Thursday, June 29, 2006

Earth: World Urban Festival

In spite of the madness, I did manage to take in a bit of the World Urban Festival last week, happening in conjunction with the UN World Urban Forum. Lots of great local and international art, all of it political. Info booths on recycling (there's a good one for properly disposing of old electronics: well as organics delivery companies, and a display on green roof technology. There were shipping containers converted into mini-galleries. There were concerts and dance performances. We saw the Judith Marcuse company do a very cool piece on race, culture and the environment called Earth=home. We saw the Coup do a fabulous outdoor concert. Particularly liked a video project piece by Margot Butler about bees and the murdered women at the Pickton pig farm; and a piece by Haruko Okano made entirely of found organic materials. Part of the point of this piece is that it will eventually decompose. I'm sure it gives conventional art galleries, with all their assumptions about the eternity of art, a heart attack. There was also a little food fair with much delicious earth-friendly food.

i wish...

i'm addicted to my car. and i really can't stand driving, especially in this city, which continues to get more and more congested. i know, i know, money where your mouth is...

I'd like to teach the world to sing...

A piece by the artist Sonny Assu, right at the Earth Festival exit. A pointed reminder, especially having just come back from the Uts'am program last week, where we saw what False Creek was like 150 years ago (all old growth forest.)

Henry Tsang

Ran into my old friend Henry Tsang, who I used to do cultural organizing stuff with in the early 90s. He was showing part of his project Chinook Jargon at the Earth Festival.

coyotes against capitalism

These coyote pennants were everywhere. If you found a blank one, you could decorate it and hang it. I think they are part of a project called Co-Existing with Coyotes, aimed at reducing conflict among people, pets and coyotes in the Lower Mainland. Here's a website:

Sunday, June 18, 2006


For the last ten years, the Squamish Nation has been organizing a project called Uts'am/Witness through the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver. They bring people up to the old growth forest at Sims Creek and the Elaho Valley to witness the extraordinary spirit and energy of the land here as it has existed for thousands of years. When the logging companies wanted to log it a few years ago, saying no one would notice because no one cared about the land, the Squamish called back all the people who had taken part in the Witness Program up 'til that point, to testify. They called a meeting and invited the logging company. The testemonials went on for hours. Now, the forest has been saved, which is why this is the last year of the project. Rita Wong, Lily Shinde and I went up this weekend. It was an extraordinary experience to be able to take part, for which I am inexpressibly grateful. I thank the Squamish Nation, the Roundhouse organizers, Chief Telalsemkin/Bill Williams and the beautiful land itself for this amazing opportunity.

rita and lily at the base of the twin firs

on the first day, we hiked up a very steep bit of mountainside to these enormous twin fir trees. our guides told us they were around 500-600 years old. the energy in this place is extraordinary. it's pristine old growth, a full functioning ancient ecosystem. one of the most spiritual places i've ever been to. the squamish nation has recently secured its preservation.

rita and lily picnicking

omg, did we every eat a lot-- satays and fried wontons leftover from the colloquium reception, cheese, bread, soup, green salad, pasta salad, watermelon, sausages, cashews, chips, pineapple, avocado, kim bap, korean salads (daikon, beansprout, spinach, chocolate, millet flakes, granola, raisins, apricots, hemp seed, flax seed, cucumber. everyone envied our food. other major consumable-- insect repellant. yes, there were lots of mosquitoes. very upsetting to the wong.

family life

we ended up camping next to a family consisting of three couples and nine kids. so much energy, so much hope-- a real reminder of what it is important to preserve this environment for. yes, they were cute. yes, they were noisy. i loved the energy and i occasionally wished we'd camped a little further down the riverbank.


it's amazing how the people who do this work glow. rick is one of the volunteers who organizes the uts'am/witness program through the roundhouse. he is also the second man i've met this year who has slept in a tree to prevent a forest from being logged.

the wong and i

at the threshold of the place of transformation. rick says one must not enter this place without undergoing the proper initiations and ceremonies.

peaches falls

i can't quite believe this is a real place. it is. rita, lily and i were there.

me and audrey

i met the most magical little girl. she can climb a mountain faster and more efficiently than any adult i have ever met, and besides that exudes an energy and a joyfulness that i hope to be able to achieve some time before my 80th birthday. (sorry to/about the dude in the background. but this photo is important.)


one extraordinary moment among many

marie annharte baker laughing mischievously. she was talking about the murders of downtown eastside women. i'm amazed by her ability to laugh in the face of the most horrific events and situations. it's laughter that draws us in, forces us to see, doesn't let us off the hook, pushes us to do something. it is a joyful refusal of the horror and a seeing and condemning of the horror at the same time.
heartfelt thanks to roy miki, sophie mccall, steve collis, david chariandy and jeff derksen for organizing the colloquium and the whole sfu writer-in-residence program. it's been an amazing experience meeting writers, students and member of the public through a variety of events-- classroom visits, public talks and one-on-one meetings. there is amazing work happening here and i'm happy and grateful to have had a chance to take part.

little bite

the last few days have felt a bit like riding a horse i can barely control, galloping at full speed. the colloquium went well, i think. a bit hard to judge my own performance, but i thoroughly enjoyed the talks and readings afterwards. fiona jeffries speaking on the politics of fear and women's resistence in guatamala was inspiring for its down-in-the-trenches materiality and for extraordinary stories of bravery and commitment. jeff derksen-- great for his confidence that neoliberalism is fading and that we have every reason to be optimistic that it can't sustain itself. i'm really sad that shirley bear and her partner peter are moving back to new brunswick. shirley began her talk in maliseet, and then spoke about the importance of language, particularly how shameful it is that so few us of speak the any of the native languages of this land. it was a shake-up to recognize the pressure we put on the learning of english and french, but not that of the first peoples. or our own mother tongues, for those of us (and we are many) who have had them squished out of us). she also brought to the table stories from the 1993 cultural gathering it's a cultural thing and the subsequent collapse of ANNPAC, which was great to hear because it brought back that important cultural moment, that in many ways has never been resolved. it was also really fantastic to hear candice hopkins talking about the the lubicon lake cree protests against the 1988 glenbow museuam exhibit the spirit sings to demand a recognition of living native cultures and not just their artefactual history, as though those cultures were already gone. lots of engaged discussion afterwards. and in the evening, amazing readings by rita wong, weyman chan, marie annharte baker and wayde compton. may be glen lowry will put up podcasts.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

June 16 Colloquium: The Crisis of the Political

The Crisis of the Political: Movements, Culture, Agency
A Colloquium in Celebration of
Larissa Lai’s Writer in Residency at Simon Fraser University

Friday June 16th, SFU Harbour Centre, room 1700

1-4pm: Presentations and panel discussion with:

moderated by GLEN LOWRY

7:30-9:30pm: Readings by:


The purpose of this colloquium is to trace the connections, linear or
otherwise, from the late 80s and early 90s oppositional/anti-racist
movements to the current moment. Racism still exists; control
and surveillance of human, animal, vegetable and mineral bodies
have intensified. The nation state has shifted, capital has intensified
and the power of militaries has increased while the justifications for
war have become increasingly absurd. How is it possible to produce
culture in such conditions? How should cultural workers respond? How
can we generate resistance in excess of mere response? How can we
shape our refusals? What do we do with our complicities? Is it still
possible for us to say “I”? What can community mean?

Reception to follow the evening readings, 9:45-midnight
Snacks and no host bar
The Wild Ginger Restaurant
88 Pender St West (at Abbott)
Second floor of Tinseltown Mall (unit 2015).
Space is limited to 50 guests,. Please RSVP to Simon Fraser University,
Harbour Centre, at or phone 604-291-5100
(fax 604-291-5098) by June 14.

doctor larissa

so i crossed the bridge. passed the oral defense last week and now you have to call me doctor. there were two rounds of questions from five examiners over two hours. lots of good stuff on the table-- the extra-legal subject, exceptional killings, derridean hauntology, diaspora, homeland, humanism, carnival, modernity, revolution, subalterity, capital, difference, history, liberation, linearity, reception, the Middle Passage, eyes, class, autobiography, pedagogy. wow. i was wrecked by the end. it was great being greeted in the grad lounge by many calgary friends, waiting patiently, beer in hand, for the best possible outcome. much champagne. afterwards, a party at the pink house on 12th st. sorry i fell asleep before midnight. the pumpkin carriage arrived early.