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  • A Cynical Hero in a Surreal Forest - Review of Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

    Perhaps what makes a hero is someone who is willing to help others out of the goodness of their hearts. This particular definition of the term “hero” is not applied in Michael DeForge’s latest graphic novel.

    On March 16, Drawn and Quarterly’s bookstore hosted the launch party for DeForge’s latest graphic novel, Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero. This graphic novel was originally a webcomic that was updated on a weekly basis on Tumblr.

    The idea for the graphic novel was inspired by one of DeForge’s favourite books, The Canadian Naturalist by P.H. Gosse. He resonated with the idea of how Gosse described his idealized version of Canada in his book. DeForge thought that it would be interesting to have his own character who has never lived in a forest and had their own idealized version of what the Canadian wilderness was like.

    Also, since DeForge is a character designer on _Adventure Time_—one of Cartoon Network’s most popular shows—the art style is very similar to the style you’d see in the animated series itself.

    Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero is the story of a middle-aged recluse named Sticks who abandons her celebrity status as the daughter of a prominent Canadian politician, and goes to live in the forest. Along the way, she encounters many unique characters such as Oatmeal—a bunny who is in love with Sticks after she saved him from being killed by snake venom—and Girl McNally, a human girl who only speaks in song who was once condemned for her father’s crimes when she was a baby.

    Sticks isn’t your average hero. Early into the novel she comes off as a low-key tyrant, having ants act as her proxy and answering all her needs. In comic strips revealing Sticks’ backstory, the reader learns how she was a bully in her childhood wherein she constantly tormented her twin brother.

    Despite imagining a kooky version of Canada’s wildlife, DeForge drew inspiration from real life. Taking his friend and American cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt and basing a character off of her: a moose who dresses in human garb who dreams of becoming a lawyer one day. Hanawalt is also the producer and production designer for the animated Netflix series, BoJack Horseman.

    DeForge explained that he had a frustrating time rendering Hanawalt into a character for his novel.

    “I didn’t want to do a crappy ripoff of Lisa’s work,” recalls DeForge. “So, I wrote her up and said, ‘Hey, is this fine?’ And she very generously. was cool with it when I showed her the scripts.”

    As the narrative progresses, Sticks’s character development leads her into becoming a better person. She helps out Girl McNally in a court trial and gives a useful Secret Santa gift to one of the forest animals, despite the fact that she was reluctant to participate in the Christmas event at all.

    Overall, Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero is an entertaining read. DeForge’s cynical humour takes on a lighter tone compared to his last graphic novel Big Kids, published in 2016.

    The narrative fits into a continuous storyline with some stand-alone moments and mini story arcs that showcase a particular character. It is told mainly from Sticks’ point of view, but does switch between minor characters.

    At the graphic novel’s launch party, DeForge did a live-reading of three comics he had written called All Dogs are Dogs, Meat Locker and Mostly Saturn. It was an interesting experience to have the author read aloud from his work, accompanied by a large projector playing a slideshow of the strips. The reason why DeForge did not read from Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero was because he felt he couldn’t provide a multitude of different voices for each of his characters, of which there are many.

    DeForge explores themes of identity, transformation and community in Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero as a way to shape an alternate version of the Canadian wilderness. An example of how the theme of community fits into the narrative is that it establishes the forest laws in the fictional landmark, Monterey National Park. One law applies to those who are rejects of society or who have committed crimes. They are referred to as “unanimals,” creatures of the forest who have twine wrapped around their heads so they are no longer distinguishable and who lose their ability to speak.

    Later on, there was time for a quick question and answer session with DeForge, wherein explained that he enjoys creating little snippets of his imagined world. Little moments where readers could sample a brief slice of a bigger and more surreal world.

    DeForge’s simple yet charming art style paired with his writing style brings out the goofiness of the story’s characters. There are several minor characters in the story, but only the named characters get more fleshed out in the comic strips, such as Oatmeal, Lisa Hanawalt and Girl McNally.

    If you are a fan of Adventure Time and you like a cynically funny narrative, then Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero is not a graphic novel that you’d want to miss out on.

  • Dropping the Needle - Thoughts on the Vinyl Record Industry

    You go through a dusty crate of vinyl records until you find the right one. Once you’ve picked the perfect record, you remove it from its jacket and place it onto the turntable.

    Dropping the needle, you hear its first couple of crackles and anxiously await for the first track to begin.

    Although the vinyl record has existed since the early 20th century, this medium for listening to music has never truly gone out of style.

    It was believed that CDs and MP3s would destroy the vinyl industry, but the record remains indestructible. The question is, what is it that makes people want to purchase their music on vinyl?

    Normally, someone who buys vinyl records would want to experience the whole record completely, to get the feel of being at a live concert. Some may just want to get to know the message that the artist is trying to convey through the album.

    Steve Ludvik, along with Dan Hadley, co-owns of The Death of Vinyl, a secondhand record store on St. Laurent Blvd. Ludvik described how vinyl records would transmit various messages and stories.

    “A record is like a book. You don’t start at chapter three,” said Ludvik. Each side on the record begins with a specific song and ends with a specific song that the artists chose in order to take the listener through a musical journey.

    Vinyl records are considered as the format of music for understanding the messages that the musicians are trying to convey. However, others would purchase vinyl specifically for their sound.

    The quality of sound from a CD or an MP3 file is incomparable to the unique sound that the vinyl has to offer. According to an article from Pitchfork, vinyl offers a unique “warm sound” known as surface noise that enhances the listener’s experience for enjoying music compared to a CD which is capable of producing decent sound quality.

    Hadley described how vinyl offers a full spectrum of sound compared to digitally pressed files.
    “Original pressings are unchanged by the passing of time and are the result of state of the art analogue technology capturing the full spectrum of sound frequencies,” he explained.

    Some buy vinyl because of the nostalgic factor it brings them, while others dare to plunge for the first time into this new medium.

    Buying music on vinyl is quite an essential since it also comes with beautiful cover art, the sound quality and the connection it seems to provide between the fan and the artist. Ludvik stated how vinyl is not only about enjoying the music, but also about reading the inserts and admiring the artwork.

    Similarly, Hadley states how collecting vinyl is like owning a piece of history; an original pressing allows listeners in 2017 to replicate the same listening experience that the first listeners had in 1967.

    Listening and collecting vinyl is a great way for experiencing and discovering various types of music. But the question remains of whether or not if the vinyl industry is always going to be available on the market.

    Nathan Caskey, record shop manager at Aux 33 Tours, believes that there is always going to be a demand towards vinyl records and that the industry will continue to last for a long time.

    “People are genuinely interested in vinyl” said Caskey. “Not just because it’s a fad, but because of how they come to discover what’s so great about it; discovering its unique, raw sound with every spin.”

    As much as some people would like to believe that the vinyl industry will last forever, how can they be sure of whether or not the industry will not slowly phase out and die? The question remains unanswered, but what matters the most is taking advantage and enjoying the wonderful music offered on vinyl right now while it’s still around.

    Pull out a record from its jacket, drop the needle onto it, sit back and enjoy the various musical sounds that only the vinyl can offer.

  • Overcoming the Trauma and Hate: Documentary Sheds Light on Inuit LGBT Communities

    There is a lot to be said about the resiliency of minority groups.

    Simply existing can almost be seen as a political statement. It can also feel conflicting and alienating for individuals who may belong to multiple minority groups. Despite that alienation how, there are a lot of people who can relate to this experience.

    Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things is a documentary film that explores this topic by shining a light on the lives and experiences of Inuit LGBT people who live in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

    The film was presented as part of Never Apart’s ongoing LGBT Film Series. Never Apart is a small non-profit organization that’s dedicated to supporting the arts and advocating for social and environmental equality.

    The documentary film by Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa, released in 2016, was filmed over a four day period on location in Iqaluit.

    During the early stages of the film in 2015, Woods and Yerxa considered Iqaluit’s first ever pride festival, but plans changed as the two started to uncover the story of Iqaluit’s LGBT community.

    Both Woods and Yerxa are members of the LGBT community. However, neither of them are Indigenous. They spent a lot of time researching the colonization of Canada’s Inuit population before going to Iqaluit to shoot the documentary.

    Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things has already been shown at film festivals on nearly every continent. It won the award for Best Documentary at the Fargo Moorehead LGBT Film Festival and Best Two-Spirited Film-Audience Choice Award at the Queer North Film Festival. Future screenings are taking place at the New Brunswick Museum in St. John (Maliseet land), the British Film institute in London, and the Glitch Film Festival in Scotland.

    The movie opens up with a brief lesson in history given by a few Inuit inhabitants of the territory. They describe the oppressive colonialism that took place on their land. Generational trauma, oppression and abuse caused by colonization are still very present in this community, as well as in other Indigenous communities, the film explains.

    As the documentary progresses, the audience learns about the history of the LGBT community in Iqaluit and the struggles they have faced as a result of the homophobia instilled by Christian churches.

    While still healing from trauma and the illusions that the church impressed on the community, it’s understood that circumstances have improved. In learning and re-connecting with their culture, Inuit people begin breaking down these notions, ultimately becoming more understanding and accepting of LGBTQ individuals in their communities.

    One of the people spotlighted in the film is Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an award winning Inuk filmmaker and activist. She is a very prominent straight ally and has included Inuit LGBT characters in her past films. Another prominent voice in the film was Jack Anawak, a former politician who is considered to be an Elder by some community members.

    Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things is an important documentary about the resiliency that Inuit communities and LGBT Inuit communities share. By allowing the voices of Indigenous folks to guide the story, it’s clear that Woods and Yerxa were careful and respectful in their direction.

    They have donated copies of the documentary to several libraries and schools in Nunavut. Woods and Yerxa are currently in the very early stages on working on a new project.

    Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things puts people and stories that are often ignored in Canadian media and filmmaking at the forefront, highlighting the complexity that comes with belonging to two minority groups. Both Inuit people and LGBT people have faced a lot of hardships over the years, but together, they remain resilient.

  • Empowering a Community: Art Fights Back Against Anti-Muslim Racism

    Retraction: This article has been taken down due to misinterpretations of the interviews with the organizers. The piece detailed what happened at an event called, “Holding Space,” which was held on March 10 at the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, by the South Asian Youth Collective. After discussions with the organizers, author, and editorial team, it was decided that the best course of action would be to publish a retraction. The possibility of a follow-up story is currently being discussed. The Link regrets the error. For any further questions, please contact editor@thelinknewspaper.ca

  • Clinging to the Nostalgic Hum: Getting Lost Within Wire Forest at Art Matters

    • Art Matter’s Wire Forest exhibition spans from March 4 to March 18 at Studio XX. Pictured is Alejandro A. Barbosa “Earth as It Is Seen.” Photo courtesy Art Matters.

    • A sculptural piece, entitled “Light Outside the Box” by Amanda Lee. Photo courtesy Art Matters.

    Come before the Wire Forest with a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Then again, don’t forget your emotions, your habits, and the people you saw on the metro this morning.

    You could imagine nothingness; perhaps that will suffice as intent to sculpt the new world that Valerie Bourdon and Diana Lazzaro have curated as part of this year’s edition of the Art Matters Festival.

    “The exhibition is celebrating new life forms emerging from the technological era and the Anthropocene—the focus is not on them singularly, but on the whole,” said Lazzaro of the show.

    My experience with Wire Forest was a set of recurring attempts to step outside myself—to look down upon my own naive beliefs and witness their dissolution.

    In the space between sensation and reflection is the opportunity to empathize with mournful projections of an inhuman future. It’s also a chance to mock worldly sentiments such as career goals and mortgage payments.

    “Each piece explores a different aspect of the relationship between technology and the organic,” Lazzaro continues.

    For the exhibit’s vernissage, performance artist Jenna Ladd gave an exposition on this exact dichotomy.

    She expressed her thoughts behind the performance as “dragging still hollow frames to be forgotten / A constellation of flickering roots / grounded by the revival of isolated existences.”

    Ladd immersed the audience members in darkness. Amidst this was “[a] stream of current solidifying the collapsing body of weakened / echoes.”

    “The piece equalizes the moment between breathing and suffering,” she concluded.

    Some artists have chosen to explore initial expectations, as opposed to interactions of immediacy and resonance. Amanda Lee’s work, for instance, illuminates and darkens itself according to the proximity of the viewer.

    When you approach the black columns in the space to examine them up-close, they draw into themselves and reject you.

    It does require some patience, however. The gesture of this exhibit is subtle—best for an occasion when you are alone with enough time to fluctuate between desire and disappointment.

    This year marks the first opportunity to observe electroacoustics as an integral part of an exhibit within Art Matters.

    With time-based media as a principal feature, the exhibit is circular, albeit without the sight of a circular room. Sound art pieces intersect with each other in perpetuity. Diverse voices wash over the plastic and graphic artworks along the fringes of Studio XX.

    One sound artist’s contribution reinforces Ladd’s immersion of the vernissage: Georgios Varoutsos’ “Reflections” surround the audience members in a similar manner to Dany Floyd’s sound piece.

    Varoutsos described his own as “a memoir and revision of the years [he] spent studying.” It’s not explicit, but he invites viewers into an exploration of his experiences.

    His intent was to create “a strong emotional reaction […] So that the piece in itself develops emotions throughout the audience.”

    I reacted to “Reflections” through vivid fixations, grounded in time-based segments: cyclical waves counterbalanced with foreboding bass, tonal motives of regret sequenced to greet and abandon you.

    For the former experience, Varoutsos said that he’s attempting to evoke tension. If you stand near the speakers this evening, the recorded potential may bring you there.

    In the case of the latter, the minute flourish is a recurrence of “material from the beginning of the piece.” We witness a permutation, a revival or a newfound recognition.

    In the frame of the entire exhibit Varoutsos, Floyd and Scharf-Pierzchala—among others—lend you a secondary position to assess your everyday life.

    Beyond the walls of the gallery space is the machine—within may be its future soul.

    Wire Forest// Spans March 4 to March 18 // Studio XX // 4001 Berri St. #201