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Curtis Grahauer

March 07, 2018

Curtis Grahauer is an artist working in photography, film, and installation. After completing art school in 2004, he spent nine years producing karaoke videos, a public access television show, sketch comedy shorts, and a film project called Steel Viper Force before entering the MFA program at Simon Fraser University to focus on his art practice. With the collective Weekend Leisure he has hosted karaoke events and screened work at festivals in Canada and the US, and has participated in residencies in Dawson City, Reykjavik, and Sointula. His exhibition As far upriver as you can go before having to switch to a pole opens at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City on March 7.

1. Ursula K. Le Guin

Before her passing earlier this year, Ursula K. Le Guin had been on my mind a lot. On the recommendation of a friend, I read The Dispossessed a couple years ago and then burned through the Earthsea books. Her writing is direct and lyrical, and her genre writing in science fiction and fantasy from the 1960s was decades ahead of its time – look at A Wizard of Earthsea’s non-white protagonist and The Left Hand of Darkness’ fluidity of gender as a couple examples. She was still writing timely, thoughtful work into her eighties and leaves behind a high bar to meet both in terms of the amount of quality work she produced, but also in using her writing to imagine a better, more inclusive world.

2. Providence

Is it possible to appreciate the work of an author or an artist whose personal beliefs are extremely problematic? I read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft in my teens, and it’s been interesting revisiting some of his work via contemporary authors like Michel Houellebecq, Graham Harman, and Mark Fisher. But he was a racist. A lot of his stories, if not overtly racist, have an underlying fear and prejudice of the Other. While Houellebecq is an apologist who argues that Lovecraft was a product of his environment and time, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence is a graphic novel that breaks down the themes in Lovecraft’s stories and makes no attempt to justify his prejudices; rather it puts them in the forefront to contextualize a body of work left behind by a man with a horrific set of beliefs. The fictional story, written by Moore and illustrated by Burrows, is set in in the late nineteen-teens and follows Robert Black, a closeted gay writer, as he researches a novel that takes him to areas in New England that were the inspiration for Lovecraft’s stories. Comic books aren’t for everyone, but in this popular medium, Providence acts as an illustrated annotation to Lovecraft, recognizing the author’s ideologies for what they are in the hope that they won’t propagate.

3. Ruben Ostlund on The Treatment

Elvis Mitchell & Quentin Tarantino

Elvis Mitchell’s radio show/podcast The Treatment never feels like it’s long enough. Some recent notable guests have been Mark Bridges talking about designing the costumes for Phantom Thread, Jordan Peele on Get Out, Sam Esmail on Mr. Robot, and Jane Campion on Top of the Lake, but the episode I’ve listened to a couple of times is with Ruben Östlund talking about his recent film The Square. I’m still waiting to see it, but Force Majeure, his previous work, is one of my favourite films of the past few years. Östlund’s first films, Involuntary and Play, are sort of like Code Unknown Michael Haneke injected with a bit of Roy Andersson’s 21st Century absurdism and Larry David’s awkwardness. In this episode of The Treatment, Östlund and Mitchell talk about YouTube videos that have inspired scenes in his films, breaking social contracts, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the Swedish director’s surgical examinations of the male in contemporary culture.

Involuntary (top), Play (bottom)

4. Blue Plant II

I feel like I can justify the amount of TV I consume if I watch more shows like Blue Planet II. Some of the stuff they’ve filmed is near psychedelic, and this new series reminds me of when I first saw the eye-popping Planet Earth. Going down into the Mariana Trench for the second episode (The Deep) was impressive, but these gnarly faced fish from the first episode that can change their sex are definitely the coolest thing I’ve seen so far.

5. Art school pals

After fifteen years of living in Vancouver, I recently relocated to Kelowna with my wife for her med school. Adjusting to a smaller place was a challenge, but the hardest part was leaving friends behind. I used to host karaoke events and make videos with Weekend Leisure, which consisted of Christy Nyiri, Pietro Sammarco (pictured above, centre and right) and myself. We met in art school in the early 2000s and worked collaboratively for years. It’s weird that I’ve known these two for close to half of my life. Christy relocated to New York and is a hot shot graphic designer and Pietro is active in a couple of bands, does sound design and composition, and works at VIVO in Vancouver. We haven’t collaborated as a group in years, so I feel lucky that I can still convince them to help me out on projects, whether it’s Christy designing stuff for my wedding or Pietro making my films watchable with his mind-bending soundtracks.



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