The Canadian Art Database

Victor Coleman

Dr. Brute: Leopard Realty (1975)
with David Young

[ 1,035 words ]

On Tuesday, December 4, Dr. Brute opened his current exhibition at A Space with a musical event par excellance. Accompanied by the legendary Toronto jazz pianist, Maurry Kaye, the Dr. performed just a taste of his wide-ranging jazz repertoire on his leopard skin-painted red cedar tenor saxophone. Maurry's rendition of Sophisticated Lady signaled the Dr.'s appearance, in Top Hat and tails, complete with Leopard collar and white gloves. Doffing the topper and removing the slightly soiled mits, the good Dr. whipped out his pen knife and cut the string that held together a pristine pair of spotless snowy gloves, delicately slipping them over his perfect surgeon's hands. As he lifted the kazoo reed to his lips the audience was transfixed. No one had ever heard music quite like this, especially those unfamiliar with the cause / effect, figure / ground relationships manifest on the cutting edge of the Dr.'s work. For want of better terminology it is worth phrasing his methodology as The Safe Distance Theory of Perceptive Response.

fact 1 The unconscious manifests itself in a spatial landscape of private pain. We learn about our fears by confronting them; once burned-twice shy, according to presently accepted behavioral theory, therefore the mind learns about itself, finds it's outline, by determining the kinds of safe distances required for environmental survival. Pushed to its extremity this process provides the raw material for the Ultimate Fetish: personality.

fact 2 Once burned-twice shy, as a behavioral mode, has been rendered inoperable by the inescapable nature of contemporary angst. There is no longer a potential for real Safe Distance in the blizzard of stimuli we have set in motion. In consequence, the personality develops calluses, slow implosion or, alternatively, goes outward to be tortured and explodes. Nice people have lost their middle ground; everything burns. Certain artists-of-courage perceive a dance here, create a dance there, dance in no middle ground, the no safe distance. It is the old tension of the horns close to the body restated, privately, as masturbation. Yes, I can still feel. I suffer, therefore I am.

Dr. Brute inhabits a landscape of throbbing leopard skin, the figure / ground pulse of S&M interchange, a mind finding itself through the terrible dare fulfilled. I'll show you what I keep under my pillow if you'll show me what you keep under yours. There is a plaintive innocence here, a recognition, child-like, of the particular screaming that comes across our sky.

Dr. Brute plays a red cedar saxophone with kazoo mouthpiece and it is jovial in the audience. People nudge one another, there is something coming out from under the bed, the mute ghost of Charlie Parker laughing it's blood out, the dance, a callus remover. Dr. Brute plays leopard skin Maracas; it is the noise our snake makes in its poise, hypnotism.

Dr. Brute showed films upstairs, super 8 masked women writhing together in a leopard frenzy, a foreplay its own act of completion, the tension created in the audience / screen-figure / ground carefully observed by the Dr. from behind a leopard skin screen. Calluses dissolving, horns too close for many in the 'hip' crowd as the night wore on itself, unDressed itself, pulling secrets from beneath the bed.

Most stayed late trying to leave early, it worked white magic. A magnificent event.

Consumer's Report

PIRANHA FARMS [at The Music Gallery] is the ultimate Radio City Music Hall extravaganza. Everything is consumer. Men, even, as in the Dormers, Martin Hartwell, Melville's secrets, the silent majority spawned in the trenches of WWI.

As Jack Spicer was quick to tell us, quick until he died of a rotten liver: 'People are starving.' And as Jack Chambers, also dead, would have reiterated: 'A lot of those people are Artists.' Now what, you might ask, separates an artist from any other member of the proletariat. Some might claim his Art. Some might claim his infirmity in a commercial / corporate system. Some might claim his libido, his id, his IQ, his place on the Art Ladder. The artist is a producer of paper Dr.esses in a forest fire, he offers to swathe you in your own destruction. Dr.unk on his power to garner the attention of an elite, the artist will twist time till it chokes. As the battle is won without winning the war, the artist is in a constant skirmish with the establishment over the direction of a public vision.

There is a parable, for artists, in the three levels of government: Municipal, Provincial & Federal. A parable that's been told often, from Aesop to Orwell. The time is nigh. Night closes in. We are 'cut up' by our priorities. Ever-younger manifestations of our old priorities snap at our heels.

Most of our electric implements give off no heat. The heat given off by poetry is absorbed in the production of books. The heat given off by photographs is absorbed by their reproduction / translation into little dots. The heat given off by improvisation is lost in the score. The heat given off by dance is lost in the choreograph.

The Barge to Banality

Can a minister's son and the son of an officer in the armed forces join together with a lithe dancer to perform enough ritual to keep them laughing in Peterborough, Kingston, Ottawa, London, Toronto and New York? But what does it mean? 'Hey Pete / Let's Eat / More Meat' — 'Kill the Punks! 'Kill the Punks!'

The entertainment value of Performance Art is always a bone of contention. Were they really stimulated when Charlemagne Palestine walked through the broken glass while baiting his audience with insults? Were the glorified food fights of Behaviour Art really just a naive manifestation of the diaper brigade? Wyndham Lewis warned us about in The Doom of Youth? The sanctification of Pop Culture (as opposed to Mom Anthropology) by Performance Art, in the guise of parody, or hysterical skepticism, or merely through the dissemination of 'recycled' imagery, had better find its apex or the mountain will crumble.

The recent tendency of the artist to 'fill the canvas' of the new technology at his/her disposal should be closely watched, if only to protect that endangered species, the clear and simple idea, and its proponent, the individual artist.


Text: © Victor Coleman. All rights reserved.

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