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Steffanie Ling
2016 Critic's Picks
December 14, 2016

After a very strange poetry reading, a friend coerced me to attend a performance by Strawberry. She kept saying it, “Strawberry! But, Straw-berry!” until I agreed to go with her. Their live performances are few and far between – this one in particular was organized by Casey Wei’s robust monthly art-rock event at The Astoria. A while later, I was reading Julian Hou’s Akimbo Hit List and he had this to say about Strawberry: “The art music being made by Dennis Ha and Barry Doupé reminds me of the kind of moment that never happened but should have, and that is happening now but you can't believe it.” Which is essentially how I felt when I saw Ha unabashedly sing-ask, “What if Dennis wasn’t Dennis?”

For’er Players Theatre Company

Steve Hubert is that friend of yours you go secondhand shopping with and everything he tries on looks maybe a bit weird, perhaps ill fitting, yet he always manages to pull it off without irony. Hubert’s openness to new ventures in the city afforded him opportunities to unfetter his curiosity and pursue a variety of things. In the past year, he produced two plays under the For’er Players Theatre Company (The Chiropractor and Allergic to Power), performed at performance cabaret RERUNS, wrote The Hieroglyph-Prone Society of Actors-in-Commercials (a short story for new literary art journal Young Adult), mounted a solo-exhibition at the recently established Duplex, and several others. Throughout these projects, he touched on the absurdities of subcultures, power dynamics as insecure structures, and a novel approach to artists’ theatre. I don't reckon the result to be mastery, but it’s rare to get a real sense of freed curiosity from many artworks, never mind that of several projects, by an individual artist and his respective collaborators. Executed at the risk of slipping into dilettantism, he emerged the earnest dabbler – in dapper thrift no less!

Come 2017, assemble an entourage and take the ferry over to the Nanaimo Art Gallery. Curator Jesse Birch has precipitated a dynamic change in how we see regional galleries. The diverse thematic group-exhibitions happening there have included early career artists (Scott Rogers, Katie Lyle, Mike Bourscheid) alongside internationally exhibiting artists (Alex Morrison, Raymond Boisjoly, Stan Douglas) who find intelligent ways to address local flora, labour histories, and the architectural intersections of the region. This past year the NAG also mounted a lively and experimental retrospective presenting the work of Ron Tran inflected with a layer of his experience briefly living in Nanaimo.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.



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