Rebel Matters 226 – The Thoughtful and Disturbing Artwork of Rebecca Belmore


Fringe 2008 – Rebecca Belmore


In 2008 Rebecca Belmore created piece of art called Fringe.    It’s a photograph of a woman, reclining, her back to us.   Sown into her back are fringes, hanging down, some red, some white.  You might see these on the bottom of a skirt for instance.  The scar running the length of her back is obvious and disturbing.    She says of this work:

As an Indigenous woman, my female body speaks for itself. Some people interpret the image of this reclining figure as a cadaver. However, to me it is a wound that is on the mend. It wasn’t self-inflicted, but nonetheless, it is bearable. She can sustain it. So it is a very simple scenario: she will get up and go on, but she will carry that mark with her. She will turn her back on the atrocities inflicted upon her body and find resilience in the future. The Indigenous female body is the politicized body, the historical body. It’s the body that doesn’t disappear.

The Canadian Encylopedia says this about her:

Increasingly recognized as one of the most important artists of her generation, Rebecca Belmore’s performances, videos, sculptures, and photographs starkly confront the ongoing history of oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada…

Rebecca Belmore was raised in a large Anishinabe family in Upsala, Ontario. She left her small hometown to attend high school in neighbouring Thunder Bay. During the summer, Belmore migrated northwest to spend time with her maternal grandmother — who maintained a traditional lifestyle of trapping and fishing and spoke only her native Ojibwa — in the Anishinabe district of Sioux Lookout.

Ostracized as an Indigenous woman in a largely white high school, Belmore dropped out in her midteens to work a number of odd jobs before deciding to complete her secondary education. Upon returning for her final year, she befriended the high school art teacher who encouraged her to submit a drawing to a local competition where she won first prize. Buoyed by the positive response, the following year Belmore enrolled at the Ontario College of Art (OCA) to pursue a degree in Experimental Arts; she remained in the program from 1984 to 1987…

In 2005, Belmore was chosen as the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale. The piece she produced for the show — a two-and-a-half-minute video loop back-projected on a curtain of flowing water in the darkened room of the Canada pavilion [called Fountain] — took her over a year and half to complete. The video depicts the artist frantically filling buckets of water from the Strait of Georgia and throwing its contents…at the screen.


And she said this about her art in 2008:

Part of my interest in making art is to provoke a viewer to think about certain issues. And I do that through creating images that may, on first sight appear to be – hopefully!- beautiful. But when you look closer you may see something that’s a little out of sync with that beauty. That’s where I hope to get people to think about the image they’re looking at.



At Pelican Falls  2017 – Rebecca Belmore

I saw Facing the Monumental, which featured these and more pieces by Rebecca Belmore on Aug 5, 2018 at the Art Gallery of Ontario.    Here is the audio of my experience with her works.



Find out more about Belmore at:




Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters 222 – Photos of HAL. Not Permitted.

Star Child (Taken at the Kubrick Retrospective at TIFF Lightbox November 2014)

Star Child (Taken at the Kubrick Retrospective at TIFF Lightbox November 2014)

I am not an expert on these matters.   I merely know what I like and what I don’t like.   And though there were movies of his that I absolutely did not like, I cannot ignore the profound impact his movies have had on me.   I don’t know anyone who will deny, if they have seen the movie, that when they hear Also Sprach Zarathrustra or The Blue Danube they can think only of 2001 – A Space Odyssey.   There are those of us who saw A Clockwork Orange who will never be able to see it again because of its assault on our morality, senses, and emotions.   I have a friend who can’t listen to Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy, or the William Tell Overture anymore after seeing the movie without seeing the most vicious and disturbing scenes in her mind’s eye. We don’t understand what some of these movies were about but we simply cannot forget them. He arguably redefined the relationship of music to American film, camera work with American film, and even redefined how to tell a tale.   He turned the ghost story on its head with The Shining and confused us about war and violence with Full Metal Jacket. I am speaking of course about Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time. He made only sixteen movies in forty-eight years, three of which were documentary shorts made very early in his career. Fans waited eagerly for years between movies. Disappointed or not by what I saw, I know that there was great depth and thought put into every inch of film he shot. There is so much to say about him as a filmmaker, that I could probably study him for years and still not understand his films or his process.   But I cannot stop being compelled and drawn to his work.   In November 2014, the Toronto International Film Festival, mounted a retrospective of his work at the TIFF Lightbox location in Toronto. I eagerly attended and was surprised by the mashup curation of the main exhibit.   I got a new perspective on the man and his movies and learned about some I had yet to see.   My show today is separated into two parts. The first takes place in the main exhibit. I sometimes compete with the cacophony of music that surrounds me, and try to provide a sense of how the exhibit takes you through his body of work.   The second takes place in a quieter section of the exhibit where various people share their opinion on select works by this master.

The Twins Costume from The Shining (Taken at TIFF Lightbox - Kubrick Retrospective)

The Twins Costume from The Shining (Taken at TIFF Lightbox – Kubrick Retrospective)

Listen here (53m24s) :

Download HotFRM222


The subtlely distrubing statements on war and violence in Full Metal Jacket (taken at TIFF Kubrick Retrospective Nov 2014)

Thoroughly Modern Mikael

Critics and literary pundits wonder if the story has the makings of a classic.  I am merely suspicious of phenomena that take popular attention by storm.  Such was my skepticism about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.   What is it about the story that is capturing people’s imagination?  Is it the mystery and controversy surrounding the author’s life, legacy and death?  Is it the very modern twenty-first century sensibility that makes us so eager to stick with the book and keeps it alive for us long after we get to the last page?

I have just spent two weeks and one evening of my life immersed in Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander’s world.  It took me took two weeks to get through the book because I did it in audio form.  The version I indulged in was somewhere around sixteen hours of listening time.     I was only able to listen to it for about an hour and half  a day and some of that involved much backing up to get straight the geneology of the Vanger family and details about economics and business that normally go over my head at the best of times.  When I was half-way through the book, I was certain I had solved the mystery of the Vangers or more accurately certain that this was as common a crime novel as any that I had ever read.  Maybe, I was thinking, it’s on a par with In Cold Blood, and certainly not worth any bigger fuss than that. (Though admittedly,  the fuss In Cold Blood caused was considerable.)  I groaned with disappointment when the author, for example, assures us that although Salander will sleep with anyone that the fates choose to present to her, she has a decided preference for the male of the species.   Ok – she’s bisexual – but not too bisexual.  I also thought the author belied a patronizing pseudo-feminist sensibility by giving us a character stunning in her intellectual curiosity and brilliance, who is also only twenty-four, so he could have the inevitable affair with the pixie waif.  Why not make her forty-four?   Well then her four foot eleven aloof taciturn non-conformance would have been about as alluring as a gorilla on her period.  (I found myself asking what becomes of a forty-four or fifty-four year old female hackivist anyway?)

The second half of the book definitely held my interest.   There is indeed a complexity and depth to Larsson’s story telling and characters that I wasn’t expecting.  It is not an ordinary murder mystery.  It is a treatise on morality, ethics and justice masquerading as a thriller.   These are are almost real people dealing with real life difficult questions.  I was pleasantly surprised that though the mysteries and subplots are neatly wrapped up at the end of the book, all the questions and problems of life and love and justice are left as confoundedly open ended as they were before the prologue began.

Now I had to satisfy my curiosity about the film, so I prepared Special K to join me for the almost three hour movie.   This was a much more disappointing experience, as  bits of the story were changed, timeframes condensed, and some characters completely eliminated.    I did enjoy knowing the outcome and  being able to answer Special K’s questions without revealing anything that might ruin her surprise.  Blomkvist and Salander are true to Larsson’s creations, as are many of the Vanger clan. So much, however, is left out in the film that Special K wondered how we kept getting  from here to there.   She was left with a bad taste in her mouth about Salander and her guardian.  To someone who has not read the book, that particular subplot is completely gratuitous, unnecessary and inexplicably disturbing.  (As though it is not disturbing enough as Larsson intended it).  The story was hacked, chopped, and revised to keep the more gruesome bits in the forefront.   I’ll never forgive the filmmakers even though they tried to preserve the spirit of the complexities.   I wish that the story had instead been made into a multi-part miniseries that kept all the intricacies of and faithfulness to the original plot.   That would have made for showing all the character and plot development that would have had the viewer travelling down numerous paths of red herrings as the reader does.

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