Interview with the Artist: Stephen Surlin

Stephen Surlin, a Windsor-based artist and musician (also known as DJ Furs), recently took some time aside from his busy life as a University of Windsor Fine Arts student to discuss his current exhibition Artist as Activist and how the works within it came to be. Surlin has worked with Broken City Lab on various projects and his solo work can be seen at the SoVA Projects Gallery at the University of Windsor this week until January 28. His closing reception is at 7pm on Friday, January 28 at the SoVA Projects Gallery.

The interview can be read after the page break.

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Keeping Busy

It might seem a bit quiet around here as of late, but rest assured we’re keeping busy. We’re in the thick of paperwork — grant reports, project proposals, etc. However, we’re also quickly approaching the start of a new project that you’ll see unfold here likely over the next month or two.

Danielle is working away on the audio documentary from Listen to the City, and Michelle and Rosina cleaned up our workspace at the Ecohouse and decorated (as you can see above) by putting up some of the remaining parts of Lea Bucknell‘s installation as part of SRSI (which if I remember correctly was put together by Thea Jones).

In the meantime, you can check out the interview Michelle and I did with Amy Miller on the Craig Fahle Show on Detroit’s NPR affiliate, WDET 101.9fm on Thursday. If you’re in Windsor/Detroit and not listening to this show on a regular basis, you’re really missing out. Below is an edited version of the show with just our interview, but here’s the link to check out the entire episode.


A Conversation with Josh Mehler from White Space Collaborative

Josh, Cristina, and I spent a part of the afternoon yesterday speaking with Josh Mehler, formerly of the Windsor/Detroit area, now studying at Florida State, working on a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition.

It was a great conversation, and as always, these kind of casual interviews help us to articulate what we’re trying to do in an expanded manner. We talked a lot about why we use text, how the idea of composition can move into a physical space, and what the potentials are in connecting artists and writers more often and in alternative spaces. My favourite interviews are the ones where I learn something too, which in this case, I definitely did.

I think Josh will be posting excerpts from the interview on his blog, so be sure to tune in there.

Michelle Wybenga’s Micro-Residency: Love Letters to the City


Michelle Wybenga is asking people for love letters to Windsor.

As part of her ongoing micro-residency, she’s requesting from a number of people that she knows in the city for a contribution to an eventual publication of sorts containing these letters among many others.

She spent the weekend at BCL HQ working towards the beginnings of this project and we’re anxious to see it evolve.

Included below are her photos and notes from some of the conversations she had over the weekend.

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Eric Boucher Micro-Residency Iteration 5/5


Yesterday, Eric Boucher met with my uncle, Lou Tortola, to interview him for his Micro Residency.  Lou immigrated to Windsor from Italy in the seventies, when he was about ten or eleven, and is now a successful entrepreneur, established writer, and CEO of eliquidMEDIA.  Over some espresso and biscotti, he talked with Eric about his first impressions of Windsor and Detroit as a child, and gave his perspective on the cultural aspects of the city. Because his line of work allows him to travel frequently to all sorts of places, he also discussed cities with similar qualities as Windsor and the lack of enthusiasm for home-grown talent.

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Eric Boucher Micro-Residency Iteration 4/5


For part 4 of Eric Boucher’s Micro-Residency, we trekked all the way out to Harrow to interview my good friend, and local musician, Derek Harrison.  I met Derek way back in my first week of University and became friends very quickly.  Since that first semester in Windsor, Derek has been leaving Windsor left and right, moving to Ottawa, London, Montreal and even studying abroad in Lithuania, yet something keeps pulling him back to his roots, to Windsor.  I’ve always found Windsor’s handle on Derek interesting, so what better way to explore this then through a BCL interview!

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Attention Les Francophones de Windsor!

Le programme Panorama au station TFO a fait une série de reportages spéciaux sur l’industrie d’automobile et la crise économique de la ville de Windsor.  La journaliste Mélanie Routhier Boudreau a visité Broken City Lab pour filmer l’événement Welcome To The Neighbourhood et conduire une intervue avec moi.

The televison news show Panorama on the TFO network did a series of special reports on the auto industry and economic crisis in Windsor. Journalist Mélanie Routhier Boudreau visited Broken City Lab to interview me and film our event Welcome To The Neighbourhood.

Voici les 3 émissions Spécial Windsor de Panorama via le site-web de TFO:

Here are the 3 episodes of Panorama via the TFO website:

Celui-ci est à propos de l’industrie automotive et la manque emplois:

This episode focuses on auto-worker’s job loss:


Cet émission est à propos de la Place Concorde:

This one is about the french community centre Place Corcorde:


Nous nous trouvons dans le dernier émission, de l’espoir pour Windsor:

We are featured in the last episode, a hope for Windsor:


Pop-Up Book Academy


In an amazingly good interview, Daniel Fuller over at Art21‘s blog discusses projects, ideas, and philosophies of social / dialogical / relational art practice with Sam Gould of Red76.

Red76 has been organizing workshops, lectures and public dialogues in “non-hierarchical” settings since 2000, most recently working on the Pop-Up Book Academy, a school which materializes behind the mask of a temporary used book store. The school utilizes the printed form as a means of investigating social politics and its histories past and present. Much of their work has been involved in working with art spaces focused on alterative pedagogy.

Gould charts a brief history of this type of art practice, attributing the social practice and relational aesthetics trajectories that emerged in late 90s and into the 2000s to difficult economic times and political conditions (that is, the transition into Bush’s presidency). He also tackles the big question, “How is this art?” by attributing the classification of this type of practice as art in the art world (and that art world being defined by museums and galleries) to a kind of laziness by the artists working within it, which is to say that while some of the work presented in this context of social practice isn’t necessarily best suited for presentation in a gallery, it becomes a type of necessity to allow it to do just that.

In reflecting on the nature of this practice, often enacted through discussions, lectures, workshops, artist talks, seminars, Gould notes that critiques and arguments of their practice often fall into two categories: efficacy (activists), or sincerity (artists). These in particular seem to be somewhat familiar questions.

And, I had to include my favourite line of the whole interview: “You don’t need an object to make it [art]. Art is the space which we define for questioning. Objects, or the lack thereof, are placeholders for ideas and propositions.”

Again, it’s a great interview and I’ve only barely skimmed the surface in my quick recap here. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re even remotely interested in the intersection of art and activism.

[via Art21]

Interview on CJAM

interview with Tom on Not In My Back Yard on CJAM 91.5fm


I was interviewed yesterday about Broken City Lab on CJAM 91.5fm’s Not In My Back Yard, hosted by Adam Fox and Tom Lucier. I didn’t get a chance to post this before the interview actually happened, but thankfully CJAM offers MP3 archives on their site.

You can hear the excerpt of the show with Tom’s and my conversation above. If you want to hear the entirety of the show, which I can highly recommend, you can download the episode from this week. NIMBY airs every Tuesday at noon on 91.5fm in Windsor.

Also, check out Tom’s blog, where he posted the interview, and bonus footage of a couple videos of the interview and some of the extra conversation we had.