The first event of Whistler's 20th annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) is State of the Art — a 10-day, 930-sq.-m. pop-up gallery showcasing over 50 artists and hundreds of pieces. State of the Art doesn't seem to collect as much hype as some of the other WSSF events, but as the local art scene explodes (remember when there were only six non-landscape artists in town and they all worked at Toad Hall?), it is fast becoming one of the most important and interesting events on the calendar.
"I feel like the lifestyle here attracts artistic types," says show curator Ace MacKay-Smith. "Sports like skiing or biking, you're picking a line, inventing tricks...you need to be creative to survive here, too.
"There's a lot of creative financing and creative management of time."
Ace led a selection jury of six people and says that while this year's show includes artists from Toronto and Washington State, the majority are B.C. mountain locals.
So to celebrate art and artists this week, we're running a list of excellent art documentaries available on Netflix or Topdocumentaryfilms.com (Note: if you are not running the American Netflix, you are missing out and some of these flicks will be unavailable. So get creative).
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
This one gets top billing because it's a brilliant film that happens to be about art. Made by legendary secretive street artist/prankster-genius Banksy, this one mixes incredible archival footage with a film-within-a-film-within-a-role-reversal-mindbender that leaves the viewer wondering if we've just been had and if the entire concept of 'art' as we know it might just be total bullshit.
For No Good Reason (2014)
British artist Ralph Steadman is best known for his illustrations on Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and other works) but his surreal, controversial and often nightmarish images and style stand on their own and span a much broader career. This flick sees Steadman and Thompson-protégé Johnny Depp teaming up to reminisce, while the filmmakers animate some of Ralph's work and showcase his process from start to finish.
Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry (2012)
This one played last year at one of the (always incredible) Whistler Arts Council movie nights, but in case you missed it, Ai Wei Wei seems to be China's most celebrated shit-disturber. After gaining world recognition for his work designing "The Bird's Nest" stadium for the Beijing games, Wei Wei shifted gears and achieved notoriety (and some jail time) for more politically provocative work. As an uncompromising artist, Wei Wei has reached the point where he simply has to come up with ideas and his team of assistants will do the actual hands-on work. Must be nice.
Style Wars (1983)
Much (most?) of the work at the State of the ART show this year will, knowingly or not, owe something to the graffiti movement that rose out of New York during the early days of hip hop. A simple flick about kids painting subway trains (illegally and almost entirely without public support), Style Wars was the outside world's first glimpse of a subculture of an art form and means of expression that would eventually change the world.
A History of Art in Three Colours (2012)
Local master of colour Chili Thom recommends this three-part BBC documentary that provides an in-depth look at the colours gold, blue and white from the art of the Middle Ages onwards. "It's super interesting," Chili says. "Like how blue first came from crushed up Lapis Lazuli stone and how the Catholic Church took control of the pigment. It was deemed so divine that only Mary was allowed to be painted wearing blue and for a while they made blue paint more expensive than gold."
This one is on YouTube.
Art of Conflict (2014)
Vince Vaughn (Swingers) and his sister made this doc about the history of Belfast's political murals, and the use of public art to convey information, attitudes and political viewpoints during the civil war in Ireland. It's heavy on history alongside the art, but that only makes it more interesting.
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Photography is a huge part of Whistler culture and fashion will play a role at this year's State of the ART (local stitch-wizard Angela Cooney's has work in the show) so this flick is great for fans of either. For decades Bill Cunningham photographed fashion trends of regular people on the streets and among the inner circle of NYC high society for columns in the New York Times. As a character study this flick is fantastic as Cunningham, in true artist style, is nothing like the flashy, narcissistic industry he so expertly captures and influences.
Back in Whistler, the opening party for State of the ART is Friday, April 10, (and it will be a party) and the snappiest film event of the year, the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, hits screens on Wednesday, April 15. Local crews always put in a strong showing so get out and support the locals at both events, taking place at the Whistler Conference Centre. Art!