The Achievement Square Fridge Magnet Game

In the middle of the night, early in the third week of UBC classes, Fall 2014, a strange installation appeared in the new square that's being completed out front of the University Bookstore and across the way from the soon-to-be-completed new SUB.

It looked like a billboard.


But it wasn't advertising anything.

Instead, it depicted the space right in front of the board, but completely empty of people.

That space, the University has decided, will be called Achievement Square. And it's intended to be a high traffic zone where people can congregate and express themselves.

The billboard wasn't advertising Achievement Square, however. It was asking passersby to envision the space as they might like to see it in the future.


Fridge Magnet Game. Wha...?

But on the other side, it became pretty clear. Dozens of little people, fridge magnet style, campus citizens in minature, available for you to arrnage in patterns of your choosing, doing whatever you think they would be doing, in combinations or by themselves.

People didn't need instructions. Fridge Magnets is like a universal language.

A day or so after install, the new square had been envisioned over and over again, hundreds of times.

Some visions were just what you'd expect:

Romantic congress. Observation. Critical distance. That's pretty much campus life right there.

Go visit The Achievement Square Fridge Magnet Game out front of the UBC Bookstore, a collaboration between UBC Creative Writing, the artist Byron "Cameraman" Dauncey, and the UBC SEEDS Program (social economic ecological development studies), which is itself part of UBC Campus and Community Planning.

Come down and play the Fridge Magnet Game. There are no rules. There are no age restrictions.



Posted: Friday, Sep. 19, 2014 10:05am

The Nomad and the Refugee: a trip home in 70,000 kilometers, 18 years and 217 days

My mother passed away Mar 31, 2006, almost exactly seven years ago at the time of writing. Memories of her are still with me powerfully. And the story of how she met my father is one of those genesis-legends that I now understand to have shaped me crucially: my love of Vancouver, my affinity for travel, and maybe most of all, my writing.

On April 3, 2013, I'll be speaking at Sam Sullivan's Public Salon and talking a bit about my mother's life as a refugee and afterwards, also about the remarkable, unlikely way in which she ended up meeting my nomad father. Between the refugee and the nomad, they had tens of thousands of miles of travel under their heels at that moment of their first dance at a house party in Guayaquil, Ecuador. And they weren't quite done yet.

Sam Sullivan's Public Salon, 7:30PM to 9:00PM, April 3, 2013

Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton (at Dunsmuir)


Posted: Friday, Mar. 29, 2013 9:39am

The Way Things Are: Fred Herzog's Art of Observation

First published in Canadian Art Winter 2013

By Timothy Taylor

At 82 years of age, photographer Fred Herzog doesn’t move quite as quickly as he used to. But then, few people ever did. In his younger days, Herzog was the kind of guy who’d jump on his Norton motorcycle after lunch and ride back roads to the top of Mount Baker, 180 kilometres south in Washington state, then motor home in time for supper. “Not always at the speed limit,” he says now, with a sly smile.

When he wasn’t making a literal blur across the landscape—and when he wasn’t working full time as a medical photographer at the University of British Columbia (UBC) or raising his family—he shot pictures on the streets. And rather a lot of pictures, we now know, as a result of a series of high-profile solo shows in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, New York and Berlin over the course of just the past five years. Asked to estimate the total number of pictures he’s taken in his life, Herzog will admit to more than 85,000. Of course, those are only the ones he’s kept.

“I suppose I’m a bit of a workaholic,” he says, with a self-deprecating chuckling and a glint of mischief in his eyes. But then, immediately, he’s back to scanning the world around him. “Here,” he says, voice low. “Let’s look up this alley. There are often things here.”

We’re in Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhood, just east of the downtown core...

To continue reading, please

visit Canadian Art


Posted: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 9:35am

They're Everywhere


Holy stickers Batman. These things have hit Toronto, New York, Halifax... everywhere.

Now they've reportedly crossed the pond. They're going up in the UK now.

Move over Banksy. Or whatever. I have no idea what this means.

Posted: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 9:47am

Negative Empathy

Should writers of fiction review the work of colleagues? I avoid it personally, and my rational for doing is the basis for my side of a debate that was part of the CBC Literary Smackdown series recently. The other side of the issue was taken by esteemed Victoria-based novelist and nonfiction writer Robert Weirsma, who also writes a lot of fine reviews.

You can find our respective essays on the topic here, along with a link to the debate as broadcast on Sheila Rogers show Next Chapter.

I enjoyed the discussion because I enjoy talking to Robert. But I knew going in that arguing my side of the resolved was a thankless proposition. That's because I was arguing that the prevalence of competitiveness and envy in our culture and economy - magnified incredibly, in my view, by the migration of that culture and economy from offline to online - makes the review that one writer writes of another writer highly suspect. Consciously or unconsciously, in other words, insider reviews (positive or negative) end up being strategic, designed in their subtle and not-so-subtle ways to serve the purposes of the reviewer. Better that the writer withdraw from this toxic maeltsrom of mutual appraisal and measurement (as exemplified in our hysterical interest in our own online profiles) and leave reviewing to "professionals", people who write from within literature but not within the writing community.

Robert's argument for reviewing was from the standpoint of empathy. As a novelist, he could empathize more with the writer being reviewed than could a non-writer. Empathy, in this analysis, provides the novelist/reviewer with insights into the writing process and the significance of the literary accomplishment as it's ultimately delivered (or not) on the page.

That point is interesting because it shows that Robert and I come to our respective conclusions in response to our observation of what are closely related human capacities. Empathy, after all, is the mother of envy.

Here's Martin Amis putting his finger directly on the button in The Pregnant Widow:

"It was only Nicholas, his male flesh and blood, that Karl really envied. And envy, the dictionary suggests, takes us by a knight’s move to empathy. From L. invidere “regard maliciously,” from in- into + videre “to see.” Envy is negative empathy. Envy is empathy in the wrong place at the wrong time."

That's a very powerful idea: that "to see into" someone (their work, their tastes and tendencies, their condition) might "by a knight's move" lead us to "regard maliciously", wanting what the other has and quite possibly wishing them ill.

Powerful, but as I said, thankless. Who wants to hear that? It self-recriminates. And since we prize independence of mind and the idea of personal autonomy perhaps above all other things in our culture, that very idea that we are vainly comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves wanting is bitterly distasteful.

Of course, my whole argument was also an abstraction. I wasn't saying Robert specifically was envious and therefore a strategic reviewer. I was making a point that is as inwardly directed as it is outwardly.

In an interesting Facebook disscussion that sparked to life after Canada Writes posted the essays, the downsides of taking my position were immediately plain, as I was asked to produce my evidence and provide an example from Robert's reviewing of the envy that I felt prohibited the novelist/reviewer from effectively reviewing a colleagues work.

Fair play. I was in the realm of abstraction. And while I won't take on Robert's work, I'll happily take on my own. Consider this review I wrote of Jason Anderson's 2006 novel Showbiz, published by ECW. It ran in the Literary Review of Canada, and I now regret writing it. Not because I don't stand by the points I made, but because I can hear my own strategic positioning in it. I was writing about celebrity myself quite a lot at that time. (The Blue LIght Project was in the works.) So I had criticisms of Anderson's approach. Far more important is the fact that Anderson and I were doing the same thing at the time. Literarily speaking, we were after the same prize. We were undifferentiated competitors.

Call me a wimp, then, but I still feel icky about that review. Maybe I even withdrew from reviewing books by colleagues because of it. But the story ends well, because in a turn worthy of, I don't know, Flaubert, my own 2006 novel, Story House, was then bitterly trashed and stomped only six months later *in the same publication* by a reviewer named Adele Freedman.

Story House is about architecture. Freedman is an architecture critic. And she tore me a new egress, to put it politely.

Let's agree to call that karma.


Posted: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 11:49am

CBC "cultural secrets": Byron Cameraman

 I've written several times in these pages about my friend Byron Dauncey, who is also the street artist known as Cameraman. I'm happy to do so again, as Byron was included in the CBC show "Cultural Secrets", for which the CBC asked a whole range of people for suggestions. When they approached me, I took it to mean they wanted my idea of something/person/place that was culturally significant but not well known. Byron was my very first thought, although I hope that he does indeed become more widely known. He's a secret that shouldn't be secret.

The link to the CBC show is above. Here's the clip of Cameraman by itself:

Posted: Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 9:03am

V-TARP: The Vancouver Transit Adspace Reappropriation Project

So Banksy declares street art dead and apparently nobody was listening. JermIX certainly wasn't. Working with UK import Vegas - a stencil artist of remarkable skill - Jerm has launched what many consider his most aggressive campaign ever. VTARP, it's called. Vancouver Transit Adspace Reappropriation Project. Which sounds like a black line item in the DND budget. But which is actually a guerilla program involving dozens of artists who are putting up art on public transit vehicles in empty ad space.

That's right. The white space between McDonalds and VanCity ads is being filled with art. And Translink is greatly annoyed, although also a bit impressed judging from their very formal, though very cordial letter sent to the two organizing artists.

Posted: Thursday, Jun. 3, 2010 12:01pm

Olympics at street level, Diyah Pera photographs

I went out with Diyah Pera, a photographer friend of mine, on Friday to watch the protests. She took some great pictures.

I like the one above in particular. There's hope and determination in the face. There's another quality I'll inadequately describe as "realness". Experience, life lived. I don't know about you, but I want to hear what this person has to say.

But then you have the Che icon, and suddenly the air starts to come out of the tires. Che Guevara, whose Stalinist convictions lead him to sign a letter to his mother "Stalin II" at one point. (Please note the link is to the Workers Liberty website, not the National Review.)

I'm not trying to trash anyone's favorite t-shirt hero here. Only pointing out the irony. Stalin was known for many things, but tolerating protest marches certainly wasn't one of them.

More pix after the jump.

Posted: Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 12:04pm

Learning to live with the Suicide Machine

It's hard not to twin the phenomenon of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, as reported in Time this week, and the release of Jaron Lanier's new manifesto against Internet hive think You Are Not a Gadget.

On the one hand, you have long time technology analyst describing the ensnaring culture of the Internet hive-mind. On the other hand, you have a techology company offering a way out: kill your online self.

Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 8:54am
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