Folkies! Prepare to meet your doom!

Death rockers invade Calgary Folk Music Festival

Folk Festival goers with the guts to sport an outrageous black backcombed death-hawk hairdo were treated to a tongue-in-cheek contemporary art project by Jessica McCarrel during the festival. Her Death Rock 101 project kicked off TRUCK Gallery’s Contemporary Art Mobile Public Exhibition Rig (CAMPER) summer season with a workshop for folkies to experience a deathrock makeover. Cue the cobwebs spiders and severed fingers! The CAMPER presents its summer roster of public art projects aimed at infiltrating and reaching out to audiences outside formal gallery spaces. Each event takes place in the CAMPER a 1970s wood-panelled wonder of a motorhome and includes an artist’s project designed for active public participation and an edition of embroidered patches to distribute. This clever temporary art-space is driven into environments where people tend to gather — summer festivals and busy downtown areas. Thus Jessica McCarrel and her crew of death rockers hopped into the CAMPER and invaded the Calgary Folk Music Festival last weekend. McCarrel is a Calgary artist with a fascination with the subculture of death rock – a variation on punk and goth that can be identified by an esthetic of dark clothes gravity-defying hair and often earsplitting noise music. Her “workshop” gives insights into the symbolism and signifiers of death rock including hairstyling makeup and music — and what is a far cry from community centre art classes filled with still lifes and Sunday painters. As Alien Sex Fiend Joy Division and the Screaming Bitches blast through the speakers McCarrel went at my hair with a fine comb. By the end of our conversation about her photo-realist paintings of cadavers reminiscent of the Renaissance tradition of the Vanitas and my recent trip to a surgical study museum full of pickled body-parts in jars I have a teased-up death-hawk firmly anchored by a cloud of hairspray and gobs of cement-hold gel. Voila! Then the fishnet-clad Tressa Pelletier lent her makeup artistry as one of Jessica McCarrel’s death rock makeover crew. She pulled out the black eyeliner and white face powder and asked “Should we do batwings?” Channelling Siouxise Sioux and the kohl-eyed divas of punk goth and death rock I emphatically agreed. Calgary musician and artist Rodney Guitarsplat stopped in for some enthusiastic backcombing black eyebrows and chats about the golden age of CBC’s late Brave New Waves noise music programming. Little blond kids emerged from the cobwebby CAMPER with black hair-gelled death-hawks and tried as hard as they could to look evil. Even as globs of dark makeup melted in the heat and our black freak chic dripped with sweat the makeovers looked stunning and turned heads amid crowds of sundress bedecked folkies. Although the weather wasn’t co-operating with the spirit of darkness and mirth that had overtaken that little corner of Prince’s Island Park about 100 people took part in the workshop. What with the peculiarly ironic mix of musical genres the Folk Festival was a hilarious and well-suited venue for Death Rock 101. One drawback of locating the CAMPER inside the gates was that it became inaccessible to the general public. Only festival ticket holders could take part in the workshop. What was a deathrocker without a ticket to do? The strength of McCarrel’s workshop and of CAMPER’s populist mandate of taking art to the streets is that they stretch the definition of “workshop” to include performative activities interventions into public spaces and hands-on demonstrations alike. A few of this year’s upcoming activities focus on technical teaching and verge on efforts characteristic of the extended education programs that “high art” institutions often present. If the upcoming artists manage to maintain the balance of quirky without veering into the territory of preachy feel-good arts outreach masquerading as contemporary art TRUCK’s big summer road trip will be a great ride. Catch the CAMPER Patch Project • Alternative Practices in Photography: Cyanotype Workshop Sarah Fuller Saturday August 11 2007 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Calgary Fringe Festival Jack Long Park • Shredded Green Andrew McLaren Sunday August 12 2007 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mardi Gras Festival 33 Avenue S.W. between 19 Street and Crowchild Trail • The Drawing Party Jennifer Crighton Jenine Marsh Laura Leif Thea Yabut Saturday August 25 2007 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Creative Kids Museum Telus World of Science Calgary Saturday September 8 2007 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ArtCity Festival Calgary Olympic Plaza • Impression on the Arts Elephant Artist Relief (E.A.R.) Friday September 14 to Saturday September 15 2007 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ArtCity Festival Calgary Olympic Plaza