Friday, April 3, 2009


canada is such a small country, such a young country. at our best, it's not that we are nice and polite, it's not even that we have health care for all: it's our humility. we are not, on a national level, arrogant. quite the opposite. this the advantage of never conquering other lands, or being at the top of many lists. we have never been the almighty and thus don't get big-headed about it. still, all this means it's hard for us to wave our flag, to be proud, which may sound ironic to anyone who's ever seen a canadian tourist. but the flag patches on our packs are simply 'we're not american' symbols, because sometimes, much i imagine like kiwis and scots and most of the people of belgium, we don't enjoy being mistaken for our big brother neighbours.

i grew up wishing i could be american. this is true. i still dream of new york. i still hate most canadian movies, and envy much of the best side of american (movies, hbo, magazines, obama, john stewart), but with age and george bush jr. i've changed. all this to lead up to an email i wrote to a friend about the newly renovated art gallery in Toronto, the AGO - the Art Gallery of Ontario.

"...something's changing in me. maybe i'm starting to settle in to toronto for the very first time in my life. so maybe im trying to put a positive spin, but i just felt, in the ago, like i didn't give a shit about the met, or the uffizi or any other gallery. no, there isn't a single van gogh of note (chances are you missed teh one they do have - it's nothing special), id love if they had more monet's, pissaros, etc. still. the impressionist gallery was ... impressive. ha ha. also, how else to build up canadian arts than to showcase them? and the group of seven stuff, lawren harris' work, amongst all that beautiful wood, and in brigher light, it's pretty damn great. in fact, what the group of seven capture, what the museum showcases is how majestic their work, and our country really is. for the first time in my life, i didn't feel any sense of underwhelment at being canadian, at being torontonian. actually, i felt proud. that word came to mind very soon after i first entered Frank Gehry's great building. dundas west just got a whole heck of a lot cooler.

it's like with music. 15 years ago i would have said we were sub-standard (sp?). i wouldn't have even wanted to go to the horseshoe to see local stuff, wouldn't have known about CBC 2 and wouldn't have understood that joni mitchell, neil young and leonard cohen will go down as three of the 20th century's greatest songwriters. never mind the future: neko case, the new pornographers, rufus wainwright, broken social scene, ron sexsmith, etc...

i think this museum is a big step. i think it changes the city ever so much. i think people will go to this museum, locals and tourists. it's not The MOMA. it's not The MET. but it's something. we're a young city. but it gives me hope. and i take this shit like religion as you know. and even if our dumb-ass prime minister, our narrow minded leader who knows nothing beyond the bounds of business, and i mean that in the least entrepreneurial, creative, good sense of the word, even if he has already cut major funding to the arts, i can only hope that the newly done AGO is a sign to our people that culture, that the arts are what makes cities great. and that's what i want. i want toronto to be great. great!

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