This could be the beginning of a new Robertson Davies’ novel.

“The director of the National Gallery of Canada fired his deputy director for “just cause” — twice — in June and then found himself in Federal Court accused of being “medically” unfit to perform his job, according to previously secret court documents released yesterday (Gessell 2008-07-26).

It is important that the Affadavit which Gallery upper management attempted to conceal, has not only been unsealed but is now available online at Affadavit of David Franklin and National Gallery of Canada and Pierre Theberge, Ottawa, ON. It is evident from the tone of the affadavit and even minute editing oversights and grammatical errors (unlike editing errors in this blog resulting from my desire to go outside and play), that David Franklin was distraught when he wrote it in collaboration with his legal council.

It may prove to be a destroyer of careers and reputations.

But the National Gallery of Canada is not a private organization. The 40, 000 plus works in the permanent collection belong to the public. It is a Crown Corporation.

The Affadavit reveals far more than the possibility that an old man has outworn his usefulness, it reveals a culture of silence in the Gallery that has been a part the Gallery since at least 1997. Earning, achieving and maintaining an international reputation is crucial to this cultural institution. Thanks to the hard work of previous directors and current and previous curators, etc the National Gallery has achieved a great deal of credibility in ICOM particularly in regards to expertise in curating, conservation and restoration.

David Franklin’s concerns about Theberge’s management style should be taken very seriously and investigated in-depth. Questions should be raised about the loss of curatorial expertise and productivity as valued, experienced curators were forced to retire early, castrated by the administration while remaining in the institution or leaving out of frustration because they lost favour with Pierre Theberge since 1997, not just recently under the guise of illness. Let’s not blame the disease for a style of governance that created havoc in the granite and glass building.

Arts journalist noted in his blog that “Official advertisements seeking a replacement for the retiring Pierre Theberge have started appearing in newspapers. Far more emphasis is placed in the ad on management abilities than on knowledge of art. Maybe one of the government’s friends in the Calgary oil patch could take the job, assuming he or she was bilingual (Gessell 2008-05-21).”

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Excerpts from 2008- Affadavit of David Franklin and National Gallery of Canada and Pierre Theberge, Ottawa, ON.
27. [David Franklin is] concerned that [he is] now the target of Mr. Theberge’s most recent effort to push someone out. [Pierre Theberge’s] motivation to remove [David Franklin’s] candidature for consideration as Director of the Gallery by blackening [his] professional reputation and terminating [his] employment for “just cause” unless [he] agrees to resign (Affadavit p.10)”

4. “Mr. Theberge’s Medical Position:

“Pierre Theberge suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. This fact has been known for several years by the Board, the senior management team and publicly. [David Franklin claimed that based on his own daily observations ] that Mr. Theberge’s medical condition has deteriorated rapidly over the past year [2007-2008] (Affadavit p.8)” “[ . . . David Franklin claimed that Pierre Theberge] “is no longer capable of performing the full duties that his position demands with the vigour or the proficiency that is required for the Director of a major Crown Corporation. Some of the symptoms that I have observed first hand are falling asleep during meetings, including one-on-one meetings; losing his temper with staff; acting erratically and reacting emotionally out of context; loss of memory; increasing nostalgia; short working days; inability to write his signature; difficulty concentrating and focusing on complex issues; lack of leadership qualities; contempt towards senior management; vindictiveness; violent mood swings; insulting and intimidating behaviour; appearing to be heavily medicated; requiring staff accompaniment at all times; requiring staff to prepare his meals at work; and occasional refusal to meet with major donors or be interviewed publicly due to deterioration in his public speaking abilities (Affadavit p.9)”

Pierre Theberge management style:

26. David Franklin “noticed a pattern whereby Mr. Theberge orchestrates the departure of curators from the Gallery. Mr. Theberge often seems to revere a given curator for a short while but then grows disenchanted with them to the point [where] he determines that they must be dismissed. Mr. Theberge regularly solicits negative gossip about Gallery employees and uses it against them when it suits his purposes. Unfortunately, Mr. Theberge seldom actually “fires” the people himself. Instead, he directs that the person is no longer to be supported in their work. In the past, I have seen him decide that he no longer values someone’s contributions and then start refusing approval for, canceling, blocking or reducing their exhibitions, acquisitions and even travel. This prevents the curator from being able to function in their job in any meaningful way and the person ends of leaving out of frustration. Mr. Theberge has also asked me to accelerate the early departure of curators near retirement whom he had taken a dislike to. I can think of at least three (Affadavit p.10)”

Random notes:

National Gallery of Canada is a Crown Corporation pursuant to the Museums Act, 1990, c. 3.

National Gallery of Canada is also governed by the Financial Administration Act, RS, 1985, c. F-11.

Pierre Théberge came to the NGC at the same time as outdated top-down business models already under scrutiny in more progressive sectors of the private sector were being embraced by those in positions of governance in the public sector. He did not invent his top-down parachute-in management style.

The arms-length policies intended to protect Crown corporations like the National Gallery of Canada from unwarranted state intervention, are particularly vulnerable to abuse by upper management should certain types of management styles prevail.

She was young, blond, trim, athletic, focused and fierce. She was hired by Bell to fire hundreds of employees in the 1990s and that was her opening remark in her first meeting with us along with, “If you don’t like it you can leave.” The aftermath of her arrival could only be described as tense. Everyone was tense all the time. I was so relieved I was not there anymore. She wasn’t a high-noon face-off girl. She was more like an execution squad facing powerless blind-folded victims. Those who were fired lost all rights to tell their stories openly. And there are so many stories to be told. Even today the image of security escorting friends trembling with shock carrying cardboard boxes sends shivers . . .

But perhaps the greater sadness came as we watched valued and experienced curators and administrators leave of their own volition unable to accept a dictatorial management style that was so unlike the two predecessors. So many exhibitions canceled and with them years of research seemingly lost . . .

Pierre Théberge’s arrival at the NGC in 1997 coincided with the formation of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and with it fund-raising at the gallery reached new levels.

Philanthropic foundations like the National Gallery of Canada Foundation created in 1997 are part of the golden age of philanthropy which is a global phenomenon. These new philanthropists are legal categorizations of nonprofit organizations that are highly specialized and concerned with measurable impact. Their work is strategic, market-conscious, knowledge-based, high-engagement and always involves maximizing leverage of the foundation’s assets.

Pierre Théberge’s arrival at the NGC in 1997 also coincided with changes in the capital-gains tax which led to a sharp increase in donations. “Until 1997, the full normal capital- gains tax was due; reducing the “inclusion rate” to 50 per cent in 1997 led to a sharp increase in such donations. The federal finance department told Angus’s committee each foregone dollar in tax revenue was linked to $13 in extra giving. (Angus 2005-01-30).”

Selected (subjective) timeline of events

1970s Pierre Théberge worked at the National Gallery rising to the position of curator of contemporary Canadian art.

1979 Pierre Théberge joined the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts as chief curator and later became director. He was nicknamed “Mr. Blockbuster” which can be considered as a derogatory term.

1987-1997 Shirley Thomson, C.C. 2008 Laureate was born and raised in St. Mary’s, Ontario, she left a teaching job for Montreal and, ultimately, Paris, where she worked as an editor for NATO. She returned to Canada to become assistant secretary-general of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and later assistant secretary-general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, working in the UN agency’s fields of education, science and culture. A decade later she was back in Montreal, enrolled at McGill as a Ph.D. student in art history, exploring the hunt theme in 18th-century palace decoration in France. Her McGill experience launched her career as a cultural administrator. As director of the McCord Museum (1982-1985), she turned a small university museum into a public research and teaching museum dedicated to the preservation, study and appreciation of Canadian history. After serving as secretary-general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, she was appointed director of the National Gallery of Canada in 1987. Dr. Thomson and her professional team developed, over the decade of her tenure, a strong program that helped raise the Gallery’s profile. She served as director of the Canada Council for the Arts from 1998 to 2002, and as chair of the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board from 2003 to 2007.” www.citizenvoices.gg.ca/_pdf/ReportArtMattersVisualMediaArts2008.pdf

Colin Bailey was named as the National Gallery of Canada’s chief curator replacing Shirley Thomson.

1995 David Franklin won the 1995 Eric Mitchell Prize for Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino (published by Yale University Press, 1994)

1995 David Franklin won the Governors’ Award for Yale University Press for best press book by an author under the age of forty.

1997 The exhibition Renoir’s Portraits: Impressions of an Age, organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 1997, set a Gallery attendance record of 340,000 visitors.

1997 The exhibition entitled Baroque to Neo-Classical: Sculpture in Quebec was held at the National Gallery of Canada from February through May, Vancouver Art Gallery from July to October and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon from October to January 1998. It was ten years in the making. Gallery director Shirley Thomson had charged Rene Villeneuve , Assistant Curator of Early Canadian Art with the task of mounting the exhibition in 1988 which was to cover Quebec sculpture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Villeneuve also wrote the research-intense 201 page exhibition catalogue by the same name. Twenty important works were restored for the exhibition. Charlie Hill provided Villeneuve with constant encouragement during the preparation of the exhibition which Thomson described as having “masterfully convey[ed] an important, rich, and indeed fundamental aspect of our culture, inherited from France (Thomson 1997:7).” With the arrival of Pierre Theberge, Villeneuve’s research and unique curatorial skills were no longer promoted with any enthusiasm.

1997 Pierre Théberge, risk-taker in charge at Gallery: Pierre Theberge succeeds Thomson (Gessell 1997). Dr. Shirley Thomson was a popular director who treated everyone in her employ with respect.

1997 Until 1997, the full normal capital- gains tax was due; reducing the “inclusion rate” to 50 per cent in 1997 led to a sharp increase in such donations. The federal finance department told Angus’s committee each foregone dollar in tax revenue was linked to $13 in extra giving. Angus believes the multiplier would be even greater if the capital-gains tax were dropped altogether (Angus 2005-01-30).”

“The tax treatment of donations of shares is more favourable in the US than in Canada, and it was argued that the remaining capital gains tax on gifted securities in Canada should be eliminated. Since the 50% reduction in the capital gains tax for such gifts was eliminated in 1997, there has been a dramatic increase in donations. Eliminating the remaining 50% would stimulate even more. A member of the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada stated that, “the single most important step which the government can take to assist our arts organizations and every charitable sector, including health care, education and social services, to raise additional money, is to eliminate the remaining capital gains tax on gifts of listed securities.” (NACF 2002:6)

1997 The NGC Foundation was created. Donald and Beth Sobey gave generously oftheir time and financial support through the Foundation.

1997 The Audain Foundation was established. Michael Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, are active supporters of the arts since the 1980s. Michael Audain served on the Vancouver Art Gallery board for many years, including in the role of president. Michael is now Chair of their Foundation. In 2004, Business for the Arts honoured Michael with the Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership in the arts. He was appointed to the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees in 2005 and to the Order of British Columbia in 2007.

1997-2009 Pierre Théberge served as director of the National Gallery of Canada, the second-longest term for a National Gallery director.

1998 David Franklin joined the National Gallery as Curator of Prints and Drawings.

NGC. 2000-04-03. “National Gallery of Canada Comes to Amicable Agreement with Educator Guides.” Press Release. NGC:Ottawa. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/558_890.htm

2000 Kitty Scott began working at the NGC in contemporary art where she found that the NGC collection did not include many works by highly sought after artists from Western Canada who were working in a complex way across film, photography, video and installation. There were no works by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, or by the younger artists Brian Jungen, Geoffrey Farmer or Althea Thauberger at the time. She began to acquire more works by Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham as well as a film and a photographic series by Stan Douglas. http://www.canadianart.ca/art/features/2007/06/01/serpentine/

2001-02-21 Pierre Théberge National Gallery of Canada Director and Curator Appointed to the Order of Canada

2001-05-10 On May 10, 2001 200 technicians, installers and administrative staff at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography embarked went on the first general strike in the history of these institutions. It is noteworthy that David Franklin brought strikers doughnuts on the strike line (Geddes 2008-07-09). Relations between gallery staff and Pierre Theberge remained rocky ever since this strike.

The strike was timed to coincide with an $1.8 million exhibition of the works of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt which opened on June 15. Strikers won the support of the public as well as prominent Canadian artists such as Michael Snow. And the strike seems to have attracted visitors since there were 500 more visitors than the projection figure of 18,000 for June! One of the areas of concern was the need for a corporate anti-harassment policy. Gallery administration spent lavishly to hire lawyers and security officers instead of tabling a fair offer. The red shoes displayed on the Gallery plaza have become the symbol of their strike. Red shoes became a symbol of solidarity as strikers “placed hundreds of pairs of donated footwear — painted a brilliant, scarlet hue — outside the museum (on Rideau Street) and gallery (on Sussex Drive) every day. […] The whimsical appearance of the red shoes inspired workers to create songs, poetry, T-shirts and posters, delighted passers-by, and garnered more frequent media attention than any conventional, non-violent protest action could ever have done (Bemben 2002).”

“Art can be a form of action, and our picket lines can be seen as a work of performance art. In order to reinforce that concept, we, as a group, will create a collective work of art. Walking on the picket line is a burden on our feet, and our shoes become part of our plight. We are literally wearing out our shoes! […] By placing our old shoes next to us on the picket line, we are visually representing the many, many miles that we have walked, and the labour that goes into walking the line. We are labouring on behalf of labour. Our shoes also embody our individuality — they are personal artifacts. By painting our old shoes all the same shade of red, we are symbolizing our passion and solidarity as a group. […] Lately, our feet have been taking us in a different direction, but we hope to soon have a fair contract and be walking back inside our beloved institutions (Strike posters cited by Bemben 2002).”

The NGC was forced to “postpone indefinitely an exhibition of work by Montreal photographer Pierre Boogaerts at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (part of the National Gallery). “Attendance to our permanent collections has been down,” admits Joanne Charette, the National Gallery’s public-affairs director. “We’ve had to cancel educational tours for students, which usually adds to our figures in May and June.” The strike was in full force when the museum’s Gustav Klimt exhibition opened on June 15. Charette says that attendance for the show, at 18,500 visitors in June, is actually above the projected figure of 18,000. The show cost Can. $1.8 million and required three years to organize. To compensate for the postponement of the Boogaerts show, the current exhibitions of work by Larry Towell and Diana Thorneycroft have been extended until September 3 (Jana 2001).”

2003 NGC. 2003-09-23. “Board of Trustess Supports National Gallery of Canada Director. Press Release. NGC: Ottawa. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/552_1072.htm

2003 Attendance at the National Gallery of Canada 455,000, down 13 percent from 2002. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/550_988.htm

2003 Donald Sobey, entrepreneur and collector of Canadian art from Stellarton, Nova Scotia, donated $1 million gift through the “Donald and Beth Sobey Chief Curator’s Research Endowment. Under the guidance of the Gallery’s Chief Curator, Dr. David Franklin, this fund gives the National Gallery the opportunity to conduct and publish scholarly research of national and international scope (NGC. 2007-01-11).”

2003-2004 “The Government increased the Gallery’s acquisitions budget in 2003-2004 to restore some of its lost purchasing power and allow it to continue building the national collection for future generations. The budget, supplemented by the generous support of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, made possible several important purchases, including Quebec painter Ozias Leduc’s Portrait of Gertrude Leduc, Jacopo Pontormo’s Renaissance drawing Reclining Male Nude, and Douglas Gordon’s contemporary video work Play Dead: Real Time. The Gallery increased its holdings of First Nations and Inuit art with works including Norval Morisseau’s Observations of the Astral World and Brian Jungen’s whale skeleton sculpture Vienna.” http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/550_988.htm

2004 David Franklin’s book entitled Treasures of the National Gallery of Canada

2005-04-06 The appointment of Diana Nemiroff as the new Director of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) effective July 4 was announced. “Diana Nemiroff has garnered an international reputation in the contemporary art world. She has been a senior curator at the National Gallery of Canada since 1990 and has held assistant and associate curator positions with the Gallery since 1983 dealing mainly with contemporary and 20th-century art. She has organized many successful exhibitions including her favourite Crossings, a highly acclaimed 1998 exhibition of works in various media that examined the situation of people migrating from one country to another. The exhibition Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada, which she organized with Charlotte Townsend-Gault and Robert Houle, broke new ground in the recognition of First Nations artists in Canada, and won the Janet Braide Memorial Award for its contributions to Canadian art history. Two of her exhibitions, 3 x 3: Flavin, Andre, Judd and Protean Picasso: Drawings and Prints from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada [toured Canada in 2005]. She also planned and installed the collection of contemporary art for the opening of the National Gallery’s new building in 1988.” http://www.carleton.ca/duc/News/news04060501.html

“Diana Nemiroff has been the director of the Carleton University Art Gallery since 2005. Before joining the staff of Carleton University, she worked for over 20 years at the National Gallery of Canada, where she developed a national reputation as a curator of contemporary art. She has numerous exhibitions to her credit, including recent monographic displays by Damian Moppett (2006), Lyne Lapointe (2007) and Pascal Grandmaison (2008). As a curator at the National Gallery, she has been recognized for her work on group exhibitions such as The Canadian Biennial of Contemporary Art / La biennale d’art contemporain canadien (1989); Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada / Terre, esprit, pouvoir: les premières nations au Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (1992); Crossings / Traversées (1998); and Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize / Paradis insaisissables : le prix du millénaire (2001). These shows surveyed the national and international contemporary art scene, identifying issues around the presentation of Aboriginal art, globalization, and the environment, and how it has affected the art world in recent years.
Diana Nemiroff was born in London, England, and was raised and educated in Montreal, where she studied at the École des beaux-arts, before earning both a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree at Concordia University. She is a board member of the Canadian Museums Association and is vice president of the University and College Art Galleries Association of Canada. In addition to her museum experience, she has a background as a critic and writer, and continues to write on contemporary and modern art for a variety of independent projects.” http://www.citizenvoices.gg.ca/_pdf/ReportArtMattersVisualMediaArts2008.pdf

2005-05-28. The National Gallery of Canada Foundation held its first national fundraising event, the Renaissance Ball which generated one million dollars. Thomas d’Aquino, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors thanked Marie Claire Morin, President and CEO of the Foundation and her team and she in turn thanked thanked Thomas d’Aquino, saying, “Through his leadership, vision and commitment, Thomas d’Aquino accomplished an incredible feat by bringing together such a prestigious group of art patrons and philanthropists. Without him, the Renaissance Ball would simply not have been possible.”(NGC. 2005-06-03).

2005 David Franklin’s “first big splash as chief curator was the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence. It was the Florence show that caught the eye of curators at Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum, leading them to partner with the National Gallery on a Bernini sculpture show, slated to open in [July of 2008] at the prestigious Getty, before moving to Ottawa for a fall and winter run (Geddes 2008).”

2006 “Kitty Scott left her post as National Gallery curator of contemporary art [in 2006], in part, because of her frustration in getting gallery management to mount contemporary art exhibitions (Gessell 2008-06-10).” In a interview with Canadian Art she described changes that the NGC should consider, “In terms of contemporary art there needs to be more of it, both national and international. This means more exhibitions, acquisitions, publications, conferences and talks with artists, writers and theorists. The best institutions work closely with their curators, the experts, to bring these programs to fruition. And these programs must be seriously marketed—nationally and internationally—and use the Web in innovative ways. As well, I think the NGC would benefit from being more closely aligned with artists. Many museums have artists on their boards. I also believe that the NGC should play a more formative role in teaching students of museology, art history, conservation, museum management, design history, art and curating across Canada. I am sure universities would welcome this. And I think there could be stronger ties with the major collectors and dealers across the country. These people should be regarded as family and they should be made to feel more welcome. It would also be great if the National Gallery of Canada could develop relationships with other Canadian institutions so that the collection of contemporary art could be seen more widely. While the idea of summer exhibitions in Shawinigan is interesting, I wonder about it, practically speaking. Ottawa is already remote, as the number of people visiting the institution shows, so why explore even more remote territory? What is the logic? Why not open a small space in the heart of Montreal, or St. John’s for that matter?” http://www.canadianart.ca/art/features/2007/06/01/serpentine


2006
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is extremely proud to announce an extraordinary gift of $2 million dollars for the creation of The Audain Endowment for Contemporary Canadian Art. The Audain Foundation, a British Columbia-based family trust, generously made this donation, the largest in the history of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. “This fund will ensure that the National Gallery of Canada will have the ability to acquire Canadian contemporary art, and to focus on the unique talents of artists from Canada with an emphasis on British Columbia” says Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. “We wish to thank the Audain Foundation, and in particular Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa, or their generous gift to the National Gallery and the visual arts commmunity.” “Canada from coast to coast has many important contemporary artists who deserve to be in the National Gallery’s collection, so our foundation is pleased to be able to give help in this regard,” said Michael Audain. “We are deeply grateful for this endowment, the single largest leadership gift to benefit living artists right across the country,” says Marie Claire Morin, President and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. Established in 1997, The Audain Foundation has made grants to 25 organizations for projects related to the visual arts. Mr. Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., and his wife, Ms. Karasawa, have been active supporters of the arts for over 25 years. Serving on the Vancouver Art Gallery board from 1992 to 1998, including the role of president, Mr. Audain is now Chair of their Foundation. In 2004, the Council for Business and Arts honoured Mr. Audain with Canada’s Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership in the arts. He was appointed to the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees in 2005. The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery and its affiliate, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, in fulfilling their mandates. By fostering strong partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy enables the National Gallery of Canada to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage.”

2007 “Publication National Gallery of Canada Review V gets the support of the renowned Donald and Beth Sobey Chief Curator’s Research Endowment.” Mr. Sobey was Chairman of the NGC’s Board of Trustees and a member of the NGC Foundation’s Board of Directors. Donald Sobey was Chairman of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Canada; Director, Board of Directors, National Gallery of Canada Foundation; Member of the Founding Partner’s Circle of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation; Chairman Emeritus, Empire Company Limited; Director: Sobey Inc., Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., Atlantic Shopping Centres Limited, High Liner Foods Incorporated and President of the Sobey Art Foundation (NGC. 2007-01-11).

2007-12 Michael Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes and his wife donated another $2 million to the NGC towards the creation of the Audain Curator of Indigenous Art Endowment. Combined gifts from the Audain Foundation have created a new threshold of $4 million for gifts by a single donor.

2008-01? Pierre Theberge imminent retirement:

“In early 2008 the Gallery took steps in relation to starting a search for a new Director to replace Mr. Theberge. The firm of Janet Wright and Associates Inc was hired to assist with the recruitment and selection process. It is well known within the Gallery and its Boards from comments made to me by Mr. Theberge that Mr. Theberge does not want to leave his position as Director of the Gallery. He is extremely distraught at the thought of leaving the Gallery and that a search is underway for a new Director to replace him. [David Franklin . . . ] believes that Mr, Theberge has and will continue to take whatever steps are within his power to delay the date on which he will ultimately be replaced and also to control who that person might eventually be for his own personal gain (Affadavit p.7).”

2008-05 Arts journalist noted in his blog that “Official advertisements seeking a replacement for the retiring Pierre Theberge have started appearing in newspapers. Far more emphasis is placed in the ad on management abilities than on knowledge of art. Maybe one of the government’s friends in the Calgary oil patch could take the job, assuming he or she was bilingual (Gessell 2008-05-21).”

2008-04-03 Pierre Theberge announced 10 job cuts, including five layoffs including highly regarded Anne Maheux, a senior paper conservator with more than 25 years of service. Among those laid off are three members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and one member of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).

2008-04-16 The The Canadian Association of Emerging Conservators (CAEC-ACRE) argued that the removal of [Anne Maheux who has been constantly active in the conservation field, supervising paper conservation interns on a regular basis and contributing to conservation associations, research and publications] is ill advised. “Furthermore, the remaining senior paper conservator at the NGC, who is due to retire in a short period of time, has not for many years maintained a practice of taking on curriculum interns. The CAEC is concerned that after this gap in practice, the remaining senior paper conservator may not be willing and/or fully able to take over Ms. Maheux’s role as supervisor to future students in the NGC paper laboratory. In addition, the elimination of this position also brings forward the issue of succession planning, or lack thereof, a question which is central to the CAEC’s activities. With this loss in mind, one has to wonder what the state of the paper conservation department at the NGC will be in a few years.” http://caecacre.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/special-announcement/

2008-04 “Dear Mr. Theberge, The membership of the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property wish to convey our shock and extreme disappointment over the National Gallery of Canada’s recent decision to eliminate a full time position in the Conservation/Restoration Laboratory. Works of art on paper are among the most fragile and unforgiving of the Gallery’s collections, and are readily subject to irreparable damage if handled inexpertly. The CAC finds it unthinkable that the Gallery would dismiss a Conservator as highly regarded nationally and internationally as Anne Maheux, and assure you that we believe that neither the Gallery’s impressive collections of works of art on paper nor its professional reputation will be well served by this short sighted decision. The letter of explanation delivered to Gallery staff notes that the aim of the cuts was a 5% reduction in the “least performing programs”. By what measure, we ask, is Ms. Maheux’s work considered to be “underperforming”? Ms. Maheux is widely regarded as one of the preeminent leaders in the field of conservation of works of art on paper worldwide. As well as a graduate of both Queens and Harvard Universities’ conservation programs, she is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, a former President of this organization and member of our Board of Directors for many years. Her enormous commitment to her profession is self-evident. Among her many internationally significant accomplishments are her seminal research into the works of Degas, her contributions on development of mounting systems for oversized works, her work with contemporary works of art, and her efforts toward establishment of a federal Museums Policy. Colleagues with whom I have spoken are unanimous in describing her work as exemplary. The CAC urges you to reconsider the elimination of this position and the employment of Ms. Maheux personally. Not to do so will cause the Gallery’s reputation irreparable harm in the eyes of the Canadian conservation community. Sincerely, Dee A. Stubbs-Lee, President, CAC/ACCR CC: Mr. Donald R. Sobey – Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery; Mr. David Franklin – Deputy Director and Chief Curator, National Gallery; Mr. Stephen Gritt – Chief, Restoration Conservation Laboratory, National Gallery; Ms. Lise Labine – Director, Human Resources, National Gallery.” http://www.cac-accr.ca/pdf/Ministerletter.pdf

2007-07 to 2008-04 Mr. Baxter and the Strategic Review Committee undertook to reach a 5% budget reduction by “identifying the “lowest performing” programs, including staff in each part of the Gallery. As a result of the review process eight positions at the Gallery including the position of Assistant Curator of European and American Art occupied by Erika Dolphin who is part of the PIPSC union) were abolished (Affadavit p.11)” According to [David Franklin] Erika Dolphin’s layoff was justified because of “overlaps of expertise (Affadavit p.12)” and that “the business case for abolishing the position was sound, even though it resulted in more pressure to perform on those remaining in the department (Affadavit p.12).” The decision to abolish the position was “a business decision (Affadavit p.12).”

According to [David Franklin] senior management discussed these layoffs very little but “the general feeling [. . .] was that people had not wanted to engage in layoffs, that there had been pressure from the Strategic Review Committee to cut the required 5%, and that the Strategic Review had been a very difficult process which resulted in decreased morale for Gallery senior management (Affadavit p.11)”

2008-04-29 The PIPSC filed two grievances on behalf of Erika Dolphin.

2008-05-08 PSAC. 2008-05-08. “Federal Program Reviews Mean Layoffs and Downgraded Services at the National Gallery of Canada.” Ottawa. “Jobs will be lost and corners will be cut at the National Gallery of Canada as a result of the federal government’s revolving “strategic review” of program spending in targeted departments and agencies across the federal government. Selected to undergo a review in 2007 along with 16 other departments and agencies, the National Gallery was directed to cut its budget by five per cent. Where the recent federal budget released in February referred to “better use of internal resources and administrative efficiencies” in the museums sector, the plain truth was announced by the Director of the National Gallery on April 3 when he announced 10 job cuts, including five layoffs – one of those to a senior paper conservator with more than 25 years of service. Among those laid off are three members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and one member of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). Director Pierre Thèberge also said the five per cent cut dictated by the strategic review process will necessitate other cuts that will have an impact on the Gallery’s publishing and marketing capacity. Events and exhibitions will have to be scaled back and training will also have to be curtailed, according to Thèberge. Reaction to the cuts, and in particular to the position of the senior paper conservator, has been swift. Numerous letters to Thèberge from senior gallery staff, trustees and conservators say the cuts call into question the gallery’s commitment and its ability to fulfill its mandate to expand and conserve its extensive collections. PSAC is currently considering a range of actions in response to the employer’s actions. Ed Cashman, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region, argued that, “These cuts will not only hinder the Gallery’s ability to carry out its mandate, they will also have a significant impact on smaller museums across the country that rely on the gallery’s collections to draw visitors into their facilities.” http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/May2008/08/c6375.html?view=print

2008 “The gallery’s contemporary art shows [1998-2008] have been largely limited to retrospectives of aging artists who generally did their best work half a century ago when Pierre Theberge was curator of contemporary Canadian art at the very institution he now heads. Examples in recent years: Alex Colville, Norval Morrisseau, Gathie Falk, Bette Goodwin (Gessell 2008-06-10).”

2008 National Gallery promotes its blockbuster (June-September 200 8) called “The 1930s: The `New Man’” – which promises to be one of the most intriguing art shows of the year. Featuring more than 200 works by artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Diego Rivera and many others, it looks at an era when Marxist and Fascist regimes in Russia, Germany and Italy were trying to create a “superman” without human weaknesses (Knelman 2008). This is a strange choice by a man known for his dictatorial management style. The 1930s has been the subject of major thematic exhibitions in Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, and Paris. The NGC version examines the connection between art and biology. “In the 1930s, biology became a force for change, often destructive, notably in its racist and eugenicist forms that sought to “improve” the human species. During this decade, the opposed concepts of the “degenerate” – or “mentally ill” – artist, as described by the Nazi ideology of the Third Reich, and the “superman” or “new man” became widespread. These ideologies were to have a profound influence on forms of art and representation.” The works presented in this exhibition come from private and public collections in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States grouped under nine themes: Genesis, Convulsive Beauty, “The Will to Power”, The Making of “The New Man”, Mother Earth, The Appeal of Classicism, “Faces of our Time”, “Crowds and Power”, and The Charnel House. The organizing committee is chaired by the director of the National Gallery of Canada, Pierre Théberge. Its members comprise the following curators: Jean Clair, retired director of the Musée Picasso in Paris; Didier Ottinger, of the Centre Georges Pompidou; Constance Naubert-Riser, professor emeritus, Université de Montréal; Ann Thomas, the NGC’s Curator of Photography and the NGC’s director of National Outreach and International Relations, Mayo Graham, who acts as the committee’s coordinator. excerpts from http://national.gallery.ca/english/540_2091.htm

2008-07-03 National Gallery director Pierre Théberge sent an email to gallery staff “dedicated one nondescript sentence to announcing deputy director David Franklin’s leave and two extensive paragraphs detailing the career achievements of his “interim” replacement, Mayo Graham, who worked closely with Mr. Théberge at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts before following him to the gallery a decade ago. Some have even described Ms. Graham, who was serving as director of national outreach and international relations, as Mr. Théberge’s protégé. Sources close to the gallery said the current tensions are rumoured to have come out of a dispute between Mr. Franklin and Mr. Théberge over the planned dismissal of another employee, which then escalated into a rift between them and made Mr. Franklin feel unwelcome (Alphonso and Bradshaw 2008-07-18).” Although David Franklin often replaced Pierre Théberge in public relations they were not close colleagues. Mr. Blockbuster, Pierre Theberge promotes activities that are part of a movement within museums globally in the 1990s that are criticized by some as being categorize are part of the dumbing-down of museums. David Franklin is a scholar.

It was widely believed that the two men were not close colleagues.

2008-07-26
Sealed documents were released revealing that David Franklin expressed grave concerns about the mental competency of Pierre Theberge who he argued should be immediately relieved of his duties as director of one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions (Gessell 2008-07-26). “(Gessell 2008-07-26).

Webliography and Bibliography

Alphonso, Caroline; Bradshaw, James. 2008-07-18. “Gallery’s dirty laundry receives private airing
Federal Court seals file on application for judicial review of case involving dispute between top administrators at National Gallery
.” Globe and Mail

Angus, W. David. 2005-01-30. “A gift for givers.” Montreal Gazette.

Bemben, Linda. 2002. “Poetry: Striking Red Shoes, An Introduction” Our Times.

Gessell, Paul. 2008-07-26. “National Gallery feud revealed: Unsealed documents detail deep rancour at highest level.The Ottawa Citizen.

Gessell, Paul. 2008-05-21. “But can he discuss art?” Art and the City.

Gessell, Paul. 1997. “Risk-taker in charge at Gallery: Pierre Theberge succeeds Thomson.” The Ottawa Citizen.

Gessell, Paul. 2008-06-10. “Let’s have a biennialArt and the City.

2008-07-03. “National Gallery curator takes an indefinite leave.” The Ottawa Citizen.

Gessell, Paul. 2008-07-17. “National gallery heads faceoff in court: Judge dismisses mystery case involving directors.” The Ottawa Citizen.

Jana, Reena. 2001. “Staff Strike at the National Gallery of Canada.” Artforum International Magazine, New York, NY.

Knelman, Martin. 2008-03-19. “Not coming to a gallery near you.” The Star.

McCooey, Paula. 2008-07-18. “Day after secret court hearing, national gallery says all’s well.” The Ottawa Citizen. with files from Paul Gessell.

NACF. 2002-09-18. “National Arts Centre Foundation. Roundtable on Philanthropy in the Performing Arts.” September 18, 2002. Public Policy Forum.

NGC. 2000-04-03. “National Gallery of Canada Comes to Amicable Agreement with Educator Guides.” Press Release. NGC:Ottawa.

NGC. 2001-02-21, “National Gallery of Canada Director and Curator Appointed to the Order of Canada.” Press Release. NGC:Ottawa.

NGC. 2001-06-04. National Gallery of Canada and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography sign new agreement with the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada.

NGC. 2001-07-11. “Tentative agreement reached for PSAC members at the National Gallery of Canada.” Press Release. NGC: Ottawa

CBC News. 2003-09-23. Gallery director under fire for $600,000 expense tab.”

NGC. 2003-09-23. “Board of Trustees Supports National Gallery of Canada Director. Press Release. NGC: Ottawa.

NGC. 2005-06-03. “One million dollars for the Renaissance Ball.” Press Release. NGC: Ottawa.

NGC. 2006-06-20. “The National Gallery of Canada Foundation receives the most important financial gift of its history.” NGC: Ottawa.

NGC. 2007-01-11. “Publication National Gallery of Canada Review V gets the support of the renowned Donald and Beth Sobey Chief Curator’s Research Endowment.” Press Release. NGC: Ottawa.

Picard, André. 1997-11-22. “A Call to Alms: the New Face of Canada.The Toronto Star.

Starn, Randolph. 2005. “A Historian’s Brief Guide to New Museum Studies.The American Historical Review. 110:1. Last accessed 2008-07-20.

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Adina Lebo, Executive Director of ShowCanada in “Rollin’ in the Rockies” about the 22nd Film Industry Annual Convention, Banff, AB claimed that the cinema of the future will be based in digital projection technology. In 2008 5000 Canadian theatres switched to pricey large digital screens. In 2009 that will increase by 150%.

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See also http://snurl.com/26ixa [oceanflynn_wordpress_com] , http://snurl.com/26i1s [www_filmjournal_com] , http://snurl.com/26iw9 [www_marxists_org]

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Freudian Slip The catalyst for this layered image was Freud’s influential paper (1901 [1914]) entitled Forgetting of Proper Names in Psychopathology of Everyday Life. I remembered the image a couple of days ago when I submitted my first article Memory work for Wikipedia as a fully register contributor. The words memory and history are not interchangeable. Memory work has an ethical as well as an historical dimension. This image raises some ethical questions about how our stored memories can become entangled.

In it Freud examined the psychological process of forgetting the name of the artist who painted the Orvieto ceiling when his conscious thinking process was abruptly interrupted by memories of the recent suicide of one of his patients who had an incurable sexual disorder. He forget Signorelli’s proper name during this conversation with a stranger while traveling in Herzegovina. They had been discussing the Turks in Bosnia and Herzegovina when Freud’s thoughts turned to contemporary [racist] beliefs surrounding the sexual moeurs of Turks who allegedly valued sexual pleasure over life itself. From there Freud thought of Death and Sexuality. As one theme interrupted and replaced the other, he associated the series Signorelli. Botticelli, Boltraffio, Trafoi and could not recollect the proper name.

This is significant to me as it reveals unchallenged western prejudices about the East at the turn of the century.

Layers include a .jpg of Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli’s (1445 – 1523) masterpiece, the massive frescoes of the Last Judgment (1499-1503) in Orvieto Cathedral. The copyright on his work has expired since he passed away more than 70 years ago.

There is a topographical map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small iinsert of Freud’s museum which is itself th subject of controversy as rrevealed in Derrida’s book Archives Fever (1996). The uppermost layer is the diagram from the Freud’s article explaining how he made a Freudian slip.

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Space invasion with fireplace and PC (1998-1999)

Space invasion with fireplace and PC (1998-1999),
originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

I began making my first web pages when Dave and I lived here on Lac Gauvreau, Chemin de la Baie Ste. Anne, Ste Cécile de Masham, Québec. I had already taken my first contemporary social theory courses with Rob Shields. From that time onwards he has been a valued mentor for my grad studies. I was working on the year long PhD seminar course with Professor Wallot at the University of Ottawa. This Canadian Studies PhD was a life-transforming experience. It was education as its best. The institution provided everything a grad student could need including access to a super coach and computer lab. As always Dave and I were squeezing as much as we could with bare bones technology. I was using our first digital camera and this flat bed scanner. My son Dan, who was studying at the Cite collegiale in Ottawa, taught me just enough .html coding so I wouldn’t make too much of a mess for him to clean up. He was a bit of a purist.

This acrylic painting was painted over the Christmas holidays in 1998-1999. I had already painted the tree outside our cabin by Lake Gauvreau. The next day the branches were so burdened with snow I had to repaint them entirely. I decided to let them invade the inner space of the cottage since their presence was so insistent.

The painting is 30″ x 22.5″ on Arches paper.

It was shown in March 1999 at an exhibition on Bank Street in Ottawa, ON and again in a gallery on Great George Street , Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in the summer of 1999.

Space invasion with fireplace and PC was one of the first images on my Carleton University home page and on the collaborative, innovative virtual space called artengine. It is one of my favourite images and after our chaotic move out west I really don’t know where the actual physical painting is or the great high resolution digital images the professional photographer took of my work in May-June? of 1999.

One of the challenges for me is to find the kinds of sites that provide me with ideas I can build upon. For example, currently I am unable to simply use a search engine to find useful information on the concept of memory work. I have kept track of this concept over the years using my EndNote bibliographic database. My sister Sharon introduced me to EndNote c. 1992?, an authoring software for creating digital databases with a powerful cross-referencing ability. Thousands of useful entries later and numerous upgrades later I continue to thank you Sharon.

Folksonomy II

October 29, 2006

Folksonomy II Using Adobe Photoshop I layered Friedrich’s (1818) Voyageur au-dessus de la mer de nuages (1818), a Google Earth generated image of Garibaldi Mountain region, British Columbia (49.51.20.64N – 122.57.18.09W elev 6026′ eye alt 13964) and my del.icio.us tag cloud as it emerges from the fog of my thinking. Tags are user-generated so the author chooses how to categorize each .url. Eventually a pattern emerges from this exercise in taxonomy from the ground up. As I visit other peoples’ blogs and del.icio.us webliographies, I learn better ways to categorize certain theories and/or theorists. Gradually I changes these tags, folksonomies or ethnoclassifications so that I can better connect with others making similar journeys.
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This astounding high resolution image of this painting, Habib Allah (c.1600) “The Concourse of the Birds” is available courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an illustration of the Persian mystic, Faridu’ud-Din Attar’s allegory (c.1100?) “The Conference of the Birds” which I believe is also called Mantiqu’t-Tayr Language of the Birds. This work may have inspired Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East.” It describes the seeker’s parallel journey to self-discovery, self-actualization, self-realization through the elusive search for God.

Tag clouds, Head in the Clouds, Love and Cyberdelirium

Attar is said to have met Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí (1207-1273 A.D.) when the latter was still a child enkindling (sp.) him with the insatiable longing for the illusive and unknowable divine essence of all things. (I believe both these Persian mystics, who of course had great impact on Persian literature, also influenced European writers such as the German Romantic poets? Their work is important to me in terms of its philosophical, political and ethical implications during the period of colonization. But that’s another tag cloud.)

Note the line in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) comparing the advance of the army of celestial angels to the flight of all species of earthly birds flying over Eden to receive their names from the Creator. (This is from “The Argument,” “Sixth Book,” Paradise Lost in Paradise Lost and Regained, by John Milton, [1667 and 1671], at sacred-texts.com

“Ethereal trumpet from on high gan blow.
At which command the Powers Militant
That stood for Heaven, in mighty quadrate joined
Of union irresistible, moved on
In silence their bright legions to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breathed
Heroic ardour to adventurous deeds
Under their godlike leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move,
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,
Nor straitening vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread. As when the total kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing,
Came summoned over Eden to receive
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heaven they marched, and many a province wide,
Tenfold the length of this terrene.”

I actually began my search this morning looking for 100 ways to say “love” in Arabic. This Sunday we will be enlarging our Irish-English-French family to include a beautiful, beloved West Coast daughter through marriage. So along with nurturing the largest sink load of unwashed dishes we’ve had in a while, I’m collecting words that refer to ways of loving. The physical painting I began for them is not going well. I thought I could use some inspiration. Although her family is Persian, I believe that until the last century (?) Persian poets used classical? or pure? Arabic as well as classical? or pure? Farsi. And I know she and I share a deep love for the Seven Valleys Haft-Vádí (1860). The Seven Valleys includes references and/or citations from Attar, Rúmí and Layla and Majnun.
According to Wikipedia, Kurdish poet Nezami (1100s?)’s famous adaptation of the story of Layla and Majnun (Leyli and Madjnun) from Arab folklore reads astonishingly like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I believe that Layla and Majnin are to the East what Romeo and Juliet are to the West? There is even a suggestion that Eric Clapton’s song Layla was inspired by this Arab-Persian-Turkish-Kurd classic.

In my search for 100 words in Arabic for love, I found this site (dairy products? – this I hope is wholesomely apolitical) and I selected these names:

Feminine names in Arabic referring to love
  • ‘Arub, Aroob – Loving to her husband
  • Dalal – Treated or touched in a kind and loving way
  • Dhakirah – One who remembers God frequently
  • Gharam – Love
  • Ghazal – Flirt, words of love
  • Ghaliyah, Ghaaliya – Dear, beloved, fragrant, expensive
  • Habibah, Habeeba – Beloved, sweetheart, darling; a wife of the Prophet
  • Hanan – Mercy; affectionate, loving, tender
  • Hayam, Hayaam – Deliriously in love
  • Hiyam – Love
  • Jawa – Passion, love
  • Kalila – Sweetheart, beloved
  • Mahabbah – Love, affection
  • Mahbubah – Beloved
  • Mawaddah – Affection, love, friendliness
  • Muhibbah – Loving
  • Wid – Loving, affectionate
  • Wisal, Wisaal – Reunion, being together, communion in love
  • Widad, Widaad – Love, friendship
Masculine Names in Arabic referring to love
  • Da’ud, Dawud – Beloved; a Prophet’s name (David)
  • Habbab – Affable, lovable
  • Hamim – Intimate, close friend
  • Kadeen, Kadin – Friend, companion, confidant
  • Kahil – Friend, lover
  • Kamil, Kameel – Perfect; one of the ninety-nine qualities of God
  • Khalil, Khaleel, Kalil – Beautiful, good friend
  • Mahbub – Beloved, dear
  • Muhibb – Loving
  • Khalil al Allah – Friend of God; title given to Prophet Ibrahim
  • Habib – Beloved
  • Safiy – Best friend
  • Wajdi – Of strong emotion, passion and love
My Favourite citations-within-citations from Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.

From the Wikipedia entry on Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

the path of the soul on a spiritual journey passing through different stages, from this world to other realms which are closer to God,[1] as first described by the 12th Century Sufi poet Attar in his Conference of the Birds. Bahá’u’lláh in the work explains the meanings and the significance of the seven stages. In the introduction, Bahá’u’lláh says “Some have called these Seven Valleys, and others, Seven Cities.” The stages are accomplished in order, and the goal of the journey is to follow “the Right Path”, “abandon the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower”, and “gaze on the Beloved”.

The following paragraph from a translation of “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177), also mentions the seven valleys.

“The allegorical framework of the poem is as follows: the birds of the world gather together to seek a king. They are told by the hoopoe that they have a king — the Simorgh — but that he lives far away and the journey to him is hazardous. The birds are at first enthusiastic to begin their search, but when they realize how difficult the journey will be they start to make excuses. The nightingale, for example, cannot leave his beloved; the hawk is satisfied with his position at court waiting on earthly kings; the finch is too afraid even to set out, and so on. The hoopoe counters each of their excuses with anecdotes which show how their desires and fears are mistaken. The group flies a little way, formally adopts the hoopoe as its leader, and then decides to ask a series of questions about the Way before proceeding. These questions are also answered by illustrative anecdotes. The last question is about the length of the journey, and in answer the hoopoe describes the seven valleys of the Way. The journey itself is quickly dealt with and the birds arrive at the court of the Simorgh. At first they are turned back; but they are finally admitted and find that the Simorgh they have sought is none other than themselves. The moment depends on a pun — only thirty (si) birds (morgh) are left at the end of the Way, and the si morgh meet the Simorgh, the goal of their quest. Though Attar treats his material in an entirely different way from Sana’i, it is possible that a shorter poem of Sana’i suggested the device of the birds to him. In Sana’i’s Divan there is a poem in which the different cries of the birds are interpreted as the birds’ ways of calling on or praising God. A second source may have been Kalila and Dimna. This extraordinary popular work, also called The Fables of Bidpai, originated in India and was translated into many languages. The Persian texts of Kalila and Dimna which survie are relatively late prose versions, but Rudaki, who lived early in the tenth century and was one of the first poets to write in Persian, made a verse translation of the work, which Attar could have known. Significantly enough, Rudaki used the same couplet form as Attar was later to use for The Conference of the Birds; but a direct influence is impossible to prove, because all but a few fragments of Rudaki’s poem have been lost. In Kalila and Dimna animals talk and act as humans; the fables usually have a moral point to them, and their narratives are allegories of human characteristics and failings. This is precisely the method of Attar’s Conference of the Birds, and the two works also show a similar kind of folksy humour. Another work which probably influenced Attar when he came to write his poem is the short Arabic treatise The Bird by Avicenna. This is the first-person narrative of a bird (clearly representing the human soul) who is freed from a cage by other birds, and then flies off with his new companions on a journey to the “Great King”. The group flies over eight high mountain peaks before reaching the king’s court; there are a few moments when Attar seems to echo Avicenna’s imagery (For an in-depth paper on The Conference of the Birds see this 1984 publication entitled “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177). ).

[The con”
For an in-depth paper on The Conference of the Birds see “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177).

Del.icio.us Topographies and Tag Clouds An Adobe Photshop image consisting of 5 layered images: my Del.icio.us cloud tag, title layer, google generated 3-D virtual space with branching rivers as metaphors for organically emerging rhizomic pathways,

a miniaturized image of Vancouver, BC’s skyline, the del.icio.us tag cloud image (my first since I began to use this free social bookmarking tech tool) and an altered topographical map of a site where a meteor landed. This final layer was inverted so the meteoric collision with the planet became the sun in this delicious cloud.

‘Folksonomies’ is an organic emerging term in an organic emerging system. Is it perhaps an example of autopoiesis constituting and nurturing its own rhizomic organization? There are economic, political, social as well as ontological and axiological dimensions to the unfolding taxonomy of cyberspace. Tag clouds leave visible trails of a blogger’s inner life. Unlike solitary browsing through library stacks or flipping through pages of a book, internet searching and browsing leaves digital imprints that allow us to retrace where we were yesterday in terms of our understanding of a topic. Theoretically how well we understand a debate or discussion informs how discerning we are in our judgments. Our ethical topography changes as we travel and encounter Others whose ideas and/or values resonate or are in dissonance with our own. Encounters with the stranger, one whose experience differs greatly from our own in some way, provides us with an opportunity to re-evaluate previously held beliefs or assumptions. In welcoming the Stranger in friendship with a heightened degree of hospitality that includes a willingness to tolerate ambiguity temporarily, to briefly at least set aside prejudices, we open ourselves to the possibility of fresh insight that expands for both of us. It is only through the invention of unique terms such as folksonomies, or ethnoclassification or perhaps tag.clouds that I might filter through infinite numbers of blogs on taxonomy and find the like-minded individual who is concerned about the potential emergence of an inclusive taxonomy that somehow includes the more socially vulnerable not as objects of charity but as fully participating members in civil society.