Lecture Reviews

20 October 2001

Wherein the reviewer reveals his bias

Aernout Mik, Harbourfront Centre’s Brigatine Room,
20 September 2001 7pm

Bias: I didn’t know who Mik was and am still unsure how to say his name.

Normally for Power Plant lectures in the Brigantine Room, the room is full of chairs, but this evening, a week and three days after the proverbial shit hit the fan, there were half as many, and of that, barely half were filled. The works presented by Mik were oddly au courant given the circumstances. The first video he showed, depicted stunned stockbrokers sitting around a trading room, their computers off and papers scattered everywhere. Even though the video was made much earlier, was this not the scene experienced the previous week’s Tuesday?

And that weighed on the lecture. Aernout Mik gave a subdued performance. He chose not to stand on the stage, but to walk around the front of it. He wore a lapel mike, which made him appear less like a celebrity at a genre-convention (which is exactly what he was–wasn’t he?) and more like a member of the audience. Mik sat at the edge of the stage while showing examples of his video works, which depicted fictive scenes that caricatured disaster. He remarked that he was uncomfortable and was not sure how he felt about the works. His uncertain nature diminished his authoritarian role, erasing the relationship of dictator and dictated to. It was as if he was also experiencing his own work for the first time.

There’s been a lot of community spirit in the last few weeks, which is at least one silver lining in the cloud of paper and ash — a scene Hollywood has depicted a thousand times, but still fails to give the lasting impressions of handicam images of a doctor hiding behind cars saying, “I hope I live, I hope I live.” Fade to black.

Rating: 8/10

Mark Kingwell, Aesthetics PHL 285, University of Toronto, 27 September 2001 12-3pm.

Bias: I have admired Kingwell for some time.

What is beauty anyway, especially now? Kingwell’s subject of the day was Kant’s views on beauty, that elusive something that supposedly gives us a glimpse of higher forms of being. Kingwell displayed his intellect with logical diagrams, that may have lacked Beuysian beauty, but displayed Cartesian design. (I thought that overhead displays would have been great, but then again maybe they would have just been distracting and in bad taste). Kingwell is so good, I wish all my teachers were as great. He knows his subject matter as if he made it all up himself. And, most importantly, he knows his audience. Instead of boring us with the stupid old “What if a demon were deceiving me” bullshit that is the usual when explaining Decartes, he used a contemporary example: “The Matrix”. (An aside if you will – I hated The Matrix because I feel it is too amateurish. It is such high school stoner philosophy. What if reality is all in our heads? Gee, not that sophisticated. But until then, I hadn’t connected Decartes to what has become amateur in our time).

The mastery of the performance was not matched by the set design. Like a good wine served in a paper cup, the architecture of a cement block room can suck the life out of any good material. I was left feeling like a stressed out student rather than an enriched human being, though the mastery of Kingwell as a teacher did leave me feeling somewhat more able to understand the relevance of this stuff.

Last word: It is so nice to be in a group where one can say the word “canonical” and not have to stop and explain it. Instead, that privilege was saved for the word, “belletristic”.

Rating: 10/10

Instant Coffee Saturday Edition

  1. Oct 2001: Appeared in Instant Coffee Saturday Edition Issue No° 1
  2. 2002-2015 Archived on my websites & blog
  3. Sept 2015: this version produced