Tag Archives: art

for Anthony

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide still sits inside me and shifts around as I move it backward and forward in my heart. His book and the one that changed his life from obscure kitchen lackey to major travel/foodie superstar is Kitchen Confidential, one of my favourite reads this century. I am now watching Parts Unknow in chronological order as I don’t get CNN and have never, ever watched that channel. As I watch him now, his haunted, lanky looks seem to be both a part of the world and not as he tries to inhabit places where real people live and eat. Even though you can tell through time his dress, luggage and everything got decidedly upscale, his love for the equality between the street and the temple was an embedded compass he brought everywhere. He always seems uncomfortable but delighted by the surprises and pleasure eating with other people can bring. He is at his best when among journalists, writers and thinkers as he himself is part of the club; a wonderful writer and philosopher who could probably tell you more about the world than any Phd. expert.

Upon reaching the summit of a temple in Myanmar his companion, one of the world’s greatest chef’s remarks at how special the view is, how holy and monumental it all is and imbued with spirituality. Bourdain responds by saying perhaps but also there must have been loads of slave labour involved in creating it. It is this world view that may have caused his eventual mortal decision, but it is also this kind of world view that for me is essential to understanding who we are as a species and where we are going. It now occurs to me that I have been underestimating my passion for who he was, what he stood for but mostly for what he said. While his shows were scripted by him, he was smart enough and creative enough to understand how to make spontaneous moments matter. He allowed himself to be in the moment on film. As you watch Parts Unknown you become aware at what a gift this is that we are left with.

This a great book.

Bourdain worked in restaurants for over 20 years before he wrote his first book and never made money until he was almost 50. For alternative types who are slow starters his journey is proof that youth isn’t necessarily the best place to shine. His age is very much a part of what made him so relatable; somewhat grumpy, a complete grasp of his capabilities and lack of, humble and honest about his origins, and a stoic perseverant spirit that  knows that life unfolds in front of you and choice is all you have. He was a grown up. A real one. Hard drinking, former drug abuse and righteous sarcasm aside, knowing one’s faults and still showing up is the hallmark of maturation. Bourdain exemplified this in spades.

It may seem curious to some that I have chosen to laud a celebrity chef here in my little art blog as opposed to some inspiring artist or creative team. Unfortunately, I find that career-oriented curators and academia leaning art work uninteresting. I say unfortunately because an MA is the thing to have today and working with someone to get an international show seems to be the goal so… boring. Give me the travels and curious experiences of artists who do their own thing, set up their own shop, travel and make work that means something to them. I guess I wish the arts had an Anthony Bourdain. We don’t. Sadly, I don’t think that he’d be appreciated even if he did exist in the art world.

I don’t know why but the arts are missing that heroic panache of someone who calls out pretension and tries to level the playing field among the art stars and the not-art stars. Who is that person? They don’t exist. And maybe they can’t. Maybe the foodie world is easier for someone like Bourdain to exist in, perhaps because its frontline venues are eateries and not galleries. Or maybe the art world isn’t as curious about the bigger world the way Bourdain was.

Food can travel so well, be a symbol of a shared world, and involve everyone. Art should be like that too. I do see some vying for such a world and I am grateful. We should always see the struggle because we won’t always have a Bourdain to point it out.



Say something nice

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Data breach is probably this year’s new phrase like fake news was last year. Facebook’s role in the latest iteration of campaign meddling and user- info-loot-bag-free-for-all has people making declarations all over various platforms regarding whether they will deactivate their account or keep their account but delete all extraneous apps etc. or that they are outraged that a free marketing online business used their data. Really? I think I’ve had maybe a hundred conversations online regarding the fact that no, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend, he’s a rich technocrat who is using your activity on Facebook to boost its stock price and create ad money – and I’ve had these conversations now for five or six years. Being shocked by such revelations I am not.

My only thought or reaction to this data breach is what my brother Matthew said this past fall when he was showing me the dozen six hundred-page tomes he was reading, that nature is ordered, has systems, and humans are chaotic and consistently cause chaos. Raised Catholic and taught that man had dominion over everything, I always thought the opposite. That humans brought order and systems to the chaos of the natural world. But now that I think about it  the opposite is far truer and far more helpful. What the f*%k are we doing exactly?

The thing about spending most of one’s time contemplating and creating art is that you can open yourself to the idea that everything is absurd and trying to find sense in anything people do is a waste of time. Some people are helpful, others are not. It can actually be this simple. The older one gets the easier it is to believe this too.

Facebook users have now exposed this ‘people are chaos’ theory to be pretty accurate. While many people on Facebook just want to see their grandchildren or show off their pets/cooking/travel/renos/work/popularity, there are a large amount of users who are on an outrage campaign, believing everything they hear, open to all sorts of conspiracy theories and generally ruining it for the rest of us. I said to someone this morning, it’s like what we used to say in theatre, a show is only as good as its weakest link. This current chaos is sewn by people who are using the platform to extol their own uncertainty and fear – it’s a digital Lord of the Flies if you will.

Ridiculousness abounds on the internet because the people who share it are not thinking, they are in a state of confused chaos, they don’t stop and reflect. It is all about reaction and then the exponential impact of reaction. Auto correct and the fact that people can’t spell or sometimes write exacerbates an already heated melee. I’m lucky, I’ve had very little trolling and many of the discussions I’ve participated in since the early days on Facebook have been friendly albeit not always in agreement but friendly nonetheless. I don’t hate Facebook for turning the other way while Cambridge Analytics went to town on mining user info; I feel oddly complicit. I’m there to begin with so what the f*%k am I doing?

This group of Peterborough artists and arts supporters have used social media to create a bonafide cultural movement. A good example of how to use Facebook.

I think instead of freaking out over the data breach it may be time people started thinking about every post they make. I actually do this. I manage social media accounts for an environmental advocacy group; I have to comply with their mandate and protect their brand. I am careful about what I post. This has bled into my personal postings as well. Everyone I know that does this kind of work is very careful online. It is a form of digital literacy; we’ve learned how to use the platforms and how to protect ourselves on them. Everyone should do this.

But I have spoken in this blog about digital literacy before and I continue to do so into what seems is a void. People hate social media for it’s negativity, trolls and general sense that the world is a vacuous place full of miscreants. But people love social media for how it projects how they think they are perceived and in my feed some people are constantly fabulous, brilliant, brainy, gorgeous, hilarious, popular, in the know, fit, successful, do yoga all the time, travel and treat their dogs like humans.  Or they like to tell me what I don’t know or how I have things wrong. It’s like people are normal and then become Ayn Rand online. I gravitate toward those who think that life is less than perfect which I realize says more about me….

The best use of social media and the best way to calm the ills of our world is to be helpful and share helpfulness. This has always been the case with humans and it always will be – because humans create chaos regardless of them being online or not. Chaos is what we do so why not help each other drag ourselves out of darkness with usefulness. Or at the very least if you can’t say something nice….