January 2014

January 2014 solo show at Bau-Xi Photo.

B A U – X I   P H O T O
324 DUNDAS ST WEST
TORONTO, ONTARIO, M5T 1G5
TEL: 416 977 0400
EMAIL: INFO@BAU-XIPHOTO.COM

January 11, 2014 – January 25, 2014
Opening Reception, Saturday January 11, 2-4 PMVacant Retail – Concorde & Kennedy, Montreal

Montreal fascinates me. In 2014 I plan an extended trip to wander and explore. In December of 2013 I went on a short overnight trip and even in that limited time I stumbled on things I was drawn to.

Vacant Retail – Concord & Kennedy, Montreal struck me for the odd window treatment on the back wall of the space that effectively transforms a banal view of an ally, into a glimpse of Birch forest. I Street Viewed this spot in Google Maps and before it was empty it was a hardwood flooring business. The flooring here is beautiful but the pessimist in me finds the window treatment/marketing approach rather ironic. Clearly the owners are illustrating the natural forest setting in the back of store in an attempt to suggest to the consumer they would take home a bit of nature with their purchase. In truth a bit of nature was destroyed to create their flooring. I find this marketing approach similar to car companies advertising SUVs by showing them scaling mountains and crossing beautiful streams. Although my house is made of wood, we have a lot of wood furniture and I buy wood products I’m very conscious of how we exploit our environment. I’m not super hard-core but I do feel that so much of our economy is driven by “natural resources” and we are quickly depleting our inheritance of these commodities in an irresponsible way to gain our Canadian economic advantage. It’s insane that we keep doing this. Future generations will look at us and shake their heads.

I find unassuming interiors interesting. There’s a mystery to vacant spaces. I like to imagine narratives for them. I also like to think about the past and future life of a spot as well as the people that have worked or been in a particular location. I have this weird theory that everyone who’s ever been in place and every action that’s ever been perpetrated there resonates to some degree within the space forever. This is a total fabricated, personal, pseudo-science. This resonance I feel for spaces is not supernatural or mystic but imaginative and based upon a rudimentary high school science education and a lifetime of watching films and television.

This shot is taken from outside the space, through the glass window.Latter-Day Saints – Broadview, Toronto

My camera is with me everyday, everywhere I go. It sits in my bag unused most of the time, but it’s there. I also frequently take transit. In the winter I purchase a Metro Pass and I can get off and on the bus whenever I want. It’s very conducive to exploring. I’m often on the 100 Bus, north from Broadview Station to the DVP and Eglington area. I’ve taken that route for at least ten years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Broadview is perhaps the most unassuming building you could imagine. One day while sitting on the bus I looked out the window and noticed for the 100th time a large satellite dish that was plunked in the middle of a vacant parking lot. The next day I got off the bus to take pictures. I tried very hard to capture what it was about the dish that made me think, but nothing worked. Just as I had given up, I casually looked through the window of the actual building on the site and discovered this wonderful foyer. I think this is the area just outside the worship area for the church. I shot this—like so many of my other photos over the years—through the glass widow, using available light. I wasn’t inside the space.

This is a completely functional hall. There is however something odd about the haphazardly placed, institutional furniture. The portrait of Christ is unsettling as well. I’m not quite sure why it’s been hung so far up on the wall.  Maybe the draw for me here is that this is a place of worship but unlike other Christian churches it’s remarkably understated. It lacks the typical ostentatiousness of most organized religious buildings. The floor tile is just so 80s.

It’s a large building and I imagine it only gets used on Sundays but I’ve never seen a car in the parking lot and the windows were pretty grimy. Maybe the Mormons have moved onto better real estate and this place isn’t even used anymore. I can see the church selling the place and moving out of town. I also imagine the unimaginative condos that will take this building’s place.Wire Wall – Danforth West of Pape, Toronto

I’ve shot this wall for years and it wasn’t until November of 2013 that I captured it in a way that reflected how I see it most of the time. This is close to a perfect photograph for me. I doubt it’s perfect for anyone else, and I don’t really know the exact reasons why it’s so special to me personally, but it resonates.

I think I like it so much because of the confluence of weird colours, shapes, and arbitrary line. It’s a little organic and a little messed up. The wall is the western most point of a strip of retail just east of The Holy Name Parish Church on the Danforth just west of Pape Station. The wires coming out of the wall are so old school. I can’t believe their legal. Close up they look like rope. I’ve seriously looked at this wall for years and found something neat about it. There’s a Starbucks just a little west of this that I frequent. In the summer I get espresso and sit on the steps of the church and look into this little courtyard that’s not used by anyone for anything other than maybe storage and stare at this wall.

After I took this I re-visited the site a few days later and the wires were arranged differently. My guess is that this was probably a result of the wind. I shot it again but the composition was marred by the new wire configuration. Perhaps the image above captures the wall at the most perfect point in time for me. Often the reward for consistently and repetitively looking at the same thing over and over again is that after a while it often surprises you by telling you how to look at it.

How many people pass by this wall everyday without ever looking at it? Why would you look at this wall? I think I have a healthy fascination for found art. I’m not looking for beauty, but for interest. I’m not motivated to make beautiful things, I’d like to make thoughtful things that have an interesting aesthetic sense. I hope people realise when they look at my work that I truly find my subject matter exciting and engaging, even if that excitement comes very slowly and might be slightly melancholy.Coca-Cola Entrance – Overlea, Toronto

Coca-Cola “was” on my way to work at 42 Overlea. This is the second time in 2013 that I’ve dragged myself off the bus to shoot the building. I’ve always admired the facade. It was built in a time period that I’m connected to. When I started wandering around on this particular visit I discovered that the entire place has been recently vacated, left empty, sold and is slated to be demolished and replaced with a Costco. For now however this network of buildings is directly across from the East York Town Centre.

There’s nothing spectacular about the 50′s era office, but in this quiet, inactive state I really like it. This particular shot is of the front entrance.The colour of the tiles and columns echo the carmel aspects of the signature Coke drink. The old school intercom box is a good indication that at the time this building was in service it was fairly security conscious. I’m sure Coca-Cola is a still a thriving big-business, rotting the teeth and stomachs of high school kids and helping the nation become more obese everyday. I can’t even drink the stuff anymore unless I severely water it down with soda. I use to have it for breakfast when I was a teenager.

I’m slightly bemused that I’m drawn to these type of places day after day. They always have something of an institutional feel about them that’s sort of creepy.

I went by the offices and factory a few weeks after this photograph was taken and the entire complex is now surrounded by a temporary fence signalling that the demolition will soon begin. I would really like to get in this place now and shoot all the empty rooms and offices before they’re gone. How the heck I would arrange that I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t know where to start.

As of January 2nd the factory building has started to come down.Vacant Retail – Yonge & Davisville, Toronto

This business has closed and the entire block at this intersection has sold to make way for condos. This is just north of the north east corner of Yonge and Davisville. The building is on the corner of Yonge and Millwood. Just south of this place is another huge empty retail place that was an LCBO. I find it strange that any LCBO in this neighbourhood would close.

There is a lot of mauve here. The space also feels like a financial institution on the exterior. It’s very TD-Canada Trust looking. It’s also been empty for a very long time. The Google Street View image doesn’t give anything away, but you can definitely see it was a bank at one time from those images. There’s a night deposit door at the back of the building.

These shots are about the past. For me they’re a remembrance of what a space was, as well they serve as a sort of tribute to that past because they document unremarkable places before they cease to exist. I’m drawn to the grid pattern of interior space that’s delineated by wall and ceiling. I’m also interested in the idea of stasis. That odd purgatory that buildings exist in after they’ve been used and before they are transformed into something else. There’s a nostalgia here along with a little bit of ghost hunting.

It’s also about my process. I shot this same interior five or six years ago and got nothing out of it that I liked. I don’t even remember if those images depicted the same interior. My eye has changed and my aesthetic has definitely changed. I’m interested in different things now. It’s neat to think this place has been visited by me at different times in it’s vacancy.South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto

South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto is a photograph of the pseudo-park land inside one of the four highway cloverleafs at DVP and Eglington. It could be of any cloverleaf in any city. I love the colours and the weird pastoral nature of these images. For the last few years I’ve thought about locations like this and how they exist in every culture all over the world. I think about the inexhaustible subject matter. It’s park land where nobody ever goes. I imagine these spots as my own private places and wander around in the knee high grass quite frequently.

The word oasis comes to mind. These spots are teaming with wildlife and with the exception of the outermost edges are completely devoid of people and garbage. I think that’s just because nobody ever thinks of them as public space. Maybe you’re not even allowed to be inside these area, but it certainly doesn’t say that anywhere.

If you look closely in the top left hand side of the frame you can see an apartment building poking through the leaves of the Russian Olive. It’s a long way away from the clover leaf but it’s still present in this shot. If I remember correctly these areas are frequently planted with Russian Olives because they are extremely hearty and resistant to salt damage.

The majority of my work is absent of people but almost always indicative of the hand of mankind. There may be nobody in the frame, but there was, and the empty spaces echo and are tied directly to that humanity. I feel however that there’s always someone present. I may not be in the actual photograph but I’m pressing the shutter release and although I’m out of the frame, I’m there. I’m there in every photograph I take.Door Frames – Laird, Toronto

On Laird there has been a lot of development to service the suburban/urban area that makes up Leaside and Overlea. I despise  most of this as bad development. But I’m spoiled by my Dundas West neighbourhood. This whole strip is quickly turning into one parking lot after another, offering nothing but generic products and services of mediocre quality for a community of convenience. I don’t live in this are though and maybe that’s a pessimists view of things. I’m sure 90% of the residents love this stuff. It’s just not for me.

Before the transition happens completely the west side of Overlea has remained relatively untouched. It’s still home to lots of businesses that focus on the automobile, and some weird old school looking light-industrial. The space shown here was attached to an old school indoor carwash wash.

The simple, virtually black & white look that the space has and it’s slightly tired and imperfect construction are interesting. I also like the odd placement of the door and the window frame leaning against the side-wall. These object contrast wonderfully with the whiteness that surrounds them. I’m not quite sure why, but I find this image very mysterious and somewhat otherworldly. To me it’s as if the frames are placed against the wall for some specific unknown and somewhat fantastical purpose rather than simply placed there for storage.

Time Travel.Cinder Wall – James North, Hamilton

I grew up in Burlington and visited my Grandmother in Hamilton every weekend for a couple of years when I was pre-teen. I worked in Hamilton in my late-teens as an actor. I ended up living in the city for most of my 20s. I like the Hamilton, I’m comfortable in the city.

They must show movies on this wall in the summer. It’s simply perfect for that purpose. I imagine a film of the wall itself shot with a hand held camera and projected in such a way that every now and then the film and the blocks line up, but most of the time it would simply make the surface of the wall seem unstable.Empty Gallery – Granville South of 14th, Vancouver

While in British Columbia —for the opening of my summer show at Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville in Vancouver—I wandered around a bit during breaks from sitting in the gallery and found this place. It was two doors south of Bau-Xi. At first I thought maybe it had gone out of business but I looked it up on the all powerful internet and determined The Winsor Gallery simply moved to 258 East First Avenue. They left this behind for me.

One of the first Toronto photographs I printed and framed was of an empty gallery space on Queen West near Roncesvalles. In the ten years or so since then I’ve shot other empty gallery spaces but none have been quite as wonderful as this one. It’s so very simple and so spectacularly lit by the sun filtering in from behind me as I shot thorough the glass of the front door. I picture these images as a series somewhere down the line even if I only currently have three or four images I like.

These are about the nature of gallery space, the neighbourhoods they are in and the narrative that can be imagined by observing the empty space. The first space I shot like this was a springboard for dreaming about showing and it had a great deal to do with me getting my first show. This shot of Granville makes me think of the possibilities for the space, not just as a gallery for traditional forms of art but as a space for performance or something. I’d love to create a film and show it on this “screen” just to see the odd passerby get sucked into watching.

I think about an old desk with piles of faded paper and an old man moving things around.Stairs – Ferrand, Toronto

The office tower beside the one that I work in got some new concrete steps in October. I stumbled upon the old old demolished steps when I was out wandering around looking for things to photograph. We have a common parking lot and it’s huge. This was in a back corner. I found this pile of old steps funny.Bentley – Dupont West of Christie, Toronto

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely.

I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil, arrogance, superiority, embarrassing aspects of masculinity, immaturity, status and power.

All of the images for the January show were shot in 2013. I hand hold a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 17-35 mm L series lens. All are shot with available light and the majority are things I pass by ever day, but for this series there are photographs of Vancouver, Montreal and Hamilton that were taken while visiting. It makes me think it would be nice to do residences in other cities and over the course of a month shoot those cities.

The digital files from the Canon full frame camera are then processed in photoshop where typically I apply a small “S’ shaped curve, increase the exposure slightly and sharpen. I’ll also take that time to remove any dust spots that may be on the camera sensor. I also find the Canon sensor slightly less vivid than actual life and saturate each image slightly to capture what I saw.

Everything is printed 36″ x 36″ at Toronto Image Works on their Bulk Printer, then mounted on Archival Gator Board at AGS here in the city and final framed by Kyle at Bau-Xi Photo.

I have never been inside the six interior locations. For these shots I very roughly clean the glass of the door or window I’m shooting through, press my lens against the glass and cover the area of the window around the lens with a large cloth and shoot. Typically these are shot using slow shutter speeds and mid range apertures and I never really move my camera off 200 ISO. The window acts like a tripod to steady the camera. In these shots the grain noise can frequently be seen in the images because the lighting tends to be very subdued, and the shutter speeds so long.

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Hamilton

Hamilton was not what I expected. I visited the downtown on Sunday morning from about 7:30 till 10:00 a.m. I think it will take me a little while to get use to it again. The last time I spent any serious time there was about 20 years ago. Maybe 25.

I grew up there. In truth I grew up in Burlington, but I spent a lot of time in Hamilton. My grandmother lived there when I was a kid so I’d take the bus in every Saturday morning to visit her and walk the downtown. That was pre Jackson Square time.

When I got older I lived there for about 7 maybe 10 years. I worked on the strip I use to hang out on when I was a kid at a place called Book Villa that sold porn and had a baseball bat for security behind the counter. It was 24 hours. It’s no longer there. I worked at the AGH as a security guard, the McMaster Art Gallery before it was moved into it’s present location, I did construction work and I worked at HMV. I lived in a warehouse in the steel manufacturing area of town and drove my motorcycle into the building’s elevator and down the hallway into my unheated room.

The last time I was living there I had a place in Hess Village and commuted to Toronto. It’s where I started taking pictures.

James Street North is transforming. The artistic community has sort of taken over which is very sweet. It resembles the Parkdale strip of Queen. The streets are clean and there’s weirdly no Graffiti. I find that sort of suspect in itself. Either there are a lot more shelters, and Community Centres than I ever remember and way more people that rely on them, or I remember poorly. I have a sneaking suspicion that as Toronto gets more unaffordable and gentrified the less fortunate get pushed somewhere and Hamilton’s downtown core seems to be where they’ve ended up. Indeed the central area around where all the buses meet is teaming with people on a Sunday morning, but they just seem to be walking around waiting for stuff to open. It’s unsettling.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame is still there, and I still love the building. It’s on the right hand side of the frame above. It’s got to be 50 years old and it is definitely still a cool mod building. The concrete mass that surrounds it on the two sides above is a court house of some sort. Directly behind me as I take this shot is Hamilton City Hall which is another beautiful building. Below is the wall and vacant lot beside a spectacular block of restoration work called the Lister Block. I’ve thought about this image a lot since I took it. Today I thought it would be cool to revisit this location with a glass end table and vase of finely arranged flowers. I could place them in the middle of the frame and re shoot. That thought got expanded and I found myself elaborate floral arrangements that I could drop into inaccessible and garbage strewn corners of the city and then photographing them. I Could come back to re shoot them as they wilted or became unkempt. If only I was a man of unlimited income. I’d quit the day job and start doing stuff like that.

Just a 1/2 block away from the Lister Block is the side of a building that had a nice reflection on it. I think it’s the glass from a neighboring structure. I’m standing in a very small grass parkette between the two buildings. I like the totemic nature of the reflection and the underlying colour schema of the wall is pretty cool.

Finally the wall below was in the same block as the other images. It really sums a lot of Hamilton up for me. It’s unpretentious and practical with a solid utilitarian charm but a bit rough.

After thinking about it Hamilton was impeccably clean. It seems to be prospering with the exception of around the Bus Terminal area — which is really just part of the John Street strip. I imagine if I was to go to downtown Toronto and hang around the bus terminal on a Sunday morning it would be pretty sketchy too. Hamilton’s core may be actually worse than Toronto’s because this city is completely unaffordable and Burlington and Oakville are just to damn boring. I think I’ll be happy to go back and explore some more. Hopefully I can make it out to Burlington Street and areas of the more industrial sections of town. I bet Stoney Creek is still pretty dodgy.

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The Clock

This was the original thought for the piece I ended up performing last fall in Hamilton.

The Task but using 1 pallet of blocks in a square space that has some access for filming from
directly above.

Place the pallet of block in the in the north center quadrant which will represent 12 o’clock. Move the pallet 12 times over the 12 hour period so that the finished pallets end up in positions representing the hours of a clock.

This task is completed when the pallet is returned to it’s original position at 12 o’clock 12 hours later.

Film onto a computer hard drive so the camera can be suspended and continuously film. Use larger block than Nuit Blanche to manage the hour between hours.

Do this on an actual stage and the audience can sit and observe like the most boring play in the world. Lighting and music included, it would be very cool if there was a trap door I could use as the escape route to washroom and eating. Maybe in the center of the stage?

Only requires 1 full pallet of bricks and an extra pallet to act as the transfer pallet.

Find a theatre that doesn’t have anything going on for Nuit Blanche. Maybe ask the Nuit Folks. The more elaborate the venue the better.

By selling the piece as a wall clock as a large edition. Make the cost of those pieces simply the cost of the drive required to hold/run the film.

I executed a version of this for the 2011 Hamilton Supercrawl. It was weird being in the thick of things, and I would have preferred to be arthritis free, but all in all I think the people enjoyed either discussing the piece or razzing me about it. I think the curatorial staff was pleased as well.

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