Thursday, December 23, 2010


Peace in 100+ languages.

Here's the link for this word cloud I created using Wordle.

Thanks to @Journeywoman (Evelyn Hannon) who linked to this blog post by bloggerjb. The list of different ways of saying "peace" was the inspiration for this visualization.

Thanks for visiting my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter:  @albertwisco. Have a peace-filled 2011!

Here's bloggerjb's list:

Abenaqui = Olakamigenoka
Alabama = Ittimokla
Albanian = La Paqe
Algonquin = Wâki Ijiwebis-I
Amharic = Írq
Arabic = Salam
Aranés = La Patz
Armenian = Khanhaghutyun
Basque = Bake
Bemba = Mutenden
Blackfoot = Innaihtsi'iyi
Bulgarian = Mír Bosnian
Buli = Goom-jigi
Carolinian = Gúnnammwey
Catalán = La Pau
Chinese = Pingan
Choctaw = Achukma
Chuuk = Kunammwey
Comanche = Tsumukikatu
Cree = Wetaskiwin
Creole = Lapé Haitian
Duala = Musango
Dutch = Vrede Afrikaans
Ekari = Muka-muka
English = Peace
Esperanto = Paco
Estonian = Rahu
Fanagolo = Kutula
Farsi = Ashtee
Finnish = Rauha
French = La Paix
Gaelic = Sìth
Gaelic = Fois Scots
Gafuleya Chontal = Aylobaha
German = Der Frieden
Gikuyu = Thayu
Greek = Iri'ni
Guaraní = Ñerane'i
Gujarati = Shanti Bengali
Hausa = Lùmana
Hawaiian = Maluhia
Hebrew = Shalom
Hungarian = Béke
Icelandic = Friður
Igbo = Udo
Ila = Chibanda
Indonesian = Damai
Indonesian = Rerdamaian
Irish = Síocháin
Japanese = Heiwa
Javanese = Rukun
Khmer = Soksang
Koasati = Ilifayka
Korean = Pyong'hwa
Kurdish = Hasîtî
Lakhota = Wolakota
Latin = Pax
Latvian = Miers
Lithuainian = Taika
Luxemburgish = Fridden
Magindanaon = Kalilíntad
Malgache = Fandriampahalemana
Maltese = Paçi
Manobo = Linew
Maori = Rangima'arie
Mapudungun = Uvchin
Maranao = Diakatra
Maya = Ets'a'an Olal
Micmac = Wôntôkóde
Mongo-Nkundu = Boóto
Munsterian = Echnahcaton
Navajo = K'é
Nepali = Saanti
Nhengatu = Tecócatú
North Alaska Inuktitut = Tutkiun
Northwest Alaska Inupiat Inuktitut = Kiñuiñak
Norwegian = Fred Danish
Ntomba = Nye
Nyanja = Mtendere Chewa
Otomi = Hmethó
Palauan = Búdech
Pali = Nirudho
Papago/Pima = Dodolimdag
Pashto = Amniat
Perce = Éyewi Nez
Persian = Solh Dari
Pig Latin = eace-pay
Polish = Pokój
Ponapean = Meleilei
Portuguese = A Paz Galician
Rapanui = Kiba-kiba
Romanian = La Pace Italian
Ruanda = Nimuhóre
Sa Lao = Kwam
Sa'a = Däilama
Samoan = Filemu
Sesotho = Khotso
Setswana = Kagiso
Sioux = Wo'okeyeh
Somali = Nabad -Da
Spanish = La Paz
Swahili = Amaní
Tagalog = Mabuhay
Tagalog Filipino = Kapayapaan
Tahitian = Hau
Tamil = Amaithi
Thai = Santipap
Tiaykuy Quechua = Sonqo
Tibetan = Shîte
Tlingit = Li-k'ei
Tonga = Melino
Turkish = Sulh
Turkish = Barish
Twi-Akan = Asomdwee
Uighur = Saq
Urdu = Aman Malay
Usilal Kékchí = Tuktuquil
Vietnamese = Hoa Bình
Welsh = Hedd
Wintu = Mina
Xhosa = Uxolo
Yiddish = Sholim
Yoruba = Alaáfía
Zapoteco = Layéni
Zulu = Ukuthula

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

Over the past four years, I lived in South Africa on two occasions for almost a year-and-a-half in total.

We stayed in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It's a province hard hit with incidents of HIV and AIDS. It's devastating. In 2009, there were 5.6 million people living with HIV according to the 2010 UN AIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.

It was heartbreaking. Yet I met many who beat the odds.

During our first stint and within months of our arrival, friends celebrated the 50th birthday of Betta. She was their life-long maid. They had known each other during apartheid, the struggle against it, and now after. They are now, of course, dear, dear friends. Betta is black and speaks Sotho and Zulu. She doesn't  speak English. She has seen poverty, violence, crime, segregation and AIDS. For Betta, reaching her 50th year carried great significance, because in South Africa it's reported that the average life expectancy is 49 years.

The UN AIDS Report says that of South Africans aged 15-49, 10-20% are HIV positive. With HIV rates so astonishingly high (10-20%!), large segments of a generation are dying, and children are left orphaned.

I made several documentaries and films that tell stories about HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The projects are close to my heart. There are a couple I'd like to share in this blog. The people within give me hope and propel me forward to continue sharing their stories.

You can find links to my original blog posts below:

Umhambi is about a group of women who find strength, and make an income by creating and selling Little Traveller dolls. Their income generation project is run by the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. Here is my blog post about Umhambi's selection to the Chicageo International Film Festival.

Journey of Hope is about Sbu Myeni, a woman who is working towards opening a community centre for the orphans in the semi-rural community of her childhood. Here is my blog post first telling Sbu's story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Art Gallery of Ontario's Galleria Italia

One of my favourite spaces in Toronto is the Galleria Italia.

When Frank Gehry re-designed the Art Gallery of Ontario, he ensured Dundas Street West had a relationship with the structure by wrapping windows around the facade. Daylight now pours into the galleria while offering passersby a view of the the interior. The space is airy, full of light, and, in short, wonderful.

I've been visiting the AGO for many years -- since well before it was transformed -- and I love visiting this space to reflect while basking in the natural daylight. When the AGO opens at 10 am, the Galleria Italia is usually very quiet. This is also part of the attraction for me. 

Here's a brief video I shot recently:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shary Boyle at the Art Gallery of Ontario

There's something to be said about a contemporary artist when the Art Gallery of Ontario devotes an entire exhibition to her work.  Shary Boyle recently opened a four-room exhibition on the main floor at the AGO. It must be experienced.

A whimsical take on sexuality, love, family and childhood, "Flesh and Blood" includes paintings, installation, projection and sculpture.

Here's a brief video of some of her sculptures:  Sex (2008), Birth (2008), Death (2008), Black Mushrooms (2009), The Letter (2009), The Blind (2010), Silver Thread (2006) and The Sighted (2009). (They don't appear in this order.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nuit Blanche 2010

Nuit Blanche is one of my favourite annual art happenings in Toronto. What excites me is the combination of transforming the city's streets and experiencing contemporary art with other people en masse.

One of my all-time favourite performance installations was Jon Sasaki's Promise It Will Always Be This Way at Lamport Stadium in Liberty Village in 2008. You may remember the sports mascots dancing to pop and rock music pumping over stadium speakers. It was as fun as it was subversive to see mascots dancing, eating, taking smoke breaks and lying on benches for short naps over the course of the evening into the morning.

The 2010 version of Nuit Blanch had some fine stuff. Zone C in particular was still a good place to experience some installations. Here are a couple of short videos I shot and edited on my iPhone 3GS:

The Night Watch by Kristi Malakoff of Nelson, Canada

Fire and Flux by Toronto artist Christine Irving and Site3

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Umhambi at the Chicago International Film Festival

My short film Umhambi is an official selection at the 46th Chicago International Film Festival. The festival runs October 7-21, and Umhambi and will be screening on October 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm at AMC River East in the Human Condition program and competition.

The festival invited filmmakers to submit 60 second films that examine who and what we are. "What is the human condition?" asked the festival's programmers. "Is it describable? What causes people to start a war? Grow a flower? Abide poverty? Create Art? Advance technology? Pollute the environment? Seek knowledge? Cure illness? Is there a difference between cause and effect, symptom and disease? What is our place in the world?"

Umhambi is a one minute film I made in South Africa. It’s based on the Little Traveller dolls created for Woza Moya, the income generation program at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust, a non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization outside Durban. By making and selling Little Traveller dolls, beadworkers -- all infected or affected by HIV and AIDS -- earn money for basic needs such as water, food, school fees, books and clothes. The film features Tholakele Mbombo and her family, and the voice of storyteller Gcina Mhlope.

Umhambi has travelled the globe and has been screened in art galleries and film festivals in Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia and now the US .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sbusisiwe Myeni's Journey of Hope

Sbusisiwe Myeni, or Sbu to her friends, is a successful South African. She lives in Johannessburg, the financial heart of the country, works at a large bank, and has earned the things that indicate success -- a house, a BMW, international trips.

Johannesburg is a long way from home. She is originally from KwaNyuswa, a semi-rural community in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It's a place with the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the world. Some statistics estimate that a third of all adults are HIV positive. It is also a place that saw extreme violence during the final days of apartheid.

Sbu's also a twin. Her sister, Seni, was a successful doctor who moved to Canada. But after being diagnosed with brain cancer, Seni returned to their mother's home in KwaNyuswa to die.

Sbu's journey to help the children and youth of HIV/AIDS and poverty-ridden KwaZulu-Natal begins now in memory of her sister.

A Journey of Hope is my short documentary about Sbu's story and what inspires her:

This is a map I created which traces Sbu's journey from Johannesburg to KwaNyuswa, a semi-rural village that isn't on Google Maps:

View A Journey of Hope in a larger map

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Jason Reithman and Roger Ebert: Toronto International Film Festival, Part 2

A big part of the fun of your city hosting an international film festival is all the visiting celebrities. For me, TIFF is mostly about movies that have little chance of snagging a distributor thus little chance of being shown at another time. But who doesn't think spotting a celeb isn't fun?

I saw Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, director John Cameron Mitchell, playwright/screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire and Miles Teller at the Q & A for their film Rabbit Hole. It's a strong film with an excellent script based on a Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play about a couple and their grief after their son died in an accident.

Here's a short video I shot:

I also spotted filmmaker Jason Reitman slip into a screening of the Russian film My Joy. It's a rather bleak film about life in rural Russia. The film was an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Reitman ducked out before the ending of the two hour movie.

My favourite sighting was of film critic Roger Ebert. I've been following him on Twitter. And if you thought his television reviews were fabulous, you'll love his writing and his tweets. It was heartwarming to see him after losing his jaw to cancer. He was strolling with his nurse along Blue Jays Way in Toronto without fuss or fanfare.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Toronto International Film Festival, Part 1

For many years, I covered the Toronto International Film Festival as a journalist. Covering TIFF, as it is known, involved interviewing filmmakers and actors about their films and, if I was lucky and time allowed, I asked them about the craft of filmmaking. It was a sweet part of my job as an arts producer.

One thing that stood out -- apart from Francis Ford Coppola giving me parenting advice, discovering how friendly Heath Ledger was, and cajoling Jeanne Moreau into wonderful conversation the day after 9/11 -- was talking to film fans.

Even though my press pass gave me access to industry screenings, I met many film lovers in the rush lines. We'd talk about our favourites and the various buzz films. These are the folks who would play hookie from work to catch a film or simply take their vacations to attend the festival.

I vowed to myself that I, too, would do the same: take some vacation time around TIFF so that I could quite simply watch films for the sheer pleasure of it. I'd simply watch movies by filmmakers I admire, or films from interesting parts of the world, or galas, or documentaries, or avant-garde experimental films, or whatever peaked my interest, or whatever I could squeeze into my schedule.

Well, that's what I'm doing this year. Please keep watching this space for updates and reviews. You can also find me on Twitter. I'm @albertwisco.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Suspended Animation

Imagine being suspended high above a crowded intersection. Imagine being suspended high above a crowded intersection performing on a trapeze.

Suspended Animation is a Toronto-based performance troupe, and they transform urban settings into places of marvel.

Here is a 30 second slideshow of their aerial circus act at Toronto's Buskerfest in August 2010.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cottage Project

The Dock. August 2010
Fish Lampshade, August 2010

The experience of spending summer days, weeks or months on an Ontario freshwater lake is an idyllic way to spend vacation time. Those who are fortunate to have access to a cottage cherish the experience.

For some, the cottage space -- especially a quite modest and rustic space -- and its surroundings can be thought of kitschy or a cultural icon. EIther way, for some, the cottage space and its aesthetic often doesn't change. Most times, they're regarded as timeless.

Toilet Rules, August 2010
Wolves Carpet, August 2010

I took these photos with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic App during a recent vacation. The effect is interesting. The 70s-look prints could be from several decades ago, but they're not of course. Conceiving this as an art project and taking the photos in the series forced me to think of the cottage and its power in many people's memory and experience. I first posted this series, which I'll call "Cottage Project" on Facebook.

Does the effect of using the Hipstamatic make the subject-matter kitschy or cultural icons?

Coffee Mug, August 2010
Buck Trophy Hook, August 2010
Father-in-Law's Cooler, August 2010
Cottage Gothic Tableu, August 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Art in New York City (Part Two)

My trips to New York always include a visit to the museums or galleries. Whether the works are masterpieces, contemporary pieces, performances or half-realized attempts, I could spend hours looking at art. Here are some highlights from the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1) The Guggenheim's exhibition Haunted was excellent. It's a contemporary photography, video and performance exhibition that focuses on how the past is infused or haunts the present. The exhibition features several Canadian artists including Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Luis Jacob and Sarah Anne Johnson. Johnson's images from her Tree Planter series is featured. In the context of the Guggenheim's survey which includes works by Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol , I have a new-found appreciation of the power and lyricism of Johnson's work.

2) The MoMA is always an amazing experience for seeing Post-Impressionist and Modernist masterpieces. It's become a tradition for me to visit the MoMA to spend time with Picasso's Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon. It's a painting I have loved for many years. In 2001, curators at the MoMA did not allow it to travel and be included in the stunning exhibition Picasso Érotique at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Another highlight of my visit to the MoMA was Bruce Nauman's Days sound exhibition. A sound sculpture, viewers (or listeners) can hear a continuous stream of voices reciting the days of the week in random order. The piece was created for and debuted at the 2009 Venice Biennale where Nauman represented the United States.

Here's a short video clip of Days:

3) The Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection never ceases to amaze me. Their commissioned works are also stunning. The Met invited twin brothers Mike and Doug Starn to create a site-specific work for the roof garden. It's a monumental bambo structure that evolves as the artists and rock climbers work on it throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

The views of Central Park and Manhattan are lovely high atop the Met. After a hot and humid day treking around the city, sipping a beer and admiring the view is a perfect way to enjoy admire New York.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Art in New York City (Part One)

I love four-day trips to New York. For art lovers, there's plenty to see and experience. The city showcases some of the best European and North American fine art on the planet. There's Picasso, Van Gogh, Rothko, Pollock, Hopper, and too many more to mention.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art , the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum are among my favourite museums. There's never enough time to do it all so on my most recent visit I hit the Met, the MoMA and the Guggenheim to see some favourites in permanent collections and check out the exhibitions and commissions. I'll be posting another post with my thoughts on some of the art.

In the meantime, here's a slideshow of some of works of art that stood out:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Umhambi Keeps Travelling

Good news for the fans of Umhambi! My short film is an official selection at the Croatian One Minute Film Festival from May 27-29, 2010.

Featuring the wonderful Tholakala Mbombo, the beautiful folks at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre and the riveting voice of Gcina Mhlope, the film gives audiences a glimpse of living with AIDS in rural South Africa. It's a story about searching for hope.

The one minute film is based on the Little Traveller dolls created for Woza Moya, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust's income generation program outside Durban in the the province of KwaZulu Natal. Since it's world premier in 2007, Umhambi has been seen internationally as an official selection in several film festivals, and screened in art galleries and design exhibitions.

The Little Travellers have made their way  into the world, and the dolls have enabled beadworkers to feed their family, provide fresh water, buy medicine, connect electricity to their homes, pay school fees and purchase school uniforms.

"The Little Travellers HIV/AIDS project is totally inspired,” says Stephen Lewis, Board Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. “I endorse it every stitch of the way. It raises consciousness in Canada and hope in Africa. In my mind's eye, I can just see the women of Hillcrest (a project the Stephen Lewis Foundation strongly supports) beading, and spectacularly artful "Little Travellers" emerging. Then the sales are made in Canada, and money flows to the heroic women and children and families battling the pandemic on the ground. What could be a better act of human solidarity? Buy one, buy two, buy dozens. They speak to the best of the human spirit. "

Please, take a look at Umhambi, share it and visit the Hillcrest AIDS Centre's site to see what other incredible projects they have.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Talented Mr. Brittle

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Lex Vaughn at a Peaches concert. Vaughn is a fantastic artist and performer, and I interviewed her for the TVO profile I was producing on Peaches. A few years later, I had the good fortune to spend time with Vaughn when she was at her "WEZY" exhibition at Katharine Mulherin’s Contemporary Art Projects on Queen Street West in 2006.

"WEZY" is the name of her performance piece in which she performs her role as Peanut Brittle. "WEZY" is also the handle of Peanut Brittle's ham radio station. In the piece, Peanut Brittle hosts his radio show that features jazz and talk, while hosting guests in his studio which also doubles as his apartment. As Vaughn says on her website, Peanut Brittle is a “stylish old codger who inhabits the installation that represents his world."

I was fascinated by Vaughn's character and the experience of spending time in Peanut Brittle's space. I  felt the world should learn more about him, so I pitched the idea of making a short film staring Peanut Brittle. I made the film independently in a documentary style set in Peanut Brittle's bachelor apartment where he spins jazz records while hosting a ham radio show on "WEZY". Entitled The Duke, the film was included in the Aarau Film Festival last year, and was screened earlier this year at the AKA Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.