The socio-economic geography of Canada has been/is a major factor in the formation of its cultural identity. Larger cities have favoured a more intense activity in the “experimental arts”. Smaller centres are and have been traditionally distant from the sources of communication, the media, and the information coming from other countries. Since the hippie movement, Canada06.jpg there has been a consciousness for group activities, for sharing through collectives the duties and tasks of small societies. Rochdale College (now defunct) in Toronto operated as a large centre for radical groups during the late ‘60’s. Later, smaller collectives started the flurry of little magazines, art centres, art and theatre groups. Sometimes, the group is simply the collaborative work of two people, a couple, though it often also includes a number of people. Each city has different « grouping » situations, with more or less cohesive traits in the type of work, philosophy and mode of making art. Vancouver, for one, has a tradition of being more easy going, more conducive relaxation, the use of drugs, and is more “hippy” oriented than the other Canadian cities. Such an orientation is reinforced by a milder climate and the presence of a diversified scenic condition. Intermedia (now defunct), Video Inn, Western Front, and Metromedia are the notable groups operating in Vancouver. Video lnn is a collaborative of a dozen video artists who give their time and energy for the centre dedicated to the collection and exchange of video tapes, in particular to those with a social base exploring social issues and «survival» information. From this stage of operation to one of “broadcasting” is a short step, and probably the members of Video lnn will update their role as a socially oriented group working for cable television programmes. The group shares responsibilities amongst the members, with frequent “dinner” meetings, rotating work functions, and a communal collection of tools and video equipment. Some of the more notable members are Michael Goldberg, now terminating his position as video officer at the Canada Council in Ottawa and Paul Wong. A video manual, although late, has been recently published by M. Goldberg who placed the emphasis on the use of “portapack” video equipment. Western Front is of a different nature. Its cohesion amongst its seven members is tremendous. Operating as a club, they work and live in the premises and host, from time to time, other artists working in areas similar to their own. These have included Opal L. Nations, Willoughby Sharp, Lowell Darling, and Anna Banana, as well as the more closely related Byron Black and Don Druick. The Western Front artists, Dr. Brute, Mr. Peanut, Lady Brute, Flakey, HP, and Marcel Idea work with the cultural cliche of mass media: the leopard skin, the image of the peanut shell from advertisements, and the neo-dada collage to funky “tongue-in-cheek “ art.Canada07.jpg Different than the other small collectives on the West Coast, these artists promote themselves across the country through the repetition of a dominant image. Similar to West Coast consciousness in general, they use an iconic imagery from the exaggerated reading of contemporary society. Other low profile galleries and art in the western provinces are also formed by groups, although their identity is less marked than some of the groups exploiting the international network of marginal art. Such centres promote the more traditional crafts and socially oriented activity: theatre, photography and jazz in particular. In Saskatoon, these include the Photographers Gallery and Shoestring gallery which has a certain reputation in experimental photography. In Calgary, Alberta, there is Dandelion. Also in Calgary, there is WORKS. (We Roughly Know Something), which was formed as a group and is now practically dissolved except for its Parachute Centre for Cultural Affairs directed by Clive Robertson and Marcella Bienvenue. Parachute attempts to keep up with the flow of information/artists in the contemporary arts passing from the western and eastern provinces. To break the Canadian isolation, Robertson has widely travelled his improvisational jazz group and he has a large number of performers such as the CCMC, Missing Associates, General Idea, Western Front. In fact, its ties are strongly connected with the fan club of “File” magazine. Another isolated enclave in southern Alberta is the Art Gallery of Southern Alberta, at Lethbridge, which is directed by Allan McKay, former director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery in Halifax. Similar to the latter, was Gallery One-One-One in Winnipeg though it was only open for a short period of time. Despite the great wealth of the western cities, these centres barely survive on funding from the Canada Council. They function primarily as the sole outlets for conceptual or marginal art activities, though to some degree are also social centres, and their audience is small as the population at large is still skeptical about their operations. In the East, collaborative work is not as evident as in the west. In Quebec, the collaborative that do exist take other slants. They are of a social nature, radically politicized and little known outside their own milieu. Montreal is divided by the French and English speaking groups. And within the artistic community, the English group is further fragmented. This is true, for example, with Vehicule Art Gallery whose founding group has been recently eliminated by a newer but more conservative group. The individuals within this group do not participate to collective activities, but they preserve their individual approaches within the older conceptual models. Optica and Media, both supposed to counterbalance Vehicule with a French bias, present contemporary art only if it is respectably professional. Allan Bealy's and Tom Deans magazines have in the past been outlets for “collective” expression, the kind which serves as an indexed collection of other artists working in areas similar to their own, namely found art collages, recycling of images and neodada icons as they appear in “Da Vinci” and “Seaux Arts”. Probably a more collective approach, as defined by a context in which several individuals modify and form the nature of a situation, is found at Videographe in its activity of documenting theatrical and social events through its comprehensive video facility. Canada08.jpg Videographe, now suffering from financial difficulties, has been a centre for information storage and video production and a catalyzer for collective work. Vehicule, past and present, has instead favored an individual approach through individual shows and individual careers. That is, the impact of it, is felt through a very specific list of individuals: Suzy Lake, Tom Dean, Bill Vazan... In Ontario, the most populous province with the largest cities, some political association has linked the work of different individual artists (unfortunately most of them still embedded in conventional disciplines, such as painting and sculpture), particularly in the smaller cities of London, St. Catherine and Peterborough. In London, a small circle of painters have initiated a political “union-like” campaign for the protection of painters' rights. The group dominates CAR, publishes “CAROT”, and intends to make pressure on political organisms and the larger galleries for a just share of economical payment for artists. Unfortunately, some of the action of this group does not property represent all of the aspects of “art-making”, especially that more deeply involved in the re-definition of art and its functional role in society. What is missing from this political activity is the implementation of a “socialist” system, which would guarantee not only the artist's right to make art, but the right for all individuals to exist. The Body Politic, which concentrates on the issues of gay liberation, has always included the work of some of the most radical artists (who later became members of CAR or became part of some of the “parallel” galleries) and represents a truly collaborative work. Some of the magazines which originated in the early seventies in Toronto and Vancouver had that “home-grown” feeling of the “back to the land” syndrome tinged with a reflection of psychedelic art, but they are almost extinct. More radical magazines have grown up to replace them. These more recent include “May Day” of Vancouver and “Partisan” (replacing “Guerilla”) and “Art Et Communication Edition” of Toronto. lf “Partisan” has not fully realized its potential, “Art Et Communication Edition” has been recognized as the latest radical magazine featuring both a vast range of information (local and international) on performance, film, video, artists' books, and design as well as publishing extremists writings which have been both signed and anonymous and collective. Its pages have given a collective voice as well as information on the latest occurrences internationally of: Reindeer Werk, Katherina Sieverding, Stephen Willats, the Polish Contextualists, Ron Gillespie, Michael Berman and Wendy Knox Leet (especially their recent manifesto on “Ritual Performance”). “Only Paper Today” (formerly “Proof Only”) was initially collectively edited in the sense that no discrimination was exercised over the contributions submitted to the editorial board (made up of the participating artist-writers: Blastbloom, V. Coleman, Dawn Daring etc.). Canada09.jpg However, the only contributions that were collective, those by the Blastbloom Associates were only produced sporadically, though their radical writing was prophetic and important in the contemporary art scene. The Blastbloom Associates have collaborated in experimental designs (competition for “Self-Help Housing” based in Manila, “house for a superstar” Japan Designs) in editing one of the experimental magazine Supervision, in writing manifestoes and political statements. “File” magazine is also the collaborative work of three Toronto artists known in other instances as Art Metropole General Idea. “Impulse”, also from Toronto, is edited by Eldon Garnett, a performance poet, though one of his latest editions was the recording of Joe Hall's music which is successful in the western provinces. “Spill”, edited by Elizabeth Chitty and published by 15 Dance Lab, concentrates on the neglected aspects of marginal and independent dance/choreography. “Strange Faces” from Vancouver, edited by Opai L. Nations relates itself, instead, to the west coast “dada” lifestyle as evidenced by Anna Banana, Dadaland and the correspondence neo-dadaists of Vancouver and San Francisco. The tendency to find “commonalities” and group sensibility is strongest in some of the most recent developments of performance or project oriented activity. Early attempts were made in Toronto by the groups formed during Roy Ascotts chairmanship at the Ontario College of Art. The work of the Shitbandit and the Anartists has fragmented into the differentiated tendencies to David Powefl's puppet theatre, Ron Gillespie’s behavior school, and the Oh, Those Pants, « world's worst» punk rock group. Rock music has slowly infiltrated the scene with its collective qualities and different forms. The Poles, headed by Michael Berman and Douglas Pringle is the latest interface of rock with an intentional base in “ritual” (as outlined in the manifesto by Michael Berman and Wendy Knox Leet in “ACE” N° 3, 1977). Wendy Knox Leet and Ted Weir were the first performers to investigate and present ritual performances in 1975. This kind of work is common to the English experience and is more accepted for its social and visual qualities. Socially less acceptable and far more intellectually based are the collectives working around the “contextual art” and behavioral art concepts. Contextual art appeared in Toronto in 1974 (See “TRA” precedent article) and is presently being pursued by Art-Language, Joseph Kosuth, Sarah Charlesworth, Herve Fischer, Amerigo Marras, and the Missing Associates. Jan Swidzinski (from Poland) is, however, the artist responsible for having outlined in his “proposition” the characteristics of contextual art based upon the experience of the structural cinema, Kosuth and analytical conceptualism. The Missing Associates, rather than being a collective, Canada10.jpgis the brainchild of Peter Dudar and Lily Eng. Dudar’s work is structural and methodical, while Eng’s solo choreographies are of a behavioral nature. The group, together with Bruce Eves, Diane Boadway, Ron Gillespie, Amerigo Marras, Wyndham Wise, Richard Shoichet and Chris Radigan, have presented “contextual” works using video, performance and film in New York at PS1 (run by Alanna Heiss of the Clocktower, at Artists' Space and at Franklin Furnace. As such, they were the first art performers from Canada to have performed in New York. Other contextualists/structuralists such as Ross McLaren, Brian Kipping and Doug Duart are working instead as “independent artists”. Ron Gillespie and Lily Eng, in particular, though possibly other performance artists as well, have been involved over the past two years in behavioral art. Behavior is related to the work of Marina Abramovich, Gina Pane, Vito Acconci, Petr Stembera and the Reindeer Werk. Behavior requires a collaboration and the new premises for performances/situational experience. Barbara Bloom (New York), Scott Burton, Nancy Gordon, Tom Sherman, Stephen Willats (England) and some of the theatre of Peter Melnick follow the patterns of behavioral investigation. Peter Melnick, possibly the most talented and potentially influential playwright in Canada, parallels the US experimental experiences of Bob Wilson and Richard Forman. His theatre pieces, conscious of language and movement, have some kind of relation with the performances of David Tipe. Still within the premises of performance art are the “shows” of sadomasochism and behavioral “fashions” by Bruce Eves with appearances by Bruce Eiken (a.k.a. Wonderdog) and the Blastbloom Associates.  Recently, there has been a flood of festivals and large events, including the super 8 film festivals in Toronto and the performance and seminar series in Montreal organized by “Parachute” magazine with the participation of Michael Snow, Caroline Tisdall, Germano Celant, Reindeer Werk (in collaboration with the CEAC of Toronto). The CEAC-Reindeer Werk collaboration is the first step towards the establishment of an expanded international network of workshops as a free-school system. The major headquarters are based in Toronto, Northern lreland, London and New York. Most important is the international front being formed between Reindeer Werk, the Polish Contextualists, the École Sociologique Collective of Herve Fischer in Paris, the WAVE network and the Centre for Experimental Art and Comunication in Canada (presently opening their information office in New York) and the “contextual” series of seminars in Europe and participation to the forthcoming Documenta in Kassel through the section on behavior contextual art.

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