Keirartworks's Blog

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Listening Blanket.

I find myself looking back through eight years.

This is a lot like my recent experience of standing inside Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirrors.  There is no floor, no boundary, no anchor point, nothing concrete, just a feeling of wonder, rising into awe.

As I scan and assess these eight years passed through the lens of now, it is like that. Everything I had thought to be firmly rooted in permanence is changed. This includes me. It includes how and what I remember.


Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009

I think of Stephen Hawking, who died on the same day I visited Kusama’s rooms.  Who spent his life exploring the phenomenon of time, and published a book in 1988 which translated mathematical code for us.  In it he wrote, “You cannot predict the future.”.

He also wrote this: “The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”. This I have more trouble wrapping my head around.  Perhaps Kusama offers clues in those infinity rooms. Maybe all that I no longer recognize after eight years of life is a form of living proof?


Also Kusama. (please forgive my finger upper left)

In this house, where I have lived these past four years is a collection of things from two family ‘anchor’ homes which were dismantled and dispersed, in 2013 and 2015.  Also here is one lamp, two plants, books, a piano, a chair and a bed which come from another house I built (with my now-ex husband) from 2006 until 2013.  In the room above me are art supplies and equipment from my factory building studio which I opened in 2009 and closed in 2017 – another home dismantled and dispersed.


studio, January 2017, with my friend Knuckles the wise polydactyl cat

On the walls here are paintings I’ve made from five solo art shows dating from 1998 through to 2014.  Three of them are directional paintings, West, East and North, that describe summers I spent in a ‘hut’ studio at the farm my parents gifted to my estranged sister and I in 2004 as Tennants-in-common.  After a prolonged and emotional struggle, my sister and I agreed to dissolve the joint arrangement in 2017.  As a result I no longer own any interest in the farm. Some of the trees I planted there are now twenty-five feet tall – they live their own complex story now, and will far outlive our little manouverings.


The final room of Kusama’s exhibition  – these stickers have been/ are being placed by us, the visitors.  Over time, the physical things in the room appear to lose their form.  Another kind of dismantle/dispersal, where increase in entropy moves in the direction of time.

The paintings on my walls resonate differently than they did when I made them, as I gaze from this place of me, now.  My sense of ownership is radically different than it was when things seemed more concrete, more permanent.

Who was that woman who painted these things, I wonder?  The way I might wonder about a woman reading a book on the subway.

I find this liberating.


Here’s what Oxford English Dictionary has to say about entropy:

  • Physics 
    A thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.

    ‘the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time’
    count noun ‘the sum of the entropies of all the bodies taking part in the process’


  • 2: Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

    ‘a marketplace where entropy reigns supreme’


  • 3:  (in information theory) a logarithmic measure of the rate of transfer of information in a particular message or language.


I find I can relate more directly to the original.


Mid 19th century: from en- ‘inside’ + Greek tropē ‘transformation’.

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After a year of howls, gifts.

Not sure I can articulate this, yet.


Harness has become a listening blanket.


Rage has become discernment,

patient, like a well-fed shark

constantly in motion.



Pain has become beauty,

complex, like music.

like sky and lake.


There is time.

I am grateful for this, since it will take some time to make a new story.


I can feel the new story coming

from across the lake.

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There’s a place where it fits

If you’ve done the work and you feel a strong something to be true, even if it goes against the grain, there’s a place for it.


… but you need to listen, and see where that place is.  And when it is.


Keep walking, pay attention.


Make certain no living thing will be damaged.

Then make it so.

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DNA- identity?

I’m tucked under a fish blanket in the summer porch of a lovely Air b&b in London Ontario.


After a mess of driving through and around Southern Ontario (Owen Sound Toronto; Owen Sound; Waterloo; Owen Sound; Toronto; London) in the past week it’s good to be planted in the side porch of a stately old pile of yellow bricks in my housecoat, with a satisfying cup of coffee beside me.



My daughter, her father and I have sent our expectorant to a lab in Ireland where our DNA will be tested.  From this test our ancestry will be revealed to us (and our data will be added to a growing ocean of data about origin, migration, connection among humans).

My results came in yesterday, with few surprises:

Ethnicity Estimate:  Great Britain 58%; Ireland/Scotland/Wales  (Scotland): 16%; Europe West 10%

 Low Confidence Regions (though the percentages are small, these connections are more interesting to me.  Caucasus?!? That’s the Middle East.)

 Europe East 5%;  European Jewish 3%; Finland/Northwest Russia 3%;  Scandinavia 2%;  Caucasus 2%; Iberian Peninsula < 1%


Migrations (also interesting, but no surprises here.  Clearly I’m not indigenous to Canada, through I’m seventh generation born-here on my Mother’s side.  I come from a long line of european colonial settlers.

Pennsylvania Settlers
I know about this – my mother’s mother’s family were Pennsylvania Deutch, descended from German refugees of the Thirty-Years War who were permitted to enter England. Queen Victoria sent 10,000 of these overseas to settle in the English colonies under William Penn.  

From your regions: Great Britain, Ireland/Scotland/Wales, Europe West
I know about this too – A recession and the potato famine in Scotland, the result of a market crash in England pushed my Kennedy ancestor overseas to the Ottawa Valley in 1935, then to Owen Sound where he built a foundry.  My McArthur ancestors were farmers and blacksmiths out of Campbeltown and Glasgow area who were granted land in Saskatchewan in the early 1900s. Land that blew away in the dust of the ’30s, when my father was born.


So here am I, white woman of european & Scottish descent sitting on a porch built by wealthy English colonials one hundred or more years ago on indigenous treaty lands.   

I wonder if these massive elm trees were planted then, to give name to Elmwood Street.  I wonder who planted them, how they were paid, and by whom. 

I wonder whether the beauty of these living elms is the real wonder, regardless of who, when or how. they came to be here.


Postcolonial thought.

If someone reversed what has more recently been said to Syrian refugees and Dreamers in the United States, and told me to “Go back where you came from”, I would be unable to do so, even if I were willing even eager to leave this North American culture that has so shaped me.  I cannot legally live and work in the UK under the current international laws and policies that currently exist.

As a white person, descended from Scots and european industrialists, I am privileged.

My gender makes me less so.  My chosen single-ness less so again.  My profession as artist/musician/writer/grad student…. well.  Because of that I get to have more interesting discussions.


My name is on the title deed of a tiny piece of property which is actually not, from an indigenous / ally point of view, own-able by anyone.

So where is my home?


It’s more than possible that I do not, in fact, have one, save for whatever place I choose to put roots into, for however long.  I am a nomad, as are we all here now, in North America, though indigenous roots go deeper than any of us white folk might guess, and it behooves us to pay attention, and learn from those cultures.

But we can also learn from out own.  For example, and as a start, out of western Europe comes Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which I highly recommend to anyone trying to sort out the why and how of these times.

Nomads Matter, in this complex system of us.

I am honoured, and challenged, to know myself as one.

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The S-Curve Tale

A curious thing happened during a conversation in a car. This led to an email query somewhere else. An oddly cheerful response came quickly and in the instant of that moment as it sunk in, I felt the foundations of my private inner world shift and crack.  Two months later the ground still feels unsteady but I now know with the help of good counsel that the fault line was there all along, deep, unstable, barely visible.  The curious thing that happened in the car was as inevitable as was my private earthquake.

This is a gift of challenging proportions.


Toronto Writing

I’m walking forward anyway, through the rubble of old belief systems.  As I move on and through I’m seeing curious things I’d never noticed before. Other things that used to seem bewilderingly odd now make perfect sense.  It’s a lot to take in, on top of the regular things I do, since those things too appear differently in this new context.  I’m often exhausted by both the broadness of my new world, and the newness of myself within it.

Context and complexity – so very important to understand that we cannot know the whole, or the parts without observing how things intersect.  Thank you Nora Bateson, for this.


Waterloo writing

I carry a kind of grief for things lost that wants to claim every moment, but so far has not; there is real beauty in this new place, and peace.  If I can stay rested and curious, grief and I can have good, rich conversations, but there is a time each day when they demand a kind of forensic focus on how, exactly, this feels. 

I begin to understand that this grief too teaches me more about complexity, as I mine my history for hidden memories, and sort through what’s been broken for what might be worth fixing.  I’ve read and spoken to many who better understand this piece of our so human puzzle.  Most recently Katherine Schafler has been helpful.


Though they are important, of course feelings aren’t the point, though objective management of them can be a way to claim meaning for your pain.  Meaning can lead to choice – the kind of choice that leads to well considered action in a complex world.  This resonates with what Bell Hooks writes, that love is more action-in-honesty than it is an expression of feeling.  I agree. We’ve swallowed a great deal of misinformation about love and gender in this culture.  Disney has a lot to answer for, though I must say, they appear to be trying to address this.


Future Bakery, Toronto, writing.

Today I purged four boxes of books from my shelves, and noticed that so much of the published and printed writing in this house is white, Eurocentric, patriarchal, colonial.  In many ways the ideas, theories and art recorded in these pages represents my heritage, the bricks and mortar of my socio-economic privilege, my cultural harness and my pigeon-hole.

From this new and broad place here it’s easy to see what is simply no longer relevant.  Tomes I’ve kept for forty years are now gone; they are untranslatable into this moment of us, now.


Writing, at home.

Here is where a new story begins. as told by a single white woman descended from industrial Scots, farmer Scots, and teachers of english literature, living in English Canada on Ojibwe treaty land. Mother of a lovely, smart, compassionate young woman. Complex and connected.

Artist, musician, writer. One tiny intersected piece in this great gift of challenging proportions.



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Great ideas come in Bars

It’s amazing to me how much more relevant and interesting a book (Grbich 2013) about qualitative data analysis is, when I read it in an afternoon bar half-full of regulars.

…subjectivity has value (meaning that both the views of the participant and those of you the researcher are to be respected, acknowledged, and incorporated as data, and the interpretation of this data will be constructed by both of you (the researcher is not a distant neutral being)… (p.4)


(I aimed my phone cleverly to avoid taking pics of any of the ten regulars here).

The music that plays above my head seems to be formula quasi-country-rock (sweet female vocalist); the six TV screens I can mostly see from where I sit (the mostly unused corner of the bar) are playing either a feature on the Harlem Globetrotters or a darts tournament.  I don’t have a TV, and I would never search quasi-country-rock on spotify, if I had spotify, so I’m fascinated by what I don’t know about all of it.  There are three plaid shirts and two ballcaps here (I don’t want to be rude and stare long enough to see what the caps are advertising), and there’s me, cello player/writer/vocalist/masters student and Carol Grbich, who is from Australia, in book-form.  She is open at the moment.


I ejected myself from my comfortable house (three desks and a great library, nice sound system and eclectic, slightly nostalgic vinyl music collection, art studio with three projects in progress) after reading this article about the dramatic effect on teens of too much internet and not enough in-person people.

Also this, a short story published in a New Yorker’s December issue which has gone viral beyond what author Kristen Roupenian could have imagined, the why of which we’re still sorting out (in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Guardian…..  Here’s what Roupenian says about it in a December New York Times interview, and a quote from same.

You’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time, but you said you’ve only really committed in the last five years. Was there a catalyst?

Ha, yeah. I was at a bar with my friend. I was close to finishing my Ph.D., and I’d made it through almost the entire process of entering the Foreign Service. I’d had a few beers, and I was talking passionately about how, by becoming a diplomat, I was going to live my second-best-possible life. It wasn’t my No. 1, absolute dream, but it was pretty great … and trying to be a writer was too risky.

Here’s a December 20 Guardian article reporting her seven figure book deal as a result of the story.  Bars.  People.


All the regulars have left (only one was female).  I wonder if it was me and Carol here, drinking beer and writing, but I don’t think so.  A sixty-ish regular has come in.  She doesn’t make eye contact.

Oh yes, I will read Women & Power:  A Manifesto, by Mary Beard, because a social media friend (male) posted about it and of course there’s no excuse whatsoever to stop reading at the reviews. It was published around the same time as Roupenian’s piece, has made waves in the academic world similar to those that Cat People has made in social and news media.

In the meantime, Carol and I are talking about subjectivity.  She is a PhD of international renown and I am a mid-study but mature masters student.  We are in a bar in a relatively large rural town where I’ve lived for the past twenty-five years.

I like those guys with their shirts and ballcaps, who don’t recognize the franchise’s playlist any more than I do.  I make them nervous with my laptop, but if I went over there to talk to them they’d be mostly delighted.  Curious about what the hell I’m working on.  They could be book readers, but I’d bet it’s not their first language.  They’d look at what I’m reading and guffaw at the ceiling, shake their heads at the table, make a perfect, comment, grounded in common sense…  I find that comforting.

I should note that there’s a rougher bar downtown.  For twenty years I worked there in the afternoons and was protected by the more salacious, all male regulars by the powerful, all-female bar & kitchen staff.  Ownership has since changed and last year they painted the place – an historic century hotel deeply embedded in the town’s weekly habits – a hard light green.  It’s hard to write inside an after-dinner mint, no matter how hospitable the staff, or interesting the regulars.



I bring up issues of relevance, to Carol.  How do I make what I do meaningful for those guys?  How do I translate to their comfortable, sensible, grounded language, so we too can debate what’s important and what’s not?

She is from Australia, and it’s 2018, so she gets it (I think).  We are both white female colonials, living on land we don’t own, transplanted from our original cultures various generations ago.  Who says who owns anything, in any conversation?  But still we talk.

We talk about research.  Subjectivity, relevance, women, men, manifestos, 2018, and what to do about it.


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The clouds sift fine, windless snow onto deck and branch here.  I’m grateful for the view of seventy-foot walnut, maple, spruce and ash through this window – ah, there’s the breeze, dancing the straight down flakes into dervishes.


Driving this week has added three more verses and a bridge to my road song.  It’s interesting that the road songs only come into my lungs and voice when I’m not on the 401, the 407, the 410 – they seem to have a speed and a geography to them.  The songs need fields, barns with their lights on in the early morning dark, sundogs and fence lines held by a row of charactered trees, each bent differently to the sun and wind.

The cars on the road are all moving forward/ the cars on the road are all in a line…  caliope-like. A road-dancing song.


I’ve been challenged by this Masters in the way I’d hoped, but couldn’t imagine, 20+ months ago.  To read, efficiently, through a lens of discernment.  To read in conversation with my self, and the other marvellous selves I meet each week in class. To ask, to listen, to respond only after hearing, in a way that counts, what you didn’t know before you asked.


I’ve come to understand that in the midst of the musical/academic clouds of curiosities and fascinations there is a point of focus where my attention can root itself.  That if I find and claim that place of focus I can learn to tend the soil there, in the place where I am resonant and relevant.  I have an idea that if I can do this, generously, a garden of understood things can grow there which in turn might nourish others, especially those still seeking their point of resonant focus, their who am I, in all of this?. 

Not that I will ever stop asking myself that question, especially in the humbling context of so many other great, fertile musical thought-gardens. I’ve found some of those, and will always be in search of others.  In the meantime I know I’m still figuring out the soil in this place I’ve found for me.


The ecosystem metaphor works  – perhaps especially – if you perceive the process of decay and regeneration in human choice and culture.  I’ve read excellent material written fifty, thirty, fifteen years ago that had enormous effect on the way we thought about ourselves, our music and our role on this planet  – but it’s simply no longer relevant. Other written-down-thinking from the same eras, which barely caused a cultural ripple then, sings with great resonance now, in our time of rich challenge and undeniable change.


We know that trees with the deepest roots form the healthiest, mutually nourishing connections in a natural forest system. They hold centre for new growth to occur, provide canopy that connects steady enlightenment with grounded-ness, through blizzard, monsoon, heatwave, blight, drought.  Others, once great pillars of the same place, eventually become habitat for squirrel, owl, woodpecker and insect, or fall and are deconstructed back into fertile soil.  Both are important; there is no bad or good.  Even parasites – vines that choke, species that invade, critters that burrow and divert streams, have their place and purpose.


My other school is this place of trees, an old terraced shoreline on the edge of Georgian Bay, where I bring my change and my books, my tired from driving and good lord, from thinking, and lay it all down – my questions, out of me and onto the ground.  The lake answers, rhythmically.  The trees answer too, but only if I slow my listening to one pulse a minute.

My curiosity and these issues of relevance, resonance, usefulness have a life here too, in these wonder-days of portable wifi and recording equipment.  I am so deeply grateful for all of it, here under the sifted snow.