I can vote again.

The Nonsuch

After being unable to vote in Canada for a couple of elections, I was finally able to register to vote for the upcoming elections. Previously, Canadian living abroad for over five years were unable to vote, with the logic that they don’t get to feel the direct consequences of their vote, especially if they live far away. Who cares who’s the Prime Minister of Canada if my life is more affected by the President of Korea?

Actually, both affected me. Steven Harper took away my right to vote, and Lee Myung Bak dramatically increased my taxes. And notably, if I were an English instructor, the conservatives in Korea would have forced me to take an AIDS test prior to being allowed to work. So yeah, citizenship and elections have consequences to expats from two governments regardless of how far removed they are from their country of origin or to local politics.

This reminds me of Michael Sandel’s lecture in 2009 regarding solving the immigration problem. Gary Becker, a free market economist suggested selling citizenship to people. Why not just sell American citizenship for $50,000? Perhaps even higher? This would automatically guarantee certain characteristics like a level of wealth which makes them unlikely to be a drain to social services. It would also automatically make them contributors to society. Now, ignoring the other parts regarding refugees, selling citizenship seems to focus more on an individual’s merit and contribution to society as the main criterion for citizenship. If that is the case, that would make me more of a Korean citizen by virtue of my taxes and the value of my work and how it affects Korean society in general.

When it comes to everything else however, I’d like to think I’m still very much Canadian. My artwork is mostly focused on Canada and North America. Most of my friends and family are in Canada and I have no doubt that my ashes would someday be scattered in the Red River. Culturally, I am still very much Canadian, although an older Canadian. As for education, I have educated myself a second time just to make myself a more informed Canadian citizen. So yes, when it comes to love of country, I have often said that, “if I could, I would kiss Canada in the mouth.”

Thus, the recent Supreme Court decision proclaiming the inalienable right of Canadian’s abroad to participate in federal elections is very important to me. It bothered me that Steven Harper ruled the country for so many years, and it also bothered me that Justin Trudeau won in 2015 with only 39% of votes out of the 60% of Canadians who voted. Less than 30% of the country want him to govern. Something is not right. Not enough people are voting.

Quite frankly however, I would take anyone as leader of the country other than the conservative Andrew Scheer and the goofy PPC Maxime Bernier. Despite my feelings regarding Trudeau, I would be comfortable with the Liberals leading the country for a few more years. But I would hope that the popularity of Jagmeet Singh would push Trudeau to a more progressive bent.

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I love you, Hong Kong.

Pigeon Eater

I love Hong Kong. I love the city, I love the people. I find the people very polite and it’s very easy to make friends in Hong Kong.

My mom and my dad both visited Hong Kong on separate occasions when I was young, and I was always intrigued by their pictures and the souvenirs they brought back. It was the first foreign place overseas that I ever flew into, and I’ve since visited the city many times. The only couple of bad experiences I’ve had in the city are from scammer foreigners, but other than that, Hong Kong is a wonderful city with a wonderful people. It’s gotten more and more expensive to visit Hong Kong these past few years, but it’s still my favorite city in the world.

I’ve been following the umbrella protests since the first Umbrella Revolution in 2014. It was impressive seeing Scholarism, basically a group of young kids, start a movement which rippled out to other countries. I remember seeing protesters and meeting Hong Kong students right outside my office in Seoul. And now, after months of protests, they’ve won a major victory facing against one of the strongest forces in the planet. I hate what China is doing to Hong Kong. I hate how it’s transforming the city to a police state warzone now that it can afford to since China has started to grow several other cities which will rival Hong Kong as economic hubs in the future.

But it’s great that the protests worked. It’s amazing how almost a quarter of the population rallied against an oppressive force. And it wasn’t just young people, it was also the older generation protesting to protect the city’s youth. Protests do work, and it was good to see it in action. The last time I saw protests like that working, it was here in Seoul when they ousted the former president.

Unfortunately however, Carrie Lam’s words when conceding to one of the demands of the protestors show signs of a prolonged conflict. She labeled the protestors as rioters and accused them of violence. These are the words of someone who thinks the Internet does not exist and outsiders don’t have third party media to see that it’s the Chinese police who are consistently perpetuating the violence. It’s the protestors who are protecting themselves with vinyl umbrellas and putting out tear gases using innovation and science.

The protests are going to continue. There are still more grievances that need to be addressed, especially stemming from the government prolonging the protests, using brutal tactics, and arresting thousands of protestors. China and their puppets in Hong Kong will continue to spread a propaganda war against the protesters. I suspect this small victory serves as an appeasement to tamp down on the protests. People are getting tired, and this small victory might just be enough to make some people want to stop and even turn on other protestors who want to continue protesting. It’s cunning politics, but it’s evil.

I don’t blame China for trying to bring Hong Kong to heel however. With many different regions, and countries like Taiwan claiming to be an independent country, it is in their best interest to demonstrate that a move towards independence is not in the best interest of the local population. However, the whole Hong Kong affair could’ve been dealt more diplomatically and really should’ve followed the spirit of the agreement following the return of the Hong Kong to China back in 1997.

In any case, I do hope things calm down in the city someday soon. The city is wonderful, and its people are brave. They deserve freedom and independence.

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An Advice. A Bad Advice?

Cooking Mommy

I was talking to a friend, giving advice and all of that, and one of the things that struck me the most is that in recounting his list of complaints regarding his current relationship, he mentions the rather unbelievably long period when there was absence in sex. It struck me as odd because both people were still quite young and both seem to be attractive enough that I imagine they would have sex at least once or twice a year at the very least.

When I heard that, the rather young and immature part of me thought of it as a deal breaker, grounds for separation. Why would a person deny the other of sex?! What fresh cruelty is this?! What a sad and loveless existence!

But then I got to asking… what is sex in a relationship really? Ideally, in a long-term committed relationship, it’s you being naked with your supposed best friend, soul mate, and lifelong partner having sex. But do people really get that? Does this really happen? Do people really enjoy sex with their best friend? And if they do, how long does either friendship or sexual attraction last? I think the whole thing is a myth.

First off, most adult relationships are not just about sex. Often, it’s two people learning to live with each other along with the baggage they bring to the table. This includes their family, friends, habits, etc. This is why it’s often said that you marry not only your spouse, but also their family. Relationships are also partnerships in dealing with nature and the outside world. This includes things like bills, societal expectations, aging, etc. There’s nothing romantic or sexy about any of these.

And how often do grown adults really have sex with their partners? Do they really enjoy these encounters? And if they still have sex, at what point are people cut off? If you look online, you’ll see that couples have sex well into their 70s. But then this gets me asking: what sex are people having? Is it sex, or just being physically intimate? Is being physically intimate like hugging or kissing just as valuable as full-blown penetration in a relationship? And again, are people who are fully penetrating their partners, fully penetrating people they consider their best friend and soul mate? Don’t some people just see this as a chore? Don’t people just imagine other people in their heads as they go about their sexual routines anyway?

I wonder all of this because this friend seems to have this romanticized notion of sex and overestimated its weight in measuring the value of how good a relationship is.

And truly, it’s not that valuable at all. It is icing on the cake, if you’re lucky enough to have cake. It is difficult enough to find someone who would tolerate another person’s idiosyncrasies along with their family and friends, they also have to be physically intimate and compete with an ocean of porn and attractive people both in real life and in media (who will never get older).

So yeah…  you. I know you’re reading this. Find something else to complain about. You got lucky finding someone half decent who would be with you and don’t mind being seen in public holding hands with you. That girl doesn’t mind seeing you at your worst and dealing with your various odors. Don’t complain about sex. It’s overrated. Porn is lying to you. Just be grateful when it comes.

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Gallery Game

Balloon

I try to show my work in a gallery at least once a year. I’ve been doing well, and I already showed my work in a couple of places this year, but doing all of this by myself, shopping around, applying for shows, coordinating with galleries, framing and shipping work, all of it can be very tiring. Then I stumbled on an article which examined whether brick-and-mortar art galleries are still needed when the Internet allows artists to directly reach out to their audience.

It’s a rather long article which ends with the writer promoting his services, but the biggest takeaway for me is that for the longest time, galleries have enjoyed the myth that they are the gatekeepers to “making it.” That once my art gets into a particular gallery, I will reach an audience that would buy my art and love me. This might have been true back then, but now reaching out to audiences has been democratized by the Internet. Instagram artists can be more popular and possibly sell more works than professional artists who shows work mostly in galleries. And art-lovers no longer have to visit gallery to discover new art. Of course some art have to be seen and experienced first-hand, but many works are now made available to be enjoyed online.

Two things however, one is being accepted by a gallery is always a good acknowledgment of one’s talent. This is why I try to apply for gallery shows and not rent galleries. That, plus the returns for renting a gallery and hoping for sales simply doesn’t make economic sense. I also believe in Marcel Duchamp’s message when he made Fountain. If all works are accepted by a gallery as long as the “artist” pays a fee, then that makes every object art. It makes beauty, talent, effort, and meaning all null. And as Stephen Hicks argued, “Art is something you piss on.” Not to sound too conservative, but you need unbiased gatekeepers to tell you that yes, what you have on the canvas is indeed art. Of course, many galleries will reject your works, but when you do get accepted by a gallery, it makes the moment and the work even more meaningful.

Another thing is that because of the proliferation of art on the Internet, it is very difficult to grow an audience and stand out in a sea of artists. It has given rise to businesses ranging from online galleries that promise artists to introduce them to buyers, to companies which boost online presence and add more clicks to artists’ Web pages. The brick-and-mortar gallery model has moved online. It is still the same game.

So what is my point? My point is, if you want to sell work. Don’t rely solely on brick-and-mortar galleries. In fact, unless your work already sells wells and is ideal for hanging, then yes, galleries are the way to go. I think however for most people, a mixture of galleries, online hustling, and participating in art fairs and other events is the way to sell art. Most non-famous artists would be spending just as much time selling their art as making them.

If you’re interested in growing your audience, go online. Galleries will promote your name on their newsletter if you have a show, but more often, they’re relying on you to bring your audience to them, not the other way around. Don’t think that a gallery show will suddenly make you popular. If you are interested in growing a local audience, go with the brick-and-mortar gallery route. Show your work to several galleries regularly. I’ve been making art forever, but since I rarely do shows in my hometown these days, I’m quite unknown. Local galleries don’t know me although I’ve toured my works all over Canada.

If you want validation, apply for shows. Submit your work to calls for submissions. Chances are, you will get rejected repeatedly, but you’ll learn to deal with it. Don’t splurge on applications and definitely don’t spend money in vanity galleries in New York. Also remember that galleries are a business, and they often want art that they could sell. Don’t feel too bad if galleries don’t want your work especially if you’re not interested in making to sell anyway. Growing a big following on social media could be a sign of a good artist as well, but I’ve seen far too many artists on Instagram with thousands of followers who I know will never make it in a professional gallery.

So yes, for artists, there is still a need for brick-and-mortar galleries. It all just depends on what exactly the particular artist needs. Having work in hung in a gallery is no longer the standard of “making it” as an artist, it just simply means that it’s good enough that a business is willing to have it on a wall for a few days.

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#boycottjapan Is Sad and It Sucks

Sun God

Instead of going to Japan a week ago, I went to Vietnam instead. I enjoy going to Japan, but the recent tension between Korea and Japan has really made going to Japan inadvisable.

Abe, in his bid for reelection, has begun attacking Korea and imposed restrictions on components necessary for key Korean industries. He is basically trying to damage the Korean economy and has stroked anti-Korean sentiments, saying that South Korea is illegally trading with North Korea and that South Korea is reneging on the comfort women issue which was inartfully “settled” by the last Korean president. This in turn, has sparked an anti-Japanese boycott in South Korea, to which a high-level Japanese politician responded by saying that it doesn’t matter, that Japan’s economy will not be hurt if Koreans stopped visiting Japan and stopped buying Japanese products.

What an asinine thing to say.

First off, South Korea trying to ease relations with North Korea is a good thing. The two countries are neighbors. There has not been any illegal trade with North Korea. If anything, I suspect that Japan is afraid that better relations with the North would jumpstart South Korea’s economy which has stalled in the past couple of years. Of course it doesn’t help that the North isn’t too afraid of flexing its military strength towards its neighbors.

As for the former president “settling” the comfort women issue, President Park Gun-Hye reached an agreement to accept five million US dollars from Japan to help women dubbed “comfort women,” the women Japan’s military forced into sexual slavery during Japan’s occupation. The “settlement” did not include the women during the talks. It also did not include a formal apology and acknowledgement from the Japanese government as well as the royal family. It still allows Japan to deny that they forced women into subjugation in their history books. And if you look into any first year law book, any agreement absent full knowledge and consent from both parties is no agreement at all. The comfort women and their family have to be involved.

So yeah, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Many of my friends think that I have become Korean in regards to this issue, but I know about Japan’s war crimes long before I set foot in South Korea. I’ve also known veterans who fought the Japanese in World War II. And for Japan to try to skate along without making a full mea culpa and working to have their constitution remove Article 9, which forbids them from having an armed forces with war potential, is worrying at the very least. At least Germany acknowledged its crimes, made a full apology, compensated its victims, and learned from history. Japan has barely done any of this.

I also, don’t like it when countries are being dismissive of their neighbors. That’s me being a Canadian with a chip on my shoulder. I feel South Koreans’ pain in this.

What bothers me about the whole thing is that, while Japanese politicians seem to not care about local industries dependent on Korean customers, Koreans equally don’t seem to mind hurting other Koreans who are involved with Japanese products. I’ve passed by Uniqlo and Muji and there was no one there except clerks with nothing to do. Tour companies are having their customers cancel their trips. No one is buying Japanese beer. And many are even avoiding going to 7-11 which is owned by the Lotte Group, a South Korean/Japanese conglomerate. It’s getting ugly, and the little guys are the ones who are feeling the pain, not Abe and his cronies.

Nationalism is ugly. It is not patriotism. I understand South Korea in this matter, and in many ways, they really don’t have a choice. The recent Japanese election results showed that only the very few old people really support Abe and most young people don’t really care much about politics. Heck, the Japanese media don’t really show much about the Japanese/Korea tensions, when it’s always in the news here in Korea. This Japanese blind spot tells me that despite my hope, these tensions will last longer, maybe even until the Olympics. What’s dumb is that while Abe is quick to condemn and punish South Korea for what it claims are support to the North, it won’t condemn and punish the United States for actively supporting, and in fact, coddling the North Korean regime. Missiles launched by the North Koreans in the past few days were launched with little fear of sanctions by the United States. I would argue it is a direct result of Trump’s cozy relationship with Kim Jung Un. And yet, Abe would rather stroke sentiments against South Koreans.

Yep, Abe’s Japan would alienate the Koreans, but God forbid they say something against the Americans.

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Dog Whistles

Reyes_Joseph_Assiniboine_12inx14in

A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.

Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.

Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.

Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.

The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:

-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.

-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.

-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.

-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.

-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.

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Vietnamese Website Nightmare

I’m a Canadian living in South Korea. I recently needed to go to Vietnam and need a visa to enter the country. Unlike Koreans, Canadians need to apply for a visa when they go to Vietnam. Two years, I had to go to the embassy in Seoul in person to apply for a visa. It was a rather lengthy process, so I decided to check out the embassy’s website first.

Going through Google, the first non-ad website was this.

First_Vietnam_Website

Curiously enough, my wife couldn’t find this site easily through the Korean search engine, Naver. Even more curious was this little detail on the bottom of the website.

First_Vietnam_Website_details

A Yahoo! mail for a government website? That’s pretty weird. Even weirder was the fact that it was left unfinished. It could either be @yahoo.com or @yahoo.co.kr.

Anyway, I clicked on their visa application link and it sent me to another website.

Second_Vietnam_Website

This was visaonlinevietnam.com. It was obviously an e-commerce site, but they say that they are legally able to process visas for people online. They were offering to do it for a much, MUCH cheaper price than the other Korean rush visa companies my wife was looking at, so we just assumed they were contracted by the Vietnamese government to handle these applications to cut off all the other shady businesses who charge exorbitant prices.

I applied, got an e-mail telling me that they will send me an approval letter I could present at the airport in Vietnam. Then the agent there will give me a visa. Excellent.

….

Then I got curious.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Youtube

I looked up Vietnamese visas online and came across multiple videos saying something about Visa on Arrival (which I applied for) and E-visas, which they say is faster. One video has a link to an E-visa application site.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Govt

This site is a “gov.vn” site, so it’s not local to Korea and not from the embassy in Seoul. It is from the Vietnam Immigration Department!

Third_Vietnam_Website_Details

The link for their E-visa application requires a photo and a copy of the applicant’s passport.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Application

For my application, I wasn’t asked for a copy of my passport until I got an email the same day, telling me that my application would need it to expedite the process. Weird. Also, my application didn’t require a photo, but my wife advised me to bring a photo in the country anyway just in case it’s needed.

But why did I have to go through Youtube to find that site? Why wasn’t that site linked directly from the first website I went through? Why even make arrangements with an e-commerce site when you have a fully functioning process already there?

So I sent an e-mail to that yahoo.co address (from the first website) with several variations to make up for a possible typo. Then I get this response.

Embassy_email

So they got rid of the free yahoo address and replaced it with a free gmail account! What is going on?! Even I pay for my domain name and unique e-mail address! This was starting to really worry me. So I clicked on the link for the website on the e-mail I received. And again, this was a link for the response from the e-mail address on the FIRST website I went to.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website

This is a totally different Korean embassy website! That’s two embassy websites now! And this one I couldn’t find from Google when I looked! So I looked around for an E-visa application page.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Form

This is the third form now, the second from the government. I don’t know whether it’s Visa on Arrival or E-visa, but at this point, I’m terribly confused. Where was this website? Why did I have to go through hoops to find it? So I looked down on the website’s details and here’s what I found.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Details

That website listed, http://www.vietnamembassy-seoul.org/en, is the first website I went to! Seriously! What is going on?!

Also note that for about three hours, I was calling the Vietnamese embassy in Seoul and no one was answering, both when I wanted the Korean or the English options for visa assistance. I sent an e-mail message to the new g-mail account, but have yet to receive a response. I doubt if they would get back to me very fast.

As for the first website I went to. They were very prompt when I asked for reassurance a couple of days ago and they said I will receive my letter of approval via e-mail this afternoon. I am just waiting on that. Hopefully I won’t hit another roadblock or find out that it was all an elaborate scam. I really don’t want to use the “s” word but this experience has not been very comforting. The Vietnamese embassy in Seoul (I don’t know about other countries) really needs to tighten up their website. At least get a proper domain and e-mail addresses. But more importantly, pay for some search engine optimization to help people figure out where to actually go.

Here’s hoping that in a couple of days, I will be on a beach in Vietnam, not arguing with people in Seoul.

Update:

I got my letter of visa approval promptly in my inbox. It was accompanied by a visa application as well. Confused? Well, I’m supposed to fill out the application form and the visa approval letter will make stamping it automatic. Well, after paying the stamping fee, of course. Going to Vietnam, I’m supposed to bring a filled out form, the visa approval letter, a couple of pics, and cash handy. I’m also advised to pay for express visa processing once I land in Vietnam to save me from waiting in long lines. Interestingly, the visa approval letter I received included not just my name but several other people’s names, schedules, and passport numbers. I guess these companies make applications in batches, that’s why my name is in a document with eleven other people.

The country has given rights to several third party companies to process visas for them. This has led to a variety of prices in processing fees and a myriad of confusing, amateur-looking websites. For a communist country, the visa application process seems quite capitalist.

Bad Vacation Timing

Pain Bird

Off to Japan next week. It’s the worst time to go to Japan. We will miss most of the major traditional festivals except for one which I plan to attend. We also won’t be able to see any baseball game while we’re there. I’ve always wanted to watch a Japanese baseball game live at a stadium. There’s just a weirdly, exciting energy emanating from them, especially with the drumming and the horns.

The weather also doesn’t look too good in Japan right now. I’m off to a rather secluded resort. But if it rains throughout all the days I’m there, I’m basically stuck in a small Japanese beach town with not much to do. Weather forecasts past seven days basically have a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate, so I’m just hoping that all of it will change and I will at least get to see a bit of sun.

The worst part of going to Japan right now is that Abe decided to make fighting against Korea a key political platform. After the G20 summit, he remembered that there is an election coming up, and he decided to woo hard right nationalists and claim that since Korea is still fighting for the claims of their comfort women during the war, then they will punish the Korean economy by not selling key components to manufacturing giants like Samsung and LG. This started a backlash in Korea with anti-Japanese sentiment growing and boycott against Japanese products. This of course is fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan despite many Japanese questioning Abe’s turn on the country’s neighbor.

Abe has been spending too much looking at how Trump does politics. He’s had a history of courting nationalists long before Trump became president, but this sudden turn reeks of Trump’s tariff playbook. Japan seems to be thumbing its nose to its neighbors. Even the recent open hunt for whales, despite the lack of domestic demand for whale meat, suggests that they couldn’t care less about international opinion. They are Japanese first, citizens of the world second.

And now I’m faced with a Korean currency that is slowly deflating due to the current economic situation and a Japanese population that might not be too kind should they hear me or any other foreigner speaking in Korean. It’s been a rough many days. The last time I was out of the country was basically for a funeral. Can I not get a normal vacation?

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Artist’s Block and Embarrassing Works

Gator Knife.jpg

When there is nothing I want to draw or when I’m uninspired, sometimes I just draw something I would define as incredible stupid. It might be incredibly stupid to me, but from the audience’s perspective, it could just be as stupid as my other pieces. This piece is based on an alligator in Texas with a knife stuck on its head. It was all over twitter a couple of weeks ago and seemed like a good subject outside of anything that had any personal meaning to me.

The good thing about drawing something that I personally don’t have any emotional investment in or something absent of any deeper message is that it ends up lasting longer and doesn’t come out as cringe-worthy after a few years. There are quite a few old drawings, that when I look at them now, they can be quite embarrassing. I’m sure this is true of all artists. Much like old Myspace or Friendster pages, naivety in art is embarrassing and doesn’t age well. It reeks of first year art school. This is why most popular art has ambiguous meanings or none at all. This is also why political art, when it becomes popular or when they rise to high art, they are truly done by masters.

As an artist that does small works, this is where I have an advantage over others who work on large canvasses. My embarrassing work can be stuffed in a bag and kept in a small closet somewhere. Heck, I can even put them in the recycling bin. They are not large works, taking up space in my life, reminding me of what a hack I was a few years (or months) ago.

So yeah, do small works, folks! Or at least think of long term storage whenever you make art.

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Art Forgery Drama

Good Beef

There is an interesting documentary on the works of the late Norval Morrisseau, ‘There Are No Fakes’. Morrisseau started the Woodland style of painting, using imagery from First Nations cultures showing the insides of creatures in a sort of x-ray effect.  His works are far more colorful and playful compared to the more traditional images in Inuit and West Coast art.

Unfortunately, many of his works have been forged, and a lot of what is passing off as original Morrisseaus could potentially be fakes made by an art forgery ring. I’m not sure if the documentary will show anything past what has already been detailed when I first learned about the Morrisseau forgery in Maclean’s last year, but what interested me was the very title of the film, ‘There Are No Fakes.’

Is it because somehow Morrisseau’s family was connected to the forgeries? Or is it because the forgeries themselves, just by the very fact that they are connected to the drama of Morrisseau and his legacy make them valuable on their own? Or does the documentary basically say that if you love an image and that you find it beautiful, you shouldn’t really care about its authenticity or its monetary valuable. That art is art. They are not objects to be traded or treated as real estate investments. They are far bigger than that. (I sincerely doubt that this is where the film will go.)

The leader of the forgery ring, Gary Lamont, was sentenced to jail back in 2016 for being a sexual predator. I’m not sure if many of the news media at the time mentioned his involvement with producing forged Morrisseaus, but according to one of the victims, the forged pieces represent a very abusive period. Gary Lamont would manipulate and abuse young men while the works were being produced, between 1993-2007, when there was increased demand for Morrisseaus and when the artist’s health was slowly declining.

I’m sure there are still more to this story, right now galleries and owners are still insisting on the authenticity of many works, but I do hope that the worst is over, and at the very least, no one is producing more forged works. Growing up in Manitoba, I remember seeing some of Morrisseau’s works and even more works inspired by him. After learning about the forgeries last year, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a real Morrisseau.

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