ART: New Latitude 53 Writer-in-Residence aims to incite

Blair Brennan’s first official act as the new Writer-in-Residence at Latitude 53 was to post a quote from well-known GQ Style Guy Glen O’Brien (which first appeared in Artforum magazine): “Art writing should be art or shut the fuck up, you’re bringing me down.”

You might guess that it won’t all be sweetness and light. The local artist and art critic is just following the job description, after all, which, in addition to requiring at least three writings a month, states that Latitude 53’s Writer-in-Residence “may choose to coordinate, create, or incite critical dialogue about visual culture.”

Key word: Incite.

Brennan can back up his opinions. As someone who’s created visual art for more than 30 years (he graduated from the University of Alberta with a BFA in 1981), and written about art for over 20 years, he offers an artistic sensibility coupled with a literate voice. His recent collaboration with Edmonton artists Sean Caulfield and Royden Mills premiered at Montreal’s Galerie de l’UQAM in May, and also reunited Brennan with a former collaborative partner, acclaimed Edmonton choreographer Brian Webb. It seems that Brennan can trammel across all borders in Edmonton’s artist circles, from the “established” to the “experimental,” which gives him a broad view of contemporary art in Edmonton.

“I consider myself as an artist who also writes,” he says. “I’m the first artist-writer that they’ve had – that should give it a different slant. My work is so very text-based and I have this straight writing and then the experimental writing.”

Latitude 53 executive director Todd Janes says he wanted “something a little more in-depth and something beyond a preview of exhibitions. I was really interested in Blair as an artist who writes, but who’s also dabbled in creative writing, as well as magazine writing. I think he’s really interested in the power of words.”

To date, Brennan has logged about 4,500 words on Latitude 53’s blog, with topics ranging from observations and opinions to ruminations and his own artistic self-expression. “It’s always about a hopefully, well-formed argument about my opinion,” Brennan says, but at the same time he avoids taking himself too seriously. “I don’t write with an outline. I go ‘word, word, word’. Making abstract steel sculpture was very good training. As long as you can ‘cut and paste,’ it’s just like welding.”

Brennan plays no favourites, takes no prisoners. Look for his next post in which he plans to slam the Works and the Art Walk.

“It won’t be pretty,” Brennan says, but adds that he plans to include an optimistic note with the inclusion of Dirt City/Dream City, an ongoing exhibition of public art in the “Quarters” district of downtown Edmonton (between 97 and 92 Streets from 103A to Jasper Avenues) – “a great example of what art can be/do with some smart artists and organizers behind it.”

No one is safe from his eye, his musings – least of all, himself. A cheeky short piece about stroke carries more weight when you know that Brennan, himself, has experienced a stroke:

5 Warning Signs of Stroke

1.    Blood (or sometimes small things will catch on fire)

2.    Ancient civilizations will collapse

3.    Your phone will ring and there will be no one there

4.    Your tattoos will itch

5.    Apophenia