Those of us who live in cities know that the concrete and glass of our urban surroundings add up to more than the sum of their parts. Our cities have moods, humours, opinions, personalities. They suffer from illnesses, they burst forth in jubilation, they move from ennui to optimism with the changing of the weather. Our cities are alive, and therefore, it is no wonder they are breathing.
We chose the lyrics of The Weakerthan’s Left and Leaving , written by John K. Samson, as the title of this symposium because it is our belief that it is the art of a city that makes it breathe. The title reflects the precarious situation we are in as city dwellers: The use of the word “still” implies the breathing continues, but is not guaranteed forever. It is both a declaration of pride in our city, and acknowledgement of the threat we face if we devalue our arts and artists. Without that constant breath of art and creativity, a city would be still; never growing, never progressing, never bringing in ideas and sending out discoveries. As a life-long Winnipeg artist, John K. Samson is especially in-tune with the delicate breath of a city like Winnipeg. It goes in and out, like clockwork. Perhaps we even take it for granted. But to neglect our artists and our artwork is to risk the cessation of the breathing of our cities, and ultimately the richness of life held therein.
Left and Leaving by John K. Samson
My city’s still breathing (but barely it’s true) through buildings gone missing like teeth. The sidewalks are watching me think about you, all sparkled with broken glass. I’m back with scars to show. Back with the streets I know. They never take me anywhere but here. Those stains in the carpet, this drink in my hand, these strangers whose faces I know. We meet here for our dress-rehearsal to say ” I wanted it this way” and wait for the year to drown. Spring forward, fall back down. I’m trying not to wonder where you are. All this time lingers, undefined. Someone choose who’s left and who’s leaving. Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave me: some matches, a blanket, this pain in my chest, the best parts of Lonely, duct-tape and soldered wires, new words for old desires, and every birthday card I threw away. I wait in 4/4 time. Count yellow highway lines that you’re relying on to lead you home