Monthly Archives: February 2012

Have I grown up yet? ‘Neverbloomers’ explores adulthood on CBC

Montrealfilmmaker Sharon Hyman’s autobiographical documentary “Neverbloomers – The Search for Grownuphood” is an oddly compelling piece of work about a youngish woman who finds herself consumed by a series of troubling questions: “I’m 40, why haven’t I grown up yet?” “What is grown up?” “What’s a real job?” “What constitutes success?” “Do you have to be married to be happy?” “Where do grownups live?” “How many children should you have in order to be grownup?”


Then Hyman picks up her camera and begins a video odyssey to find the answers. These are the director’s philosophical dilemmas, the matters that nag her, as she finds herself walking up and over the top of the mountain, down the other side, into the land of middle age.

As far as relationships go, Aunt Rhoda is hysterically funny, advising her niece not to judge herself by having a ring on her finger and end up like a lot of other women. Fifty years old and still wiping “their husband’s asses.”

Next question, did she make a good career choice? When the director tries to engage in a bit of creative self deception, suggesting that while she might not be rich and famous, the film critics love her; her mother rolls her eyes, smiles gently, and is quick to quash that kind of personal mythologizing, reminding Hyman that no, she hasn’t made it, she’s still totally unknown and has no money. You know how parents can do that? Give you that sweet smile, full of love and adoration and then stick in the knife. Nobody can do that better than a well-meaning parent.

Hyman’s hardnosed mentor hectors her that the artist’s road is a hard one and nothing can guarantee success, and besides, who wants to grow up anyway? Then she visits an older lesbian with a pet pigeon who insists that self acceptance is the key to adulthood. The director’s best friend wonders if getting older means you don’t have to be bitchy to people anymore and that might make you happy. And then an older man insists that following money only leads to unhappiness, and that a truly happy grownup is content with having their daily bread. And there are many other interviewees from vastly disparate backgrounds who rhapsodize on how to become a successful adult.

Like any good travel guide, Hyman takes you to places you’d never find on your own, but the most interesting aspect of this documentary is how incredibly self-referential it is.

Neverbloomers is the perfect documentary for the youtube, American Idol, ‘I am a star,’ ‘I am a celebrity,’ ‘I am worthy of endless self-examination’ zeitgeist we currently live in. Hyman takes this notion of self importance and turns it on its head, however she’s been crafty enough to shoot it in such a way that at first blush the documentary appears to be a straight ahead questioning about growing up, and indeed you could watch it like that and be thoroughly entertained.

But where Neverbloomer’s truly shines is in its delightfully subtle attack on our current cultural narcissism, and for that reason alone, you really should catch this film on the CBC’s documentary channel Monday night, February 27th at 8p.m. EST.


Migrating Landscapes exhibit opens in Toronto's Brookfield Place

Today on my article on a great exhibition at Brookfield Place

Chess set of Toronto by Amber Baechler and Mark Baechler. Photo: Theo Skudra/Tom Glass Pictures

 Migrating Landscapes was inspired by the individual experiences of architects Johanna Hurme (born in Finland), her business partner Sasa Radulovic (born in the former Yugoslavia) and colleague Jae-Sung Chon (born in South Korea), collectively known as the Migrating Landscapes Organizer or MLO. All three are first-generation immigrants, who, like most new Canadians, had unsettling encounters with the very different Canadian landscape and building forms as they settled into their new country.

Believing that this experience of migration is quintessentially Canadian and not just limited to immigrants, MLO put out a call to young Canadian architects ages 45 and under to create videos and build models of dwellings that address their own unique experiences of migration. Wanting this to be a truly national project, both in its scope and its presentation, MLO is in the process of hosting seven regional exhibitions across the country. Overall winners will travel to Venice with MLO to be shown as Canada’s official entry at the Biennale next fall. The MLO traveling show has currently landed in Toronto’s Brookfield Place complex.

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Brookfield’s gorgeous airy galleria, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is the perfect place to see this whimsical exhibition. When arriving from the Yonge Street entrance, one is greeted with what appears to be stacks of untreated wood of varying shapes and sizes standing on end. The configuration of wood is simultaneously reminiscent of an urban skyline, a mountain range or a vast forest. One catches the occasional pleasant whiff of pine or fir. There is something about Migrating Landscapes that is explicitly Canadian on a very sensual level. This strange landscape of wood summons up the very essence of our home.

Within these stacks of wood, this metaphorical landscape, are strategically placed models constructed by the Migrating Landscapes entrants from Ontario. For example, an intriguing series of small dark wooden boxes, suspended by cables, suggest the possibility of life high in the trees or mountains. A chess set of the city of Toronto, complete with painstakingly crafted sculptures of the CN Tower and the Sky Dome, rests on top of another wooden plinth or plot of land, reminding one that life in Toronto can be a high stakes game.

 Theo Skudra/Tom Glass Pictures

MLO’s exhibit couldn’t have found a more perfect time or place for this show than 21st century Toronto. When walking up Yonge into Brookfield, one can see the unimaginable changes that have transpired in the city over the past decade or so. Old brick edifices are disappearing, either absorbed into the facades of new glass skyscrapers, or demolished by indiscriminate wrecking balls. A distinctly pan-Asian aesthetic has swept across the city’s skyline, as unique and unsettling for many as the migration experiences one can see represented in the models of the Migrating Landscapes show.

One must applaud Brookfield Place for opening its doors to these young architects and allowing them the opportunity to share their experiences, hopes and dreams for the future of Canadian architecture with the many passersby. People of all ages stopped, obviously fascinated by the material, engaged with the models, trying to figure out what stories of migration they tell.

This is where the Migrating Landscapes exhibition is at its most successful. Its wild wooden landscape and unusual little models speak to the migration experience that is part of the fabric of our Canadian identity. Where it flounders a bit is in the dense, descriptive passages that accompany the models. They consist of highly conceptual “architect speak” which is alienating at worst and will mean nothing to the average citizen at best. This kind of language may be more suitable in a gallery or museum context than in an open public venue like Brookfield Place.

The winners of this Ontario Regional Exhibition of Migrating Landscapes will be travelling to Winnipeg in March for the National Exhibition, where they’ll be joined by other regional winners from across Canada. I wholeheartedly look forward to seeing which singular models will make the trip to Venice along with the rest of the MLO team.


The Sniffer: New Trends in Advertising and Eco-Housing

Nora’s getting her rant on about new trends in tech-flavoured advertising. Sure things like QR Codes are neato, but are you really interested in using your phone with them to get yet more ads? Tell us, would you interact with Coca Cola’s polar bears online? Read on at CNET.

As an aside, Nora mentions all the nifty things people are using Microsoft’s Kinect for, from research projects to art installations. (Interaccess has a piece by David Rokeby that used the Kinect to allow visitors to interact virtually with gallery goers inEurope. Nora wishes she could find video documentation).

And, just for fun, courtesy of Swiss Miss, check out this vid of 50s  British coffee culture. Too cool for old skool.