Lee Henderson

Vancouver author Lee Henderson wrote The Man Game (Viking/Penguin, 2008), The Broken Record Technique (Viking/Penguin, 2002) and his fiction and visual art journalism has been published in numerous journals and magazines. The Man Game has been described as “a portrait of a lost and fanciful city [Vancouver].” The novel is a highly researched, sprawling tale of 19th century frontier-era Vancouver, its inhabitants, wild west politics, racial tension, and a fictional sport known as “the man game.” He is a contributing editor to Border Crossings and Contemporary, and has curated exhibitions in Vancouver and New York. He is the director/curator of Attache Gallery, a portable art gallery that shows emerging artists, and organizes improvised music events.


  • Heyday

    April 1–May 6, 2006

    Pulling apart ready-made objects, images and modes of production, the artists in Heyday reveal through deconstruction. Using the methods of decoupage and assemblage, the works in the exhibition share concerns regarding manufacture, currency and coining new languages. Peter Freitag works with extant imagery from European resort brochures. Removing all props from the images, Freitag creates populated vignettes in which the staging of a hotel room or the contrived position of a model are eerily foregrounded. Kristi Malakoff creates exquisitely delicate scenes from paper money. For example, she has reconfigured an idyllic three-dimensional cabin from a $100 bill and created a bird series from $2, $5, $10 and $20 bills. Malakoff’s detailed miniatures shift the currency of money, highlighting the idealized images sanctioned to describe nationhood and history. Sarah Massecar deconstructs and reassembles objects, focusing on the labour in re/making. Massecar has investigated the de/reconstruction of a wallet as well as texts that centre on themes of labour and DIY such as Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pecuchet. The dismantling carried out by these three artists potentially reflects the dismantling of a once-thriving capitalist society. After a heyday or period of greatest success or power there is an inevitable decline. Through their processual and conceptual operations, Freitag, Malakoff and Massecar question the present moment and capital’s shifting role.

    Postscript 20: Lee Henderson on Heyday (PDF)

Talks & Events

  • Artspeak at Subvision, Hamburg

    August 26–September 6, 2009

    Artspeak has been invited to participate in Subvision, an arts event in Hamburg’s HafenCity on the port. From August 26 to September 6, 2009,thirty international artists’ initiatives will present varied artistic efforts and mediation strategies to the public on an undeveloped site that will be temporarily populated by shipping containers. The focus is on the cultural strategies of artist collectives, artist-run spaces, nomadic projects, archives, curatorial, and artistic networks. Traditional forms of cultural activity – art fairs, biennales, and large-scale events – are intentionally confronted here with opposing formats and experimental ways of (re)presentation and distribution. Often, the common element in these heterogeneous, mainly project-related, temporary alliances is a self-organized, collaborative method of working as well as an emphasis on situative intervention. Independent, viral distribution paths and networks develop, under not infrequently precarious production conditions.

    As an extension of Artspeak’s OFFSITE activity, Subvision affords an opportunity to extend our programming beyond Vancouver. Artspeak is working with visual artist Kara Uzelman and writer Lee Henderson, and has asked them to collaborate on a site specific, processual project for Subvision. Reflecting Artspeak’s mandate to foster dialogue between contemporary art and writing, this collaboration will operate on a shared interest in both factual and fictional histories to undertake a consideration of the Subvision site (and Hamburg) through a Vancouver lens. Subvision is providing Artspeak with two containers as a site for the collaborative activities between Uzelman and Henderson, as well as to house an archive of Artspeak’s publications. Uzelman and Henderson will work both materially and performatively. One framing device for their project is to consider and map Vancouver onto Hamburg, examining the port cities’ shared attributes. This mapping might manifest in a written (fictional) history, walking tours, installations, excavations, music, and readings.

  • The Cant

    June 21–August 29, 2009

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Paul McDevitt, <em>The Cant</em>

    Performance (with Gabriel Saloman) and bookwork launch (text by Lee Henderson)

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 9pm

    3092 Fraser Street at Kingsway

    Referencing the secret language used by travelers, gypsies, and convicts in Elizabethan England and Ireland, The Cant points to drawing as a codified language. Historically, techniques for obscuring meaning in the language included backwards words, rhyming slang, and arbitrary sounds affixed to meaning. McDevitt’s new work will result from drawings done in remote BC for the month of July, engaging themes from the ‘tall’ stories of campfire tales and pulp fiction. The drawings will be linked by an unspoken logic, a subjective system that will be revealed to the audience through the bookwork and the interventionist strategies of the performance that include music and shadow play.

    The project begins with McDevitt’s retreat to a remote location outside of Vancouver to spend two weeks drawing in isolation. Expanding on his practice of the one day solitary drawing and elements of improvisation, McDevitt anticipates creating 500 drawings in which a private language will be evoked. The lack of spoken or written language involved in this process (and the nurturing of intuition) is crucial for McDevitt’s process.

    The second phase of the project will be an attempt to decipher these codes and to present an interpretation to audiences. As the title suggests, McDevitt will find a way to parse the codes into a common language, something both improvised and understood between the artist and the audience. The drawings will be compiled, scanned, and collated into a substantial bookwork that will be launched in conjunction with the performance. The performance will use shadow puppets and recorded and live audio in keeping with the graphic and campfire nature of the original drawings to provide another access point to the codified logic. Both the bookwork and performance will be developed and realized concurrently during a short timeframe, relying on improvisation.

    McDevitt’s drawings and set pieces will be installed in Artspeak’s windows during the month of August.

  • Speakeasy: Frontierism

    March 27–March 28, 2008

    Speakeasy: Frontierism is a series that addresses notions of unchecked urban expansion within a larger consideration of the city. Vancouver has often been characterized as a boomtown that has yet to bust, but the rapid and rabid growth of the city reveals an unhealthy appetite for unchecked development. The frontier is a physical, technological and intellectual place of possibility, an outer limit away from the known centre. While the frontier is often understood as a site of opportunity, frontierism has long been critiqued for its potential repercussions: environmental destruction, racism, poverty, disease and humanitarian regression. Contextualizing this discussion in the past two incarnations of Speakeasy – Serial Space and Territory – the series continues to articulate how civic space is defined and questions whether the urban frontier is spatial, geographic, political, social or economic.


    Juan Gaitan (curator)

    Brian Jungen (artist)

    Lee Henderson (author)


    John Atkin (historian)

    Mari Fujita (architect)

    Meredith Quartermain (poet)

    Notes on the Speakers

    Thursday, March 27, 8pm

    JUAN A. GAITÁN will participate in a dialogue with Brian Jungen on the production of community through radio, particularly in rural, frontier settings such as Colombia where he is curating an exhibition on the topic.

    Gaitán is a Vancouver based art historian and curator. His research interests are the Americas in the post-War period, religious monuments in the early middle ages, and contemporary art. He is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of British Columbia and is the co-curator of Exponential Future at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

    BRIAN JUNGEN will speak with Juan A. Gaitán his interest in radio’s galvanization of community, specifically in northern, rural communities where he is undertaking a radio project.

    Jungen is an internationally acclaimed artist who has solo shows at the Tate Modern, London; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Vancouver Art Gallery; Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal; New Museum, New York; Witte de With; Vienna Secession; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Casey Kaplan, New York; and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, among others.

    LEE HENDERSON will read from his ahistorical novel, The Man Game, about the origin of a sport invented in Vancouver in the 1800s that combines wrestling, street fighting, ballroom dancing, martial arts, and gambling, and is played by unemployed lumberjacks. The novel follows Vancouver’s founding fathers, race riots, red light districts, opium trade, and deforestation.

    Henderson wrote The Broken Record Technique (2002) and his fiction and visual art journalism has been published in numerous journals and magazines. The Man Game will be published by Viking/Penguin (2008). He is a contributing editor to Border Crossings and Contemporary, and has curated exhibitions in Vancouver and New York. He is the director/curator of Attache Gallery, a portable art gallery that shows emerging artists.

    Friday, March 28, 8pm

    JOHN ATKIN will speak about Vancouver from its inception to the present, identifying relationships between developers and the City in order to define its “frontier” nature.

    Atkin is an author, historian and heritage advocate who offers offbeat insights into Vancouver’s architecture, history and neighbourhoods. He has created, and conducts, unique and popular walking tours throughout Vancouver. He is also the editor of British Columbia History: The Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation.

    MARI FUJITA will discuss Vancouver via various readings of territory to understand how Vancouver engages with larger spheres of influence.

    Fujita is a designer and educator. Fujita’s research currently includes an examination of contemporary material processes, and the shifting role of the architect in the present cultural, economic, political, and technological climate. Her design studios and seminars explore notions of territory and emergent forms of urbanism in developing cities with a focus on the Pacific Rim. Fujita’s design practice FUJITAWORK pursues a diverse range of projects. Work to date have included projects that range from small-scale gallery installations, building designs, and urban scale interventions. Projects have been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and other museums and cultural institutions in North America.

    MEREDITH QUARTERMAIN will read from her forthcoming collection entitled Nightmarker (NeWest, 2008). Against the ghostly presence of George Vancouver’s explorer narratives, Nightmarker finds interest in the city and its early histories. In expeditions to City Hall, the police station, the sugar refinery, and the courthouse, and ramblings in between, Quartermain explores the human city as an animal behaviour, a museum, and a dream of modernity.

    Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking won the BC Book Awards 2006 Prize for Poetry. Books include The Eye-Shift of Surface, Wanders [with Robin Blaser], and A Thousand Mornings, prose poems about old Vancouver’s dockside area. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, Canadian Literature, the Literary Review of Canada, Matrix, The Capilano Review, West Coast Line, filling Station, Prism International, and other magazines.

  • Canadian Art Gallery Hop

    April 21–April 22, 2006

    Canadian Art Gallery Hop: Hosted by the Canadian Art Foundation and sponsored by the Consul General of the United States.

    Friday, April 21st, 2006

    Join fellow art lovers and scenemakers at the annual Gallery Hop kickoff in an original environment created by artists Hadley + Maxwell. “Art and Language” is this year’s theme and ticket sales benefit Artspeak, one of Vancouver’s most influential artist-run centres as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

    Saturday, April 22nd, 2006: Free Gallery Talks

    Spend the afternoon sampling some of Vancouver’s best galleries. Canadian Art will have the experts on hand across the city to introduce the work on view. Pick up your Hop schedule and map in the Saturday, April 22, edition of the Globe and Mail. Free admission.

    Please join us at Artspeak for the first of the free gallery talks at 1:30 pm. Rachel Sawatsky explores the politics of self-regulation and pleasure in the works of Peter Freitag, Kristi Malakoff, and Sarah Massecar.

  • Artist Talk

    April 1, 2006

    Artspeak is pleased to present Peter Freitag’s artist talk discussing Heyday; a group exhibition featuring the work of Freitag, Krist Malakoff and Sarah Massecar. Heyday runs from April 1st to May 6th, 2006 at Artspeak.


  • The Cant

    Cant Front
    Cant Spine
    Cant Back

    Title: The Cant
    Category: Artist Book
    Artist: Paul McDevitt
    Writer: Lee Henderson
    Design: Jen Eby
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Printer: Budget Printing, Vancouver
    Year published: 2009
    Edition: 500
    Pages: 500pp
    Cover: Paperback
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Digital
    Features: 500 b&w images
    Dimensions: 27.5 x 21.5 x 3.5 cm
    Weight: 2.8 kg
    ISBN: 978-0921394-61-7
    Price: $5 CDN

    Choose Shipping Option