Artist Franke James has Harper quaking in fear

If Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is this frightened, then we can only assume that the visual artist from Toronto, Franke James, is THAT scary!

As reported most recently in the Toronto Star, the Canadian government - so often now referred to as the “Harper government” - stands accused of trying to block a presentation of James’s art in capitals across Europe. And in a way, who can blame them? The official Canadian position these days is that toxic stuff is good for you (or good for us - and who really cares about you?). Whether it’s “ethical oil” dredged out of the tar sands in one of the most environmentally damaging variations of any oil exploitation, or asbestos, peddled to any impoverished nation still so desperate as to use it, Canada is officially in the poison-for-profit business. When some lippy woman stands up and suggests that this is a bad thing, it makes the government look - well, like shills for dirty industries - and it compromises the chances that those dirty industries have of enjoying even greater profit. No wonder Stephen Harper’s henchpeople refer to James as “that woman!”

The funny part about all this is that Franke James is anything but a conventional rabble rouser. It’s hard to call someone “girlish” these days without courting an anti-feminist image, but Franke James, personally and in her bright, brilliant, quirky and sometimes childlike art, is brimming with the kind of naive optimism that prompts certain 14-year-old females to dot their ‘i’s with little hearts. She’s the kind of person who could ask, with complete sincerity and no hint whatever of sarcasm, why everyone can’t just be nice to one another.

She has asked - pointedly and repeatedly - why the “Harper government” can’t be nice, or at the very least passingly responsible, to the Canadian and global environment. And while Harper’s minions would like to pass this off as a “silly” question, it’s a silly question that they can’t answer. More, it’s a question they plainly fear.

So Canadian embassies across Europe are declining what would be garden-variety support otherwise due to any artist that had attracted enough attention to win a tour across the continent. More insidiously, it appears that they may have been bluntly interfering, making intimidating/compromising approaches to the Nektarina Non-Profit that had tried to mount the James tour and discouraging private-sector funders from underwriting the show.

The scoop on Stephen Harper, even among those who find his politcs abhorent, is that he is an incredibly smart guy. He works hard. He remembers everything he reads. And he has a political instinct that has enabled him to consolidate the top spot in Canadian government - for what may turn out to be four very long years. So, again, if Stephen Harper is afraid of Franke James, she must be doing something powerful - something that the smartest politician thinks he can’t manage if it moves into the public and international realm.

So, the only thing to do is to click on Franke James’s website and entertain yourself with one or several of her fabulous visual essays. Go back and read the story about what happened when she asked another, now famously silly question: Why can’t I dig up my driveway and plant flowers? Then send links of those essays to everyone in your address book.

And if you know someone with a budget, let’s try to round up support for a Franke James tour in Canada and the U.S., as well. About this issue, Stephen Harper can’t be wrong. And on every other issue, Franke James looks suspiciously right.


Setting aside the debate about whether Canada is still a nice country, I personally view it through this parallel…

Is dirty tar sand oil okay because, really, Canada is such a nice country most of the time?

Is your daughter’s sexual assault okay because, really, that neighbour kid is such a nice boy most of the time?

Well of course you can always buy blood soaked foreign oil. Youll love buying Nigerian oil the most, its way bloodier than Canadian oil.

Easy to complain about bad old Harper and bad old Canada. But it all amounts to a bunch of empty words. When you fill up your gas tank, you vote for the tar sands.

Very few people are willing to unplug from the grid and trade in their suv for a bicycle.

Whining about how it’s somebody else’s fault while you fully participate in the system you condemn is what’s really going on here.

Perhaps the artist might consider turning her back on the evil money grubbing world and move into the forest.

It’s not a fair game when the alternatives are being quashed.

How would anyone know?
Do you have an electric car?
Why aren’t they affordable?
“Mountain Man” (or “Mountain Woman”)isn’t the only alternative, if it didn’t appeal to you.
Most of the real alternatives involve reconnecting with our communities: growing our own food, and walking to the neighbours.
Does that scare you?

@Rick James, Perhaps you might inform yourself before you speak, by reading some of Franke James’ work, where she describes in detail, the steps she has taken to “unplug”, not drive, etc. If you and all of us behaved more like her, our world might have a chance.

“When you fill up your gas tank, you vote for the tar sands.”

How does this statement make any logical sense. I for one am quite happy to pay more for non oils sands gasoline.

Well okay if that was possible but you would still have the ethical burden of regular oil. The only way out is to become a mountain man. Otherwise you’re just like me - part of the problem.

“How does this statement make any logical sense. I for one am quite happy to pay more for non oils sands gasoline.”

The logic is that tar sands gasoline is mixed with foreign blood soaked gasoline. Good luck separating it.

Thanks for writing this, James! I think it’s a vital issue in the creeping restrictions that have become our Canada. Both Art & the Environment are under attack by the HarperGov. But even more important, so are our civil liberties.
So please ask everyone to sign the petition here, to stand up for Freedom of Expression AND for Franke’s Art show: