Saturday, 30 January 2016

the unstoppable Christopher Shoust

2015 has been a busy and productive year for Sault Ste Marie artist Christopher Shoust.
Continuing to develop and present his work in visual arts, literature, music and film;
Shoust is labouring to forge his identity and establish a presence
in the world of art around him.

I've taken in many presentations of Shoust's work in the past year:
At his café show this spring, he draped a wall in blue and red pulses
of repeat-printed Rock Hudson and Noah Becker.

At the north end of Gore Street,
in the old downtown of Sault Ste Marie,
in a building which formerly housed MJs Second Time Around
there is an art space called 180 Projects,
run by Andrea Pinheiro and Devin Alexander.
They exhibit work by both student and mature artists,
host various musical events, as well as the Sault Media Arts Collective

I first met Shoust at 180 projects
through our common involvement in
the January 2015 SMAC film fest and art show.
His irrepressible energy and active mind
were evident as he presented short films created 
from found 8mm film footage,
as he delivered a talk wearing 
a tromp-l'oeuil scarf.

While at first glance and in some cases
one might find recognise methods and subject matter
which place Shoust's work quite close to Basquiat’s, 
(primarily in the layered presentation of images, abstract forms and text)
 there are deeper crises here.
In addition to navigating the borderlands of art, 
commerce, and concept, the work provides a commentary 
on North American counterculture in the late 20th century
as well as mental health issues, presenting a voice of the disaffected.

Shoust's artistic practise includes a musical project called Telephone and Address
He has released several albums through this project
and seems just as focused and prolific in his musical output as visual
Shoust’s music is thoroughly punk.
his lyrics are shouted, mewled, and screeched;
floating above guitar noise and sloppy hypnotic drum patterns.
Much like the subject matter of Shousts's visual work,
the sound of his music is exuberant and discomfited.
He describes it as 'joyful chaos".

At a Pixo Control show at Lop Lop's,
local musician and promoter Jamie Vincent
is gushing over Shoust:
"Chris is the most original artist in the Sault right now.”
He's talking about Rust Orchid:
Telephone and Address' latest release,
Whose Aphex-era sound coaxes simple,
hummable triadic melodies 
out of overlaid guitars, beats and looped harmonics.
Perhaps Shoust is a beacon of post-punk in this northern land
of classic/blues-rock, karaoke, and thrash metal musik.
But is this city a fertile place for such culture to flourish and grow?

Sept 13, 2015 marked the final day of Shoust’s most recent exhibition
at 180 Projects: THE REVOLUTION IS NOW

Curated by Miranda Bouchard, the show consisted mostly of
large-scale hangings of Shoust’s silkscreen work on rag paper:
colourful multiples in bold floor to ceiling arrangements.

The bright colors, especially evident in Shoust's first summer hanging at 180
Harken to Matisse's fauvist glow, by way of Rothko's more tropical moments

'Treatment', a series which Bouchard presented four high and five across,
fields a skeletal variation on Shoust's approach;
shadowy fragments displaced across space:
each marked with its own loaded artifacts,
sparse bits of Twomblyesque griffure.
Fragmented texts reference illness and treatment.

In the front room of the exhibit hang quite another palette of potential spectrums. 
A set of 16 from the Frustration Paintings series (400$ apiece) ca. 2010
whose appearance at 180 marks their first showing 
outside of the Art Gallery of Sudbury rentals department,
in which capacity they have also at times furnished the OAC Sudbury offices.

These pieces were created in the Bushplane Musuem studios,
then known as the Medicine Factory
Shortly before a break-in after which, Shoust says
"We all had to leave cuz it was unsafe there.
The incident destroyed the momentum.
Artists, recording and jamming musicians, video editing.
Everything was happening.”
Other artists active in the Medicine Factory include
Night Owl Meme Makers
Michael Bennardo
Rikhee Strapp
Brad Griffith and Cody Rydell:
of the ARG or Action Riot Guild
Mister Tahti
and Shelly Fletcher 

The skateboard videos that Shoust films and appears in
follow similar conceptual models as his series paintings.
Skaters attempt tricks;
repeatedly attempt tricks,
and continue to attempt them until
their goal is acheived.
The ritual loop destabilises one’s experience,
successful tricks ultimately signalling the end of the skater’s screen time.
Thus, fruition and disappearance are conflated.

The layouts in which Shoust’s silkscreened multiples are presented
also interpret Warhol's techniques,
the medical context of the Ghost Nurse series
further highlights the Medicine Factory's
healing usage of assembly line procedures.
Shoust has acheived the technique and productivity of the commercial artist,
perhaps unawares and probably unintended:
he wants something more. Shoust wants to be heard
and to have the cogency of his efforts acknowledged.
Anxiety vents itself as he works to heal himself through art.

The Frustration series was completed shortly after Shoust graduated
from the Algoma department of Fine Arts.
Presented at 180 this fall were 16 of a series of 40,
reiterations of what Shoust calls
"An emergence of conceptual symbols.”
Asked about his time at Algoma University, Shoust says:
"I was very angry. I graduated top of my class...
(But) the last year and a half was frustrating. 
Things were too slow for the speed at which I was working and thinking.
There wasn't room to further develop. The thesis was too easy.
I had so much work, I just let them pick out whatever they thought was strong."

“It started, I think, with four.
40 was how many could fit into the room."
Suggesting that the size of the project was limited in this case
only by the constraints of studio space,
Shoust hints at his process when he adds
"I stopped when my urgency was starting to peter."

It is a cloudless afternoon and warm sunlight is streaming in
through floor to ceiling windows at 180 Projects.
Shoust is presenting a film talk on behalf of SMAC:

The Anthropology of Documentary,

and discussing with me the
objective perception of reality
by the video camera.
Film theory as philosophy,
The talk outlines his stance against data fetishism and fascism

A strain of danger and of abandon runs through Shousts persona:
the artist friend who offers spent shells and practise targets as gifts, 
who walks away from a totaled motorcycle merely scratched and bruised.
Shoust has paid some dues and gained experience promoting punk shows in years past.
I think of him as a survivor of these skirmishes at the edge of the acceptable.
His work speaks to me of the obsessions of automation,
the shell shocked spell of the xerox machine 
spitting out secondhand sights in black and white.
Of two countries driven by machismo and devalued peoples.
Of twin cities separated by Mary's waters 
as they rush betwixt two worlds.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

britta wolfert

Sam Decter>What musical influences do you feel have been strongest upon your own song writing?

Britta Wolfert> Early heroes were, of course, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, 
Carole King, Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, & kin ~ 
and later of course various jazz artists, 
although I started working on my own jazz tunes only fairly recently.

 Daily observations, conversation, people and landscapes morph into word and tune, 
I am a 'radio rat', soaking up music and talk as we live fairly remote.

SD> When and why did you begin performing and creating music?

BW> Singing came before talking, apparently.. Written stories,

colourfully illustrated 'books' made of stapled or glued together pieces of paper, 
also funny little poems and songs were created soon as I was able to write. 
Writing, singing, drawing has always made me happy.

In my early teens I bought a cheap guitar and learned to play folk songs heard on the radio, 

sang around camp fires when feeling brave. Always been rather shy. 
Later I worked on and played more songs, 
hung out and listened a lot in folk and jazz clubs around Hamburg. 
Once enough tunes accumulated, I made myself play solo in folk clubs, 
sometimes duo or with a band of friends. 
Passion to perform music has always been present,
 but sadly also the ever present apprehension.

SD> What are your favourite things about the Algoma music scene? 
How do the scenes in Searchmont and Sault Ste Marie interact?

BW> When musicians include and support one another in a comfortable setting,  

everyone can relax and it brings out new ideas and inspiration, 
creates musical community and benefits everyone. 
It sets an atmosphere and makes people want to come back ~ or not. 
Musicians residing in rural north and east of the Sault, often call jams. 
It’s fun to hang out, playing music til dawn sometimes. 
Distances can be a bit of a challenge for out-of-town musicians.
Late night drives home are not a pleasant prospect, especially in winter.
Searchmont Music Festival was an enthusiastic 4 year effort with great people on board, 

aiming to bring both city and country folk out 
to discover Searchmont’s breathtaking natural setting 
and to bring music, art, community and positivity into the landscape. 
It was an incredible love fest with astonishing music while it lasted
...seemingly a best ­kept­ secret. 
Sadly funding and also Searchmont and SSM interest lacked.

SD> . How and when did your groups the Wabos Warblers 

and the Moon Dazz band come together?

BW> A few years ago, Jeff Hinich and myself 

got together with Mister Tahti 
and we combined original and traditional folk tunes, 
much experimental fun.
All of us have close connections to historic Finnish farming community Wabos, 

thus we created the Wabos Warblers on vocals, accordion, banjo & guitar. 
MoonDazz is the long standing band dream, 

with the vision to perform original and jazz related tunes. 
MoonDazz shows have been rare thus far, 
 but it's always enjoyable, challenging and an honour 

working with supportive local musicians.
 Recent songs written with Toronto composer/pianist Doug Wilde 

are definitely leading in a jazz direction. 
A future album must be jazz, or perhaps parallel recording with another Moonstone like album, as I am always working on new song ideas.
 All MoonDazz material.

Where can we hear your music online?

Here you can hear the tracks, also buy the album 

or individual tracks right from the site if you so choose. 
Last spring I decided to create the present website, 
because frustration about having to rely on others
to make changes on the website finally came to a boil. 
So I decided to sign on with a website building company. 
A huge leap for me, it’s been a great growing experience... 
I prefer keeping technical aspects simple.

 There is a video clip for the title song ‘Moonstone’ on You Tube:

 A simple setting, perfect for a first video idea. 
Video contemplations for ‘Mabel’ and ‘Every Little Moment’ are progressing, 
I am looking to collaborate on ideas.

SD> Tell me about your life in Europe and in Canada.

BW: Europe. Sure, my growing up in the old country has definitely shaped me. 

Nobody runs away from their childhood and upbringing. 
Sooner or later old issues come back full circle to haunt you. 
My Parents were children and young adults during WWll, 

Grandparents endured (both world wars). 
They did their best to give us a decent upbringing in post war Germany, 
but they suffered greatly from the scale of their own upbringing. 
I thank them for their great efforts. When looking back though, 
there was lots of structure, restrictions, sadness, quiet and guilt.... 
Only now am I beginning to understand some whys and hows, 
reflected by conversations with hometown friends 
who are going through similar epiphanies.

The fear has to go.

Coming to Canada age 19 was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I spent a year living with a family of fibreglass canoe builders, 

pioneers in the canoe guiding industry. Structure here too, 
but also whiffs of freedom mixed with discipline,
 endurance and responsibility while partaking in several 18 day canoe trips 
on Lake Huron's North Channel that summer. 
That's where I met Jeff.
Both of us creative spirits, 

we settled in Wabos together, a few years later.
Jeff and I built a house there and started 

'from scratch' 
a traditional wood production business, B&B and later a Lodge. 
The children were born and raised into these enterprises and the back country setting, 
shaping our family life by exposure to hard work, close to nature and far from the city. 
Simplicity, music, good friends, customers, tourists and yes... tough times.
Sometimes I can't believe what we both have packed into life thus far!

SD> How do Europe and Canada resemble or differ?

BW> Canada has provided me with the ability to unfold, to create.
 To choose your way to live if you dare to venture out 
and take a chance building your dream. To create your future in a non conventional way. 
You can do that.
 The Old Country can be a complicated place, 

often with focus on competition in daily life. 
There are often restrictions and judgements holding people back, 
on the other hand there is that pressure to succeed 
and to get ahead of everyone’s weird.
 Following 6 months in Germany to assist my aging parents, 

I am pleasantly surprised and elated though, 
noticing new and positive changes since leaving for Canada years ago. 

SD> Do you feel you gain a unique perspective from the places you've lived?

BW> I don't look at it as 'gain'. 

Every day provides chances to try something new, 
to break out of the comfort zones to help understand the world a little better.
People must have a chance to leave their birth place, at least temporarily. 

We learn so much about ourselves and others. 
Travel, work and see what's going on elsewhere in the world. 
It helps make the world a more tolerant place, 
opens heart and soul and helps understand and appreciate people, 
no matter where they come from, 
were born 
or what they do artistically, 
or who they are.
It's good and important for all of us to walk in the shoes of our old, 

wise people; immigrants and refugees.
 After all, I'm an immigrant myself. 

SD> What do you feel you got out of your recent jazz vocal training?

BW> I have to give you the long story!
At the Jazz in July week long workshop, 

students gain intense musical immersion, 
reaching personal goals, working with other jazz oriented musicians 
of various ages and skills from all over the world. 
What an amazing opportunity!

In the spring of 2013 I had the good fortune to meet 

and hear jazz vocalist legend Sheila Jordan in concert, 
and to participate in Sheila's vocalist workshop the following day. 
It was a life changing and inspiring experience. 
Restless in my ongoing quest for more jazz knowledge, 
I found out last minute that Sheila Jordan was to teach 
the 'Jazz in July' vocal workshop with Cathy Jensen­ Hole 
in Amherst Massachusetts.
    Parallel (to) instrumentalist workshops for piano, guitar, 
horn section, bass, drums, big band, guided by regarded music professionals. 
We all learned from and and performed with one another. 
I feel lots of positivity from students and staff, 
who encourage one another.

SD> How was the experience of recording your last album? 

Who did you work with to produce it?

BW> First and foremost, Moonstone producer Rusty McCarthy 

needed to know whether the album was to become a basic work 
with mainly vocals and guitar, 
or the vision of a full­ out album with multi musicians, 
bells and whistles. I did opt for the latter. 
Recording Moonstone was an absolute mix of determination, 
fear, drive, frustration, patience, doubt, trust and assertion sometimes, 
as I really did not want anything to come in between the vision and making of this album.
There was no doubt for me that Rusty McCarthy would be the producer. 

I knew he would have the ability and intuition to listen into my 
(rather unconventional) music 
and understand what I wanted and needed to create.

 I would like to add that McCarthy won the ''Best Engineer Award' 

during the 2015 'Northern Ontario Music and Film in Motion' Awards 
May 30th for 'Moonstone'. Truly an honour.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Night Market and black bean burger

Every month or so we hold a Night Market at the café selling fresh, local, pay-what-you-want produce. Tonight is the first Night Market of 2016 and will be happening at Gore Street Café from 6-9 pm. Thanks to Collholm farms and Lambert Homestead for the lovely squash, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and beets that will all be available at whatever price YOU see fit:-)

This weekend also sees the opening of a student art show at 180 Projects (just up the street at 180 Gore). 

The show is called Out There, and features work by Algoma Fine Arts students in a variety of styles ranging from paint, print and drawing to mixed media. Opening reception is Saturday Jan 23 from 6-8.

Last weekend the Really Really Free Market took place at 180 Projects, and the next one is set to take place March 12th during the fishbowl festival. 

However, one of the artworks hung in anticipation of the show has gone missing during last weekend's event.

Please spread the word re: this missing artwork and share the pic below. 

Please contact the gallery at with any info re: this missing piece of art.

Today's menu is 

black bean burger served with kale and apple salad

Butternut squash soup

and rhubarb/apple pecan muffins

Vegan black bean burger patties: 

(makes 4-6 patties)

One medium onion,

Three cloves garlic

Olive oil 4-6 tablespoons

Three cups cooked black beans

Salt and Pepper

Vegan burger patties are simple, tasty, and fun!

Egg and bread aren't what keeps this burger together. Play with the recipe till you get comfortable and the balance of onions, oil and beans creates a consistency that holds its shape. Sautee your vegan burger Patty on medium heat to brown both sides, and build your burger as you please. (Mine had eggs and cheese on it. Like, the opposite of vegan)

Soak beans overnight and cook at a medium boil for 30-45 mins or until softened. Mix in food processor with onion, garlic, and olive oil, s and p to taste. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Obie Trice and Smoked Trout salad

Open mic time is upon us again.

At midnight, as the clock ticked over on the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, as I sat in the lobby of the Grand Theatre watching flatscreen tv, as I ran to Coch's lookin for the after party, I was a hip hop fugitive.

An hour earlier,  giggling into a microphone, running around the feet of the crowd, my calling was clear: I was born to be Sonny Vibe$' hypeman. I was hip hop. I was of the pageantry and not the poetry. Concert photography by RADimagery.

Two hours before midnight, as the show first got underway, I was a bundle of nerves; go-go dancing, twirling and pratfalling in my red flannel, dry-humping speaker columns to the sounds of Snoop and 'skeet skeet skeet'. I don't need a mic to work the crowd. Even my body language is loud. But I am getting tired of celebrating misogyny and violence, especially considering the date...

This week's celebrity near-encounter is Obie Trice. I spotted him at the Grand during DJ Invisible's soundcheck. We were both staring at our phones, pacing the floor of a room not unlike the Opera House on Queen east in Toronto. 

This weeks open mic host is Jamie Neveau. He also runs a weekly jam at the Indian friendship centre over on East street. The last time I hung out on the corner of Queen and East, some kids walked by and told me "yous were great". Now that's the most street cred I've had since I left Victoria

The menu for this week's open mic is:

Banana bread
Beetroot brownies
Parsnip soup
Salad of romaine, tomato, red onion, and carrot in a white wine vinaigrette, served with toast topped with ricotta cheese and Sayer's smoked trout

Parsnip soup:

Six medium parsnips
Two carrots
Three wee potatoes
Two medium red onions
Two tablespoons fresh rosemary
1.5 tablespoons Maple syrup
Salt and pepper

Dice and sautee red onion
over medium heat.

Peel and dice parsnip, carrots, and potatoes, ssautee. Add rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir.

Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables have softened. Blend, add salt and pepper, maple syrup to taste.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

curry plate and open mic

> > > After 372 days of continuous operation, I suppose it should be time to begin a food blog. Preparing a new, fresh menu five times a week for fifty weeks has certainly integrated food into my life on a new level. Being co-owner has helped me face the trauma of kitchen culture, and take a new pride in my work. Here begin the confessions of a dishwasher.

> > >
> > > A certain rhythm holds my life together. On Wednesday and Saturday, I go to Mill Market. On Tuesday, I sleep in and then I set up the café for the weekly open stage.

> > > Hosting the open mic on Jan 12 is violinist,  singer, keyboard player and dragon trainer: Ellen Van Laars:
> > >
> > > She has brought many friends from across the river. There is apparently international interest in our weekly jam. Canadian, American, and Ojibwe bluesmen bend their tones and share their songs in the frosty night. Poets read in english and french. Gore Street is packed with cars, like many nights of winters past. The audience has spilled out of the café space into the laundromat, which is what often happens,

> > > but this could actually have been our biggest open mic yet, with 22 names on the sign-up sheet for stage time, banjo, violin, and guitar cases on the washing machines and laundromat tables. 

David Bowie passed away the day before, so I cobbled together a loose version of his song 'Candidate' and performed it to the ad hoc accompaniment of various percussionists, Mister Tahti, an open mic regular, on keys, and Jason, a newcomer, on violin. 

The menu for this week's open mic was potato, chickpea and squash curry, served on brown rice, topped with yogurt, shaved beets and carrots, green onions and rhubarb compote.
> >
> > potato, chickpea and squash curry

> >3 cups soaked (overnight)dry chickpeas

> > 1 medium onion, diced
> > 3 cloves garlic, minced
> > 4-6 medium potatoes,
> > 1 medium squash, peeled and cubed
> > 3 tablespoons curry powder
> > 1tablespoon cumin
> > 1teaspoon paprika
> > Salt and pepper
> > 1/2 lemon

> > Sautee onion and garlic in a larrge pot over medium heat. Add salt and pepper, curry powder, cumin, paprika
> Add cubed potatoes to pot,
stirring until potatoes are coated in spice and sautee slightly.
Salt and pepper.
Add cubed squash, sautee slightly.
Drain chickpeas, add to pot,
cover with water, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer till chickpeas are cooked, approximately half an hour. Crush cooked potatoes to thicken sauce.  

Add lemon juice to finish,
salt and pepper to taste.