Buddies in Bad Times

Buddies in Bad Times is a collective of five artists (Bogdan Cheta, Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed, Jill Armstrong, Alexander Steinitz, and Carmina Trsic) working with a variety of mediums to document their WRECK CITY forays and create new experiences for future audiences. Curated by Andrew Frosst, Buddies in Bad Times gently asks for your patience and curiosity as they share fleeting impressions, walk by walk, conversation by conversation.



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Latifa took this picture in Mendoza, Argentina
I (Latifa) took this picture in Mendoza province, Argentina. Bogdan’s relationship to labour reminds me of the intuitive act these people engage in when of asking the Saint Gauchito Gil for help and protection.

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My mother and I have known a lot of violence. One time she lost the tip of her finger, it was my fault. There was blood all over the walls and the floor. I couldn’t look at her hand after that. The police came and told me I was a criminal and hated her for betraying me and not telling the whole truth. There was addiction. There were attempted suicides. I wanted another mother. I wanted a mother who was interested in smart things and didn’t forget details. I wanted a mother that wasn’t poor. I never invited anyone over to my house because I was embarrassed that we lived in government subsidized housing. That our furniture was ugly, out of date, and didn’t match. That we didn’t live in an IKEA showroom. When I was 10 our neighbours went to jail for murder. No one even believed me, they thought I was a storyteller. When I was child she read to me and took me to the park. My mother cooked for me every day and washed my clothes and cleaned my room. Sometimes when cleaning she would read my diary without telling me. When I found out I stopped writing for 5 years. Sometimes we would share secrets. When I told her I had a secret brother, she used my sister’s email to tell him who his Real Father was. I told him my sister was just kidding around. I travelled to Bolivia and met two healing women. They taught me about the importance of letting go of my past and loving my mother for who she is. Yesterday, I looked at her for the first time as a human being and not my Mother. I realized that if she had been anyone else I would have thought she was interesting. She is interesting. She is beautiful. I love her shrine of dollar store angels, her wolf-eagle poster, and her red lace table cloth. She is who she is and she doesn’t try to hide it, pretending to be something that she’s not. Today for the first time I am inviting her into my world. It’s not just about forgiveness, it’s about recognizing that she has something to give and share with the world. I am proud to have her as my mother.

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Aprl 15, 2013

After returning from Argentina, Latifa has become a morning person. Her family is important. So we went for a morning walk. We talked about birds, then we had lunch at Sait where we had a lengthy conversation about recycling and the meaning of being connected to the everyday in a place where the role of being heterosexual and male is the norm and how contemporary art production in Canada has it’s norm, which is also connected to a narrative of “normality” in relation to masculinity. Feminism has also been defined in relation to the male. Then we met an older woman. She lived at a hospice, at the bottom of that steep hill below ACAD. We had a brief conversation with her, but then she gave us bags of stuff that belonged to her dead friend. This is what was inside of one of those bags. We felt we couldn’t leave these contents at the Trading Post in the back because they would become meaningless – but at the same time we didn’t have use for them either, and leaving them outside #819 felt like the right thing to do. Maybe the older woman wanted to start a different kind of trading post – one that is about a trade of meaning, or histories, or time and less about a system of production.
Our favorite brand of Kleenex got too soft… They must have changed their manufacturing process or something… If I was crying, and I mopped my eyes with said Kleenex, I was left with little bits of white fluff on my eyelashes, which effectively asserted themselves as quotation marks, framing everything I said as not really quite what I meant.


wreck city haikus
by jill m. armstrong

nine old gentle teeth
yanked from the spring greening
jaw of Sunnyside

one hundred and more
artist solidarities
stand beside the end

understanding what
must be standing underneath
the underpinning


Buddies in Bad Times went on a field trip to hear Kris Lindskoog’s artist talk. We liked how he didn’t have a business plan.


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Between filling out job applications at McDonalds and re-imagining patterns of labour, Buddies in Bad Times have come together to form a temporary homeopathic space of production for modern queer relations in Calgary.

We go for walks at night, listen to the birds, meet new friends and write stories. Partly it’s a response to the reality that there are few interesting queer spaces of production in Calgary, where we can retreat and think about questions of place, class, authenticity and belonging. LIDS (The Ladies’ Invitational Deadbeat Society) is our local role model. Brandon Healey, artistic director to BIBT in Toronto, kindly allowed us to appropriate the idea of a Buddies in Bad Times space, and in turn, we’re trying to re-imagine ways to collaborate and to initiate useful encounters with the everyday. For Wreck City, Buddies in Bad Times will function like a temporary space of retreat & production, where modern pals solve problems through the act and space of walking.

Additionally, we each want to contribute small excerpts of writing we developed while living out of 819.

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I met Nahuel waiting for the bus from Buenos Aires to San Salvador de Jujuy. We sat together and talked about life during the 22 hour journey. We decided to travel together. I fell in love. For many tumultuous reasons our 5 day romance was short lived. We would wake up at 7 a.m. and drink mate. At the Bolivian border he convinced me to come with him to Oruro, high in the Andes peopled by descendants of the ancient Incan civilization. His sister and mother had stayed there before. We arrived early after having slept little on the overnight bus. We climbed through the streets with the virgin on the mountain guiding our way. We arrived at the church overlooking the city. I cried. I met Mimi and Rosi. They are brujas (witches) that teach and heal in the sanctuary. It was Sunday and they were selling crafts. Their weekly sustenance. Nahuel left for Peru, I stayed. I am still staying, I don’t know for how long. I need to be healed by this place, I feel it. I gave Mimi and Rosi massages.  They told me I have special hands, a gift given only to a few. They are going to perform a ceremony so I can heal people with different colours of energy. Mimi gave me a Chakra cleansing. She said I have to heal my base, my home, where I come from. Why are you always travelling and escaping? It was a rhetorical question. I never thought about all the pain I have from growing up. It never occurred to me before to forgive and let go of the distant past.


Last night I worked late. It was 1 AM. A cold winter night. Missed my last train. I thought about sleeping at the studio, but there’s mice there. Sleeping with mice around me is ok – I’ve done it before, but the more you do it, the more tired of the situation you become. It’s not just the sleeping part that gets tiring, but the feeling that there is someone else with you. The only thing I could do, was to keep walking. I also had an Iphone with me, which I found inside a house where I squatted last summer. The wi-fi on it works, so I use it for Grindr – an app that locates you in space, in relation to other gay man. It is mainly used for hook-ups. And meeting men, during the night gives walking a purpose – like you can go from one person to the next, as a way to stay out of the cold. Shower in someone’s hotel room, smoke pot in another’s garage, sleep on the next person’s bed, have sex with a visitor, get a massage from an older man, and sometimes share a meal with someone lonely that simply just wants and needs your company. Eventually, after doing it a number of times, one can establish a routine with those that become regulars, and having your own apartment feels like an unnecessary weight. What if we stopped looking at poverty as a condition – something that we fear; that shortens life. Poverty could be like what death was to Virginia Woolf. A way out. An answer to being on the outside – a way to make suffering pleasurable… consumable and fearless. An alternative.


Not Cake

For a few days I ate crumbly slices of a soft, strange, lemon cake which came from a bake sale at a hospital. The cake was weak. Sometimes I ate it with some plain yogurt and a teaspoon of raspberry jam which disguised the small attempt at flavour. It was not so bad, so I thought I would just eventually finish it, mixed with other things.

Then, finally one morning, there was only a wedge-shaped piece of it left, so I took it with me when I left the house that day. Later I sat down to eat it along with a cup of tea. Because it was a small, manageable size, I didn’t cut it and eat it with a fork, I just held it in my hand. The cake was the same as ever, a reluctant lemon taste, with a soft, crumbling texture. But this time it was different.

Since I was holding this chunk of cake right up under my nose, for the first time I detected a smell that I hadn’t noticed before. At first it was so fleeting, I dismissed it as being part of a mix of other smells in my general surroundings. But then I started noticing it more every time I took a bite. And I was becoming more offended by it with each successive bite.

It smelled weak, like the giving-up part of despair, but disguised as new linoleum, or freon or some other manufactured household element. But it was really a human product of the glands of excessive futility. A sour, plastic sweat, next to a lifetime of false laughter. A sweat that hung in the air, drifting diagonally like straying neglect into the upholstery and the stuffing and I was smelling it in a wedge of weak cake.

It was a pale wall of silent ice green and regret. It was the wrong shape to be in a cake. Perhaps it didn’t know it was in a cake. As if, upon realizing this, it would stand up, assume a low-status posture, apologize weakly, and exit, just to make my cake-eating experience less troubling, more likely to inspire nostalgia at a later date, which will never happen now.








2 thoughts on “Buddies in Bad Times

  1. Pingback: My Mother. | Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed

  2. Pingback: A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street (History of #819) | WRECK CITY | an epilogue for 809

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