2013 was a tumultuous year for Calgary and the arts. With the flood raining its parade on the city’s most active arts months, patrons and artists had to be extra vigilant to keep the art scene from going down the drain. Wow, terrible analogy. But even though 2013 saw a lot of destruction, the flood ended up being a catalyst for resilience and community building. Therefore, much creativity was exhibited this year and I was fortunate enough to attend the functions below which are my top 10 picks for 2013 (in chronological order):
1. NAKED IN THE HOUSE (March)-
I was surrounded by Calgary’s glitterati at this smarmy Exposure Photo Festival event at the Art Gallery of Calgary. The premise of this exhibit was that 12 local photographers were given a polaroid camera and one pack of film and they had half and hour to photograph a nude model in a location they know very little about. The results and the variety within those results were stunning. I’m excited to see what next year brings.
2. WRECK CITY (April)- I have been quoted to say that wreck house is the best public art project I have ever seen. A bombastic statement, but it was the concept behind this multi-artist, multi-space art installation that worked to provoke that statement. In the early months of 2013, 9 Sunnyside homes were scheduled for demolition. A call-to-artists went out to use the empty houses as an installation space until demolition. And thus Wreck City was born. See my April post for more details.
3. SPLENDID ISOLATION (January-April)- Hands down, my favourite gallery in Calgary is Esker Foundation. Not only is this an amazing, modern space with stunning views of Inglewood and the river valley, Esker gets in eclectic work from all around the world. Though it was difficult to choose a favourite amongst this year’s exhibitions, I managed to select Splendid Isolation as most memorable. What struck me about the photographs by Alberta-based artists Olga Chagaoutdinova, Miruna Dragan, Orest Semchishen and George Webber is that so much can be said through a single portrait or scene. The photo below by Olga Chagaoutdinova is a glimpse of the caliber of works that were part of the exhibit. Chagaoutdinova transforms what seems to be an ordinary pioneer kitchen into a setting where a unique story can take place.
4. GORILLA ART HOUSE (Year round)-
It was a joyful moment when I discovered this local gem. Sadly, the soon-to-be-debunked public art studio, Gorilla House, will become a sushi chain so I was glad that I could enjoy it in its last year in production. I only attended a few Wednesdays’art auctions and am now the proud owner of Lane Shordee painting. For more details, see June’s post.
5. PAPER GIRL (August)- “The art of giving art.” I missed being a bike messenger this year but am hoping to join next season’s delivery. Papergirl collects 2d art throughout the year from artists all around the world, wraps it, and one day a year distributes it for free to people around the city on bicycles. It was so wonderful to see the throngs of cyclists handing out unexpected packages to curious, and often timid, passers-by. I was a lucky recipient of a beautiful black-and-white rose print. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring!
6. BEAKERHEAD FESTIVAL (September)-
Sadly, I only went to one event that was part of Beakerhead this year. Beakerhead is this amazing festival that combines the arts and sciences. Apparently, that fusion creates an amazing marriage of brilliance. Adjectives galore. I ended up going to Telus Spark’s Adult’s Only night. The new science centre is spacious, bright, and filled with wonder and it was really fun to be a kid again. I got to paint sans light with glow-in-the dark paint, I made a necklace with my own DNA in it, and I got to make art from e-coli bacteria. It’s too bad I didn’t get to check out Sustainaval, a midway completely run on bio-diesel and other renewable resources, but there’s always next year.
7. JUNKYARD/PARADISE (October)- Fluid Festival is Calgary’s movement festival which often includes modern dance performances and theatrics. This year I saw Junkyard/Paradise, a Melanie Demers performance piece which was funny and disturbing. Liaising with other themes that are prevalent in other works presented at Theatre Junction Grand, Junkyard/Paradise toyed with notions of patriarchy, gluttony, sex, violence, and loss of identity. A striking scene was when one of the performers removed his prosthetic legs and proceeded to bomb-attack his own body with canned Roma tomatoes. It was comical and deeply disturbing at the same time.
8. HONEN’S BISON NOIR (October)- Thanks to the highly informative FFWD mailing list I found out about this priceless event. Having long been traumatized by the eerie soundtrack to Peter and the Wolf, grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, Gabriel Prokofiev came to town with his grandfather’s talents and his own contemporary sound. This is not easy-listening Schubert. The smouldering Prokofiev plays with percussion in an unexpected manned much like his influence, John Cage. He brought some skilled gals with him as well, pianist Katherine Chi and Toronto’s own Shauna Rolston on the cello. This event, held at the ambiant Local 522, felt very urban and moderne. I’m looking forward to June when Honen puts on John Cage Revisited.
9. BEETHOVEN ADN SHOSTAKOVITCH WITH JONATHAN BISS (November)
Jonathan Biss is a globally revered pianist who is well-rehearsed in Beethoven. Concert pianists are always enjoyable to watch. They have such focus that their body language often doesn’t translate into the music which they are playing. It’s and interesting construct we have created, watching a musician play music. What struck me most about this concert with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra was Shostakovitch’s 5th symphony. Listening while reading the program I disovered that, at the beginning of his career, Shostakovitch was a favourite of Stalind and therefore much of his early music is quite patriotic and militant. Shostakovitch’s progressive sound put him in Stalin’s bad boods at some point and his 5th symphony is the musical saga of Russia’s turbulent history. A Russian historian depict’s Shostakovitch’s perception of Russia’s governments as, ” a barbarian artist with a sleepy brush [who] blackens over a picture of genius, slapping over it senselessly his own lawless picture.” Poignant.
10. CHRISTMAS IN INGLEWOOD (November)- This event can be summed up in one word: joyful. Christmas in Inglewood was a new concept to me and it basically means this, all of the stores in Inglewood decide to keep their stores open until 9:00pm during weeks leading up to Christmas. Opening night of this means big time hustle and bustle from shop to shop, perusing the wares but also sampling the snacks and free flowing wine. Nothing opens the purse strings more than a little vino flowing through the veins, and these shopkeepers are well aware of that. All in all, Christmas in Inglewood is a lovely way to welcome the yule-tide season.
There have been many conversations over the past year whether Calgary can, in fact consider itself as a world class city. Many say that it’s changing and growing in that direction all the time. I experienced some amazing cultural events that felt momentous and current. And if we can pull that off in a year that tops Environment Canada’s annual weather stories then I look even more forward to what a stable year can bring.