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Richmond Art Gallery’s central location makes art easily accessible



Artist Mike Bourscheid grew up in a “blue-collar family” that he said didn’t have time for museums and art. As his artistic interest grew, the Luxembourg native searched art and museums on his own.

Now Bourscheid is an international artist who is thrilled to have his first solo institutional show displayed at the Richmond Art Gallery (RAG) which sits in the well-frequented, transit friendly Richmond Cultural Centre hub that also includes the Richmond Public LibraryRichmond MuseumThe City of Richmond Archives and the Richmond Art Centre.

“I had to seek art out. It wasn’t easy. Here it is right in front of you. It’s incredible,” said Bourscheid about RAG’s central location by Zoom from Luxembourg recently. “It’s in a community space. It’s pretty cool.”

Bourscheid’s Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories along with the video Agnes will be on display Jan. 28 to April 2 at the gallery. Running simultaneously at the gallery is the new Codes of Silence, curated by the RAG’s Zoë Chan.


“I think when it becomes about the art market often it can become something very elite and something that is hard to understand,” said Bourscheid, who splits his time between Luxembourg and Vancouver as his wife, fellow artist Vanessa Brown, is from Vancouver. “I think art is for everybody. That’s the main thing.

“It’s nice that here people can just walk by and walk in.”

Bourscheid’s new show offers up his signature approach of using handmade costumes, props and crafts to look at and challenge deep-rooted cultural values and relationships.

“I usually say I work in different media,” said Bourscheid. “I work in photography, video, performance, sculpture, drawing and that often it starts with a costume and with my own body then it turns, while doing it, into something. The costume or prop itself decides where it is going.”


Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories installations feature costumes, props, sculptures and a video by artist Mike Bourscheid. The show runs from Jan. 28 to April 2 at the Richmond Art Gallery.
Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories installations feature costumes, props, sculptures and a video by artist Mike Bourscheid. The show runs from Jan. 28 to April 2 at the Richmond Art Gallery. jpg

For the exhibition here, Bourscheid is premiering a new 45-minute, two channel video titled Agnes, which he says is a homage to the hard work of his seamstress single mother. Agnes is her middle name.

“It’s a lot about labour and housework,” said Bourscheid about the 45-minute video accompanied by a recreation of the video’s set complete with the costumes and props from the shoot.

RAG director Shaun Dacey programmed the Bourscheid show and says that for the past few years he has been watching Bourscheid develop, specifically through work with the VAG and Western Front, and was drawn to the “theatricality of his practice.”

“When speaking to Mike I was surprised to find out he had never had a solo exhibition in Vancouver and we wanted to give him the opportunity to play in our space,” said Dacey by email. “With this new project Mike engages familial memory through costume, set-building and video. I am interested in this body of work through his performance of a sort of masculine drag, exaggerating and interrogating this gender performance, as a clown and a cowboy, among other characters.”

The Chan-curated show Codes of Silence features the video artists Haitian/American Shirley Bruno, Aleesa Cohene, a Canadian based in Los Angeles, Caroline Monnet, an Indigenous artist based in Montreal, and American Cauleen Smith.


The new show Codes of Silence at the Richmond Art Gallery includes videos from Aleesa Cohene, Caroline Monnet, Cauleen Smith and Shirley Bruno, shown here.
The new show Codes of Silence at the Richmond Art Gallery includes videos from Aleesa Cohene, Caroline Monnet, Cauleen Smith and Shirley Bruno, shown here. jpg

“I think we are accustomed to the voice being a mode of expression. A way of communicating identity. Who we are. But I also wanted to think of ways of communicating that was not so public-facing but kind of delving inward,” said Chan during a phone call. “For example, in Cauleen Smith’s video we see the artist making bouquets. Paying homage basically to someone who has died. So, there is this really ritualistic moment where they are just silently making flowers and we know that this is an act of mourning, but there are no words spoken.

“So maybe it is also kind of saying too that words are not necessarily enough. And inviting the public to consider and focus in on these quieter moments that are more internal and inner-facing and asking the visitors to really listen.”

Chan, who joined the RAG last spring, added that the video presentations will be complimented by art work from the gallery’s own collection.


The new video show Codes of Silence marks curator Zoë Chan’s first exhibition for the Richmond Art Gallery since becoming its curator last spring.
The new video show Codes of Silence marks curator Zoë Chan’s first exhibition for the Richmond Art Gallery since becoming its curator last spring. jpg

Chan, like Bourscheid, appreciates the accessibility of the gallery and the deep community roots that have been nurtured with the help of location.


“We’re not just getting art aficionados coming to the gallery,” said Chan. “People are stopping by out of curiosity. We are very interested first and foremost in engaging our local communities, but we also hope we are presenting exciting programming that will interest a wide range of people … Any kind of engaged citizen.”



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Rubbish fashion: street art costumes of Kinshasa – in pictures – The Guardian



Falonne Mambu posing in her electric wires costume in Limete district, Kinshasa. As a performing artist, she raises issues about social development in her own country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is potentially the biggest electricity provider in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, decay and corruption have crippled the national Inga dam, which only works to the minimum of its capacity. Nowadays, only 19% of Congolese people have access to electricity.

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Montreal artist won’t change puppet that community groups say looks like blackface



MONTREAL — A theatre performance for children featuring a puppet that has been described as racist is continuing in the Montreal area.

Several Black community organizations have criticized the puppet as being reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows — racist performances during which white people portrayed exaggerated stereotypes of Black people for laughs.

But the show’s creator — Franck Sylvestre, who is Black — has no plans to change the puppet, which he said is a caricature of his own features. Sylvestre said in an interview he can’t accept the idea that he’s not allowed to create a caricature of someone who is Black because racists created caricatures of Black people in the past.

“That’s unheard of for an artist,” he said.


The play, called L’incroyable secret de barbe noire — French for The Incredible Secret of Blackbeard — first drew controversy in February.

A performance at a municipal theatre in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield, Que., was cancelled after complaints by Black community organizations. The neighbouring community of Pointe-Claire, meanwhile, removed the play from its official Black History Month programming but allowed the performance to go ahead.

Sylvestre, who wrote the one-man show in 2009 aimed at kids aged five to nine years old, said he had never received a complaint about his show before February.

A series of performances of the play, which combines theatre, storytelling, masks and puppetry, begins Sunday in Laval, Que., he said, before he takes it to France for 30 performances.

Sylvestre said the play tells the story of a young man who travels from Montreal to Martinique — the Caribbean island where Sylvestre’s parents are from — at the request of his dying grandfather, who is haunted by his discovery of a mysterious wooden chest with a connection to the pirate Blackbeard.

Max Stanley Bazin, president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, describes the puppet’s appearance as “very, very, very ugly” and said he worries that seeing a Black person presented in such a way could cause emotional damage to young audiences.

“It will have an impact on them, it will have an impact on the mind of the young people who see this puppet, and that’s what we should think about,” he said in an interview.

People are more likely to speak out about racism now than they were in 2009, Bazin said, adding that he thinks Sylvestre should listen to community members and replace the puppet with a less controversial creation.

“If there are people in society who have said this isn’t right, you have to react,” he said.

Philip Howard, a professor in the department of integrated studies in education at McGill University, said he’s not sure the puppet is an example of blackface — but he said that’s beside the point.

“There is still very much the matter of representation and the potential use of monstrous and grotesque representations of Black people as a source of entertainment and even humour,” said Howard, who has studied contemporary blackface.

Howard said the intentions of the artist are less important than the impact of the performance on an audience.

“Here we have, in this particular instance, a whole community of folks that are responding and saying, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t love this, we don’t think this is OK and we’re particularly disturbed about it during Black History Month,’” he said.

Dismissing the opinions of Black people who have a problem with the performance demonstrates anti-Black racism, he said.

Sylvestre said he thinks much of the criticism comes from people who haven’t seen the play.

“It’s the job of the community to see what purpose these caricatures serve; are they, like blackface, denigrating Black people, or, as in my case, are they being elevated?” he said. “This character, he’s a strong character for me personally, and when I made it, I was inspired by myself.”

He said the puppet, named Max, is “like a great sage,” whose interventions lead to the play’s happy ending.

“Max, he was the voice of reason, he was the one who advised us, who mocked me when I made a bad decision, who was above me,” he said.

Prof. Cheryl Thompson, who teaches performance at Toronto Metropolitan University, said she didn’t like the puppet when she viewed a trailer for the play.

“I was extremely shocked,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

While blackface minstrel shows are primarily associated with the United States, Thompson’s research has shown that blackface performances took place in Canada, with shows in Montreal as recently as the 1950s.

Even though blackface originated with white performers, Black actors in the 1800s would also don the exaggerated makeup and participate in the racist performances for white audiences.

“It actually didn’t matter if it was a white actor in blackface or a Black actor in blackface, it was the caricature that audiences thought was funny,” she said.

Thompson said there’s room for theatre performances to be provocative. But performers, she said, need to engage with audiences and be willing to discuss artistic choices — especially when artists are performing for audiences whose histories might be different than their own.

“Why wouldn’t this person at least try to hear the voices of people who maybe have a different experience to him?” she said.

She said she wouldn’t take a child to see the show, especially during Black History Month.

“I just don’t see the uplifting messaging,” Thompson said. “I don’t see the messaging of ‘you matter,’ I just don’t see that celebration of life. I just see something that is steeped in a history of racial caricature and mimicry.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2023.


Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Vancouver to remove unsanctioned spider art creeping-out transit riders



City staff are looking into how to remove a large metallic spider from under a high-traffic bridge on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

The artwork, which startled some arachnophobic SkyTrain riders when it was installed earlier this month, was created by pop artist Junko Playtime.

In an email to Postmedia News on Friday, city staff say they were made aware of the unsanctioned spider artwork located in a corridor for SkyTrain and CN/BNSF Rail.

The installation wasn’t done in consultation with the city or the rail corridor partners, city staff said. They’re trying to figure out the best way to remove the artwork so there is no damage to the bridge structure or rail lines.


Staff said the artist will have the ability to claim the work through the city’s impoundment process.

According to Playtime’s Instagram page, the eight-foot-diameter spider was installed at night recently on the north bank below the bridge between North Grandview Highway and Broadway.

Playtime, from Montreal, has gained a reputation over the past two years for installing very large and far-out insect like futuristic sculptures from scrap metal and household items.

The artist called this latest spider creation “Phobia 2023. Time to face our fears.”

— With files from David Carrigg


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