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The lost art of idleness

By Shinan Govani

Here's a question: When exactly did it become cuckoo-doodle normal to give the answer "busy" when people stop to pose the question, "How are you?" Not too long ago, at an opening, when I asked someone who looked like Sally Jessy Raphael in drag how it was going, she didn't toss off a perfunctory, "Fine, thank you," or a faux-chummy, "I'm hanging in there," or even the uber-Canadian retort, "Not bad." Instead, this person shot me an oven-baked smile and said: "Busy."

It was not a response, this one-word dagger. It was a post-modern boast. Saying you're busy these days is a bit like saying in a job interview that the worst thing about you is that you're a perfectionist. The braggadio is sly, but it's still braggadio. This confetti of busy-ness occurs everywhere, of course, but, among creative people, it's a bloody scandal. Imagine the hell-raising hedonists known as the Bloomsbury Group wanting to be thought of as busy? Idleness used to be a lofty goal, but then so did putting on a swell party.

There is a crisis in the city, my dear friends, and it starts with the paltry amusement level of art-world parties. There are, for starters, far too many despondent, pill-ridden has-beens loitering about! They--who look like their dreams have been remaindered on the sales rack of life--need to cheer up! Take one of those Valerie Pringle pills! And, please, can everybody just stop with the slouching! Recently, during Toronto Fashion Week, I spent about 8.6 hours every day going to parties, and what I learned was this: fashion parties are better than art parties (or book parties, for that matter, but that's another column). At fashion parties, people wear black just like at art parties, but they do clever things with scarves to give their outfits a certain jejune quality. In addition, I noticed that at fashion parties many people look like jump-suited Esso gas-pumpers styled by Helmut Lang; at art parties, people just look like jump-suited Esso gas-pumpers.

Something else I noticed at fashionista affairs: the beverages are more likely to be free. At art parties, such as the one I attended at the Angell Gallery recently, one has to rummage around one's pockets for loonies and toonies in order to get a measly glass of wine. Now, I love Mr. Angell and all--I've often thought he would make a very fetching Lestat if they ever do another Anne Rice movie--but rummaging is not very fun. It gives the party too much of a vending machine feel and vending machines--it must be said--are simply not sexy!

One more thing: people at fashion parties are more likely to have scorpion tongues, which always adds important fuel to a fete. Dippy peacocks and human clothes-hangers do a much better job with one-liners and put-downs--except when one is at a Bruce Mau opening, like the one recently at The Power Plant. There, I stepped into many a muddy conversation about the megalomaniac qualites of Bruce. (How megalomanic you ask? Just enough. In fact, Mount Mau's megalomania is the man's very signature. It's like Barbra Streisand's nose, or Christopher Reeve's wheelchair.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, fun, and the very absence of it. Those boys at SPIN Gallery should get kudos, however, for putting on a show of paintings done by musicians, and thereby mixing things up a bit. Things would have even been more capital-f fun if Michael Stipe, one of the featured artists, had made an appearance. Unfortunately, Mr. R.E.M was M.I.A. I'm told he was in Houston recovering from some major surgery. What kind of Texan touching-up? Well, that I leave to your over-imaginative little brains to figure out.

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