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Image: Wayne Baerwaldt with his hands in the donations box. Photo: Clint Roenisch
The Power Plant's newly installed director Wayne Baerwaldt dishes it out to Clint Roenisch
A Lola exclusive with insider notes! (just click on Clint or Wayne's name to reach our glossary of terms)
One of us has recently been appointed a high profile position at a prestigious gallery, a space that many, many people are scrutinizing. If this talk becomes scandalous or unbecoming I wonder if we should use nom-de-lubes?
Exactly. I agree with that. We have to protect the innocent.
C: You came from Winnipeg and it shows: you look corn fed and you have wheat for hair.
W: I've never been so insulted.
As I said, you came from Winnipeg. Your predecessor was an ex-Sudbury misfit. I come from Calgary and direct a gallery focused on work from Vancouver. And yet you told the Art Newspaper that Toronto was 'myopic'.
W: My god. I think context is just as important as what was said. What I was referring to in a round about way was my impression of The Power Plant perhaps seeming myopic in that it doesn't tour exhibitions. It doesn't produce so many catalogues. It doesn't co-produce or collaborate on many exhibitions or projects. So it would appear to be that there is some myopia at play. On the other hand, it could also be seen as suggesting a certain strength of the institution to only be concerned with building its place in Toronto. That's a fantastic thing to do as well so, it has to be put in context, myopic.
C: That's nice. You said in the same article that ...
W: Uh oh.
...that you wanted a hand in how things looked at The Power Plant. Well, the last time we heard that from the director, we got The Hand
W: There's nothing wrong with a strong hand. At least you didn't get the iron fist. What I liked about this position, or the potential of this position, was that it also encouraged me to think about the programming direction of the gallery in the old sense of 'director': working with programming, operations, and capital. A lot of times now you have directors who are absolutely divorced from programming. And who are so concerned with blockbusters and crowd-pleasing events that they are not involved with this relationship to contemporary art. That's what I liked about the offer of working here. That I would be involved in programming in some way. I would be involved in the debates and discussion around what we represent here.
Which brings me to my next question. Phil Monk, your curator, said to me that an interesting question would be to ask whether you thought you could work with Phil Monk?
W: Well...Philip Monk is often difficult to read but once he communicates with me I am absolutely delighted at the ideas and the wit and the mix of, you know...um, of positive cynicism that ...I don't know...um...I can feed on that. I can also feed on his broad range of experience in both the museums and as an independent writer. And on his experience at The Power Plant. It is so important to have that sense of continuity.
C: Isn't he from Winnipeg as well?
W: I don't know about that ... I don't remember. I don't know, I think he might disclaim that.
C: Didn't you guys used to play hockey together in Winnipeg?
W: Um no, he's a little older than I am. I would have still been in peewee when he was in triple A.
C: But what if the puck went shooting off into the bushes during a night game, then what?
We might have fought over that puck, it's true. As fetish object. With Guy Maddin in hot pursuit.
What's with you and Scotty Watson?
W: Scott Watson is a colleague and a friend and one of the most interesting curators in Canada and certainly the most forward thinking gallery director. I would hope that we could have more discussion with him about his programming and vice versa to see if there are any possibilities for exchanges or exciting co-productions.
C: Weren't you two thinking of opening a kind of "Art 7-11 Quickie-Mart" in Vancouver?
Again, I've never been so insulted. An Art 7-11 um ... we were discussing it at one point certainly. A downtown version of the Belkin gallery that Scott had initiated, with participation in the programming. As well as developing a retail shop, much like the AGO's retail shop, which would benefit the Belkin and the Plug In as well. But really very much dependant on a website too.
C: And snappy uniforms?
W: I don't think we got that far. Yes I would entertain that idea.
What's with Bruce Bailey and Bruce LaBruce?
W: Bruce and Bruce...well, I remember being at Vaseline one night.
(interrupts) That'll be fine. What's with Paul Petro and Paul P.?
W: They have a good dealer/artist relationship, I feel. They feed off one another.
Is that what it's called? Anyway, so you move from the prairie to this large urban environment and the first thing you do is look at an Airstream Trailer to live in. Is it out by Cherry Beach? Isn't that a bit down market for someone of your stature? I mean, you must make almost as much as I do and I never looked at trailers. They rock too much.
W: Oh, but I'm looking at the new Airstreams. The ones with Space Odyssey-like interiors.
Is Andrea Zittel going to customize it for you?
W: No, I want a sort of a standard issue if possible. So I'm going out to Hamilton to have a look at the depots there. See if we can make an arrangement, because I always wanted a cottage on the beach.
In Steeltown? Maybe you could bunk up with ex-Power Plant curator Louise Dompierre now at the Hamilton Art Gallery. A little place. That would be cozy.
Wow, such saucy talk. I'm hot under the collar. That's a great idea. Rochester just across the water. I know Rosalee Goldstein is moving there too, as a pharmacist soon.
Sounds handy, the pharmacy part I mean. The Power Plant recently had a very swanky fundraiser. The evening had an art school theme. You and Philip were doing crits of so-called student artwork and you had a whip. I noticed that you seemed to enjoy bossing him around very much. It was like a Hogan's Heroes episode and he was Schultz and you were Klink.
W: Who had the whip?
C: You remember, you had the whip.
W: No, I didn't have the whip. I had a pair of spectacles on the end of wand.
C: I think it was a monocle.
W: No not a monocle, no, no.
C: At the same event you directed the proceedings from the top of a balcony/skyjack, towering over the adoring masses. You fed them bread from mess tins while your charismatic face was projected larger than life across six video screens. No wonder the staff weren't invited. That was the bread part. Then for the circuses ...
W: (interrupts) That's just sick.
C: ... for the circuses part you had that washed-up guy from the Bare Naked Morons doing lame stand up!
Bare Naked Morons? They're our heroes, come on. They're Canadian icons. Living legends. We love them dearly but who we really loved were the high antics of Victoria Jackman and Laura Rapp in bringing that event together. The Art Skool night has become a legendary party in many circles and many galaxies within Toronto.
C: I agree that it was fantastically organized. Hey, is Victoria single?
W: Did you have fun?
I had a fabulous time. I really did. I had a black sweater that I customized with silver letters that spelt NASKUD and my silver Andy wig.
W: and the leather jacket?
That's right. No one recognized me and I did my best except Jack Brown, that crusty weasel, only gave me a B in painting. Speaking of clothes, how come no matter what country I see you in you always have the same blue suit on?
W: It's currently the only suit I have. I haven't received a pay cheque yet.
Do you like Stephen Andrews mustache?
W: Uh yes, yes, very.
I've noticed in many of your past projects, like Pierre Molinier, the Dzama drawings, the dawson films and so on, that the shit is all old-looking/ fantasy/ tickle trunk/ junky gender and species bending/old-time transvestite saloon stuff. What's going on? Is it prairie?
Gee, nostalgia on the prairies? Not necessarily. What about John Koemerling?
C: How about Guy Maddin? Same thing. Maddin the great lava sprite.
How about Eleanor Bond?
C: Again, more alternative, fantasy world action.
W: Oh okay, fantasy world, definitely. My alternative in terms of the monolithic, definitely.
Isn't the mayor of Winnipeg gay?
W: Um, he used to be known as gay, yes.
So how could a fag knock down the Eaton's building? That's usually breeder-asshole-developer turf. Is he getting some kickback Pride cash?
W: I don't know the intricacies of his power politics but I think he just, um, forgot to inform the arts community in particular about his strategies for the downtown. We were never able to meet with him to discuss our strategies in Winnipeg, so that would leave him slightly uniformed of alternative paths to take.
Speaking of alternative paths, when you were selling stuff from Plug In and doing all this retail, for-profit, multiples action, was that kosher? Was that above board? Like did your board even know what was happening? While you were flying around everywhere your the staff was selling Dzama drawings off the loading dock. Were they cool with that?
W: Of course. We are talking about new forms of generating revenue.
C: Oh. Pardon me.
W: Well sure, the AGO and the VAG, the MoMA, they all have their well-equipped shops, and they sell and rent art on a regular basis. We don't investigate their sales figures but I bet they make a tidy profit for their institutions. I presume all that money is going into programming and into artist's fees.
One would hope. Meanwhile you pay half the rent on a little veal pen in Santa Monica and then have the gall to call it a 'satellite space.
W: Uh, yes. What do you mean by that?
C: Oh, nothing. I have a satellite pad out in Parkdale you can borrow too. Anyway, don't you think the only fresh Toronto gallery is Art System? I heard it was going to close.
Art System can't close. If it closes down it will only be in name. I think Daniel Borins will morph into some sort of incredible catalyst for Toronto and work beyond this region to our collective benefit.
I was thinking that if it did close you could hire him and then Philip and Louise could take over Andrew Harwood's gallery, Zsa Zsa and make it into a little dungeon and then ban Andrew for life and then Andrew could go back to work at Mercer Union now that there's been a new little smackdown over there. How about that?
W: I love the way you're always scheming on behalf of other people.
Anette Larsson has the same blonde hair and perfect teeth as you do. Was she pissed she didn't get the job?
W: She didn't want the job.
W: Besides that she's an artist and she has an independent career that runs separate from her administrative work.
Bobby Fulford, writing in the Globe and Mail, once compared you to Andy Warhol. Warhol called his nights out 'social work' and said it was vital to his business. You are extremely social, would you say it is the same thing?
W: No, I am reticent and shy, more like Philip. I'm working at it. I'm working out a few problems.
C: You're known as the jet-setting, globe-trotting, little-engine-that-could.
W: Isn't that what they say about a lot of people outside of Toronto? I've just been working at trying to make projects happen that perhaps shouldn't be expected to happen, in Winnipeg in particular, but in Toronto, yes, you expect them to happen. All good things do come to Toronto.
Yes, Baerwaldt, that strapping lad who has epiphanies about Beck's geneology while listening to Loser in a Tokyo taxi.
W: No, Honolulu taxi.
In a Honolulu taxi he smacks his forehead and says 'the ol' Fluxus fucker is the granddad!
W: Well, something like that.
C: When you did that 'your-name-on-a-piece-of-rice' show at The Power Plant, did you think at the time that you would soon be swiveling around in the captain's chair?
W: No, I didn't really think about it at all. It was just great to expose Sandaldjian's work here. It blends aspects of the world of carnival and the world of miniature and the world of handicrafts, work that comes very much from left field.
C: I have to commend you for staying so firmly on message during this talk.
W: What are you talking about, what message?
When you were in Venice, during your very successful project with Janet and George, when she mounted her English Patient/SCTV/Burning Down The House thing, everybody came, in both senses. They waited in line for hours so they could go in there and get Janet's phone sex lullabies and jiz all over the chairs. You must have been extremely pleased.
W: Those chairs were very sticky to begin with. However, yes, very pleased and honoured of course to have lieutenant, no, Governor General, edit that part. The Governor General and John Ralston Saul and so many others that I hadn't expected to appear on the scene from Canada. So yes, we were absolutely pleased with the reaction. It always helps to have a preview audience to come through the day before the opening.
Absolutely. I was among that preview audience but I was bumped four times in line, most notably for Okwui Enwezor.
W: You're kidding. We focused on you and hoped to shut you out all together.
George Miller told some anecdotes about his redneck Alberta relatives and all that time I was wondering what they thought, I mean, there they are riding their ATVs out to oil wells while George gets a grant to swing a chandelier around a room.
W: Well, I think he has a family reunion this September so you could interview him after that.
There were several people in Venice who were quite choked that they didn't get to tuck into the posh dinner upstairs in the pallazzo and had to content themselves with old cheese and bread downstairs with the rest of the Euro-trash.
W: Like who?
C: You know who I'm talking about.
W: No I don't. Put them on my list.
C: I'm trying to think of what you spend your money on because you don't drive, you fly around on points, you don't pay rent and you only have one suit.
W: Um, I have many dependants.
C: Thank you Wayne.
W: Cheers thank you.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Clint Roenisch: Director of the Monte Clark Gallery in Toronto.
Wayne Baerwaldt: Newly appointed director of The Power Plant.
Ex-Sudbury misfit: Marc Mayer, previous director of The Power Plant, from 1998-2001. Mayer is now deputy director at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York.
Myopic: Quoted from Art Newspaper, International Edition, Jan 25, 2002.
The Hand: A theme exhibition curated by Marc Mayer in 1999. The Hand included 25 international artists that have at some point made works of art either about hands or depicting hands.
Phil Monk: Philip Monk, curator at the Power Plant since 1994.
Guy Maddin: Canadian filmmaker who lives in Winnipeg. His body of work is as beautiful as it is confounding and delirious. He incorporates the language of past cinema, with which he is most intimately familiar from his countless hours of film viewing, and combines this with a pre-cinematic sensibility learned from the books he voraciously devours. A man of prodigious intellectual appetites, Maddin's many interests and obsessions can easily be discerned in his work. (From Caelum Vatnsdal's Kino Delirium: The Films Of Guy Maddin, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2000)
Scott Watson:Director and curator of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and associate professor in the fine arts department at the University of British Columbia. He is also co-chair of the faculty of arts undergraduate minor in Critical Studies in Sexuality (CSIS) and a member of the steering committee for a new graduate program, Critical Curatorial Studies, set to commence in Sept, 2002. (Fom UBC fine arts website)
Plug In ICA: The main artist run centre in Winnipeg established in 1971. Wayne was the director of the gallery for over 15 years.
Bruce Bailey:Private banker, major art collector, and owner of Bailey Fine Arts Toronto.
Bruce LaBruce: Writer, filmmaker, and photographer stuck in the gulag otherwise known as Toronto, Canada. He started out as a child, then quickly moved on to the production of homo punk fanzines (J.D.s [with G.B. Jones], Dumb Bitch Deserves To Die [with Candy Parker]) and super 8 movies (Boy/Girl, I Know What It's Like To Be Dead, Bruce and Pepper Wayne Gacy's Home Movies [with Candy Parker], Slam!). These products helped to launch the so-called homocore or queercore movement which corrupted a whole new generation of homosexuals. (From www.brucelabruce.com)
Vaseline:Name of the monthly queer rock night, hosted by Will Munro at Toronto's El Mocambo. Vaseline is now called Vazaleen--at least temporarily--due to pressure from Unilever, which owns the Vaseline copyright. The venue also changed to Lee's Palace after the El Mo closed in 2001.
Paul Petro: Toronto dealer who operates Paul Petro Contemporary Art.
Paul P.: Young Toronto painter who exhibits at Paul Petro Contemporary Art.
The original Airstream Classic motorhome featured riveted aluminum construction and a monocoque body like the trailer, and brought a new level of aerodynamic superiority unavailable in any other motorhome.
Cherry Beach: East Toronto area. Nice beach, cruising area, small homeless tent-city nearby.
Andrea Zittel:California artist whose sculptures and installations transform everything necessary for life--such as eating, sleeping, bathing, and socializing--into artful experiments in living. Blurring the lines between life and art, Zittel's projects extend to her own home and wardrobe.
Louise Dompierre:Director of the Art Gallery of Hamilton since October 1998, and formerly a curator and acting director of The Power Plant.
Rosalee Goldstein: Winnipeg friend of Wayne's who is a pharmacist relocating to Rochester, New York.
Swanky fundraiser: Art Skool/Art's Cool, Power Plant's $500 a plate fundraising event held March 7, 2002. Dress code: "art school chic."
Hogan's Heroes: American TV sitcom that aired from 1965 to 1971, about a German prisoner camp run by a prisoner (Hogan) who operates an underground organization beneath the camp. Col. Klink is the commander of the camp, Sergeant Schultz is his stupid sidekick who doesn't know anything about the underground activities.
Victoria Jackman: New president of The Power Plant's board of directors.
Laura Rapp: Longtime patron of the arts.
John (Jack) Brown: Senior Toronto painter represented by Olga Korper Gallery.
Stephen Andrews: Toronto artist represented by Paul Petro Contemporary Art.
Pierre Molinier: Died March 3, 1976 at 76 years of age. On his door Molinier had written the following statement: "I'm taking my life. The key is at the concierge." This final declaration preceded a ritual suicide by a relatively unknown but ultimately influential renegade painter accepted and promoted by Andre Breton and eventually excommunicated by Breton for the blasphemous painting Oh!... Marie, Mere de Oieu (1965). Molinier left behind an extensive collection of photographs, paintings, fetish items, drawings, graphic works, poetry and correspondence. The room that served as both bedroom and studio contained the accessories so well-known in the photographs: the bar stool, a patterned screen, a velvet-covered bed, the sophisticated masks, the life-size dolls, the leather corsets, black fishnet and silk stockings and innumerable black high-heeled shoes. (From Pierre Moliner Plug In/Smart Art Press 1995)
(Marcel) Dzama: Young, hugely successful Winnipeg artist whose drawings are often made with root beer, and investigate comical, quasi-violent, lovelorn, episodes between a dizzying array of characters.
(deco) dawson: Young Winnipeg filmmaker whose work reflects a strong interest in early silent cinema. Dawson collaborated with Dzama on the work FILM(dzama), produced by Baerwaldt. FILM(dzama) leans on the surrealist idiom of Dali/Bunuel and Man Ray, and was inspired by magic, humour and disobedience of the work of Marcel Dzama. FILM(dzama) rekindles the lost form of surrealist cinema made popular in the 1920s by Dali/Bunuel and Man Ray. Motivated by the sheer magic, humour and disobedience of visual artist Marcel Dzama's work, deco dawson has created an original, entirely fictional biography of the artist. (From the International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2001)
John Koermeling: A Dutch architect and artist. His major works include a house built on top of the customs office in Rotterdam, a drive-in ferris wheel in Utrecht, and a neon chandelier in the Schipol airport terminal. Wayne is collaborating with Koermeling on a book, Een Goed Book (A Good Book) and a touring exhibition that will be at The Power Plant in Sept. 2003.
Eleanor Bond: Since 1985, Winnipeg artist Eleanor Bond has produced large canvases that represent the city based on her reflections on contemporary ideas of space, place and community. These works evoke actual and imaginary urban environments in which shapes and forms coalesce and then decompose at a fast-forward pace. (From a MOCCA press release, written by David Liss)
Winnipeg mayor: Glen Murray, mayor since 1998, which makes Winnipeg the largest city in the world to put an openly gay mayor into office.
Eaton's building: See www.saveeatonsbuilding.ca
Selling stuff from Plug In: See www.plugin.org/shop
Veal pen in Santa Monica: Wayne had an address in Santa Monica, California and rumours circulated about a possible satellite gallery opening there and refered to as "Plug In Santa Monica."
Art System: Cheeky young gallery in Toronto's Chinatown run by Daniel Borins and Jubal Brown.
Philip and Louise: Curator of The Power Plant, and his partner, writer/poet Louise Bak, are both well-known for their inscrutability, and she for her goth garb.
Andrew Harwood: Operator of Zsa Zsa Gallery on Queen West, and former employee of Mercer Union gallery. Banning Harwood from his own gallery is a vague reference to Jubal Brown, of Art System, who has been banned for life from the Art Gallery of Ontario for purposely vomiting on a Raoul Dufy painting in the collection. The Globe and Mail (Nov. 30, 1996) reports that Brown, 22, had previously thrown up on a Mondrian at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Smackdown: In reference to a recent staff change at Mercer Union.
Anette Larsson: Currently the assistant director of The Power Plant. Larsson served as interim director between Marc Mayer's departure and Wayne's arrival.
Bobby Fulford: see www.robertfulford.com
Beck's geneology: Born on July 8, 1970, as Beck David Campbell. Beck's mother, Bibbe Hansen, is a former Andy Warhol protegee/theater actress. Raised in LA and occasionally in Kansas City, Beck had dropped out of school after junior high and started playing folk music on the streets of LA. In New York's clubs, he found and refined his sound, and returned to California in 1991. Beck's music has been described as celebrating the "junk culture" of the 1990s with influences drawn from folk, hip-hop, psychedelic pop, and post-modern rock. Loser was a huge hit in 1994. (From www.rockthenet.com)
Smacks his forehead: Wayne paired Al Hansen's work with that of his grandson, Beck, in 1999 for the exhibition Beck and Al Hansen: Playing with Matches. The show was organized by Plug In and circulated to The Power Plant in 1999-2000.
Ol' Fluxus fucker: Al Hansen, American artist, 1927-1995, member of the Fluxus art moverment, grandfather to Beck Hansen.
Your-name-on-a-piece-of-rice show: In reference to Hagop Sandaldjian: The Eye of The Needle, shown at The Power Plant in 1999 and curated by Wayne. Sandaldjian is an Armenian master violinist and Micro Miniaturist who meticulously crafted specks of dust and fragments of human hair into over 30 remarkable figurative sculptures contained in the eyes of sewing needles.
Successful project with Janet and George: Canadian Commissioner Wayne Baerwaldt, along with Plug In and Banff Centre's Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff) presented artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's The Paradise Institute at the 49th Venice Biennale. Cardiff and Miller were awarded "La Biennale di Venezia Special Award." The prize was bestowed for "involving the audience in a new cinematic experience where fiction and reality, technology and the body converge into multiple and shifting journeys through space and time." (From www.theparadiseinstitute.com)
Bumped four times in line: Most notably for Okwui Enwezor, curator, critic, poet. Born in Nigeria, 1963, Enwezor lives in New York, Chicago, London and Kassel. He is the artistic director of Documenta 11, opening June 4th in Kassel, Germany.
George (Bures) Miller: Canadian artist most noted for his collaborations with his partner Janet Cardiff. "It is possible to read deep disillusion into the recent work of video artist George Bures Miller. His pieces are formally unimpressive, intentionally lacklustre, minimal in presentation. They speak of the impossibility of unmediated communication in a technologically defined culture. They slip sardonic hints to their viewers..." (Sarah Atkinson, C magazine, Spring 1992)
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