Trevor Abes: Writer

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #12: Suddenly Playgrounds Everywhere

Beulah Fandango, unemployed millennial, mails her cover letter and resume for the position of Panhandler, intersection of Yonge Street and King Street, in Toronto’s downtown core. Two weeks pass and she receives the following response.

Dear Miss Fandango,

After careful review of your experience and skills, we would like to offer you the corners of Yonge Street and King Street for a probationary panhandling period of three months.

Please see Bert Dorham on top of the subway ventilation grate in front of Old City Hall on Wednesday, September 17th at 7 a.m. for basic training.

Welcome to the team!

The Broken, Beaten, and the Damned

Beulah tells her parents how happy she is to have someone take a chance on her.

Materials — paper, ink, actors, old clothes, house in affluent neighbourhood.

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #11: Autostereograms

Sidney Tinsley marries May San Porter, his first girlfriend, when they’re both 23 and halfway through medical school. By the time they’re doctors, neither remembers who Katy Perry is, which wars are being waged, or whether maple and bacon donuts are still a thing.

Though the couple work in the same hospital, they only see each other for a half-hour lunch frequently interrupted by death’s intermittent emergences. Sidney and May devise a project to feel closer than work allows. One that gives them a story to share each night before bed. They asks each patient that passes through their offices a simple question: can I take your portrait?

If yes, the patient is asked to stand behind a large, framed pane of museum glass, on a stool made of transparent tubing. The stool’s see-through look over a white wall background makes it easier to remove in post-production in Gimp or Photoshop. The given doctor then snaps the patient’s picture after prompting them with a backwards count from three and files it categorically by ailment — from abdominal pain to Kabuki syndrome to zinc toxicity. Over the decades and into senior citizenship, these tableaux make up May and Sidney’s Autostereograms.

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #10: Look, I’m John Baldessari; No, Wait, I’m Richard Prince

jeans shoes pic

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #9: People Drink In My Neighbourhood

June Pyncher, freelance seat filler, is forced to find work in a different field after an acne breakout causes her to fall out of favour with award-season theatre managers. It spreads to her back and shoulders, developing resistance to all the infomercial treatments she can afford. June takes long walks to ward off depression, untie the knots in her neck, and because her mother told her the sun is nature’s disinfectant. The further she feels from the Emmys and the Oscars, the closer she is able to observe her immediate surroundings. She photographs some of what she sees and sells it for a living wage at community art fairs. Her most famous piece is a triptych called People Drink In My Neighbourhood





People Drink In My Neighbourhood

The Illustrated Life: An Interview With Writer, Illustrator and Cartoonist Salgood Sam

Salgood Sam is a prolific and beloved figure in Canadian comics. Here’s the link to our chat on The Rusty Toque

salgood view shot

If On A Winter’s Night Michael DeForge: Redefining The Horror Comic In A Kim-Kardashianized World

“If On A Winter’s Night Michael DeForge” is my first op-ed for Sequential: Canadian Comix News and Culture. It’s about Toronto-based comics artist Michael DeForge (Ant Colony, Adventure Time) and his very particular use of horror. Have a read.

If on a winter's night Michael DeForge on Sequential comix


The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #8: In Your Hair

Wherein the author speculates about the future of conceptual art in the name of the Christie’s, the Charles Saatchi, the Holy Sotheby’s, Steve Wynn


Maude Marie, nozzle-fastener at Rugged Thuggin’ Shampoos, slips through a dodgy safety bar into a vat of Hustler’s Honeydew that is, thankfully, on the cooler side of hot. Rendered unusable due to health and safety violations, Maude accepts the vat — plus bottles, which she has to fill herself, as well as an undisclosed settlement — and distributes its contents to anyone willing to 1) gift her their picture, and 2) notify her when their supply, limited to two bottles, is done. These strangers, friends and family members integrate Hustler’s Honeydew into their basic toiletries and use it up over a period of three years


The day after the last lather, rinse, repeat, Maude tiles the bathers’ pictures on 10ft.x7ft. canvases. They are superimposed with and ordered from oldest to newest by the snail mail, phone calls, texts and social media messages she received from those who benefited from her “clumsiness.” She calls the series In Your Hair and shows it in the first gallery to agree to have working portable showers as part of the display.

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #7: Study for a Crayon Resist Drawing

Wherein the author speculates about the future of conceptual art in the name of the Christie’s, the Charles Saatchi, the Holy Sotheby’s, Steve Wynn


Tony Athabasca, miner, is haunted by the cell phones his labours provide the raw materials for. His pickaxe rings against rock faces and loosens their likenesses until earthly provenance begins to fade. He wheelbarrows cracked features into the backs of trucks and they return reshaped into invisible connective tissue. Tissue anchored by radio receivers, use of which distends and fractures his own likeness. He sees his labours’ effect on himself and others as the communications version of a dental cheek-retractor on how we are seen, how we resemble ourselves, and how we get across to one another


Tony takes to pocketing rocks. One day coltan, next day cassiterite, frequently wolframite, seldom gold. The armed guards haven’t the fussy, millimetrical focus to notice 30 or 40 missing grams. He stores them in stacks of plastic bags that come to occupy his modest closet. When he can no longer slide the door open to add more, he moves on to the laundry sink, bath, cupboards, toilet, until his personal space is glimmering with minerals. He packs up and leaves only when the remaining pathway is that between his bed and the front door; he fills the gaps as he walks backwards and locks the door with a blackened hand


After days of silence, Tony’s girlfriend visits unannounced. She cups her hands over her eyes and peers through the living room window. She dials his cell. It rings from somewhere inside.

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #6: Selling, I’m Afraid

Newman Fritsch, longtime floor manager at Forever Ever Engravings, sits down for his break and flips through shop records of past engravings. The banality of his customers’ chosen words reveals within him a desire to bring dignity back to the commemorative refrain. He copies the most singular engravings in a notebook he travels with to write things in and forget about them. 


Come the weekend, Newman purchases a camcorder from Best Buy to film a series of commercials for YouTube called Selling, I’m Afraid. They feature successions of previously engraved texts in a white sans-serif font over a black background. They end with a tagline and the shop’s name. He explains the occasions for the etchings in parentheses.


Receipt in hand, Newman returns the camcorder for a full refund on Monday afternoon



The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #5: Djinn and Tonic

Finn Leigh, bike courier, is a stone’s throw from the end of a 10-mile delivery when his exercise high turns into a medical emergency. His heart stops mid pedal. In the instant it takes for it to start again — by a massive, last-ditch suicide mission by fluid redistribution on the part of surrounding cells — he is visited by a genie, embodied as a bartender with a wool cap and soul patch. The genie removes glasses and bottles from behind his station and demonstrates how to prepare his world’s version of a famous Earth cocktail. Revered for its mental regeneration properties and tangy aftertaste, the djinn and tonic calls for two parts Canada Dry to one part smokeless flame, the latter derived from the genie as are the beans in Black Ivory Coffee. Finn comes to upon his first sip and swerves to miss an oncoming street sweeper. His brain feels tongue-scraped. He calls his mother and never speaks of the experience again for he intuits no art within it


But maybe you do

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #4: Snow Globes

Samara Rafferty, summer camp counsellor/Christmas store cashier, is gifted a Balsam fir tree by her boss, whose teenage son neglected to water it for an uncertain number of days during what he claimed to be his “greatest text ever.” Samara takes the gaunt, shedding specimen home convinced that its outward appearance betrays its abundance of life. She installs it in her living-dining-bed room, turns on the TV, and lies down to sleep. A program about irresponsible home ownership teaches her that harvested Christmas trees contain roughly thirty-thousand organisms and bids her a good night.

Samara spends seven minutes searching the internet for the correct term for fluorescent dyes used in chemistry to mark cells and molecules. The word is ‘fluorophore.’ She makes some calls and secures a few milligrams of it as well as time in a lab large enough to store her burgeoning Balsam.

For the next two years, with brief periods of respite, she isolates and marks 27,873 very small creatures from the roots to the tips of her tree’s needle-like leaves with a brilliant blue dye. Rather than releasing them back onto the Balsam, Samara places them by the thousand in microscopic-glass vitrines quarter filled with fertile soil and sprinkled with seeds from the Balsam’s cones. She displays them as Snow Globes in a local gallery that expressed excitement at the idea of a show in the dark.

The New Frontiers of Conceptual Art #3: Carnival Games

Gabe Lawson, a former fruit farmer and whisperer, arrives at his longstanding stall at the Mel Lastman Square Farmers Market with two sacks of rotten golden delicious apples. He lines them up procession-style in orderly lines and flicks his Closed sign open. The night before, Gabe shot each apple with BBs made from melting down their market price in coins — $1.20 — which he charges the public to guess the assorted denominations lodged in the fruit of their choice. Losers’ money goes into a communal jackpot.


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