End of the Day Wrap Up for Maker Faire

At the end of day one of Toronto’s first Mini Maker Faire, Brad and I record a quick video recap, expressing our thoughts about the event.

I also take a moment to shamelessly plug our photo book, Illuminated Landscapes.

It was a long day, I was very tired, and goofing-off with a camera running always cheers me up. (until I watch the footage several days later and continually shutter at just how bad most of my jokes really are…)

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A Last-Minute Fix Before Maker Faire

One of the things I like about blogging is how it gives people a back-stage pass to the mess that is going on just out of sight to make the show possible. It allows people see just how thin that veneer of professionalism surrounding an artist really is.

I have this theory that artists actually aren’t all that weird. They are just severely sleep deprived whenever they are showing their work, because something always pops up at the last minute and requires a long night of building something so the show can happen.

I had just that experience myself at Toronto’s first Mini Maker Faire. (Really! I’m not always that twitchy, grumpy, forgetful, and out of it!)

The venue provided some interesting and unforeseen challenges for installation. Set-up went on for much longer than expected. When the project was up, I realized that our invisible paintings were being washed out, and I had to do something. I took my project down and moved to a darker spot, which was slightly better, but not perfect.

Upon returning home, I constructed some sun shades for my paintings. My words can’t properly describe the situation and my state of mind. Luckily, I made a brief video documenting the experience (and my sleep vs. caffeine levels).

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Our Lightning Talk from Maker Faire Toronto

Back in October of 2011, Brad Blucher and I were invited to give a lightning talk at Site 3 at some point in the future. After numerous delays, the talk was scheduled to occur during Toronto’s first ever Maker Faire.

On my way to the stage, I handed my camera to a friend and asked him to film our talk so I could post it to YouTube. Here is that talk:

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Staying Critical and Selling Stories

I find that artists are often drawn towards some very bad ideas; ideas that might seem beautiful or inspiring on the surface, but upon closer inspection are just a load of B.S.
For this reason, I try to stay critical of the new ideas I come across until I see some sort of real-world evidence to back it up. Anyone can have an idea. Any idea can be true or false.
In casual conversation, and in the art circles, some ideas are very popular, or easy to write about, or lead to good-sounding grant applications; but I don’t see popularity as a good reason to hold on to an idea. Testing an idea against nature, and having that idea confirmed by evidence is the only method I know of which ensures that a idea is not wrong.

“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled” -Richard Feynman

The new idea that I have been mulling over in my head lately is from Seth Godin, and his ideas on marketing. The man is very charismatic, very entertaining. He has a way of explaining things simply and directly, with a certain irreverence towards the traditional way of doing things (sort of like the attitude Kevin Smith has when he describes his interactions with people in the movie industry). It’s the story of the beloved outsider who comes in, challenges the good old boys, and changes everything. He makes it all sound so easy, once you accept that you are going to have to do the work yourself.

This, of course, has my warning flags raised.
“Anyone who is this easy to like has to be wrong”, says the alarm bells in my head.
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Art Toronto 2010 Review: Part 2

I think the word I should have used in the title instead of “review” was “commentary”, because that probably offers a better description of what I’m doing here. I’m recording my own, highly subjective and biased reactions to what I saw over the weekend.

This was the first time that I was able to attend the show twice. I think that made a big difference. If you are wondering how I pulled that off, how an artist can afford to go to a show like this twice, let me explain the story:

A friend of mine won a free pair of tickets.
Being a poor starving artist, nothing perks my interest like the word “free”.
I must get my own free pair of tickets…but how?
Luckily, I came across the guys at Dapper & Debonair, who were holding an Art Toronto ticket give-away contest. “Tell us why you should win tickets, and the person with the best reason will win free tickets”.
I gave them my reason, and somehow, I was lucky enough to be selected as the winner! So I had a pair of tickets.
Then, my friend’s plans fell through at the last minute, so she invited me to go along with her on Friday. That meant that I still had my tickets, so I could go again on Saturday!

This was an awesome turn of events, since a big project that I am secretly working on in the background (that I’m not allowed to tell you about yet) isn’t going nearly as well as I would like, so having something go right was a nice and much-needed boost to my morale.
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Art Toronto 2010 Review

I’m not sure when it happened, but the Toronto International Art Fair (TIAF) has been renamed “Art Toronto”. So instead of writing “I’m at TIAF”, people will now be typing “I’m at AT”
“At AT?”
“You’re at AT?”

The confusion will really set in when Star Wars nerds start having these conversations.
“At AT? AT-AT?, You’re a gigantic robot walking the surface of Hoth in search of rebel troops?”

Anyway, this is the event’s 11th year, and this is the 8th one that I have attended.

Before I write about my experience with this show, I want to write about my past experiences with it. (and I’m writing this part the night before seeing the show)

The first time I went I was completely blown away by the amount of art. I had never attended an art fair anywhere near that scale, and the experience was quite overwhelming, and mentally exhausting.

This was a high school school trip, so I was under strict time constraints, and had to make a certain number of notes and sketches. (Which I still have with me today) Since this experience occurred before going to University, I was still unaware of the great divide between art that gets written about by academics, and art that someone would actually want to purchase. I just saw it as art to look at, think about, and enjoy.

As time went on, and I saw more and more shows, I became more aware of the difference between blatantly commercial fine art, and the more non-commercial intellectual, academic-wet-dream art. I began checking out shows at artist run centres and non-profit art centres in the days before and after TIAF, so I could make easy comparisons between market-driven work, and the other stuff that artists are making outside of the commercial world. That doesn’t mean TIAF is blatantly commercial; this Art fair does not completely exclude some of the more conceptual work. Interesting installations line the edges of the fair.
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Lightning Talks at Site3

I just got back from a series of lightning talks hosted by Site3 CoLaboratory.

What is a lightning talk?

Think of it as a TED talk in fast-forward.

Toronto has a lot of very cool people doing a lot of very cool things. The problem is that most of these people don’t know each other; they don’t know about each other’s work. Wouldn’t it be great if all these interesting people got together one night, gave a 5 minute presentation introducing the work they are passionate about, then they all stuck around for an after party where they could all talk to each other, and actually share ideas and contact information? Well, that is exactly what a lightning talk is. Get cool people together, make them talk to each other.
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How I Started Listening to Audiobooks While Painting

It’s amazing how quickly an idea can spread though a community or subculture. One particularly aggressive meme that is working it’s way though the Toronto artist community is audio books. Listening to an audio book while working seems to be a rapidly growing trend.

I had always heard of audio books, but I never had the slightest bit of interest in them. In 2005, While talking to Nicholas Di Genova in his studio space in Toronto, he happened to mention that his latest audio book had arrived in the mail. He was a member of some sort of audio book club. Based on his description, it worked like Netflix, only with audio books instead of movies. He paid a monthly fee, and they sent him a book. When he returned it, they sent him the next one on the list. At the time, I was still blaring Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy while working, and the idea of listening to a dry, boring audio book did not seem at all appealing. I was an expressionist painter who worked long hours, and I needed fast and interesting music to keep me going. I couldn’t imagine enjoying listening to someone read a book. But this conversation with Nik successfully planted a seed in the back of my mind. It just needed some time to sprout.

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My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Aftermath

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 4: Aftermath

It is October 3rd. For the first time in weeks, I wake up feeling well-rested. It is 4:00 Sunday afternoon. Normally I would feel awful for sleeping in this late, but after last night, 4:00pm is a good time to be up. I’ve got absolutely nothing planned for the day. At last, I’ve got some free time; but what should I do with it? Well, I guess it’s time for some much-needed website maintenance, and I should probably catch up on my email, which has been sorely neglected these past few months. A lazy catch-up day sounds about right.

Of course, within 5 minutes of turning on my laptop, I forget all about the website and email, and I find myself surfing the web, looking for reviews of this year’s Nuit Blanche, hoping that someone has said something nice about Take a Picture. I find some discussions about Nuit Blanche, but every time I hit ‘refresh’ more comments have come in. Maybe I should wait on this for a bit.

I make a cup of tea and go over the memories from last night. I ask myself, “What did I experience last night that is truly blog-worthy?”
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My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Show Time

During Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, I was making random notes to capture my thoughts and experiences. Although these entries are typed up and posted after the event took place, they are based on notes made in the heat of the moment.

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 3: Show Time

Inside the venue, the five of us are going over the procedures one last time. The three volunteers get a crash course in the concepts behind this series. Each volunteer was equipped with a digital camera. In case a viewer arrived without a camera of their own, our volunteers would be able to show them the effect. It is important not to exclude members of out audience. We went over some logistics.
“Expect a film crew to come in and document the work, expect an organizer to come around and confirm some things, expect these people to do this, watch out for that”, etc.
When all that is settled, Brad and I exchange some silly banter. I’m terrible with small talk, but I’m going to be doing a lot of it this evening, so it’s a good idea to get warmed up, and Brad’s quick wit is a big help. It forces me to start thinking in words, then gets me doing it faster.

I have a terrible fear that something should be going horribly wrong at any moment. I can’t think of anything that we missed, but the whole set up process just seemed too easy. Nothing is ever this easy. Brad assures me that when you plan everything out ahead of time, this is how things should go; it all just works.

Show time arrives, and it’s time to begin our Nuit Blanche adventure. The doors are opened, and no one rushes in.
In my planning, I had been so worried about accommodating a massive crowd, I never thought about the possibility that no one would show up. I guess we are a bit off the beaten path, and the sign is kinda hard to see, but no one? No one at all? Not one single person waiting to get in? This is really depress…..oh, wow, people!
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