A Tuesday Morning in Downtown Winnipeg
As the snows blow the chilled air, we hunker down and think of ways to stay warm!
DSC News Bulletin Services
The DSC News Bulletin Services gave you the scoop on a fire that was raging on the 22nd Floor of 134 Smith Street and now, as always, we follow up with some highly speculative conjectures that are whispered on the street...and remember you heard it here, at the DSC first!
While firefighters were able to contain the fire in the room where it started, there was severe smoke, heat and water damage to the suite itself and the apartment under it. Once again, it would seem that unattended cigarette droppings were the root cause. Unlike a recent recycle bin fire that caused a car to explode on Donald Street, this inferno was caused by a resident. Word on the curb says, a tired, hard working man, engaged in a prolonged masturbation session, felt the need to light up a smoke and, unsurprisingly, then passed out due to exhaustion. The lit cigarette apparently ignited some paper towels and old porno mags that were strewn about the bedroom of the suite. The culprit escaped with only minor burns but sadly, he lost his entire mid-80's vintage SWANK collection to the blaze.
DSC News Bulletin Services
In 1985, with the sickeningly sweet and cutesy Cabbage Patch Kids dominating the store shelves and toy chests across North America; an evil twin of these innocent dollies came crawling out from the back alleyways in the form of Garbage Pail Kids. The presence of such freaks as Adam Bomb, Unstitched Mitch and Bad Brad presented an antithesis to the sunny garden that sprouted their nicer brethren. Children were introduced to a world of twisted commentary that presented horror and gross-out humour to hungry eyes looking for a welcome change.
Topps Chewing Gum Inc. had seen the benefits of counter culture merchandise. Earlier successes such as the insanely popular Wacky Packages in the late 1960's had alerted the sport/collectible card company to the profitability of subversive popular culture criticism. Using the abilities of Mad magazines talent to create such twisted mockeries as Kook-Aid, Band-Ache and Screech Tape; Topps created a cult following that laughed and revelled in the disdain for famous American products of consumerism. These images became stickers that could be stuck anywhere. Desks, dressers and even mail boxes became the galleries for displaying these irreverent low brow art pieces. Teenagers bought them up as fast as Topps could produce them and, like boys tend to do, the competitive act of collecting followed. Treasuries were printed by Topps to house entire collections and joining the backs of whole sets together presented some silly product jab in the form of a mosaic-like poster. The company had hit pay dirt and continued the series throughout the 70's. While containing some truly disturbing imagery, the Wackies always had a certain subtle presentation about them that caused the viewer to do the ole' double take. As the 80's trudged along, interest in the wackiness of these sticker packages had waned. Children were hanging out at the arcade smoking cigarettes and learning how to gamble. Youngsters were playing with chickaboo's and a new doll called the Cabbage Patch Kid. These bright eyed tykes were composed of plush bodies with hard rubber heads. Adorning their heads were locks of yarn hair that curled and draped lovingly. They arrived with "birth certificates" that introduced the new adoptive parent-child to the kids' name; which were always way too sweetsie, like Gilbert or Suzie. It was at this point that some social commentator had the light bulb explode over his head. The brilliant artist, writer and pre- Pulitzer winner Art Spiegelman and fellow artist Mark Newgarden conceived of the Garbage Pail Kids. Employing the help of numerous talents such as John Pound and Tom Bunk, they developed the set of 82 (+ 6 variations) cards that were to become the first series. Out the window was subtly, and in was sickly creatures of horrid appearance and temperate. A rebellion occurred against everything Strawberry, pretty or smurfy. Topps had found the new Wackies and children around the world were to soon be tainted with gross-outs and sick drawings that would tear a strip out of the sweetness that was the Cabbage Patch.
The cards were stickers like their grandparents the Wacky Packages. At 2 ½ inches by 3 ½, these cards were perfect for fitting in the back pocket. This incognito size promoted them being brought to school and surreptiously hidden when snoopy teachers thought trouble was amiss. Four to a pack (at least in Canada), they were always included with a stale piece of crummy gum. The gum always ended up in the garbage and the true prize was obsessed over as sounds of gagging and the inevitable, " That's sick!" came from one of the more timid of the group of children. Some of the iller ones included Crater Chris, who treats the viewer to a zit popping presentation; Dead Ted, crawling from the grave with maggot friends and challenging Peter Cushing ala Amicus's Tales from the Crypt, as the great undead rot feast and Scary Carrie who innocently wonders why mirrors shatter when her Franken freak image glares into them. To mock the whole birth certificate idea, the GPK's had two names. The mutant kid who chows on flies is Lizard Liz on card A and referred to as Buggy Betty on card B. Every Kid had an A and a B name. Above mentioned Dead Ted becomes Jay Decay on his B card. This not only kept the sick little punks who bought these cards laughing, but increased their collectibility ten-fold. No matter how large or small each individual kids collection got too, they were filled with sickly delights of twisted grotesqueries that introduced many a child to the concept of splatter. As these stickers made their way into every child's sticker album and junk drawer, I am sure the sales of the Cabbage Patch Kids plummeted. It was not long after the cards had become fairly mainstream that the Cabbage brats disappeared. Coincidence…probably not.
The Garbage Pail Kids continued in numerous sets as time went on, with varying degrees of success and merit. With over 16 series and sets introduced all over the world, the Garbage Pail Kids continued puking and exploding for years. The Brits in particular really enjoyed the mockery of it all. The nail that drove the lid on this rotting, stanky franchise had to have been the abysmal 1987 film The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Don't even bother with this one folks. Truly bad stuff, by anyones standards. The cartoon is a write-off as well. With new sets of Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids on the shelves as you read this, the originality and beauty of these sets has diminished in an age of high tech and bling. Regardless of the decline of the cards, their influence planted the seed in many minds. Such films as the Toxic budget films, Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive carried on the gross-out silliness that pervaded these card sets. Although they have passed into memory and collectibility purgatory; such weirdos as Up Chuck and Leaky Lou remain in the early memories of gore mongers everywhere. An introduction to young minds of the horrors that were to come, and don't be surprised if you inherent some crappy dresser from Aunt Edna only to find Bad Brad's satanical glare stuck to the back of it; a reject from the eighties that still desires to taint some young soul.
Joystick 'n' Hand
Discovered on Youtube and submitted by:
When I first arrived in Winnipeg circa 2002, I was intrigued and curious to discover the seemingly happening art world that lurked deep within Winnipeg culture. Being from insecure Alberta art circles, I had heard rumours and speculation that Winnipeg could be the next big scene. A history filled city that had high attendance within the two university art programs and a bevy of starving artists. This was an exciting and enticing prospect and opportunity...then reality hit. I quickly realized that the raging and respected punk vibe of the early 80's Winnipeg scene was a corpse. The commercial gallery scene was stuffy and boring. The non-profit art groups were self-serving and incestuous. The desire and passion for the appreciation of art and the creation of it had withered and frozen. I quickly learned Winnipeg was not unique in this, there was a larger international movement, where galleries and auction houses had the monopoly on the business of art and artists were left with a gaggle of art and no one to care. The general public was alienated from what art was/is and elitism and nepotism took firm hold...again. In theory, the audience should always dictate the market and all galleries can do is feed off of the interests and demands that are already there. Galleries, like art critics, are whores of the aura of art. They should not demand what you as the viewer get to participate in. This is succinctly expressed by Herr Doktor in his excellent blog post, “I am a Philistine”, and I will second his motions. Suffice to say, the role the gallery clings to is bound by self-preservation and bottom feeding tactics instead of community and co-operation.
In the Artspace building of the past was a somewhat contemporary gallery called Site. It would showcase local talent, particularly U of M art profs. The work was current, generally brave and in tune with contemporary art practices. Then it closed in 2005 due to lack of sales. Who should be faulted for this lack of sales? The work was predominately solid. The pricing seemed reasonable. The truth is the business of art is a tough one. It is not like I discovered Site because of a happening event or the such...I knew someone enrolled at the BFA program at U of M and one of their Profs had a few pieces up. Like a good, ass sucking student, my friend wanted to go to be able to discuss the art with said Prof. I only knew of the Gallery because some art student felt obligated to go and hauled me along. Why had I not known about this gallery? Why was it not shakin’ things up? I was confused. Most commercial galleries start as poster and frame shops. Not surprising when you look at the actual work within...but...Site was a gallery that had current non-cliché art (mostly). The problem is, no one was buying...and the sellers weren’t really trying to sell it. The Public was not being engaged with the Art in a bigger, social way. Elitism inevitably becomes incestuous and self consuming.
This problem with being able to market the art has troubled galleries for some time. Conceptualism confused galleries. Multi-Media installations perplexed their marketing strategies. “How can we make money from this?” was the commonly held thought. Why should or would this dictate to you, what is relevant artistically and what is not? Why should some gallery sales person’s ability to make money on an object dictate what is evaluated as art? The onus of responsibility falls on the Artist and the general Public. Times have changed and not only the actions of the Artist are evolving but also the established power balance. Art is for the People and it becomes the Artisits' responsibility and honour to do what it takes to get the conversation to them...outside of hegemony and corporate coddling. The scam is up and Artists need to think about their creative act as a gravitational force with orbiting satellites. One...maybe a few, of these satellites are business built. When intent, production and marketing are held to the foundation of Creativity, galleries will act as great homes for the works that require that space as opposed to dictating who is and is not "worthy". Galleries have a role as facilitating the artist, not controlling them. There is no positive reason that passion, relevance and profundity should ever be housed by the elite and denied to the rest of humanity. Art can hold many diverse practical business modes and who better to navigate this than the Artists' themselves. The pressure is now on the producer of Art is to adapt, take chances and speak loudly... if whispering is not turning ears. Gain the publics participation through strategic stakeholder meetings and commitment to the power of Creativity and Art to everyone. The gallery is to be used and at the call of the artist, not relied upon as the adjudicator and regulator of what art should be. The gallery is most importantly, a facilitator.
A sculptor I knew in art school said it wisely, as we debated the social implications of post-modern bullshit as it relates to the art making process. When asked what an artist was to do in this challenging time, he simply stated,
“Just Fucking Do it.”
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A Tuesday Morning in Downtown Winnipeg
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I am a philistine I suppose. I do not frequent the WAG and related artistic venues. Museum equals mausoleum. They are dead environments and the ambience is oppressive. Quiet (very) discussion and lack of liveliness is supposed to create a neutral environment where the artwork (of whatever kind) can be contemplated peacefully, objectively, as if you were not in public. A few minutes in one of these tombs and I am ready for some fresh air and a nap. For me, at least, the atmosphere nullifies any aesthetic I am a philistine, I suppose. I do not frequent the WAG and related artistic venues. Museum equals mausoleum. They are dead environments and the ambience is oppressive. Quiet (very) discussion and lack of liveliness is supposed to create a neutral environment where the artwork (of whatever kind) can be contemplated peacefully, objectively, as if you were not in public. A few minutes in one of these tombs and I am ready for some fresh air and a nap. For me, at least, the atmosphere nullifies any aesthetic benefit I could derive from the work at hand. Quiet contemplation has its place but not in public. Some works of art may demand this of the recipient. Perhaps smaller isolated venues would be better (think chapel). When I consider a work of art and I am engaged in grasping or deciphering its language, I require energy and discussion to better formulate ideas and enhance the experience. Art should stimulate thought (visceral reactions, at times) and its cousin, discussion. Well, what better way than to serve some drinks in a smaller venue, well lit, comfortable and energized by both the works and the ensuing conversation? This attempt at objectivity to present the work as it is has outlasted its time.
Attendance at museums and the WAG is still significant, and funding these larger institutions permits works from A-Team established artists and craftspeople to come to Winnipeg. However, as a purveyor of all things urban I would like to see art being brought back to the people and the streets. This is not a new idea but it is not without merit.
License all galleries, offer sliding scale cover charges and permit conversation and laughter. Let’s carry drinks about and have places where folks can sit and enjoy themselves surrounded by artworks. Restaurant galleries are a current movement in a new direction but walking around gazing at works can be awkward when there is a family of four having dinner by the piece being considered.
Small independent galleries also need to lose their air of stuffiness. I understand they are catering to their market and hope to sell works. However, there is a new class of money folks who are far less stodgy in their manner and approach. Market your works to them. Open your doors to the public, accept the risk and engage the commoner. There is a reason why video games, movies (not films) and radio music appeal to all. Now, I understand that art has rarely been populist and I am not really calling for that. Make your venue attractive to regular folks, encourage local artists and craftspeople to present their works. Borrow from the Spectacle and open your fucking doors.
Bring back the decaying warehouse space, the underground gallery, the tiny art pub, use the Web. I call on local artists to defecate on the mausoleum of approved works.
Herr Doktor’s Note: This is not finished. There will be more. The Donald Street Collective is committed to rejuvenating and revitalizing the DT experience, aesthetically, politically and actively.
Many artists have attempted to document the horrors and perversities inherent in human nature yet few have achieved the intensity and conflict between sensuous detail and suffocating physicality as the artist Hans Bellmer. Looking upon his photographs and drawings that fetishized and revealed extreme personal desires, one is mutually repulsed, disturbed and enthralled by their dark beauty. His subjective work has endured harsh criticism, called everything from obscene, perverted and pornographic. The fact remains that the work of Hans Bellmer is technically profound and thematically disturbing, reaching into dark recesses that most viewers would rather avoid. His combination of skill and twisted representation has endured his work into the history of alternative artistic chroniclers. Both erotic and horrific, his art stands as some of the bravest expressions to come from the inner mind of an artist.
Born in Katowice, Poland in 1902; Bellmer began his artistic career in Berlin under the tutorship of George Grosz. Grosz himself specialized in social commentary that never shied away from representing the people as visually disgusting and viscerally ill. The common view that these two artists shared of representing humanity as grotesqueries, was unwelcome is late 30’s Germany. The Nazi’s had their own idea of what was acceptable as art and Bellmer was labeled a degenerate. Bellmer did have some admirers at the time, the Surrealists that worked and played in gay Paris loved his work. The deformed torsos and sexually confrontational work harkened to the Surrealists, whose own work dealt with psychology. With a massive series of disturbing photographs of life-sized handmade dolls (poupees), Bellmer fled to France. He was detained in a detention camp by the French authorities until 1940. Destitute before making his way to France, he was even more impoverished as he shuffled out of prison. Disowned by his homeland and treated as a war criminal in France, his career seemed dead. Encouragingly, Bellmer was hired by the French erotic writer, George Bataille, to create prints for the book, Historire de l’oeil . Bellmer’s images of decaying, diseased bodies and entwined limbs lent themselves well to Batailles’ writings. This relationship was extremely fruitful for both, and Bellmer continued producing prints for numerous editions of books including, De Sade’s Petit Traite de Morale. Empty stomach behind him, Bellmer created numerous photographs and prints that showcased his disturbing bend towards physicality and eroticism.
Bellmer died in Paris in 1972, respected by a few, unknown to most. While his subject matter upset and disgusted the timid; history has embraced Bellmer as a visionary of horrific images and deeply personal eroticism. His work has been gaining respect and tomes detailing his work are trickling into popular culture. A unique talent, Bellmer’s work confronts the viewer head-on, making some observers very uncomfortable, but those that can stomach it are entranced by the skill and bravery displayed.
One of Bellmer’s drawing for Batailles’ Story of the Eye 1950, showcases his obsessive sense of detail, and his penchant for the disturbing. With disdain for organized religion and a depiction of swine and sex, this work stands as one of his more accessible pieces. The translucent body of the “takee” displays Bellmer’s obsession with the visceral insides of life. Indicative of much of his work, this view through the skin presents itself as sickly fleshy in some of his more extreme works. A skull stares blankly, while being anally humiliated by a pig-headed sodomizer. Standing on the pig’s shoulder’s, with ankles that expose muscle and sinew, a woman “christens” the act with golden illumination. Bellmer’s flowing line work contrasts the necrophilia, warm showers and prickly fuckers to create a work of disturbing beauty. This piece stands as a primer to the more extreme of his work and just scratches the surface of the depravity and artistic insanity that he treats the brave to.
Hans Bellmer’s work resonates in the under currents of subculture and has influenced the likes of H.R. Giger and Chris Marrs. Books detailing the twisted visions of this artist are few but The Anatomy of Anxiety by Sue Taylor covers his photos and prints remarkably, while taking a psychoanalytical approach to his work. Uncover his art in Surrealist anthologies and on the net, a strange visionary worth discovering and well worth the hunt. You may even realize that you’re not the only one that is intrigued by diseased zombie-like nymphs awoken from the hidden recesses of your subconscious.
A few weeks ago on a winter afternoon I was walking down Donald St, from City Place towards Broadway. Just ahead of me I saw a “street person” standing on the sidewalk. Outwardly he was a typical stereotype pan handler: a tall thin man, wearing a wrinkled old winter coat, dirty jeans, long greasy hair, and grey scraggly beard. He had some sheets of paper in his hands. As I approached I prepared myself to be solicited for change or a smoke, which is a frequent occurrence in this area of downtown. Surprisingly, he reached out and handed me a sheet of paper and said “Jesus loves you.” I accepted the paper and said “That’s nice of him” and kept walking (usually a good policy Downtown.) I folded the paper & put it in my pocket to examine later out of curiosity.
At home I discovered the sheet of paper to be a piece of artwork, with pencil drawings and text. It was an original piece, not a photocopy, making me realize that each sheet of paper was an individual work of art. The animals were drawn in a simple, childlike style; the text a naïve yet seemingly sincere blessing (complete with misspellings). This is Art, no less profound than some you will see featured in the galleries of the Exchange District, an expression of human creativity and intellect. It’s the Art of ordinary people who overcome the boredom of their jobs or the ennui of everyday life by creating doodles, graffiti or poems that sometimes form an object of aesthetic value. Sometimes they deserve to be shared.
I’ve encountered many religious proselytizers and would-be prophets haunting the streets of Downtown, some merely mumbling to themselves, others aggressively warning me to repent. I usually respond to them with indifference or contempt. However, regardless of its religious subtext, I appreciated the gesture of this one man, sharing his art to strangers of the street and asking for nothing in return. I wonder how many people ignored him, how many accepted his gift, and how many treated his art with disrespect. I never saw “Street Jesus” again.
Thank Respondent and Terminate
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