All posts by Iconochasm

“Where Did You Go” by Red Fox Ryder

“When Red Fox Ryder first approached me to make a music video, I don’t think he knew my grand ambitions with film making,” says  Director Ben Dextraze when asked about his first music video. One that he also wrote, and produced with very little money. 

“Being that I come from a background of journalism and documentary, I always found that having more is better — but in the purist world of cinema, shooting cans and cans of footage might get you in trouble” Dextraze admits.

“Especially if you don’t have the money (or time) to pull it off.”

The “run and gun” style video that he derived from Ryder’s song wasn’t exactly what the artist had in mind. The script called for a lot of location work in downtown Vancouver; magic realism that veers off into a dreamlike drug inducing love-coma, and it called for a lot of work to be able to pull it off. Multiple timeframes and states of consciousness coalesce creating a lovely story from the videos central question: “Where Did You Go?”

The story follows a homeless man searching for a young, beautiful woman — who seemingly haunts him.  In fact, the story centers on a romance that ended in heartbreak for the man — one that keeps him living a deranged life that’s horrible to think of, yet for many people in the lower East Side of Vancouver it’s a sad reality. Drugs as a substitution for love, or a relief to the grief of loss and dejection. 

Addiction, and mental problems — it’s a vicious cycle that people face in their lives–some everyday, others only at different points in their life; consider yourself lucky if you never face it at all. 

“I had a lot of friends growing up who struggled with addiction,” Dextraze says. “Some of us got out alive, some of us didn’t — but just like falling in love, drugs and alcohol can take a tragic toll on someone’s life.”

For Dextraze this video becomes a representation of an environment urbanites know well, but extends it to a place that asks “what if”. What if you drank and caused the death of your beloved? Were you to blame, or maybe they blamed you for it because of drug or alcohol use — either way it asks the audience what would happen if they got caught in a spiral dive of their own making while intoxicated. 

“It can happen,” Dextraze says. “I wanted to highlight that each of us have signed up into a social contract (whether we like it or not), and if we break that contract…”

For Dextraze, he hopes this video touches something in his audience that raises their level of empathy for those struggling with addiction and mental heath issues — whether one comes before the other or not. Having the notion that it could happen to you too might make people think twice about their social behaviors, including how they treat the people they see on the street — 

“Someone you see [homeless] on the street probably has somebody asking ‘Where did you go?” 

 

The Art of Craft – Episode 1 – It Begins

The Art of Craft
The Art of Craft, written by Ben Dextraze  ben@iconochasm

There’s something changing in British Columbia. At the foot of the Coast and Cascade mountains are a people whose work built a province, and with it, the sprawling city of Vancouver. Where it’s business and pleasure as usual — or is it? If you haven’t noticed, there’s been an added uprising of festive celebrations. Why, you ask?Beer. And lots of it.

As beer made its way through the ages, its been revered as holy and condemned as demonic. For some its a necessary evil, while morally speaking, it’s not just any drink. But whether you like it or not, some are saying we’re now in the midst of a cultural uprising.

“I think you can look at Vancouver as a good case study for the craft beer revolution – you can look at several different factors that I think contributed to it,” says Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution.

Joe Wiebe

Wiebe wrote his book as part guide, part history, and part critique of the surging craft beer scene in British Columbia. But nowhere has his self-professed ‘revolution’ been felt more in the province than Vancouver.

“In the bigger urban centers we’ve seen a recent boom – Vancouver’s an interesting story,” he says.

In a city like Vancouver, where property value and rent are steadily climbing while income isn’t, starting a brewery can be a very time-consuming and costly affair. Yet something happened in 2013 that helped foster investment and growth in the once-prohibited local trade. The provincial government changed the Liquor Act.

Their changes allowed licensed tasting rooms for vintners, brewers, and distillers – but this was critical for brewers.  Simply because it reduced the problem with overhead for new start-ups. Breweries can now open storefront businesses that sell beer fresh from their tanks, right at the source.

 “This critical mass kept building and when it exploded its amazing the scene that’s developed in just 2-3years.”

Doan’s Craft Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries in the city, starting only in 2015. And its small. Very small. The brewery’s existence is owed to two brothers and a business partner who helped found the company while all three were working together at a local Whole Foods.

Doan's Brewery

“We’re small, one of the smallest in Van, but being small you can tinker more and make 100 different batches of beer a year – and 50 of those can be different,” says co-founder Mike Doan.

But falling in line with the current local trends in craft beer, smaller is better. Home-brewers are transitioning to professional brewing and taking their skills – and even more importantly – their use of flavorful ingredients with them.

“If you go to a big brewery like Molson everything is automated and you can make great, consistent beer – not incredible just consistent,” says Doan.

Mike Doan

But by looking further into the current state of craft beer in BC, a startling history arises as to the reasons why it’s only causing such a stir today. So, what happened?

Stay tuned for more episodes of our documentary-webseries, The Art of Craft.

Hastings Street 1914

A Sound Relationship (The Noise of Silence)

While a varied array of patrons wandered amidst the still-life paintings from European expressionists like Cézanne and Pissaro, music played, dance erupted, and silence permitted the city-sounds outside to take on new meaning in the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). The latest installment of  FUSE entitled ‘The Noise of Silence’ was a mix of old and new: it was unabashedly loud, yet imperfectly quite.

DSC07062
View from the VAG Rotunda during a performance of Michael Red and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa

“Should we be honest about why we came –  or professional,” Troy McNemara questions his friend Ryan Nelson with a devilish smile.

Both McNemara and Nelson are architects who admittedly came to FUSE so they could check out the models. Of buildings. One of the VAG’s current exhibits entitled Material Future hosts a selection of miniature models designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron.

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Patron examining exhibit ‘Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery’

Without any double entendre, the pair of FUSE patrons went on to explain their love of the projections during their evening at the gallery. McNemara and Nelson noted that social media allows visitors to interact and engage with the changing projections of the new exhibition Beyond the Trees: Wallpapers in Dialogue with Emily Carr on the forth floor’s walls.

“It took me by surprise,” McNemara says. “I suppose that’s the next step in visual art exhibition, then it goes out on social media and promotes itself.”

Away from the crowds wandering through the projections, the gallery’s top floor lounge which overlooks downtown became a silent sanctuary. The noise was restricted in the lounge and listening to the city’s score became an exhibition of its own.

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View from the 4th floor lounge of VAG

Meanwhile, just outside the ‘listening lounge’ Kara Nolte and Delphine Leroux from First Dance Vancouver gave willing patrons the chance to quickly learn an impromptu dance, and then perform it for their unsuspecting peers on the first floor of the rotunda.

Delphine Leroux teaching a impromptu dance class @ FUSE
Delphine Leroux teaching a
impromptu dance class @ FUSE

“We love to throw random dance parties at awkward inappropriate locations […] and bring first dance experiences to people” Delphine explains.
“This was the perfect opportunity for that–when you find yourself in a crowd of art lovers, they’re so open to join in and do anything.”

And dance they did. Line-ups formed to learn the choreography, and patrons then happily rushed downstairs with smiles to become part of the night’s celebrations.

Yet, on the foyer of the second floor partially sequestered from the swirling crowds (at a desk up against a wall), James Maxwell was busy at work meeting patrons. After greeting them and getting a sense of their personalities, the composer then spontaneously created a short musical phrase. The music was then passed-off and played nearby on a glockenspiel by musician Katie Rife.

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James Maxwell composes a musical phrase for a FUSE patron

“I think (curator) David Pay wants to get composers more into the public consciousness and show people still compose — it’s not a dead tradition,” Maxwell says.

According to him, the idea for ‘spontaneous compositions’ translated itself into existence from other projects, but led him and his colleague Jocelyn Morlock to improvise compositions for patrons on the spot. Being comparable to a musical palm reading, line-ups formed around the lobby to get a chance for the musical self -encounter. Throughout the evening the compositions echoed in the air–as if someone’s personality was ringing though the gallery.

“Composing is a practise that can happen in silence, but at least symbolically it is music at some level,” Maxwell explains.

Close up of oil painting
Close up of oil painting

With the gallery’s four levels and countless paintings, exhibits, and happening throughout the evening, visitors could also take a break and sip an alcoholic beverage in the FUSE lounge while listening to a DJ’s stylings. Maybe not same level of composition Maxwell had in mind, but nonetheless analogues to a fashionable outing of new ideas, performance, art, music, and culture fusing together.

 

 

Underneath Lab Art Show

According to sculptor Ron Simmer, Vancouver’s art scene is a little lacking in upscale clientele.

“I’m just here for the money, basically,” he says.

“People in Palm Springs buy these things but in Vancouver it’s different because we have a different demographic here.”

Simmer is 73 years old and uncandid about his reasons for attending the LAB ART SHOW—the sculptor has created installations for the Burning Man Project in Nevada, and also enjoyed the cathartic experience of watching them smolder in ashes while a party raged around him. LAB is definitely not Burning Man, but it does try to offer an immersive and captivating experience for its audience.

Body Paint

This was the sixth installment of the multidisciplinary LAB: a series of showcases which started running semi-annually in Vancouver in 2012. Since then the roving exhibit which features local and international artists has changed venues and found space in Yaletown’s Roundhouse. The sold out evening offered much more than just visual art, but also gave audiences and artists alike the chance to network and develop relationships in the community.

“Vancouver had so much art and so much going on, but everything was in niches” says Gloria Bernal, LAB’s founder and organizer.

According to Bernal, after graduating from Vancouver Film School she decided to form a company that would try and unify the arts community in one event. She founded Glitz Entertainment and then began producing the multidisciplinary LAB hoping to make art and artists in the community more accessible and less exclusive.

“[LAB] brings an art gallery to life,” Bernal explains. “We wanted to educate people in that you can come to an art show, buy art, have fun, and not be pretentious.”

LAB features art, but also encourages artists to paint while dancers perform, musicians play, and the audience interacts with each other –and other interactive exhibits.

Still Life

 

Subscura

“It’s not always dance” says Emily Long of Subscura.

A good example of the melding of minds at LAB, Subscura is a troupe of dancers who also feel their work dives into performance art. They can become living statues who interact with their environment and audiences as they slowly make their way to perform choreography on stage.

“I call them scenarios. We create an environment or mood, so it’s not always a stage piece—we could be working in the corner,” says Long.

Long and the other members of the group utilize on their individual backgrounds and training to create their work. So far their accumulative style of performance has been paying off with bookings to appear at Bass Coast, and Shambhala Music Festival in Nelson.

Peter Forde

And then there’s the interactive exhibits which can captivate audiences at LAB. Peter Forde is an Irish born Vancouverite who moved from London for his wife. His insightful art installations draw on technology and seek to engage their audience.

“You can play with it,” Forde says about his exhibit called Post, Post, Post.

A projector set up to display on a wall captures the people who walk by and loops them in a video it creates—which then slowly fades away.

“It’s kind of inspired by Alvin Lucier’s: I am Sitting in a Room. It has to do with visual resonance in the space […] you can make visual sculptors using your own repeating image,” he explains.

poster-index_lab04

With over 800 people in attendance throughout the night, all of the artists from Vancouver and beyond hopefully left a positive impression on their audience. With so much under one roof, you wonder how events such as LAB will impact the growing artistic community in Vancouver.

For more information of the event produced by Glitz Entertainment, please click here.

 

 

World Wandering in Moscow, Russia

 

Check out our first episode of Street Level to get a small glimpse at what Russia currently has to offer its visitors.

Moscow, Russia has a past that spans half the world and over a thousand years. But with the current drop in the value of the Russian Ruble, what was considered one of the worlds most expensive cities could finally be in your budget (if the cost of flying  doesn’t make you wince).

For me, traveling there was a concern. I was uneasy about a country and people I knew little about — outside of history books, television dashboard cameras, and movies like James Bond. I guess these did well for establishing stereotypes in us ‘Westerners’ but I guess that’s what Cali-fornication does to a degree. But once in Moscow my fears subsided as my experiences grew — I met people and explored the main areas and outlying districts of Russia’s capital city.

The city is a contradiction of sorts, a place of beauty and decay where an old political ideology and way of life has been left asunder to a new form of capitalism (to put it lightly). Of course nothing happened during my trip to make me believe any negative stereotypes were true. Russia is just a different place (and yes,  a little wild), but for many reasons that cannot be explained simply. It’s also the biggest country in the world, and albeit, one that I have yet to fully experience.  However, no matter where you go fear and stereotypes are always an issue with travel —  it’s the anxiety of going somewhere unknown, somewhere you’re ignorant about, somewhere where you are the foreigner that scares you. But this is why you need to travel.

In brief, Moscow is  home to numerous heritage sites like Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, and Red Square while also boasting things like the highest skyscraper in Europe in its Business District.  Also, with numerous Estates and Palaces waiting to be rediscovered in various districts of the city, it makes anyone’s inner child become dazed in wonderment. How did I not know some of these places, people, and stories ever existed? How? And to be honest, I still can’t properly explain what kind of foods they eat. It’s where Slavic dishes mesh with Asian I suppose. It’s crazy.

Russian history and culture have deep roots, making its society what you can experience today — in my opinion, looking past stereotypes  and politicians is half the battle. But now with redevelopments happening in Moscow in recent years in places such as Gorky Central Park, coupled with the rebuilding of the once lost historic sites (The Temple of Christ Our Savior and the wooden Palace of Tsar Alexi the First at Kolomenskoye), Moscow is hoping to keep its past alive while re-imagining its future. And this means even more to take advantage of for the traveler, if you can afford to make the journey.

Basically, by the numbers, if you book ahead, tickets could be as low as $900-1000CAD in the summer (Momondo.com, Skyscanner.com) And with hostels and other inexpensive options opening up (Airbnb, Booking.com, Tripadvisor), Moscow is now a better destination for cheaper travelers. *Remember you’ll need a VISA ($300-400CAD) to get into Russia, so apply far ahead of when you plan to travel* So yes, getting to Moscow is still expensive, but how many people do you know who’ve been to Russia?

–Ben Dextraze