Heads in Jars

By Katie Smith

If you’ve ever wanted to see Stephen Harper’s head in a jar, this summer you will have the opportunity to. Well, sort of.

Halifax artist Bonita Hatcher is creating a satirical, political opera featuring Prime Minister Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, where images of their heads are captured in jars and made to look like they are singing to each other.

The project is based on a technical concept called projection mapping, in which the projection surface becomes a part of the piece itself as the projected imagery is “mapped” or shaped by the features of the surface.

Large jars filled with water that have been dyed with white paint will create an opaque finish that can be used as a canvass on which to project images, Hatcher explained, adding how the shape of the container then shapes the image by allowing it to bend to its contours.

Hatcher said she liked the idea of creating something political that could be spun in a way most people would be able to access on some level.

“I think there is something interesting in the fact that common, ordinary people can clearly see through the layers of official and political antics, while the “elite” seem to be completely unaware of the nonsensical nature of it.”

Hatcher said artists don’t want to make pure political propaganda, but for those who believe it’s an artist’s job to stir up discussion of serious socially conscious topics, it’s sometimes hard to avoid propaganda and that can be frustrating.

“I think sometimes the most effective ways to penetrate social-political topics is via the injection of satire,” she said. “My concepts are more about being a bit cheeky. I wanted this work to be fun to do and fun to watch,” she said.

“In choosing subject matter the already laughable antagonistic relationship between Harper and Trudeau was just ripe, she said, adding the amount of time, money and public debate over the issue of marijuana seems a lot less pressing than many of the urgent social and economical issues facing our country.”

Bonita Hatcher with her shaved beaver. Submitted photo.

 Hatcher is no stranger to politically-charged art, having created pieces in the past such as Laid Bare – a shaved taxidermy beaver. This was part of a show curated by Becka Viau, Sovereignty, which focuses on the notion of Canada’s sovereignty.

Viau, who is also the co-coordinator for Art in the Open, thinks Hatcher’s piece is fitting for this year’s festival, considering this year marks 150 years since the Charlottetown Conference.

“Bonita’s installation will bring elements of science-fiction and political satire. As we are celebrating the 1864 conference, a little bit of fun political engagement seems appropriate,” she said. “Her multimedia installations tackle current issues by adding a splash of Comedy to the serious.”

Art in the Open, a festival that highlights Charlottetown’s visual art scene, downtown heritage spaces, exhibition venues and diverse cultural traditions, will take place August 23 from 4 p.m. to midnight. For more information, visit www.artintheopenpei.com.

[Published article can be found here: http://www.buzzon.com/index.php/news-articles/arts/21027-heads-in-jars ]

A Letter to Whomever Re: Crack Alley


Charlottetown, May 2, 2014, 1:05 a.m.

This one goes out to Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee, the Charlottetown City Councilors and the Charlottetown Police Department.


My name is Katie Smith and I live on Euston Street. I am writing this letter to explain why I refer to this part of town as “Crack Alley” and why it’s becoming rather embarrassing when people ask me where I hang my hat.

Tonight, like many nights, I awoke to what sounded like bottles smashing, and several people – adults, no less – screaming like lunatics outside my window. They often walk back and forth, not going anywhere. Or they just hang out near the end of our driveway, drinking, yelling and carrying on. They live and hang out next door and are constantly causing a disturbance.

The Police Department is well aware of this house, as on many occasions there’s been at least one or two police cars parked outside, and officers at the door talking to the tenants. Tonight was no exception. After a few minutes of the screaming and yelling, a police car pulls up. Since I wasn’t able to sleep, I decided to look out the window for a few minutes (hey, it’s better than TV!) to see what was going on. I could hear one man screaming while he ran around the corner to an even sketchier part of Crack Alley, while two officers ran after him. All the while, this girl – let’s call her excitable – this excitable girl was screaming crazy nonsense. Now, I know this girl is definitely smoking something a-la-Rob-Ford because I served her last year at the restaurant I used to work at and she and her as equally shady friend walked out on their bill (and left their table in a state you might only expect from a willful, misbehaved child). I confronted her one day when I saw her outside my house and she was apologetic and started rambling on and on about something crazy. She was clearly an unstable disaster, so I let her be.


Anyway, the officers caught up with the man and put him in the car. I then heard one officer call him “Leonard” and ask him if there were any warrants out for his arrest. He must have said no, because the officer said, “Ok, anything else?” or something along those lines. “Just like in the movies,” I thought. I mean, that’s obviously protocol. Chase a guy, catch him, put him in the back of the police car, and trust he will tell you the truth about pending warrants and prior arrests. Why wouldn’t the officer believe him?

After this display of due diligence, a paddy wagon pulls up and one of the officers said, “It’s all taken care of, we got it” (again, not verbatim) and then they appeared to have a chit-chat. Probably about the weather, as it was still raining a little from the storm earlier. At this point I lost interest and decided to write to you fine folk.

Here’s another fun instance for you – One night this winter two men came out of the house next door screaming at each other. I went to the window to see what the stir was, and then they started grappling and fall on the ground. One gentleman gets up and starts punching and kicking the other gentleman. I finally yelled down for them to get out of there when the man standing skull-fucks* the other man.
*Pardon the foul language, but I’m pretty sure when a boot makes contact with a head, it’s called skull-fucking. Am I right?!

I’m sure the aforementioned incidents are fairly common around the mean streets of Charlottetown so they in no way have led me to calling my ‘hood Crack Alley. Well, I shouldn’t say they weren’t a factor in my labelling. The neighbours and their friends don’t seem quite right. I’m pretty certain most of them don’t have jobs. I know they are at least considered suspicious by the police department. And they constantly roam the streets at all hours of the day and night, screaming, fighting and breaking stuff.

So why, then, do I write this letter and call my neighbourhood Crack Alley? Well, I’ll tell you why.

My roommate and his two little girls were walking out our door to their car, when one guy from the pack of ne’er-do-wells came up to ask him if he wanted to buy some crack, you know, to be thoughtful and considerate. You can never have enough crack, apparently. He was just being neighbourly, really. Oh, I misspoke, he actually said, “You want some fucking crack?” Fucking. Crack.

After hearing that, my suspicions were confirmed: We live next door to crack heads. What is this place? Crack Alley or something? Indeed it is.

Ok, that’s my piece. Since you’re probably pretty sure my neighbours are at the very least really bad drunks and even more likely using and/or dealing crack, and who cause a LOT of disturbance, I ask you, what are you going to do about this problem?

I don’t feel totally safe here, and to be honest, I worry our cars will get smashed. You never know. What if Leonard is out and about again one night and is trying to throw a bottle at someone’s head, but misses his target and hits my car? Not cool, Leonard. Not cool at all.

Well, I guess it’s time to end this rant because unlike Leonard & Co., I must get up for work in the morning.



Katie Smith