April 27, 2021

Dirk Van Stralen

Dirk Van Stralen

This week on Friendless I have on special guest, actor, director, historical interpreter, and professional drawer Dirk Van Stralen!!
Dirk and I discuss giving art away, the power of the viewer, entangling self-worth with artistic production, the pits and perils of interpretive theatre, what self-love really looks like, and so so much more!
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Transcript
James Avramenko:

Friendless is a proud member of the Saskatchewan Podcast Network, which is sponsored in part by connexus credit union and direct West. Hello my sweeties and welcome back to a brand new episode of Friendless. The only podcast about how to lose all your friends one hour at a time. I am as always your host James Avramenko. back once more to ask what it means to be a friend by unfriending everyone I know on Facebook. This week I have a very special guest from my days at the Barkerville historical site, Illustrator and actor extraordinaire Dirk Van Stralen. Dirk and I discuss giving art away the power of the viewer entangling self worth with artistic production, the pits and perils of interpretive theater, what self love really looks like, and so much more. I had such a blast catching up with Dirk that we actually ended up recording way over time, meaning I had to edit this bad boy down pretty substantially. Unfortunately, it's still a fantastic episode. But if you want to find out how you can hear the whole unedited, too hot for TV version of this and all my episodes, stick around to the end of the show to find out more. But that of course is then and this is now. So for now, I'm gonna recommend you lay back, get comfy. prep your ear holes for my conversation with Dirk Van Stralen here on Friendless. Oh man, so I've actually really been looking forward to catching up with you Dirk. Just because like you are from a facet of my life that I haven't actually had a chance yet to really like, talk about or explore on the shows. So let me give a brief introduction this week. I've got Dirk Van Stralen on the show a let's see your historical interpreter, your illustrator, you run a theater, is there, is there something I'm missing?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Oh, God. Yeah, I guess it's a sort of a jack of all trades thing. I've always worked as an artist and mostly as a freelance self employed artists. So that means and this has been touched on before in the show that you have to be good at, or semi good at a whole bunch of different things. And hopefully, together they add up to enough to more than pay your phone bill. Because that's you know, that's usually the case.

James Avramenko:

It's crazy, you know, you know, so you're you come from like a sort of like a community and a sort of team of artists who I very much looked up to when I was just coming out of university and I actually took a lot of inspiration from you, because you, you know, you and your your partner, your partner Julia and, and, you know, the fact that you just go out and do it right, you don't really necessarily wait for someone else to let you do your work. And that's such a powerful trait in especially Canadian artists where there's so few opportunities to, to sort of earn a spot, you have to kind of take it right.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, I think what I got back, I mean, let's face it, there's only 12, you know, artists that are ever working from coast to coast at any given moment in Canada. And at a certain point, and especially, it's pronounced in Vancouver, where you can be supremely gifted, and still, you know, not get work, just because of the math. And at some point, we realize that there's great value in just making something yourself. And people tune in to that. And if you're lucky enough to do that. Great. It can turn into a living and, but, but why not? Everybody's got a story to tell. And I think the only job of the artist is just to be obedient to the impulse to create. Yeah, if you follow that, sometimes you're lucky enough to a find out why you were obedient to that impulse. Or to possibly even pay your rent with Yes, if you're lucky. But it's a great privilege.

James Avramenko:

Absolutely. And that's something that how do I say it it's not that it's not that it's not taught? It's not that it's not ingrained? And it's a you know, by no means am I trying to be like and youth these days, don't get it, you know, but it's like, I do find often you know, and you see it always recycling and the new cycle of young artists coming up and they're bright eyed, bushy tailed, and they think that they're going to be a star and fuck, I hope they're gonna prove me wrong. And I gotta hope that they, you know, go and do that at the same time too. It's like if you're good enough In Canada, it's probably impossible. And so you really it's not about, it's not about pulling your expectations back. It's not about, you know, doing disservice to yourself and your talent. But I do think it's about framing what success is and can possibly be right? Because, you know, we don't live in a culture that genuinely celebrates artists the way, you know, European countries do, even the way America does, right like America. I mean, obviously, America has a different, a different mythology, but they have a way of building up the myth of the artist that Canadians don't have. Right. And so it's like, it's why it's why the only it's why the most, the most successful Canadian artists always go to the States, right.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah.

James Avramenko:

Right, but you know, but

Dirk Van Stralen:

it's also why we love the Tragically Hip.

James Avramenko:

Yes, that's exactly, exactly.

Dirk Van Stralen:

I think they blew it. I missed I know, when they didn't play New Orleans is sinking, which would have been their sort of, you know, easily accessible song. You know, Dan akroyd, got them on there. And then they, they played, you know, nautical disaster. Yeah. I remember being in New York, it was like 96, or something. And it's like the Coliseum is sold out again. Which means that a whole bunch of Canadians are traveling to see the Tragically Hip.

James Avramenko:

So where I want to end up is I really want to hear all about your last year, the illustrations that you've been doing the sort of COVID journal, and I know that you've compiled it, and I really want to get to there. But in order for us to get there, I want to kind of like, rewind it back a little bit, you know, and

Dirk Van Stralen:

Oh, great. I want to rewind to not and not to interject. But to follow up on something you said earlier with Yes. And further to the idea of artists being obedient to the impulse to create.

James Avramenko:

Yes.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Is that it was something I think you said in your this week's podcast to Jensen Emmeline. And you said, That you, you said something about having to give the art of way. And, and in that sense, and talking about Europeans where, you know, I think they view culture as kind of infrastructure but your mind, you know, it's exactly right, which makes us Philistines in North America. But that's exactly the way things are at a book at which I no longer have, I must have given my copy away, but it's by Lewis Hyde, it's called the gift. And it's really a book long essay, whose thesis is that making art of any kind exists entirely outside of the realm of commerce, outside of the economy, yes, can only be a gift artists do something that's miraculous, which is they create something almost x Nilo. I mean, obviously, there are some forms of art that draw more resources, but something that didn't exist suddenly exists thereafter. And his argument is, it can only be a gift because because it exists outside of the economy that separates, especially for young artists. This idea that there needs it needs to be transactional, get what it means and it gives you permission to fail, I guess, I think, what it means is that you can go ahead and create it. Some artists are lucky enough to make something that people want to buy. Yeah, before they make a living. There's no guarantee that your work as good as it is, is going to earn you that. But we've seen from history, plenty of examples of people's whose work where they were outliers, the Van Gogh's of the world etc. Yeah. Who, in hindsight, their work was seen. And again, emphasizing it's not success. It's just make, it can only be a gift. Anyway, to me, that's a reflection of nature to you know, mustard seeds.

James Avramenko:

Exactly. And I have to be really careful with my word, because I often accidentally equate success to financial success, right. And I and I don't, and I don't even personally actually adhere to that. It just it just sort of, you know, that I feel like the general barometer for success and, you know, in a capitalist society is how much money did you make, right? And, I mean, you know, it's this idea of, what is success for a piece of art? Is it that the artist was satisfied with it and gave it to someone who was satisfied with it, or is it you know, 10 20 10,000 strangers were willing to pay five bucks to look at it or Well, you know, what is the barometer for it? Right. And I don't I, you know, there is no answer for that, right? Because there's that it's all personal.

Dirk Van Stralen:

There is an answer for that. Yeah. Yeah, you actually you that is the exact answer that the power of artwork is in the willingness of the observer, yes, of it, to be moved by it. So it's a transaction that happens entirely. is in the power of the viewer? I think, yeah. I mean, we get to know and have certain favorite artists that we look forward to whatever the next output is going to be. But the whole transaction is entirely on the willingness of that soul to be moved by it, which I think is kind of beautiful.

James Avramenko:

I love that. I love that entirely. Yeah. And, and it too, is the thing, you know, I can speak from my own personal experience, like, you know, with my poetry and being like, something that I've like, felt like I've poured a piece of myself into, and then people skim over it, and then things that, like, I have not necessarily thought I put very much effort into, and it's really resonated with somebody and so, like, you never truly know, what you've got until you give it to somebody else. And that's sort of the it's like I was saying, you know, you're about the sort of process of art, like art isn't finished until somebody else has it. Right. And, and, and you're spot on with the gift, right? You know, like, you know, I think often about like, how many writers who, you know, I the one that comes to mind is, is Kafka right? Who who wrote wrote wrote wrote, wrote, died, and then and then and refused to give it to anybody. Right? And and then it wasn't until after that people read it, and we're like, oh, shit, this is awesome. And now he literally like birthed genre for himself.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Right. Like, he has a catchphrase.

James Avramenko:

Exactly. Right. And like, what could he have have accomplished if he had been if he had known that he was loved? Right? And was was was accepted? You know? And if only he just had had, you know, the right freaks around him, right?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, yeah. Boy, is community ever important.

James Avramenko:

That's the other side of it. Right? All of that. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, to me, the thing that I'm I'm fighting for, but also find myself most frustrated by in my encounters in Canadian art communities. You know, I can't speak to other than I can't speak to other countries and stuff. But my experiences in Canadian art has been a lot of like, what's the right word? Like? Like, like deceit, like a lot of like backstabbing, a lot of like, non support a lot of competition, right? It's been predominantly very, like, competition based. And so everybody is sort of smiling and acting like, we're all friends, but then sort of like, slowly edging towards the knife to be there first, you know, like, you know, and I know, that's not universal. But that's just been my general,

Dirk Van Stralen:

you know, and I don't know, we throw away, throw around words like meritocracy, etc, for that sort of thing. But I really think that you can inoculate yourself from the idea of struggling with that, yes, with what I think is the truth, which is that it's actually impossible for any other artist to actually compete with another artists were just going to be the sum total of what we make. And you know, so that extends to comforting yourself, when you didn't get cast in whatever role you were up for it as a theatre artist, because you happen to have blue eyes and yes, family that you're going to play the brother in. Earl Brown, I'd like you know, there's, if you can divorce yourself from the idea that you can only be the fingerprint of who you are. And that's either going to be appropriate for something or it's not.

James Avramenko:

And you're worth, right? Yeah, like but like you're Yeah, I find, especially with young artists, but I think it's it's across the board with artists is how much your personal worth is intricately sewn into how you feel about your art, right? And how you feel your artists perceived. Right? And because so much of it, I mean, look, you know, if you really boil it down to it, I would say I would actually probably say every single artist, but maybe a few of them escape, you know, through the through the outline, but like, almost every single artist is at some point attracted to being an artist because they're trying to be validated by someone who will never validate them. And so they are searching for that high, right you know, and, and, and, and that's fine like that. Not none of this is a is like a value statement on it, right? It's just like, the more we can be honest about those processes, the better we're going to be at developing them and furthering them and refining them, you know? And yeah, so it's like, it's like, you're, you're, you know, when you mix up your value as a human, to where you cast in, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Like you're gonna have, you're gonna have some struggles with it.

Dirk Van Stralen:

That was such an important play. It was such an important play. It's a great, it's a great play. It's a great place to get cast. Right, right. Yeah.

James Avramenko:

But it's also like, you know, you can just put on your own too. But you know, what I really want to talk about is, now that we're 20 minutes in, I really want to double back and I want to talk about how you came to be at Barkerville. Because that's where we cross our heads. You know, like, I know, like, we obviously, like, I know, we probably crossed paths at some time in Victoria, especially through someone like Nick or Tim, or whoever it would have been. But I don't think we properly met until Barkerville. And, and, and, and what I want to do is, I want to ask you about barkerville. And then I want to lead into talking about your illustrations, because that's, you know, way back 15 minutes ago was trying to get to know. But it's, but it is, I think it's a really great encapsulation of what we're talking about, about this idea of daily gifts, because it's something that I do as well, and it's something I really believe in is, you know, daily creative process, and daily creative sort of giveaway, right. And so I'd really like to, to come to that, but but I just I'd love to hear the story about how you bumbled into barkerville one day and what what got you there and, and how, how did you end up trapped there?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Well, Tim Sutherland is to blame for that one entirely. Do you know David Radford?

James Avramenko:

I do.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah. as well. Yeah. Okay. So David Radford the same year was similarly pinned down by Charlie Ross. Okay. And both of them were going to be away for from doing the judges program, right here. And yeah, I don't know if David was in the judges program. He might have been on the wheel or receive a swing anyway. So we ended up on the

James Avramenko:

Inside lingo I love it

Dirk Van Stralen:

For, ha yeah, so we ended up being in barkerville for the first time and working up there. And I was working on the judges program and thought What is this weird place? wells that we were living in? Small drinking town with a mining problem? Yeah, there's a lot of sound.

James Avramenko:

Oh, my God, what a great way of describing that town. Oh, my God. So for so for like for listeners, I feel like we should give a little crash course on what what barkerville is. So it's like, so in reality, it was like a gold rush town. That at one point was like the largest city north of San Francisco until it burnt down twice. And

Dirk Van Stralen:

West of Chicago too yeah.

James Avramenko:

Yeah, it was it was a big like, set hub point essentially for the whole caribou area of the gold rush. And then in the in the mid mid 1900s. It got turned into a like a living museum, kind of like a historical precedent, you know, preserved place that. So every summer actors come up and they they play different roles. And, and like I was I was an interpreter in Chinatown. And I was one of the blacksmiths one summer and they ran a real forge.

Dirk Van Stralen:

So what were you?

James Avramenko:

Yeah, well, so my first year it was really interesting, because it was, I was giving tours of Chinatown, but you know, I'm not Chinese. So my role was he was a real guy. His name was Glen Ross. But he was an archaeologist from the 1980s, not the 1880s. So I got to be like an archaeologist guy. And I'd be giving tours, and I'd be talking about because he was the guy who helped with the excavation and the restoration of the area. And so I got to get my tours, and everybody would be like, Oh, he's just a normal dude. And then I would just drop like, so. Has anybody seen the empire strikes back yet? Like what do you think's gonna happen next? And

Dirk Van Stralen:

That's so great.

James Avramenko:

Oh the best, so fun. And, and then my second summer there, I was in the blacksmith shop, and I was I was, you know, Mr. Ames, or whoever it was.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah. What what years were those?

James Avramenko:

I would have been, I believe 20. I want to say that was 2010 and 2011. In the summers, because, I graduated 2010 and I literally, I like I missed my convocation because I was in barkerville. So I like graduated and like two weeks later was on a greyhound going to go into go into wells. And so so so yeah. So when you work in barkerville, you're, you're employed by barkerville. But you live in the next town over, which is wells, which is like, the way I was, yeah, I love this. It's a drinking town with a mining problem. I love that so much. But it's like, it's like, it's like one of those places. That's like, the population swells to 200 in the summer, right? Like, it's like,

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, well, actually 250 year round. And then To 350 400.

James Avramenko:

Okay, it's grown. It's grown.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, that's it, you know, it would have been the same when, during your time there. So 2011 was the year that we ran, Jules and I did the programming for the sunset theater. And that's right. within the year we met because I don't know that we were in I worked for as an interpreter between 2004 and 2007.

James Avramenko:

Okay And that would have been where you crossed over with Nick too probably right.

Dirk Van Stralen:

That's right. Yeah.Yeah. So that was 2004. Where we met Nick, I think. Yeah, he was. Right.

James Avramenko:

God I fucking love that man.

Dirk Van Stralen:

What a fine young man. Oh, love him.

James Avramenko:

And so so you, you're up there, you're working, you're working the different well, so that's actually that leads me to this. The second part of it is your connection to the sunset theater. And that's what's the what, what is the story? Exactly what that because I know, you know, like, it was sort of bought and restored by Karen and Dave. And, and in that sort of decades, since I, I worked up there. I'm to be completely honest, I've lost track of everything that's happened up there. And I just see these little kind of like, pops every once in a while of some update. And so I knew you were doing programming that year. But now it looks like you're like, straight up running the theater. Is there. Am I wrong in that?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, we're helping helping run the theater with Karen. She's working full time in the lower mainland. And so Jules and I have taken over. Jules is the director of presentations and the director of productions, which of course, it's meaningless in COVID time, but, but the whole the sunset theater thing really came about because in 2005, we did a site specific production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with red bird and Christina Patterson and Tim Sutherland and all of these, the everybody who was working in the park, right at the time in wonder heads were there. Yes, yeah. Andrew, but Kate was there. And, and did I think the weakness of A Midsummer Night's Dream is always the lovers. They're the most boring. The fairies are great. The mechanicals are bulletproof. They're still good to go. Funny. Yeah. And so for me, I had some production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is always when the lovers are compelling. And the lovers in this were on believable. They were so great. Mark Dawson played one of I don't remember. Yeah. uptight German guy. And it was just, it was devastating. They were fantastic. Anyway, so site specific in barkerville. In the evening, two nights running. Jeffrey, who was on the cusp of opening the theater at the time. So this is 2005 said yes, I'm opening next summer the sunset theater and said to Jules after seeing her play pack in A Midsummer Night's Dream said, Hey, have you got anything that you have an idea for that you want to work on? I've got this thing called the exploration series. And you know, if you've got something and Jill said, Yeah, I've got this play that I've been meaning to write which in 2006. The very next year turned out to be Jake's gift. So that was one of the very first exploration series plays that came out of there. And the rest is history as far as Yeah, sir. And and since we've toured that show to over 250 different communities and

James Avramenko:

you've gone overseas with a Yeah, yeah.

Dirk Van Stralen:

So it's unbelievable. So, but that was the very first season in 2006 at the sunset was Open was also host to the development of that play of Jake's gift. Gotcha. And in that first workshop production was directed by Tim Sutherland. Oh, because I wasn't in barkerville that year. So I scored a trifecta working out Chemainus, three plays nine months of work.

James Avramenko:

Damn. You know,

Dirk Van Stralen:

100 shows my fair lady. I mean, this is one of the things I learned working in barkerville is that you have to absolutely Humble yourself as an artist because nobody cares. Nobody cares how good you are at doing your, you know, this discourse that you're delivering for the 500th time. But what I did learn is that it's way more interesting to be interested. Yeah, what you're doing, which actually requires a bit of like, you know, squashing the ego to deal with mouth breathers that are, you know, asking you the same questions over and over again, but instead to embrace that, I guess it says anything, but you'll have a better day, if you are like, I really want to communicate this to you. I don't care if you care, but I'm gonna do my best.

James Avramenko:

Yeah. And well, and that's, I mean, again, it that doubles all the way back into this idea of like, if, if how you value yourself is the reaction of other people, you're always going to hate yourself. You know? And so like, you have to, you have to start with, with accepting yourself. And, you know, I mean, you know, it's, I mean, a lot of this stuff has been sort of co-opted by a lot of really shitty self help stuff. But like, the truth of the matter is, you do have to start with self love. And from there, you're bulletproof after that, because like, yeah, if you're cool yourself, there's nothing else anybody can do to you. Right?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, the only problem is that, like, people use that word self love. And I can see people totally misinterpret with that. possibly mean, for them. It's always like, but that's a bath bomb with parents in it. No, no, that's wrong.

James Avramenko:

Big, big time.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Tell that to, Tell that to a single mom with three kids who's working through COVID from home. It's like, yeah, you need some self care.

James Avramenko:

Yeah, right. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Get a manicure. Right. Exactly.

Dirk Van Stralen:

That is like, yeah. Anyway yeah.

James Avramenko:

No, no, no. So the last thing that I want to talk to you before we jump into the questions, the last thing is the illustrations that you've been doing, and I want to, you know, because I know that you I mean, you've been you've been a you like a I was the first word that comes to mind as a drawer.

Dirk Van Stralen:

drawer Boy,

James Avramenko:

you've been a drawer for like, your whole life, essentially. And, and, and can you can you tell me, sort of about the I mean, the the formulation of this project that you've done that you started at the top of quarantine, and sort of like, what were the seeds of it? And then and then what have you been doing with it since?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Okay, well, I would say two things. One, I had a single panel cartoon that ran in the Georgia strait between 1990 and 2007. And sometimes in Monday magazine in Victoria, depending on where they had a budget.

James Avramenko:

Sure.

Dirk Van Stralen:

But and that was a weekly, and with the whole COVID. So second, that with the whole COVID, lockdown. There was this story, and we'd been self isolating for I think maybe it was six days, five days a week. During this period of time, in which the entire world was having more or less, this had the same story. Yes, this one in 100 year event. And so, three, I think I was intrigued, there was a surfeit of ideas for cartoons, floating my head. Everybody was having the same story in a way. We are, you know, two weeks behind the UK or Europe or three or whatever coming you know, it's what this rolling experience that everyone ended up having. meant that there were so many ideas on top of the clown car show that represents Trump that was happening Yeah, the border so All of those things together, meant there were... The most important thing, I think, though, was time. for the first time in a decade and a half. And not just us, but the entire world stopped. Yeah. Not unlike at first the way it feels between Christmas and New Year's. Right, you know, weird. Yeah. When we agree annually to say, okay, we're gonna just slow it. We'll agree to slow it down. Yeah, right now, just for a little while.

James Avramenko:

Yeah. And you're supposed to go to work. But it's cool. If you don't. Yeah.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah. And or if you go to work, nothing gets done. It's like, What are you? Why are you here. So that gave permission, the time to think that time not being busy. And realizing I was at the profundity of that, realizing that this is wow, this is the first time I've been still for a long time now. Extra weird the fall before. So fall 2019. When we got home from tour, as we always do in the fall, just usually at the end of November. We had been longing to be home, and we got home. And we actually said to him, I said, wouldn't it be great to actually just see what all of the changes of the seasons look like? Through our own windows? For Where? Yeah, and then pandemic.

James Avramenko:

So it's your fault.

Dirk Van Stralen:

It's exactly, exactly our fault. careful what you wish for I was gonna rearrange my sock drawer all last year, and it never happened. Never happened. Never happened.

James Avramenko:

And it never will

Dirk Van Stralen:

all the time in the world still no. Yeah. So. So with that, I thought, Okay, I'm going to try something I was very afraid of, which is the idea of committing to making something every day. I used to struggle to come up with a cartoon once a week for this. Yeah. So trying to do that every single day was it seemed easy at first because again, it was so unique. Right? And there are lots and lots of ideas.

James Avramenko:

And, and then it starts to kind of

Dirk Van Stralen:

and I just kept going.

James Avramenko:

Yeah, well, and that's what's really interesting. It's what I found with with, you know, for three years, I did the daily poetry thing, and I still do it, I just don't post it anymore. But I, but I, you know, you start to sometimes worry, you'll run out of ideas, but the truth of the matter is just look out your window, and you got something you know, like, and it actually does it a lot of ways get easier because you lose that sense of urgency to always be profound, and always be important. And realizing that it's like, it's just expression, it's just personal expression. That's all it is. And so like, you know, the the clown is just as needed as the, you know, the, the night or whatever, you know, like whoever you like, it's like everything in the spectrum of expression is important and and realizing that not everything needs to be, you know, Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Well, that's a very, the, the notion that what you need is right in front of you is very David, David Hockney, the visual artist who's should be, you know, in the morning draws with his finger on an iPad, and then yeah, has always, his themes have always been what he can see. Through his windows.

James Avramenko:

Yeah, sure. Right. It also helps if you have a good view, though. My view is fucking bullshit. I'm just looking at some truck. Some guys some guys garage.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Hockney has a property.

James Avramenko:

Right? Exactly. Go fuck yourself. Right? Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Do you ever feel like something you've made yourself? Because it's something you've made yourself. It is therefore unremarkable.

James Avramenko:

Literally everything I've ever made, you name it.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Building a bench? I don't know. Yeah. Do you? Is that? Is that part of your artistic personality?

James Avramenko:

You know what it? Yes. And it's something that I fight though, right? Because it's something that I, I naturally gravitate towards self loathing. And, and, and, and that's a big that I'm working with, with my therapist. So it's, it's, you know, you know, I have a lot of, you know, I'm unpacking a lot of like ingrained shame cycles and a lot of ingrained self worth of the way, you know, the reason I'm observing these kinds of artists patterns and others is because I've observed them firsthand, myself and and, and I've seen how much I've tied my personal value to how someone reacts to a poem or to a whatever it might be, and, and so I'm now pretty actively reframing that in my mind, because yeah, my natural inclination is to be like, I'm going to give you something and if you don't like it, that means you don't like me. Right? And which it isn't, which isn't what that is, and we need to collectively be better at. Like, it's not, you know, I'm not arguing for separating the art from the artists or anything like that. But it's like, but that the artist needs to be able to separate the audience from the art. That that makes more

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, definitely. sense. Yeah, that audience has to be one. Exactly, exactly. It is. But again, I you know, again, putting it toward the, I don't know, magic thinking, I'm being obedient to the impulse to create takes kind of obligation or audience out of it. If you can be pure in that simplicity. Yep. I think is the hardest thing in the world.

James Avramenko:

Oh, my God, absolutely.

Dirk Van Stralen:

It's the same as saying go go in the corner, stand there and don't think about elephants.

James Avramenko:

Yeah, be nice to yourself. Don't think about elephants. And it's, you know, for me, you know, what I really like? And it's actually sort of building off of something you just said, is, I really like the idea of the audience of one. I like that. But I actually like, one person outside of myself, right? Like, what I've really tried to do now these days is with a lot of my writing, I try to think of writing to one person who will like this. And and like and if, if, because it means if if one, like if the person I'm thinking of can like it, then chances are good, other people could like it, too. And if they don't, whatever, fine, fuck it. But But if if the one person I'm writing to does like it, then I know that I've tapped into what I'm trying to do. You know, I do think that, you know, it always comes back. I'm, it's, it's a very circular argument. It's like, it's like, like, art isn't finished without an audience. And so, to that point, you do need your audience to be delighted, right? Like, it's like, you know, it's like or entertained. And that doesn't mean happy. That doesn't mean like, it's always got to be joyful, but they have to be, they have to be surprised and delighted by what they're experiencing. And, you know, like, you know, for me personally, like, I could put on a David Lynch film and be delighted. It's, it's, it's, it's horrific. It's, it's challenging, but it's it's a delightful experience for that, you know, for what it is right. And so, so when I use the word delight, you know, it's a different type of what we, we you know, we we associate that with like an amuse boosh. Right? You know, but it's like, you have to be, you know, entertained. Right? concurrent with engaged. Exactly, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So yeah, yeah. And I, but yeah, I think Yeah, my, my inclination is to hate it at but but it doesn't, it sort of doesn't matter if the artist likes their art in a way because it's like, it's kind of it's like, because all that matters for the artists is to do it, and then give it away and then somebody else to get to decide if they like it or not. And that's what matters. You know, it's more important that the artist just get it done and get it out of the way and move on to the next thing and then let somebody else decide for themselves if it's good or not, you know, and that's where division comes in. Yeah,

Dirk Van Stralen:

well in that dovetails with the idea of divine discontent. Exactly. You know, you're always I just love the idea of Peter Von Tiesenhausen, who's one of my favorite visual artists. his life's work, as it were, is a fence on his property around his birthday each year, he adds another eight foot section of fence to the building of his fence, which is it's getting quite long now he leaves everything that came before, yeah, to fall into the ground, never repairs or anything on his no on his property of a tree happen to fall in the middle of the fence. But that's all you know, that's part of his whole ethos as an artist, which is why I fell in love with his work. But the work is a giant metaphor for him. Each year around his birthday, is adding another eight foot section of fence to his fence and his fence building skills. Therefore, this eight foot version of fence represents the sum total of everything that came before it, and is therefore my best expression of building this fence. Therefore, artists best work is always ahead of them. Yes. You're always capable of making better and better work. Yeah. Which I just love. Yeah, an idea altogether.

James Avramenko:

That's, that's that's kind of like that's hermetic thinking, right? The idea of like, the one in the all and the and the single point represents all existence and all existence represents the single points, right?

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yeah. Well, when you said, I imagine, imagine my audience member, that little girl or whoever happens to be I think one of the things that one of the reasons that Jake's gift as a play works, yep. Is she makes the personal. Universal. Yes. And, and vice versa. The specificity of a person represents universes.

James Avramenko:

That's exactly right.

Dirk Van Stralen:

You know, when, when the subject matter is transported by Rohinton Minstry, not because we know what it was. It's like growing up in the streets of Calcutta.

James Avramenko:

Exactly. Well, and that's that, exactly. It's this idea that there's far more unifying us then then separating us right. And the experience, you know, the the human experience isn't when boiled down, all that different, like, yes, there's degrees of suffering. But at the end of the day, it's suffering, you know, and, and, and, you know, right, you know, and so it's like, you know, there you know, you as long as you remain open to being curious and willing to engage with another person's, you know, honest reflection, then then you could probably connect to anybody in the world. You know, as I'm sure you're familiar, like, the lot of you know, this, this shows sort of started as a joke, it started as like, I want to start a podcast. And this is how I get a built in guest list. And so I'm just going to talk to my friends, but it's really bloomed into an exploration of, you know, what it means to be a friend and have I been a good friend and and the way I'm trying to unpack that is by first figuring out figuring out what that even means, like, what is what does it mean to be a friend? So I'm curious how you would personally define friendship.

Dirk Van Stralen:

You are not, because when you announced you were doing this podcast, I thought for sure, I'd be the first one to be kicked off, but you long it's been like yours already. And I'm like, thanks, jerk. However, manga was not a friend, right? Yeah,

James Avramenko:

that's fair. You know what I thought, you know what? Oh, that that holds water. that argument holds water.

Dirk Van Stralen:

could not be more kidding. Anyway. For me, it's a it's super simple, which is that it's just the sum total of what ever a relationship adds up to, and there are degrees of that and there's circles of that, let's say which I'm sure this has come up tons on this podcast, but there are lots of souls that we've encountered in our tours. All over the place where we would say, you know what I would hang out with you guys in a second again, and there will be no issue, just picking right up. So I just think it all adds up to whatever it adds up to in the experience of your life. How much joy and pleasure that gives in each relationship is its own fragrance, and has its own merit and sense and value. And that is just it. There are, like I said, certain people that you just easily long for to be in conversation with more.

James Avramenko:

Yeah,

Dirk Van Stralen:

recognizing that I think is the most important thing, because you know, when the opportunity to be in proximity again, happens. Yeah, that blossom will, will come out again.

James Avramenko:

Exactly, exactly. And then also recognizing that it's okay to let it go dormant to right, the idea of not not grasping it too tightly. Right, you know, and the best

Dirk Van Stralen:

friends are those who require nothing. And when we're together, it's just, you know, an abundance of joy.

James Avramenko:

Yeah. Oh, I love that. That's such a beautiful summation.

Dirk Van Stralen:

I love that, as well. And we all have friends like that right now. I'm sure you had pictures in your head, like, Oh, yeah, that guy's like that.

James Avramenko:

So Exactly, exactly. Yep. So you're, you know, you're, you're still up in wells, you're, you know, I imagine, you know, you've got obviously your community locally, but you've probably got a lot of, you know, distance friendships and distance connections. And so, you know, my initial question is, is, what do you think it's going to take to be a good friend in 2021? And going forward, but what I'd like to sort of add into that question as well is, what are things that you either have been doing or want to do for yourself, and maybe are actionable things for listeners to to try and be a better friend going forward? Hmm.

Dirk Van Stralen:

The, this act of doing daily cartoon is so profoundly different than it was up until 2007, between 1990 and 2007, what I was making was divorced from communication in real time, because of social media now, and I proliferative across the book face and the gram of instant, and Twitter and all of that. So the, the interaction that comes with that as a result is more human than we think. Yeah. So and as has come up, so many times on this podcast, just that small piece of communication. response to a comment or, you know, or a kind comment, or whatever, actually really underscores the the true potential of social media. Yeah. And highlights how badly it fails every fucking time.

James Avramenko:

Right? Yes,

Dirk Van Stralen:

that said, that has bled over into like, Jules has always done this. She's sends out Christmas cards each year. But she said this year has been phenomenal. She sent out more and also receive way more. So people were communicating with each other that way. What it takes to be a good friend up, I think, is to, to hear the words of your friend, and respond in a way that communicates that you heard them. Yeah, no matter how to do whatever it is, that's a universal application you can make, especially in this day and age. But again, like I've said about the wages of friendships, having their own value in their own fragrance, that is still going to be the same moving forward hasn't really changed. Because I self published a collection of cartoons for some that meant the opportunity to drop in and note or another cartoon or a sketch of something along with it. And so I've felt and that's because of jewels, own example.

James Avramenko:

Right?

Dirk Van Stralen:

empowered to throw extra things in with even with strangers in terms of that mailing. But again, that's a real connection and social media doesn't necessarily social media succeeds at its best when it when those things are conveyed. Yeah. But let's just say give it a, you know, 99.9% fail on the rest of come on?

James Avramenko:

Well, it's crazy to think it's crazy to think how, how real it could be, and how real it is. But we don't allow it to be, you know, we just watched, we just watched a documentary about about Q, that there was an HBO Right. Yeah. And at one point, the guy like the guy who like created a chain, he talks about how for most of for all of his life, he always thought the internet and real life were different worlds. And it really proved to him when he started getting, you know, litigated and stuff about things you saying, on the internet that, like, the internet is the real world, you know, and the real world isn't the Internet, and we may not like it, but we need to treat both as equally real and tangible and, like, importance, the wrong word, but like, we need to be we need to be as respectful of both as as we are of the other, you know.

Dirk Van Stralen:

And so, what you're saying is that, basically, it's like, the real world is full of nothing but assholes.

James Avramenko:

Big, big time. That's exactly right. That's exactly right. I mean, I think the only thing that the end that if there's a, there's a silver lining of the internet, it's that it has shone a light on the ingrained shithead theory of the vast majority of our world, you know, like, there are the like, the the fact that matter is, you know, the cue people, the bigots, the racist, the white supremacists, the any, any number of whoever it is, you don't like, those people are alive. And those people have existed, since there was a time when one person said I don't like how this other person looks like those are, those are, these are groups, and these are thinking processes that have existed, but the Internet has connected those people and has has amplified their message exactly, it's amplified their message, I don't think that the populations have necessarily grown, it's just that they've become louder as a message. And because it's easier to connect to these things, you know, and so we have to be really discerning with understanding what the message is where the message is coming from, who's saying that message, and how many people are listening, you know, like, but those are different things. And it's, that's really fucking hard.

Dirk Van Stralen:

And it also gives you the flip side of that gives me hope in that, yes, you can write your poem, you can make your, your piece of art, your cartoon or whatever, in somebody under a rock somewhere, is going to be the person most open to that message. That's exactly right. Because those things are that, you know, we are, there's no degree of separation now between none. Anyone? Anyone else?

James Avramenko:

That's exactly right. And, you know, it got me thinking about, you know, doubling back to something about, like, about somebody like Kafka who it's like, if he had Tumblr, maybe he'd still be alive, because he would be able to post his weird little stories, and people would be like, this is the fucking coolest thing I've ever Holy shit. He's a fucking cockroach, just crazy. I'm gonna read blog, this, you know, and so like, you know, just think about, like, you know, how, you know, it's like, you, you, you do have to take the good with the bad in every situation in on every platform, and you have to understand that, like, you know, bad thoughts are gonna survive, whether they're on the internet or not. In the same way, the good thoughts are gonna as well. And so it's just how you engage with them and how you choose to live on these platforms.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Well, and, you know, in the same way that scientists were able to actually observe what the effects of contrails can trails, in the skies over North America after 911 because there was no flight, so they could actually measure the difference. So too, with Trump being kicked off of Twitter, and Facebook, they were able to measure the absence of disinformation. Yes, and I found that it dropped 73% 78% or something like that. Yeah, for one man being off Twitter and Facebook. So again, inverting that as an artist, your voice

James Avramenko:

can Grow

Dirk Van Stralen:

has every possibility to be just as powerful.

James Avramenko:

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Well, buddy, why, you know, we could we could just, we could talk and talk and talk and talk. And I'm just like, I'm. So if we were at the pub, we've just right going exactly, exactly. And I'm just like,

Dirk Van Stralen:

I have enjoyed every minute of this man,

James Avramenko:

this has been the fucking best. And I'm just like, I'm so grateful that you, you know, not only agreed to be on the show, but just like, you were so willing to just like dive in and and that you always are, you know, I think about all the times that our paths have crossed in the last decade, how we've always just sort of accidentally, you know, saw you in Calgary one time, and then suddenly, we're just talking all night. And you know, and I'm just like, you know,

Dirk Van Stralen:

we have Dave Smith. And that's exactly

James Avramenko:

right. That's exactly right. And you know, and you, you know, you and you and Julia both are somebody who I just like, I'm so grateful to have in my atmosphere. And and you know, like, yeah, we don't we haven't lived in the same city, and God knows how long and we haven't, we haven't had regular contact, but it doesn't really matter. You know, because when we turn on the call, it's like this, and I'm just, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm so grateful for that. And I'm so grateful for you when you remain a massive inspiration to me, you know, with with your creative outlets, and with everything that you do, and I'm just like, I'm really, really grateful that I get to call you a friend. So I just, yeah, you know, thank you.

Dirk Van Stralen:

And well, yeah, my admiration goes out in the same direction. I, I was a recent one of your interviews, and you said that, but if I have a strength I follow through once I've committed to something, which is I think that's profound. Something that does not necessarily comes naturally to me. So yeah, I admire that. I really do. I thought this podcast was a great idea when I first heard about it. Same with the raised by the movies or what

James Avramenko:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, with my wife.

Dirk Van Stralen:

super great idea.

James Avramenko:

Oh, thank you.

Dirk Van Stralen:

Yes. And just well done on falling through all that again. That's the picture of an artist just being obedient to the impulse to create.

James Avramenko:

Just follow through. Yeah, well, man, I, the time has come. So we're gonna pull up that Facebook. And, you know, now that now that I've thanked you for being a friend, I don't want to be your friend anymore. So. So Dirk Van Str len here we go. We are Oh, so ast. He was like buttah, we ar no longer Facebook friends.

Dirk Van Stralen:

See, look h w little there was to forge

James Avramenko:

And that's it. Thank you once more to Dirk for coming on the show. I could genuinely talk to him all day. And I hate that I had to cut it off when I did. But what's done is done. No time to look back now. Go fuck yourself, Dirk. If you like this episode, why not pull out your listening device and give it a five star rating wherever you're getting your goods. It's a free and easy way that you can support the growth of friendliness. And it's just a nice thing to do. Share the links if you can like the posts. Just be nice, y'all. Speaking of being nice, you wanted to hear the full unedited and uncut interview with Dirk along with all the uncut episodes of season three and going forward, check out my Patreon, the show will always remain free, don't worry about that. But for just five bucks a month, you'll get the affer mentioned episodes, as well as an exclusive newsletter, not the free one I send out but an entirely different one that's actually leading to an entirely different project that I'm really, really excited about. But that's in line. There's also a private discord and so much more. If that sounds like something you're into and you feel like you can support it, please follow the links in the show notes. If not, oh, kindly, chit. Dope, whatever, man. It's totally cool. I get it. It's hard out there. But that is it for me. So I'll just wrap this up, saying have yourselves as great a week as you can. I know it's getting rough out there. But just remember someone loves you. And that's someone is me. And I'll be here next week with another episode of friend list that you can look forward to. That is then this is now. So for now, I'll just say keep sweet, and I'll catch you soon. Fun and safety y'all