A short film I made at UVic this semester. Social commentary on the continuing conversion of heritage buildings into condos with store front.
These were a part of Wolf/Sheep’s Halloween stunt last year. The video was edited by Arya Hawker, and shot and directed by Wolf/Sheep members Erik Van Kobra, Elisa DeVille, Genghis Shawn, and Sarah Savage while bored and stranded for the night in The Seattle-Tacoma Airport on the way home from a trip to New York. What they created was a very believable, compelling, and fun recreation of The Blair Witch Project set in an airport.
The article was written by yours truly under the pseudonym “James Smyth” (my middle name, my mother’s maiden name, and an alias I’ve used for years). The gang asked me to write something based on the video that they had created. My mind raised on comic books and fiction immediately asked itself about the history of Sea-Tac. I looked up the history of crashes at the airport. I used the real life people; I did it in the most respectful manor I could. I wanted to create something grounded in reality. Reba Monk was a real life flight attendant and hero who died saving people at Sea-Tac. Heather Jones is a fictional character, although the story of the flight she was supposed to have been on is quite real.
Kyle Dark designed what I wrote to look like a real article and we released it on our social feeds with little to no explanation. A week later on Halloween we released the video and set all of our Facebook profile photos and banners to black.
Arya on Facebook
I think tonight I’ll stay at home
And draw a bath
A cozy place to sit and contemplate the wrath
The pitter-patter of the faucet drips
And I count by math
I lick the salt off my finger tips
‘Til it drives me mad
The digits stick to my tongue
And I begin to add
One plus two plus three
Really too bad, too bad
Naturally, I must find what I need
In the streets to understand
I pick the flesh of his eyeballs from my teeth
‘Til it drives me insane
I lick the salt off my tips, I, Zombie.
photo credit: wolfsheep.com
-originally published on wolfsheep.com July 2013.
There’s an idea in this world: an idea that one group can tell another how to act, how to think, how to feel. An idea that one group is synonymous with the lesser. This is a world where corporations tell us it’s unlawful to share the intangible. It’s also a world where people think they can tell us who we can and can’t marry. If we are truly to be equal, then the powers that be must Cease & Desist.
On July 5, 2013, Wolf/Sheep Arthouse in conjunction with Lab Salon presented Cease & Desist, a night of art, music, culture, and drag queens at Lucky Bar in Victoria, B.C., as a part of Victoria’s annual Pride celebration. Cease & Desist served as the launching point for new creative movement spearheaded by Wolf/Sheep founder Erik Van Kobra.
“I started playing around with basically what appeared to be public domain resource materials and mixing it with blatantly copyrighted stuff. I started with fashion houses and large well known brands because [they] stood out. I found the contrast of the two things really visually appealing. The ridiculous thing about it, is the design end is so basic, it’s not even fucking funny,” says EVK.
The art of Cease & Desist is a melding of iconic corporate logos of fashion and design with the hedonistic and decidedly non-glamorous world of pornography. The copyrighted logos of brands such as Ferrari, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and others contrast as they lay over images of women and men often in the throes of orgasm and exhibitionism. The point of the art isn’t purely a shock and awe campaign. EVK hopes to play with peoples conceptions about what is art and what is considered offensive.
“I think people are less quick nowadays to be offended. They’re more apt to be offended privately. I think they want to be thought of as accepting and cool and liberated and enlightened. The reality is, is that they live inside of a shell created for them. I think things like corporations have almost the same attitude. ‘We’re for people. We have people in our ads. We’re real. We’re making stuff for you. Just behave. Behave by our rules. Don’t steal. Buy our shit and you’re our friend,'” says EVK.
We live in the social networking age. Millions upon millions of users share images online through image sharing sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and others. Images and memes are shared over, and over, and over, and over.
“On Tumblr, all bets on copyright are off. But how so? How can you build a business around what is obviously blatantly copyrighted material on their part? The way [corporations] look at it, there’s 1 million or so 14-year-old kids sharing their shit on a platform like that, it’s free advertising. The minute someone thinks about it, takes it seriously, say me or you or someone else, it’s a problem,” says EVK.
Cease & Desist was born out of the idea of pushing copyright to the limits where EVK might receive actual cease and desist letters from companies for using their intellectual property. Companies such as Napster, Megaupload, and The Pirate Bay have all been taken down by corporate bullies who didn’t agree with people giving away for free what they saw fit to profit from. The fashion industry, the music industry, and the creative industry all appear to be for creativity, when in reality they’re just trying to hold everything back and in line with their profit margins.
“We truly do live in an appropriated world. Our society thrives off of it. But the fact that someone out there owns that appropriated creative drive is stupid. It’s almost redundant. They shut down Napster, they shut down The Pirate Bay, they stop people from sharing things they don’t physically own. What is the point, where does it end, where does it stop, where do you start, how do you regulate it? Let it go, just let it go. Let [same sex couples] get married. Who fucking cares?” says EVK.
Erik had been working on the art that would become Cease & Desist for quite some time before he was approached by Doug Macneil with the idea to promote a different kind of Pride event.
“When I moved over here I tried to go out, get involved in the scene or get involved in going out, it was done. I saw it so many times over and over again. To me I felt that Victoria – I’m not attacking anybody – because of what I had seen living over in [Vancouver], is that everybody is behind. I felt that if I could find somebody that was willing to bring it up to more of a speed that I enjoy, that’s where I wanted to go with it. That’s why I approached Erik,” says Macneil.
Doug wanted a different kind of Pride event. A far more aggressive event removed from the familiar tropes of Pride. One that freed itself of the labels and preconceived notions within a community. Not a gay event, not a lesbian event, an event that was all inclusive where any and all can celebrate Pride in a non-traditional Pride venue. The result became Cease & Desist.
“The idea right now within the gay community is a real civil liberties discussion. Why are they not entitled to the same rights as straight people? Why are they not entitled to the same happiness and unhappiness as the rest of us, even though it is very touted and explicitly stated in the majority of our society that they’re entitled to equality,” says EVK.
Cease & Desist at its core is about liberation. Be that the liberation of copyrights, sexual liberation, or the liberation of all preconceived notions of what it is to be gay or straight.
“I think that segment of society speaks pretty loud, and the artwork does the same thing. I don’t think that any of us are oblivious to it. It’s a fact. It’s generally in your face. The first knee jerk reaction is that people get offended by it. Beyond what they think, what they truly believe. ‘No, no, no, sure. Let those people be the way they are, until I have to see something I don’t really want to see,’ and I think sex a lot of the time is the first knee jerk icebreaker for that one. You really jump on a line. Either way, I think it’s enticing,” says EVK.
Doug brought in some of the most talented and androgynous drag queens that Vancouver, B.C., has to offer for the July 5 show. The night was hosted by Kamelle Toe, a stand up comedian who commands attention. Other performers included Raye Sunshine, Mantra MMX, as well as DJs Kasey Riot, and Victoria’s own Monolithium.
“I want to bring a little piece of my home and a little piece of my imagination and to go down the rabbit hole with Erik. It’s been tons of fun with the Wolf/Sheep guys. I have gay friends who have gained a lot of respect for what something serious as this can do,” says Macneil.
The July 5 show was a flurry of androgyny, neon, glitter, and culture. The brick walls of Lucky Bar wore the neon Cease & Desist artwork proudly. Kamelle Toe delighted with her humour, Raye Sunshine exploded on the stage in a spot on Rouge costume from the 90s X-Men, Mantra MMX exuded androgyny, and Kasey Riot and Monlithium provided the beats.
“Cease & Desist isn’t going to be for just Pride only, but this time around we thought this would be the time to push the boundaries of the scene in Victoria and give the masses something they have never seen or heard before. Hopefully that comes to a bigger thing down the road. It doesn’t need to be a Pride event,” says Macneil.
Cease & Desist is series of art by Erik Van Kobra and a clothing line by Wolf/Sheep. What it really is, is a movement, a glittered coated fist of solidarity pumping in a nightclub. It’s a reminder that we need to push boundaries, we need to question norms. If we cannot be counted equally, if we lose the freedom to share information, what are we?
“I as an artist should have the same rights as you as a gay person, and we don’t. There’s inequality there and I think that’s unjust,” says EVK.
photo credit: wolfsheep.com
-Originally published by wolfsheep.com May 2013
WHY CANADA’S PUBLIC BROADCASTER HASN’T SEEN INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS
Name an internationally successful Canadian TV program. You can name dozens of great shows, but like Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, they’re only big here. Now name an internationally successful British show. Stop, that’s enough. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) would have us believe that it all comes down to funding. But there is something bigger at work. Is there something rotten in the Canadian dream, in our own apathetic disposition towards ourselves in the global community?
According to the April 2011 Nordicity Report Analysis of Government Support for Public Broadcasting and Other Culture in Canada, in 2009 citizens of the United Kingdom paid $111 per capita towards their public broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In Canada, we paid a paltry $36 for ours. That’s over 60% less than the average $87 paid between the 18 western countries that were analyzed.
Why has the CBC failed to make programming that has transcended Canada and become ubiquitous in homes around the world? The BBC has created programming for decades that live in the global consciousness. Dr. Who, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Sherlock, and Little Britain are all original BBC programs that became international phenomena with massive cult followings. Dr. Who alone has spawned numerous spinoffs in its 50 year history.
In Canada, we have had many, many in-house successes produced by the CBC that are a part of our national identity. The Kids in the Hall, 22 Minutes (formerly This Hour has 22 Minutes), George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (formerly The Hour), The Rick Mercer Report, Royal Canadian Air Farce, and Hockey Night in Canada are just a few to name from my generation.
Are there fan conventions around the world with children dressing in Don Cherry suits, with friends who drew the short straw dressed as Ron MacLean? Are there children across the globe dressed in Dr. Who suits and friends as his various companions? Will there be Who fans for decades to come? Absolute`ly. Are we Canadians, and specifically our public broadcaster, unable to find a way to make our culture palatable and present it in a way to show the world how truly great it is?
John Threlfall is the former Editor-In-Chief of the Victoria, B.C., arts and culture paper Monday Magazine. He has been a listener of the CBC for over 30 years and from 2002 to 2007 he was a recurring guest on CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not the Opera with Sook-Yin Lee where he was referred to as their “walking encyclopedia of pop culture.” He currently serves as the Special Projects and Communications Officer for The Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria in B.C.
“This is where the CBC often missteps, is that they’re trying to give us a unifying Canadian image of, ‘this is what the Canadian experience is.’ Whereas Canada is really founded on regionalism,” says Threlfall.
The CBC adheres to its mandate from the Canadian Broadcasting Act of 1991, which states that, “the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains.”
By all means their product does just that. The CBC strives to create a unified image of the Canadian experience on television. Canada is a vast country with many different and varied regions. The experiences of myself on the west coast to someone on the Prairies, to Ontario, to the Quebecois, to the Maritimes will all be radically varied. If we can’t agree on one Canadian image to represent us, how can our programming here be successful enough to go beyond our borders?
“That’s why I think you have regional successes. Like The Beachcombers, not that it’s a brilliant show, but [it] was really successful on the west coast. CODCO was very successful in Newfoundland. King of Kensington was huge in Ontario. I watched King of Kensington when I was growing up and it didn’t really work for me because it wasn’t my world. I think that’s probably part of the problem. You’re trying to go for this unified Canadian image that doesn’t really exist,” says Threlfall.
Look at the images that are put before us as being The Canadian image. Arguably our biggest export to the United States via the CBC has been Bob and Doug McKenzie. We all know ‘hosers’ like Bob and Doug who want to sit around, drink beer, and talk about hockey. Is there anything wrong with that? No. Is that the image that we as Canadians as a whole want to portray on the international stage?
What is it about the British image that is so much more palatable? Is the image of the tea sipping, distinguished accents, foppish attire, watching football and grabbing a pint any better than the maple syrup swilling, slack-jawed and awed (yeah, eh?), plaid sweater clad, watching hockey and drinking a Molson image of a Canadian?
We can’t keep presenting stereotypical Canadians and expect different results. Look at more contemporary non-CBC Canadian shows like Corner Gas or The Trailer Park Boys. Canadians are shown as bumbling and entrenched in their stereotypes. We’re expected to enjoy it simply because they are this idea of what a Canadian should be.
The CBC produces quality television that we enjoy at home. In Britain, there was no mandate for the BBC to create programming that would garner success outside of the UK. Nonetheless they have, so why can’t we? Unfortunately, you must look at the money.
The 2012 Federal Budget saw $115 million in cuts coming to the CBC over the course of the next three years. These come on the heels of a history of massive cuts that stem back to the 1990’s. The 10% cut will push the CBC’s budget below $1 billion. Compare that to the BBC’s 2011/2012 Annual report where they are to receive £3.6 billion ($5.5 billion Canadian) from household licensing fees and £279.4 million ($430.5 million) in government grants.
The CBC simply has no room to take risks on programming. If they are to continue to inform, enlighten, and entertain, they must put what little money they have into programming that is guaranteed to see a return. We live in an era where many television shows are taking on cinematic qualities and becoming post-modern television. The runaway success of shows such as Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, and the BBC’s Dr. Who are unparalleled. Imagine if we could create a Canadian program on that level. Not with this government, and not with a history of budget cuts to the CBC.
On April 29, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet put forward a new budget bill. Bill C-60 would give the Government an unprecedented say in collective bargaining with Crown Corporations. Harper would have a say in who works for CBC and how much they make.
“We shouldn’t be beholding to the Federal Government who hold the purse strings of the CBC, it should be the other way around. CBC should create the best content possible with the best Canadian talent possible and hope that the Federal Government just supports that,” says Threlfall.
To be clear, the CBC is Canada’s public broadcaster, not the state broadcaster as Sun News and Ezra Levant would have you believe. It is the Harper Government’s new budget bill that will see the CBC staffed by government approved personnel and further unable to take risks on programming.
Canada was founded in the spirit of colonialism. Everything is imported, from all citizens that came after the First Nations, to many of our products, to our television. We hardly ever look in to our own national identity. We the voters have the power to change that. Would we not want to put more money into the broadcaster if it meant that we would see returns such as quality programming?
We live in the YouTube era. If YouTube has taught us anything it’s that captivating programming can be made on a shoe string. If CBC continues to not take risks, won’t it just cautiously burrow itself into the ground? Do we want our public broadcaster, the broadcaster of our people, to be overtaken by corporations that will decide which American shows we will watch?
In 2008 the CBC lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, The Hockey Theme (not to be confused with the late Stompin’ Tom Connors’ classic The Hockey Song) which served as the theme since 1968. It was the audio cue for generations of Canadians that hockey was on. That theme is now in the hands of a private corporation. It no longer belongs to Canada’s public broadcaster, and therefore the public.
In 2014, the contract for Hockey Night in Canada between the CBC and the NHL will come up. It is a forgone conclusion that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will want to shop the multimillion dollar franchise around to other networks with war chests of cash much, much deeper than the budget of the CBC.
None of this is to say that the CBC does not produce ground breaking and powerful programming for us. Listen to Q with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC, it’s a masterful blend of pop culture, world issues, and philosophy. Watch Rick Mercer, the fact that he’s Canada’s Jon Stewart is a compliment.
Hockey will go on. The CBC may even go on. But unless we Canadians find a way to be less apathetic towards our national identity, unless we put more money back into the arts, we’ll continue to lose ourselves in the swathing sea of international programming and content.
24 x 36 mixed media on canvas by Joshua James Collis available at Wolf/Sheep Arthouse email firstname.lastname@example.org. The poem is a selection from my new chap book The Book of The Black also available at Wolf/Sheep
24 x 36 mixed media on canvas by Joshua James Collis available at Wolf/Sheep Arthouse email email@example.com. The poem is a selection from my new chap book The Book of The Black also available at Wolf/Sheep
The wind shrieks by with a fervour reminiscent
Of a supposed madman coming to terms with society
Striations of clouds running faster than outlaws
After a crime spree
The rain stops temporarily
The drops run off me onto the damp dirty pavement
The clouds part momentarily
And they reveal Orion
The hunter overhead
Perpetually locked in mid-shot
The hunt will never cull him peace
Visual show from Wolf/Sheep’s last art show The End is Here
September 30, 2005, Vancouver, B.C. – Written for a second year First Nations Literature class where we were required to compose a First Nations myth. Stricken with writer’s block and befuddled by the recent re-election of George W. Bush to the White House, I became inspired.
The purpose of this writing exercise was to construct a myth in a First Nations style. I recognize from a modern perspective that the below writing is an example of cultural appropriation. I do not see this as a negative example of appropriation, but it certainly begs me to acknowledge my privilege as a white person descended from settler’s. I must also recognize how heavily inspired this piece is by the works of Thomas King. – Joshua Collis 2021
Gather around children, sit with your elder by the fire. I have told many tales of animals sacred to our tribe. I have told tales of the tricksters Nanabush and Wisakedjak. Listen now to the tale of the greatest trickster of all, he who changed the way Salmon spawned, he who altered the body of Coyote for all time, and he who changed the way we think about our Chiefs. Hear now, the tale of Georgedubush, the magical trickster.
In the days when Georgedubush traveled the world, there were no stars, mountains, or people; there was only war. Now you will probably say, “No people? No stars? Then how could war take place foolish elder?” This was no war between tribes of men, but the old tribes of the sacred animal peoples.
Coyote and his tribe from the east had been at war with the Salmon Tribe of the west for so long they had all forgotten why. In the west, salmon sang songs of the evil and treachery of coyotes. In the east, them coyotes sang songs about them salmon, and how they were the evil ones, full of treachery and hate. Georgedubush was heading north along Redneck Creek. Little did he know – about anything for that matter – that he would play a pivotal role in their struggle.
As per usual, Georgedubush was hungry and clueless. Large storms had destroyed many villages down south, but he was not worried. He was safe and dry on a quest from his elder father. Two weeks before, Georgedubush’s father, Georgeaychdubush, had summoned him to his large White-Longhouse.
“Come in Dubya,” said his father, as Georgedubush was often called, “sit, drink, smoke this pipe with me.”
His father offered him the pipe.
“No thank you father, I have smoked enough for today Chief.”
Georgedubush had been smoking the peace pipe all day.
“Why you have you summoned me father, is it time for my journey to manhood?”
Georgeaychdubush was happy that his son was eager.
“Yes Dubya, it is time for you to become your own man. You must go north along Redneck Creek. At the end of the creek lies Hick Falls, there you will find a prophet. He will tell you which way to head. He will tell you the great prophecy of your destiny, to end the century long war between two tribes. You will bring peace and reign as chief for four, possibly eight years. Take these supplies, they should, Dubya?”
At this point Georgeaychdubush realized that his son has grabbed the provisions and ran out the door. Dubya only heard the parts about food and becoming a chief. Before Georgeaychdubush could explain anymore, Dubya was off down Redneck creek.
And that brings him to where he is now. He had eaten all his father’s supplies the first night and became sick from frequently eating the same poison berries. After a week he finally came to Hick Falls, a trip that would have taken anyone else a day. There was an old hermit perched upon a rock at the opposite side of the creek. Taking no notice of the hermit, Georgedubush tripped and plummeted to the bottom of the falls. Georgedubush floated downstream due east for what seemed like an eternity, until finally he was snatched out of the stream by coyotes.
“You evil scum! How dare you venture this far east?” questioned the elder of two coyotes.
“This is the biggest salmon I have ever seen,” exclaimed the younger.
Georgedubush was worried.
“Am I a Salmon?” Dubya thought aloud to himself.
He suffered an existential crisis. After a few hours of deliberating they eventually agreed that Dubya was some kind of man-whale. The Coyotes took Dubya to their village where they drank, sang, danced, and became friends. Georgedubush learned of their struggle with the salmon. He offered to build them weapons that would turn the tide of war, but in return they would have to make him Chief.
“But we already have a Chief,” the Coyotes explained.
This did not concern Georgedubush, as he loved to build weapons anyway. He agreed to take some of their magic white powder in exchange. He loved the powder very much.
After only a few short days, he had built gigantic bows and arrows as well as giant tomahawks in order to help the Coyote Tribe win the war. He was confused though because this tribe already had a chief. Then the old prophet he missed at the falls came running into the Coyote village.
The ancient prophet informed Dubya that he was supposed to head west to become a Chief. Georgedubush fell asleep during this long, deep, metaphorical story. No one knows exactly what the prophet said, but Georgedubush headed west to the Salmon tribe village. The Salmon there were gullible and in need of serious aid.
The last chief of the Salmon Tribe had been slain by the Coyote’s new giant bow and arrow and the tribe was frightened. They were certain them coyotes had a bow and arrow big enough to destroy their village, possibly even all the land. Georgedubush walked in at the right time and won their election for chief by a landslide. The salmon living on the edges of the village had voted for the opposition, an educated salmon who could speak fluent coyote and was an advocate of peace. The salmon in the middle of the village voted for Georgedubush. He filled them with lies, empty promises, and plans to build bow and arrows, tomahawks, and lakes of fire water the likes no one had ever seen. He built himself a big White-Longhouse and the largest bow and arrow ever to date.
The bow was so large the salmon had to swim far upstream to complete the bow and balance the arrow when firing. The female salmon would swim upstream to their mates during the long construction period to spawn. When the salmon spawned there, they found the waters to be a safer place to lay eggs than the ocean. This is why to this day Salmon still spawn upstream thanks to the outrageous antics of Georgedubush.
Georgedubush thought the war would end and them coyotes would surrender, but those coyotes copied the design and built a bigger bow. So then Georgedubush built a bigger one. So did them Coyotes, but an even bigger one, and vice versa for another four to eight years. Until a final encounter between Georgedubush and the Coyote Chief came. They argued over who had the bigger bow until Georgedubush’s enchanted prostate spoke up.
“Salmon! Coyotes! Heed my words as they are wise and few!” the prostate cried.
“There are no more reasons for war or violence! Georgedubush has tricked you all so that he may be called chief and live in a White-Longhouse. He has told you all the same lies and you believed all along. Though one can do bad things, it does not make one evil. If anyone is evil it is Georgedubush!” The animals all cheered.
Dubya had to do something, so he kicked the Coyote chief right in the groin to show he is strongest and Coyote weak and evil. This is how Coyote came to have a detachable penis. The salmon were fed up, so they loaded Georgedubush into the largest bow and shot him so far that no one saw him ever again. Right as he was shot, his enchanted prostate leaped straight out of his body. The resulting blood turned the salmon and their eggs red during spawning season for all time. As a reward the enchanted prostate declared all streams sacred to the salmon during their spawning season and gave Coyote his first detachable penis.
The enchanted prostate was named Gore. He ran for the now vacant spot of Salmon Chief. He lost in a landslide when it was found out by the salmon in the village center that he spoke coyote, was concerned about the environment, and was a disgusting disembodied prostate.
Georgedubush kept hurtling and hurtling from the bow. Dubya had no idea how his prostate had become enchanted or why it was named Gore. In Fact, Georgedubush had no idea he even had a prostate or what it was for. He was so ignorant to this that he felt no pain and as a result he did not die. He just kept flying and flying.
He crash landed on the moon where he went on to win an election as its chief as he was its only inhabitant. Dubya at first thought he had lost but quickly demanded a recount. He learned that despite losing the popular vote, none of what people wanted really mattered anyway. So he declared himself undisputed Chief of the Moon for the next four years. He would then have another meaningless election followed by a recount or two then possibly another four years when he would retire.
Many believe Georgedubush lost the second election to some kind of space snail monster. Others say he won and served back to back terms as Moon Chief to an articulate space snail that would try and fail repeatedly to teach Dubya to read. Others say Dubya went mad from constantly snorting moon dust up his nose. Others don’t care about Georgedubush and may become frustrated if you ask what happened to him. Others say he found a way off the Moon and continued his adventures. Them last others is probably right. There’s no keeping some hungry substance-abusing moron away from you for too long.