Where to find Yoko Ono’s Smile…

The Banff Centre library’s Artists’ Book collection was started in the early 1980s when the then-Director of the Walter Phillips Gallery, Lorne Falk was planning the exhibition Berliner Aufzeichnungen (Berlin Notes). The exhibition featured 30 artist’s books that were later donated to the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives. Around the same time, former library director Bob Foley was making connections with a number of artists’ books distributors such as Art Metropole (Toronto) and later Printed Matter (New York).

That, along with donations and special acquisitions, has grown the collection to over 4,000 Canadian and international works and counting. It’s an exciting resource for all the artists that visit The Banff Centre and is one of the more impressive collections of artist published works in Canada.

When talking about the collection at the library I often get asked, “What exactly is an artist’s book?” A simple definition would be “an artwork in a book format.” But much of what we call artists’ books at The Banff Centre Library are not actually in book form, in fact the library’s collection has t-shirts, hand-made and mass-produced boxes, hand-made papers, postcards, CDs, we’ve even recently ordered a Cheetohs lapel pin.

In fact, no one in the artists’ book community can really agree on a succinct and accurate definition. The best response I can think of is “come to the library and see!”

Just a few of the books and objects in the collection (all photos by Kim Williams):


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Tweeting with Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was recently here at The Banff Centre and out of sheer admiration we couldn’t help but see what she was tweeting about…

 Graphics by Shiori Saito, interactive designer work study.

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Banff Summer Arts Festival Report: Weekend One

I’ve had a really busy weekend. It started with a storytelling presentation by Elder Tom Crane Bear on Thursday afternoon for National Aboriginal Day (featuring delicious varieties of bannock and tea), and ended with a rainy, yet spirited performance by Dan Mangan and Sam Roberts Band at the Parks Canada admin grounds. In between, I went to Ajax and Little Iliad, a multimedia theatre show that had the audience donning headphones, masks, and our best stage faces, because for half the show the performers were watching us.

If I had to choose, I’d say the highlight of my weekend was the Ajax and Little Iliad performance. I know, you’re thinking “of course she’d choose the theatre show, she’s a drama nerd” (I really am, in case you didn’t know that), but the show appealed to more than the theatre-loving side of me.

The team, Evan Webber and Frank Cox O’Connell, transformed ancient stories and made them new and relevant. Simulating a Skype conversation by using a projected image of one character onto a small Plasticine shape ,while the other stood in the room talking to the projected figure, the first show — Little Iliad — was intimate, modern, and intriguing.

The second show, Ajax oozed political currency and commentary on issues of war and conflict. We sat on the stage, and the actors played their parts as “audience” in the seats of the Eric Harvie Theatre. By turning the audience into the actors, and the actors into the audience, it made us question the role we played in the in the show, and in the greater topic of war it discussed.

Like I said, the show appealed to more than theatre-loving side of me; it was truly a piece of novel art, and I can’t help but love it for that.

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The Sam Roberts rain dance

It was a wet day down at the Parks Canada administration grounds here in Banff for last weekend’s Performance in the Park, but as you can see from these photos, that didn’t stop the crowd of about 3,000 fans from showing up. This was the first official weekend of the 2012 Banff Summer Arts Festival. It’s all set to go – we just need some sun! All photos here by David Copithorne.

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Ab Baars and Ig Henneman: “You want to stretch out an idea”

Ig Henneman and Ab Baars

The duo Ig Henneman (viola) and Ab Baars (clarinet) play something different every time they perform.

Dutch musicians Ab Baars and Ig Henneman have been visiting the Banff Centre since 2005, when Ig performed on a tour of Canada with the Queen Mab Trio. Since then, they’ve returned many times to the Leighton Colony  to write music, far from their bustling home base in Amsterdam.  They were recently in residence again to prepare for a forthcoming Canadian tour with The Ig Henneman Sextet.  

Ab plays tenor sax and clarinet, as well as the shakuhatchi, a Japanese flute that replaced the sword for many uprooted Samurai joining the komuso Zen brotherhood in 16th century Japan. This piece of end-blown bamboo can produce a huge range of pitches, intonations, and colouring.  Legendarily, the monks would play while wandering, with the possibility of achieving enlightenment through the perfect sound. Ab spends many of his mornings on Tunnel Mountain playing shakuhatchi to the wilderness.  

In a separate but nearby studio in the woods, Ig composes. For  ”Bow Valley Whistle” she wrote a score for sampler using sounds recorded in Banff – the clack of pool balls at the Centre’s old pub, the howl of the freight train echoing in the mountains, and the warbling birds that serenade the summer occupants of the Leighton Colony. She builds a deliberate dynamism into her compositions, while leaving space for the group to stretch, infusing performances with a spontaneous  vitality.

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Hear a preview from next week’s Weekly Podcast - a selection of Ab and Ig’s music, and their own words on creative process and inspiration.


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Passion for culture and community

We’re celebrating National Aboriginal Day here with a bunch of events, but we’re also highlighting a project that’s been going on here at the Centre for the past two years — the Best Practices in Rural Alberta Project. It’s an in-depth study of the best business and cultural methods among a group of Alberta Aboriginal commercial organizations, including  Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Metis Crossing, Mikisew Group of Companies, and Alberta Indian Investment Corporation.

It’s an amazing story; from an idea to this enterprise that is now going to generate revenue, share their culture, bring pride to their community and pride to Alberta. It’s an amazing story that I think other leaders should hear. Brian Calliou, Program Director, Aboriginal Leadership and Management, The Banff Centre

The project wraps up in September here at Banff with a symposium, with participants and speakers from Canada, United States, and Australia. Our Film + Media team put together a sneak preview of the program: 

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