Noel Rodo-Vankeulen's Top Ten

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen is a photographer and author of the blog We Can’t Paint [Congrats on the upcoming expansion!]. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he is currently pursuing a BFA in Visual Arts with a focus in photography at York University.

10. Education: There seems to be this on-going belief here in the west that school, particularly secondary education, is structured in such a way as to mold an individual into what society wants he or she to be. This is a completely insane way to view an invaluable resource, a luxury that is provided en masse at a relatively low cost. I initially dropped out of high school for a number of years and later returned to obtain my diploma. The best decision I ever made.

9. Norwegian artist Theodore Kittelsen’s depictions of Trolls: A cross between children’s illustrations and your darkest nightmares, these images show just how ahead of his time Kittelsen was. His drawings, paintings and prints from the book Svartedauenof (the black death) are equally uncanny.

8. The Photography Reader edited by Liz Wells: This is in my opinion the best collection of essays about photography that I’ve come across in a long time. It has all the greats; Roland Barthes Susan Sontag, Victor Burgin, Christian Metz, and John Berger to name just a few.

7. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

6. Rubber Johnny by Chris Cunningham: It may be one of the shortest DVD’s I’ve ever bought, but this night-vision styled acid trip is every bit the masterpiece it’s hyped up to be. The small accompanying book is equally disturbing, full of lips, sphincters and scrotums; all Cunningham’s by the way. :

5. Irving Layton’s The Swimmer:

The afternoon foreclosing, see
The swimmer plunges from his raft,
Opening the spray corollas by his act of war –
The snake heads strike
Quickly and are silent.

Emerging see how for a moment,
A brown weed with marvelous bulbs,
He lies imminent upon the water
While light and sound come with a sharp passion
From the gonad sea around the poles
And break in bright cockle-shells about his ears.

He dives, floats, goes under like a thief
Where his blood sings to the tiger shadows
In the scentless greenery that leads him home,
A male salmon down fretted stairways
Through underwater slums…

Stunned by the memory of lost gills
He frames gestures of self-absorption
Upon the skull-like beach;
Observers with instigated eyes
The sun that empties itself upon the water,
And the last wave romping in
To throw its boyhood on the marble sand.

4. Canadian sculptor David Altmejd: Finally Canada got its act together and selected an interesting artist to represent us at the 2007 Venice Biennale. This is the first sculptor I’ve ever been excited about. Altmejd’s work includes ware wolves, dildos, crystals, taxidermy squirrels, bondage equipment, and tons of fake fur, so good.

3. Life’s Picture History of World War 2: Published in 1950, this oversized book is a collection of paintings, photographs, and articles published during WW2, one of the most comprehensive anthologies of war-time media for its time. If you can find a copy (I’ve seen a lot of them floating around) I suggest you pick it up, a great way to start collecting vintage.

2. Wolfgang Tillmans: Here is a photographer who broke down the hegemonic stonewalls that enclosed the photographic tradition. Not only has Tillmans reframed how we think about photography, he opened up its very materiality. He took the medium and transformed it into art.

1. Stanley Kubrick: The greatest director that the cinema has ever seen. I once had a class on “The Art of Film” and the first day we were handed the syllabus. I scanned over the screenings and noticed there was not one single Kubrick film. Evidently I dropped the course. The history of film without Kubrick is like sex without the orgasm, it’s great for a while but to be totally satisfied you need someone who is original.