BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
ARTS SHE WALKS AMONGST US Roswell revisited, reinvented BY B. SIMM When Calgary art critic, renown writer and curator, Nancy Tousley, asked John Will if he had some new art to exhibit, he compiled a series of photos that he found unusual taken two decades ago in Roswell, New Mexico. In 1997, Will, a professor in the art department at the University of Calgary, was visiting friends in Albuquerque when he saw Time Magazine had an image of an alien splashed across the front cover promoting the 50th anniversary of the UFO crash near Roswell. Intrigued, like most North Americans, he decided to make the pilgrimage to the crash site that was only a few hours away. At Roswell, Will unearthed a peculiar but enticing story that captures the obsession so many people have with the secretive landing of 1947. “I saw the Time cover, and it sounded like something interesting to go see,” recalls Will over a mid-day coffee. “So I went down, and it turned out to be kind of a family affair with a lot of tourists. There were some symposiums with experts and so on, but it was kind of boring.” Nonetheless, Will made the rounds coming across an old department store that had closed its door, but for the occasion was converted into a souvenir shop full of “t-shirts, baseball caps, commemorative bottled water, educational texts, and other extraterrestrial flotsam and jetsam.” Inside the big shop of alien artifacts and keepsakes, Will encountered and exhibition called The Gateway Chamber. “I can only describe it as a strange sort of sensory-deprivation room, painted completely yellow, with soft elevator piped in.” The music playing was a variation of the ‘50s hit “Rockin’ Robin” but the lyrics had been altered… “She started going steady, and bless my soul/She walks amongst us like an oriole/Rocket robin/Rock, rock/ Rocket robin.” Upon exiting the chamber and its cheap sensations, the ticket-taker for the exhibit caught Will’s eye, came up and quietly said, “They were females you know.” Amused with the circus-like scenario, Will started to invest in the Roswell’s 50th anniversary phenomena full of curiosity-seekers and freaks — first generation alien cosplayers. A professor and an experimental artist who ventured from painting and printmaking to photography and video, Will started clicking his camera documenting this weird slice of consumer culture he was surrounded by. After taking a rickety bus out to the crash site 30 minutes from Roswell, there was only sun-scorched landscape with a rusted out “’47 Ford pick up,” claimed their tour guide, who then urged everyone to take in the UFO Museum and Research Centre on the trip back. There, Will got a lot closer to the action. “In a glass display container was this body about three feet long, a disproportionately large head and over-sized eyes. It was sexless, with my mind thinking back to the Gateway ticket-taker whispering, ‘They were females you know.’” Will laughs, “It was like the whole town was in on the joke how to make this cash-grabbing tourist attraction a bit more odd, a bit more amusing.” Things would get a bit odder. At a local bar he meet Yves Arseneault, a fellow Canuck from Grande Prairie that greeted him wearing an alien mask. Arseneault was with his wife and young family who were also donning alien costumes on what was obviously a fun-filled wacked-out holiday excursion. Disney in the desert, of sorts. “Yves and I stayed in touch after that crazy carnival. I learned that his daughter, who was with him at Roswell, had grown up, graduated from art school and was getting married. Would I like to attend? The ceremony was small, intimate at a French restaurant. When I got there, it was clearly a theme marriage. His daughter, now named Robin, strolled into the room, her eyes caked with an excessive amount of grey mascara, transformed herself into a Grey while David Bowie’s ‘Born In A UFO’ played softly in the background.” Will shakes his head, “Surreal. Rosewellian. And so it goes.” The Roswell prints are the second in a series of John Will’s One New Work exhibitions showing at the Glenbow until May 31. TOP: John Will with his travel trailer on route from Albuquerque to Roswell, New Mexico 1997. BOTTOM: John Will, She Walks Amongst Us: Family Reunion. 8 | MARCH 2018 • BEATROUTE ARTS
Live Music in the Rockies! Join us at Banff Centre this summer for exciting outdoor shows in the Shaw Amphitheatre. Featuring: Xavier Rudd Blue Rodeo The Sheepdogs A Tribe Called Red … and many more Tickets on sale March 7! banffcentre.ca ARTS BEATROUTE • MARCH 2018 | 9