Saturday, November 7, 2015

We the City at SFU

Hosted by Mo Dhaliwal, last Thursday's event followed a city wide art happening called Tilt City, and featured Mo in conversation with three artists who also spoke about their work.   

Image right from

SFU President Andrew Petter got the ball rolling with a "Ferlingettiesque" poem he had penned for the occasion on the theme of What makes a city great? Mo Dhaliwal spoke of his mission to, his determination to hold his intention to "create some connective tissue where their was none before," so we can all feel more sense of belonging. His ideal is an "organic reciprocity" between arts and culture, which he described as "the dark matter that lies behind everything."

Image right of Teju Cole from

Writer and photographer Teju Cole showed some of his famous city images, which included an image of a palimpsest, a vellum that has been used, erased and reused, and a "map" of the Anatolian city of Catal Huyuk, so old that it predated the invention of streets; the houses were simply jammed together. Cities, said Cole, are an invention, a technology. Some of the major benefits they provide are to conserve resources and foster tolerance.

The highly original artist Candy Chang is the woman behind the amazing Before I Die...project, which has now spread to 70 countries and presented as a TED talk. Listening to her, one soon realizes how much more friendly and welcoming cities might look if more people--including introverts--had a chance to participate in creating their surroundings.

Image left the Lavina agency
Candy Chang  is also a city planner. "Small experimental interventions," she says, "can lead to better informed bigger ones." Honesty leads to vulnerability which leads to trust which creates a more compassionate society. She shared the advice of Carl Jung: to welcome neurosis as "the arrow that points to the wound, the pain of the soul as yet undiscovered," and that "dying well is a moral obligation for ourselves and others."

Beloved singer-Songwriter Buffy Ste. Marie was encouraged by new thinking about conflict resolution. Candy Chang, an expert at getting people involved in art, then said that doing things quickly and cheaply engaged a different part of the mind, which in turn inspired Buffy to note the value of beginner's mind. Buffy rounded off the evening with a poem, "Cook it up yourself," and a song. And all of us are naturally creative; after all, we are all made in the image of the creator.  

Image right from unl

Artists, she said, are visionaries, on the cutting edge. And they aren't just about the output. They have to be sensitive to what's coming in. This dynamic woman has had the joy of a life "on the edge between music and social justice," and has "tried to cover the bases no one else was covering."

Early in life, this remarkable woman was told many strange lies: "There are no more Indians," and "you can't be a musician because you can't read music." Fortunately she didn't let these things stand in her way. Her closing comment concerned the value of the internet. "Now we can publish what we want, and find one another again."

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