Clint Burnham

Clint Burnham is a Vancouver writer and teacher. Burnham is the author of numerous books, including Airborne Photo (1999), and The Jamesonian Unconscious (1995). His latest book, Smoke Show, a novel, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2005. Burnham has written on such artists as Ian Wallace, Tim Lee, and Theodore Wan, and he is a freelance art critic for the Vancouver Sun.


  • Up and Down: Downtown Eastside Architecture

    March 15–April 19, 2003

    Arni Haraldsson’s photographs of buildings in the Downtown Eastside show us that to understand this neighbourhood and its politics and its fate, you must understand architecture. Shot from public and private spaces with the aid of local residents, these photographs show us a neighbourhood we didn’t know existed: a beautiful and stately procession of century-old hotels. Landmarks like the Carnegie, the Empress, and the Regal are given their due, and that staple of film noir, the alley, is provided for our edification. But this exhibition does not shy away from the seamier side of the DES, and grimy gated condos are shown in all their tired gentrification chic. Accompanying the exhibition will be a set of postcards, with Haraldsson’s photographs on one side and texts ­ imaginary messages ­by Burnham, on the other side. Taking on the voices of various DESers ­from tourists and the police to activists and residents, artists and workers—­these messages explicitly connect Haraldsson’s imagery with the social context of the neighbourhood: the language of architecture and the architecture of language.

    Born in Iceland and based in Vancouver since 1979, Arni Haraldsson has been exhibiting his work nationally and internationally since the the mid-1980s. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia in 1990, and currently teaches at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Since the late-1980s, ths scope of Haraldsson’s photographic work has expanded from an exploration of the lost aspirations of the utopian principle of modernism to an emphasis on the design and social life of the city. His interest in the city as subject centres on the the notion of urban space as a type of monad which encapsulates the characteristic features of the social and economic structure of our present age.

    Clint Burnham was born in Comox in 1962 and has lived in Vancouver since 1995. He teaches at UBC and Emily Carr. His work includes a collection of short stories, Airborne Photo, a work of theory, The Jamesonian Unconscious, a book of poetry, Buddyland, and the performance installation (with Mark Laba) Cop Puppet, which was at Artspeak gallery in 1999. For three years Clint was academic coordinator of the Humanities 101 program, a liberal arts introduction at UBC for low-income students; he has also taught poetry classes with the Carnegie street program, a humanities program with the Elizabeth Fry society in New Westminster, and a creative writing class for seniors on Commercial Drive. He is currently at work on a book about Vancouver photo-conceptual art, in which he locates the critical aesthetics of the Vancouver school in terms of local social, geographic, and historical conditions, rather than international art & theory.

    All works courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.

    anarchive 22

    anarchive presents a selection of intriguing objects, catalogues, publications and artists’ books from our archive collection, investigating the relationship between visual art and writing.


    Bellerby, Greg, ed. Vertical Cities, Vancouver: Charles H. Scott Gallery, 1999.

    Burnham, Clint, “Postmodernism is the Theory, Gentrification is the Practice: Jameson, Haraldsson, Architecture, and Vancouver”, Jameson Reader. Homer, Sean and Kellner, Douglas, ed., London: Palgrave, 2003.

    Brydon, Anne, at first sight: Arni Haraldsson, London: London Regional Art and Historical Museums, 1997.

    Kleyn, Robert, Beneath the Paving Stones, Vancouver: Charles H. Scott Gallery, 1993.

    Lawlor, Michael Christopher, Social Complex, Fredericton: Gallery Connexion, 1988.

    Ritchie, Christina, Arni Haraldsson: Firminy, Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, 2001.

    Simon, Cheryl, “Arni Runar Haraldsson”, The Zone of Conventional Practice and Other Real Stories / À Propos de Conventions et Autres Fictions, Montréal: Optica, 1989, p. 211-222.

    Postscript 07: Andrew Sharpe and Kyla Mallett on Up and Down: Downtown Eastside Architecture (PDF)

  • Joes I Know

    February 3–March 10, 2001

    Lorraine Weideman’s Joes I Know is a new series of honourific photographic portraits of G.I. Joe dolls from a pristine collection accumulated through the sixties and seventies. Using the devices of commemorative portraits, Weideman photographs the dolls in the collection as individuals, with an atmosphere of poignancy and loss—the toys resemble tragic heroes of mythic proportions. The Joes are bear identical facial scars, yet their eye colour and shape and skin colour varies, as does their fetishized accessories—dog tags, plumed helmets, weapons—these heroes are highly decorated.

    Weideman notes that “G.I. Joe first came on the market in 1964 at a New York Toy Fair—prior to that a ‘doll for boys’ was viewed with mixed feelings. This 12 inch figure has an articulated body based on the ubiquitous artists’ mannequin.”

    As a series, the portraits create a fascinating study of the representation of race, ethnicity, nationality and masculinity in popular culture. The elaborately detailed uniforms of a range of nations and ranks are reminders of the shifting allegiances between the U.S. and nations such as Japan, Russia and Germany over the past forty years. and the changing levels of public receptivity to the military through the the late sixties and early seventies and beyond.

  • Cop Puppet

    October 23–November 20, 1999

    ‘Clint Burnham and Mark Laba are Vancouver artists whose practice includes cutting open, stuffing, and sewing up toy animals in the context of political allegory.’

    As part of the city-wide performance festival Live at the End of the Century Artspeak is pleased to present a performance and installation by Clint Burnham and Mark Laba. Cop Puppet will begin with an opening night performance in the gallery, in which puppets stand in for local political figures and ‘spokespersons’. The performance props—surgically altered stuffed animal toys, freezers, obselete televisions and other ‘millennial signs’ found in thrift shops—will remain installed throughout the exhibition period along with pulp fiction paperbacks, and production stills from their video. The tape features Laba, the ‘Top Jewish Cop’ taking down Burnham in a basement suite drug bust using only accelerated invective and a set of hair clippers.

    Their Collaborative Crime Puppet Shows have included ‘Casey and Finnegan’s Drug Deal Goes Bad’ at LaQuena in 1997 and the ‘Molson Indy Princess Di Memorial Landmine & Syringe Race’ for Kootenay School of Writing in 1998. Real crime shows, kids’ programming, the local news and CNN overlap and merge in a hyped delivery of text and image.

    In addition to their performance work, Burnham and Laba are well known for their diverse range of writing practices. Laba’s Mack Bolen Poems was awarded the bpNichol chapbook award in 1996 and his food writing, such as ‘Who’s Who at Hooters’ have been published in CityFood Magazine. Burnham has been a frequent contributor to Boo Magazine and his most recent book is Airborne Photo, a collection of short stories.

    Copies of the screenplay will be available in the gallery.

Talks & Events

  • Summer Reading

    August 1–August 31, 2012

    Please enjoy these summer reading “picks” from a selection of local and international artists and writers, including Clint Burnham, Randy Lee Cutler, Omer Fast, Aaron Flint Jamison, Tricia Middleton, Philip Monk, Pamela Rosenkranz and Klaus Scherübel.

    The PDF is available here.

  • Vancouver Art & Economies Book Launch

    March 28, 2007

    Wednesday, March 28, 7-9pm

    At the Brickhouse, 730 Main Street

    Please join Artspeak and Arsenal Pulp Press in celebrating the release of Vancouver Art & Economies, edited by Melanie O’Brian, with essays by Clint Burnham, Randy Lee Cutler, Tim Lee, Sadira Rodrigues, Marina Roy, Sharla Sava, Reid Shier, Shepherd Steiner and Michael Turner.

    Vancouver Art & Economies was financially supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the City of Vancouver, Arts Now: Legacies Now 2010, the Spirit of BC Arts Fund and the Hamber Foundation.

  • Reading and Book Launch

    December 4, 2005

    “A doll is taped to the hood of a wedding car. A list of favourite cocktails from the eighties. Hide the drugs from your parents and your kids. Kevin Costner in Waterworld: hot or not?”

    Smoke Show, published by Arsenal Pulp Press, is a novel that will astound readers with its audacious, stripped-down narrative set in the mid-nineties about assorted f**k-ups, diehards, and lost souls, seen through a hazy filter of bus fumes and cigarette smoke. Told in “real time,” Smoke Show is raw, candid, amorphous; told through jargon and petty dialogue commonly heard in the street or on public transit, Smoke Show is a novel told in conversation. It’s a dissonant, close-to-the bone explosion of everything and nothing at the same time, like watching a film whose sound does not match the images. In his debut novel, Clint Burnham evokes William Gaddis, David Foster Wallace, and Irvine Welsh, a trippy period piece that takes no prisoners.

    Clint Burnham first wrote the manuscript for Smoke Show 10 years ago. “I wrote the book in 1995 and then lost the manuscript, not finding it again until late 2003. And since my writing is often ‘found’ dialogue and reads like that, this was like the ultimate extension of that concept: it’s as if I didn’t so much write the book myself (the ego of the author) but just found it. I’m interested in that idea of the author from Borges, or Barthes as just a function of the text.”

  • Vancouver Art & Economies: A Forum

    October 6–November 3, 2005

    Vancouver Art and Economies is a forum for critical dialogue on Vancouver’s contemporary art practices in the face of globalization and a remarkable recent history. Academics, artists, curators and writers will speak at Emily Carr Institute over the course of five evenings in the fall of 2005. The speakers will consider Vancouver art and its institutions over the last two decades in particular, remarking on the economies at work. whether global, institutional or market. Addressing a perceived professionalization of the institution of art, the talks will collectively consider Vancouver’s position within local, national and international art economies. The forum talks will be published in an anthology in 2006.

    Thursday, October 6

    Sharla Sava: The Political Culture of the Counter-Tradition in Vancouver Art

    Clint Burnham: Imperial Art: the Vancouver School in the age of Empire

    Thursday, October 13

    Marina Roy: The Art Star, the Academic, the Author, and the Activist: Art-writing in Vancouver 1990-2005

    Tim Lee: Specific Objects and Social Subjects: Industrial Facture and the Production of Polemics in Vancouver

    Thursday, October 20

    Sadira Rodrigues: Dealing (with) Cultural Diversity: Art and the Economies of Race

    Randy Lee Cutler: Vancouver Singular Plural: Art in an Age of Post-Medium Production

    Thursday, October 27

    Reid Shier: Do Artists Need Artist Run Centres?

    Shepherd Steiner: Beyond the “Ifs” of an “Ifing” Hermeneutic Economy: Examples from an Unsystematizable System 

    Thursday, November 3

    Michael Turner: Who’s Business Is It? Vancouver’s Commercial Galleries and the Production of Art 

  • Book Launch/Talk

    March 28, 2003

    Artspeak is pleased to host the book launch of Up & Down: Downtown Eastside Architecture, a publication produced in conjunction with Arni Haraldsson’s exhibition at Artspeak from March 15th to April 19th, 2003. In celebration of the publication launch, Clint Burnham is giving a talk regarding Haraldsson’s work and book.


  • Vancouver Art & Economies

    VAN A and E front
    VAN A and E spine
    VAN A and E back

    Title: Vancouver Art & Economies
    Category: Criticism
    Writers: Clint Burnham, Randy Lee Cutler, Tim Lee, Melanie O’Brian, Sadira Rodrigues, Shepherd Steiner, Michael Turner, Sharla Sava, Reid Shier, Marina Roy
    Editor: Melanie O’Brian
    Design: Robin Mitchell
    Publisher: Artspeak, Arsenal Pulp Press
    Year published: 2007
    Pages: 236pp
    Cover: Paperback
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 13 b&w images, 44 colour images
    Dimensions: (Height x Width x Depth) 23 x 15.5 x 2 cm
    Weight: 496 g
    ISBN: 978-1-55152-214-2
    Price: $30 CDN

    Since the mid-1980’s, the once marginal city of Vancouver has developed within a globalized economy and become an internationally recognized centre for contemporary visual art. Vancouver’s status is due not only to a thriving worldwide cultural community that has turned to examine the so-called periphery, but to the city’s growth, its artists, expanding institutions, and a strong history of introspection and critical assessment. As a result, Vancouver art is visible and often understood as distinct and definable.This anthology intends to complicate the notion of definability. It offers nine essays to address the organized systems that have affected contemporary art in Vancouver over the last two decades.

    The essays in Vancouver Art & Economies collectively remark, both compatibly and contradictorily, on the economies at work in Vancouver art – its historical, critical, and political engagement; its sites of cultural production; and its theoretical and practical intersection with technology or policy. Considering a selection of conditions, focuses, and resources within the community, Vancouver Art & Economies marks shifting ideologies and perspectives on art, politics, society, and capital in Vancouver.

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  • Up & Down: Downtown Eastside Architecture

    Title: Up & Down: Downtown Eastside Architecture
    Category: Artist Book
    Artist: Arni Haraldsson
    Writers: Clint Burnham
    Editor: Lorna Brown
    Design: Kathleen Ritter
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 2003
    Pages: 24pp
    Cover: Paper
    Binding: Folio
    Process: Offset
    Features: 12 postcards, 13 colour images
    Dimensions: 13.5 x 16.5 x 1 cm
    Weight: 98 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-41-1
    Out of print

    This publication is a set of image cards printed with Arni Haraldsson’s photographs of buildings in the Downtown Eastside on one side and Clint Burnham’s text reflections on the reverse. Half of the cards will be distributed during the course of the exhibition at Artspeak in March/April 2003. The remaining will be collated and contained in a die-cut folio or printed envelope.

  • Joes I Know / Junior General Kit

    Title: Joes I Know / Junior General Kit
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Lorraine Weideman
    Writers: Clint Burnham
    Design: Kathleen Ritter
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 2001
    Pages: 24pp
    Cover: Paperback
    Binding: Staple Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 10 cards (11×20 cm each), 18 b&w images, 30 colour images
    Dimensions: 21 x 11.5 x 1 cm
    Weight: 124 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-35-7
    Price: $12 CDN

    Reproduced for this publication in ‘collector card’ format, Weideman’s Joes I Know is a series of honourific photographic portraits of G.I. Joe dolls from a pristine collection accumulated through the sixties and seventies. Using the devices of commemorative portraits, Weideman has photographed the dolls in the collection as individuals, with an atmosphere of poignancy and loss—the toys resemble tragic heroes of mythic proportions.

    Junior General Kit, written for this publication, draws upon Burnham’s short-lived career with the Canadian Forces in the early 1980s. His account of the disciplinary practices of sock-folding, bed-making and boot-polishing fidgets alongside references to Full Metal Jacket, to B-52s, or Stairway to Heaven. Visceral, bodily memories of berets, cammo and shaved heads, details of group affiliation that change camps when they infiltrate street fashion, are pressed against the forgotten, conflated or misremembered that “makes possible the memoir”.

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  • Cop Puppet

    Title: Cop Puppet
    Category: Artist Book
    Artist: Clint Burnham, Mark Laba
    Writers: Clint Burnham, Mark Laba
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 1999
    Pages: 22pp
    Cover: Paper
    Binding: Staple Bound
    Process: Photocopy
    Dimensions: 28 x 22 x 0.5 cm
    Weight: 114 g
    Price: $2 CDN

    Burnham and Laba presented a performance work that used puppets to mimic the structure of corporate seminars and pulp fiction drug narratives featuring contemporary political figures. Cop Puppet is the screenplay of the performance text produced for the opening night performance and also functions as a document of the event.