Monday, June 29, 2009

The Portable Library Project in Vancouver

I'm leaving for Vancouver this Thursday!  The Portable Library Project's first public showing, at lowercase gallery in Vancouver, opens this Saturday at 4pm.  Read the following for all the details, and check out this weekend's other festivities brought to you by the ladies of the Regional Assembly of Text!

The Portable Library Project is a multi-dimensional mail-art/bookmaking project involving the creation of small works exploring ideas surrounding archiving, ephemera, journalling, libraries and incorporating an art practice into everyday life. The 18 participating artists span several artistic disciplines, from performance art to fibre-based art; from photo-based art to craft to sculpture and installation. Artists involved in the project are based across Canada, and are from as far away as Seoul, Korea.
Invited artists were sent/delivered an empty cigar box, roughly the size of a hardcover book. Over the course of one week, participants were expected to create a 'book' a day, reflective of each person's day-to-day activities and artistic process. Books were ideally made while on the go; boxes were intended to be carried with the participant, where books were to be added and collected each day for seven days. 
Participating artists:
Aimee Lee (Seoul, Korea)
Amber Landgraff (Toronto)
Becky Johnson (Toronto)
Cara Spooner (Toronto)
Daphne Gerou (Toronto)
Debbie Danelley (Winnipeg, MB)
Deborah Margo (Ottawa, ON)
Fiona Bailey (Toronto)
Jen Pilles (Oakville, ON)
Laura Calvi (Halifax, NS)
Laurie Kang (Toronto)
Margaret Flood (Guelph, ON)
Margaret Legue (Forest, ON)
Morag Schonken (Winnipeg, MB)
Sheila Jonah (Toronto)
Simon Rabyniuk (Toronto)
Stephanie Cormier (Toronto)
Stephanie Vegh (Hamilton, ON)
Sylvia Ziemann (Regina, SK)
The Portable Library Project is organized and curated by Tara Bursey.

July 4-31, 2009
Opens Saturday, July 4th, 4 pm (BBQ at 6pm)
lowercase gallery
at the Regional Assembly of Text
3934 Main Street
Poster design:  Jo Cook

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Garden Party Trunk Show

Here are some photos of my table from the Garden Party Trunk Show at the Workroom last Sunday.  My dad-crafts were a pretty big hit, and I had a really great time chatting with all the awesome vendors all afternoon.  Special thanks go out to Roisin of Bespoke Uprising, Tanya from Snap and Tumble and Clare of the Brit Boutique for the awesome trades and Kalpna and Karen for putting on the show and inviting me!

Photos:  Karen Valino

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Here are some photographs from the Po.lar.i.ty exhibition which opened last week.  It is up for another week at Launch Projects, so try to go and take a peek before it closes.  

Images, from top:

Leanne Eisen, untitled from the series Play, c-prints
Alexandra Mainella, discharge, bronze, 2006

Kim Stanford, untitled, steel wool, 2009

Alexandra MainellaPangaluminum, 2007

Kim Stanford, untitled, steel wool, 2009
Emma Gerard, Beat the Odds, collaboration with Clayton Haigh, 2008

All photos by Leanne Eisen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden Party Trunk Show

This Sunday, I'll be tabling at the Garden Party Trunk Show, hosted by City of Craft and the Workroom in scenic Parkdale!  I'll be peddling all my usual wares- zines, pins, vintage books, art, multiples, as well as some special handmade items for hip daddies in honour of Father's Day.  Other vendors include:

Old Weston
Lunar Craft
Snap and Tumble
Tara Bursey
Willow Dawson
Brit Boutique
Krystal Speck
Keri Rounding
Resurrection Fern
Operation Sock Monkey
Bespoke Uprising
Kid Icarus

Should be a blast!  Hope to see you there!

the workroom
1340 Queen Street West
Parkdale, Toronto

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Po.lar.i.ty at Launch Projects

I am co-curating the following exhibition (with friend and incredible photo-based artist, Stephanie Cormier), which opens next week at Launch Projects.


An group exhibition of sculpture/installation, glass, photography and multiples by:

Leanne Eisen
Emma Gerard
Alexandra Mainella
Kim Stanford

Curated by Stephanie Cormier and Tara Bursey

Runs June 17-28, 2009
Reception:  Thursday, June 18th, 6-9pm
at Launch Projects
404 Adelaide Street West

Po-lar-i-ty is an exhibition which explores ideas surrounding polarity and dichotomy, specifically with regard to traditional  women’s roles, activities and rituals.  Leanne Eisen projects representations of the sex industry onto the medium of the conventional dollhouse, juxtaposing the equally constricted and restrictive roles of  homemaker and sexworker within detailed dioramas.  Emma Gerard’s hot sculpted glass breast implant multiples use material and process to present a playful yet striking visual pun. Similarly, Alexandra Mainella uses multiple representations of lipsticks and pedicure tools cast in bronze and aluminum, transforming them into bullet shells and brass knuckles, while Kim Stanford uses steel wool to create a giant steel wool spool of yarn, commenting on the nature of repetitive domestic tasks and activities.

For more information, contact Stephanie Cormier:

Image credit:  Emma Gerard

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Remember Who's Emma?

Remember Who's Emma?  I certainly do.  For those of you who don't, Who's Emma was an anarchist space/infoshop in Toronto's Kensington Market which existed from 1996-2000.  It served as a centre for grassroots political activity, and was also a gathering place for local punk rockers. Who's Emma was completely volunteer-run, sold punk records, zines, subversive/radical books, coffee, vegan empanadas and pamphlets to make the rent, while hosting punk rock shows, workshops, meetings, and benefits.  

For the past year, my pal Lyndall Musselman has been gathering info and ephemera, as well as conducting interviews and shooting footage for a documentary project called Remember Who's Emma: Punk, Politics and Place, which maps out the rise and fall of WE. Through a series of interviews with former volunteers, the documentary weaves through Kensington Market's subversive early history and individual accounts (from approximately 10 former collective members- my estimate is there were upwards from 50 or 60 in total...) of Who's Emma's beginnings, how it operated and the purpose the space served to both activists and punk rockers.  The film ends with perspectives on the space's eventual demise on the heels of two devastating break-ins, and alludes to the lack of interest which ultimately closed the space in September of 2000.

I was involved with the space as a volunteer collective member from July of 1999 until Who's Emma closed.  My love of zines brought me to the space as a volunteer collective member- I had just turned 17 years old.  Looking back, my time at Who's Emma taught me a great deal. For one, it taught me how to take initiative and take matters into my own hands socially and creatively.   I met a couple of people during my time there that I keep in touch with to this day and who's friendship/acquaintance I value immensely.  Among my favourite memories of Who's Emma involve meeting younger girls from the Who's Emma community years after the fact, and having them tell me that zines I did back then and my presence as a collective member inspired them to make things, get involved, and find their personal voice through zines.  As trite as it may sound, they looked up to me and were like the little sisters I never had; similarly, I looked up to and was inspired by the older women in the collective. (One of my few criticisms about the finished documentary (film) is this "interpersonal" aspect of Who's Emma is rarely addressed in the film...personal analogies such as this are largely absent from the film, curious considering it aims to depict the "social dynamics" of the space) Thinking about those relationships for me represents the best that Who's Emma had to offer someone like me who was marginally interested in the theoretical/capital "P" politics side of Who's Emma- it provided me with a great deal of personal empowerment through positive relationships, collaboration, and it served as a venue for free, informal learning.

This is not to say that all was peaches, cream and sunshine at Who's Emma.  For me, the above photograph of two girls, taken early on in Who's Emma's history, speaks volumes.  The following piece of writing was found online, written after watching a rough cut of the doc by a friend of Lyndall's which reflects on a conflict caught on video, included in the documentary:

"It begins with a Drop Dead show in which someone brought their dog down with them to the show space. The band, hardcore vegans that they are, started shouting down the guy for being cruel to his dog...I mean the guy who brought his dog to the venue was clearly a jerk, no argument, but that the band took it upon themselves to humiliate and make an example of this guy in front of his friends was such a classic example of this overbearing and shitty nature of political hardcore punk of that era. I saw shit like that at Submission Hold shows where teenage punks would be too loud while they describe their songs and rather than deal with the situation diplomatically they decided to make a public example of the people and then, in a sick way, brought their politics into it saying that it was misogyny (not the booze apparently) that made them talk over Jen and Andy. "Some people" Jen said, "get really uncomfortable when they hear a woman speaking their mind." Never mind that it was a guy and a woman making all that noise. That's kind of fucked up and oppressive in it's own way isn't it?"


Something rarely discussed openly is the political/punk divide that existed within Who's Emma volunteers.  Frequent and worse yet were situations similar to the one described above, which- if I may be so bold- is an (argueably) typical result the destructive power of combining radical politics with an often confrontational punk subculture.  Disagreements happened...disagreements that were hurtful, unhealthy and ill-managed.  Passive aggressive guilt tripping, exclusion and shutting-out, feelings of superiority projected themselves, and negative vibe-ing were even more commonplace at Who's Emma, during a time (the 1990s) where political posturing within punk attempted to hide the (perceived) illness beneath it's surface- jealousy, anger, and competitiveness.  All qualities which are perfectly natural, and perfectly (or shall I say imperfectly) human.  

Is it any wonder that Toronto punk rock took a turn towards the vaguely nihilistic and pointedly apolitical after Who's Emma's closure- like clockwork- in the year 2000?

Time and time again, I come across people who have negative feelings or experiences tied to Who's Emma.  One woman's sentiment echoed my own feelings about Who's Emma at it's worst- she claimed Who's Emma made her "feel stupid."  This was largely due to some collective members' heavy-handed, academic, theory-heavy approach to radical politics and activism.  Another woman who I spoke with unexpectedly yesterday initially about Lyndall's project claimed that something that happened to her at Who's Emma made her more or less lose faith in punk, and caused her to disengage herself with the local punk community.  Will these telling, and incredibly valid feelings be represented in Lyndall's documentary?  Likely not...which is nobody's fault, really.  

On that note, forget what I've said Lyndall the justice of seeing her thought-provoking tribute to an essentially "failed revolution."  Like the many failed revolutions which came before Who's Emma, it is well worth the documentation.

For more information on the film screening and satellite programming, see the Remember Who's Emma blog.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Can't Stop This Feeling: Crisis, Comfort and Craft at MKG 127

This is a great sounding/looking exhibition currently up at MKG 127 Gallery, which I plan checking out within the next few days.  If you're in town, why not take a jog down our fine city's recently maligned Ossington Avenue and check it out too?

I Can’t Stop This Feeling: Crisis, Comfort, and Craft, an exhibition of new work from Toronto/Hamilton based collective, SHAKE -n- MAKE.

Opening Saturday May 30 2-5 PM 

"We grew up in the 70s, in the midst of turmoil and social upheaval. Planes were hijacked, gas was in short supply, the traditional family was in flux, and an American president resigned in disgrace. Through the lens of Afterschool Specials, we saw the world as a crisis waiting to happen; we learned that trauma was just beyond the wood paneled walls of our Rec room. Not surprisingly, we sought comfort in all things homey and homemade. Collectively, an entire culture tried to craft its way back to the 50s, only the tools, and rules, had changed. Try as we may, Betty Crocker’s canned concoctions, macramé and string art, shrinky dinks and felt banners, embroidery and toaster cozies, didn’t make life any simpler or safer. But still we persist."

SHAKE -n- MAKE is a collective that was inspired by the discovery of vintage Betty Crocker recipe cards. On the heels of a personal loss, the unearthing of these retro recipes culminated into a desire to craft a way out. SHAKE -n- MAKE is motivated by a shared experience of growing up in the 1970s, where survival, crafting, and popular culture defined not only an era but also our childhoods.

Claudia Manley is a writer and crafter who is interested in almost everything. She is currently obsessed with sewing and hunting and recently was awarded a Writers’ Reserve grant from Coach House Press. Claudia is interested in navigating the tension between the rustic and the refined.

Liss Platt is a multimedia artist who works at the intersections of digital arts and craft. Liss is interested in using ‘hobbyist materials’ to re-envision high modernist traditions. While exploring compulsion and repetition, Liss retains connections to nostalgia. She is currently an Associate Professor in Multimedia at McMaster University.

Steph Rogerson is a crafter, artist, curator, and academic who believes there is critical power in television. Long-term interests include semiotics, photography, and queer theory. Current interests are Gordon Ramsey, Adam Lambert, and embroidery.

SHAKE -n- MAKE would like to thank Shasti O’Leary Soudant, Ian Manley, Karen Valino, Cecila Berkovic, Liz Abram, and Vesta-la.

The exhibition continues until June 27.

MKG127 is located in Toronto at 127 Ossington Avenue between Queen and Dundas Streets at the NE corner of Ossington Avenue and Argyle Street.

Hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 12 to 6 PM or by appointment.
For more information call 647-435-7682.