The visual poetry of Jim Andrews

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bpNichol’s animated computer poem 
First Screening is one of the centre-points of our current exhibition, Down To Write You This Poem Sat. Originally developed for the Apple IIe computer and made available on floppy disc, the poems were nearly rendered inaccessible when that technology became obsolete. It’s thanks to Jim Andrews and the visual poets at that we’re able to experience them today. Andrews and his team have carefully restored and preserved the work, migrating it to a series of contemporary formats.

From Victoria, BC, Andrews has been publishing since 1996. Before that he produced a literary radio show called Fine Lines and later ?FRAME?. Of bpNichol, Andrews says: “I met bpNichol when I was producing the radio show. His parents lived in Victoria; he’d visit occasionally. He kindly appeared on the show a couple of times. I gave him a ride to the station once in my little yellow Honda. He told me about having recently ‘discovered writing for television.’ He wrote for Fraggle Rock, a much beloved Muppets spin-off.”

Of his own work, he says: “I thought of myself as a poet but was not interested in the usual modus operandi of publishing poemy poems in the little magazines. Radio was an interesting exploration of the literary for me, and then when the web came along, I fell hard for its multi-medial and potentially intermedial possibilities, and also its ability to reach an international audience in ways that I couldn’t otherwise.”

To experience some of our favourite visual poems by Jim Andrews, click on the following links and (as Andrews advises): “Turn out the lights! Turn up the sound! Throw away your preconceptions about poetry!”

Man of Letters (1996)
The Pop Up Poems (1996-98)
Seattle Drift (1997)
Enigma (1998)
Stir Fry Texts (ongoing)
Nio (2001)
A Pen (2007)
Langrid (2014)

Image: Installation view (detail) of bpNichol, First Screening, 1983-1984. Courtesy of the estate of bpNichol. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Video: Down To Write You This Poem Sat

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Curator Frances Loeffler discusses the exhibition Down To Write You This Poem Sat on now at Oakville Galleries. Video by Mike Dopsa.

Collection Spotlight: Colette Whiten

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Toronto sculptor Colette Whiten has long been committed to exploring power and political relationships. For several years in the 1990s, much of Whiten’s work focused on the representation of anonymous women in the media—women seen waiting to vote, protesting in the streets or bearing arms against oppressors. Vows Vengeance (1993–1995) derives its imagery from a news story about Abkhazian women mourning their partners, soldiers killed at war. In carefully translating an otherwise fleeting news photograph into a concrete object—here, a meticulous beaded curtain—Whiten changes the terms on which we consider the image. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Collection Spotlight: Peter MacCallum

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One of the earliest photographs in Oakville Galleries’ collection is this work by Peter MacCallum, who has spent more than forty years meticulously documenting Toronto’s architecture, industry and urban spaces. A slice of vintage Hogtown, Spadina Hotel at Night (1979) captures a bygone era at the corner of King and Spadina, with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on one corner and the legendary Spadina Hotel—whose Cabana Room was then home to a raucous underground art and music scene—on the other. Like many of MacCallum’s early photographs, this work alludes to the vibrancy taking shape in Toronto at the time, even as the city maintained a reputation for being staid and buttoned up.

Collection Spotlight: Jeannie Thib

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Jeannie Thib’s Untitled (1993) features tree branches that have been carved with ambiguous phrases culled from a book on animal behaviour: including “Sound signals,” “Natural tools,” “Trail marking,” and “Ritual play.” Through her sculptural and installation-based work, Thib regularly explored the intricate connections between domestic landscapes and those of the so-called ‘natural’ world.