Friday, February 22, 2008

Queermonton: Week of February 21, 2008, Issue #644


The Mar 3 provincial election is important to all Albertans. It’s an opportunity for us to speak through our vote and tell the current government what we think of its leadership. It also provides an opportunity to empower new voices to be heard.

Sarah Flynn, interim administrative professional officer at the U of A’s new Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services says that she casts a ballot “to make sure that irrespective of whether the candidate or party I support actually wins, at least I’m showing my endorsement of those willing to discuss and address human rights.”

Kristy Harcourt, queer activist and former host of CJSR’s Gaywire, agrees, especially when it come to issues of human rights. “Gay people need to vote. Our rights are recent, fragile and we have a say over what our governments do in our name.”

Voting is the simplest form of political action afforded to a citizen that is often taken for granted. For NDP activist Robert Smith, who had a hand in creating the party’s first gay and lesbian caucus, voting is the opposite of apathy: “You can’t expect change to happen, you have to be part of the process—voting is part of that.”

Another part of the process is getting informed. The Progressive Conservatives have been in power for almost 37 years. In that time they have done some good for Albertans, but in the last 15 years they have let the promise of their vibrant beginnings slide.

In 1971, a modern, urban-centric leader by the name of Peter Lougheed led the PCs to a surprise victory in the Alberta provincial election, upsetting the seemingly entrenched Social Credit Party that had been in power for 36 years. The Harvard-educated former Edmonton Eskimo went on to lead the PCs to three more electoral victories and leave a legacy with the party that has helped them maintain power for over three decades.

During his time as premier, Loughheed introduced the Alberta Bill of Rights, stood up for Alberta by fighting with former prime minster Trudeau over the National Energy Program and started the Alberta Heritage Fund to ensure that the profits from our province’s natural resources would benefit Albertans for generations to come. He also empowered Horst Schmid, the PC Minister of Culture, to let the arts flourish in Alberta.

In the years that have passed the Conservatives, primarily under the leadership of former premier Ralph Klein, has moved sharply to the right of the political spectrum, squeezing out diversity and social welfare, and in doing so have eroded many of the Lougheed government’s accomplishments. The Ministry of Culture has become the monolithic Tourism, Parks, Recreation (and, oh yeah) Culture portfolio, health care is on the road to becoming two-tiered, the environmental damage of the oil industry is the smelly elephant in the room and the recent activity around royalty payments points to a government, even under new leadership, that is more loyal to business than citizens.

For queer citizens the most poignant of erosions was the Conservative government’s 1998 refusal to read sexual orientation into the very Alberta Bill of Rights that the party created. By ignoring the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1998 decision in the Vriend vs Alberta case, where the Alberta provincial government was sued for not protecting the rights of a citizen, they have effectively said that queer Albertans are not citizens worth protecting.

In 2000, two years after Vriend, the government added to the erosion by creating an amendment to the province’s marriage act that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. The amendment included a notwithstanding clause, which is like a veto card that legislators can use to override certain charters in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In theory the clause would have allowed Klein to override the then-upcoming 2005 federal ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Canada. In the end the clause was more symbolic because marriage is a federally granted right.

Klein’s actions are emblematic of the PC party’s stance on human rights. By attempting to deny one group protection the government has created a precedent for how all minorities could be treated.

The travesty of lost promise within the Progressive Conservative party lies not solely within the party itself but with Alberta’s electorate. We voted them in, or worse, by not voting, we stood by powerless as they abused us. But a change is possible.

By not voting we are rendering ourselves mute and empowering someone we disagree with to represent us. By not voting we are paving the road to corruption and are allowing the very people who want to curb our rights the opportunity to do so. If there is someone who knows the power of voting it’s five-time city councillor Michael Phair.

“There are thousands of excuses for not voting and that’s the reason you end up with a government that you don’t want—so vote and elect the government you do want,” Phair says.

To get to know the candidates better, join Team Edmonton for its free Feb 23 mixer at Amber Brewery, where representatives from all the major parties have been invited to join the fun. It is an opportunity to get involved and talk to someone who might be representing you at the legislature. V

Trevor Anderson's new film

Photo Credit: Klyment Tan

Monday, February 18, 2008

I am on the internet!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Make sure you check out Anthony Easton's show at Mandolin Books with an opening on March 6th starting at 7pm.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Photo of the Moment

Thursday, February 7, 2008

video of the moment: TURN DOWN VOLUME!

queermonton Week of February 7, 2008, Issue #642

While walking past one of the decaying Make it Not Suck “art bombs” that have transformed Jasper Ave construction site barrier walls into outdoor art galleries, I found myself pondering the recent fate of American designer Marc Jacobs.

While running my hands across the peeled and pulled remnants of pasted local rockstar portraits and visual requiems of a city now unrecognizable, I remembered how at the height of my revere for Jacobs he embodied everything visceral and refreshing now represented in Make it Not Suck. He was a vitalizing voice from outside the elite circle of tastemakers who had something to say about design, young people and how the two relate and culture in general.

From its roots, Make it Not Suck is a comment and a reclaiming of the city aesthetic while reminding those in power that people inhabit the city, not merely consumers.

While Make it Not Suck has become a call for urban visual vigilantism, Jacobs has become a key and slightly nauseating figure in the Luxury Goods Distraction Complex that plagues the upper classes and all those wishing to join them. Jacobs sadly has become more famous for his newly toned body than for his body of work.

I am not alone in my disillusionment of Jacobs’ transformation from gawky savant to idiot cover boy. Especially among highbrow fashion writers and gay bloggers, his fall from awkward into the quicksand of slick has become something of a dead Kennedy in the blogosphere, none of which I will repeat here. They tend to focus on his physical transformation, which I think is too bad. Jacobs, like anybody else, is allowed to get fit, get off drugs and try on a different persona. As he expressed in his early work—and Make it Not Suck drives home—ugly is often beautiful.
What the bloggers and the writers are really mourning is the loss of an option.

Jacobs, like Make it Not Suck, expressed himself from the core of creativity, working out his curiosities while creating the change he wished to see. Rising above the inherent wrestling match of commodification versus expression that often hampers fashion and art he challenged the idea that clothes should be made for those already in the scene by making clothes for those the other designers neglected to consider.
Similarly, Make it Not Suck is far from an esoteric art project by high-minded artists, but is instead a collective response via staple guns and ingenious inspirations brought together by photographer and DJ Sheri Barclay (who fittingly enough worked as a dresser for designer Daryl K in New York).

In the face of shoulder pads and offensively bleak-looking condos Jacobs (early on) and Make it Not Suck provide a much needed relief to the tear-inducing banality of corporate “creative” expressions.

The legend of Jacobs begins in 1992 when he and his collaborator Robert Duffy were fired from their new jobs at the helm of fashion house Perry Ellis. What got them the axe was their audacious—and ultimately trendy—landmark grunge collection. For many people the collection marked the beginning of the ‘90s and gave a uniform to Generation X. Imagine the newly anointed supermodels of the day as they clomped down the runway in Doc Martens, plaid skirts and oversized Nirvana T-shirts to an assembled audience of thin-lipped ladies in power suits and tightly cravated gentlemen.

It was unglamorous while communicating what was happening in the dull suburban basements of East Coast and Middle America. The press was split, the fashion elite was offended and Jacobs in some circles was crowned “the people’s designer,” who, because of his bravery, was now out of a job.

Within a decade Jacobs more than rebounded, landing the role of creative director at the powerhouse of fashion Louis Vuitton. It has been since then the transformation of Jacobs has begun. Fashion writer Suzy Menkes calls his Spring ‘08 Marc Jacobs collection “a bad, sad show.” Peppered with transparent pants and globs of satin, Jacobs seems to be referencing the early ‘90s fashion he railed against.

For me nothing exemplifies the fall of Jacobs more than his print ads. Consider this slippery slope: Kim Gordon and family, Charlotte Rampling, Meg White, Dakota Fanning, Victoria Beckham.

These women, in chronological order, are the subjects of Jacobs’s ad campaigns, most from the famous white thick-bordered ads as photographed by Juergen Teller. From talented women of substance to a woman who, instead of singing a solo like her girl power mates during the current Spice Girls reunion tour, opted to strut down a nonexistent runway.

Now don’t get me wrong: Posh is my favourite Spice, but compared to Sonic Youth, Rampling and the untapped genius of Sheri Barclay who the hell are the Spice Girls? And what is Marc Jacobs thinking?

In the face of Jacobs and others falling in line with global greed over global need and seemingly detaching themselves from their own creativity, interventions like Make it Not Suck are needed. They are queer responses to the rigidly straight confines we often find ourselves in.
I like to think of what would happen if Jacobs and Barclay met on the corner of 109th and Jasper, a Make it Not Suck installation behind them and a Starbucks straight ahead. Would Sheri say, “Hey, Marc” and rekindle the fire in Jacobs’ once pudgy belly, compelling him to strike up a conversation? Or would they do the hipster stare-down and go their separate ways?

Sunday, February 3, 2008