Between October 1994 and May 1995, my manuscript circulated to three publishing companies: Oxford UP, Cambridge UP, and the University of California Press. In early May, the manuscript was rejected by Oxford, but I still hoped for the best from the other two. In the meantime, during the 1994-95 academic year, I had become increasingly involved with computer-mediated communication, and attended a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa on telecommunications in education. During that trip, Liz and I started talking about a course which combined applied and theoretical approaches to explore the impact of technology on society. Out of that extended conversation evolved a Media Studies course--Media Studies 113 (Emerging Digital Technology)--which was offered at Malaspina in January 1996. Media Studies 113 was a Skills Now pilot project using video-conferencing, team teaching, shared applications, on-line newsgroup, electronic transmission of documents, hypertext authoring and Web-site construction. This course was planned, articulated, and accepted by Skills Now as a pilot course before I left on a tour of Europe with my wife Donna.
It's early May 1995. My manuscript is circulating. My immediate academic interests have shifted towards computing in education, and I hope to do some writing on issues related to drama, media, and improvisation. I buy a Powerbook 180 to take with me, and decide not to take my Canon FTB SLR camera--too heavy--hich turns out to be a big mistake, because I planned to take photographs of graffiti and distressed posters in every major city we visited. (By the time we reached Florence, the small auto-focus camera we had was not working well enough, so I bought a used (heavy) Canon EF to use for photography.)
An amazing city: pretty and dirty, morally upright and carnivalesque. Here we meet and stay with Dr. Laurens Winkle (a friend of a friend) , a judge and professor of law at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. We meet Luc Sala and Yolanda Ooyens at Mystèr 2000, an internet café, then we arrange to stay in Yolanda's apartment while we make an academic assessment for a student completing a degree at Antioch University. Under Luc Sala's influence, we try brain wave modulation hardware, attend the Internet 95 Conference in Utrecht, and test virtual architecture systems.
Amsterdam: jazz and paintings and graffiti and street theatre. We begin to read The European newspaper once a week, a habit we continue for the next six months. For two and a half weeks, neither of us take the tram. We walk everywhere, often in the rain. At the Rijsmuseum, an amazing painting of Salomé by Carel Fabricius gets under my skin, and I begin seeking out paintings on the subject of Salomé in the rest of the museums and galleries we visit. I find a few decent shots of distressed posters.
Salzburg, Austria (June 30--July 2): It is the middle of a holiday music festival, and the streets are crowded with bands playing and people partying. Across the city, in the square adjacent to the cathedral, German students sing beautifully. We see Cartier-Bresson photography exhibit, Kurt Switters collages, and run across another reference to the legendary Austrian theatre personality, Hermann Nitsch.
Stuttgart (July 2--July 6): The advanced robotics of the Mercedes Benz factory leave a lasting impression. Jurgen Baur, manager of the Stuttgart Jugendgastenhaus, suggests that we propose a student exchange with Malaspina students with the goal of exploring cultural stereotypes between Canadians and Germans. Atom Egoyan's Next of Kin is playing in an art cinema. The photography exhibit, Stuttgart: Between Bombing and Ruins, like The Bitter Years in Prague, commemorates the 50th anniversary of V-E day with an appalling vision of destruction and an inspiring testimony to human resiliance. The Stattsgalleri has a comprehensive retrospective of painter Paul Klee, and an excellent collection of contemporary painting and constructions.
Freiburg (July 6--9): Another music festival animates this old university town: we see performances by percussionist Babette Haag, folk singer and entertainer Lenard Bardell, and the Saxophone Quartet Basel.
Schluchsee (Swartzwald) (July 9-13): We meet the Fischer family from East Berlin, hike in the Black Forest, and travel with the Fischers to Islen Mainau, and the Rhein Falls, Switzerland. We have many discussions on the reunification of Germany.
Arles (July 17th): International Photography exhibit in over fifteen different venues inspires me to exhibit my own photography. Concurrently, a sound and radio exhibit called "Babel" demonstrates some interesting aural artifacts. I meet a couple from Marseille who have set up an Internet café in a local restaurant; I rent some time on their computers to check my e-mail and send some messages. Here, in Arles, in a short note from Mike Matthews, I learn that Morris Donaldson has died of a heart attack. After we see a Spanish-style bullfight in the Roman colliseum, I write "Death in Arles."
Paris provides endless artistic stimulation. Highlights include: art stamps on rue des Trois Frères; Mud, a play by Maria Irene Fornes in a vaulted, underground Théâtre Nesle; bombings on the metro; excellent Paris radio; exhibits by Chagall, Picasso, Louise Bourgeoise. We have dinner with Marie-Claude Cassegrain (public relations) and her son Jérôme, a painter, whom we met in Arles. We spend time with Cynthia MacPherson, a jazz singer, we met in a previous visit to Paris five years ago. She introduces us to a corner of the Paris jazz scene, and I am able to explore my interest in musical improvisation with some talented practioners. At the new Parc de la Villette, we see Ray Lema in concert, where we meet Kathy Kidd and her partner/manager Ron. (Later, at dinner, Kathy and Ron tell us about the business of being jazz perfomers in Paris, Morroco, and Vancouver.) The Cité des Sciences et de L'Industrie at the Parc du Villette has impressive exhibits on communications, computers, the senses, etc. A visit to the Louvre reveals more images of Salomé. Brancusi and Robert Morris exhibits at the Centre Pompidou. A visit to Versailles inspires us to further our knowledge of French history.
Altogether, our month long stay in Paris provides an opportunity for writing in artistically stimulating surroundings. While Paris theatre is somewhat disappointing in the off-season, I have some good opportunities to explore the improvisation theme with musicians, and I come away with many photos of graffiti art and distressed posters.
While Donna tours the Bourgogne vinyards around Beaune, I visit the exhibits on the photography innovator Jules Etienne Marey, a scientist fascinated with recording movement, who developed the technique of chronophotography, and one of Beaune's native sons.
The next day--September 1st--we take the train to Lyon to meet with a painter friend whom we will stay with in the small village of Buis-les-Barronies in the lee of Mont Ventoux: the heart of Provence. The markets amaze with their selection of meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. The ambiance of this historic medieval village , surrounded by exotic scenery, is inspirational: lavender, sage, rosemary, olives, red wine, goat cheese covered in ash.
Monterosso, Italy (Sept 9th): A picturesque town in the Cinque Terre region of the Italian riviera. Hiking along narrow paths to Vernazza, swimming, reading, writing in a small apartment a couple of blocks from the beach. The Powerbook is doing well in the new power grid of Italy. In a restaurant, an elderly Brit exhorts us to "Remember the classical world! Remember Greece and Rome!" As we have so often done in our travels, we take the next best advice we receive and act on it. We plan our trip to Firenze while we bath in the splendour of Monterosso.
Siena (Sept. 16th): A vibrant, spiritual city of great beauty. St. Catharine had her visions here. We meet two German tourists, Andreas and Klaudia from Oberhausen, and accept their invitation to tour the Chianti wine growing region on the way to San Gemignano, the "Manhatten of Toscana." For a couple of days, we enjoy the company of Andreas and Klaudia, talk about wine, food, and German culture (at our insistence).
Venice (Sept. 19th): The Venice Biennale is hosted in many magnificent venues throughout the "city of mazes." The Doges Palace, for example, has a retrospective of 100 years of biennali, once considered a trend-setting exhibit of international painting, photography and sculpture. The main event is held in the Giardini di Castello, in pavillions for participating nations. We spend the whole day here. Particularly memorable for me are the large photomontages of Venezuelan Paulo Gasparini and Australian Bill Henson, video/sound scultures by Bill Viola (U.S.), and Romanian sculptures. We discover an outdoor performance of traditional commedia dell'arte--Il Trionfo di Zanni--in the mysterious Campo Pisani. (Even the Venetians can't tell us where it is because there are more than one Campi Pisani!) Even though the dialogue is in Italian, the skill of the actors and the virtues of the performance genre are obvious. This is a rare opportunity for me to see this dramatic form (besides Avignon) in somewhat traditional setting. We eat in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice for a couple of nights, partly for the food, partly for the lively evening concerts and political rallies.
Capri. (Oct. 1st): A short ferry ride takes us from Sorrento to the picturesque Isle of Capri. We stay at the quiet Villa Eva in Anacapri: the vegetation is extravagant and colourful, the swimming pool is crystal clear. Naples flares in the brilliant too-lovely night air. I'm reading The Thin Man (Hammett), The New Italians by Charles Richards. I swim into the Grotto Azzurra, and hike up to Villa Juvé, the retreat of the Emperor Tiberius.
Konya. ()ct. 16th): The Mevlana Museum, the shrine of Rumi, is considered to be the home of the Sufis, or Whirling Dervishes. Konya is a devout city, without alcohol of any kind, and incredibly musical when the muzzeins call out their prayers.
Cappadocia (Mustafapasha, Goreme, Urgup & Ihlara Valley.) We rent a car for five days in Konya for a trip to the central highlands of Turkey. We visit a famous caravansarai at Sultanhani. Cappadocia is reknowned for its exotic landscapes of weathered lava which became the home of 8th & 9th C. Christian communities in exile. We visit the Pancarlik church and monastary, and the Balkanlar kilise (with the oldest frescoes in Cappadocia), all carved out of the soft rock. Many of the churches have colourful frescoes, though most are defaced (literally, by scratching out the eyes and facial features) to effect a religious change. We visit an underground city in Derinkuyu, hike the length of the Ihlara Valley, exploring the Christian churches and cliff dwellings, and try an ancient Turkish bath fed by natural hot springs and with unforgettable acoustic properties.
Istanbul. (Oct. 23--29): After we drop the car off in Konya, it is a 12 hour bus ride to Istanbul, a city which has grown from 1.6 million in 1960 to 12 million today. Our accommodation is in the Sultanahmet district, the old city, home of famous mosques and vibrant bazaars. Interesting graffiti around Istanbul University. The idea of a palette of colours representative of a city comes to me. We visit Topkapi Palace, the Harem, and the excellent small art gallery. The city provides an education in Islamic art and culture: the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, the Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque, Rustem Pasha mosque, the Aya Sophia. We discover interesting Turkish music and graffiti in Taksim district. The city prepares for the national Ataturk celebrations.
While one of my goals for my leave was to explore varieties of writing--thus the Powerbook and the journal--I was also able to educate my eyes, and develop a wider appreciation of art (and Beauty.) I'd have to say I was disappointed in the amount of theatre I was able to see. For this medium, language proved to be a practical barrier. On the other hand, I was steeped in a mediated world, and the whole trip was an invaluable study in the media: from the way the news was reported, to the focus of the analysis, to the way different cultures used their media differently. The subject of my dissertation being improvisation, I was naturally drawn to any demonstration of improvised behaviour: cultural anthropology field work. My writing records some of these encounters, I sketch out the incidents in my journals, and I record the visual improvisation of distressed posters and graffiti. I returned with hundreds of photographs of torn and defaced posters from all over Europe (and Turkey). I have scheduled a show of these photographs, digitally reproduced, in the Nanaimo Art Gallery in April 1997. I learned to see theatre in the streets, and the continuum between photography and history. Photography was probably the big surprise: there were strong exhibits almost everywhere we went.
My knowledge of improvisation improved with exposure to jazz, commedia dell'arte, street theatre, improvisational acting, painting, photography, and writing. I have returned with many writing projects underway, which now require that I have time to develop and polish them up for publication.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this report, when I began this trip my academic interests were becoming more focused on the common ground between drama and media studies, an area I have come to think of as performance studies. This trip provided me with many opportunities to explore this interface: computer conferences (Graz and Utrecht), Internet Cafés, mobile computing, virtual reality, brain wave technologies, photography and technology exhibits, robotics (Mercedes Benz), radio, telephone (!), e-mail, ftp, popular culture, advertising, posters, newspapers, television reporting, video art, film, business reporting, oral histories, transportation systems, politics, archeology, music of all kinds, festivals (Avignon, Arles, Salzburg, Frieburg, Paris, Venice, Prague), drama and opera (New York, Prague, Graz, Avignon, Paris, Venice).
When I arrived back in Nanaimo in mid-November, I had a great deal of preparation to do for the Media Studies 113 course since it required that I consolidate my current knowledge on digital communications and prepare myself to instruct in a video-conferenced classroom using on-line facilities such as e-mail, newsgroups, hypernews, the Internet, and HTML. Many times since returning, I have considered how much I could have used another semester to finish writing projects I have started, including pursuing the publication of the Sam Shepard project more actively. However, the leave provided me with an opportunity to develop my academic interests in a variety of important directions, not the least of which concerns notions of performance which are as relevant to drama as they are to media studies. Given that I will be teaching both drama (English 437) and media studies (Media 111, 113, and 212) in the 1996-97 year, I consider my experiences to be invaluable to my work as an instructor. Finally, I hope that I will be able to continue my writing projects now that the Spring 1996 semester is finished.