Sunday, 19 November 2017

Tendonopoly is Not a Board Game

After months of burning the candle at both ends, my body is screaming at me to stop.  I was moderating a panel not that long ago and I was teasing myself over my discomfort saying, "This is what you get for not being moderate."  Anyhow, long story short after doing two biennales back to back – the Bonavista Biennale and the Canadian Craft Biennial– teaching at a writers' residency, curating an exhibition, writing assorted articles and sandwiching in music events, dancing and a little out of province visit with family, I am trying to catch up on the mundane paperwork associated with being a self employed writer and curator.  Those tasks are things like invoicing, bill collecting and updating your resume.  But it turns out, the most overdue item on my list was my own medical appointments.

I have the dubious habit of trying to power through things, ignoring discomfort until after a deadline has been met.  However, there is always a dangerous turning point where discomfort turns into pain you cannot ignore–like tendonitis that morphs into tendonopoly.

Sadly, I have discovered tendonopoly is not a board game.  For me, it means that my foot and calf has been taped up since the start of October.  Several of my favourite comforts are gone for the foreseeable future, like baths, hiking and swing dancing.  I try and practice gratitude and the exercises given by my physiotherapist. 

So, in the meantime I will read more–like the catalogue for the craft biennial, which is a lavish 148 pages.  (I contributed an essay on materiality in it.)  I have just finished The Matisse Stories by A.S. Byatt and am currently reading Bridget Canning's The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes.  I am also watching the mailbox for my copy of a new book published by Routledge that I contributed a chapter to on curatorial strategies.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

What Should We Be Remembering?

Memorial University's crest.

Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in the U.S.A., and Armistice Day in the United Kingdom– memorializing the fallen soldier is everywhere.  Nowhere is this more true than in St. John's, NL.  I've lived in a few provinces but Newfoundland and Labrador seems to take its memorial celebrations most seriously.  Even the province's university is called Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and it was originally established in memory of soldiers who died during the First World War.  Later on, it was rededicated to include those lost in WWII.

This past year or more, Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed much of Canada has seen the war memorialized in film, on stage, in musicals, poetry and art.  Forget Me Not for the Craft Council of NL was my own contribution at that balancing act of honoring the sacrifices of those who served in the military while not glorifying war. 

Note how the sculptor has conveyed the "broken" soldier.
A longtime friend of mine, Mark Raynes Roberts is a sculptor who works in crystal.  He is part of an exhibit called War Flowers that is touring Canada.  I hope to catch it in either Ontario or Quebec, particularly because the curator, Viveka Melki, has integrated the smells of various flowers as one of her strategies.  I like this approach as it acknowledges that smell is the sense most linked to memory and flowers to me are the perfect symbol to convey the beauty, fragility and endurance of life.  That was one reason why my own show was based on a flower symbol, The Forget Me Not.  Also, it focuses on that vital but precarious relationship of the soldier abroad and their family.

Nobody in my immediate family was involved with the military efforts.  During WWII, my father was in the police force and my mother grew up in an Austrian village in the Alps.  Unfortunately, several countries' armies invaded it.  That means I grew up with very different stories than most of my neighbors in St. John's.  

I wish most memorial services would recognize all those who died in wars:  all soldiers on all sides, not to mention those most numerous–civilians.   Today, I learned about Veterans For Peace, which was organized in 1985 for exactly that purpose.  If you have a chance, check out Joe Glenton's video about ignoring the poppy shaped cheeses and the other false feel-good takes on Remembrance

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Women Make Gains in "The Game"

Michelle Chaulk at her workbench in Corner Brook.

My artists teach me a lot and most recently it was about pay equity.  When Michelle Chaulk proposed an exhibition called The Game about the disparity in women and men's salaries, I was cautious.  Her proposal stated that when Michelle graduated from NSCAD, 20 years ago and entered the jewelry trade she was laughed at when she asked for the same wage as the men at the jewelry bench– who sometimes had less experience.  Naively, I thought it surely must have improved since then but I had to agree with Michelle that during the federal election it was back on the Liberals' agenda. 

For The Game Michelle Chaulk created a series of pendants based on playing cards.  Each necklace had two rectangles in the fashion of the Catholic scapula that I grew up with.  These integrated old pennies: King Edward and Queen Elizabeth.  The significant difference is the king was represented with 100 and the queen with 65 to suggest that women were making 65 cents for every dollar that the men were making for work of equal value.  Displaying the art jewelry on miniature ladders created by Chaulk extended the metaphor.

Curious to know more about pay equity I decided to dig deeper with Stats Canada's as a reference.  Especially during a political campaign, numbers can be misleading and words lend all manner of interpretation, take for example "equal pay for equal work" as opposed to "women should get paid the same as a man for doing the same job".  Context can be everything.

However, I was surprised to learn that Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta are the worst two provinces in Canada for pay equity.  For most parts of the country, women earn an average of 72 cents– yet in NL more women are employed then men above the national average.  This is in part due to the decline of goods manufacturing (including fisheries and lumber) and the rise of the service sector.  Also, there are higher numbers of women in low paying jobs and a lower number of women holding leadership positions within traditionally male-dominated fields.

NL is no stranger to pay equity and the issue goes back to the 1980s when premier Brian Peckford committed to pay equity to compensate (1988-1991) underpaid female workers in public sector jobs.  By 1991, the provincial government backed off, cancelling pay equity settlements for 20,000 health-care workers–a field of which 80% were women.  In 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the decision to ditch payments citing the economic recession of 1991.  In 2006, the Danny Williams government voluntarily paid the 24 million that was taken off the table in 1991. 

Cathy Bennett is both finance minister and the minister responsible for the status of women.  Her speeches are clear and make good sense of complex situations.  She pointed to inequity as a result of more women in part-time positions and full day kindergarten would be one solution.  Overall, women are currently 50.2% of core civil service–we've made gains in the number of women hired but because they have been in the workforce a shorter period of time they make less than older male counterparts.  The RNC now has 28% female officers but only 20% of them make over $100,000 or what is referred to as the Sunshine List.

This past International Women's Day, Gerry Rogers introduced a private member's motion urging the provincial government to "start the process to enact pay equity legislation."  It received unanimous support from all parties.