As I was volunteering and taking tickets for a film screening, I saw a man with a red badge. My mind began racing: “What’s a RED badge mean?” So I ask the young man: “Filmmaker”, he answers.

“Oh, awesome, which film?” I ask with a cheshire grin.

Toad Road”, he answers.

“Oh man! That’s the film I’m looking forward to the most this year!” I say without thinking and with extreme enthusiasm. He gives me a smile and a sort of perplexed look. I may have scared him a little. That’s ok, I tell myself, because at Fantasia it’s allowed to be an awkward film geek.

Turns out my film instincts were right on about this one. It’s a little early to be calling the bests of the fest, but I’ll be daring and do it anyways! Toad Road tells the tale of a group of friends who live in a small town near York and who party a lot and do a lot of drugs. James, one of the comrades, falls for the “goody” city girl Sara who becomes increasingly interested in the drug culture of James and his friends. It just so happens that there is a place in the town called Toad Road where reside the seven gates of hell. Feeling a strange pull to this place, Sara wants to take James there.

Toad Road is a film that speaks directly to a generation of youth exploring the limits of reality, of what it all means, of themselves. It isn’t a film that sits comfortably in one genre or another: is it an arthouse film or a genre film? I dunno and I don’t care. What it is is intriguing as hell (hell, get it?). The editing is superb and the imagery is insidious (like seriously, I had nightmares). Watching the film, the idea of rites of passage and ritual use of drugs began floating around in my head. Liminality and the breakdown of categories of self, time, place also resonated in the images on screen.

In the Q&A session, director Jason Banker explained that the film was shot like a documentary. He found the actors via Myspace where he contacted a group of friends and asked them if they would be interested in his project.

The film was shot organically where Banker chose his leads after spending time with the group and found the themes through his interactions with and observations of them. Banker explained that this method can lead to making a totally different film than one sets out to make. I find this fascinating.

In this sort of film, editing becomes a crucial part of creating a story. Editor of the film Jorge Torres-Torres  agreed with a comparison to songwriting when it comes to editing a film of this nature. Toad Road thus blends reality and fantasy in the same way that taking drugs does. Its conceptual nature is artwork in and of itself.

I had the opportunity to quickly interview Banker and Torres-Torres about their chef d’oeuvre. I crossed my fingers Banker didn’t remember our previous awkward encounter.

 

Aside from Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark, what are some of your other cinematic influences?

Banker: David Lynch definitely.

Torres-Torres: Ulrich Seidl director of Animal Love. The filmmaker captures real life and somehow turns it into a classic cinematic piece.

What past projects have led you to make Toad Road, to focus on these topics?

Banker: In a way, I think All Tomorrow’s Parties (2009). It is working with kids. It was a documentary on a music festival in England called All Tomorrow’s Parties, and I shot that and spent time with the people attending the festival. Part of my job was to spend late nights with these kids while they partied and did drugs. It’s very relevant to the similar aspects of Toad Road. When I was shooting All Tomorrow’s Parties and thinking this is such great footage but it’s kind of pointless because there’s no story. Just kids getting messed up isn’t something knew. To spin that, to give it some perspective, that turns it into something scary.

Toad Road is an actual place and a real urban legend from where you grew up. Did you always have it in the back of your mind to use this legend in a film?

Banker: Yeah it was something that I was aware of. It wasn’t until I was working on All Tomorrow’s Parties that I realized I wanted to explore something with this. I knew that the parallels were very clear. A road that leads to hell and drug use and the idea of how far you will go before you turn back.

With Sara’s character it seems like she is looking to learn something from the drugs, to gain enlightenment from them. Is that an idea you are interested in?

Banker:  I definitely wanted to show the flip side as well. This is not just a tale of drugs are bad.

Torres-Torres: It’s not a cautionary tale.

Banker: It can go both ways. I think that’s the whole myth of Toad Road. The last gate is supposed to lead to hell, supposedly. There are other versions of the myth that the 7th gate is actually heaven but people say it is hell to stop you from going to heaven.

Just a few hours before Best Coast was scheduled to walk on stage at Le National last Friday night, lead singer Bethany Cosentino tweeted, “All remaining cities on this tour, you gotta sing extra hard cus my voice is trashed.”

But with a setlist full of songs that are made for sing-a-longs and a pack of excited fans pushing towards the stage, they had nothing to worry about. They opened with “The End” and it was immediately clear that months of touring had taken its toll on Bethany’s voice, but it didn’t take away from the show. The extra raspy effect on her voice actually worked with their garage rock sound and added edginess to her emotionally transparent pop songs and ballads.

After apologizing in her strained speaking voice, the band continued with “Crazy For You”, raising energizing cheers from fans of their earlier burnout beach bum days. They drifted through “Goodbye” and “Summer Mood”, some stretched out slow songs from their first album, before moving on to “The Only Place”.

The title track is a fast-paced tribute to California filled with imagery about the stunning landscapes that left Bethany breathless and probably a little homesick. The band dedicated their next song, “No One Like You”, to Those Darlins, their opening band with a grungy, country feel. They’ve been one of Best Coast’s favourite bands for years and both members talked about how happy they were to have a chance to tour together.

As band member Bobb Bruno confirmed when we talked last week, the songs are written solely by Bethany then sent to him usually by email to be filled out with guitar and drums – not surprising considering the content of the songs usually sound like the unfiltered ramblings of a teenage girl. When you throw in some pink neon lights and awkward dancing, their concerts have the potential to transport you back to high school.

It seemed like this was actually their intention, especially when Bethany referred to one of her favourite movies, Mean Girls, while introducing the bonus track from their sophomore album by the same name, “This one is about those friendships that just end and you don’t really know why…has that ever happened to you?”

Best Coast managed to work through 20 songs about relationships with friends, boyfriends and their hometown in just over an hour. It was an impressive feat, or as Bethany described it, a “pretty good way to spend a Friday night.”

*all photos by Phyllis Papoulias, check out the full set on our Facebook Page

Well, Fantasia is bearing down upon me like a mugger’s bullet at a rich man’s chest, so before all that starts it’s time to settle up some unfinished business.

Let’s talk about Nolan. Not so much about Nolan’s Batman, this week I just want to talk about the man behind the camera, as opposed to the one behind the mask. A lot of you like Nolan, and with good reason, but here’s the basic truth of it.

 

Christopher Nolan is not as good a director as you think he is

Yes, I know that sounds like blasphemy, but please hear me out before you break out the pitchforks.

What are you contributing to this movie, sir?

Christopher Nolan is a very good director. He knows how to work a camera to certain effects very well, he is very good at crafting atmosphere, all that. But as his budgets and scope have gotten bigger, his faults as a director (and they DO exist) have come more and more to light. And if you want a good example of all his bad tendencies, you need look no further than The Dark Knight.

Where do I even begin….ok, here’s where. The story structure in that movie is a fucking MESS. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

First off, that movie has AT LEAST half an hour worth of superfluous storylines that serve no real purpose and just make the movie feel crowded and overly busy.

Remember that dude who tried to blackmail Batman? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. He tries to blackmail Bats after learning his secret and later on the Joker tries to kill him. And did we really need this whole useless sub plot so the Joker could have someone to kill? What’s wrong with politicians, mayors, hell he already tried to kill Gordon, is Joker just bored with killing Gordon now?

Then there’s the whole imposter Batmen thing. Again, what’s the point? What purpose to they serve besides facilitating a cool line for Kevin Conroy to deliver better? If there’s some symbolic thing going on, I really don’t see it.

The movie is overflowing with too much story, too many sub-plots and sub-sub-plots, and it gives the story very little room to breathe.

But the biggest offender is Two-Face. Here’s the bottom line

 

Two-Face should not have been in that movie

I remember when I came out of Dark Knight back in ’08 and I remember remarking to the young lady on my arm (these were the days when I had not yet metamorphosed into a full-grown movie geek and therefore had a dating life) that I liked how Two-Face showed up.

But hindsight is not kind to The Dark Knight, and I would have taken my younger self and smacked him briskly about the face.

Now, I could go on about how Two-Face’s mini-rampage ruins the flow of the movie and feels like a truncated, tacked-on ending for a decent supporting character and all of that. But instead, I’m gonna suggest an alternative.

We’ll flip. Heads you’re the villain in number 3. Tails it’s someone lame from the 80s……….oh shit.

What if Two-Face had never shown up in Dark Knight? What if he was still bandaged during his scene with Joker, and after the hospital explodes, he’s never seen again. The movie ends after Joker is captured and we get a sequel tease for Two-Face. And HE’S the villain of the third movie.

Wouldn’t you automatically be more excited for DKR, since you’d be going in knowing who the villain is, and having an emotional connection to them since you’ve seen the events that made them who they are, seen them fall from grace to rise from hell?

I mean…who the hell is Bane? I’ve read the comics, and I don’t even know what he’ll be like in the movie. DKR will have to allot time to make we, the audience, give a shit about Bane. Make him a threat, establish his character and motivation and goals, perhaps make us empathize with him.

But if Two-Face were the villain, we’d basically know all that going in, and be much more excited to see how the whole Bruce/Rachel/Harvey relationship finally ends. To say nothing of the fact that it would probably give a much more satisfying ending to Harvey’s story.

Because he was a legitimately interesting character in Dark Knight. And for him to just get killed (?) off in such a rushed, uninteresting manner was just wasteful, and lacking in foresight on Nolan’s part.

These are all script problems, and can partially be laid at the feet of David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan. But the director chooses what to film and what not to film, and Dark Knight – with it’s bloated and over-packed story – shows that as a storyteller, Nolan needs work.

And then there’s the other big elephant in the room.

 

Christopher Nolan cannot direct fight scenes

Go watch some of the trailers or ads from any of his Batman movies and count up how much footage there is of Batman actually fighting. My bet is…..5 seconds max. And no, it’s not because they’re trying to push this as a dramatic movie, don’t be stupid. This is a big summer action blockbuster, with dramatic elements.

The reason for this is because Nolan’s fight scenes are poorly lit, shakily filmed, confusing messes. Think back to one and try and point out a single shot – 0r hell, a single move – Batman does. A kick, a punch, a hold, ANYTHING.

They aren’t memorable, they aren’t dramatic, they’re more confusing that exciting.

I guarantee this is the clearest we’ll ever see this fight

The Nolan defenders, previously quiet in the face of my renewed rage, pipe up. “But that’s just his style!” to which I respond, “Bad film making is not a fucking style” and add that if your “style” is acting in complete contradiction to the goal of a scene, you’re doing something wrong.

A fight scene is supposed to be memorable, dramatic, exciting. They continue the story in a non-verbal way, a kind of pantomime, expressing things about the characters through the way they fight, the way they move, their body language. Characters become identifiable from the way they fight, creating a visual language that sticks with you after you leave the theater.

The visual language of Nolan’s fight scenes is less poetry and more somebody slamming their hand on a keyboard.

The way he films fight scenes works against any kind of notion of creating memorable imagery, excitement or drama, which I’ll remind you are the entire point of a fight scene.

And in a movie that’s hyping the big Bane vs Batman showdown, a director who can’t film fight scenes does not bode well with me at all

And that, my fine friends, is that. Believe me, there’s more I could say. But sadly, I’ll soon have more important things to do than go on personal tirades.

Hopefully I’ve gotten a few of you to look at these movies a bit more critically, and perhaps a little less hype is something we’ll all need when Dark Knight Rises hits theaters soon…

To read Part 1 of this series, click here

To read Mike Gwilliam’s review of DKR, click here

“Unless your heart is love, your life is just your dying.” – Gurumatha Amma

I bet the thick silence that comes after each song must be a shock to those attending their first kirtan (devotional call and response) singing circle. It’s been too long since I’ve taken part in one, and at the First Annual Montreal Yoga Music Festival I have to remind myself to resist the urge to clap and whoop in appreciation. Each song works itself up into a frenzy of celebration, everyone singing, music speeding up, until it winds down, settling into nothingness. I sit with my palms upturned, absorbing the wild energy that’s let loose, basking in the electrical charge of so many hearts opening at once, and my own excitement.

I’m just in time to see The Bhakti Connection bring the goods to the table yet again; people don’t seem to be singing along that much (or maybe just quietly) despite the song list and lyrics provided to get you to do just that. The audience is beaming though; compelled as they watch The Connection’s collective radiant talent pour forth under the chapel’s stained glass, crest to the rafters, and spill out ever so gracefully onto the lawn to create a fairy music background to Dr. Bali’s calm, measured words.

Festival organizer and Kirtan mistress in her own right Lea Longo explains that happy fluke brought the musicians into the chapel. The concerts were scheduled to be held on the lawn of the picturesque Loyola Campus in NDG, but at the twelfth hour some sort of noise regulations were brought out, the chapel there was offered up as an alternative, and well…nothing could be more perfect, in my humble opinion.

We take a break from the tunes (read: I tear myself away from the final, and one of my fave songs, an old Celtic blessing, Longtime Sun), to get a tour of the grounds from Lea, who moves in a glow of joy and easy kindness. We’re swept up and barefoot, forgetting that outside the real world is a seriously scorching million or so degrees not counting humidity beyond any human saturation point, and Iana, our brave and intrepid photographer, snaps pics while veritably hopping across concrete, smiling the whole time.

I admit that I was spying on Dr. Bali; having heard so many things second hand, spoken with considerable reverence by a few discerning folk who I consider interesting folk on that particular path, I don’t know what I’m expecting, but know I can’t help but stare. He’s older, Indian, and dressed starkly head to toe in white, right down to his white sneakers and white tennis socks. He sits on a folding chair as he instructs the group on the lawn, and while I didn’t have the chance to hear much, what I heard resonated with me, and what more can one ask for? My curiosity’s been peaked further, but I know none of that will be resolved…today.

Finding myself itchy for souvenirs, the Festival didn’t disappoint, and in between performances and lectures I picked up T-shirts, CDs, coconut water from CoCos~Pure, browsed lovely local veggies, handcrafted mandalas, Lolë clothing, and such supporters. It was quite the fun li’l carnival in an end of town that doesn’t usually have mats strewn across lawns, or Krishna chants-a-chanting the way the Plateau tends to. It was a charming self-contained reality, the campus all to ourselves. I was beginning to think it couldn’t get better.

And then there was Gurumatha Amma. Now, this is not Amma the Hugging Saint who draws hundreds of thousands of people to hear and hug her, but this Amma drew me, and hugged all who wished to hug her. She was already speaking when we walked in, and when I caught up with what she was saying, I feverishly began taking notes in the quickest (most terrible given the circumstance) way that I could, and subsequently looked like I was texting through her wisdom. Shameful though that may be, I don’t regret the fragments I captured, nor the blatant, public tears I shed as I hugged her, taking part in my first darshan, and being fully moved by it, as Le Noble Chemin played us on. I sat with a friend right after as I collected myself, and he shrugged, unmoved by her, though he’s been moved by others. I think of times I’ve heard teachers who I couldn’t learn from, and I’m grateful today was wasn’t one of those times. I’m grateful that there are as many teachers as there are students, as many paths as there are seekers, and an infinity of wisdom to tune into.

By midweek, mantras are still running through my head as I walk to work. Not unheard of, but it’s been awhile. The Festival left me recharged, and with a distinctively centered bounce in my step, so thanks to Lea, the musicians, and all the people who shared smiles for being intricate parts of just such a dog gonned happy day. Namaste.

 

“Have a mind like Buddha,

heart like Jesus,

actions like Michelangelo.”

– Gurumatha Amma

 

Watch Gurumatha Amma here.

 

Sorry you missed it? Well, be sure to be there next year :p
And check out Bhakti in the Woods in August. Looks like it’ll light up Ladysmith.

Loan me your wisdom @McMoxy

*all photos by Iana Kazakova

It’s been a long time coming, and a hell of a wait, but at long last, The Dark Knight Rises has ascended into advanced screenings and will be launching officially on July 20. The time for anticipation is over – let’s get down to business and find out if the grand finale can top the brilliant sequel.

The answer, in short, is yes. It’s a yes because everything just works and falls into place like a well-crafted puzzle. In fact, The Dark Knight Rises, like Nolan’s previous two Batman films, isn’t just a good super hero film. It’s a damn good film period. The acting is superb – and the numerous homages to Batman icons are found throughout, ranging from the Red Hood to even Killer Croc, is a nice touch – executed very well with the cast of Inception.

Because that’s what this movie is in short. It’s Inception – only replace The Great Gatsby with Patrick Bateman as the lead. Not that this is a bad thing; Nolan knows his people. But when the film finally concludes, don’t be surprised if you find yourself reminded of Inception’s ending. In fact, all you’d need is a spinning top.

The action sequences work well and Batman’s first encounter with Bane is quite memorable. Fans of the Knightfall series won’t be disappointed by any stretch. I found it easy to compare Batman’s first fight with Bane to that of Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader from Empire Strikes Back with their second bout being comparable to the rematch from Return of the Jedi. The fights are well choreographed and have their moments. Although nothing will have you out of your seat like in another recent film I watched, The Raid.

I’d strongly recommend watching the first film in the series, Batman Begins, rather than just The Dark Knight before the finale. The reason for this is because there are a lot more ties to Begins rather than the sequel. Although the sequel’s significance is established, near the middle and end of the film, the story revolves more around the events of the first film. This works well in a sense because it makes the inevitable trilogy blu-ray set a complete package similar to that of The Lord of the Rings.

If you’re a fan of dominant women, then look no further than Catwoman. By far, the character is one of the highlights of the film and is very likable. There are certain parts that will, however, cause you to groan. Some of the fight sequences in particular are annoying because of how easily this woman – who probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet with a whole bucket of KFC in her – could take down large groups of males. I’m not sexist, but when you consider how this film series is trying to be, at least in some regard, “realistic”, it does take some of the seriousness away. Nonetheless, you might get a little excited watching some of her moves… ooh lala.

The only major issue I have with the film stems from the fact there are a few dozen or so cliches in the film to the point where they’re more than just predictable. It’s a sad truth, because when looking back at The Dark Knight, there was never really anything that had been done to death. The film was original. But I guess as the old adage goes: you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

The film in general is one worth watching and one I’ll watch again. It concludes Nolan’s Batman saga nicely and packs quite the punch. If you were planning on seeing the movie, I doubt any review positive or negative would convince you otherwise. Just thought I’d give you an advanced opinion – and once again, it’s a hit.

And hey, at least I’m not going to get death threats for giving it a bad score.

Imagine a website that allowed you to view every single piece of artwork ever created and pick any in the world throughout history for your permanent profile picture; which image would you chose?

“Art is subjective” this statement, true as it might seem, does not account for the very small percentage of artwork that are considered great and important. So the question remains as to what makes a painting, sculpture, performance, video, installation… a masterpiece, and more importantly what makes the creator worthy of such honor?

You might come closer to an answer if you happen to be in Toronto and pay a visit to the Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, for the organisers have set up the show in a way that demands a connection between the audience and that genius of 20th century art, which results in a nod of agreement as to his greatness.

The first painting you are faced with in the exhibition is the dead figure of the poet and painter Carlos Casagemas, who had shot himself over unrequited love for Germaine Pichot. This event had a tremendous effect on his friend Picasso, who here depicts Casagemas in a manner that is full of emotional sorrow; and yet in the painting there is a candle lit by the corpse, as if Picasso is saying from this sacrifice was born something worthwhile. Engulfing darkness has given birth to light, and that light is Art.

Picasso’s Blue Period subsequently followed the death of Carlos Casagemas, and one gets a clear feeling that this death of a friend gave birth to those haunting paintings. Picasso is allowing his story to dictate the story he is recounting for us. He is not just painting a witch like woman with one eye, he is painting his utter alienation and woe.  He wrote later: “I started painting in blue when I learned of Casagemas’s death”.

Throughout the exhibition in Toronto, we have a feeling that Picasso is communicating his ideas and feelings to us. We feel special, because we are right there with him. When he is in love with Olga, his first wife, and paints her in academic style adorned with expensive garments, we feel cheerful for him. When he takes another lover, Marie-Thérèse, and decides to show us how he feels about being married to Olga by painting her like a praying mantis on a beach full of jagged lines, whilst at the same time giving Marie-Thérèse all the curves of a goddess, we are right there in on the secret.

Picasso wrote: “I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” My point is that the viewer is being told a personal story with every painting, and Modernism with all its efforts to destroy the story, succumbs to its power. Granted the tales are no longer of the gods, saints, myths or the rich and powerful, nevertheless they are stories of ideas and humanity with all its flaws and ugliness. And the viewer feels the artist’s emotions in his work, feels the sorrow, feels the anger, feels the love and passion, and that is why we like them.

If Picasso had given us a bowl of fruits without inserting his own idea of what Modern art should look like, or without a message to the viewer as to how he or she should feel, we would simply disregard it, as many bowls of fruits have been in the past, as insignificant nonsensical paintings. What makes Picasso a great artist is the fact that we get his point, we seek meaning within those lines and prime colors, and that is fundamentally what makes his art sit comfortably above others’ working in his era.

Every single artist we consider great presented a personal message with their work. Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian, Rubens, David, Delacroix, Manet, Turner, Goya… they had all conveyed their feelings to the viewer, they had made a connection, they had told a personal story. We might not agree or even like their message or the story, that is where the subjective part comes in, but we have considered them and agreed upon the fact that they have been expressed in a poignant manner.

Personally, I only like Picasso when he is finding common grounds with humanity like in Guernica, and I could not care less for his womanizing and display of female sexuality as submissive; however I must agree that he allowed us into his world and told us about who he was through his art, and that alone is worth a train ticket to Toronto.

Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario will be on in Toronto until August 2012

Six years ago, he landed his first comedy gig at a corporate office Christmas party. No mic, no stage, and no one at the party expecting his comedic interruption, Dan Bingham wooed the stodgy crowd with enthusiastic zeal and jokes about Batman. Since then he’s been on the midnight train to success, moving at full momentum with no plans of slowing down.

His award-winning one man show Adopt This! is back by popular demand for a special night at this years Zoofest run on July 23rd at Theatre Ste-Catherine. Adopt This! has received great reviews across the country and has won several Comedy awards. Not bad for his first attempt at a one man show.

As the title subtly hints, Adopt This! is all about Dan’s experience growing up adopted. Surviving his childhood in suburban Montreal with a strict Irish Catholic mother and her hoarding, abusive boyfriend, he finally meets his biological family for the first time in adulthood. Luckily for his audience, Dan’s turbulent childhood has supplied him with plenty of material to produce a hilarious and reflective show about his experiences. In fact, Dan told me that after he’d completed the writing process, he had 60 pages of preliminary script to work with (a thesis-worth of comedic content) which was eventually cut down to a fourth of that size.

“Honestly,producing this show was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and I think I just wanted to recreate it again” said Dan about bringing his show back. “I would love to tour this show worldwide. Already we’re applying it into the Sydney Comedy Festival, and I’d love to do the Canadian Fringe Tour next year.” And of course, Edinburgh is the aspired final destination because in what better place to end a long run, then at the world’s largest Fringe Fest?

Although it’s something he’s wanted to do since high school, Dan only got into comedy six years ago. The final push he needed was more of a kick-in-the-face, when at the Just For Laughs Festival he ran into an old classmate who was there as a comic, while he was there as a busboy. “It was just pure shame” he said. “I hadn’t seen her in almost ten years and I was so ashamed of this path I had taken that wasn’t anything, and she was there living her dreams kind-of-thing.”

“I’d done so many different things, so many other paths, you know. I went to Concordia, I graduated in communications, and then started down this PR kind of path. I was working at this events planning company and they’re like, well, sure, but we’ve gotta start you at the bottom as busboy’ which was tough even at the time for me, cause I was a waiter. But there was something about the fact that it was a Just For Laughs event, and full of comedians and agents and stuff, I just knew I had to be there for some reason. That was the last gig I ever worked for them and then two weeks later I started doing stand-up.”

Last year after the holidays, Dan decided to take a month off from his full-time day job as a writer for a web marketing company. “I was doing that full time for the last three years, and it’s really draining. You’ve been writing all day and you come home, and the last thing you want to do is start writing jokes, you get lazy.”

“And the whole time I had this nag inside me. All my jokes are a lot of fun, they’re very playful, but I’m not a dealing-with-the-issues comic. I’m also not a talking-about-my-life comic. You know, I tell stories and stuff, but I’ve never talked about being adopted. Ever. I’ve never talked about coming from parents who are divorced. I’ve never talked about meeting my biological family before. And these are all huge things, but I just never had time. So after the holidays I decided to go down to LA where my biological dad lives.”

After a month of routinely writing, Dan came back, quit his day job and began writing full time. After four or five months, Adopt This! was ready for rehearsals.

At the end of October, you can catch Dan on The Comedy Network’s Comedy Now. Out of 25 Montreal comics, he was one of three chosen to fly to Toronto and film a half hour TV special. He also started doing improv around the city, which he says gives him an adrenaline rush and the ability to just be in the moment and be natural. “When you’re relaxed and just feeling natural and joking around with the crowd, that’s when you’re yourself and you can make people laugh genuinely.”

“Even when I do stand up, let’s say when I’m hosting and I’m talking to the crowd, for some reason I feel better about a joke that I create on stage then one that I’ve written at home. It’s spontaneous and it’s you being you, and that’s the ultimate goal in comedy I think, just to become the person that you are that got you into comedy in the first place.”

If you missed it the first time, you can redeem yourself and see Adopt This! at Theatre Ste-Catherine (264 St-Catherine E) on July 23rd @ 10 pm

Tickets are $15 through the Zoofest website.

Photo creds: Darren Curtis (actaeonphoto.com)

In the old fashioned opulence of the National, we were treated to a new take on the literal underdogs of the circus scene: the ‘undermen’ of Undermän.

Though a Swedish term, the name works perfectly in English, too. An undermän is the stable part of an acrobatic duo, that is to say the one responsible for the heavy lifting. The three main performers in this piece by Cirkus Cirkör are all ‘undermen’ who have lost their partners and are now trying to readjust and reinvent themselves in the wake of this shift.

The acrobatic partner of an undermän (a topwoman, perhaps?) seems to frequently end up becoming a romantic partner, as well. This is unsurprising, what with the trust their work requires, the hours and hours spent together, and the close physical nature of the duo’s relationship. Not to mention the fact that both of them will have similar interests and fit, well-trained bodies that must be constantly grabbed—that can’t hurt.

The three main players in the show are all scruffy, sturdy boys, and they’re all musicians too, taking breaks from the acrobatics to play drums, guitar, bass, accordion, looping machines. Their accompanying musician friend, Andreas Tengblad, (who did at one point manage to pull off a somersault) added his talents on cello and electric guitar, as well. He even performs a lovely solo at one point that involves him on his knees, singing as he plucks away at the strings of his cello.

The show begins with a monologue by one of the acrobats about how he met his partner. There is no denying that the two were in love, and that once that love crumbled, working together as a duo became next to impossible. I can’t imagine having to train for hours on a daily basis with someone who just broke my heart, or whose heart I just broke.

Melancholic, theatrical, and sometimes angsty, this show is deeply intertwined with its live musical score. The timing of the performance and the atmosphere of some pieces rests heavily on the music. Despite some simple theatrics, which were effective and not at all heavy-handed, the actors and the show itself feel very casual. The boys smash stuff, throw things around, and take time to monologue on fights, anger, and having “issues”—it is not a show about sunshine and roses.

There’s a piece involving a huge hoop and a single feather, which begins almost as a slow dance between the undermän and his hoop. Sometimes the hoop gets the stage and spotlight all to itself, as the undermän stands back, underscoring perhaps that he is used to being the less flashy member of a performance.

As the show progresses, the undermen juggle heavy kettlebells and bouncy clubs in complicated and impressive patterns, often shouting and smiling. There’s a playful edge to the way they treat each other, making it obvious that they are friends as well as co-workers. They are also pleasantly unfazed when they mess up, making for an overall very sweet and casual show.

They execute some impressive undermän-on-undermän lifts, meaning these boys were each heaving something around two hundred pounds over their heads. Though undermen, and so maybe not trained for the really flashy moves, they still pulled off some awesome lifts, tumbles, flips, and jumps. Despite the sort of self-deprecating nature of the show as a whole, these performers are still powerful, highly-trained acrobats.

After humbly thanking us for the applause, the undermen invited us to stay behind for a musical performance, a band made up of the undermen’s musician friend Andreas and a songstress from their homeland. Given that I’m not used to deciphering Swedish phonemes her name was, unfortunately, lost on me. She and Andreas have recently released an album together, though.

The music that these two make together is very soft and indie-sounding, haunting, and driven mainly by the beauty of their vocal harmonies. Clearly talented vocalists, the two of them held tight, sometimes vaguely (though obviously purposefully) discordant harmonies, Andreas’ smooth tenor melding nicely with his partner’s timbre. The lyrics of their often short little tunes were creative, cute, and touching—my favourite was probably “Peaches”, a song about staying behind in a small town, even when all your friends leave for broader horizons, because “my peaches grow here”.

The musical arrangements were light-handed and sparse, as they accompanied themselves on guitar, glockenspiel, and a small, Celtic-style drum. Like much of the Undermän show, the music these two played for the crowd had a melancholic tinge, Andreas’ guitar playing resonating chords with a folksy and sometimes almost surf quality.

The boys from Undermän stayed behind to support their friends, and we were treated to them bantering playfully with the singers onstage from the back rows of the theater. It made the crowd smile, and further reinforced my impression that these are all just young buds who found a productive way to vent some of their angst about life, and put it on display for us to sympathize with.

An effective, touching, and talent-filled show, Undermän will be at le National until the 14th of July, part of Montréal Complètement Crique.

Photos Courtesy of: Montréal Complètement Cirque

Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition

 

Rope and Threadism
Rope and Threadism – Photo Taymaz Valley

Walking up the steps of St-Brigide de Kildare Church in Montreal, I was faced with an entrance structure bound by ropes, a gateway of some sort into our future located simultaneously in our past. As I walked through the gateway, a harmonious chorus of angelic tones welcomed me into the space; this fortuitous event however was purely happening by chance, as the singers for the special event at the Rope+Thread=ism exhibition were preparing their show.

The Church produces a sanguine and calm effect when one walks in, as the light coming through the colored glass windows makes sure you know this is a grand place demanding humble piety from all pilgrims. That is precisely why the organisers of the exhibition Amy Lilien and Atiq Kamel, from the IQ Gallery, have brought their concept into this space.

The idea of ism is being placed under the microscope here, and you are being taken on a journey from the classical to the avant-garde so you can question your understanding of all art movements in the past. This exhibition highlights the much debated question of continuity in art and history, and requires further contemplation on the subject.

The notion of continuity in human evolution and civilization undoubtedly has much evidence to support it. Just like natural selection, civilizations progress into a much more apt frontier by adapting to circumstances surrounding them; as Herodotus put it: “Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.”

 

Rope and Threadism
Rope and Threadism – Photo Taymaz Valley

When it comes to Art, many have observed that it cannot be improved upon. One cannot say that Impressionism was an improvement on academic painting, or Abstract Expressionism trumps Cubism. Each art period was a direct result of its milieu; each new ism in art was simply a new way of looking at the socio-economic and political factors the artists were exposed to at the time. What they expressed were products of their time and not improvements on previous artists. However, the way they expressed it can be seen as an evolution.

Pablo Picasso once said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”, though he neglected to mention that Raphael had less opportunities to paint like him because of the scarcity in equipment, technological advances, discoveries of primitive art and social consciousness. Picasso and modernism was born from the freedom those artists had to experiment with art. The collages, assembled sculptures, pottery, photography and all the other tools that the avant-garde artists had access to paved the way for them.

One must not forget the Collective consciousness of the viewing public. Shocking as it might have been to see a cubist painting in 1920s, the public had been familiarized with notion of breaking academic rules by the Impressionists, and in turn Delacroix and Manet had done their part to open doors for those Impressionists. So continuity in Art becomes fathomable when one takes into account history, science, technology, psyche and other progressions in society; and although the subjects of those artworks are not improvements on previous generation, the means can be.

 

Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition
Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition – Photo Taymaz Valley

Amy Lilien and Atiq Kamel have transformed a grand religious building into an utter modern space where the bravery of contemporary art can be observed without being overshadowed by relics of the past. It is far too simplified to say there is a progression from the classical to the new here, because as luck would have it they weren’t allowed to hang the work on the walls, and so they have made a decision to place all of the artwork on the floor; so now, they do not need to compete and are separate entities.

The artwork on the ground makes us feel as if we are looking at the beginning which at the same time is our future. We have gone around in a circle, yet infinity of our art as subjects of our time becomes apparent. What we have here is timeless, and challenges our preconceived rationalities. History has lent a hand and each thread has played a part in this rope to produce an outstanding contemporary show.

Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition at St-Brigide de Kildare Church 1151, rue Alexandre-de Seve, Montreal is on until July 14th 2012

Print is dead. Everyone’s thought it, we’ve tag-lined it, and e-reader companies are laughing to the bank because of it, but in Montreal, it’s become painfully true, especially on a Thursday. Empty racks and folks trying to handout 24H and Metro are all we get where only a few Thursdays ago, you could have your pick of The Hour or The Mirror, jam packed with grass roots alt-culture for the low low price of zero.

It feels insulting that Quebecor dropped the bomb so suddenly that the 27 year old city staple didn’t even get to do a truly final edition, but was canceled mid-run, like a TV show canned mid plot arc. Not only does this leave fans without a proper sense of closure, not to mention without what would have been a lovely piece of frameable memorabilia, but I imagine it’s a tragedy in and of itself for the crew who freshly unemployed, didn’t have a chance to sign-off to their often quite dedicated readers.

It should be no surprise: it’s a sign of the times, a side effect of corporate (and perhaps linguistic) politics, but it feels more complicated than that. Today ma belle ville feels much smaller than the stylin’ global force of culture we like to portray ourselves as. With the free news dropping like flies, and the grand bastion of The Gazette deteriorating rapidly, we’re shrinking from an opinionated metropolis into a village that can’t even keep its own dailies going.

What tangible piece of our identity can we hand to the constant stream of Newbie Montrealers and our Lovely Tourists as easily as we could hand them The Mirror? When they say “What’s the flavour, and where do I begin?” are we to reply, “Pull up a poutine, I have some links for you to check out”?

We’re a sensuous city left without a touchstone; a void where our collective weeks once coalesced. We have no physical literary souvenirs that can’t just as easily be printed from a computer in Denver.

Remember when Vice Magazine was a Montreal magazine? Me neither, but it was, and I’m nostalgic for it conceptually. I love Vice, and maybe that’s truly the last hardcopy freebie of its style in town; intentionally subversive, artsy, hipster-tastic, quasi-Montreal (hey, they still have an office here) and so glossy it’s sexy.

I was rather confused when I learned that I couldn’t pick up the latest copy at the American Apparel (the only place to score it sans subscription) on Sherbrooke. It seems they no longer carry it because “Westmount mothers complained”, which was no real surprise; the shock is that American Apparel in all its line walking, trouble starting glory, capitulated and pulled it from that location. That, and an aside to Westmount moms: there’s a little thing the kids are surfing these days called the interwebz, and it is vastly more frightening than any copy of Vice. At least if your kids are reading a mag, you can see what they see, instead of them erasing their history, but whatevs, I get it; Vice scares you.

It’s devastating that such a rush-out-and-touch-it city can now only offer a list of links for opinions, and community, and some things can’t work online: in cyber-space the Rant Line would degenerate into the No-You’re-A-Douche, Line in no time.

So, I want to take this opportunity to give my personal thanks. Montreal Mirror, you spoke so eloquently for so many, and I wrapped my fragiles in you with every move I’ve made (and it’s been many). You offered up listings for the shows and events I didn’t know existed, thus, couldn’t Google for.

Thanks for giving us my personal faves Kristian Gravenor (still truckin’ at coolopolis.com), Josh Bezonsky (who Google says grew up to become a lawyer), the illuminating and artistic horoscopes of Rob Breszny (freewillastrology.com), Raf Katibak, and Sasha, eveyone’s fave go to gal for both the nitty and the gritty deets. Jason McLean, having written for them that one time, and now knowing that you will always have that up on me, instigates just the right amount of burning jealousy that good writer buddies should have for one another, so please wear it well.

Thanks, Mirror, for being there, pristine, beckoning and beautiful the morning after my first ever acid trip, filling me with twinkly civic pride. Thanks for printing my rants (though the one about my first acid trip didn’t make it; for that, I forgive you). Thank you for simplifying the best we have to offer with BoM, for the call centre ads that used to keep me employed, and all the art and music. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May this be the end of a chapter, and not the whole story.

If you need me, I’ll be trying to fall in love with The West End Times.

Tweet me your Rants, Raves, and local faves @McMoxy. Photos by Henry Gass.

mirror cover2

mirror cover2

In what surely is a peak time for Montreal culture, with festivals and marches everywhere, the city as a whole and the English-speaking progressive and artistic communities in particular suffered a major loss yesterday. After 27 years, the Montreal Mirror abruptly stopped publication.

News came first from a press release by Sun Media, a division of the Mirror’s parent company Quebecor. Then the alt weekly’s site redirected to a message from the editors thanking readers and contributors and stating that:

“The growing popularity of digital media and communications has irremediably changed the context in which free cultural weeklies operate, bringing about economic challenges which have unfortunately compromised The Mirror’s viability.”

(Note that editor-in-chief Alastair Sutherland confirms that this statement was not written by anyone on the Mirror’s actual editorial board.)

Mirror cover 1985
One of the first covers of the Montreal Mirror – 1985

Some will blame the Web. For those who do, I’d suggest looking beyond cultural publications like this one, to sites like Craigslist that take away classified dollars.

Others have already begun suggesting on Facebook and in editorials that Quebecor/Sun just wasn’t willing to invest in trying to properly adapt the Mirror to the new digital marketplace when they easily could have.

Some have hinted at and in some cases stated that given the right wing bent of Quebecor’s other properties like the Journal de Montreal and Sun News, doing something, anything, to keep a centre-left Anglo publication that didn’t fit their mould alive just wasn’t in the cards.

Others see this as part of the general problem of media consolidation, responsible for a corporation like Quebecor having the power to axe the Mirror in the first place.

No matter where you lay the blame (I personally take the right-leaning media conglomerate having no interest in keeping its one lefty paper angle), what’s happened is in the past. Sadly, so now is the Mirror.

No more Rant Line, no more Best of Montreal, no more… the list goes on. Also, no more job for seven hardworking people and countless freelancers. I had the pleasure of writing for them once, covering the anti-Republican protests in NYC in 2004 and have been interviewed a number of times over the years on different subjects, even making it to the cover in 2001. We all have our own memories of this paper. I also remember back in my late teens and early twenties rushing out to pick up a copy of the paper to see if that show my friends were in got some coverage. We saw ourselves in this paper. It spoke to my community and if you’re reading this, it probably spoke to yours, too.

Mirror

This was a publication that started in a very rock ‘n roll fashion as so many projects I’ve been involved with have. It never lost that vibe in its content. (Maybe it’s somewhat fitting that the Mirror is now gone at age 27, the age of the dead rock star) There’s a Facebook group up to save the Mirror, not sure what affect it will have. At the very least, though, Quebecor should allow them to do one final farewell issue and reopen the online archives (one of the best archive setups out there) making them permanent. The only thing we have now are memories.

Farewell Mirror, you will be missed.

Thanks to all the staff of the Mirror for all their years of great service, especially Patrick Lejtenyi, Alastair Sutherland, Matt Hays, Sacha Jackson, Lorraine Carpenter, Jonathan Cummins, Chris Barry and Rick Trembles, among many, others.

My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia

My exploding family
My Exploding Family on at the Fringe Fest – Photo Chris Zacchia

My Exploding Family as with many things from Japan, is weird. But it’s weird in a fun fantastical sort of way and will have you laughing and smiling throughout. The show is like a journey inside the mind of a 5 yr old child. Their world is filled with brilliant brilliant colors, bizarre sounds and expressive movements.Their imaginations have been left to run wild.

My exploding family
My Exploding Family – Photo Chris Zacchia

The 3 characters bounce around from one train of thought to the next all with the utmost fluidity. Even their movements are reminiscent of childhood as they laugh and play with each other & the audience. The language barrier doesn’t play any issues either as the sparing bits of dialogue are delivered with an adorable Japanese accent.

The show is written and directed by Yanomi, an award-winning Japanese performer, a.k.a. Miss Hiccup/Shoshinz.

Over all hilarious! You have to check it out!

Remaining dates:
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – 15:15

Friday, June 22, 2012 – 23:00
Saturday, June 23, 2012 – 21:00
Photos by Chris Zacchia
For more check out out ForgetTheBox on FB
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
Yanomi of My Exploding Family – Photo Chris Zacchia

 

My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia

What do you do when your funding gets cut for purely political reasons? Simple. A few of your friends and supporters get together, put on a show and invite a few hundred of their friends to come and help you make some of that money back.

That’s exactly what several performers and friends of STELLA, the sex workers’ rights organization that recently had a large portion of their budget removed by Harper’s Conservatives, are doing tonight. And they’re doing it twice, back to back!

First up is Double Whammy, a multidisciplinary cabaret featuring some of the city’s hottest burlesque performers like Seska Lee, Cherry Typhoon, Frenchy Jones as well as the music of Annie Becker, a scandalous photo booth, a game show themed auction and more.

Hosted by Tom McGraw, the show’s tonight, June 16th and kicks off at 8:30pm sharp (doors at 8) at Theatre Ste Catherine (254 Ste-Catherine Est) and costs only $7 at the door. While this show runs until 11, the fun doesn’t stop then…far from it.

No Pants No Problem, POMPe, the aforementioned Tom McGraw and Glam Gam Productions are teaming up to present a no pants dance party that is also the official afterparty for Glam Gam’s Montreal Fringe run of If Looks Could Kill…They Will (wrapping up tonight at Cafe Cleopatre, btw). The venue’s the same and the fun starts (or rather starts again) at 11:30pm and goes till late, featuring DJ Like The Wolf and others.

Cover for this event is $10 or $5 with no pants. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t feel like traipsing around Montreal in your undies before you get to the event, there will be a pants check at the door.

There is even a combined ticket price if you plan on attending both events, so you can’t go wrong and you’ll be doing something to help out STELLA and help fight Harper’s cruel budget cuts.

The Harvester

fringe for all

The 22nd Annual St Ambroise Fringe Fest kicked off last Monday night in the opening fun-filled event: Fringe for All!

In a light-hearted evening of persuasion, the players of Fringe had the chance to impress the audience in a succession of preview performances. Vying for the audience members’ attendance at their upcoming shows, each performance group was granted two-minutes of stage-time to entice, persuade and promote.

These condensed, preview versions give fest-goers the opportunity to praise and appraise and to start shortlisting their must-sees. As a new friend of the Fringe, overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the festival, I was very pleased at the chance to sample what is to come. Personally, the night functioned as a sort of test. In preparing for the upcoming weeks, I shortlisted a few shows, based mostly on hearsay and the flyer-filled press package.

But “Fringe for All” acted as a preliminary control for my previous purely “cover-judging” opinion. Perhaps not surprisingly, what brilliance cannot be contained a leaflet, can definitely be relayed in two minutes on stage – even if sandwiched between hours of other snippet long performances. In some respects, I was impressed with my gut but there was plenty of room for short-list revision.

Here are a few memorable moments that have warranted my attendance in their upcoming shows:

The Harvester
The Harvester at the Fringe

The Harvester

Silencing and holding the audience under a darkened stage, a figure dressed in radiation suit and nuclear mask slowly enters the scene. A grimly composed voice-over captivates with a tale of a post-apocalyptic world in which “time”, liquid and commodified, has cured illness, ended famine, and now, promises eternal life. But through this promise, liquid time has fallen into grave shortages. This is the story of those who hold the power of harvesting time. I later found out that this show is written and directed by the notable Paul van Dyck. But what is truly notable is that the preview was convincing independent of name-dropping.

Venue: Mission Santa Cruz – Performance dates: June 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23rd

 

Pitching Knife Fight

(Win free tickets through ForgetTheBox by guessing the film’s body count!)

Opening on the 15th, Walter J. Lyng puts on what will undoubtedly be a riotous good time. Centered around the movie franchise “Knife Fight”, the show will feature a series of promotional materials, as presented to potential investors. Well-known for his comedic ability, Walter is sure to deliver an energetic and contagious performance.

Venue: Théâtre MainLine Theatre – Performance dates: June 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24th

*** To win tickets to this show simply leave a comment below or on FB @forgetthebox or send us a tweet @forgetthebox guessing what the body count for the film #KNIFEFIGHT will be.

 

The GASSBAM Prize

Put on by the Montreal Improv duo Zoe Daniels and Carmen Rose, this “two-person, one PowerPoint play” centres around Dr. and Mrs. Doverman-Brack’s entry for the illustrious GASSBAM prize. Hard-hitting and hilarious, this preview earned a room full of laughs.

Venue: OFF A – Montreal Improv – Performance dates: June 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24th

 

The Little Prince as told by Machiavelli

A short-list revision: “The Little Prince as told by Machiavelli” takes a heartwarming favourite and turns hilariously grim. Giving a colourful and animated preview, the Capricornucopia group retakes a classic inspiring story and adds totalitarian ruling advice. In a convincing and keenly entertaining performance, The Little Prince is sure to delight.

Venue: Théâtre MainLine Theatre – Performance dates: 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23rd

Walking around Pink Espace gallery on St. Jacques Montreal for the new Alain James Martin exhibition, I find myself perplexed by the subjects of the drawings and the quote from Don DeLillo’s Mao II: “The future belongs to crowds” which is used on the invitations.

After getting myself a glass of red, I find the artist and ask him about the inspiration behind the work. Mr Martin pleasantly refers to the Don DeLillo quote and states that with the ever growing popularity of social media and internet, it seemed probable the crowd will indeed hold the upper hand in the future.

The works are all close ups of different sections from a 1940 photograph titled “Crowd at Coney Island” depicting a beach scene where, as stated, a crowd of spectators cheer and wave at the camera in their swimming attire.

The drawings are amazingly detailed and precise in their portrayal. The gallery has supplied a copy of the original photograph, along with a magnifier for close inspection of the specifics. However, the main question which remains lingering is not that of the artist’s skills, but the notion of the crowd and future.

Before digging deeper into that question, I would like to express my emotions when standing in front of these works. I felt exhilarated, joyous and important. My gaze was being returned by a crowd of happy and smiling onlookers, almost cheering me on, and it elated my mood. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a scene where everybody appreciated me; and believe me, it is much to the credit of the artist, because making the viewer feel important is no easy feat.

Many in the 20th century believed in crowds, and the power they possess in changing the way we shall live. Socialism, Communism, even Democracy is based on majority and the fact that they allegedly know what is best for a nation, or even the world at large.

However, more and more, we see majority getting it wrong in terms of consequences and harm done to humanity; because, well, not everyone is of the same education, intellect, or emotional stability; so people can be, and are being manipulated by propaganda, scare tactics, and individuals who are willing to lie through their teeth to grab and stay in power.

Studying history, we see majorities leading humanity astray. We put to death Socrates; burn down Acropolis and Persepolis; allow churches to rule in fear of an imaginary being; behead Louis XVI and countless others in the name of revolution; become a Nazi nation; bomb defenseless villages like Guernica; go to war over oil; carryout torture; cheer and chant when our enemies are executed.

However, one can say all these mistakes are due to ignorance, division between people, society and cultures, and in the future we won’t be making the same mistakes because we will have complete utter unity. International language; homogenized phenotypes; standard and controlled reproduction methods; global identity; regulated and universal clothing; no monetary units; no educational competition; immunization to all diseases; and no need for leadership.

In short, human beings will reach total equality in every sense. Well, if that is true, then by all accounts, decisions for all aspects of our lives will be made collectively, and the idea of “crowds” being the future is conceivable.

Even though this scenario sounds ideal, I do fear it, simply because gradually we will be losing our individuality and unique identity. As an artist who believes in self-expression I cannot help feeling apprehensive about the day mankind ceases to be creative because he is suppressing it in fears of becoming an outcast.

If we all believed in the same thing, and lived as dictated by a global doctrine, then we surely cease to appreciate the arts. Why would a youngster pick up an instrument if he does not feel the need to seek independence? Why would a poet write poetry if we do away with love, sorrow, joy and all other emotions? Why would we need fashion if we all wore the same garment? Why would we need artists inspiring us to find beauty?

 If the future belongs to crowds, why would we need creativity? And, if creativity is to be controlled, is that anything to boast about?

Alain James Martin exhibition will be at Pink Espace, 1399 rue St.Jacques, Montreal, until September 2012.

You know him right? The guy that painted multi-coloured dots, painted butterflies over and over again, the guy that sold a diamond skull for $80 million? Actually he only painted a few dot paintings himself, and the others along with the butterflies selling for tens of thousands at places like Montreal’s own Galerie de Bellefeuille, were all made by assistants; oh and that skull was reportedly sold for cash to a consortium including an anonymous businessman, the artist himself and his representative White Cube Gallery, making the proof of sale impossible.

It’s only fair to say Damien Hirst is about more than money, he used to be good at conceptual art, but that was before the money started to pour in from rich buyers. His “A Thousand Years” broke all the rules when it came to contemporary art, and managed to produce one of the most significant pieces of the 90s; Lucian Freud said to Hirst about the work: “I think you started with the final act, my dear.”

Hirst was part of the YBA (Young British Artists) who mostly graduated from the Fine Arts course at the prestigious Goldsmith College London. They reinvented UK art scene and once again put Britain back on the map as a place where art can flourish.

Hirst organised the first Freeze Exhibition in 1988, which brought YBA to the attention of investors like Charles Saatchi who in turn added money into the equation and thus changing the game altogether. Artists like Hirst started to get commissions which gave them freedom to experiment at first, however soon started to stifle their creativity.

It became apparent that to make money from what you think is art, you should also be a good businessman and a marketing machine, and so the age of artist salesman once again began. However this time around it was very different from the age of Andy Warhol and his Factory. This time money was in abundance and flowed in easier than wine. Art made many people rich, including a few commercially savvy artists.

Hirst’s studio started to produce reproductions and works done by assistances, and they sold, and buyer bought in hopes of making a few dollars in the future; however the quality was sacrificed for profit. With bursting of the financial bubble it also meant a burst in the Art bubble, yet Hirst once again managed to display his might as a businessman by using the auction house Sotheby’s to make nearly $160 million in 2008.

We must ask ourselves whether we judge good art by sale figures, and Tate Modern answered unreservedly “no” this year by having a Damien Hirst retrospective and refusing to include later works. This move is a rejection of Hirst’s international house of business, and embracement of ideas and concepts behind art.

The exhibition at Tate shows Hirst at his best, using creativity to inspire, excite, shock and engage. White Cube Gallery, the ever opportunist establishment that they are, decided to exhibit Hirst’s new paintings, which are done by himself in the past two years, this summer at the same time as Tate; no doubt to prove Tate wrong, and also attract more visitors and buyers.

Alas, the new paintings on exhibition only demonstrate how far Hirst has drifted from the shores of reason. His paintings are works of an unskilled, self-deluded, self-obsessed wannabe painter who is trying ever so hard to place himself amongst the greats by a schizophrenic mishmash of copying concepts. There are no clear and identifiable subjects, themes or moods within these paintings. It is as though an adolescent is showing off, and White Cube the ever cunning guardian applauds him.

It became apparent within a short period this summer that money has caused Damien Hirst to go from innovation to bouts of Megalomania; because he should never have painted, he is simply not a painter. The trouble with becoming a rich artist is that you are surrounded by yes men who are there to satisfy their own hunger for money and notoriety, so they keep saying how great you are whilst you go down the toilet.

Mark Rothko has been quoted as saying: “When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing. No galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet, it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption.” The problem has not been the existence of money or the galleries, but the way the two have been used to manipulate the art scene.