’t even staying at McDougall’s hotel). Throughout this highlight reel, however, no names were given. Darn, he’s good.
According to McDougall, all applicants have to go through a rigorous application process that lasts approximately two years. During this time, aspiring members have to volunteer, attend as many professional events as possible, and stay alert for “secret shoppers”—incognito members who will pop by to judge their performances
In any case, if you run into McDougall—or any other Clefs d’Or member—at one of Vancouver’s high-end hotels, they will likely be happy to tell you about their job and the society. Just don’t expect too many juicy details.
HOUSE OF CARDS The art of tarot reading
words by keagan perlette illustration by miya mcgrew she realized that there was something happening—something she, with a laugh, called a “weird magic,” as if she only half believed that what she does (tells fortunes, sees spirits) is otherworldly. Her advice to me was to pay attention, to connect with rituals.
On a hot, windy day two summers ago, I opened my first tarot deck. The bright yellow Rider-Waite brand’s The Magician was poised on the cover like a like a dictator, a table of wonders laid out before him. I felt like an idiot. I shuffled through the stiff cards, trying to hide what I was doing from passersby as the wind threatened to send the whole deck fluttering over Jericho Beach. As a kid, I’d felt this strong connection to the mystical—a curiosity about the occult. But my mother was a devout Catholic, and my dad wasn’t raised with any kind of religion, so access to anything of that nature was limited to what I could get away with as a voracious reader of young adult fantasy novels. I struggled with
the queen of wands Lorri Clark and I traded readings over coffee. Clark reads with a vintage ’70s Rider-Waite deck with these intense, saturated watercolour versions of the classic illustrations. As an artist, Clark is drawn to reading the cards by interpreting the colours within the imagery. When the Page of Cups appears in my three-card spread, Clark looks at his green hat and says that I’ll be expanding my mind by connecting with others. Talking to Clark was freeing and validating, as her beginnings were as regular as mine––she grew up on an oyster farm in Powell River. She has that weird magic, too. “I find it’s easier if I don’t think,” she says. “Just look at it and say the first thing that comes out.” She says that tarot is “a tool to just check in.” I love that Clark is so casual about her gift with the cards. After reading with her, I felt like tarot could be something quick and fun as opposed to life altering.
“Buying the deck was my way of acknowledging that I needed to start becoming the person I had always dreamed of being: a witch.”
the three of cups My friend Jon Yurechko lives in a very old apartment building, and the first thing we talk about when I get there is how many spirits are walking around inside. I can sense it almost immediately, that ghost feeling. Yurechko reads with Rider-Waite, but that night I asked to see him read with the perplexing Wild Unknown deck. He also sees the tarot as a tool for communicating with something larger than us, petitioning the unseen. Talking with Yurechko made me feel whole in a way I hadn’t in a long time. Discussing the spiritual the same way I talk about making dinner or walking into a professor’s office is something I can’t do with many people because of widespread skepticism and judgment. Yurechko’s reading, like Clark’s, was fun and honest. Yurechko is sassy, and he reads without beating around the bush.
this feeling that there was something more for me—there were things I wanted to know and understand, powers I wanted to have, that I didn’t have access to where I grew up. When I bought my Rider-Waite deck, I had been away from home for almost exactly one year. A sense of independence from the person who grew up in the Calgarian suburbs was blossoming. Buying the deck was my way of acknowledging that I needed to start becoming the person I had always dreamed of being: a witch. I read the cards sporadically for the first year. I was very precious about them; I didn’t bend them, tried not to rip the box. But the deck was not working for me. Eventually I began reading for friends, and though I got better, I still didn’t feel the flow of intuition. I constantly doubted myself, saying the wrong things, misunderstanding the cards. By January of this year, I was fed up with struggling on my own; I was repeating the pattern of isolation that I had forged as a child. I was embarrassed to reach out, but I was also curious about what successful and experienced tarot readers did about their intuition and how they stayed in tune with it, even when the cards seemed wrong, or told them things they’d rather not hear. I ended up contacting and meeting four different readers, each with different levels of experience, each with their own fantastic insight.
strength Quin took me to her beautiful living room with its old piano, its menagerie of crystals, plants, antlers, and books. The reading she did for me nearly brought me to tears; there was so much support and empathy radiating from the elemental spread she did. Quin is like a loving aunt, and she gave me wonderful advice. The Collective Tarot deck, and her reading of it, drew some deep hurt out of me in a way that others had not. I felt like the universe was sending love to me through Quin and the cards in those moments, that some gentle care was arriving for me, that I was supported—even though Quin was a stranger. Through her, I learned that tarot could be a tool to figure out where the pain is coming from, and learn how to begin to heal.
the high priestess The way C read changed how I thought about interpreting the cards. She asked me to make a wish for the year, a request that immediately made it easy for me to get to the heart of what I wanted the cards to tell me. C is clairvoyant, which was evident in the mention of various people and the descriptions of places in my life that even I hadn’t seen before (a weird building next to a soccer field that she had described to me turned out to be the house I would move into). “I was always good at reading signs,” she says. As her own practice progressed,
Tarot, ultimately, is about connection. Isolating myself was a recipe for anxiety: a bad tarot reading happens when there is no link. To be connected to the unseen, you have to first be connected with yourself, and if you are reading for another, you must also be joined to them.
THE DISPOSABLE CAMERA PROJECT 35MM PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAT CHRISTIE ORA COGAN GEORGE REAGH RICH MOORE REECE VOYER ZHAMAK FULLAD CHRIS DAMMEYER
Outside of which club was this photo snapped?
Which theatre is across the road from this Vancouver SkyTrain station?
Instant, single-use, and discardable, disposable cameras capture and embody the fleeting interactions we have with the spaces we call home. The Disposable Camera Project is an iterative art project featuring the work of Vancouver photographers and artists as they capture their favourite spots in our city and abroad. How well do you know your neighbourhood? Guess the secret location or skill-testing question related to each image for a chance to be a part of the next DCP exhibition. You provide your best guess, we provide a SAD camera. Let’s make art Vancouver. Email your responses to email@example.com to be considered. All abilities are encouraged to participate. Which state is home to a capitol distantly synonymous with “tiny Dwayne Johnson”?
Name the state famous for its deserts and a bird known for fire-forged renewal.
Name the neighbourhood: home of the Silversun Pickups, also titled the Williamsburg of the West.
The mall behind the photographer in this image houses the Catfe. What intersection are the subjects nearest?
What street is this?
On which beach can this sculpture be found?
Name the French city whose namesake categorizes delicious, full-bodied red wines.
What’s the name of this tattoo shop? Think more Hastings, less Broadway.
Name the city: repairs are made to a building that stands in a nearby city named for a Queen.
Name the coffee shop on Clark Drive at Frances St. where this sign appears.
Name the state home to spooky donuts, Mayor Kyle MacLachlan, and the archetypal “hipster”.
WORK IT Coming out of the closet and onto the dance floor
words by anthony casey art by adam lupton I didn’t know I was living with a secret until I was 19. That year, I moved into my first apartment for a university semester in Halifax. It was the year I first experienced a guy obviously hitting on me, and it was the year I contemplated moving to the Italian countryside to hide from how much I loved this new attention. I shuttered myself in the closet that year. Growing up in Cape Breton, I was called queer, gay, and fag only slightly more than I was called fat or tubby. I was used to defending myself, but when I was 19 the game started to feel too real. It took a lot of listening to David Bowie and My Chemical Romance to realize I was definitely gay (don’t hold MCR against me).
At age 20, I was back in Cape Breton and halfheartedly came out to one of my closest friends after drinking a pint of spiced rum: “I think I kind of like guys.” She and her girlfriend said they saw this coming a pink mile away, and extensively listed every reason why. Once the initial chatter died down, I casually said, “I just don’t know where I’m going to meet any other gay guys.” “You don’t know about the gay dances in Sydney?” Apparently, there was a small community society with a really plain name that held gay dances at the Steelworker’s Hall on Disco Street. Yes, Disco Street—may the Lord strike me dead if I’m lying.
My first question was, “Who goes to these dances?” but it didn’t take long for me to start planning how we would get to the next one.
A few weeks later, after some creative lying to my mother, my friend and I headed to the party. Walking through the door, I panicked: someone will see me, they will tell everyone, and my life will be over. I shoved five dollars at the door guy and he asked me where my card was. Excuse me? I need a card? He could smell my fear and quickly said, “It’s cool, I’ll give you one.” He asked me to sign my name, and then stamped it with their society seal, saying, “Now you’re a card-carrying gay, girl!”
Fujichrome Provia 100F
BACK ROOM DEALS A store with a secret room of Indigenous carvings
words by meredyth cole photography by christos dikeakos A secret room is one of the most enchanting daydreams: a false wall in an old house, a bookshelf that slides away to reveal a hidden stairway, a floorboard that leads to a special basement. A clandestine room seems more fitting in a British manor, or a gangster film, however, than in the condo forest that is Vancouver’s Olympic Village. Nonetheless, it is here that Three Vets, a 70-year-old outdoor supply store, stands, and, in an out-of-the-way room, houses a cache of First Nations carvings amassed over 20 years.
is just up the street, and the proximity of the two stores explains why most of the carvings were partially encased in sacks that once held poppy and caraway seed snacks. Carvings littered the floor and spilled out of a recessed area that might have been, at one time, an exit, and lined the stairway up to the second level. The pegboard walls of the back room were hung with masks and even more carvings, and glass cases held jewellery and a few misty-eyed dolls, dressed in tiny fur and leather garments.
I can’t pinpoint exactly where I first heard about the back room in Three Vets. The knowledge seemed to float around like pollen in the spring: for the most part invisible, but still felt unconsciously by most of the city. If I mentioned it to people, a look of vague familiarity often passed over their faces, as if they were trying to remember the postal code of their first apartment. When I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery recently and saw a large-scale photograph of the room and its proprietor, Jerry Wolfman, the jolt of recognition made me feel like a true Vancouverite—I was in the know. Although I had never actually visited the room myself.
I noticed, perched on one of these cases, a smaller print of the photo I had seen in the art gallery. I laughed quietly at the idea of a tiny version of the room existing inside the room. When I looked at the photo again, standing in the place where it was taken, it seemed too stagey: beautiful, but inaccurate. The real room had none of the hushed somberness of the photo. The real room had the exact smell and linoleum flooring of the church basement where I went to Girl Guides every week as a preteen. The real room was in chaos, as most places that facilitate (as opposed to merely showcase) creativity are. I decided to creep up the steps leading to the second floor, and as I did I heard the sounds of a televised hockey game echoing down the hall.
The photograph, taken by Christos Dikeakos, showed Wolfman surrounded by carvings and masks, standing behind a glass case. Like many photographs, especially those that hang on sanctified gallery walls, the room looked much more impressive in print than in life. When I made the trip to Three Vets, I was surprised how easy it was to find the room. The door hung slightly ajar and, if it weren’t for the handwritten signs taped to the window, it would have seemed like any run-of-the-mill staff or storage area.
Perhaps it was all the figures that lined the steps—some eyes poked out from the bagel bags and others were fully exposed, like hundreds of silent watchdogs in shades of wood grain, black, and green—but my courage failed me once I reached the top. I was trespassing, on someone’s lunch break, yes, but also on someone else’s passion. The answer to all my questions began to seem fairly obvious. “Why would you spend years brokering art, travelling, and collecting carvings from First Nations artists?” Because he loved it. It didn’t seem like a secret at all.
Wolfman, though, proved less easy to find. When I asked if he was around, an employee told me that he “wasn’t a babysitter” and that Wolfman was probably having lunch.
The room wasn’t as much of a hushed legend as I thought it would be. The door was open, inviting. More than a secret, it was a perfect distillation of my Vancouver: the traditions colliding, and the idea that even the most inauspicious places can open up, like trapdoors, and reveal the true heritage of this place. A camping supply store that is also a treasure trove, a love affair.
So I found myself alone in the back room. Secretly lurking in a (kind of) secret place. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of brown paper bagel bags. Solly’s
WORDS BY HELEN WONG PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAUREN RAY & BLANCA GALINDO
The city’s best-kept musical secrets
We all want to be the first to discover new and exciting music, to be the one to introduce lesser-known bands to our friends. Vancouver is such a hub for creative talent that there are so many amazing and accomplished individuals to pick from. Ora Cogan, Dralms, and Mu stood out as being worthy of more widespread attention and adoration. Here’s why.
MU After meeting at the Waldorf, Francesca Belcourt and Brittany Rand fell in musical love and formed the duo Mu. The word references the mythology surrounding the lost civilization of Mu, but it also means, simply, nothingness. “We try not to rely so heavily on needing to be great musicians—we’ve never expressed that that is what we do,” says Rand. “We’re also visual artists, and
and tools—and [Mu] encapsulates everything that we enjoy as artists,” says Belcourt. “Music is about finding that relationship between you and someone else.” Mu has released two albums, I and II, which both revolve around the experience of adolescence. Since their songs are rooted in dissonance, it is about finding something that feels organic—something that people can connect to.
“That’s what we wanted: to go somewhere with someone and touch them and allow them to experience something outside of themselves.”
Most of their songs are drawn from their lived experience, as well as what it is like to be women in general. With such heavy subject matter, they use their image to help the audience identify with their journeys. “Imagery can elaborate on the stories that we tell in our music, and creating characters is so invigorating and fun,” says Rand. “It is another reflection of our music, especially in our live shows. That’s what we wanted: to go somewhere with someone and touch them and allow them to experience something outside of themselves.” Their live performance is an experience unto itself, a different beast altogether compared to their recordings. Performing alongside their favourite prop, Christian (their newly constructed tree stump), Mu creates shows that offer a completely immersive experience in which the listener can simply escape. And that is what music is about.
that is part of our band. At the bottom line, we’re just kind of curators of Mu, but in every way, we curate everything.” Not only is the duo’s self-awareness apparent, but their passion and knowledge of music is wholly evident as well. “When you have a project, you can filter all of these other imaginative resources
Kodak Portra 400
Fuji Superia 400
Ora Cogan creates music that is at once intricate and psychedelic. For her, music serves as a communicative tool that has the power to completely transform her surroundings. “It’s pure magic ... I’m so obsessed,” she says. “There is nothing like singing. It really feels liberating to me.” Each of Cogan’s six albums offers a distinct and unique sound representative of her life experiences, and her latest work, Shadowland, is no exception. “Life is constantly changing in subtle ways, so I do my best to be open-minded and to listen to what wants to happen around me,” she explains. “My songwriting derives from this—I just take the wheel and steer this little ship in a direction that feels right, and I trust that it will all work out in an interesting way.” Shadowland was co-produced with Trish Klein, a collaborative record that involved the help of studios all over Vancouver. Cogan’s music is often described as ethereal or otherworldly, inspired by her interest in symbolist paintings and fantasy. She explains that her songwriting process is very fluid and natural. “A lot of the time when I sit down to play, I’m just messing around until some line comes up that reminds me of an old story, a specific landscape, or a person I’m inspired by, and I go from there,” she says. This process translates into her interest in music history. Learning about the world and participating within the music community results in a sound that is created by an abundance of influences but remains distinctly hers. “I’m writing songs now that are a little psychedelic and romantic, but at this point I have no clue where that will go,” she admits. “I’m doing some electronic music, some minimal stuff, and I’ll be doing a residency at the Lido, which will mostly be experimental.” No doubt, there is a lot to expect from this musical talent as audiences get to experience the ebbs and flows of her life through her songs.
Impossible Blue 600 Polaroid
DRALMS A native to the Vancouver music scene, Christopher Smith is a creative force working in the parallel lanes of music and art. Originating as a solo artist, Smith teamed up with Shaunn Thomas Watt, Peter Carruthers, and Will Kendrick to form the musical project that is Dralms. Once quoted as saying the naming process was similar to “writing a grocery list on acid,” Smith now says that description was meant to convey just how deep one can get in choosing project monikers. “You have this feeling you want to express, but
“I find a kind of charm in mixing bits of vulgarity in with sweetness—there’s something romantic about it to me.” you get caught up in all these random details,” he says. “I wanted an emotive word—one without any literal attachments.” With that single word, Smith identifies his aspirations and goals for the band that translated into their debut album, Shook. “I like the idea of contrast between lyrics and sound; I like the way it feels hearing certain words mixed with certain melodies,” he continues. “I find a kind of charm in mixing bits of vulgarity in with sweetness—there’s something romantic about it to me. I want to include human mess and grit in the conversation of love, in a respectful way.” Songwriting has been Smith’s medium of expression for a long time. His interest in visual art, design, sculpture, and installation is fed through the creative direction of his music videos and album covers. Smith’s background in visual art is expressed through his wonderful Instagram account for Dralms. “I like to keep the Dralms account a little under-curated; it’s more about stimulation,” he says. “I’m drawn to images that have a certain kind of indescribable emotive quality.” He emphasizes the importance of individual connection in everything he does. When asked what the most important thing people should gauge from his songs is, Smith says that he “would never want to tell someone that. There’s no ‘should’—I can only hope that people draw something personal to themselves from my songs.”
Lady in Blue acrylic on paper
: Art——Jennifer Ashton
Territory 31 penrose map collage on wood panel
: Artâ€”â€”Tristesse Seeliger
: Art——Madeline Kloepper
Big Rock Candy Mountain collage & mixed media on paper
Strange Visitors gouache & graphite on paper
: Artâ€”â€”Madeline Kloepper
Safety in Numbers gouache & graphite on paper
: Field Guide
OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN Seven sins for the modern age
WORDS BY RACHEL BURNS ILLUSTRATION BY MARIA CENTOLA
While we still honour the lineage of pride, greed, and sloth, advancements in technology afford us newfound, contemporary ways to be awful. From PreFlaking to Instaoutrage, here are Seven Sins for the Modern Age.
UP-CLEANSING A diet game that’s not for health, but solely for oneupmanship. Your best friend went vegetarian, so her friend went vegan. Now you’re on a macrobiotic cleanse, refusing to eat anything you didn’t sprout yourself in a closet. The best part, though, is that in reality, you mostly just eat ice cream (as long as it’s artisanal, of course).
HUMBLEPLAINING Like humblebragging, but even worse: you’re complaining about the things you’re bragging about…to people worse off than you are. “Oh em gee, since condos went up by like 100% last week, my penthouse’s property taxes are gonna be soooo high. UGH, annoying!” humbleplained Sarah, whining to the executive assistant she begrudgingly pays $13 an hour.
NARCISPIRUTUALITY You’re learning, you’re changing, and you tell everyone on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, #every #single #day. What’s #spiritualgrowth without the likes? You may as well be #meditating for nothing! As your ever-enchanting, #selfie-soaked inner drama unfolds into a viral avocado-meets-Rumi–meetsOsho-inspired meme, it’s definitely coming from a #selfenlightened place.
INSTAOUTRAGE Knowing your values and opinions has led you to the privileged position of penning instantaneous, valuesignalling anger—without ever having to weigh in on the facts. That article you just found that said a word about a thing that really bugs you? It’s probably worth shouting about for at least the next five hours.
SMARTPHONE AND NOD Your friend’s husband just left her. It would be reallllly important to you, but you miiiiight have a work email? One sec. Also, there are a few people on Tinder left to swipe through. But seriously, you “hear” her. Nod and make eye contact, look back at phone. “Just one second. Sorry I swear. Just have to check this… what? Wow, so he took the kids? Bummer…. Hey have you seen this yet?”
THREE-DEEP DISCOUNTS You are a highly ethical person, yet insist on taking the 3D glasses given to you at a movie (because you never wanted to see it in 3D in the first place). True recycling is actually reusing—to you, wearing them again seems not only environmentally friendly, but also fiscally prudent.
PRE-FLAKING Every dater’s worst nightmare. You can’t just say yes, say no, or call in sick—you’ve upped flakiness to new extremes by saying maybe, saying sure, and then going offline for weeks. You blow your inconsiderate soul all over your “match” so early in the game, you can’t even flake hard enough to cancel a real plan.
Fuji Superia 400
SKIN OF THE CITY Learning to skateboard as an adult
words & photography by kerria gray As clumsy and embarrassed as skating makes me feel, it is also something else. It has given me a way to get out of my head and into perfect, focused solitude. Sometimes when things are particularly overwhelming, when schoolwork is piling up around me or when my heart hurts, I walk out into the dark street and ride up and down, trying to write over the things that are hard with each pass on my board.
Just over a year ago, my friends gave me a skateboard. A simple one: no graphics, no colours, just a pale wood-grain bottom and a generic black grip-tape top. Its plainness makes me happy. Up until this gift, I’d been borrowing my friend’s board, trying to stay upright as I scooted the two blocks between our houses. It made me feel idiotic and old and clumsy, and something else, too: something that is the opposite of all those things, but also inseparable from them. Something like that giddy feeling I had when I first learned to ride a bike, or the first time I got drunk: a sense of doing something that is childishly silly but also, at the same time, an initiation into an exciting adult world.
Learning new tricks is difficult; it takes time and patience, and a whole lot of falling down, but skateboarding itself is so easy. I stand on the board with my front foot and push with my back foot, and then I float. That’s all. It’s one of the simplest things in my life; I move through space in the most intimate way. I feel the skin of the city, in all its textures, moving under me. Everything is a bright blur, and the whole city vibrates under my wheels. And this unmistakeable sound gives away my secret.
“Everything is a bright blur, and the whole city vibrates under my wheels. And this unmistakeable sound gives away my secret.”
I skate in the daytime now, in the sunshine, in places where I can be seen. I like this, too. It’s not a stealthy act anymore, but the way it makes me feel, the way it sometimes sharpens things into a shiny, simple, joyful point: this is still my own private thing. And maybe the whole city is a different place for everyone who’s ever skateboarded through it. Maybe I’m only just starting to see something that was always just beneath the surface. A world is opened up, like in so many of my favourite books when I was young: through the wardrobe, the looking glass, the tollbooth and into this new-old place, this parallel universe. For folks who’ve been skating forever, transitory places become static spaces to try something again and again. Places for resting and sitting become, conversely, opportunities to jump up on and move across and pass through and slide along. So many playful possibilities appear out of seemingly empty urban spaces. Though I know I’ll never fully belong there, I love the idealism of this other world.
Skateboarding became, for a time, a secret thing. I am so much more shy and so many years older than I should be to be learning something so openly awkward and painful, so likely to cause broken bones and pride. My body doesn’t fully understand this thing. My limbs don’t know where to go and I fall a lot. At first, I took to riding around in hidden places, at quiet hours: after dark, after closing, early in the morning or in tucked-away spots where few walk by. A friend showed me a parking lot, not far from my house, hidden from the street and free of obstacles with a surface of freshly poured concrete that allows me to float. This is still my favourite place to skate.
Kodak Pro 100
Kodak Portra 160
COPYCAT The appropriated art of Jane Q Cheng
words by katherine chan photography by reece voyer Jane Q Cheng considers herself “almost cursed.” She is technically capable of replicating things she sees and likes, and according to the artist, that pertains to nearly everything. Though this gives her ample freedom in terms of what to produce, it has also made it more difficult for her to find her “thing.” Despite that, Cheng’s work pervades to showcase her technical skills in drawing and painting. Her art is like a big middle finger to the demands of the current industry in nearly every artistic discipline, questioning: Why are we not enough?
“I just wanted to prove how easy it is for someone to take from someone else, and how you can’t really say you’re the original because everything comes from something else.”
“It’s pretty to look at and it’s a lot of work,” Cheng says of the series. She sounds nonchalant, but then she confesses the state of vexation she was in when she made them. It was during her last two semesters at Emily Carr, when she stayed an extra year to focus on painting (her previous four concentrated on illustration). She was forced to confront the closed-mindedness she had gained from an exclusively illustration background: how the work of illustrators is expected to be commercial, fast, and understandable, while painters seem to live in a separate world with a completely different audience. She experienced intense existential feelings about her university career—as if it were an illusion. The holographic paintings were the result of those thoughts rattling within her. Maybe it’s not all about being able to draw or paint. “Art has to include so many things to be called art now,” she says. After that last remarkable year of school, Cheng noticed a lack of analytical discourse around illustration compared to painting. As a result, she has expanded her skills to include critical thinking on artistic issues like originality, authorship, and representation. Aside from asking questions about what is enough when it comes to art production, there appears, in Cheng’s work, a deep motivation to bring attention to ownership of appropriated content. She is a business-minded artist fascinated by those similarly drawn to purposeful copying, such as Elaine Sturtevant and Sherrie Levine. Sturtevant, spoken of with admiration and zeal by Cheng, became known for working closely with Andy Warhol and obtaining one of his original silkscreens (Flowers), and proceeding to make “Warhol copies” of it. “She was so good that when [Warhol] was asked how he made them, he’d say, ‘Ask Elaine. She’s the one who made them anyway,’” Cheng gushes. “I love her.” She excitedly covers her cheeks with both hands. When asked why she thinks Levine and Sturtevant focused on the work of others, she says she believes “they had a point to prove. It was something new when they did it. Everyone else was trying to create their own thing. And [Sturtevant and Levine] were like, “Well, isn’t this my own content, too?’” A fantastic example of Cheng’s own ability to copy is in her recent solo exhibition, Jane Q Cheng: Studying Andy Dixon, in which she replicated the work of the popular Vancouver painter.
A sense of nostalgia hangs in the air as Cheng talks. Although she is a young woman fresh out of her undergraduate studies at Emily Carr, she yearns for the olden days, even before her time, when only skills and dedication mattered. “Everyone can paint if you put the time into it,” she says. If only that was enough. Before understanding that a large component of successful illustration was its ability to appeal to a wide audience, Cheng mostly used oil paints in her illustration schoolwork. “I wish I used a different medium,” she says now. “I wanted to push myself technically, but I completely missed another point of all this, which is that it doesn’t even matter; some people don’t know how to draw properly and they’re doing so well. It really doesn’t matter anymore whether or not you can draw or paint.” In regards to herself, she says she got “lucky. And even that, I don’t know if it’s enough.”
Having not distinguished her own style, but possessing the skills to replicate almost anything, Cheng can create a solo show that looks like a group exhibition. “I just wanted to prove how easy it is for someone to take from someone else, and how you can’t really say you’re the original because everything comes from something else,” she says of being an artist who critiques the illusory notion of originality by creating those very illusions. “Especially in this day and age, with technology and the internet.” She pauses and adds, “I wasn’t out to come up with a definite answer for everything, but bring up a space for people to talk about this.” Success, to Cheng, is having the freedom to explore and make decisions. For now, though, she is leaving one choice unchosen, declining to define herself as a painter or an illustrator: “I don’t know what I am yet, and I think that’s exciting.”
This frustration is embedded in her Holographic Series comprising two paintings of small squares; each one consists of 24 triangular strips of changing hues, creating the perception of iridescence that one finds in holographic material. It took Cheng about three months to complete these labour-heavy pieces. Even on second look, it is hard to believe that the works are made of paint. As such, Cheng considers them exemplary of the illusionary nature of art. In this series, though, they actually become a meta representation of their own genre.
Holographic Study acrylic on canvas
Holographic Study of Face acrylic on canvas
: Field Trip
words by katie stewart illustration by pamela rounis
UBC Rose Garden Crescent Road Great for stealing away from convocation for “photos” when really all you want to do is take selfies of staged kisses with your beau while your hair looks great. Fits in nicely to a more expansive makeout tour of campus (which must include the Botanical Garden Greenheart Treewalk).
Tea Swamp 266 East 15th Avenue Teeny weeny park just east of Main Street. Mend your relationship at Don’t Argue! Pizzeria and wander down to the park bench to discuss how exactly those 2.5 children are going to make your life richer.
Elm Park 5800 Elm Street Great for early morning meanders to school with your fellow classmates. Leave your house early and squeeze in a couple smooches before first period.
Les Faux Bourgeois Window seat, 663 East 15th Avenue Seems private in that dark little corner when you’re surrounded by a cloud of the red wine you drank before arriving. But nope, you are basically on display (from the front and back). For exhibitionists only. Goes well with crème brûlée.
Choklit Park 2400 Spruce Street at West 7th Avenue Stunning view of downtown Vancouver from multiple staircases and terraces. Named after the Purdy’s chocolate factory that used to be there. Note, although Choklit Park is a sweet secret spot, “Choklit” will autocorrect to “Choke it” so be careful to not send mixed messages to your makeout partner.
Park Place Courtyard, 666 Burrard Street The mature greenery and accompanying waterfall make for a pleasant smooching spot close to one of the city’s tallest buildings. Fancy a little privacy? Duck under the bush canopy and pretend no one can see you. But they can.
Bill Reid Gallery Courtyard, 639 Hornby Street The bench at Crab Park was taken. Stroll along the waterfront and head south on Hornby to the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. It will be closed, but the charming courtyard is open, empty, and dreamy. 10/10 secret makeout spot from our readers.
Tinseltown Theatre Theatres 8,9,10, 88 West Pender Street These theatres are tucked around the corner where disinterested employees don’t care to police. Meander from back row to back row and swap salty saliva through buttered lips.
Crab Park 101 West Waterfront Road Keep your eye out for the lowly bench at the top of the hill. On a clear night, it’s a primo spot for gazing at the Vancouver port and mountains while casually applying beeswax Chapstick in preparation for your romantic smooching sesh.
Strathcona Park 857 Malkin Avenue If it’s a cool night and you’re jonesing for a long, slow-burning display of mutual attraction, head on over to the big trees in Strathcona Park. Make sure to stock up on foodstuffs at Fujiya (Clark and Venables) if you fancy fresh sushi to fuel your fire.
Bloedel Conservatory Stone wall, 4600 Cambie Street Stellar views of the city will lull you into awe even after a killer game of frisbee golf with your new love interest. Bring tall cans and breath mints.
So youâ€™ve swiped right and sparked a new romance, just in time for winter-time cuddles and a rainy season of Netflix. Before the weather goes to shit, you have a chance to make the most of outdoor makeouts in the city. Here is the lowdown on some of the sweetest smooching spots in Vancouver, reported by our readers (and resident makeout queen, Katie).
STASH How Vancouver keeps its weed P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y J A C K I E H O F F A R T
words by billy-ray belcourt illustration by denver lynxleg a native man looks me in the eyes as he refuses to hold my hand during a round dance. his pupils are like bullets and i wonder what kind of pain he’s been through to not want me in this world with him any longer. and i wince a little because the earth hasn’t held all of me for quite some time now and i am lonely in a way that doesn’t hurt anymore. you see, a round dance is a ceremony for both grief and love and each body joined by the flesh is encircled by the spirits of ancestors who’ve already left this world. i ask myself how many of them gave up on desire because they loved their kookums more than they loved themselves. i dance with my arm hanging by my side like an appendage my body doesn’t want anymore. the gap between him and i keeps getting bigger so i fill it with the memories of native boys who couldn’t be warriors because their bodies were too fragile to carry all of that anger. the ones who loved in that reckless kind of way. you know, when you give up your body for him. and i think about the time an elder told me to be a man and to decolonize in the same breath. there are days when i want to wear nail polish more than i want to protest. but then i remember that i wasn’t meant to live life here and i paint my nails because 1) it looks cute and 2) it is a protest. and even though i know i am too queer to be sacred anymore, i dance that broken circle dance because i am still waiting for hands that want to hold mine too.
THE SADDEST LOVE On dating an addiction
words by nina paula morenas illustration by pamela rounis Johnny and I started our relationship with letters. Not email, but actual lick-thestamp letters. Letters to him in jail, to be precise. He was the older brother of a good friend, and I knew him well. I started writing to him after his brother and I paid him a visit in jail. He had a terrible haircut, like one you might give yourself with a kitchen knife and no mirror. Despite his circumstance he was happy to see us—cheerful, even. He was always well spoken and kind. I was so excited to get his letters that I would make sure to get into the house and take off my coat and shoes, and sit down to read them properly. I wanted to savour them. When Johnny got out of jail we went on a date, though neither of us called it that. He took me to a fancy restaurant where I was underdressed. When the bill came it was over $200, and I couldn’t believe it! No one had ever taken me out for such an extravagant meal. We stayed up the whole night talking and laughing. We didn’t even kiss, we just gabbed like best friends at a sleepover.
I came home one day and he wasn’t there, and I couldn’t get ahold of him. I called his number over and over in tears until he finally picked up. He told me he was in a hospital before someone made him hang up. He didn’t have to tell me
“Is this the day I find him dead?” what happened. I knew. So many times I had come home to silence and would see the bathroom door closed and think, “Is it today? Is this the day I find him dead?” Sometimes this scenario would take the form of a fantasy. If he died then it would all be over. I would be free to live without the guilt that I abandoned him, and know that I did all I could.
Johnny went to jail for robbery. The reason he did it was because he was a heroin addict. I knew this, and I believed him when he said he had detoxed in jail and he was through with it. I know how this sounds. But I believed him. I believed in him.
The doctors told him he was lucky. I didn’t think so. He had overdosed at Insite and they called an ambulance. If he had done it at home he would have been dead. I would have found him dead.
After a year of dating, we were set to move in together. We signed a lease with a building that didn’t require a credit check because he had terrible credit. Two days before moving in, he left my place to get some food and took my phone with him because his was out of charge. He still wasn’t back after three hours. I was frantic, and ran to the nearest payphone to call my cell. A woman answered.
There were good stretches when Johnny was mostly clean, and he would give me his paycheque to deposit straight away. Then there were bad times when he wrote himself cheques with my chequebook, and pawned my camera and jewelry. But he was always so forgiving with me that I couldn’t help but reciprocate. If I bought expensive clothes, he told me I deserved them. He cleaned our home all the time, and listened to me when I talked, and left me notes. I felt like he really saw me. And I felt bad for him. How can you leave someone who is in so much pain, who needs love the most? We would fight, and he would disappear to find drugs, and then reappear with apologies and promises. Because I couldn’t control him, I began to control every other aspect of our lives, becoming an overachiever, excelling in school. At work I would Google dubious treatments for drug use. This went on for eight years.
“Hello?” “Hi, is Johnny there?” “Oh honey, I just found this phone on the street.” “Where are you?” “Main and Hastings.” “Well can I get my phone back from you somehow? Where do you work?” “On the street, honey.” As she cackled, my eyes started to well up with tears.
Then one Christmas we went to visit my dad, and at dinner, he served us wine. Alcohol was a trigger for Johnny’s drug use, and I nudged him under the table to be careful. When he asked for another glass I kicked him, and he left the table and never came back. I was furious and humiliated in front of my family and friends. I sat and ate as everyone looked at me with pity. I had to admit that he couldn’t change. I had run out of excuses.
When I saw him the next day he was contrite. We were moving, we couldn’t be fighting. I couldn’t afford the rent on my own, and neither could he. Was I really going to throw away the last year with him for one night of bad decisions? He said it was a one-time mistake and I believed him. We moved in together. Slowly, I turned into Nancy Drew. I caught him in lies all the time. We were hemorrhaging money, and no matter what the excuse, I knew it was all going to drugs. He would nod off in front of my friends and I would say he’d had a long day. He would lock himself in the bathroom and come out with pupils like tiny grains of sand. If I had friends over, he usually just stayed in bed. I slowly withdrew from society, too. I began to resent happy people, and if I saw couples on the street holding hands I would roll my eyes. The few friends I confided in
couldn’t understand, and I’m sure they thought less of me for staying with him. I thought less of myself for staying with him.
For a bigger person this would make them more empathetic, but it just makes me bitter. This experience has cast a shadow over my life since. Happy people still bother me. They seem naïve. I’m working on that part. And every day when my husband comes home from work on time, and calls when he says he will, I have hope that not everyone in my life will let me down. And then I think, “Just wait.”
SILENT GRAFFITI An artist who hides his work in public
words by megan jenkins photography by robyn humphreys art by christian nicolay dashing intentionally blank surfaces with vibrant colours so that everyone will see. “But I’ll go at any time of day or night, and hide something where I’m hoping no one will ever find it,” he explains. He calls it silent graffiti, and it is only one take on his work in paradoxes.
Christian Nicolay is a professional. After 13 years of glancing over his shoulder, he knows how it feels when someone is watching. He can estimate with precision how many seconds of isolation he will have in a space, and he knows when it’s okay to risk a little noise. Most importantly, however, he has learned to immediately identify viable hiding spots in every space he enters. “Do you see inside the coffee shop there–the hole in the ceiling in the corner?” he asks, sitting on a makeshift patio in Kitsilano, sipping coffee. “While I was waiting for my drink, I just...” Nicolay extends his arm into the air, mimicking the act, “tucked something in there.”
Nicolay’s body of work deals in “regarding the disregarded,” or renouncing an object’s status as “useless” or “garbage” and giving it a new purpose. He spends time in the company of the liminal, inhabiting a point on both sides of a threshold. In removing his practice from the confines of his studio, Nicolay also interacts with institutional approval, a sort of reverse readymade. When art is left in the world, to be found or lost forever, it is still art, and will remain, a treasure waiting to be happened upon. This interplay of recycling found objects into art, which remains outside of the gallery as an institution, challenges our notions of what has value and what does not. Taken a step further, this theme coalesces with the political undertones of Nicolay’s greater body of work—one critical of capitalism.
Since 2003, Nicolay has been hiding his art in public. His practice usually means that he won’t see his pieces again, so he documents the hidings with a video camera, which he takes with him everywhere. Nicolay inserts political cartoons and sketches in the backs of other artist’s paintings, in ceiling tiles, or in any other spots that draw his eye. He hides work in the hotel rooms he stays in, at universities where he lectures, and also, apparently, in coffee shops before interviews.
With The Day Job, Nicolay is able to synthesize a range of his working media into one practice while preserving the mystery and unknowingness that attracts him. He tempts and interacts with the unknown, be it people or spaces or weather, soliciting the abstraction of his initial plans for a piece. In handing his work over to the public, anything might happen—and that’s the fun of it.
As a teen, Nicolay found a multi-tool nestled inside an army bag he’d purchased and had been using for months. Then, at a summer job replacing four-by-eight wood
“Who doesn’t like finding treasure? ”
Remarkably, after over a decade of hiding drawings and paintings—and, at least once, a makeshift Halloween costume—all over the world, Nicolay has never been caught. This is in part because he’s always prepared. His backpack houses all of the instruments necessary to sustain his practice: art, video camera, and tools; and because by now, experience has his bases covered. The exhilaration, he says, is reminiscent of his graffiti-artist days, despite how his work has changed.
panels in warehouses, Nicolay discovered a tarred mop that had been used on the roof of the building and then built into the wall. In both cases, he was delighted. “Those were seminal points where I realized I wanted to do that—I wanted to give back,” he says. “Who doesn’t like finding treasure?” The charm of these lost relics prompted the beginning of a project that has persisted through his entire artistic practice. He had picked up a day job framing hotel art alone in a warehouse all day; to “keep sane,” he started hiding his own work in the backs of the pieces he was framing, then sealing them and sending them on their way. In the video compilation of his project, called The Day Job, Nicolay walks through his process, and in his surroundings we see hundreds of frames, equating to potentially hundreds of hidden works, ready to be strung up forever in unsuspecting Quality Inns. This theme persists in Nicolay’s practice: the possibility of being surprised by one’s surroundings.
Nicolay plans to continue this work for the rest of his life. The mundanity of the everyday is made much more promising by the possibility that we’re on a treasure hunt without a map. Only blind luck could fracture our routines enough to peek above a ceiling tile, or into the back of a classroom clock, where we might find a source of new inspiration.
“It felt a lot like graffiti at first,” says Nicolay, recalling his years growing up spraypainting the insides of tunnels with his punk band friends. But he soon identified a crucial difference: graffiti artists target prominent areas in the middle of the night,
Coffee cup long emptied, readying to leave, Nicolay stops and points to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk. “Do you see that?” Nicolay has spotted a hand-drawn portrait of Vancouver’s own Gregor Robertson, encased in plastic and bolted to the top of the pole. In bold red letters, it reads, “I AM YOUR DENSITY.” When asked if it was his work, Nicolay grins, wryly and mischievously, truly a savant at his craft. “I don’t know! It’s a secret!”
Kodak Portra 800
Kodak Portra 800
Kodak Portra 800
DON’T TELL MY DAD The satisfaction of falsifying Wikipedia entries
words by phillip intile illustration by gurjap sidhu Don’t tell my parents, but I like to falsify Wikipedia entries. Please, please, please, let’s just keep this between friends. I just couldn’t stand hearing it again—“Wise up, smarten up, GROW UP!”—and don’t you get tired of saying it, pops? “Daddy didn’t raise no Dadaist!” But daddy’s wrong again. Crack a few ciders and convince some pedestrians that Pizza Hut was busted for using slave labour in its vast Ukrainian kielbasa manufacturing operations the Kieling Fields. “Beckett can sit on it and spin.” Suck back half dozen menthols and trick middleschool students into believing that FDR suffered from IBS and diarrhea—that’s why he was always sitting down. “Guy Debord was an asshole.” Below is my most notorious piece of internet vandalism. It gained the attention of John Cusack himself, who responded on his Twitter feed.
Most of my vandalism goes unnoticed, although I’m told that Wikipedia has blocked the IP addresses of a few of my friends. That’s what you get for inviting me to your house party. You deserve it. We all deserve it. Information is fetishized. Alienation is inescapable. I am not an artist. I falsify Wikipedia entries.
john cusack—wikipedia—sizzler incident: In April 2007
Chicago police were called to a Sizzler restaurant when an unruly Cusack refused to leave the premises. Cusack along with two female friends were reportedly abusing
the restaurants “all you can eat” buffet format by going back several dozen times and cleaning out several of the buffet sections. The group eventually drew attention to themselves when Cusack reportedly removed the entire hot plate of ribs from the buffet and returned it to his table. After being politely asked to leave by management Cusack reportedly lit a cigarette, leaned back in his chair and exclaimed “they call it all you can eat for a reason and I ain’t done yet”. When police arrived Cusack and his companions left on their own volition but not before Cusack went back to the desert table for one last bowl of rice pudding. Franchise owner Bowline Ortiz expressed frustration to a TMZ reporter who had arrived at the restaurant after Cusack had left “These big shot Hollywood superstars come in here and think the rules don’t apply to them? Phooey to them! Phooey!”
TIGHT HOOKS Secrets of a trans man
words by wade janzen illustration by syd danger
I will answer your secret questions first so we can get more acquainted: 1. There was no “realization” age; it was kind of slow. I didn’t know trans people existed until I had almost graduated high school. 2. Queer actually. Very queer. My partner is queer too. 3. Three total. One was for my hand and another was to remove a beauty mark when I was five (and that was the best one because I got Jell-O at the hospital). 4. I’m not answering that. You can Google it. 5. Happily and hopefully forever. I think it’s hard for people to realize how hollow gender is. Gender is filled with others’ expectations. Once poured into any mould, it forms a brittle bone. The marrow so delicious and comfortable (and dull), you spread it on toast in the morning. I have a hard time making eye contact with men. For the past three years, I barely make eye contact with women, either. I’ve had to squash my inclination to do so. I’ve chosen to play the loneliness long game. The only way to promote openness is to attack masculine privilege at its roots—not to force chats on the bus. I often walk alone at night. I can do this now because of hormones. I cannot sleep and I cannot feel good about taking back the night. I cross the street out of respect, sometimes out of old habit. I’m no secret agent, but people accuse me of this when I tell them about my childhood. And then there is my chosen family. My queers, gender-siblings, two-spirit friends, queens, and butches. I want to talk to you. But I know I have crossed some lines and we might need some time to become untangled. Despite what seemed like a never-ending meander towards the surgical reset button, there is no final boundary crossed. Three weeks post-op and every day I emerge from tight hooks. My surgical binder peeling like a spring moult.
I feel relieved but not reborn.
: Field Trip
MYSTERY SHOW words by madeline barber photography by reece voyer Up a steep flight of stairs and through a large industrial room, the venue for the March event by Songs From a Secret Room (Sofar) teemed like a house party. People chatted while holding cans of beer, background music fuelled the anticipation, and somebody’s dog quietly weaved between the groups. It was a pretty relaxed vibe for a room full of people with no idea what was going to happen next. In fact, no one even knew they were going to be here until the night before. Sofar curates secret concerts around the world, with a goal of creating intimate shows where the focus is on the musicians (they do this by keeping it small, which translates into a very coveted guest list). Organizers Kaya Malou and Catherine Jacobs stress that while it may seem exclusive keeping a limited group, it’s done so the atmosphere does not intimidate, and the musicians get everyone’s full attention. Paradoxical, maybe, but it makes sense: a small crowd allows for a greater feeling of inclusivity. No more than 70 people cozied together on blankets in the quirky workshop for Love Jules Leather, a local shoe company owned by a husband and wife duo. Amid sewing machines, piles of leather, and cow skulls, there were twinkling lights and a humble little banner reading S O F A R. Despite all the mystery beforehand, there was a homey and safe feel to the party. It’s the kind of show you could go to alone and not feel weird about, which might not be the case at another concert or bar in Vancouver. The pre-show mingle period was short, and it wasn’t long before Malou and fellow volunteer Zoe Arthur shushed everyone and giggled through an endearing introduction. The night’s program was finally divulged, and it was as mixed as Licorice Allsorts. Besides the excitement of the revealing, the secrecy is meant to expose people to genres and places they wouldn’t normally give a chance. It forces concertgoers out of their comfort zones, to explore new music and areas of the city. It’s a night of discovery. As promised, the lineup was musically diverse and powerful. Stefana Fratila opened with an electronic set that sounded like Grimes walking through a rainforest; it was hypnotizing. Lindi Nolte followed with spoken word poetry, the kind that makes you shiver with recognition and laugh while crying. Nolte shared stories of her family struggles and a manifesto for staying childlike, and by the end it felt like the whole room was mentally group hugging. After a short break (the only time people are allowed to get up so as not to disturb the performance), local choir group Mount Pleasant Regional Institute of Sound harmonized on some covers, the choicest being tUnE-yArDs’s “Powa” in which the men took the high notes, and the women took the low. Lexi Marie finished the show by bringing on the blues, and her waterfall of raven braids swayed as she rocked back and forth with an electric guitar. Marie’s voice was just as soulful when she stopped to explain the meaning behind each song, and invited everyone to sing her story with her. Sofar is a journey bound by shared experience that will leave you wanting to call the audience and musicians your friends. And yet, it will end early enough for you to get a good sleep and wake up on time for work the next morning, left only with your memories, and the feelings they stir. Fuji Superia 400
Photos taken at the Sofar concert, July 1, 2016, featuring bands Desirée Dawson, Pale Red, and Moondle
: Field Trip
Kodak Portra 160
CONFESSIONS The psychology of secrets
words by alice fleerackers photography by theo terry As a professional social worker and clinical counsellor, Peter S. Silin has heard thousands and thousands of secrets. For more than 20 years, he has lent a compassionate ear to everyone who walks into his office, helping them tackle everything from addiction, anxiety, and depression to broken relationships and the challenges of aging. But when I meet him to talk about the psychology of secrets, Silin is nothing like the person I’d imagined he’d be. For someone who is sitting on two decades’ worth of fears and traumas, he exudes a kind of gentleness, a sublime calm that instantly puts me at ease.
the secret’s accepted, that builds your sense of, “I’m accepted,” and, “I’m okay.” And if I feel accepted and I feel okay, then I feel safe with you. Again, that builds a relationship. What you find a lot is when a couple comes into trouble, the trust is really low, so they don’t share much. But when [one person] starts to share more of what’s really going on inside, and that’ll get accepted, then the other one can really share more. That’s the basics of how you begin to heal—you share your true self.
It catches me off guard, and I fumble over my carefully prepared list of questions. By the end of our conversation, I’m not sure anymore who is the interviewer and who is the interviewee. Although we’ve known each other for less than an hour, I’m convinced I would tell this man just about anything.
af: So, in your practice, you really encourage couples to share their secrets with each other?
alice fleerackers: How do you get clients to trust you enough to feel comfortable
times, a feeling of loneliness, sadness, fear, feeling abandoned—those kind of things. You could call them the secrets of love. They’re the things that we feel inside, the more tender, more vulnerable feelings, that can get in the way unless people understand them.
ps: When couples are in trouble, the secrets that they hold are really, a lot of
sharing their fears and anxieties—their secrets—with you?
peter silin: I wouldn’t say I “get” people to trust me. I think, when any two
af: Are there any secrets that shouldn’t be shared? Would you ever encourage a client
people get together, there’s a little bit of a dance as we establish what it’s like being together. But I would say it’s the presence that people have, that they just
not to tell a secret?
ps: If it’s taught you something, like, “This is just not for me, I made a
mistake”—in that case, I might not say anything. But if there’s meaning there, such as feeling really isolated, feeling constantly put down, what I might suggest then is you share the stuff that leads to it. Infidelity, often, is not the end of a relationship. It can actually be the beginning of the healing of a relationship.
“I’m always thinking whoever is in front of me is okay. I really try to find that okayness in them.”
af: Are you ever surprised by the kinds of things that people try to hide from each other? ps: [Laughs] Nope. af: Why do you think people are so afraid to share their secrets?
kind of feel listened to. I’m always thinking whoever is in front of me is okay. I really try to find that okayness in them, [even] if I’m really challenged by them. And the other thing is accurate empathy. It connects you to people when you know you’ve been understood. When we know we’ve been understood, somehow, it makes us feel safer. And when we feel safe—we allow ourselves to connect to people. It’s all about attachment.
ps: Sometimes the thing to do is look behind the secrets, see what their function is. And also know that they can be really poisonous—individual secrets or even shared secrets. Like with addiction: when you have a secret, especially with addiction, it’s like you have a third person in the relationship. You’re always keeping a bit of yourself apart. That’s poisonous.
af: It’s funny that you mention attachment. I was just reading some research about
I think there are three major emotions: fear, shame, and love. Fear makes us run, shame makes us hide, and love makes us grin. I think we all have things that make us ashamed. So when we have a secret that brings up shame, shame is such a powerful emotion that of course we want to hide it. Shame is about who we are, shame is like the hiding of the self.
shared secrets—that is, secrets you share with someone else—and how they can actually make us feel closer, more connected. Can you explain how that works?
ps: When you have a secret and then you share it, you’re kind of letting down your guard a little bit—or a lot, depending on how crucial the secret is. When
But there are some good secrets, too.
af: Good secrets? What do you mean by that? ps: [Grinning] Like right now, I’m about to pick up my new car on Monday, and I haven’t told my partner. [Laughs] I just want to drive up and phone him and say, “Come on out!” I have this whole vision that he comes out and he’ll see
“ Things that may shame us in the dark melt away in the light of day.” me in my new car. Or, you know, the secret of when you’re planning a surprise party for somebody and you’re excited because of how they’re going to react. It’s like you give someone something.
af: So sharing or withholding secrets plays a huge role in relationships. How does it pan out on an individual level? How does it affect our personal wellbeing?
ps: Well it’s kind of like coming out of the closet on things versus not. Things
that may shame us in the dark melt away in the light of day. And they also build up if you hold the secret of what’s happened to you or something you’ve done. People’s lives can be organized around a secret: hiding it or feeling flawed or something. When people let it out, they gain a sense of acceptance.
As I’m saying this, I’m thinking about trauma. I have a lady who was raped by somebody she knew. She’d been spending time with that person for a specific reason that had nothing to do with their relationship. And he raped her. Violently. Her thoughts were, “I deserve this.” And I said, “No, no. You made an agreement to see him. You didn’t make an agreement to be raped.” As soon as I said that, she let it go. Then you think about Holocaust survivors. When people survive the concentration camps, they hardly ever want to talk about it. It’s almost like keeping the secret to keep the trauma at bay. The trauma was so overwhelming, maybe that’s what they have to do.
af: Is it hard for you to hear all of these different secrets from people and then not necessarily be able to talk about it with anyone?
ps: We’re not allowed to talk about it, but what we are allowed is to get collegial supervision. In supervision, we can talk enough about it, without giving all the details, to get some of it out. There’s a concept called vicarious trauma. Vicarious traumatization is being traumatized by hearing someone else’s trauma. You have to be a little bit careful of that.
Most of the time, when I hear people’s secrets, what strikes me is not the secret, but how it’s affecting them. It just brings out a lot of compassion. It gets more difficult with things like, somebody who’s a pedophile, somebody who’s a rapist. Because then, I have to say something. I never okay the behaviour, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t have some compassion for what the person is experiencing. I don’t think it’s okay to have sex with kids, but what I do think about is how difficult it must be to be someone who has that attraction. I don’t know if I told you I was gay, but me coming out—I remember the shame. I’m just lucky that society now says, “Yes, it’s great to be gay.”
af: Just one last question: Who gets to hear your secrets? Who do you share with? ps: You know, I don’t [really] have any! The older I get, the more I think: If I’m
gonna do it, I’m gonna say it. If you don’t want people to know, then don’t do it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Kodak Portra 160
UNLOCKED On keeping a disorder secret and finally letting it out
words by anne tastad art by christian pelech Out of frustration, anger, and sheer fatigue, I eventually decided to be open and actively vocal about my disorders, my rights as a human being experiencing a form of suffering beyond my control. I simply couldn’t handle the burden of silence. But to be honest, that doesn’t mean the all secrets have been, or will ever be, revealed.
For 10 years, I have suffered from severe anorexia nervosa and obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD). They often develop hand-in-hand as comorbidities. Out of those 10 years, I’ve only been open and vocal about my disorders for about two or three. Shame. A lot of shame. In our society, it is barely acceptable to suffer from depression; people have become slightly more accustomed to the notion of it. But if you talk about OCD, you generate a lot of smirking; and when it comes to discussing anorexia, or any eating disorder, really, you face a mixture of perplexed and vaguely condescending sympathy, mingled with a heavy dose of awkward “let’s change the subject” discomfort.
These illustrations depict one of the aspects of mental illness, particularly of eating disorders, that is rarely talked about: recovery. People, survivors, talk about recovering from their disorder, but that part of the story is usually squished into a single sentence, saying something like, “I realized I was sick and needed to change, so I went into treatment and two years later I felt like a new person.”
Eating disorders are viewed as an unsurprising or typical phase; a weakness both designated for and expected of, exclusively, teenaged girls. Like a rite of passage. It happens, whatever.
It’s not that simple. It shouldn’t be glossed over. Recovery is the hardest, bravest thing a person with a mental illness can commit to. It’s a full-time job. I eat 5,000 calories every day to ensure my weight progresses. It’s uncomfortable physically, and it’s terrifying emotionally. I can see my thighs thicken; I can feel my stomach protruding. This is a transformation. A rebirth. And it’s painful.
So when you’re an adult and you’re still starving yourself, you’re always anxious about calories, and you’re struggling with OCD (sub-type: “fear of contamination”) that’s so severe you can’t touch anything without pulling on a protective pair of bright blue nitrile gloves, you start to recognize it’s smarter, safer, less risky, to keep these things a secret. Applying for a job? Don’t mention
The illustrations progress from a fetal, self-preservation stance, to images of my bloated body, slumped with shame, the physical burden of my “food baby,” and the emotional trauma of life in a new body, with its awkward, unfamiliar bumps and curves.
“As an anorexic, I guess you could say that I, myself, was the skeleton in my own closet, and trying to conceal that fact from society at large was exhausting.”
In these depictions, I feel like I look pregnant. But I remind myself of medieval and Renaissance depictions of the Madonna. Running with that idea, trying to see the beauty and the strength in it, I toy with the concepts of rebirth, sacrifice, and salvation, and this leads me to the final frame in the series, in which I stand straight, facing the camera without fear, or reservation, holding my palms outward in a gesture of acceptance, of openness, of peace, and also, crucially, empowerment.
mental illness. Trying to rent an apartment? Don’t mention mental illness. Going on first dates or socializing in new environments? Don’t mention mental illness. But this lifestyle, centred around secrecy, usually ends up making things worse. As an anorexic, I guess you could say that I, myself, was the skeleton in my own closet, and trying to conceal that fact from society at large was exhausting.
The blue gloves are still on. I am an imperfect Madonna, a strange one. But as my hands suggest, I am ready to stop hiding, to let go, to be reborn. I am giving myself over, body and spirit, to the pursuit of health.
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