no . 16 /17 suburbia
LIFE IN THE WOODS
with queer painter Shelley Stefan
yes, that Raffi
HISTORY OF THE â€˜BURBS Stories, Art, and Design Quarterly
sights unseen just out of town
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adam cristobal is a designer,
writer, and educator, born and raised in Vancouver. He recently graduated with a Masters of Design from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, where he also taught in the Department of Design + Dynamic Media. A former Sad Mag Editor-in-Chief, he’s embarking on his next adventure as an Interaction Designer at IDEO in Silicon Valley.
colin cej was raised in Red Deer,
Alberta. Formerly the publisher of nowdefunct The Octopus Club Magazine in Victoria, BC, he makes a living in Vancouver as an illustrator, copywriter, and general ‘web-guy’. After a lifetime of avoiding cats and basement suites, he now lives in East Van in a basement suite with a cat.
farah tozy is a fashion writer, wine
connoisseur, and Beyoncé admirer. Born in the desert abyss of the Middle East, you’ll always find her complaining about the Vancouver cold, even though she’s lived here for 16 years. Farah dreams of travelling the world while working in the fashion industry, and is on Instagram and Twitter as @ farahtozy.
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PhD in Urban Geography at University College London and plays in the local band Gold & Youth.
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Vancouver has a funny relationship with the suburbs. Our city peninsula is persistently fêted for its urban planning and natural beauty and praised for its livability and culture. Meanwhile the vast majority of its residents—2.2 million, nearly one-half the population of the entire province—live out of the spotlight in the surrounding suburbs. If you are a diehard city dweller, like me, it’s entirely possible that you have only visited Tsawwassen for its ferry terminal, or seen nothing of Burnaby besides SFU campus. After reading this issue, we hope you’ll be compelled to dive a little deeper into the history and culture beyond your 1-Zone Translink pass. We’ve used a generously broad definition of “suburb” in this issue, casting a wide net that includes the idyllic Gulf Islands and the rolling hills of the Fraser Valley. If it’s in the issue, you can probably get there by car or ferry in an hour. And you should: there’s strange magic happening, whether it’s an explosion of queer artists from the tiny Bible Belt town of Chilliwack (Something in the Water, p.20) or a communal Finnish settlement on the tip of Malcolm Island (Place of Harmony, p.12). As our feature shoot by Angela Fama (Black Sheep, p.66) demonstrates, the most ordinary places can provide the most creative inspiration. Let’s get outside our comfort zone and take a little trip to the ‘burbs. —michelle reid, Editor-in-Chief
table of contents
06 07 10 12 16 20
Translink Your Own Adventure
Dispatches from the ‘Burbs: North Vancouver, Port Moody, Tsawwassen Wasteland: how to hold a joint in Aldergrove
Place of Harmony: the Sointulian way
Photography by Kerria Gray
Something in the Water: profiles of Chilliwack queers
24 26 30 32 34 38
50 Shades of Goth: suburban goth identities
Suburbs in the City: photos by Rommy Ghaly & Megan-Magdalena Bourne A Stone in the Sea: island life
Photography by Brian Lye
Kalle Lasn: talkin’ ‘bout my generation
Mythic Proportions: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
40 44 48 50 56 58
Sights Unseen: the origin of the suburbs
Variations on a Theme: west coast architecture
Swin so Wild, Swim so Free: Raffi
60 63 66
My Side of the Mountain: Michael Hingston
Life in the Woods: Shelley Stefan
Black Sheep: photos by Angela Fama
Suburban Legend: road trippin’
Bright Lights, No City: George Gorton
Creative Stock: the Jealous Curator
sad mag would like to thank
how gay is this issue?
April Thompson David Gilbar Hawkins Cheezies Hemlock Printers Kroma Acrylics Make Creative Megan Lau Modo Car Co-op
on the cover
on the back cover
Photographed by Angela Fama
345 Modern House by Douglas Coupland
Black Sheep (p.66)
Lego and hand-cast resin components
Place D’Arts Project Space Red Truck Brewery Sean Cranbury The Cobalt
FujiChrome Provia 100F
The Lab Wade Janzen WORD Vancouver Vancouver Art/Book Fair
64% Queer Artists & Authors
Translink Your Own
ADVENTURE by rachel burns
illustrations by robyn humphreys
Your mom has made your favourite lasagna, your brother’s wife just had a new baby, and the family is putting on the heat for you to come home for family dinner. 6:00pm, sharp. Only problem? It’s 4:00pm, you’re downtown, and your parents live in South Delta.
G e t h o m e o n t i m e , u s i n g o n ly. . .
Your powerful wit
A wallet with $2.75 in change, and a $20 bill
ST A R T
The power of TransLink and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.
W A TE R F R ONT ST A TION
You run into a failed Tinder date. Apparently, Mr 5% Tipper drives a 1994 Toyota Tercel. He offers you a ride to SW Marine Drive.
What should you do? Option 1:
Take the ride! Rides trump everything
Scream “Je ne parle pas anglais,”delete Tinder, steal a bicycle, and pedal furiously towards the Granville Street Bridge.
Take the Canada Line to Richmond-Brighouse for $5.50
(go to page 14)
(go to page 37)
(go to page 60)
D IS P A T C HES illustrations by dana kearley
N ORTH VAN COUVE R “I have fully accepted the fact that I am going home alone tonight,” says a 19-year-old alt bro standing next to me. He turns to one of his shaggy-haired and baseball-capped compatriots with sleepy eyes. “Crawl into bed, rub one out, pass out.” I cringe to think that he could have attended my high school. It is late Saturday night, and the bus is filled with post-party burnouts on the last ride to my childhood home: Phibbs Exchange, a Translink landing zone and nether region at the foot of the Second Narrows Bridge. Far from Upper Lonsdale’s forest of MEC-Mansions, suspended by urban planners as designated for neither industry nor residential development, Phibbs Exchange is the heart of North Vancouver’s sketchy patch. Most
Vancouverites politely dismiss it as an oxymoronic myth, but tonight, it is very real. Translink’s automated robot lady voice announces our arrival, and we are greeted by a concrete wasteland. Old Metros and 24s litter the wooden bus shelters. The swampland surrounding the station is dotted with pilfered Superstore shopping carts. Fresh graffiti glistens on the dark pavement—a side effect of suburban delinquents with a lack of walls onto which they might scrawl unintelligible drivel.
of Deep Cove, most passengers transfer onto other lines. I, however, walk through a nearby parking lot to my mother’s house. Candy wrappers and detritus branded with Wendy’s, A&W, and McDonalds logos clog the lot’s corners. A few shadowed figures in hoodies eye me from a small patch of forest, wreathed in pot smoke. I make eye contact with a nearby Translink security guard as I pass him into the darkness. He nods at me, but I clutch my keys just in case.
The bus passengers disperse into the night, and an intoxicated girl in a tube top runs to throw up in a —adam cristobal garbage can. Destined for the comfortably middleclass sensibilities of Lynn Valley and the far reaches
TSAWWASS E N Every lawn in Tsawwassen is astroturf green, stretched out in a grid between wide, clean streets and the oval blue crystals of swimming pools. Girls walk to the store for a magazine and then to the beach in flip flops and sweatpants, water bottles full of cider in their tote bags. Boys stand with their bikes in front of the grocery store, cram themselves around tables in Tim Hortons. Their arms and faces are thin, translucent. They wear elaborate hoodies designed by rappers. In the summertime I sit on the roof outside my bedroom window, the top of my head hot from the sun. The tar-black shingles of the roof soak up the heat, hold it, and beam it back out like flat coals. The glare on the white pages of my notebook forces me to squint as I doodle, draw, make imaginary shopping lists of things I can’t afford. The shallow slope of the roof is perfect to sit on, tucked behind a cherry tree, twenty feet above my neighbourhood. My house is heated even in the summer. Piles of library books collect in the corners. The bathroom is stocked with razors, makeup remover, an extra-large box of tampons. A basket holds five different kinds of energy bars. My sister dyes her hair downstairs in the kitchen sink, fuschia water swirling around the drain. She wears a bikini and pyjama pants. Steam rises from the cup of Earl Grey tea on the counter beside her. I like to be comfortable, she says. She wraps her hair in a turquoise towel and sits on the countertop, cellphone held between ear and shoulder. With her toes she grabs the handle of the drawer in front of her, absently jerks it open and closed. I hate it when you do that, our parents say. Shhh, I hush my friends from the city when they smoke and swear at the bus stop. Everybody knows each other here. —genevieve michaels
“ Boys stand with their bikes in front of the grocery store, cram themselves around tables in Tim Hortons. Their arms and faces are thin, translucent. They wear elaborate hoodies designed by rappers. ”
PORT MOODY I lived in Port Moody before. Before the streets all had lights. Before there was more than one bar. I lived there when it felt like a small town. There were trees and bears and coyotes and clean air and the houses stopped at the treeline. Now there are some trees and bears and coyotes and “clean air” and fancy homes that go on forever. Oh, and my mom is in a craft group. Well, she joined it when we first moved, but still. Craft groups like this don’t exist outside the suburbs. In high school, my friends and I would hang out and have long, intense teenage girl conversations on a big rock we called Big Rock. Didn’t we all? That rock was removed a few years ago, somehow. Now there’s a big fancy house. I’m sure the people who live in the house call it Big Fancy House and have short, boring talks about khaki pants and golf. They might be in a craft group too. But a craft group that’s worse than my mom’s. Our parents had to drive us all the way up and around the mountain to get to our friends’ houses on the other side. Or all the way down and back up. There was a 7-Eleven at the top and it had all three flavours of coffee creamers: french vanilla, hazelnut and irish cream. Then a small road went through. It was joyous. A family of bears took a nap one time in the middle of the road and blocked traffic for hours. My green Dodge Caravan couldn’t handle driving onto the shoulder to skirt around them, so we just stayed there and watched them. I once pulled a U-turn on that small piece of road. My friend told me years later she thought I was cool because of it. Now that road stretches all the way from the new Port Moody high school, complete with a track and tennis court, all the way to PoCo. It is much faster to get to the Costco and Silver City. The streets all have lights. The main street has two bars. —kaitlin mcnabb
translink your own adventure
It happens. We’ve all been there. Your mom sighs about the baby never knowing his auntie, and how the lasagna can’t be sent through FedEx. And that if only you had stayed at home
during university, you could have afforded to buy a nice Kia. Disappointment aside, you agree to meet up next weekend— she’ll pick you up at your place.
W ASTE L AND by phillip intile illustrations & photography by pamela rounis
s oph i st
b i r d
tr u e
Aldergrove smokes weed. The whole town is permanently red-faced and hamburger-hungry. Rumor has it that the founding fathers pioneered the practice of smoking weed out of crushed Barqs Root Beer cans, forever mutating the incestuous gene pool. The kids who hang out at the skate park hold their weed joints in a very unusual fashion, distinctly “Aldergrove”. Impractical and uncomfortable, it’s such a strange way of holding that the image is seared into my mind. I saw a guy smoking a joint a couple of years ago at a party and I could tell from his technique that he hung out at the Aldergrove skate park. It’s an oblique gang sign. There were these three brothers that lived down the street from me. They were totally badass, in a cat-killing way. Born criminals. Their parents died drunk, and driving. The older brother had taken custody of the two younger brothers. I would cut class and go over to their place to hot knife and play Mario Kart. Big bro always had his shirt off, always wearing too short, too loose, soccer shorts. Umbro. There was always an air of uncomfortable sexual tension between him and the younger boys. One time he laughed at me because I was “smoking that joint really weird” which gave me the fear. I vividly remember the day he was sitting on the couch and his shorts had ridden up his leg to the point where his dick was fully exposed. I don’t even know how that happens but I guess where there’s a will there’s a way.
FujiColor Superia X-TRA 400
Place of Harmony The radical history of BC â€™s Malcolm Island as told to genevieve michaels photography by sylvana d â€™ angelo
: As Told To
Kodak Portra 160
Sylvana D’Angelo never expected to find herself living in a socialist utopian society. The photographer, after searching through Canada’s artist-residency options, had decided on a program in Saskatchewan. By the time it was set to begin, one year later, the program had moved across the country and become the Sointula Art Shed. D’Angelo, upon learning of the island village’s history, “freaked out”. It was the perfect setting for her to work on Satanic Panic, a photography project three years in the making, which explored the infamous 1980s Satanism hysteria. Originally planning on a residency of one month, she found herself spending three in Sointula, on Malcolm Island, and the neighbouring community of Alert Bay.
I think it happened naturally, the transition. Originally they wrote to this man named Matti Kurikka, and he made a big splash. He was a communist visionary, a philosopher, a writer for a newspaper in Finland. He had tried to form a utopian society in Finland and it failed. So these people, the Sointulians, were like, hey, come to our island and try again. He came to Sointula specifically to lead them… But then, sometime around World War I, they found out that he was not running the community well. He would go and get work for them—for example, they built the Capilano Bridge. He would get these contracts for them, but he wasn’t good at negotiating, so he
“ When I had a story about the wildlife that I saw, that made me feel like I was part of the community.” Founded by disenfranchised Finnish mine workers in the 1800’s, the Sointulian way of life is difficult for a city dweller to comprehend. The village, which has a population of just over five hundred, is still mostly comprised of the original families who settled it, people who held radical beliefs and dreams of a fair, connected, communal way of living. Its residents live there quietly— just five hundred kilometres from the energy of the city—growing food, making beautiful artisan crafts, and spending time with dolphins and orcas. “It just felt like a really different way to live your life,” Sylvana told me. In our long conversation, it felt like we had barely scratched the surface. These people tried really hard. They had suffered. There was a large Finnish community that had emigrated to Canada, and they had suffered at the hands of the Canadian government. They were given a large territory of land, but had no employment, and most of the people had been exploited by the mining community. They found this island, and they wrote to King George, saying, “Can we have it?” And he gave it to them. I guess we would call it more of a commune, what they set up, but they called it a utopian society. This was in the 1800s. For a really long time you couldn’t move to this island. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that people could go there. For myself, even being there just a short amount of time, people would come up to me and say, “I don’t know who you are. What are you doing here?” They were very radical when they came over. They did not want to be part of the world. They wanted to have their own world where they chose all the rules. It was a really unusual community. There were hammers and sickles on the gravestones. But, I think, they wouldn’t call themselves communists. They would say that they were a socialist utopian society. They tried to uphold these values until World War II, when, of course, it became culturally taboo to live in Canada and be a communist. That’s when they switched over to using the word socialist.
would end up negotiating a price that was less than what they were getting when they were oppressed. Or, for example, he would get paid all the money, and instead of buying rice he would buy a [musical organ]… It got to a point where they had to kick him off the island because he wasn’t a good leader. One of the other guys who had come over with him, also named Matti, stepped in and kind of ran the community until he died, and that’s when history got a little bit muddy, even in the books I read. And then, [after World War II], they started saying socialist instead of communist, and it kind of turned into something else. Something almost religious, in a way… Maybe religious isn’t the right word. Maybe sect is a better word. A small community of individuals that had a specific way of living. In the seventies, a bunch of white people came, the draft dodgers. The Sointulians would not accept them, and they did not let them into their town. That’s why [the draft dodgers] had to start their own community on their side of the island. It’s really, really hippie there. They’re more friendly now, but they’re still not best friends, not completely integrated. I was told when I was there that you need
The whole experience of being there was magnetic, but there was nobody my age. There were really old people or young babies, before school age. I didn’t want to leave. I loved it there. It wasn’t really real. Everybody who lives there is emotionally connected to the community. They have these two giant [structures]… they’re like houses, from the old commune, that still stand, and everybody in the community meets there. Everyone has private residences now, and you can do normal things, like there’s yoga on the island, and there’s a huge Korean population, and it’s also a port for fishermen, because it’s so close to Port Hardy, so there’s a hotel and stuff, but the core residents of the island are still very utopian-ish. They’re probably 90% of the people that live there. As soon as you get on the island you get a bike. If you don’t have a car, they just give you a bike. They’re these green bikes and it’s crazy. I would ride my green bike around and it was kind of like a beacon so people knew I wasn’t from the island. They were really friendly and welcoming, but they also wanted people to know that I wasn’t from there. One day I was on the ferry to Alert Bay. I had been there for about two weeks when this happened: fifty dolphins came and surrounded my boat and they were jumping, looking at me. It’s something like a forty-five minute ferry ride, and the dolphins were just jumping and hanging out with us the whole time. So close that I could see their eyeballs… Having witnessed that really helped me ease in better. Every night people get together and say “Oh, we saw seven otters today,” or “There was a grizzly bear on the mainland,” you know what I mean? When I had a story about the wildlife that I saw, that made me feel like I was part of the community. My main goal was to meet everybody there and chat with them. This one guy was really interesting, he would kayak around and find pieces of wood, carve them, and then kayak his sculpture up to one of those fantasy fishing compounds way up north. Up in the north they have these remote places that you have
“A s soon as they heard I knew how to use the internet they wanted an Etsy, a WordPress...” to have the acceptance of one of the original families. That was why, when I became friends with Katherine, because she loved me, everybody loved me. Katherine, my friend, doesn’t have a bank account. They don’t have a bank there. Their lifestyle is based on trade, and money that they pick up from odd jobs. I would say that maybe 40 percent of them are artists, and that’s how they make their money. I went there and spent basically no money, because there’s nothing to spend it on. Everything is there. They do have farming, but it’s all small personal or community gardens, stuff like that. It’s an interesting style of living. Almost everybody was 60 or older.
to fly into and rich people pay so much, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a fishing experience. He’d kayak up there with his sculpture and sell it for a whole bunch of money and then come back and live on the island. I hung out with him a bunch, I enjoyed how he lived his life just traveling around and selling stuff. He’d make a whole year’s wage off of one sculpture. He had worked out this persona that allowed him to be an escapist for his whole life. It was so dramatic. It was the time of year when the rains come in, so sometimes for three days it would be so foggy I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t see a few feet in front of me. The weather was so
: As Told To
unique, storms and stuff. It’s a pretty traditional BC forest, though, I would say. The whole cove, where the town is, is a gorgeous sandy beach. There are no stoplights on the whole [of Malcolm Island]. There are no restaurants on the island. You can’t get a coffee that you didn’t make yourself. It’s right at the tip of Vancouver Island. It’s a huge island, but people only live on a small part of it. On the other side of the island there’s this extremely rare orca beach where killer whales come up and rub their bellies on the beach and it’s insane. I think it’s legitimately one of three places in the entire world where this happens. There’s a little camp of scientists who live on that beach. There are two scientists that are from the community, not university educated
was bigger than my house is now. The buildings were all similar. The Finnish have a specific style of building. My cottage was one of the original settlements, and you could tell that some guy had built it with his hands over a hundred years ago. It had gorgeous light and they were living on the main drag so I could see the sunset, everything. Since I’m mostly a found photographer I ended up turning my studio space into a terrarium-building spot… I became obsessed with wild mushrooms. I had meaningful baths every day. I read so many books. It wasn’t real life. I was obsessed with the sunrise. I started getting up at five, and I’d make a big meal, and then I’d ride my bike somewhere that I hadn’t been and I’d wait
“ But as soon as we get onto the reservation, a dog comes and attacks me, because I stick out, as a white person.” scientists, and there are four of them in total. They just monitor the whales, watch the whales. They have to educate people, because… I have to be honest with you, the first time I saw one I freaked out, I was screaming and you can’t do that. They’re wild, you’ll scare them. They’re kind of monitoring this beach because nobody wants the outside world to know that this exists, because they don’t want people coming and ruining their utopian society and their whale beach. I mean, obviously, it’s known about or whatever, but before I went I had no idea it was there. The beach is little pebbles, and apparently the whales like the way that feels. They swim in and then rub their bellies on the pebbles and then they swim out. I became friends with one of the Finnish women that lived on the beach, we went to the sauna together. I love the sauna. She showed me footage she has of hundreds of orcas coming to the beach, and taking turns rolling in the pebbles, showing the babies how to do it, showing off, jumping together. A core group of individuals have been living on that beach for 18 years. They have a cord that runs into the ocean so they can hear the dolphins and whales and they just leave it there, pick it up and listen to what’s happening in the ocean. Kerri and Tyler [who run the Sointula Art Shed] have a house. Behind the house they have a cottage, and behind the cottage they have a barn that’s been turned into a studio, so I had my own cottage, which
for the sun to come up. And then usually I would come home, have a nap or something and then I’d go out again. I basically just got up for the sunrise, and then I was outside till seven, and then I was sleeping all night. There’s no parties, no nothing, I’m by myself. They would just let the animals roam free, so for a little bit I got obsessed with trying to find the same cow every day, because he would be all over the island. Goats, and sheep, and stuff, they would just let them wander around. A lot of them spoke Finnish. But not to me. Sointula means place of harmony in Finnish. It feels like a big family. Everybody knows everything about everybody and everybody looks out for everyone. If you sit in the bay when the ships come in they’ll just give you a giant fish. They ate regular stuff, prawns, halibut, lots of seafood. And they’re so open about sex, about not getting married, there was none of that stigma. It was pretty remarkable how everybody made beautiful stuff with their hands. Maybe artist is the wrong word but they were definitely artisans. Woodcrafting, knitting, painting, jewelry. That’s why I did so well. As soon as they heard I knew how to use the internet they wanted an Etsy, a WordPress... At first they distrusted me because I was doing this internet thing, I was teaching the women how to use the internet. All the men were like, who is this girl?
is a million percent different. I was astounded by the indigenous culture there. It gave me chills on so many different occasions. Religion is alive on that island. Indigenous religion, and also Catholicism. On Cormorant Island, where Alert Bay is, there are five churches, even though it’s a quarter of the size of Sointula. Everybody is extremely religious, it is also probably 80% First Nations. It’s a fascinating mix of Christianity and indigenous spirituality. And I should say, as soon as you come into the island the very first thing you see is a giant residential school. Four of the totem poles in Stanley Park are from Alert Bay. It’s an important community for native culture. They took me to a secret burial ground which has all these insane Christian influenced totem poles and masks and flowers. I’d never seen anything like it. Alert Bay has one big hill, and at the top of the hill is this secret burial ground. You have to go through the reserve to get to it. The reserve is a place where, I guess, white people aren’t really liked to begin with, a remote place. I didn’t want to go there because people told me to “give it a second before I went there”, if you know what I mean. But I thought, because I was with my boyfriend, who is First Nations, it would be fine. But as soon as we get onto the reservation, a dog comes and attacks me, because I stick out, as a white person. I fall, and I smash my camera, and then all of a sudden we run away from the dog and we get to this incredible totem pole. And there are all these crosses with masks on them. It looked like medieval stone carvings, only it was a totem pole. It was the craziest place I’d ever been. I felt like I had to suffer in a way to get there, because I wrecked my camera and I was attacked by a dog, and then once I got to this place everything was calm. The whole experience, made me feel… when I got back, I was trying to explain to my boyfriend how we should move there and start a cheetah farm. How we could do whatever we want. It gave me this feeling that I didn’t have to conform. That at any point, I could just escape, and live a fantastical life.
The ferry between Sointula and Alert Bay is free, so I would go back and forth all the time. Alert Bay
translink your own adventure
Uh-oh, Tinder Guy “forgot” to change the oil. The car “breaks down” beside Queen Elizabeth Park. He calls BCAA, then pulls out a picnic basket and a growler. What should you do?
Option 1: Run to catch the Canada Line (go to page 46) Option 2: Run to catch the #15 Cambie bus and charm the bus driver into giving you a 3-zone ticket (go to page 31)
Next page: Alert Bay, BC Residential School, top floor co-ed bathroom Kodak Portra 160
Option 3: Run… all the way to South Delta, it’s only exactly one marathon from the park (go to page 23)
: Photography ——Kerria Gray
Clockwise: Steveston, Port Moody, Clinton
Fuji Superia 200
: Photography ——Kerria Gray
Kodak Portra 400
SOMETHING IN THE WATER Home-grown queers from Chilliwack, BC by katie stewart
Ilford XP2 400
Former Chilliwack resident, Katie Stewart, contemplates the proliferation of queer artists and activists from this tiny bible-belt community in the Fraser Valley. I was 16 when I decided to test the waters of coming out to my dad. And like any self-preserving teenager, I thought it would be best to advise him of my best friend’s sudden onset of raging homosexuality (instead of my own) as a litmus test of his tolerance before plunging myself into an icy bath of parental shaming. I grew up Catholic, so in a sense I was baptized into the art of guilt-shame. My father however, being a wayward Protestant who sang along to church music in a granny voice to make me laugh, was a logical man with a penchant for all things Rocky Horror Picture Show, most things Cher, and some things k.d. lang. I knew there was a chance he would recognize that his own influence may have even led me down this path of sin. I don’t recall the mechanics of how I brought it up with him: whether I was casual and cool, the way
I imagined broaching the subject, or whether my freckled face betrayed all efforts to be an adult. In any case, it was his response that stuck with me: “There must be something in the water.” Did he surmise that my interest in Ani DiFranco and attempts to ride a skateboard in long, over-sized cord shorts were indicative of a mass consumption of Chilliwack water and thus a future inclination towards the same sex? Did my dad possess a strong gay-dar that allowed him to see that my entire extended social circle was populated by would-be gays drinking from the same stream? 1997 and 1999 (the year in question), the City of Chilliwack received an award from the Canadian Water Resource Association for having the best drinking water in Canada. For anyone with reasonable eyesight who could see the sky-sludge from Vancouver seeping into the Fraser Valley, this claim seemed short-lived. Consequently, 1999 was
the last year Chilliwack ever received the award, so perhaps the Canadian Water Resource Association finally sided with the sensibilities of my father: maybe there was something in the water. In its prime, Chilliwack boasted 124 churches, but has since scaled this number to a measly 84. With a population of 82,000 people, there is only 1 church per 976 people. In this intensely religious agricultural community, it’s plausible that the queer folks act as the proverbial albumen of an egg dropped into a spinning vinegar bath, coagulating to form a perfect unit around a tender yolk—the refined product of an acerbic environment. Regardless of how this unique demographic within Chilliwack came to be (water or otherwise,) there is no denying that Chilliwack has spilled from her loins a community of resourceful and influential queers worth praising:
L i s e M o n i q u e Oa k l e y (pictured above)
Singer-songwriter, one helluva flute-player, and founder of the bilingual indie rock band Wintermitts; born and raised in Chilliwack, BC. I purchased my first Warlock bass guitar at 12 and thought I’d be playing stadiums by the age of 13. Big dreams. A couple of friends and I were really into the punk grunge scene, we started an all girl band in Grade 7 and started rehearsing in my parents basement. We eventually grew to 5 members and called ourselves Pandora’s Box. We won the Grade 9 talent show by playing Hole and Holly McNarland covers. Wild times.
C a m e r o n Mac k e n z i e
An actor, director and The Queen of East Van, Cameron was born in South Africa, but somehow ended up working at the Subway in downtown Chilliwack. I moved to Chilliwack in 2000 at 18 for my second year of theatre at the University of the Fraser Valley in the first year. I lived there for two more years completing my two-year diploma. When I wasn’t working on one of the four shows a year at school, I was sneaking into a seedy nightclub called Area 51. I paid for my extravagant bohemian lifestyle ($300 a month in rent!) working at Subway and eventually Minter Gardens. When I lived there I always remember feeling very alone as a gay person. I spent nights driving around, screaming in my head “Where are all the gays?!” and looking at random people on the street thinking “Are you gay?” Cause I knew they had to be somewhere.
s y lv i e l e s y lv i e
Voted the best tattoo artist in Montreal in 2014, s le s was born and raised in Chilliwack, BC. After tattooing and travelling throughout Canada and the US, s le s has recently purchased a small plot of land in the West Kootenay region of BC. Growing up as a weirdo queer kid in Chilliwack wasn’t the greatest. I got picked on a lot for being from a French family, “looking like a boy,” and other menial or not-so menial things kids like to be cruel about. Unfortunately, that shit wears you down. Luckily I discovered punk and grunge early on, and instead of internalizing farm-town ignorance, I turned my teenage rage outwards with a big “fuck you” finger pointed at the world.
translink your own adventure
You wait 20 minutes for the connector shuttle. Once it arrives, it stops every block up Cambie Street. In a moment of weakness, you spot La Taqueria. You jump off the shuttle, buy tacos and
beer, and text your mom that you can’t come to dinner, due to an emotionally-based transit breakdown. She understands and offers to meet you downtown next week.
S t e p h a n i e P i e rr o t
A radical queer who dabbles in performance and bicycle mechanics. She once attempted to walk across Canada, starting in Chilliwack, but found the experience tedious and didn’t make it past Alberta. I didn’t have much of a queer identity or understanding, but it’s just in the last couple of years that I’ve started to think about it. When I was in Grade 6, I had this gang. This thing happened where all of the actually cool kids were in the other Grade 6 class, so my class was all of the nerdy kids. And suddenly we became the cool kids, because we were smart, or something. And so we started this gang and there were six of us, and we kind of bullied people and gave them nicknames, which is what happens when you let the nerdy kids be popular. We called ourselves Twinkerbell and the Fairies from Hell—and I was Twinkerbell. Looking back at it now, I can see who I am now in that 11-year-old kid that kind of disappeared after. I just went underground for a bit.
translink your own adventure
You start running home, but remember your last “run” was three years ago. You pass out in a haze in front of Oakridge Centre. A Crate & Barrel employee calls you an ambulance, and in a state of confusion you ask to go to the hospital in South
Delta. For whatever reason, they comply, and you arrive in less than 20 minutes, hooked up to a soothing IV drip that erases your memory. A nice nurse drops you off at home, in time for dinner. Well done!
BRIGHT LIGHTS NO CITY George Gorton on the death trap of creativity by farah tozy
illustration by mettlelurgy
George Gorton is the owner of Loud Productions, a production company he started right out of high school. He followed his passion for design and rented out a studio space on top of a toy store in Steveston, a little village tucked in the corner of Richmond, BC. Not only was George Gorton witty, amusing, and extremely down to earth, he left me with a unique outlook on life. farah tozy: Tell me a bit about yourself. george gorton: My name is George Gorton
and I’m a production designer from Richmond, BC. Right now I live here in Richmond half the time, and the rest of the time I’m in Toronto. I design for concert tours, television and luxury brands. My company Loud specializes in doing integration between video and lighting for live performances as well as activations for advertising. We blend reality and people’s interactions into a live performance. We build a lot of the systems ourselves and we only use control systems, which means we don’t run the lighting specifically, but we have the computers to
last week.” I think being a bit mysterious allows a lot of creativity.
ft: What would you say is your favourite genre at
ft: That makes a lot of sense; it gives you a lot of room
gg: I really like music that’s weird. I think being
to test out new ideas. When did you realize this was your passion?
gg: At first, I was trying to get involved in theatre
shows since there’s a sense of camaraderie that happens when you pump yourselves up and get things done. But before I realized lighting was something I wanted to design, I knew I wanted to be involved in that camaraderie. When you’re touring, there’s a real feeling for a collective push;
“ If I was in the city I’d be a slave to the death trap of creativity and I would also be constantly poor.” run them. That’s why what we’re doing is so unique; a lot of the time companies use tools, whereas we’re building the tools ourselves. People want to go to a concert and have an immersive environment.
ft: How did you start Loud Productions? gg: I started by doing lights for concerts in high
school and somehow charging the school for it! It’s progressed a lot since then of course. I decided to create Loud right after I graduated high school. It was after the sad realization that not everyone can be the next super rock star. I just wanted to be involved in music. It was sort of a natural blend since I love technology and music. The whole production company in the sense of promoting, isn’t something I really like—you’ll notice I have no contact info on my website. I think people are really attracted to that mystery though. My clients vary from the highest-grossing country artist in Canada to a gritty electronic artist playing at raves and in forests. For me to go out and brand myself as the guy who does country or rock-and-roll is such a set back. I can’t go to the Fairmont and say, “Hey I was just at a rave
everyone kind of pushes towards the same goal. That’s what got me geared up on it. It’s definitely unique. Plus I love technology and now there’s this amazing opportunity where people in music and entertainment are crossing over to this interactive world. Then there are companies like Microsoft who are interested in robotics and interactions. Both groups are meeting in the middle, and that’s where I come in. Life is like a cocktail; you just have to mix all these different elements you love to make it what it is.
ft: Now you’ve toured with Johnny Reid, Dan Mangan, Mother Mother, Hannah Georgas, and many more artists, what would you say is your favourite experience? gg: I’ve never really had a bad tour. I really liked
the Mother Mother tour because I was touring with two of my friends, so hanging out with two of your best buds all the time is just the greatest thing ever. Another favourite moment was when I went to Ibiza with a lighting company. It was crazy to be dropped into this madness of drum and bass at the age of 19. In general, travelling to places related to work is the best!
weird is awesome. Everyone should just let the freak flag fly all the time. People who make weird music are making music that’s unaltered by people; it’s just this puke of their feelings. I can definitely respect it. On the flip side, I do see a lot of music come and go that’s manufactured. What’s interesting is that electronic music is having a huge influence on the way we perceive concerts. Since DJs don’t have to travel with a band or have many expenses because of it, there’s this huge room to do lights and visuals that previously wasn’t a thing. Now, electronic music has this opportunity to make the experience cooler and make it more interesting.
ft: Your most recent project was TED Talks. How was that experience for you?
gg: Oh my god, it was so awesome…we collaborated
with Michael Green architects, a Vancouver company that’s currently pushing the boundaries of sustainable buildings for the All Star Stage. What a lot of people don’t know is that Procreation Design Works, which is the company that produces TED, is actually in Vancouver. For me, it felt like I was a sponge being thrown into the ocean. There’s just so much stuff that amazed me. There is a cool challenge working with TED, going back to what we were talking about earlier with brands: it’s a cool challenge to take yourself out of your usual setting, and be surrounded by extreme intellectuals, like I ran into Bill Gates in the hallway. I was like, “Hey! I loved Windows XP!” Just kidding, I said it under my breath.
ft: Why did you choose to have your studio in suburban Richmond? gg: The city’s so brutal, it’s like a creative black
hole of death. Its loud, annoying, and I find it to be the worst place. The building my studio is in is amazing. It was built in 1884, and MacGyver and X-Files have been filmed in it! It’s totally beautiful, quiet, and my neighbors are nice. I can get fish
and chips down the road. Plus, I can afford to be in Toronto and here. If I was in the city I’d be a slave to the death trap of creativity and I would also be constantly poor. There are some places that are exceptions to that, like Mount Pleasant. I grew up in Steveston so it seemed so normal [to live here]; it’s just so close to everything. There’s something to be said to the benefits of the suburbs though. People are quick to be in “hip” areas, competing for who has the coolest dog or who’s wearing the best scarf or who’s the biggest loser. Sure, commuting home on Friday night sucks, but I just really need trees around. I wanna go out with my sweatpants, my sister’s sunglasses, and a bandana around my head and not care. If I’m on Main
Street, I’ve gotta put my skinny jeans and vintage tee on, plus I gotta make sure my pants are hangin’ my ass out the appropriate amount. I really don’t want any of that in my life… Obviously there are loads of people who live by their own rules or world, I don’t think its fair to generalize everyone into one. I just think our generation is disillusioned to live in an urban centre. I sound like a bitter Betty! I do think people should be confident in their own ideas and plans to live where they want; it’s just that for me, I love the quiet and peace.
ft: Any upcoming plans for Loud? gg: I do Shambhala every year, which is always such
and great vibes. That’s the next big thing. One thing that I’m really excited about is a restaurant design, which is a new frontier for me: using the technology we use at concerts and incorporating that to a restaurant, so you could have dinner and have blue skies above. There are a lot of interesting opportunities with that. I think with future projects it’s just how far and how weird you can take what we’re doing now. If what we’re doing is just a tool in the toolbox, what could we do next? I feel like every time we make a new thing, there’s something better being created around the corner. Ten years from now, we’ll be flying around and have laser beams coming out of our tits.
an honour since there are such super creative people
Su burbs i n th
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e City If you’re a Vancouver local, this strip through the centre of downtown probably triggers a range of emotions for you. It’s the street that gets many of us to work everyday, whether above or below ground. It’s the place where some of us go to get wasted on a Friday night. It’s the street where we collide with a random summer street festival while guiltily shopping for cheap pants at H&M or luxe cosmetics at The Bay. The Granville Street Mall was originally built in the 1880s by the Canadian Pacific Railway and
intro by landon hoyt
photography by rommy ghaly & megan-magdalena bourne
was established as the heart of the city and its primary commercial thoroughfare. Over a century later, Granville Street has served many roles and undergone several alterations, including streetscape redesign, the addition of underground rapid transit lines in the late 1980s, and an evolution of entertainment and retail, presenting a unique public space which everyone experiences differently.
flawlessly. Somehow, Granville switches over from a busy commuter corridor on weekdays to one huge party on summer weekends and back again by Monday morning. The images that follow aim to capture a mere sliver of this transition between night and day; weekend and weekday; as people stumble from the suburbs into the city.
Granville Street is a continuous experiment from an urbanist and street planning perspective, but the transitions between activities seem to happen
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A STONE IN THE SEA Portia Boehm on island life by portia boehm photography by victor anthony
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One night a few summers back, my boyfriend’s mom got a call out. She’s an EMT, and there had been an incident on the island. There had been a stabbing in her neighbour’s house. One person was dead, and another who survived, but not by much. The attacker had fled into the bushes, and was hiding from the police. The ferry was stopped and the island entered a lockdown. Word spreads quickly in a place like Gabriola, and everyone waited anxiously to hear that he had been caught, so that the island could return to normal, and begin gossiping. Waiting made me restless. Fear made me reckless. My boyfriend and I went out driving with a couple of friends. It was a hot summer night, very clear. The heat made us heavy, but very aware and awake. We chattered nervously to one another, almost whispering. We watched the bugs flicker through the headlights as we moved our fingers through the wind, dangling and flexing them out the windows. We all sort of moved together without argument. We parked and got out of the car. Moving in darkness down a well worn path towards a beach. The moon was grey and electric, and the water was very calm. The tide was so high that there was no beach. The steps led straight into the water, and we hung our clothes in the branches of a tree. A hot afternoon low tide had warmed the rocks up all day. Enough that the water felt like skin on skin. Like being eaten. Like being in space. Swimming at night kindles a weird kind of peaceful fear. Just giving in to darkness, depth, loneliness. Facing outwards in a way that turns fears into a powerful ally. There’s a comfort in moving alone inside of fear. The island,
with its only exit cut off, becomes a very different place. I guess this happens each night when the ferry runs cease, but lockdown is different. The danger was on the island, somewhere in the woods. Night swimming under these circumstances felt like pulling a fire alarm. Just to see what would happen next, to be someone making things happen. To destroy the sense of passivity that waiting creates.
require a different kind of attention, and the act of travelling becomes less a matter of A to B. All of this rings true for me, but could just as easily fail to resonate. I don’t know. I think I tell myself that Gabriola Island is a suburb of Vancouver because I grew up defining the island in relation to this abstract idea of “civilization,”
“ Once the ferry stops running at 11PM, any decision to leave must be either put on hiatus, or lead to trouble. That dark space between the last ferry and the first ferry always feels full of trouble.” I miss darkness more than I miss anything else about the island. Walking or swimming at night on Gabriola feels so important and unutterably private, and having access to real darkness is something that I feel robbed of, living in the city. You meet people in cities who always travel through life on a highway system. People whose routes are linear, people who travel on your same streets regularly. No short cuts or weird routes through anyone’s yard. I can only imagine what it’s like to set a destination, with perhaps a few pit stops or detours which don’t go too far afield, and then to see how efficiently you can cover that ground. Islanders tend to prefer paths, metaphorically speaking. Winding, obscure, intimate and disorienting. Paths are easier to get lost on. They
which I knew little of, and toward which I was raised to be kind of dismissive. In truth, we are probably more of a satellite than a suburb. Separate but always related. There is a weird kind of nonlogic at play on an island: a logic which can ignore the physical proximity of literally all of the modern conveniences in order to retain the idea of ourselves as living in the wilderness. For a heavily populated, relatively convenient, and incredibly tiny island, we sure do embrace the thought of ourselves as rural. We dream of ourselves as far away from it all. I guess it’s a spiritual kind of distance, more than a geographical one. Living on a moon, always pulled by the city, but the pull is never strong enough to disrupt our own weird orbit.
If I can’t go home again, why do I keep trying? Making sense of how I feel about Gabriola is sort of an exercise in editing. Every story which tells a true thing about Gabriola is able to be retold in a way which changes the narrative. Life there is intensely communal, very much about relationships between people. It’s intensely busy, but also very much about pleasure, and taking time to do things that are for no purpose. My friend Lindsay always says, “Chilling is my business. And business is good.” Which sums up a vital part of Gabriola for me. A group of people who are busy doing things that they enjoy. It has created the part of me that prioritizes and emphatically pursues pleasure for its own sake. So moving to the city feels like I am much more driven to preserve and struggle in the name of enjoyment, which is hard to justify to those who didn’t grow up the way I did. My boyfriend sent a text the other day. In response to the question, Are we having band practice tonight? When? He responded: Come on over any old time gurl, let your heart decide (birds perch on arms, sunlight drips through hair, universe is understood). Which is a perfect illustration of the kind of ironic yet earnest, funny yet heartfelt, new age yet sarcastic,
lovely weird wisdom which children hold onto when they grow up on an island. Trapped in a place that is almost oppressively nurturing, we learn to follow our own weird interests, to be polite to strange strangers, to let our hair go uncombed. We grow within a community of people who have all found their way here through indirect paths.
A lot of these things feel like they are a product of isolation. Once the ferry stops running at 11 PM, any decision to leave must be either put on hiatus, or lead to trouble. That dark space between the last ferry and the first ferry always feels full of trouble.
Part of growing up in a small, passionate and weird community is the knowledge that any strongly held idea can be argued by people that like one another, to the point that they no longer like one another. So many former friendships exist on Gabriola. People who once loved another fiercely become estranged without actually getting any distance. Old friends can suddenly stoically ignore one another in the single grocery store. Victims and participants of “the Gabriola Shuffle” who have followed the traditions of partner swapping, leading to hybrid families, to silent resentments, to strange hairpin turns in the space of a season. It’s strange and familiar, seemed so silly to watch when I was young. Yet I have reached to the age where my generation is participating in these odd dances. I have comforted someone who has been jilted by my own ex-boyfriend. I’ve been the new partner of someone else’s old partner.
I belong to this place, it belongs to me, and yet I cannot feel one way about it. I want to be there. I want to be away. And so for me, it is a suburb of my own choosing: I must be within commuting distance of this place so that I can live with not being there. So that I can choose to be there (and not make that choice).
I’m so lucky! I’m so resentful!
It’s a frantic overload of stimulation: the most nostalgia-laden place, the bus to ferry to bus to ferry to island journey to a small, incredibly beautiful place filled with everyone I grew up with. My family, my boyfriend’s family, my childhood best friends, former teachers, coworkers, boyfriends, and enemies. They all live there. And I can never arrive among them by accident. The urge to return there is strange, almost perverse, but it takes me back there each time.
translink your own adventure
You get onto the #15 Cambie bus, and “buy” a half-eaten sandwich from an elderly passenger in order to break your $20 for a 3-Zone ticket. Arriving at the end of the line at SW Marine, you transfer to the Canada Line, only to have it break
down outside of the River Rock Casino. You play the slots with the rest of your cash and win $200, giving you enough to taxi home for dinner! Your mom is super proud.
Dispatches ——Brian Lye : Photography
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Talkinâ€™ Bout My Generation Vancouverâ€™s doyen of alt media, Kalle Lasn, on the tides of change by rommy ghaly illustration by adam cristobal
Kalle Lasn argues that there is no end goal. The purpose of revolution is to combat complacency and to expose corruption. Governments are organizations mired in corruption, owned by corporations, and in need of disruption. Revolution is necessary for re-establishing order. Sitting down with Lasn, the founder of iconic anti-capitalist publication Adbusters, I felt like I was sitting down next to someone’s kind, old grandfather talking about “the way things used to be.” He has a soft, slightly high-pitched voice. Despite being 72 years old, he speaks with the energy of a young revolutionary, both hopeful for the future and distrustful of the present at the same time. His words penetrate with their wisdom. He provokes; drives fear. Instantly, through our conversation, I became aware of his power to convince and to inspire change. Nothing he said was extraordinary, but perhaps it was the way he said it. Perhaps his age, his wisdom, and his energy are what convinced me of his ceaseless drive towards revolution. But in the end, he left me feeling uneasy, as if nothing could stop him. rommy ghaly: How did Adbusters start? kalle lasn: I was just coming off a twenty year stint making films, documentary films…
rg: The National Film Board… kl: The National Film Board and PBS… Around
the time I started Adbusters, then all of a sudden, the producers would say to me, “Kalle, this economics film you just made, it doesn’t have enough women in it. You know, so put some more women in there.” And I said, “Fuck, I don’t wanna do that!” I had all these people, all these economists in this film, happened to be mostly male, and that’s the way it is. “I’m not going to start playing these affirmative action games with you guys.” And they said, “Well you gotta do it otherwise you’re not going to get your next payment.”
rg: The politics. kl: The politics, the money, holding back the
money, and telling directors what to do, and instead of directors being king, all of a sudden the producer was king. When I first came to Canada, it had the premier documentary filmmaking organization in the world. That was the main reason that I immigrated to Canada—the National Film Board of Canada. And I wanted to join them and be a filmmaker. And all of a sudden it became an uncomfortable game to play with them.
Then I was looking for some new stage in my career. I started becoming a bit of an environmentalist. It was a time when green matters began coming to the floor. I was going out and hobnobbing with a bunch of “greenies” and we started getting really pissed off with the forest industry here in British Columbia. They were cutting down the old growth forests, not telling the truth to the people. And then they came up with this campaign that gave birth to Adbusters. They had this “Forests Forever” campaign where they had big bus ads and full page ads in the Vancouver Sun and 30-second spots appearing on TV and they all had the same message, “People of
British Columbia, you have nothing to worry about! We’re doing a fantastic job managing your forests!” “You will have forests forever!” was their slogan. Fucking liars! So we thought, “Okay, let’s come up with our own 30-second spot and air it right next to theirs on CBC and some of the other private stations.”
rg: The talking tree and the sapling. kl: Yeah, yeah! And another spot called “The
Mystical Forest.” Anyway, [to try] to tell the other side of the story. And lo and behold, the CBC and the other private stations wouldn’t sell us the airtime and for me, that was the breaking point. Because I was born in Estonia... in my country, for 50 years, the Russians, the Soviet Union was basically telling Estonians how to think, and if you didn’t quite toe the party line, if you demanded too much free speech, people would say that you were mentally sick and they would put you in asylums, and wouldn’t give you a good job. Fifty years in my country and there was no democracy and all of a sudden I’m here, 50 years later, in the heart of the free world, and I’ve got some money and I want to put it all on the table and buy 30-seconds of airtime and say something, and somebody says, “Sorry, we’re not going to sell you the airtime.” So to me it was a big deal. It was like a betrayal of democracy. That outrage, that anger that was born out of not being able to buy airtime, that’s what gave birth to Adbusters.
rg: Currently you live in Aldergrove on a farm, with your wife.
kl: It’s not really a farm. It’s five acres, got a bit of a lake on it. A few animals and a garden. It keeps me sane.
rg: Do you still have goats and chickens? kl: I used to have goats. I used to have chickens. They were eaten by all these other wild animals running around.
A favourite cover around the Adbusters office. AB106 (UK): No Future – March/April 2013 The iconic 100th issue of Adbusters. AB100: Are We Happy Yet? – March/April 2012
rg: You have this great activist role. Wouldn’t you find it easier living in a city, where you could broadcast easier? Or do you find that you come here often enough?
kl: I come here often enough. I started feeling
uncomfortable in the city about 20 years ago. I started feeling like I was in a zoo, in a cage. I remember I was living on the east side. Every morning I’d see these old guys walking around the block once, then walking around the block twice. And I thought to myself, is this how I’m going to finish up? I said “Fuck no, I can’t live this kind of a life.” And at that point, I decided that I was going to live out in the country. So I hopped into the car with my wife and we drove around and I said, “Wouldn’t it be great to live in the country with five acres? Could we handle it?” And we did. We took the plunge. Never regretted it.
rg: Creatively, you bring in lots of young talent, fresh out of school, who are clearly energized to work for you. Why do you do that versus, say, go for more experienced people?
kl: A lot of what Adbusters does is thinking outside
the box. We’re paradigm busters. We’re people who say things that you’re not supposed to say. We talk about the beginning of a thousand-year dark age or we talk about climate change doing humanity in. We talk about die-offs. So when you talk to professional people, people who have been journalists for five or 10 years, they usually can’t do that. They’re stuck in some kind of a mold. They spend five years going to school, learning what they want to do. Then they spend five years doing it. In a way, their goose is cooked. They’re already well-formed. Whereas young people, just out of school, they still feel
something in their gut. Most young people today, and this is what gave birth to Occupy, they feel that the future doesn’t really compute. They feel that climate change is going to do us in and they’re never going to be able to live the life that their parents did; that maybe the time has come to stand up and fight for a different kind of a future. They still feel this youthful energy against the status quo. This is basically the juice that Adbusters runs on.
rg: So where do you find that energy? You’re not in your 20s anymore.
kl: I grew up in Australia. I was born in the middle
of the Second World War. The first 15 years of my life, I lived in refugee camps. When I graduated and became a full-fledged member of Australian society, I found out that there were all these white
this explosion of revolutionary fervour around the world where thousands of cities and universities were suddenly exploding—like it did much later with Occupy.
rg: How did Occupy compare to that? How different was it?
kl: It was uncannily similar. I was a young man
looking for meaning in life in 1968 when that explosion happened. It was, what felt like, the beginning of a global revolution. Then it kind of fizzled out. A lot of people were influenced by it. I’m still running on some of the juices from 1968. And many years later, Occupy was... a small uprising in the heart of capitalism on Wall Street, in Zuccotti Park. It inspired 1,500 occupations all around the world. It was also uncannily similar in the way it
“ That outrage, that anger that was born out of not being able to buy airtime, that’s what gave birth to Adbusters .” Australian policies and there were all sorts of people that were rubbing me the wrong way. When I spent my youth travelling around the world, I found out that it wasn’t quite what I thought it was. There were all kinds of dirty tricks happening everywhere. I’ve always been sort of a maverick. I got my big political impulse in 1968 when a small uprising in the Latin Quarter of Paris suddenly gave birth to
kind of fizzled. So twice in my life, I have seen the potential of a global revolution which then didn’t quite materialize. Now I’m waiting for the third. I think things are heating up on the planet.
rg: Tell me about the beginning of Occupy. Was it you sitting
at home having a cup of coffee and having this Eureka moment, or was it people sitting around this table here?
kl: The timing [in 2011] was perfect. It wasn’t just
that things were going wrong in many ways. It was also something incredibly positive that the Arab Spring helped bring forth. The Arab Spring, next to 1968, was one of those geopolitical developments that excited me and millions of other activists around the world more than anything else has. It was a moment where people after 17 days were in a square with a lot of guts and gumption, made a guy like Mubarak blink. Or perhaps the guy who burned himself to death in Tunisia ignited a wave of anger that swept through the whole globe. It was really that incredibly positive moment—that if they could pull off a revolution in Egypt, then why can’t we pull off a revolution in America. That was the idea behind Occupy. That’s what we started getting excited about here in the office when we started brainstorming what to do.
Of course America is not like Mubarak. Of course things weren’t anywhere near as bad as that in America or Canada, but if you think about it, America is a corporate state. It’s run by corporations. They have their lobbyists, their money power, their advertising power. They’re able to pass the laws that they like. That Corporate America flag in Adbusters that we’ve been using for the last 20 years, that really does say it all. America is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s a corporate state and we thought, let’s just go for it! Let’s go for the iconic centre of the corporate state, the centre of global capitalism, which is Wall Street. Let’s occupy the fucking place! Let’s go over there and see whether we can use this moment to let off a spark in America that could lead to something. Young people were unemployed. They were pissed off. [The recession had] just happened. Wall Street was running the show. And the spark worked! And it turned out to be this 1968 moment all over again.
rg: Did it accomplish the things that you hoped it would accomplish?
kl:We didn’t really know what we were trying to
accomplish except that we were lighting a spark. We didn’t expect that it would turn out as it did. We didn’t expect that a few months after September 17 that suddenly that there’d be 1,500 occupations all around the world. So it took us by surprise as well. But this is how revolutions happen. They always happen as a total surprise. It’s some crazy little thing that happens, like somebody burns themselves to death or a thousand people congregate in Tahrir Square, or a hundred people suddenly decide to do something in Zuccotti Park. This is what revolutions are made of. You almost need luck on your side.
rg: What do you hope is going to come out of this? The
establishment will always be there. The governments will always be there. The egos will always be there. The foolishness and the corporate interests will always be there. Where do we want to end up after all is said and done?
kl: I think that’s the wrong question, quite frankly.
That’s the safe question. Like before you go through some some sort of anarchy, some sort of revolution, you want some guarantee that it’ll work out. I don’t think that revolutions unfold quite that way. I’ve been a student of revolutions all my life and there’s always a healthy dose of unpredictability, really not knowing what’s going to happen next.
A revolution can go the way that Egypt did, where all of a sudden you have this euphoric moment of a 30-year old dictator like Mubarak who is suddenly gone and you think that somehow a new era has begun. Before you know it, there’s a counterrevolution and the old guard takes charge again and now you have something that’s even more entrenched than Mubarak perhaps. Then you have other revolutions, like maybe Tunisia, where there’s more of a glimmer of hope; that something actually shifted, something actually changed. A tyrant was thrown out and somehow the people are still hanging in there and trying to come up with some sort of a system that may or may not work. I think that the global revolution, which you’ve seen once in 1968 and once in 2011 are the beginnings of something, that when it finally happens, I think it’s going to be brutal and in the short-term bad for everybody. There’s going to be an incredible amount of pain, probably a lot of carnage. But my feeling is that there’s really no alternative. Seven billion of us on the planet, climate change is looming on the horizon, water is running out in a lot of places, the seas are rising, the permafrost in the Arctic is bubbling. We really have no alternative but to have some sort of a major shift in the global system. It’s either going to happen in some halfway rational way, or it’ll come down upon us in a cataclysmic moment.
Both covers feature photos that were donated to Adbusters by Miles Aldridge AB103: #occupymainstreet – Sept/Oct 2012
Then out of that anarchy something new will be born. You just have to accept the fact that something new will be born. You have to have faith in the future.
AB97: Post Anarchism – Sept/Oct 2011
My philosophy is: Fight for the global revolution and then play jazz. Just go with the flow and see what happens. I don’t think there is an alternative to that.
Previous page: Abusters offices
translink your own adventure
You’ve stolen a bike that was locked to a parking meter. It only has one gear and a very comfortable seat. You notice a police officer is nearby, and you don’t have a helmet. What do you do?
FujiColor Superia X-TRA 400
Option 1: Ditch the bike and start running over the Granville Street Bridge (go to page 58) Option 2: Ditch the bike and take the Aquabus to Granville Island (go to page 39)
Option 3: Give the bike to someone else, buy an expensive cookie, sit down and have a cry. Text your mom that you’re not coming. (go to page 62)
MYTHIC PROPORTIONS A Haida artist weaves cultural traditions into something new by kristine sostar mclellan illustration by michael nicoll yahgulanaas
Selection from RED: a Haida Manga Watercolour, ink, and graphite
mny: My first engagement in community-scale
With everything from hands-on museum displays to public artwork designed to be touched, interactivity has become de rigueur in art. But to artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, interactivity has always been foundational. Heavily influenced by his Haida ancestry and his own cultural and environmental activism, Yahgulanaas’ art urges the observer to consider their political role when engaging with art.
politics was an appointment by my Grandfather, the 7laanaasAuu, which translates to Town Mother, of Massett on Haida Gwaii,. He appointed me to serve on the board of our local law society. A few years later another appointment at a public meeting was to join a working group restructuring a governance model.
kristine sostar mclellan: Among many
ksm: What was the model?
things, you’re a visual artist, a public speaker, and a published author. Before we get into your work, I’d love to know more about you and your cultural background. I learned recently about the Aboriginal act of locating oneself. Can you tell me what that means to you and how you locate yourself?
michael nicoll yahgulanaas: I celebrate
my hybridity; while my genetic lineage is northern European and Haida I strongly identified with Haida. One reason is simply that I was raised in Haida Gwaii, and the second is that in this weary world we need to hear from Haida and to know that if the earth is a ship, Indigenous Peoples, with their long relationship with place, are the lifeboat.
I don’t have an interest in defending my ethnicity as dominant or prevailing relative to any other ethnicity. This isn’t about purity of culture, but rather about relationships between the various parts of humanity and those things we describe as the “other.” It’s about the quality and diversity of relationships.
ksm: For many years you worked in leadership for the Haida Nation. Can you tell me about the kind of work you were doing?
mny: The task was to reorganize our national
council to accelerate the maintenance of our jurisdiction over the Archipelago against incursions. One of the better-known campaigns was stopping Canadian issued logging licenses. November 1985 was a critical moment. Good faith negotiations with the Crown were revealed as a sham and we blockaded the logging road as Ministers involved in approving the licenses and a major media personality who loudly condemned us were revealed to be shareholders.
Although we were subsequently charged with contempt of court in the supreme court of BC, we were immediately pardoned. The reason for that was, I think, an incredible degree of public support by citizens and likely other influential people in BC, across Canada, and beyond.
ksm: But a court decision can’t just be overturned by public response.
mny: I can only speculate but the community is
small. The judge certainly didn’t publicly stand up and say, “The public support is overwhelming.”
But that surprising reversal of the courts previous inclination is a historic moment in which a court of law became a court of justice. Other positive outcomes from that conflict situation included an affirmation that Indigenous People exist as a potent conscience, and the rapid development of formal alliances between Canadian citizens and Indigenous Peoples; this expression of new progressive relationships between all people in Haida Gwaii signals a potentially profound maturing of the Canadian Confederation.
ksm: Your art is very much grounded in the aesthetic of traditional Haida art. What role has your work with the Haida Nation played in influencing you as an artist and what role does your own cultural background play?
mny: I’m not sure that those are different, given
the appeal of hybridity. I like to adhere to one of the basic Haida tenets or traditions if you must, the tradition of innovation. All material culture, and I suppose intellectual culture is constantly adapting to changes of circumstance. Culture is alive, responsive, engaged and changing. Because I reject the idea of a singular cultural dominance or exclusivity, my work creates places for people to discover an emotional connection with other people, even when they feel those people are strange, distant and even alien.
When we individually and collectively begin to see the “other” as complex, emotionally rich, and related, it becomes very difficult to make war. Soldiers won’t kill on command and expectations of justice will prevail over bad laws. Indigenous women won’t be seen as objects by their attackers. They will no longer
go “missing.” And maybe the alarming statistics of what it means to be Indigenous in Canada will change. Incarceration camps for Eastern Europeans, Japanese or other demonized ethnicities and political or theological ideology judged unpopular in the moment will be seen for what it is, the triumph of fear and ignorance over compassion.
there were things like Indian toilets, restrictions of theatre seating, certain cafes that we could and could not eat in. We were not allowed to vote, not allowed to own land, not allowed to visit relatives, hire lawyers or be citizens. Yet we were told we were Canadians, while anything that we valued was assaulted.
I have seen Haidas stand up and protect regular Canadian citizens against their own elected local,
It’s no surprise that people would flee this Canada. When I grew up and heard about this Japan I
“ I encourage people to make observations and choices arising from their own experience without relying on the authority of the artist.” regional, and provincial governments who were intent on kicking the citizens out of their homes. People can and do want to care for the “other”. But it’s up to each citizen to be engaged. Haida governance is spectacularly different than Canadian representative democracy structures. Haida leadership does not have the power to compel or coerce citizens, our government receives no mandate to assault its peoples or even others. Haida leadership is dependent on the support of its people. I am alarmed that in Canada, for some strange reason, we seem to think that democracy is healthy and that we have done our bit as a citizen simply by casting a ballot once in a great while. This is unhealthy in politics and no less so in Art. Leadership and creativity depend on engagement not exclusivity.
ksm: You’re credited with creating a whole new art
genre—a pretty big achievement. “Haida Manga,” the method you use in your latest publication, RED [Douglas and McIntyre], is a blending of the Haida aesthetic and Japanese manga comics. What inspired you to combine such difference genres? And why do you think you were able to successfully transcend appropriation when adopting the manga art form?
mny: I learned appropriation from the masters of colonization.
But why Haida and why Japan? In my family there were some ancestors who welcomed the opportunity to go to Japan and get away from Canada because it was so terrible to be an Indigenous person here. Haida men in Japan were treated like full people, like human beings. They could walk the streets freely and no surprise they loved Japan. Meanwhile, here,
became interested in this place of refuge. What a contrast this was to the nasty things done and said about Asians in Canada. After two decades of political service I turned to art, wanting to build graphic novels that would tell stories different than the ones we were served up on the book and magazine shelves. I didn’t want to be part of those traditions but longed for something that felt more truthful. I had to innovate. I did some guiding work with Japanese students, and with their encouragement started seeing my work as “Haida Manga.” One of my first publications, a small booklet in Japan, caught the attention of the second largest publisher in Japan, went to bestseller in one morning and is now published in numerous languages. In terms of appropriation, no one in Japan seems to have a problem with the term. In fact in the summer of 2014 I was asked by the organizers of Asia’s largest design festival to design a woodblock as part of Japan’s efforts to revitalize an ancient, important and iconic tradition. The work will exhibit in Milan, London and Tokyo. There is now a Haida Ukiyoe genre.
ksm: What inspired you to write a story about revenge? mny: It’s not so much about revenge. Yes the
story has revenge as a theme but at its core it is an examination of what happens when we get it all wrong. What happens if all our facts are actually fiction? What happens if we don’t think there is a such thing as climate change, or that we don’t need science in politics, or that we have to bomb people? I think that we need to be a little less sure about what we know, and to be more certain about what we don’t know.
ksm: You invite readers to tear the book apart—destroy
it even—and reconstruct it over and over. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an author doing that. Tell me what it meant to you to translate your artwork into the book form.
mny: Artwork is a personal adventure for the people
who create it and those who choose to participate in the experience. I create work that mostly avoids the idea of dominance and resists the idea that the artist is an ultimate authority. We really don’t need Indian Agents. There is nothing standing between each individual and life. An owner of an artwork becomes a participant in the creative process. We are all collaborators. I like to create work that confounds the observer and forces them to decide where the dominant horizon of the work is. I put my name in one corner, a title in another, a date in a third corner, and I usually find something amusing to put in the fourth. Then let the new owner determine what is up and what is down.
I encourage people to make observations and choices arising from their own experience without relying on the authority of the artist. By extension, I’m asking that people reconsider their place in the group. An original work, RED is a five-metre long mural as well as a book. By disassembling two books the reader can create a new work that is similar to the mural. The launch of the US publication takes place in November at the New Yorks American Museum of Natural History where we will be exploring new ways for individuals to reconstruct the mural. The McMichael Canadian Art collection is also now developing new programming around new notions of accessibility and engagement using RED. Converting a five-metre mural into a book was a game of scale. Monumental in one manifestation, it becomes accessible to the reader who holds it in their hands. The reader is free to direct pace and even narrative direction. If they want to go backward, they can. No one is preaching or demanding that they have to do something in a particular way. The reader experiences control and authority and yes I ask them to reconstruct the mural and make their own art form. But as much as I say, “Yes, destroy the book,” I really say, “Reconstruct it.” I wonder, Why are books sacred? Are people sacred? Can we really still afford to agree that ideology is more sacred than people?
translink your own adventure
Why did you take the Aquabus? You’re now totally off track, trying to cut through Granville Island to find a bus. Totally hungry, you buy some french fries from the market. Minutes
later, you’re dive-bombed by a murder of hungry seagulls. Fearful and delusional, you text your mom a photo of the wreckage. Plans are rescheduled for next week.
by claire atkin and murray mckenzie illustrated by adam cristobal
The famous Vancouver vistas are just a small slice of our growing metropolis What about the rest of it? When Andy Yan, urban planner and researcher at Bing Thom Architects, wants to illustrate the need for regional thinking in Vancouver, he first shows his audience an image they all recognize. It is a postcard-perfect aerial photo of the downtown peninsula from across False Creek on a beautiful day. Stanley Park, the Burrard Inlet, and the foot of the Coast Mountains peek through glass residential towers. In the urban planning community—and, increasingly, beyond it as well— that unmistakable vista signifies a global brand of planning and design achievement. Next, Yan shows an aerial photo that few in the crowd have seen before. The Vancouver skyline is in the foreground, but beyond it a city sprawls as far as the horizon, across the broad Fraser River floodplain. His audience leans in for a closer look. Prior to this, many of them may never have even wondered how this opposing view might appear. And few would be able to confidently point to where Vancouver ends and Burnaby begins, and then New Westminster, Coquitlam, Surrey, and so on. The fact is, notwithstanding the well-worn images we all hold in our collective self-identity, the second photo has a lot more to say about what Vancouver is and what it could become. Population data suggests that it’s an image with which we should all be more familiar: in 2011, almost 2.4 million people lived in Metro Vancouver, representing a little over half of British Columbia’s total population. But of that 2.4 million, only about 4% of them (99,233) resided on the downtown peninsula. Throw in the adjacent neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, and Strathcona, and we still have only 9% of the region (210,606) living in the vicinity of that well-known skyline. Not pictured: the other 2.2 million residents, still almost half of the provincial population, living elsewhere in the mostly suburban, mostly uncelebrated Vancouver region.
Collectively, what do those suburban areas look like? To be sure, they’re much more than a sprawling expanse of “bedroom communities”—so-called because they’re full of houses for sleeping in and not much else. The Vancouver region is looking increasingly like a network of urban centres. They may not challenge the central area for regional dominance, but they are coming into their own as vibrant and economically productive nodes on the suburban map. Impressively, as Surrey’s population has grown, its share of residents commuting outside of the municipality for work has dropped; it’s gaining jobs at least as fast as it’s gaining residents. This is good news for transportation planners worried about the exploding commute times observed in many classically sprawling North American cities. In fact, the most notable landmarks in our lesser-known suburban skyline are the clusters of high-rises that mark the location of SkyTrain stops. Transit-oriented development is one of the most important things we can pursue in an era of environmentally aware regional planning.
what are the suburbs? The North American suburbs are commonly understood as a reflection of postwar futurism, widespread car ownership, changing racial tensions, and an enduring government-encouraged obsession with home ownership. Early during the rise of manufacturing in North America, suburban entrepreneurs started buying plots to subdivide and develop as experiments. Political alliances formed between groups of land developers. As this process became increasingly systematic,
development encroached further and further out into urban peripheries. Spurred by industrial capitalism, real estate development quickly became a sophisticated field with partnerships with utilities companies, transit owners, and local government. As federally mandated tax, banking, and insurance systems began to favour powerful real estate lobbies through the 1920s, publicly subsidized highway systems, utilities, and even private residential and commercial real estate provided growing incentives for massive suburban growth. The results are what we are left with today.
suburbanism as culture Home ownership. Car ownership. Furniture ownership. These are the things that suburbs are made of in North America. The suburbs have defined our cultures beyond what we might imagine. In Vancouver, conflict caused by suburban expansion can be seen daily in the news. The highway system, the SkyTrain system, and the bike routes (oh, the bike routes!) are political because of suburban drivers who must be accommodated on their daily commute. There is a growing cultural concern around how suburbs will develop over time. Humans became over 50% urbanized (mostly suburbanized) in the last two years, for the first time in history. What we do with these suburbs will affect more than four billion people over the course of their lifetimes. It will also affect the environment, if we account for
the seven stages of suburban growth 1820-1980
1820 / Building in borderlands for the entrepreneurial
as outlined by Dolores Hayden in Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000
1850 / Picturesque enclaves for Wthe wealthy
1870 / Streetcar build outs for the middle class
1900 / Mail order and self-built suburbs for the rest of ‘em
1940 / Mass-produced, urban scale “sitcom” suburbs for postwar families
1960 / Edge-nodes for the working and shopping suburbanite
1980 / Rural fringes intensified as economy boomed
climate change and the effects of transportation, building supplies, globalization, and lifestyles that suburbs encourage. As the poorest, most populated countries become more suburban, what will happen to the agricultural systems, the manufacturing systems, and the information systems? What will the long-term effects be? In recent literature, business and land use policy has been explored as a leverage point for immigrant quality of life. In North America,
Vancouver likes to bask in the international acclaim for its approach to urban planning, which many (especially self-satisfied local architects) refer to as Vancouverism. And when Vancouverism works, it really works: “mixed-use” development (residence and commerce all in one place), for example, and all of the animation and vibrancy that entails, with slender residential towers, ample public amenities, exemplary urban design, affluent urban lifestyles and gorgeous views. But is there such a thing as a suburban Vancouverism?
“ We have more in common with Calgary than we do with Toronto or Montréal: about 70% of our region lives in single-family homes ” wealthy families tend to live either in the cities or in the exurbs. They leave the suburbs to the middle class. In Paris, the suburbs (or les Faubourgs) are quite poor. They are where newly immigrated families live. This phenomenon was documented by Doug Saunders in his book Arrival City. Poor suburban policy can make or break whether newcomers in their new country can make something of their lives or not. This is an imperative point for Canada: make sure the “arrival cities” in our urban areas have transportation, services, helpful business policies, and cultural bonds to help individuals raise their own standard of living as they become accustomed to Canadian life. Vancouver is a very cosmopolitan suburbia; the stereotyped ethnic geography of the city—Chinese in Richmond, South Asians in Surrey—belies a much more complex pattern of settled and intermingled immigrant communities.
a suburban vancouverism? While suburbs have been hotly contested in urban studies literature, there remains an undeniable urban bias in Vancouver’s self-image. In a city with an inflated sense of exceptionalism, we haven’t yet come to terms with our suburban realities. Regarding the housing density one finds throughout Metro Vancouver, Andy Yan has argued that we have more in common with Calgary than we do with Toronto or Montréal: about 70% of our region lives in single-family homes, compared with about 90% in Calgary, just under half in Toronto, and about a third in Montréal. Townhouses and denser forms of multifamily dwellings remain few and far between outside Vancouver’s central area. Most of our region’s suburbs don’t look particularly different from those found anywhere else in North America.
The easiest answer would be no. Of course, we can take pride in the pioneering mid-century residential architecture of Arthur Erickson and others, whose work is being torn down at an alarming rate on the North Shore. But that hardly constitutes an extensive suburban planning paradigm. The true icon of suburban Vancouver—more common than Erickson’s modernism, and perhaps even more unique—is the awkward, stucco and brick veneer-covered, box-shaped structure we call the Vancouver Special. There is nothing glamorous about this easily reproducible design; it is the result of a pragmatic—one could even say algorithmic— response to the prevailing conditions faced by small-scale builders in the 1970s and 1980s.
vancouver special The instructions for a Vancouver Special are simple, as distilled from Lance Berelowitz’s book Dream City: Vancouver in the Global Imagination. First, to get your money’s worth, calculate and build to the maximum dimensions for your house based on the allowable site coverage and floor area. It needs to be affordable, so you must make it as easy as you can for the homeowner to convert the ground floor into a secondary suite. And you must minimize costs. No excavation; no garage. Make the roof as flat as possible while still allowing for a cheaper tar and gravel covering. Consider sizing your rooms in increments of 12 ft., as that’s how carpet is sold. And don’t forget: it must look vaguely like a house. You’ll need to finish with a thin layer of brick and a narrow and unusable upper-floor balcony.
Indeed, it took planners a few goes at reworking their regulations in the 1970s and 1980s before Vancouver Specials finally stopped turning up. Herein lies an important lesson: Behind the achievements of Vancouverism, there is a careful, time-consuming, hands-on planning process. Planners, architects, and developers have met on an almost case-by-case basis since the mid1970s to negotiate the best possible design solutions for development in the downtown area. Despite numerous attempts, particularly in the most affluent residential areas, this method has proven too resource intensive to be implemented in suburban developments. Instead, they got Vancouver Specials. But, while the design community was once derisive towards the Vancouver Special—they tended to assert a more conservative preference for the default suburban architectural styles received from California and England—times have begun to change. The Vancouver Special has been rescued from the dustbin of kitsch and now enjoys a cult following and an ironic hipness in certain circles. And more importantly, urbanists have begun to acknowledge that they provide an affordable and flexible housing solution, well liked among newcomers and multigenerational households. Their secondary suites allow for a covert form of the densification that has been effectively resisted in other, more affluent west side suburbs.
redefining the urban region The days of constructing Vancouver Specials are now long gone. In the last decade, increasingly progressive ideas have circulated in suburban planning, taking into account major sociological shifts (for example, non-traditional household structures) and environmental imperatives. But a more distinctive planning approach is still necessary to redefine the future of suburbia in the Vancouver region. In a recent keynote address to a roomful of planners and academics at the UBC planning school, John Friedmann, a celebrated Professor Emeritus in planning, criticized Vancouver’s urbanist community for regarding neighbourhoods as islands unto themselves, and for speaking of municipalities such as Coquitlam and Pitt Meadows as if they were on the other side of the moon. Biases and conceits continue to curb the development of a regional Vancouverism. Until we overcome them, we continue to remain with our backs to some 2.2 million Metro Vancouverites, gazing at our beloved skyline.
The Vancouver Special provides a lesson in the difficulty of achieving quality suburban development through blanket regulations.
Variations on a Theme Growing up amid west coast architecture by hannah bellamy photography by ryan ming
Found postcard depicting the North Vancouver Library, designed by architects DownsArchimbault in 1975, photo by Victor Dezso
As you drive through the mountains near Hope toward Vancouver, at some point, the air changes. Highway 1 is drenched with the smell of agriculture in Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, and then the smell of ocean takes over. For several summers, my family went to the interior of the province, where the air is dry and doesn’t smell of anything in particular. It doesn’t seem to rest in the valleys long enough. You get a sense of a lake one moment, or parched forests at certain times of year, but the scent of the air isn’t pervasive like it is on the coast. My dad was
beam constructions: exposed timber structural members, extensive glazing and skylights, open floor plans, wood finishes on interiors and exteriors, flat or minimally canted roofs, orientations to views or natural features, and integrations with natural settings. West Coast Style began in residential architecture of the North Shore and Burnaby in the 1940s and influenced both residential and commercial architecture throughout Greater Vancouver into the 1970s. Structures were often modest in budget and
“ A lucky few live in the residences that demonstrate meaningful relationships between architecture and art; most people live in the mass scale variations.” born in the interior and makes no effort to hide his preference. He never missed a chance to grumble about the coastal moisture when we drove home at the end of summer, while the ice cream my sister and I pleaded for in Hope melted on our hands. Nature is the most substantial influence in West Coast architectural design. Humid air embraces every structure in Vancouver, but it seems impossible to represent coastal air in design. Other natural elements can be found in post and
scale, and though some of the most influential names in North American architecture developed the style, it spread to even the most unassuming suburban houses. Its salience in regional architectural design is in part because the constructions are known to be solid and easily modified. Walls can be added and removed without much interference with post and beam style, as happened when separate rooms became popular
again in the 1990s, only to be brought down for the open-floor plans of the early 2000s. It also seems to respond to the particular landscape and features of the coast in a way that previous styles had not. Many older styles, though not less a part of the overall architectural character of Greater Vancouver, can be found in other regions. Wartime houses in the suburbs of Vancouver and Toronto are not dissimilar, though some practical exceptions have been made in both cases for differences in climate and available materials. When I was in high school, North Vancouver did not seem to be a place to celebrate for its architecture. I saw most of it as either new and overpriced, or rundown and overpriced. Though this understanding of the architectural landscape lacked nuance, it was not unfounded. I went to the same decrepit high school that my dad went to thirty years before, and our condo was in an area that the Hummer-driving vice principal of my high school called “the new Yaletown.” It had floor-to-ceiling windows and bamboo hardwood floors that scuffed up far easier than the price implied they should. Its features seemed to be heartless variations on the West Coast Style—the themes and colours fit but the materials did not. Despite the natural beauty that overwhelms North Vancouver, it seemed inauthentic to my high-school eyes.
FujiColor Superia 400
A family friend has a restored wartime house with views of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and rail yards on the inlet. This was the reverse image of my parentsâ€™ condo: rundown and overpriced. He thinks this is the most covetable view in North Vancouver, but as a manufacturing engineer, he is part of a small group of people that sees beauty in ironwork and cranes. I remember sitting on his patio with him one morning, my eyes trained as much on him as on the surroundings, trying to get a sense of this place we lived. His home seemed disconnected from natural beauty, but in a different sense than our condo, and not inauthentic to its setting. Both authentic and imitation West Coast Style structures are part of the unique architectural character of the North Shore. West Coast Style has led to a proliferation of overvalued imitations
and properties that capitalize on the value of the setting. While this is not an ideal architectural landscape, it is an outcome of any popularized style. A lucky few live in the residences that demonstrate meaningful relationships between architecture and art; most people live in the mass scale variations. This exclusiveness is part of what makes the more remarkable residences stand out. One has to drive to the canyons of North Vancouver or the slopes of West Vancouver to find them, and even then foliage and property walls often obscure them. Another outcome of a popularized style is we tend to consider the variations inferior to the authentic. But does architecture get better with age? Will what seemed inauthentic and flimsy when I was young look more authentic after time? Mass scale variations like the Twin Towers at 172 East 2nd
Street in North Vancouver suggest it might. A variation on the Brutalist modern structures Arthur Erickson designed in the 1960s and 70s, including the British Columbia Provincial Law Courts and Simon Fraser University, the Twin Towers were constructed in 1976. To our contemporary gaze their their blemished cement walls and angular balconies now appear congruent with the celebrated regional architecture of the period. West Coast Style influences of recognized postwar architects shaped the less-notable residences and places that many of us actually inhabit. The references can be subtleâ€”an exposed beam, or unvarnished wooden wallâ€”but the reach is such that no element does not seem familiar.
translink your own adventure
You catch the Canada Line and make it all the way to Richmond. You miss the Ladner bus by one minute and have to wait an hour for the next one. You hop on another bus, hoping it will get you close enough, but end up at the side of
a highway adjacent to a cornfield. Spotting a blueberry truck, you manage to hitch a ride into town. You make it home for dinner with time still left on your 3-Zone transfer. Congrats! Your mom still loves you.
: Person, Place, Thing
Person Winnie Tam
Place North Burnaby Thing Artspace
by april thompson Architectural model created by the students in ArtSpace’s Discover Architecture class
Artspace for Children is proof that an independent arts establishment can flourish in the suburbs. Celebrating its second anniversary in the North Burnaby neighbourhood of Burnaby Heights, Artspace successfully celebrates the fusion of creativity and expression in early childhood learning. Sad Mag met with Director and Founder Winnie Tam to talk about ‘burbs, Burnaby, and big bright prospects for children’s art education. april thompson: What were your goals in founding Artspace here in Burnaby?
classes? Or are sports still the dominant extracurricular activity for children?
winnie tam: Artspace was inspired by Arts
wt: Well, certainly sports are more economical
Umbrella, a long-standing arts facility on Granville Island where I used to be the program manager. I’ve lived in Burnaby about thirteen years and am raising two young children here. I found that in this sector of (North) Burnaby we didn’t have a lot of arts and culture amenities, the largest facility being the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts which is run by the City of Burnaby. We’re very lucky to have that, but for many families it’s actually geographically inconvenient to go there. Looking at the opportunity for this neighborhood and its demographic, I really felt there was an opportunity to establish and fill a niche that didn’t exist.
at: What differences did you encounter when you
shifted from working at ‘Arts Umbrella’ right within the Vancouver core to working in a suburban setting?
wt: I think there is a huge difference [between
urban and suburban settings] that I didn’t recognize until I opened Artspace. Burnaby is an interesting place, because now that people choose to live in New West, Port Moody, North Van and Surrey— Burnaby almost becomes this thoroughfare to get to where you live, the deeper suburbs.
As a resident and a business owner, I feel Burnaby doesn’t embrace its own identity very much. We often associate ourselves with Tri-Cities or with Vancouver. I don’t know that there is a really solid “I am Burnaby” kind of attitude.
at: Do you observe parents recognizing the value of Arts Education after their child participates in Artspace
to participate in. I think partly it is because there is a very important emphasis on health and fitness for children, which I respect absolutely as a parent. When you are kind of a trailblazer, which I feel Artspace is within this community, it takes time for families to be educated about what it is you’re offering and the relevance of that in their lives. I certainly am grateful to have parents point out that their child really thrives here and is excited to come. It’s special when they see Artspace as a place that inspires their child’s creativity in a way they aren’t necessarily seeing in other parts of their lives. That is lovely to hear.
at: The team that you’ve developed here is an eclectic
mix of people with training from all over Vancouver: Vancouver Film School, Simon Fraser University, Capilano University. Were you surprised by the number of professionally-trained people who were available and willing to work in the suburbs?
wt: I’m really lucky because Burnaby isn’t super
far away from Vancouver. The sheer cost of living in Vancouver means a lot of artists choose to live on the east side, which is not very far away from us. We’re very fortunate that artists do choose to continue working with Artspace despite their geographical location. In a way, that did surprise me. It’s important to consider that if your facility relies on building a faculty of artists, where those artists are going to come from and whether you have enough of a base located close to your facility. I take that into very serious consideration when we
remunerate our artists here too. We choose to pay a significantly higher hourly rate to include the fact that some of our staff travel. They may travel to teach just one class a week and that has an impact on them financially.
at: What advice would you give to other professionals who are trying to establish themselves in an arts-related profession outside of the downtown core?
wt: I think a huge piece of advice and learning for
me was to really understand your target audience. To know and recognize that there are differences between urban and suburban lifestyles, values, schedules, choices—and then to really draw from those observations in order to develop your strengths as an artist, a practitioner, a small business owner. It was probably one of the biggest realizations for me to learn not to make assumptions about the market that is here. I find it really fascinating to analyze sociological cornerstones, but as a business owner, the social influences can become a big challenge.
at: Tell us about one of your favourite student creations. wt: My favourite piece was an architectural model
created by the students in ArtSpace’s Discover Architecture class for 8-12 year olds taught by architect, Jason Burtwistle. It was a collaborative project, in which students explored fundamentals of architectural and landscape design, concepts of community planning, and elements of ecological sustainability. Architecture encourages children to pay more attention to the natural and built world and to use their creativity to tackle design questions. Artspace is one of very few places that offers an architecture program for children and the results were truly impressive.
Swim So Wild and Swim So Free Canada’s most beloved troubadour, Raffi, on his latest musical journey by sara harowitz illustration by jeff dywleska
When he speaks on the other end of the telephone line, Raffi Cavoukian’s voice is soft. The legendary Canadian children’s entertainer is just getting over a cold, he says, and apologizes for his sniffles. But when he starts talking about his music—namely, what he hope it instills within kids—that familiar, deep, animated voice creeps back in. Not even sickness, it seems, can hold back his inherent joy. A song that’s great for kids is “something that delights them, that speaks of their world, that makes them smile and wonder,” Cavoukian says. “A song that touches their heart.”
Cavoukian has created a storied career around these songs, most notably with “Baby Beluga,” the sweet tale about a little whale that “swims so wild and swims so free.”
public,” he continues. “It was great returning to the concert stage, seeing that I could still do it, I still had it. It was nice because you don’t want to assume that.”
But it’s been 12 years since the Salt Spring Island– based singer released a new album for kids—a hiatus that ended with his latest effort, Love Bug.
Love Bug, released in July by Rounder Records, comprises 15 original songs (including the title track) as well as one cover: “This Land Is Your Land.”
“It wasn’t planned that I would go this long [without a children’s album],” says Cavoukian, now 66. “I thought I’d done everything there was to do for me in terms of making music for children.
The album is by and large an expression of his sadness that the digital world has taken up such a prominent space in our lives, particularly in the lives of children.
“Then two years ago after not being on a concert stage for 10 years, I got the itch to sing again in
“I felt within me the spirit of new songs calling me to express my appreciation of the real world in a
time that the digital world has taken so much space,” he says. “Think of how [social media] has taken over so many people’s lives. Especially the young lives [of children] who haven’t had enough seasons without it to know what real world living is, what immediate living is. I felt the steering of an album, and Love Bug is that album, that would be a counterweight, a response to the digital age.” Plus, he adds in his goofy, bubbly drone, “the love bug is the best kind of bug around!” Cavoukian has lived on sleepy, suburban Salt Spring Island for six years.
As a collective father, Cavoukian must watch over all children. And indeed, in a way, he does. He cares for the universal wellbeing of kids to such a deep extent that in 1997 he created a philosophy called Child Honouring. It emphasizes an adult’s responsibility to the young to, in essence, let them be children. The idea of Child Honouring first came to Cavoukian in a vision. It was so startling and clear that it woke him up from a sound sleep on a Sunday morning at 6:00AM. “I knew Child Honouring was my mission for the rest of my life,” he says. He opened the Centre for Child Honouring on Salt Spring Island in 2010.
that a child, an unhurried child, grounded in the real world has the best chance of growing confident in their abilities, and being able to meet any situation in the future. The young child who is too tech savvy too soon actually does not come out ahead.” He emphasizes a childhood filled with active, imaginative, free play (books and toys and music, not iPads and hours of television), especially during the formative years from zero to six or seven. The importance of this kind of explorative experience lies within a child’s ability to create images in his or her own head—that is, to imagine. And that’s where music comes in. It “fires the theatre imagination of the child,” Cavoukian says.
“The slogan for the Centre for Child Honouring is ‘Respecting Earth and Child.’ The Child Honouring “Television … takes over your child’s innards; it way of sustainably raising children for a sustainable brings prefabricated imagery and doesn’t leave room world is to know that child-friendly equals earth- for imagination. Audio, on the other hand, does. [A His iconic tune “Baby Beluga” was written after he friendly. Those two are inseparable.” Interestingly song is just] audio and you are responding to it, you took a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium in 1979. It enough, he points out, the sun is the most repeated can’t help responding with feeling, emotion, and pictures. And that’s the power … For young children, was there that he saw Kavna, the then-16-year-old image in children’s drawings. that’s what the need is primarily. Imagination is beluga whale. Child Honouring has nine main principles: more important than knowledge.” “Meeting Kavna sparked the song,” he says. Respectful Love (respecting and recognizing “I think the songwriting muse and the heavens were children as “whole beings”); Diversity (teaching When Cavoukian refers to technology, he isn’t talking having their way with me around my love for that children about human diversity from an early age); so much about a CD or DVD player—he’s referring Caring Community (ensuring there is a supportive to “infotech” (smart phones and tablets), which he magnificent creature.” maintains is “a different technology altogether. “I love it,” he says. “We don’t have parking metres on the sidewalk. It’s great.”
“ He calls the adults who grew up on his music Beluga Grads (there’s even a Twitter hashtag), and estimates proudly that there are between 20—and 50—million of them.” “Baby Beluga” isn’t about Kavna, but Cavoukian’s adoration for her inspired him to dream up a sort of universal “little white whale on the go.” Kavna died at the Aquarium in 2012 at an estimated age of 46. “I think we all feel somewhat conflicted about captivity,” Cavoukian says. “And yet, look at what happened to me. Had I not met that whale in captivity, [“Baby Beluga”] wouldn’t have been written.” Cavoukian’s career started 38 years ago. He was working as a folk musician when he was invited to sing at a nursery school and was encouraged to release a children’s album due to his knack for connecting with kids. Since then, his CDs and DVDs have sold over 15 million copies in Canada and the United States.
and safe “village” surrounding a child); Conscious Parenting (teaching kids about “nurturant parenting” from a young age); Emotional Intelligence (letting children explore their emotions and helping them learn how to express their feelings); Nonviolence (“no corporal punishment, no humiliation, no coercion”); Safe Environments (fostering a child’s feeling of belonging and safety); Sustainability (investing in young people and recognizing that they are the future); and Ethical Commerce (creating a restorative economy “devoted to the wellbeing of the very young”). To help spread his philosophy, Cavoukian wrote Child Honouring: How To Turn This World Around in 2006 (it has a foreword by the Dalai Lama), as well as two albums for adults: Resisto Dancing (2006) and Communion (2009).
Cavoukian hasn’t fathered any kids, but you might argue that we are all his children. He calls the adults who grew up on his music Beluga Grads (there’s even a Twitter hashtag), and estimates proudly that there are between 20- and 50-million of them.
Cavoukian is also strongly against advertising directly to children (he won’t let his songs be used in ads for kids) and introducing them to modern technology too early in their lives.
Even over the phone he demonstrates a sincerity, a deep sense of care for those around him—full grown and not. He is cheerful, thoughtful, and sharp.
“The world is changing rapidly but children’s essential needs are irreducible and universal; they don’t change,” he says. “Parents are well reminded
“It’s not neutral. It has a power all its own. The problem with infotech and young children is that if you consider what a newborn’s job is, it’s to make sense of the real world, to make sense of the three-dimensional wonders and elements of the real world: the senses, the seasons, the rhythms of day and night, the tides. This is the job of a young child, an infant. Along comes infotech in the laps and hands of the infant and it’s a complete antithesis of what I just talked about.” Instead, he says, infotech is “a shiny, flat representation of the real world that moves in hyper time.” Cavoukian believes “there are many reasons to say to parents, ‘infotech can wait. What can’t wait is your child’s real need for active play in the real world.’ That’s how the imagination is best fired, how exploring is best done. Songs on Love Bug emphasize that point.” Cavoukian puts such a strong emphasis on children because they are, both literally and figuratively, the future. And in that sense, he is the greatest parent of all: one who strives to make tomorrow even better than today by supporting those who will eventually be taking the reins.
: Field Trip
SU B U R B A N LE G EN D
Determined to delve into the deepest burbs, the Sad Mag team equipped themselves with 20 filmcameras (for six people) and hit the road in a stylish (modo) van. We relished vintage finds in Fort Langley, attempted to break into the only drive-in theatre in the valley, played skee-ball at the mighty Castle Fun Park, explored cemeteries in Deroche, and bought cigarettes for teens at the 7-Eleven in Aldergrove. Our evening was spent listening to RV alarms in Cultus Lake, which was only remedied by a healthy dose of pie and â€œbreakfast poutineâ€? at the Chilliwack airport. We survived, but our intestines will never be the same.
P HOTO G R A P HY B Y
R OMMY G H A LY, J A C KIE HO F F A R T, R O B YN HUM P H R EYS , MI C HELLE R EI D , P a m e l a r o u n i s & K A TIE STE W A R T
: Field Trip
: Field Trip
50 shades OF GOTH Colin Cej reflects on the evolution of his suburban goth identity by colin cej
Like so many small town boys and girls, I first saw true black at the tender age of 14. It was the mid-90s, and any kid who would have been considered remotely alternative in the suburbs of Red Deer, Alberta had to band together. I feared the confident, the social, the charismatic. I had a speech impediment and wore my sister’s hand-medowns. I floated from circle to circle, and there was only one group that put up with me. So began my years as a teenage suburban goth. I already looked bad, but to fit in with the goth kids, I actually had to look worse. My friends looked terrible: baggy pants and shirts and too much makeup. Then, acne as a result of the makeup. Then, of course, more makeup as a result of the acne. We were insecure and socially incompetent, and wandered the high school like malnourished bears, more afraid of you than you were of us. Goth wasn’t anything, really. Just a defence mechanism that made sure you never had sex with anyone. This is by and large why people use the term “goth” as an insult: their definition comes from the delinquents in their high schools. If anyone is curious why the masses never bothered listening to Bauhaus, it’s because first impressions last.
Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails shirts over sweaty teenage bodies disgusted us all, even those of us wearing them. The first time “goth” was ever used in relation to music was by Tony Wilson, manager of Joy Division, back in 1979. As the band’s popularity grew, a genre was born. Bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and a host of other experimental performers began waving the goth flag. Soon the Birthday Party and the Damned were playing shows. There were a few years when goth got to be this awesome, weird thing. Experimental, dark, and totally unique. In 1982 the iconic Batcave opened in Soho, London. It was the first place with a dance floor that banned Disco and Funk, becoming the melting pot for goth music. Post-punk, new wave, and glam rock all fused in this dimly lit, blasphemous hole. Run by Ollie Wisdom of the band the Specimens, the Batcave gets credit for a lot of the goth music that rolled out for the next decade, both the good and the really bad.
for modern deathrock, glam rock, punk, garage, indie, and alternative music as a whole. It also bore many a bastard child. In the last couple of decades, big business, commercialism, and clever marketing have all but replaced the original creators of goth music with a bunch of geeky kids with funny makeup and bad tattoos. It’s a blanket term for everything from Skrillex to Good Charlotte to Marilyn Manson. I’ve even heard Insane Clown Posse using the term “goth-influenced.” If that’s what goth music has become, well, who wouldn’t hate it? As the surging popularity of these abominations gained widespread popularity, creepy, introspective, experimentalism began to lose its goth association. “Goth” has almost become an epithet for over-the-top rock arena shows and bad fashion sense. This leaves me afraid to classify so many bands I actually like as goth. It is a genuine compliment to local bands like Animal Bodies, Koban, Lié, Cowards, and Zoo to say they create goth music, by which I mean dark, experimental, poetic, and loud. How could that be an insult?
By the early 90s, goth bore a litter of subgenres. Depending on who you ask, it takes some credit
translink your own adventure
You successfully befriend the guy beside you. Hey, he’s charming, intelligent, and most of all, was taking transit on his way to pick up his motorcycle from the shop. Sparks fly and he
offers to drive you all the way to dinner—and your mom invites him to stay. You avoid Translink, get married, and move to the South of France. Well done!
Books on the Radio Independent Literary Projects Since 2009
projects & collaborations include...
Real Vancouver Writersâ€™ Series The Interruption with 49th Shelf and UBC Creative Writing Program
broadcast on CJSF 90.1 FM, podcast online at
creative stock The Jealous Curator talks about art, Summerland, and being internet famous by carmen mathes
Danielle Krysa has parlayed her design expertise and love of contemporary art into a successful blog, thejealouscurator.com and a new book, Creative Block. In both, she endeavors to transform feelings of frustration or “stuckness” into a network of support, inspiration, and challenge. “You should never paint again.” Those words, leveled against Danielle Krysa (aka The Jealous Curator) by her painting professor in the final year of a fine arts degree, changed her life. But not in a way that anyone, let alone Krysa, would have expected. At first, understandably devastated by this judgment, Krysa backed off. She turned away from fine arts and towards design, for which she’d always had an affinity, and pursued a post-grad degree in new media at Sheridan College in Oakville, On. Looking back on that transition, Krysa surmises that her painting professor was so strongly opposed to her work because it was, in her words, too “design-y.” Krysa thrived in the world of design, eventually taking on creative direction roles in Toronto and then Vancouver. When she took time off to have her son, however, Krysa found herself contemplating her undiminished passion for contemporary art. She wanted to participate in that world but wasn’t yet ready to pick up a paintbrush. Enter The Jealous Curator. Launched almost five and a half years ago while Krysa was living in Vancouver, The Jealous Curator features daily posts about artists who make Krysa feel envious (in a good way), as affirmed by her tag line: “Damn. I wish I thought of that.” In effect, The Jealous Curator reverses Krysa’s negative experience in art school, as she effectively praises artists for being brave enough to make and share their work by heaping approbation on their art. “When I find work that I love, ‘Where is this artist from?’ is one of the last things that pops into my head,” she says.
“My head (and heart) is usually filled with thoughts like ‘Whoa. I love that!’, ‘How did they do that?’, and ‘Where can I buy it?!’”
certain what kept her from mentioning her creative endeavors to her Summerland pals, she offers a possible explanation: “I think I sort of love living a double-life. I get quaint, quiet, lovely Summerland as my home, but then I get to do work in places like San Francisco, LA, and New York! It’s a really nice balance. I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for both the book and my day job [as a graphic designer], so to be able to pop out to all of these amazing, exciting cosmopolitan cities and then come home to the peacefulness of Summerland—I truly am blessed beyond words.”
The massive, democratizing force of the Internet means that artists, as Krysa puts it, “can find and be inspired by work from all over the world, instead of just their own backyard.” This includes Krysa herself. Originally from Summerland, Krysa left the Okanagan after graduating high school. She spent time living in Victoria, Toronto, and Vancouver, but in November of 2012 she moved back to Summerland, which she calls “the most beautiful, relaxing place ever.” Krysa and her husband “were Her gorgeous Summerland environs comprise lucky enough to buy a 102-year-old farm house (that Krysa’s retreat from it all, but both the blog and was totally renovated by the people before us, thank the book make clear that striving to produce artistic goodness!), that overlooks vineyards, orchards, and work, and overcoming feelings of frustration or Okanagan Lake,” she says. “We have raspberries in “creative blocks,” are helped by learning about the the garden, a firepit in the backyard, and a bunch of artistic practices of other artists, near or far. wildlife that shares all of that with us (for real: quail, The philosophy behind the book is about making pheasants, deer, coyote, and even a bobcat once!)” art for love, joy, catharsis, and wonder—the pure Near the end of 2013, Krysa made an exciting expressiveness of it. Krysa seems to take for granted announcement on her blog: she was writing a book that, in a state of innocence, we would all make art called Creative Block. After interviewing 50 of her for pleasure without worrying what others think. favourite artists—asking questions like, “Which Writing the book helped her tap into that childlike artist’s work/life/career are you most jealous of, delight of creating. and why?”—and prompting artists to reveal their strategies for overcoming creative blocks, Krysa felt “It wasn’t until I started working on the book confident putting together a book that would speak that I actually stopped and thought about that; to anyone creative who has ever felt uninspired. remembering how it felt to be a little kid with a fresh Creative Block is the kind of coffee table book that box of oil pastels, a new pad of paper, or a cool rock that you found on the beach is a really overwhelming, moves you to get up off the couch. exciting feeling that any creative person can relate Yet even though Krysa was herself “Internet famous,” to,” says Krysa. “When I’m in the studio now, no one in Summerland knew she had a website—or and feel myself getting stuck, I try to think about a book deal—until quite recently. While she’s not how truly fun it is to make stuff—and then I do.
translink your own adventure
You run and you run and you run. After about 45 minutes, you make it across the bridge. A bus comes up to greet you at 5th and Granville, but just as you’re about to get on, it falls off
the trolley wire. Exhausted and emotional, you call your mom to call it all off. It’s just too hard.
Carmen Mathes takes on an “un-blocking” exercise from The Jealous Curator’s new book, Creative Block
At home in Summerland, Krysa also (tries to) make art with her seven-year-old son, whose preferred medium is FIMO modeling clay. “I have a little desk set up for him in my studio, but it’s sooooo covered in stickers, markers, paper, etc., that there’s nowhere to actually make things. We usually end up making a mess on the kitchen table instead!”
“ When I find work that I love, ‘Where is this artist from?’ is one of the last things that pops into my head. My head (and heart) is usually filled with thoughts like ‘Whoa. I love that!’, ‘How did they do that?’, and ‘Where can I buy it?!”
Nowadays, Krysa will tell you she has not painted for 19 years—ever since that fateful day. But one of the best parts about Creative Block is that it’s filled with “creative unblock” projects, one each from each of the artists featured, that ask visual artists to fulfill a specific task or challenge themselves to make something outside their comfort zones. Krysa herself has put them to the test, enthusiastically.
“I started trying them as I got the interviews back almost a year and a half ago... I couldn’t control myself!” Krysa enthused. “The result has been learning to play, experiment, recycle, repeat. The other big thing is, well, a really big thing for me... I have been doing collage for the last couple of decades. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love collage so much and will never ever stop cutting and
The result doesn’t have to be perfect, or gallery ready, or sellable—it can just be something you made because you had new oil pastels, a pad of paper, and a rock that you found on the beach.”
pasting, but I think I’ve been too afraid to actually paint. So last week I bought new paints, and a couple of brushes. I’m going to go one by one through the painting related unblocking projects and see what comes out on the other side.”
my side of THE MOUNTAIN Michael Hingston spins his university experience into a comedic work of fiction by michelle reid
photography by katie stewart
We have a soft spot in our heart for Michael Hingston: a contributor to the very first issue of Sad Mag, and now a journalist, book reviewer, and newly-published author. His debut novel, The Dilettantes, is a comedy based on his experiences as an editor of the student newspaper at Simon Fraser University and was published in 2013 by Freehand Books. On a hot summer day Sad Mag’s editorial team hung out with Hingston for popsicles and book-browsing, to talk about writing and reviewing novels. michelle reid: Why did you want write a book
about The Peak, Simon Fraser University’s student-run newspaper?
michael hingston: Well, I’d never written
a book before. Most people say they want to write a book, and I think what holds them back is it’s just …it’s a huge process. You have to have enough confidence in yourself to pursue it day by day, and it’s hard to do that. But, the idea I had was so strong, that I just convinced myself, like, okay, this is a really good idea. I’d already gathered four years of research without realizing it. I had the setting, I had the character types, the group dynamic I knew I wanted. I had a list of anecdotes, lists of conversations I wanted to steal from. That felt like half the battle. Then it felt like connecting the dots and adding the plot to make it work as a book. So that’s what carried me.
I also thought, if I don’t do this, someone else is going to. And that’s both in regard to SFU, which is really an interesting place, and student newspapers. As far as I know no one has written a novel about a student newspaper, which seemed crazy to me. It still seems crazy to me! So I knew if someone did it first I would feel … I would kick myself. So it was fear of feeling worse later on, which is a pretty good motivator in general.
mr: The Dilettantes is very detailed about the SFU campus minutiae and Vancouver quirks, like all the hipster coffee shops on Main Street and Commercial Drive. Were you worried it would only work for those who are familiar with these places?
mh: I thought it was so specific that it would
damage me in terms of reaching anyone outside of the West Coast or Western Canada maybe. I’m writing about a specific moment in young people’s lives, and a specific place that a lot of people have no concept of, but a lot of people have come up to me after [a book reading], and said, “This is exactly what it was like in the 70s, but we had no computers.” Or: “My friend was in engineering school and he did this kind of stuff all the time.”
[When referencing] conversations I thought were just so specific to 22-year-olds in 2008, my Dad was like, “This is how my friends at work and I talk.” So I’m glad that transferred over, but I think it’s because I was that specific that it works. If you’re trying to write universally it can just be so vague that no one can connect to it, whereas when you are specific, people can pull out the things that they latch on to. Whether that’s certain lines or reactions or group dynamics, the specifics are helpful, which is nice because I didn’t know that going in. It’s good to hear that now. I think the specifics are key, for sure.
mr: Your protagonist Alex feels like a very contemporary
character, like a sarcastic internet commenter about everything around him.
mh: I thought so too, but then I was thinking of
this one reading I did in St. Albert, which is like a suburb of Edmonton. Very book-friendly but older folks. And the moderator said to me, “You didn’t invent ‘22-year-old disease’,” which is what she calls it. It’s interesting to realize that. And part of the benefit that has is that the book is about people who
translink your own adventure
You get on the Canada Line, only to be stopped in the tunnel two minutes later. From the garbled speakerphone message comes the announcement that someone at Olympic Village threw a PB&J sandwich onto the track. What do you do?
think that [their situation] is the first time this thing has ever happened, and they’re blinded by thinking it’s so important and life-changing. Then later in the book this snarky protagonist talks to someone older who says, “Oh yeah, that’s what happens, and then you get over it and become an adult, and it’s fine.” It’s this nice moment of deflating—it’s healthy. That’s been going on for a long time. I think the flailing around that 20- to 22-yearolds are going through happens very publicly now because of technology. And so that leads to, you know, think pieces on the internet about millennials and all that. They’re either way too generous or way too dismissive a lot of the time. Whereas, I’m sure 22-year-olds in the 70s had the same “Oh my god, what am I going to do with my life?” thoughts and conversations but they took place in their friend’s car, or sitting in a 7-Eleven parking lot, or something.
mr: Is Alex a stand-in for you? He’s very snarky, but then he evolves.
mh: Yeah! It’s a growth. The main character, though, started out like me… and I think it’s because it came from a snarky place at first. Like, I wanted to cut my generation down. I didn’t see our generation represented in print, and my first instinct was “fuck these people.” The interesting thing was that I was not including myself in that critique much. And then as time went on I would write drafts of certain sections and realize I had done no differentiating between the main character, who was supposed to be smarter than this,
Option 1: Take the connector shuttle at the next stop (go to page 22) Option 2: Befriend the guy beside you, who just said he has a motorcycle (go to page 56)
Option 3: Cry intermittently, and give up already—text your mom that you’re not coming (go to page 9)
and everyone else, who the book took for granted was a total idiot. I realized they’re not different at all. I wondered how this book was supposed to get away
then start from there. Whereas in university, it’s a lot of projecting—you know, you’re there to learn, but you would never admit in conversation that you
“ When you graduate and you realize you don’t know anything, it’s much more freeing to admit that.” with judging everyone except the main character. So that became the theme—this lack of selfawareness. It became generally more empathetic over time. And that’s because I moved away, and got an office job with a lot of older people, and I just tried to recapture that moment rather than dissect it in real time. It kind of forced me to think about it more, with more sympathy, and figure out where those reactions come from. I think a lot of them are self-defense, they come from insecurity, and I didn’t realize that when I was 22. Or it was too tangled with other things to really get at, and I feel like I have a much better sense of it now. When you graduate and you realize you don’t know anything, it’s much more freeing to admit that. And
didn’t know what you’re about to learn, which is such a terrible attitude for learning. Just walking into a classroom and acting like you already kind of know it? It’s not helpful. So that was the knot I tried to untie a little bit.
mr: Were your other characters based on your former coworkers at The Peak?
mh: No … people are going back and forth making
guesses, like “I thought you were this guy, based on this detail!” And they’re all wrong. Every one of them has been wrong!
I guess they are more like character types. The “student newspaper humour editor” is, I think, a type of person. Something I wanted to do in the book, but I couldn’t figure out how, was take the
editors to a conference. There are all these student newspaper conferences, and you’ll have these crazy uncanny moments when you look across the room and think you see your humour editor, and it’s an identical-looking humour editor. They look exactly the same. Maybe that’s where some of the universal stuff comes from. Similar people seem to be drawn to the jobs for similar reasons, or maybe once they are there they fulfil similar roles in the workplace culture. Some characters started out as real people but then they shifted around, because when you are writing a novel you have to serve the book in the end. So no matter how you try and cram in real life, it has to be sculpted in a way. And often the stuff that editors would say worked the least was the stuff that was based the most on real life, because it was clearly not quite hewing to the tone of the book, it was clearly trying to be something else. So a lot of it got sanded away. A lot of [the conversations in the book] are conversations I had. I filed them away, and then two years later, it all landed in the book. There’s one conversation about what language SFU’s motto is in, and that really happened. I don’t know if the guy I had that conversation with remembers that.
mr: There’s another part where your protagonist is
trying to remember what kind of trees grow around SFU that felt very personal and borrowed from real life.
mh: Yeah! Trees. I still think about trees all the
time. Like if you are a real citizen of the world, and a baseline intellectual person, it’s something you should know. World geography is another subject that I am comically terrible at.
mr: Have you developed a “professional author voice” now that your novel is out?
mh: I don’t have a professional voice, because I just
defer to intense self-deprecation immediately. I feel like I can’t even sell the book properly out loud, I end up totally undercutting it and not explaining it properly because I assume even the people at my book launch don’t want to hear about it. I’m like, “You’re not interested in this! We’ll be out of here in 10 minutes.”
just responding to the feeling they had, and writing a review about that, and you can’t fault them for feeling the way they did. It’s more how they assemble it. The review I got that was mixed had a couple of misreadings, I thought, which is frustrating. That kind of quibble. And that’s not insignificant. But I certainly didn’t think it was a hatchet job. It was more just this person didn’t like it, and they’re trying to explain why. I have empathy for reviewers too. It’s a tough job, it doesn’t pay well. There’s no benefit to being mean because you’ll make an enemy. I did the same thing in my column in The Globe and Mail two weeks before. I wrote a really negative review, and I did think, “Ugh, was this worth it? What if I go to Toronto and this guy is around?” Canada’s so small. People latch on to different things in their reviews, and that’s really interesting. And I’m lucky— a lot of books are ignored, they don’t get any coverage. So getting any coverage, I’m really grateful for that.
But if your life has given you a framework to make a novel from, it’s not like you’re using it for anything else, you know? I started writing something else, and three lines in I referenced Moby Dick. I was like, man, I have nothing to offer but what’s already in my own brain. But if you can start with that kind of architecture because it’s comfortable to you ... I just don’t feel motivated to write anything unless I feel it on some personal level. You don’t want to be shaped by that stuff too much, but it’s interesting what you have to do—this magical thing you need to get a book off the ground. To me the concept of the book is the thing I hold highest in regard, you know? Novels are just the best. So to have one—it is this strange accomplishment that seems momentous.
I think about how different writers trick themselves into writing. He’s not a novelist, but Slavoj Žižek has my favourite piece of writing advice. In this But it’s very cool. [Having the novel out] is totally the fun part, although the barrier now is when you mr: Do you have plans for a second book? Since you’ve documentary, he talks about how when he sits down, tell someone you have a book out, they’re like, “Oh, used up all this life experience in writing your first book, he tells himself, “I’m just putting ideas down. I’m just making notes.” And then halfway through, he so it’s self-published?” And you’re like, “No.”Not will you be able to use that technique again? tells himself, “Well, I already wrote it. I just have to edit it now.” So he never sits down thinking, “I’m writing a book right now.” I relate to that very strongly. It’s preposterous to sit down and think, “I’m writing a novel today!” You’re setting yourself up. Unless you’re performing it, or tweeting it, then it has some kind of cachet. But I don’t think it helps that that’s bad, but it’s like this endless self-esteem mh: I don’t think I can. And then it makes you you write. It seems to paralyze a lot of people. You game of trying to feel legitimized but also trying not think, well, what if that’s the only thing that made write a sentence and think, “Is this good enough to be in a novel?” Probably not. It’s not going to be that to sound like a total windbag. the first book work? good for awhile. Someone wrote something about the book and—it’s mr: How has the critical reception of the book been? funny about a first book, because when it’s in one Is this his life hack? mh: Almost all positive! And the nice thing is sense transparently autobiographical, some people actually that the negative stuff hasn’t bugged me think that they game you by being like ,“This is first mr: A Žižek lifehack? that much. Why, what have you read? Have you seen novel syndrome.” I don’t think that’s totally fair. I think [the autobiographical material was] the crutch mh: From noted Slovenian lifehacker Slavoj Žižek! something sinister that escaped my Google Alert? that got me started, but that’s not quite how it works. The worst thing that anyone’s written is this one-star But it does make you think. This person was like, Amazon review. It’s my only Amazon review. “The “Once he gets out there and begins to invent things, Amazon community rates this book as one-star.” then we’ll really get started.” I don’t assume that’s The thing is, it didn’t bug me at all. He’s like, “I got true, I don’t think that makes for better things. to page 100 and nothing happened, who are these people, I don’t care.” I don’t know; I found myself My first instinct for a second book, which I haven’t thinking that I guess it didn’t work for him, and then started and maybe never will, was writing about high school kids. And instantly I was just cannibalizing carrying on. my time as a theatre kid in high school. At first I One print review was pretty mixed. The thing with recoiled from that, but the more I think about it, reviews—and this helps, being a reviewer myself—I I think that’s just what you do. You know? I don’t think even if you read a review that you hate, you can know what the downside of that is. I would never never question the feeling the reviewer had. They’re write a memoir, I don’t write first-person journalism.
“ I don’t have a professional voice, because I just defer to intense self-deprecation immediately”
translink your own adventure
You eat a cookie and have a good cry. As you’re about to call your mom to tell her you’re not coming, a classmate taps you on the shoulder. She’s driving to her parents’ house, and just stopped in for a coffee along the way. She doesn’t care for you
much, but could really use the company to get into the HOV lane. You make it home for dinner, and the new baby is named after you for your heroic travels.
life in the woods On the multiplicity of self with Shelley Stefan by daryn wright photography by jackie hoffart art by shelley stefan
Shelley Stefan stokes the fire in her wood stove. Her small studio is an artist’s dream: heavy wooden doors open up to a tiny room filled with tubes of oil paints, a cushy armchair, and various bric-a-brac—a seventies bear lamp, an American flag. The most striking element of the space, however, is the self-portraits that cover the walls from floor to ceiling. In black charcoal, images of Stefan look back like from a broken mirror— some look angry, some sad, some pensive. Stefan, whose work includes “The Lesbian Effigies” (2006) and “B is for Butch” (2010), studied at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the Maine College of Art, and currently teaches in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley. Growing up in Chicago, Stefan has lived in several urban centres but now calls Lake Errock home. The rural setting, far from a stone’s throw from the city, seems at odds with the politics of identity, sexuality, and gender at work in her paintings.
Despite this, Stefan seems at home. Throughout the interview the 40-year-old painter kept the stove, whose masonry she laid herself, well-fed with the firewood she chops and stores just outside.
shelley stefan: Right now I’ve got about four
series on the go. In the studio here there’s a series of self-portraits—I’m aiming to do hundreds of mirror-based [self-portraiture], kind of old-school,
academic, dialing it back to the traditional methods of introspection. I find there’s something really neat when there’s the human form live, and you surrender a bit of accuracy, but what you get is kind of like raw imperfect humanness that I really like. I’m working with my own face for awhile, just to see if I do this 300 times, am I seeing different elements of myself? Some of
them are off, some of them are moody, and some of them look like my ancestors. They all seem different. They’re all me looking in a mirror at different times. It’s almost embarrassing, and I think that’s the point. I’m at the point in my career where I kind of want to allow myself to be vulnerable. I’m also doing a series of nude studies of my wife, taking a sauna and she’s naked and I do some drafting. I’d like to do a whole suite of figurative studies. I’ve done this before but now I’d like to use them in some larger paintings that involve the juxtaposition between the human body and armour. You go out in the world, you’re fleshy and vulnerable, and you also guard yourself.
daryn wright: Self-portraiture—particularly the
kind you’re doing, with a mirror—is rooted in an old art form. There seems to be a connection between this practice and the rural space you reside in. Do you think they’re related in any way?
ss: I think that there’s a part of me that’s very raw
and sublime. I think that comes first. I have Italian ancestors who were artists, and that can mean many things but what it means for me is there’s this intense passionate anchor. So having my studio in a rural space like this is a way to ground and isolate that kind of passionate energy in a way that ironically isn’t ego-based. It’s almost like it’s a laboratory and I’m trying to keep the dish clear. So I guess on some
Do you think your work has been influenced by those activities at all?
ss: I definitely am connected to nature and the earth. I’m living at a lake community, I’m sensitive to the beings that live here—that means the little creatures and the birds—and I feel like we’re on the same team. I don’t want to poison anything. I’ve grown up a lot in what kind of paints I use, how I clean my brushes. I’m experimenting with walnut oil-based paints, and I’m trying, for my own brain health and for the land around me, to use less toxic paints. I’m into herbs and plants, and making things that you can use. That’s why my studio is recycled wood; I like this environment of making and using.
“ I’m out here in the country and I want to talk about raw human spirit, I want to talk about gender, butch, sex, bodies. So I feel like this is a good place to get it out.” level as an artist, my choice of a rural studio feels like the best substrate to tease out the rawest and purest emotion in my work. I’m really influenced by my surroundings.
dw: Through the process, have you learned anything about yourself?
ss: I’m still discovering. Through my works in the
past few years I’ve discovered a lot about interiority. When I’ve been working in portraiture, I’ve realized on some level, self-portraiture, if done properly, allows for uncovering different facets. I feel completely connected to my Italian ancestors when I paint and draw. It’s crazy. There’s something about listening to Italian opera and being in here and being like, “They get me.” When I’m painting and I’m in the middle of it and there’s Italian opera on I’m like, “Those fuckers are crazy and so am I and it’s okay, because you’re human. You’re alive on this planet.”
dw: You’ve been a part of a few environmental initiatives, including a lake stewardship project at Lake Errock.
That piece in the corner there is called Self Empathy, World Empathy and basically that’s about how can I understand myself and, through doing so, create empathy for myself, which in turn allows me to create empathy for the world. Maybe on some deeper level that’s why I work in self-portraiture: I’m trying to love myself. If I love myself I’ll be more capable of loving the world.
dw: How do you think your work would be different if you lived in an urban space?
ss: I love urban culture. Honestly, I wouldn’t
mind having a studio in an urban centre; it would illuminate a different part of my practice. But if I had to pick between a rural practice and an urban practice, right now, I feel like I’ve got a lot of urban in me, and the rural is the good substrate. I’m out here in the country and I want to talk about raw human spirit, I want to talk about gender, butch, sex, bodies. So I feel like this is a good place to get it out. I feel like in an urban centre I might get distracted. I might not work as much because I’d be out on the patio with my friends.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago. I loved the Italian-American food and the feeling of knowing a lot of people, and there’s something really lovely about that. I think rural is honestly the coolest because it’s the least pretentious but it doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff. There’s a long history of artists who get out so they can do exactly what I said—cut off the unnecessary distractions to dilute down into the more productive space. Urban centers are full of spunky diversity, lots of bubbling energy, so it’s really magnetic. But people aren’t the only thing in the world. I teach in a suburb, and sometimes when you’re different, even a little bit different, you get stared at more, and that can be hard. Hence my use of armour in some of my works.
dw: Walk me through a regular day for you. ss: I wake up, usually early, in the winter it’s still
dark, which is pretty awesome to have a crackling fire while I’m half awake. I’m having my Americano, on my couch, watching the sunrise, and the hound dogs are snuggled by the fire. And then I go teach, and give 300% on campus, because when I work with my arts students, I see me. I see how crazy and awesome and vulnerable I was as an art student and I’m just not going to crush them.
I never knew that this was going to be my life today, but being able to see hummingbirds just perching right out there—you get kind of hooked on that. And you go to an urban centre and you go “Oh that was amazing Vietnamese food,” or “This patio with all my friends and sangria is the best thing ever.” But the hummingbird on the twig is a main player, it’s competing very well against that patio with sangria. I do miss the city. But emotion fuels artwork and sometimes, when you have solitude, even when it’s painful, it does bring about good art.
This page: Shelley in her studio FujiColor Superia 200
Sweater,Oak and Fort/
from The Block
a c e
& Art Director:
Solana RomprĂŠ Models:
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Assisted by Sonia Capriceru
: Dispatches Patrick wears:
Jesse wears: Sweater,Deus ex Machina/ Pants,National Standard from Motherland
: Dispatches (this page) Patrick wears: Hat,H&M/ (next page) Jesse wears: Baseball Cap,Van Caissey/ Jersey,modelâ€™s own/
Patrick wears: Bomber Jacket,Topshop/ Jeans,Surface to Air from The Block Jesse wears: Button up,Topshop/ Sunglasses,Cherry Bomb
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