Monthly Archives: October 2013

Medusa’s Raft- A Gruesome Story Retold

raft of the medusa adad hannahThis photograph in the Winnipeg Art Gallery quickly draws visitors’ attention when they walk into the room where it is displayed. Ever since I started giving tours at the gallery I’ve wanted to learn its story. This week I finally did. raft of the medusa by thedore gericaultThe photo is actually a re-staging of a famous painting called The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault which is in the Louvre in Paris. Gericault painted it in 1818 when he was just twenty-seven years old. It depicted a true event- the wreck of the frigate Medusa which ran aground in Maruitania in 1816. 147 people escaped from the boat on a quickly constructed raft. Thirteen days later when they were rescued there were only 15 survivors, the rest had died of starvation, cannibalism, suicide, drowning and dehydration. 

Visitors check out the Raft of the Medusa in the Louvre

Visitors check out the Raft of the Medusa in the Louvre

Gericault read interviews with the survivors, built a model of the raft and visited a morgue to study cadavers before he began his painting.  The captain of the Medusa was charged with incompetency. When Gericault created The Raft of the Medusa it was a very controversial current work and because of that his painting gained a wide audience and helped establish his reputation as an artist. The painting shows the moment the raft is being approached by a rescue vehicle. It is on a huge canvas so the figures are almost life size. raft of the medusa by adad hannah full imageIn 2008 Canadian artist Adad Hannah was asked by art collector Gus Horn to come to his home town of 100 Mile House in British Columbia to stage a version of the The Raft of Medusa that would involve the people of his community. Hannah agreed and in 2009 spent three months in 100 Mile House working together with the citizens to make costumes, build sets, paint a back drop, figure out make-up and do yoga so they could hold the poses in the painting long enough for Hannah to film and photograph them.  Finally they were ready and the elaborate tableau was staged. The photo in the Winnipeg Art Gallery is one that Hannah took that day. spoof from the paradoy blogAdad Hannah’s photos weren’t the first or last time Gericault’s famous painting has been re-enacted. This version was staged by a New York artists collective called The Bruce High Quality Foundation in jeiming raft of the medusa Chinese artist Hu Jeiming chose to use the Gericault painting as inspiration for his commentary on the impact of the Cultural Revolution on China and how the country is now being driven by consumerism. 

These are just two of many works of art inspired by The Raft of the Medusa that continue to be created.

Other posts about works in the Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection……..

The Sleeping Giant

The Tobit Tapestries

Two Diverse Members of the Group of Seven

Categories: Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #2

thom bargan coffee shopThom Bargen was the second of our visits in the quest for Winnipeg’s best cup of coffee. Located on Sherbrook this place couldn’t be more different than Cafe Postal the site of our first visit. interior thom bargensThe decor is minimilist and the space expansive. The shop is named after its two owners Thom Jon Hiebert and Graham Bargen. Straw bales under the front window and Hudson Bay blankets draped over outdoor chairs made it possible to have your coffee outside even though it was a freezing cold day. 

bike racks thom bargenThere were bike racks, something Cafe Postal didn’t have which we appreciated. We opted to sit inside since we were pretty much frozen after our bike ride. Bikes seem to be a bit of a theme at Thom Bargen.

i had this idea while riding my bike

A sign on the outside window said, I HAD THIS IDEA WHILE RIDING MY BIKEbike on the wall

A bike hanging up near the ceiling on a blank white wall is part of the decor.

coffee thom bargens

Perhaps because we were pretty much chilled through and through from our bike ride, the coffee just didn’t seem as piping hot as I would have liked it or as flavorful as the Americanos we’d ordered at Cafe Postal.blueberry cinammon bun

But in the baking department Thom Bargen was the clear winner. This wild blueberry cinnamon bun from Jonnies Sticky Buns was soooooo good. 

thom bargens

Frankly the place was a little too modern and bare for me. I preferred the cozy homey feel at Cafe Postal, but know that’s just a personal preference. Look how the menus are written on rolls of brown butcher paper behind the counter.thom bargen windowIn keeping with the clean look there were no newspapers cluttering the counter available for customer reading at Thom Bargen. This was something I appreciated as a treat at Cafe Postal since we don’t get the daily paper. 

thom bargens windowJust like at Cafe Postal you can enjoy your coffee in front of a street side window. The counter at Thom Bargen is made of a polished hewn log with the bark intact. Very cool!thom bargens counter

I’d go back to Thom Bargen. I’d like to try some other kinds of their coffees and pastries and I’d like to find out what is the meaning and/or significance of their interesting logo. thom bargen logo

Other posts about coffee…….

Winnipeg Coffee Quest Candidate #1

Missing Pacific Coffee

Fair Trade Coffee and Hope For Laos

Categories: Restaurants, Wolseley | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Picking A Winnipeg Church From A Cereal Bowl

We had to do something! When we moved back to Canada two years ago from Hong Kong I was eager to get involved with a church congregation in Winnipeg. 

My husband Dave thought we should shop around for a church. “Give it a year,” he said “and then we will decide.” There are more than a dozen churches that belong to our particular Mennonite church conference in Winnipeg and I think we went to them all, some several times. But we also attended Lutheran churches, United churches, Anglican churches and non-denominational congregations. And soon……. two years, not one had passed. 

When our two year anniversary of being back in Canada was reached I put my foot down.  ”We have to decide,” I said. 

cereal bowl“OK,” said my  husband. “Let’s each write the names of three churches on slips of paper, put them in a cereal bowl and then you start drawing. The last slip of paper that’s left is the church we’ll attend.”

It ended up that last slip contained the name of a church we’d both written down. Neither of us got our top pick, but we were both content with the choice.

I’m not saying the best way to choose a church is from a cereal bowl, but since our merry-go-round of visits and endless discussions about the matter had produced no results, for us at least it was a practical solution. 

Other posts about churches and faith groups……

Could I Have Been A Hutterite?

On Being  A Church Tourist In Winnipeg

All Saints Anglican

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

Categories: Churches | Tags: | Leave a comment

Synchronize Your Watches- A Twenty Four Hour Movie That Tells The Time

the clock christopher marclay the guardianIn what movie can you see Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Rita Hayworth, Al Pacino, Alan Alda, Angie Dickinson, Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Jean Simmons, Jimmy Stewart, Kathleen Turner, Faye Dunaway……..well really just about every well-known star in the history of film and/or television?  It’s Christian Marclay’s  The Clock now showing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Christian Marclay

Christian Marclay

Marclay has created 24 hours of film and television clips that flow seamlessly together, superbly edited both for sight and sound so you’d think you were watching one movie instead of ten thousand film clips. You see an actor pick up a ringing phone in a clip from one movie and move smoothly to a clip from another movie that’s from a different film era and set in a completely different time and place and a different actor is answering the phone. Very cool!

In each clip there is a clock or a watch or some reference to a time piece and each time piece you see is exactly set to the time you are watching it.  If you walk into the theatre where  The Clock is showing at 11:00 for the next minute all the clocks you see on the screen will say 11:00 and at 11:15 they will all be set to 11:15. The Clock shows an average of 20 clips every minute. Someone is trying to collect a list of them in Wiki Commons but they still had a long way to go the last time I looked. 

I was introduced to the work of Christian Marclay on my visit to the Phoenix Art Gallery where his similar project Telephones was showing- a movie clip montage of people talking on phones. Telephones however is only seven minutes long while The Clock goes on for 24 hours.

christopher marclay the clock the new yorkerA self-confessed workaholic Marclay says it took three years, six assistants and $100,000 to make The Clock. What got him started?  According to Paul Butler, the Curator for Contemporary Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Marclay moved to London for love and couldn’t afford to rent studio space there so he had to find a project he could work on at home. The Clock was it!

Clips from many foreign films are used in The Clock although interestingly no Bollywood films. Paul Butler  says they don’t show clocks in movies made in India.

Recycled Records by Christopher Marclay

Recycled Records by Christopher Marclay

Marclay’s done all kinds of strange art pieces in the past, including strapping a turntable to his torso and playing it like a guitar and breaking records and then gluing pieces from four different LP’s together to make a new record that he plays on a turntable.

Interestingly enough, according to Butler, Christian Marclay doesn’t watch television or movies and doesn’t even own a TV. He only watches movies and television on airplanes and in hotel rooms.

Marclay is very fussy about the physical set up for The Clock. Art galleries have to create special theatres to his specifications, a  space that can only have a certain number of seats and they must be furnished with a specific make and model of couch bought from Ikea. Butler says the Winnipeg Art Gallery is looking for other ways they can use the space they’ve created for The Clock for future exhibits. 

I was curious whether Marclay had to pay copyright fees to use each of those 10,000 clips, but he didn’t. In an interview he said, “If you make something good and interesting and not ridiculing someone or being offensive, the creators of the original material will like it.”  

The Clock has been called the  Mona Lisa of the digital age and won Marclay the Golden Lion award for best artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale. The Biennale is sort of like the Academy Awards of the art world. I’ve been to see The Clock twice and it is quite addicting. Each time I spent about 45 minutes in the theatre, but was forced to leave due to other commitments. I’ll be going back. The Art Galley is sponsoring 24 hour showings when the gallery will be open all night on November 1, 22 and on New Year’s Eve.

Other posts……….

Phoenix Art Gallery

Red Bows For Michael’s Geese? Think Again!

Forty Part Motet

Categories: Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #1

My husband Dave says we are going to have a coffee adventure in the next while.  He wants to visit all five coffee shops that were nominated for the best coffee in Winnipeg by the CBC.

cafe postal logoOur first stop was Friday morning at Cafe Postal on Provencher in St. Boniface.  I admit I was favorably swayed the minute I walked in the door and I heard the album playing on the speakers.  It was Today We’re Believers by Royal Canoe, my favorite Winnipeg band.

cafe postal by evan bergenPostal is small, just a half-dozen stools at a wooden bar that looks out at street level. The baristas were very friendly and from the way they chatted with their customers it was clear many are regulars and the baristas know them well. 

The Americano coffees we ordered were hot and flavorful. We shared a  saskatoon-oatmeal muffin which was so large it was plenty for two. The baking comes from The Tall Grass Prairie.   I overheard the one female barista comment that she was off to a barista competition in Vancouver. Impressive!

coffee at cafe postal by evan bergenMy husband who has worked on a coffee plantation in Laos is always curious where coffee comes from. The barista said they get their coffee from Toronto. According to an excellent article about Cafe Postal in the magazine The Rooster the owners chose the coffee supplier they did because ” amongst the 20 some roasters that we tried, they had a distinct chocolate caramel taste that was unique to Winnipeg and reflective of the French culture.”

I liked the Cafe Postal. The atmosphere was friendly, the coffee good and it’s close to our home. I’ll be going back. 

Other posts about coffee………..

Missing Pacific Coffee

Fair Trade Coffee and Hope For Laos

Categories: Restaurants, St. Boniface | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Seeing The Handmaid’s Tale- Royal Winnipeg Ballet

hand maid's tale ad1.The message of this work is important- just how easy it would be for women to lose all the freedoms and legal rights they have worked so hard to win in the last fifty years.Seeing the ballet reminded me how tenuous the independence woman have now might be. It is especially scary that in The Handmaid’s Tale the loss of women’s rights comes as a result of religious conservatism. There are many places in the world where the subjugation of women is justified for religious reasons. 

2. The main character in the ballet is Offred.  She is called that because she is the property of a man named Fred. She doesn’t have her own identity. She is just ‘of Fred.’   In my mother’s generation women were known in a similar way. My mother for example was often referred to publicly as Mrs. Paul Peters or my mother-in-law as Mrs. Cornie Driedger. Their husband’s first and last names were used as if their own female names didn’t matter or weren’t important.

3. Ballet tells a story in such a different and unique way from other genres.  Scenes are drawn out and explored in-depth. This can make it slow-moving. It can also make it more thought-provoking.

hand maid's tale book4. Would I have followed the story if I hadn’t read the book and seen the movie? Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale on which the ballet was based is a favorite of mine. I have read it many times and just read it again before the ballet, so I knew what was happening in every scene. I’m not sure however that someone who hadn’t read the book would have followed along. Perhaps though my perception of this is a result of the fact that have seen very few ballets in my lifetime and am not as adept at following a story told through dance as more regular ballet viewers would be.

5. In The Handmaid’s Tale society is completely controlled by men.  When my grandmothers were first married they were still considered their husbands’ property here in Canada and didn’t have the right to vote.

6.  I wondered if a ballet is designed like a film frame by frame. There were many beautiful ‘frames’ in this ballet- moments that would have made stunning photographs.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

7.  I love what Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood said in the Free Press after seeing the ballet. She was commenting on the way the dancers’ whole bodies were involved in telling the story. “Totalitarianism is very much about bodies: Who gets to control whose body, and how free you are to express yourself. And what kind of constraint it puts on the body to be un-free. People hold themselves differently.”

 8. As I re-read the book before the ballet and watched the ballet, I was reminded of how important a ‘balance of power’ is between men and women. In the story ( in the ballet  the woman’s past is shown in flashback video that plays on a screen on stage) the main character had a loving family relationship prior to being a slave/handmaid. At one point the government takes away women’s jobs so they can no longer work. Almost immediately the main character notices a subtle shift in her relationship with her partner even though they love each other, because he now has more financial/ cultural/ social power than she does.

commander and offred handmaid's tale9. I marvel at the dedication of ballet dancers, the  hours of practice they must invest, the personal sacrifices they must make  and the physical stamina they require.

10. The score for the ballet was a compilation of very appropriately chosen musical pieces performed by outstanding musicians from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I did wonder however what an original score for the ballet would have sounded like if someone had written one.

Other posts that might be of interest…….

Gender Inequity at the Wailing Wall

Hot Wives and Christian Leaders

The Famous Five

Why No Golden Girl

Categories: Culture | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Literary Walk

winnipeg westwood library walkKeats Way? Browning Boulevard? Shakespeare Bay?  Who knew streets in Winnipeg had such literary names? I found out on September 27th when my sister and I joined a group of about twenty other people to walk the streets of west end Winnipeg and listen to some great literature performed by a talented woman named Tauni. westwood literary walk library winnipeg

It was a beautiful autumn day. At each of our stops on the literary walk a member of the library staff introduced us to the author or poet being featured………..tauni peforms literary walk winnipeg

And then Tauni read work by that writer in her dramatic and interesting voice.keats way westwood winnipeg

At our Keats Way stop we heard A Thing Of Beauty is A Joy Forever and learned about Keats’ sad love affair with Fanny Brice. More than a few eyes were teary after that performance. twain drive

At Twain Drive we were treated to Mark Twain’s funny and thought-provoking fable of the learned cat and the mirror. dickens drive winnipeg

We walked over next to Dickens Drive……

tauni literary walk westwood library winnipegwhere we heard a humorous excerpt from Chapter 8 of Pickwick Papers titled STRONGLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE POSITION, THAT THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE IS NOT A RAILWAY

shakespeare bay westwood wiinnipeg Tauni outdid herself at Shakespeare Bay acting out a scene from A Mid Summer Night’s Dream tauni performs mid summer nights dream and taking on the roles of all four of the lovers.browning boulevard winnipeg

Tauni told us at Browning Boulevard she had planned to read How Do I Love Thee but it just made her too emotional so she had to settle for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s  Sonnet 14  If Thou Must Love Me. 

We moved on to  Frost Avenue where Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken was the perfect poem for a walking tour. 

Leacock Avenue winnipegWe ended the tour laughing at Leacock Avenue where the murder mystery Hanged By A Hair had us all chuckling. 

poetry  reading westwoodI  enjoyed the literary tour. It was a lovely day. I got to visit with my sister. I had a chance to listen to some great poetry and literature read professionally. I had some exercise as we walked from place to place. 

westwood_library_01Later they served us tea and dainties back at the library and talked about another tour in spring. As I drove home I saw Sandburg Bay, Wordsworth Way, Shelley Street, Thackery Avenue, Robert Service Bay, Caryle Bay and Carroll Road. Plenty of literary material in the neighborhood for another walk. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……..

The Millennium Library

Carol Shields

Manitoba Writers Guild

Categories: Books, Literature, St. James | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at