Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy with Lizzo, Dec. 21, 2019 (NBC)
If you’ve ever revisited your old school and roamed the halls, feeling the sudden diminutive scale of the place, recognizing the classrooms in function but their form completely altered, new desks in new configurations, different children’s drawings tacked to the walls, the same vague, institutional smell of floor polish and abandoned sandwiches fermenting in lockers, but seeing only unfamiliar little faces… Or if you’ve gone back to your childhood house, knocked on the door and asked the new residents if you could just take a quick look around, only to find that the carpet has been replaced with hardwood floors, and they’ve remodeled and renovated in an open concept, the door jamb against which everyone’s height was measured in ascending pencil strokes is long gone, your bedroom is now an office with a 10-year-old Apple computer on an Ikea desk… Or if you’ve ever encountered a former lover, received an email out-of-the-blue from someone who once cared for you, and for whom you cared for deeply, but their face is sunken and flushed now, crow’s feet cracking at the corners of their eyes and creases at their temples when they force a conciliatory smile, then you know that you can’t go home again.
Imagine Van Gogh, Arsenal Contemporary Art, Jan. 5, 2020
After waiting in a crawling gooseneck line-up for nearly 20 minutes, I decided to leave. I had bought an advance ticket and arrived on time. But I didn’t need to see the Van Gogh screensaver badly enough to waste an otherwise fine afternoon wading through throngs of tourists, whining ankle-biters, mes tantes de Mascouche, the barely interested.
A rift in the Griffintown contemporary art scene has only grown wider since the neighbourhood unrepentantly began gentrifying around 2010. Arsenal, by far the largest of the quartier’s newish galleries, started charging admission fees a few years ago, making it even more prohibitive to the area’s residents, most of whom were, before then, working class, middle income folks. Arsenal held a lavish F1 gala right in the middle of the 2012 Maple Spring, with rows of black-and-whites at the ready on Georges-Vanier to suppress any potential protests from the locals, and until last year hosted the C2M conference, Montreal’s premiere hyper-capitalist networking event. Richard Branson’s turf.
Meanwhile, up the stairs from Arsenal, the Division Gallery has consistently programmed excellent shows by interesting contemporary artists including Wanda Koop, Douglas Coupland and Nicolas Baier, to name just a few. But these exhibitions seldom see more than a handful of daily visitors. At the end of 2019, neighbouring Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, which championed the likes of Jon Rafman, Jane Corrigan and Jessica Eaton, announced it would vacate its cozy rue Payette locale and merge with the Parisian Laundry on St-Antoine. Although Galerie AE wasn’t officially evicted, all the adjacent new condo developments effectively squeezed it out. Bradley Ertaskiran, as the new amalgam will be known, is the gallery to watch for the ‘20s. ’
“Streaming has killed the mainstream: the decade that broke popular culture.” Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, Dec. 28, 2019
Lamenting the loss of a shared sense of temporality over the past decade, Reynolds writes:
The reason that it feels like nothing happened in the 2010s is that too much happened. Each cultural landmark got instantly effaced by the onrush of the next, and the next. This memory-erosion effect is one reason why it feels like something’s gone awry with our sense of time. While the clock and the calendar continue to plod forward in their steadfast and remorseless way, what you could call ‘culture-time’ feels like it’s become unmoored and meandering.
Significance has relocated from the overt or even covert messages of individual cultural artifacts and onto their movement and flow amidst streams of simultaneous multi-mediation. We take the temperature of culture now not by analyzing discrete texts or even oeuvres but rather by scanning cycles, circulatory patterns, trajectories, as one might read the matrix of movie lore.
It is far simpler to direct history forward, and to rewritehistory’s past, when we no longer have a shared conception of history, when historicity itself is suspect. Counterfeit history.
Control is thus reasserted in an era of decentralization precisely because of the centre’s void, the apparent lack of principal command, of Grand Narrative. Monoculture’s destruction was post-modernity’s project, the subject’s liberation to pursue the capitalist ideal of complete individuation free from space and time. The Real, tailored just for you, forever.
It is impossible for any socialist project to move toward utopia if there is no longer any common consensus of what constitutes utopia, or socialism, when the meme-making sector of the left cynically accepts the new normality of encroaching war and apocalypse in exchange for social media likes, and living space and time are loosed from their anchorages because we spend more and more time disconnected, time-travelling back and forth in solitary space, unaware, distracted, the public’s deterioration and our lived experience of it obscured by the cloud.
A Rainy Day in New York, Dir. Woody Allen (Gravier Productions et al.)
The trademark Woody Allen dialogue tumbling out of Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning’s mouths is analogous somehow to Robert De Niro’s de-aged face composited onto his 76-year-old frame. They’re opposing forces moving at different rhythms, variable speeds. Netflix has indicated that they may experiment with a feature allowing subscribers to view movies at 1.5x speed, a capability that YouTube and software like VLC have already offered for a few years. A Rainy Day in New York is Woody Allen at 1.5x speed; it’s the most expedient he’s ever been as a filmmaker. Which is good. As they say of pace in comedy, it’s best to pick it up.
FRONTERA, Animals of Distinction with Fly Pan Am, Théâtre Maisonneuve, Dec. 4, 2019
The troupe of lithe and lissom dancers alternately start, stop, jerk, jolt, turn back and in upon themselves, hurl their bodies across the stage, pull one another overtop a ragged human chain made up of outstretched arms. The austere, white spotlighting indicates searchlights, then prison bars, then passport and facial recognition scanners. All the while Fly Pan Am — the band’s name itself an allusion to the myth of migration and its broken promises — keep heavy time in the shadows. Here, it is difficult to miss an urgent and powerful message: fuck borders. ■