Animal Souls without Liquor Licenses
Ben Frey is likely the most genuine person you could hope to know. He’s been a presence in Vancouver from his early days running the Butchershop Collective (now Little Mountain Studios), playing drums in My Project: Blue, and running a drawing social (Do Ink) that’s been going steady for longer than a drawing social should. Don’t be alarmed when you see elderly Chinese women rubbing his tummyâ€”he’s good luck. His first solo show opens at Dadabase on Friday, June 15.
ONLY: Many of the characters in your work seem to be physically entangled with either animals or machinery. This is often conveyed with a sense of entrapment and claustrophobia. What’s your interest in body mutation?
Ben Frey: Well, I wouldn’t consider what I’m doing body mutation. It’s more to do with the soul being exposed. For the animals, it’s more of a soul-bearing. The animal is symbolic. I leave it open for the viewer to interpretâ€”I don’t want people to think it’s the character’s power-animal. If you remember that movie…
ONLY: Fight Club?
BF: Nope. It was with Keanu Reeves and…
ONLY: Point Break?
BF: No, he was a psychiatrist, it just came out… We should IMDB Keanu Reeves right now. It made a reference to unleashing your “power-animal” and I don’t want [my art] to be interpreted as that.
ONLY: Has your work always leaned towards the surreal?
BF: Not always, no. It’s only been the last three years. Before that [my work] was rather straightforward. I think I have school to thank for that. Going to school and being exposed to so many great artists really opened my eyes and opened a lot of doors.
ONLY: Say three cruel things about Vancouver.
BF: Okay, the fact that people have to leave Vancouver to better their careersâ€”I don’t mean strictly artisticallyâ€”it’s broader than that. Vancouver’s a fairly large city but people still have to leave. It’s just not big enough. My second: the lack of good venues for music in this city. There’s not enough. People who can’t afford the million dollar leasing fees or rental fees or liquor licenses and start up a venue or create an artist-run centre will get shut down. It’s just inevitable. Sucksâ€”it’s awful. There is no support for the music scene from the city. And there’s so many great creative and talented musicians in this town that aren’t benefiting at all. It just sucks. Lastly, how about taxi cabs? They fucking suck man. It sucks you know, if you need one you can never get one. The worst is trying to get one on Halloween.
ONLY: Because you’re high on mushrooms and alone in this world.
ONLY: So is it hard for you to go into Little Mountain Studios now?
BF: Oh no, not at all. I’m very proud of them. Two of the four people involved in Little Mountain were originally Butchershop Collective members so basically the torch was passed to them. And they’re doing it right—they’re doing it as a gallery and that’s it. And it works—they have a smaller space, there’s less of them and so there’s much more order than chaos. I actually still run my monthly drawing nights there.
ONLY: First solo-show. You nervous?
BF: Very nervous actually. I’m only nervous because of the time I gave myself to put this together. I just graduated from school a month and a half ago. This is all new work and I haven’t been able to focus on it because I’ve been up to the tits with school. I’m happy with where I’m at right now. We’ll see where it goes.
An Honest Way of Lying opens June 15 at Dadabase (183 East Broadway), 8:30 – 11 pm with a musical performance by Adelaide.